The Further Adventures of Louis and Elle
The Smell of the Invisible
“Justine,” Elle Murphy interrupted gently but firmly. “Look at me.”
The younger woman, who was sitting on the floor near Elle’s desk, looked into Elle’s eyes for a moment. Her eyes widened slightly and her face grew slack.
“My . . . name . . . is . . . Elle!” Elle said, then snapped her fingers. “You were saying?”
“Ah . . .” Justine shook herself slightly, as if waking from a nap, and then looked at the paper in her hands. “Do you want to address the Tri-County Women Executives Roundtable?”
“Hmm,” said the elegant hypnodomme. “Maybe. It’s a good bunch and they can use my help. When?”
“In two weeks.”
“Oh, nonsense!” Elle said. “They ought to know how busy I am—I need at least a months’ notice. Write them back and tell them they will ask me again in the spring.”
The two women were in Elle’s study in the house her husband Louis had bought and placed in her name. Justine, whom Elle had met at a party, had “volunteered” to be Elle’s unpaid personal assistant during the hours she had off from her museum job. In exchange, Elle was introducing her to the world of hypnosis and female domination. Justine was still a beginner, but she had talent.
And she was so pretty . . . .
Now it was Elle’s turn to shake her head in confusion. Justine’s looks were irrelevant to her, of course. The little blonde might be pneumatic, with big blue eyes and a wry smile, but that mattered not to Elle, who was married—Damn it, there she went again! This could be a problem. Elle prided herself on control—over others and herself—and this situation (if that’s what it was) called out for self-control.
Of course, she did have almost complete control over Justine, too, which made the situation more complicated (and tempting)—but perhaps there was a way that control could help resolve the tension between them.
At that moment, providentially, Elle’s phone rang.
“Hi,” said a resonant female voice. “It’s Shahrzad. Still okay for me to come by?”
Elle had almost forgotten the exotic college professor she’d met at a conference on female aggression. But Shahrzad had not forgotten her, and when Shahrzad came to Elle’s home town for an academic conference at Tri-County State, Shahrzad had called and asked whether they could get coffee.
Elle had said yes, but that Shahrzad would need to come by the house, as she was planning on working with Justine at the time. Shahrzad had eagerly agreed.
Thoughts began to come together in Elle’s mind . . . .
“Justine, darling,” she said. “I have a guest coming. Would you mind making some tea?”
The younger woman jumped to her feet, almost comically eager to please. “Of course . . . Elle,” she said. “Three cups?”
“No, dear, just two,” Elle said. “You’ll be otherwise engaged.”
“Yes, Elle,” Justine said, and darted off to the kitchen.
Elle watched her go. She was a pretty little thing, she thought again. Elle would have worried about her running into Elle’s husband Louis, who had an eye for tawny blonde hair (look who he’d married!)—but Elle had dealt with that problem long ago by hypnotizing both Louis and Justine and convincing each of them that the other was completely invisible. In keeping with the logic of posthypnotic suggestion, each carefully avoided bumping into each other when they were in the same room—but neither registered the other’s presence or showed any awareness of a word the other said. It was convenient, at least for the time being.
Elle turned her attention back toward working on the couple’s taxes. Louis, bless his heart, was creative, funny, handsome, ardent, and totally obedient when necessary—but he had no head for money. Since she had taken all financial control out of his hands, their net worth had risen smartly—partly because she now told him what projects to write (picking the commercial ones) and partly because she knew how to invest the profits in something more profitable than a money market fund. She lost herself in the latest statement from the brokerage house.
Not long afterwards, the doorbell startled her out of her reverie. She realized she had heard it sound once before. She rose and walked to the front door, where she found Louis welcoming Shahrzad in slack-jawed, nearly speechless amazement.
Elle wasn’t surprised at her husband’s reaction. Shahrzad was easily over six feet tall in her bare feet; and she wasn’t in her bare feet, she was in a very fetching pair of Blahnik suede ankle boots with a silver toe cap and four-inch heels. Louis, who was 5′11″, seemed to be in danger of neck injury from looking up at the exotic beauty, who had huge liquid dark eyes and a disturbingly generous mouth. She meanwhile was smiling down at Louis like a Baptist pastor looking at a plate of fried chicken.
“Ahem,” said Elle, a bit more loudly than needed. “Louis, I’m sorry we disturbed you.”
“Oh,” said Louis gallantly, “It was no trouble at—”
“But you remember you needed to finish that chapter today to show your agent, right?”
Louis clearly did remember, which was impressive because Elle had just made that up.
“Off you go, sweetie,” Elle said. “We won’t bother you again.”
She didn’t entirely like the way Shahrzad watched Louis go. Then she realized she wasn’t sure whether it annoyed her because it meant Shahrzad might be interested in Louis—or because she wanted Shahrzad to look at her, not Louis, that way . . . .
Her life was becoming more complicated by the hour. Something needed to be done.
“Shahrzad,” she said. “Come back to the study and we will have some tea.”
The tall beauty followed her down to her office in the back of the lower level. Justine was waiting there, standing by the coffee table, where a tray with a teapot, two cups, and cream and sugar were waiting.
“Sit down, Shahrzad,” Elle said. “Justine, you may pour.”
Shahrzad noticed Justine, and Elle noticed her noticing. Justine, however, did not seem to notice Shahrzad—she was too intent on doing what Elle told her to. She held out a cup to Elle first, then poured one for Shahrzad and said, in a neutral tone, “Milk, lemon, sugar?”
“Oh, no, thank you,” Shahrzad said, taking the cup. In some puzzlement, she asked, “Aren’t you joining us?”
“Oh, no,” Elle said. “Justine has been working very hard and she’s very tired, aren’t you, dear? Go sit on the couch over there.”
Justine walked to the couch by the wall opposite the window and sat.
“Good girl,” Elle said. “Now sleep.”
The little blonde’s eyes rolled back as her eyelids fluttered shut. Then all her muscles relaxed at once and she toppled over at an angle in her seat, plainly dead to the world.
“Good girl,” Elle said. “Now listen carefully, Justine. You need a rest. You can sit and watch sounds and thoughts pass by without worrying. Until I touch you and call your name, you won’t hear or notice anything anyone says. So let go now and . . . sleep.”
Shahrzad’s mouth fell open. “She’s really . . . ?”
“Oh, yes,” Elle said. “Justine and I have been working on building her confidence and skills using hypnosis. She’s a good subject—she’s becoming a good hypnotist, too. I have her working with some of my clients doing initial testing and even follow up. But you didn’t come here today to talk about hypnosis—is that right?”
Shahrzad seemed confused briefly, as if she’d forgotten exactly why she had come. “No-oo,” she said. “I just wanted—well, I enjoyed meeting you at the conference—“ Her eyes drifted over to Justine again. “She—really can’t hear us?”
“Oh, she can hear us,” Elle said. “But she finds it too much trouble to register the words. They just pass by her like ripples on a pond. She’s relaxing right now and letting her mind and her imagination recharge. Justine is a storyteller, too—she has fascinating talks about her childhood.” Elle was in fact just making this up, but she knew that the fascination of stories lay in the predisposition of the hearer as much as in the art of the teller.
“Well—anyway—I wanted to talk to you more about narrative, if you remember—”
Come into my parlor, Elle thought to herself. She knew perfectly well what Shahrzad had wanted to “talk” to her about—she’d made herself pretty clear at the conference. And she saw now that seeing Justine succumb to Elle’s power had derailed that train of thought and made her wonder—anybody would, watching the little blonde’s blissful face—what it felt to be so deeply under Elle’s power that she could stop her from hearing and understanding what was going on around her.
“So, you do a lot of hypnotherapy?” Shahrzad asked.
“Some regular hypnotherapy, yes,” Elle said. “But less and less—instead I work with people, groups, and even couples who are exploring the changing role of the sexes and making personal and institutional change to accommodate feminine power. Couples with dominant wives, for example, need counseling to enjoy themselves—men need permission to submit, and often they don’t know they need it and I need to give it to them without their asking or even knowing they’ve gotten it. Some enlightened businesses—a lot of them are startups or nonprofits—are becoming very mindful about maintaining a culture that permits female employees to feel comfortable, grow, and take on leading roles. I also do group demonstrations—oh, that’s hypnosis too. I guess when I think about it, a lot of what I do is hypnosis—I hope that’s not too disappointing to you.”
Shahrzad was clearly puzzled. “Why would I be disappointed?” she asked.
Elle waved a self-deprecating hand in the air. “You didn’t come here to talk about hypnosis, did you? Narrative is your thing—it’s very fascinating, I know, but I have to admit I don’t know enough about it to be any use to you—although of course anyone who has studied Erickson knows about using stories to change consciousness—oh, there, I go, changing the subject to hypnosis again. What a bore I am turning into! Let’s talk about you. Tell me about your conference, Shahrzad.”
“Conference?” Shahrzad seemed to have forgotten why she was in the area. “Oh—that! Oh, really, Elle, it’s not that interesting—just a lot of post-modern narratologists discussing Derrida, etc. I’ve listened to four panels today, and there are supposed to be more in an hour or two.”
“Is it terribly dreary?”
“Well, it’s just usually four academics talking about themselves, followed by questions from other academic in which they reference themselves, and answers by the panelists returning the topic to themselves.”
“Oh, dear,” Elle said. “It sounds like they could use a different format. Did you know that I’m talking to the organizers at the women and aggression conference about going back next year to put on a hypnosis demonstration? I think there are some of those women who could profit from some trance work—not you, of course, you wouldn’t be interested and you’re far too sophisticated for that, but with those who haven’t developed your self awareness, it can be very helpful just to let go of all their thoughts and inhibitions and experience their own inner lives in all their power—but of course you know what that’s like, don’t you? More tea?” Elle poured herself a cup and then topped off Shahrzad’s. The tall woman had been too fascinated by Elle’s conversation to drink much.
“Know what that’s like?” Shahrzad’s face was comic—she was plainly torn between accepting the compliment and Elle’s treatment of her as a colleague on the one hand and, on the other, her own awareness that she actually would love to let go of her thoughts and inhibitions. “I guess—I mean—well, not exactly—tell me?”
“Look at Justine, Shahrzad,” Elle said. “See how at ease with herself she is? If you lifted and arm or a leg, it would feel like rubber—as if there were no bone at all in it. She’s just feeling warm, and comfortable, and free of everything—worry, fear, self-consciousness, even gravity itself . . . .”
Shahrzad couldn’t stand it any more, plainly. “Elle, I’ve never been hypnotized—would you put me under like Justine? Just to see what it’s like?”
“Oh, aren’t you sweet to ask, Shahrzad? I know it’s for politeness’ sake, but I do appreciate it. I honestly don’t think you’re quite ready for that, though, do you? I could give you some readings, and then if you are back this way sometime—maybe next fall—”
“Elle, please, if you have time, just let me feel it briefly.” Elle had her begging now. “I need to go back to the panels soon, I could use a little time off from being an academic.”
“Why don’t we take a walk, then?” Elle said brightly. “A turn around the block will put things in perspective, don’t you think?”
“Ye-es, I guess—but, no—Elle, this is my chance, would you please?”
“Please what?” An observer might have noticed a rather feline expression on the hypnotist’s face—smug, amused, and just a touch cruel.
“Hypnotize me, like—Justine?”
Elle yawned, as if the entire business were so boring that she could hardly keep her mind fixed on it. “I suppose—if you’re sure . . . ?”
Shahrzad did not even speak, just nodded her head like a child eager for a cookie.
“Hmm,” Elle said. “This might be hard, though—you’ve never been hypnotized—your will no doubt is very strong—you wouldn’t be easy to relax and distract—but let’s try this for the heck of it. Settle in because it may take a while to break down your fierce resistance, okay? Now, look at me, Shahrzad, look into my eyes.”
The tall beauty turned her liquid eyes toward Elle’s, and her pupils widened as the hypnotist caught and held her gaze.
“Good,” Elle said. “Sleep now!”
Shahrzad’s face briefly took on a startled look—then she slumped over, eyes closed.
“Good girl, Shahrzad,” Elle said. “Now let go of everything. Just let your body go limp and let your mind follow my suggestions.” She stood over the taller woman and lifted one arm, then the other, whispering, “Loose and limp, loose and limp,” then letting each drop. She placed a gentle hand atop Shahrzad’s head and rotated it slowly until it was turning freely. Elle let go of it and it dropped forward on Shahrzad’s breast.
“Good, Shahrzad,” she said. “You are sleeping comfortably in deep hypnosis. Everything I tell you is the truth. Everything I tell you is what you want to do. You don’t want to do anything except what I tell you to do. Now when I snap my fingers, you will wake up, wide awake feeling fine. You will look over at Justine, then get up from your chair, walk over to the couch, sit down next to Justine, and fall back to sleep ten times deeper. Now, one—two—three—Wake up! Eyes open, feeling clear and bright!”
Shahrzad sat up suddenly, looking as if she were ready to get up and run a mile. Her eyes popped open and she gave Elle a wide smile with her exquisite mouth. “That was . . I was hypnotized? Really?”
“Yes, darling, don’t you remember?”
“I . . . guess so . . . I . . . You were talking to me and then . . .” Her eyes kept traveling over to the couch where Justine was peacefully sleeping. “I . . . Elle, is she all right? Shouldn’t we check on her?”
“Well, if you want to, go right ahead,” Elle said, pointing to the couch. Shahrzad got to her feet and walked over to where the little blonde was sitting. “Well, as I said, I just want to . . . I . . . my goodness . . . .”
Shahrzad’s legs seemed about to give way. She sat on the couch next to Justine and quite suddenly her body went limp, her eyes closed, and she slumped over like a puppet whose strings had suddenly been cut.
Elle quickly walked over to the couch and put a hand on Shahrzad’s head. “Good, Shahrzad, you are doing so well, let yourself sleep even more and as you do every worry will drift away, you will feel so happy you came here today, so happy to follow my suggestions now and in the future, so ready to go into trance for me at any time and obey any suggestion I give you, and right now your mind will wander and your thoughts will drift and you will not hear my voice or understand my words until I touch you again and address you by name, that’s right, Shahrzad, darling, sleep . . . sleeeeeeeeep . . . sleeeeeeeeeeep . . . .”
Satisfied that Shahrzad was out of it until summoned back, Elle put a hand on Justine’s head. “Justine,” she said. “Nod your head to show you hear me.”
The little blonde’s head nodded very slightly. “Good girl,” Elle said softly. “Now listen carefully. Every word I tell you is true. Later today you will find yourself with Shahrzad. Shahrzad is a very fascinating person, but you are more fascinating. You will tell her stories that hold her spellbound, because you are the greatest storyteller in the world. You know that Shahrzad is eager to hear your suggestions, eager to listen to you and do what you say, eager to allow you to change her attitudes and beliefs, and you will wish to do that because you find her so fascinating, do you understand?”
The little blonde nodded, slightly more emphatically.
“Good girl,” Elle said. “Now sleep and allow my suggestions to take hold deeply in your mind. You will wake when I tell you to. You will not hear or understand anything until I do. Sleep!”
She turned to Shahrzad, who had not moved or shown any sign or hearing or understanding the suggestions Elle had given to Justine. She put a gentle hand on Shahrzad’s shoulder and said, “Shahrzad, nod your head to show you hear me.”
The tall beauty nodded.
“In a minute I am going to wake you up,” she said. “You will remember that you experienced hypnosis but you will not remember any of the suggestions I gave. You will remember how good hypnosis feels and how easy it is to slip into a trance when the right person suggests it. You will feel proud and excited of how easily you went under my power and how completely you submitted. And when you wake up, you will realize that Justine is the greatest storyteller in the world—the most fascinating person you’ve ever met—that her every story leads to more and more stories and you want to listen to her and imagine her stories and let yourself feel and experience them. Nod if you understand!”
After Shahrzad nodded, Elle turned to Justine. “Justine, when I could to three you will wake and walk over to the desk and begin filing my letters. Do you understand? Good—one, two, THREE!”
Justine’s eyes came open and she at once got up and began shuffling through papers on Elle’s desk, separating the expense receipts from speaking invitations or letters from the broker.
Elle turned to Shahrzad. “When you wake, Shahrzad, you will realize it is time for you to go back to the conference, but on the way you will notice that Justine is here, do you understand? Good—now, three, two, one—WIDE AWAKE! Feeling great!”
Elle watched as Shahrzad rose to her full height. The show was entertaining.
“Oh, heavens,” the tall beauty said. “It’s nearly four—I should go back to the hotel. That was lovely, Elle—I’d always thought hypnosis would be dramatic and mysterious, but it isn’t, is it? It’s just like a talk between friends. I suppose that’s disappointing in a way, but there you go. Thanks for the tea and thanks to—“ At this point she noticed that Justine was awake and filing papers. “Justine, isn’t it?”
The little blonde nodded. Her eyes met Shahrzad’s briefly, then she pulled them away, blushing slightly. Elle thought it was the cutest thing she’d seen in months.
“I have to go now because—“ Shahrzad looked puzzled, since she knew she had to go but had no idea why. “Because I have to . . . go—but would you—well, I mean—I am going to the Exchange Hotel at the Convention Center—would you like a cup of coffee—if, well, you’re probably busy but wou—”
“That sounds great,” Justine said. “Let me get my coat. Shall I follow you there?”
In a few minutes, the two newly awakened subjects were off in a cloud of perfume, and Elle was blessedly alone in her study, trying to decide what to do next.
At this point, as if her day had not been complicated enough, her husband Louis came in, looking troubled. Elle was surprised. She had thought Louis would be happily engaged in his new novel until the cocktail hour. But something was clearly bothering him.
“Elle, can I talk to you?” he said.
“Of course, Louis,” she said. “What is it?”
His cheeks burned bright red as he said, “Well, Elle—you know how much I love you—Elle, you are the most important person in the world to me, I live to serve you—I can’t imagine—”
In Elle’s experience, when men began telling women how much they loved them, that meant there was trouble. “Louis, you’re not going to tell me there’s somebody else, are you?”
“Good God, no, Elle!” Louis seemed actually shocked at the very notion. “That’s what I’m—well—Elle, are you planning to leave me? Are you? Is there somebody else? You can tell me, just let me know what’s going on!”
“Louis, what is this all about?” Elle said. “Of course I’m not planning to leave you. Where would I go? With whom? Louis, you are my husband, why are you worrying like this?”
“Well, Elle—it’s embarrassing but—well, you know there are people coming and going—sometimes I smell perfume I don’t recognize—“ Elle realized with a start that she’d told Louis not to see or hear Justine but hadn’t said he couldn’t smell her. “Elle, I have always known you are out of my league, everyone who sees you falls in love with you, men and women, you know that, and I know you have a lot of sexy friends—like, well—who was that visitor, the one who’s so tall—who, well, I mean what was she—”
Elle suddenly understood. She threw back her head and laughed, a musical note that entranced most men so much that they would go to any lengths to make her laugh more, but that had the most profound effect on Louis. “You are a silly silly boy, aren’t you, Louis?” Elle said. She leaned forward in her chair and caught and held his eyes. “Louis, listen to me. Listen carefully. This is important. Let yourself hear this. You are my hypno-husband. You will never leave me. I will never let go of you. I own you. You belong to me and I take good care of my possessions. I keep you healthy and happy. You are the love of my life. I love you and you love me so much that you can’t imagine who you would be without me. You are mine, body and soul. Repeat this: ‘I belong to Elle.’”
Caught by her eyes like an animal in a spotlight, Louis said softly, “I belong to Elle.”
“I am Elle’s for life.”
“I am Elle’s for life.”
“I cannot escape or resist Elle.”
“I cannot escape—”
How much longer this went on Louis was never able to reconstruct. All he knew was that, after a long blank time, he awoke in his bed, naked and profoundly aroused, with no memory of how he’d gotten there.
“Well, hey, there, sleepyhead,” Elle’s voice said. She strolled out of her closet, naked except for a pair of teetery-high cream-colored patent pumps.
“How did—how did I get here?” Louis said.
“Is that really what you want to ask right now?” Elle said. “Aren’t you more curious about what it is you are about to do here ?”
Louis’s breath quickened. “Yes,” he said simply.
“Well, big boy,” Elle said. “I am right here. Yours for the taking. What are you going to do about—My heavens, Mr. Wentworth, you are eager—”
Louis had launched himself out of the bed, folded his wife in his arms, and gently deposited her atop the bedspread.
“Let me—Louis! Let me—“ Elle was trying to pull back the spread and crawl under the colors, but there seemed to be no stopping Louis—he gently pinned her hands behind her head, kissed her deeply, and then climbed atop her and entered her very suddenly.
“Oh!” she said. It was a gasp of pleasure. She had been wet and ready for him since the moment she realized he was jealous of her invisible “lover.” She did love Louis so much, and this moment had brought out a side of him she enjoyed but rarely saw. He did not want to lose her. He wanted her. Really wanted her. A lot, and now. The way women dream of being wanted.
He took her. His motions were definite and confident and she relaxed under his touch and opened like a flower and—
“Oh, God, Louis!” she said, as a sudden, unexpected orgasm flooded her body. “Louis . . . .”
He was still on top of her, sliding in and out, his face avid. “Louis,” she said now. “Look into my eyes. Louis—COME NOW!”
He exploded. She watched his eyes dance back in his head. It was the sexiest thing she’d seen in a long time; even sexier was how limply he toppled over when she took his head in her hand. It wasn’t even hypnosis; it was simply sheer sexual depletion.
“Louis, darling,” she said. “Do you realize now how much I love you?”
“Yes, Elle,” he said, without opening his eyes.
“Do you realize that I am not going to leave you?”
“Yes, Elle.” His voice was fainter still.
“Do you realize that you can never escape from me?”
Even more faintly: “Yes, Elle.”
“Good,” she said. She raised her voice slightly. “I’m glad we got this nonsense cleared up, then,” she said. “Because it’s 5:30 p.m. I want my cocktail at 6:30, and dinner had better be on the table by 7 o’clock—DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
Before she’d finished the last word, Louis had rocketed out of bed, grabbed the heap of clothes on the floor and begun hobbling down the stairs while simultaneously slipping his legs into his trousers. On his face was a look of concentration and panic, like a white rabbit who had just remembered a very important date.
But there was also a broad silly smile as well. It was the smile one would imagine on the face of a man who had just won the lottery.
He had work to do, which meant all was well in the Murphy-Wentworth household.