One feature of Aurélie that I mentioned in the beginning was that she was not the svelte figure of a woman she evidently once was. Gossip flies through the offices of Allure, and a particularly talkative subtenant told me that the stress of starting a company had packed quite a few pounds on the new CEO. This was unfortunate for a woman whose sense of style depended on a certain cut of clothing that just did not sit well on ample hips.
One day, Jean–who was for some reason privy to all the personal details of many lives in the office–told me that Aurélie had started a diet. Within about two months, our boss lost at least fifty pounds. Now, this is impressive, I have to say, and I was perhaps even a bit envious of her ability to avoid struggling much or even setting down that second or third glass of wine. While I did not know all details of her life, I was Aurélie’s assistant, and had access to her personal calendar. From this, I figured out that the secret to her new trimness could indeed be her monthly life coaching and her twice weekly meetings with a personal trainer.
The life coach never came to our office, but I was aware of the sessions through some mentions in passing, articles I photocopied and even once summarized for Aurélie. From the few communications I saw, he struck me as a braggart in the way that so many self-proclaimed business coaches are. He was a radio personality, and was hired to help her lead, a notion that she had not fully grasped at the time (and still has not quite embraced). To be in charge, he told her, she needed to take care of herself, delegate her responsibilities, lean on her good-for-nothing husband and hope that he rose to the level of good-for-something, drink red wine, and maintain her appearance. To do this, she first needed to drop weight fast: it was an investment, he told her. And for the moneyed, there are options when these situations arise.
Now, all sorts of body shaping methods are known in the swinger community, where appearances also matter enormously. As I mentioned, I am no stranger to the swingset, and when I was hired at Allure, I was still teetering on the peripheries of that little world. In fact, my naughty antennae detected activity that made me a bit hesitant to take the job–not fun to mix up an office job with my playtime, after all. That said, play parties had become a bit weary to me at that point, largely because of the duplicity of my then-partner in play, a man whose ties to the French community were quite strong. By this, I mean that his wife was French. He had also attended a fairly prestigious business school in France, during which he explored some kinky châteaux with dungeons and I think even Les Chandelles, but was young and inexperienced at the time and while eager and curious, had not yet fully developed his libertine tastes. At the height of our sexual exploration, I figured out that my partner was an astonishingly accomplished liar and sociopath, but it took me nearly a year to unravel the tangled web he had woven around me, a process that I began the day that he left a screen open on my computer without logging out of his account. I was already a bit suspicious by a few stories that did not add up, and by the confession of the woman in a nice couple we had met who contacted me to tell me of my partner’s private emails to her shortly after one of our playdates. But reading through his account, I discovered that sure enough, he had been meeting many women privately, and even used a different name to go on vacation with one of them. I wondered if he meant to tear apart our relationship when he created a new account on the swinger site with a French woman and bragged about their trips and parties–all in places I had told him I wanted to go with him. We had not yet blown apart when I started working at Allure, though, and I wondered if he had a private connection to Pierre, and meant to pawn me off to him. I mentioned to you, dear reader, that Pierre seemed a bit seedy to me at our interview, seedy from a business sense, yes, but also seedy like the solo men who were ever present in the swinger world. Aurélie seemed the tolerant wife when I met her, a dominatrix sort of wife, not a participant, but not unknowing.
After the tears and fights that erupted between Pierre and Aurélie after I started working there, the couple–as I have said–became closer than ever. It was at this time also that the sex in the office became more and more obvious, and a long-time outre-mer consultant at Allure made a return to Boston to assume a new role as director. Isabelle, a woman from St-Martin who had encountered visa issues back in the LMA days, had remained on staff as an account manager at Allure, working remotely with a small team in her island paradise. Though the darling of the executive staff, most of the other managers despised her, and the Boston accounting staff resented the tedium of scanning bills, cutting checks, and assuaging clients that Isabelle never managed to call back. Annoying as I found her, I have to admit that Isabelle was an attractive woman, soft and unconcerned in her Caribbean way, and ridiculously thin without appearing sickly. But I was very surprised to find out through the office grapevine that even she had resorted to chemical body sculpting to maintain a thigh gap. Isabelle lived with Pierre and Aurélie during her visits to the office, and I am fairly certain from small comments Aurélie made in those mornings that they all slept in one big bed. What else but pillow talk could persuade Aurélie to take the plunge and let the sculptor take off some of her excess baggage?
The process, as I understood it, involved no knives or suction, but was a method of freezing the fat, which would then flow gently out of the body over the next few weeks, And it was true!–a miracle of sorts that has made me wonder why it is not used more widely. But I digress.
Fat gone, Aurélie apparently had to stick to a few simple workouts a week to maintain her new figure. These were on the calendar, and she went faithfully for every date. As time went by, though, the workouts became longer and longer, and Aurélie was turning up back at the office after 3pm, disheveled and flustered. The thought that her workouts entailed sex was a joke I made frequently to Jean when we couldn’t find our employer in the afternoon, but Jean thought I was just kidding.
In fact, Aurélie had left a few more hints than just her late and disorderly appearances back in the office after her meetings with the personal trainer. In the beginning, the personal training was taking place at Pierre and Aurélie’s posh suburban home, about ten minutes from the office. This home was well known to most of the staff from the annual late summer gathering for clients that we all dreaded every year. And when their home was still in the suburbs, I do think the exercise sessions were just that–exercise. After the youngest of the Dumas children moved away, though, the couple quickly moved to a posh apartment in the city, near a bit more excitement (though not enough for Pierre, who frequently took off for one of the couple’s other homes). The workouts remained in the suburbs, though, and it was at this point that the personal trainer became a bit more personal, as I surmised not only from my employer’s Tuesday and Friday afternoon blush, but also from the receipts from the same times, hotel rooms with champagne room service…
Of course, by this time, with the ménage-à-trois with Isabelle and our star couple, the urban relocation, and Aurélie’s transformation, the games were only starting. This is when the real fun began in the office, and I was there to watch it all.