“We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the Earth.”

Nicholas Gold was a successful real estate mogul, he owned half of Manhattan but success came at a price. He put up a mask for the world to see, played a role in public, so he could have a semblance of a private life. For a man worth billions, it was hard to ever trust anyone. Did they like him or his bank account? He grew hard, cold, life was a perpetual winter.

When Mr Gold, went out in public, he was chauffeured in fancy cars, he wore thousand dollar tailored suits and went to the best places.

When Nick went out, he wore off the rack clothes from normal stores like Sears. He took the subway and ate in hole in the wall diners. It was like being Clark Kent and Superman. He stepped outside people’s expectations and was granted a measure of invisibility.

What Gold liked best to do, on the rare occasion he could get away, was go to the train station, or the marina. They were places that normal people went, people with normal jobs and normal lives. He would sit at the coffee shop in the station and pretend for a moment he was one of them.

He didn’t regret his success. He was just lonely, without connection.

Until one day, the coffee shop was full and Belle French sat down at his table with a smile. She had a book in her hand and promised not to bother him. However, she kept chatting anyway, about her book, about the city, all the places she wanted to go and the things she wanted to see.

Gold was out of practice making such conversation. The usual ‘small talk’ he participated in was always entirely tainted by business, where he had to consider every word carefully because making the right impression mattered. He did his best and after half an hour, he had to regretfully excuse himself, he had a business meeting downtown and he had to be ‘Mr Gold’ once more.

He never expected to see Belle again.

However, a couple of weeks later, she was back at the station. She waved at him and expressed surprise that they were both there again.

“Are you busy this afternoon?” Belle asked.

“No,” Gold replied. He wasn’t for a change, it was friday and he had the afternoon to do as he pleased.

“I have this train tour.” Belle handed him the flyer. A bunch of subway stops were marked, along with places of interest nearby. “Want to join me? It’s always more fun with company.”

Gold smiled and nodded. “I’d like that.”

What would it hurt? One afternoon to forget the world. It was a cold winters day, the day to be inside and not traipsing over the city. However, in Belle’s company, he had never felt warmer or more alive. Her joy was infectious. At a flower stall he gave her a rose, which was speckled in snow.

They got a birds eye view of the city at the glass dome and Belle grabbed Gold’s hand so tightly for comfort, as it was scary, like they were about to fall to the city beneath them.

He never wanted the day to end but a man can’t live a double life. Belle knew him, she didn’t know his mask, but his mask was what he had to live with most of the time.

At the end of the day, Gold plucked up his courage and kissed Belle on the cheek. “Goodbye Belle.”

He walked away.

Um, there needs to be more of this – this is perfect ! **But is that supposed to be a permanent goodbye ?!

Oh wow thank you 🙂 I’m glad you liked it. The goodbye was less permanent, more I couldn’t decide what happened next. Let’s think, ok I got it.

Gold didn’t go back to the train station that week, or the next. He was worried about somehow running into Belle for a third time and he didn’t know what he would say to her. He liked her, but all it could ever be was one perfect afternoon.

He was probably fooling himself. In fact Gold decided that Belle had likely not given him a second thought. He had been a convenient companion for her sightseeing trip, nothing more. She would never think of him, the way he had started to think about her.

It had been three weeks since that Friday afternoon where he forgot the world. His Mr Gold mask was firmly in place, entertaining business associates from out of town. It was something he hated doing but people were more amenable to signing contracts after they had spent the evening drinking. It was just part of doing business.

To make things easier on himself, Gold either bought outright, or a sizable stake, in all the places that he used to schmooze clients. He could stop people from bothering him if he owned the place. It was a lot less hassle.

He was at the nightclub in the VIP area, easily his least favorite of all the places he was forced to take clients. The loud music gave him a headache, the fake smoke gave him a sore throat, the bright lights hurt his eyes. The whole place was a nightmare.

Gold was leaning on the railing, overlooking the rest of the club when he saw Belle. How could he not see her? He would know her anywhere. He was surprised, he didn’t think this would be a place that she would go and she was hardly dressed for the occasion either. Her clothing was far more conservative than was expected in a place like this. However, he wasn’t surprised that the bouncer had waved her in. Belle’s beauty was clear for all to see, it didn’t need to be displayed like a vulgar piece of meat.

To his surprise she headed directly for the bouncer manning the rope cord, protecting the stairs that led to the VIP level. She spoke with him, animatedly waving her hands. The bouncer waved her away and she crossed her arms, staring him down. The bouncer clicked his fingers, summoning a nearby waitress, he whispered in her ear. The waitress nodded and came up the stairs to the VIP lounge.

“Mr Gold. There’s a Belle French asking for you downstairs,” the waitress told him respectfully.

Gold choked in surprise. That couldn’t be right. How could that be possible? He had been Nick with Belle, not Mr Gold. He was invisible as Nick, it was his escape, how could she know?

“Send her up,” Gold ordered hoarsely.

A few minutes later Belle appeared. “You are a hard man to find Nick.”

“You weren’t supposed to find me,” Gold said automatically.

Belle bit her lip and looked down at the floor. “I’m sorry, I thought .. never mind.” She turned to leave.

“No Belle wait,” Gold called out after her. “How did you know who I was?”

“I didn’t, not until a few days ago when I saw your picture in the paper,” Belle explained. “I thought about going to your office but I didn’t think I would get past the front door, then tonight twitter said you were here. I took a chance.”

“You saw my picture in the paper?” Gold repeated dumbly.

She’d recognized him? Nobody had ever recognized him before. He was Clark Kent and Superman. A clothing change and a different location and nobody suspected a thing. He had seen people read an article with his picture on the cover right in front of him, and they hadn’t even said ‘do you realize you look like that billionaire Mr Gold?’

Belle’s eyes narrowed before understanding blossomed on her face. “You didn’t think I would recognize you,” she softly. She moved back over and touched his arm gently. “Oh Nick, I’m sorry. I’ll leave.”

“No, please don’t,” Gold said instinctively. “I was surprised, that’s not happened before but I don’t mind, not with you.”

Belle smiled. “You never gave me your phone number.”

“I didn’t think you’d want it and then ..” Gold gestured around him, meaning this, his other life – his real life.

Belle reached into her pocket and withdrew a slip of paper. She held it out to him. “Well here’s my number. What happens next is up to you.”