|Primary Characters:||Johnny, Gilda|
|Spoilers:||Just watch the movie, ok?|
|Warning:||m/m sex, adult themes, some violence|
|Description:||What really happened between Johnny and Ballin? Why did Johnny and Gilda break up? How did things go between them after the end of the movie? These are questions I wanted to answer.|
The sound of his hand making contact with her face was harsh, in stark contrast with the soft light in the room. An ugly red stain spread on Gilda’s cheek. Her eyes smouldered and her hands clenched and unclenched for a second, until she was able to control her temper. She pressed her lips harder together.
“Do you think I’m stupid, Gilda?”
“You said it. Not me.”
Again Johnny’s hand made a circuit in the air, but stopped just short of hitting Gilda again. He knew from his own experience that the gifts and the money didn’t come just for the dancing. Was it really possible that Gilda knew how to play those old men, without actually giving them access to more of her than just her dancing talent? No. His talents in that department were just as great as hers.
Despite that, the old ladies, and – he could be honest about it to himself, if not to Gilda – the old men too – weren’t all that generous until he came to see them in their suites. There was no way she could be telling the truth. He couldn’t bear this kind of betrayal. It had been bad enough back home when they were children. He loved her far more now, or rather, he had loved her far more until now.
“Don’t you dare -”
“Oh, I dare anything. You know me, Johnny.”
“I have to go. I can’t breathe in here.”
“Then why don’t you go outside and cool down? When you’re feeling a little less passionate, maybe you’ll see that I’m telling you the truth.”
“Do you even know the truth when you see it?”
“Better than you do.”
His eyes bored into her coldly and for a second she thought he was going to hit her again. She wouldn’t stand for it. If he did, she would strike him back. But she was wrong, or maybe he changed his mind. In any case, he swung round on his heels and left the room.
The sun got in her eyes, and she moved over in bed to avoid it. Something about the bed struck her as being all wrong somehow. Eventually, she looked up, stretched and sat up. Johnny was gone. Scowling, she got out of bed and put on her robe. That immature, jealous fool. What had he gotten himself into now?
If she had known, she would have worried even more than she did. As it was, she was more angry than concerned. No matter how much she loved him, there were times when she just had enough.
How could he accuse her of being unfaithful, when he was the only one sleeping with others? He thought she didn’t know about the old women, and occasionally the men too. It was easy to make excuses for him, but the truth was, Gilda didn’t find it all that challenging to handle the old men who danced with her. All it really took was some creative moves, the discreet removal of a groping hand, and then smiling and flattering them.
Deep down she knew that Johnny didn’t really have to go to bed with all those women. He just wanted to prove himself as a man. The irony of it all was that by doing so, he was degrading himself further and further instead. He could deny it to himself and to her all he wanted, but this was just New York all over again, except that here the pay was much better.
It had been such an incredible piece of luck, running into a man like Ballin Mundson. Actually, Ballin had run into Johnny, but the result was the same. He was in. Not that he didn’t recognize the look in Ballin’s eyes. That would make the whole thing a little less palatable, but all the better. It would serve Gilda right for betraying him. If she could, so could he.
Johnny didn’t like the way the other employees stared at him, and the comments behind his back, but he was the one being paid the big bucks, not them. So they could just shove their opinions.
Tonight was his first night in the house. Ballin was treating him to dinner. So far everything was fine.
Johnny thought he could easily get used to the fine wines, the expensive food, not to mention the table cloths and the silverware. This was how a man should live. What was to come afterwards was less appealing, but it wasn’t the first time, and he thought he could deal with it. If not, Ballin, too, could go to hell. Johnny Farrell didn’t take crap from anyone.
On the menu tonight there was shrimp cocktail, grilled lobster, and some variety of fries with a french name, that Johnny couldn’t pronounce. For dessert another of those fancy exotic dishes that was too sweet for his taste, but he knew Gilda would have loved it. He stopped himself in mid-thought.
What was Gilda doing inside his head? She had betrayed him, and she could take the consequences. Besides, he had promised Ballin that no women would be allowed to come between them. The thought of Gilda must have made him frown slightly, because he could see Ballin take notice.
“What’s on your mind, Johnny?”
“That’s right. Nothing. Or less than nothing.”
“I see. But we won’t waste time on nothing, will we, Johnny?”
“If you’ve finished your parfait, shall we move into the smoking room?”
“Sure. I’m all done.”
“Excellent. Shall we?”
Johnny was wondering when Ballin would make his move. He wished he could have some advance warning, but as long as he got some of that booze down his throat, he would be ok. Unless Ballin had some really special tastes.
It turned out Ballin was serious about sitting down to have a drink and a cigar. They spoke at length about various topics, including investments and the political situation in the world today. Johnny wasn’t able to contribute much, but he was content to sit in the luxurious environment, and soak up the atmosphere.
He could definitely learn to like the life of the wealthy. All this would be his for the asking. Well, not quite, but he was prepared to pay the price. After Gilda, nothing would be the same, so he might as well adapt to the new situation any way he could.
“It’s getting late. I will expect you at work at nine tomorrow, if that is alright with you, Johnny?”
“Sure. That’s fine by me.”
“Splendid. I’ve given orders for the servants to prepare the room next to mine. Will that suit you?”
“Yeah, I don’t mind.”
“Then I suggest we go upstairs now. Are you quite finished with that?”
“Oh, sure. I’m coming.”
Yeah, it had been fun, but there was always a time to pay the bill, and if that time was now, he would deal with it. He always did.
To his surprise, Ballin said good night at the door, and vanished into his own room. Johnny lay awake for about an hour or so, half-expecting a visitor, but finally he dozed off to sleep. This was the easy life. Could he have been wrong about Ballin’s intentions?
As it turned out, he wasn’t. Only the next night, he learned all he could want and more, about his employer’s intentions. That’s was ok, Johnny hadn’t really thought this was a free ride.
Ballin didn’t even bother to ask. He just gave his instructions in a low, authoritative voice that didn’t encourage any protests. What bothered Johnny the most was that he had a blindfold ready. That didn’t bode well for the rest of the night, but forcing down his initial reaction, Johnny let Ballin go on.
“I don’t want you to say anything. Just do as I tell you to. You’re a dancer, so I want you to dance for me, but first remove everything you’re wearing, except your underwear. Stand with your back to me, and just dance for me, slowly.”
Johnny felt a shiver go down his spine, and he almost pulled away from Ballin when he put the blindfold over his eyes. It was all he could do to just keep doing as he was told. He felt like a fool, dancing in his underwear, all by himself. Still, he wasn’t by himself for much longer. Ballin moved in behind him and let his hands begin their slow exploration of Johnny’s body. When he felt something hard brush his ass he almost gave up.
Only the thought of what he had to return to, or run to, held him in his place. He kept swaying to the sound of the faint background music, and let his new owner move in on him from all sides, or so it felt. Ballin’s fingers trailed across his chest, hips, thighs and ass. Now they travelled underneath the elastic of his shorts and began playing with him. A tight knot formed at the pit of his stomach, but he knew he had come too far to back down.
He felt cool lips brush his ear and the side of his neck. Two fingers closed around one nipple and squeezed hard, just hard enough to excite him more than he cared to admit even to himself. This was getting under his skin in a way his previous encounters with other men never had. Ballin was too intense, too forceful.
It wasn’t long until he had had enough of playing. Ballin ended the game, by putting his arms around Johnny and pulling him so close he had to stop moving. Tensely, Johnny waited for the next step. He was being led towards the bed, still blindfolded, but as he was pushed down on it, the blindfold was finally removed. It didn’t help much. Seconds later he was pinned down by the surprisingly heavy bulk of his employer.
Ballin’s mouth was cold and hard, not at all like Gilda’s. There had been passion as well as love between Johnny and Gilda at the best of times, but this was different. So very different. It was just as well he wasn’t expected to play an active part, because Johnny felt lost in this new and unnerving situation. All he could do was force himself to accept what was being done to him, and try to seem as entusiastic as Ballin wanted him to.
When he woke up he was alone. He felt cold. The initial enthusiasm for his new life was all but gone, but he refused to give up. He had nothing to go back to, and he would make this work. That was all there was to it. The money and the luxury would have to make up for what he was missing.
Deep down, there was a touch of satisfaction, knowing what Gilda would think if she knew. Those old men she was giving herself to, could they give her any of this? Johnny was the one who was going places, not that slut.
Even so, her face kept hovering above his, and now that she was lost to him, he could only remember the good times. Before the betrayal. How she used to smile at him, how it felt to dance with her, her embrace in the darkness of their room, when all the paying customers were gone. Just him and Gilda. Why couldn’t it have stayed that way?
When Gilda was upstairs settling into her new home, she heard her husband outside on the landing. She wondered who he was talking to, but she wasn’t kept guessing for long. The revelation stunned her. All she could do was try her best not to show any emotion, while she sorted out the facts inside her mind.
So that was why Ballin wouldn’t touch her at night? Now she saw clearly the reason for her husband’s reluctance to dance with her or do anything but look at her. Stare, in fact. Devouring her with his eyes, was more like it.
It had already caused her some concern. He wasn’t like other men, and what could that mean? She found that despite the fact that her love for Johnny had turned to hate after the long weeks of waiting and worrying, her worst fear wasn’t on her own account. Still, after all he had done to her, his welfare was on her mind.
The wordplay, the innuendo, the barbed comments were wearing on her just as much as they seemed to be getting to him. But the situation was far too complicated to resolve. Not even Gilda could find a solution. As time went by, she began to fear for both of them. Her husband filled her with a chilling sense of foreboding, and all the time the sexual and emotional tension between her and Johnny kept growing. It wouldn’t be long now, she sensed, before something had to break.
Knowing Johnny the way she did, she knew how the enforced abstinence, at least as far as women were concerned, must take its toll on him, but she didn’t sympathise with him on that account. Not at all. He had made his bed, and now he had to lie in it. If only that had been all there was to it.
On the night of the carnival she knew something was in the air. She could feel it long before the actual debacle unfolded. Johnny would have laughed at her if she had mentioned anything about her apprehension, but by then he was too deeply caught up in the ambience of the fateful night to have any energy to spare for their private verbal fencing match.
No matter how much she hated him, it was heaven being back in his arms, and later up in her room, the breathless seconds their lips locked it was as if they were back in the interior, before all their troubles began. Until the sound of the door slamming shut behind them, rudely recalled them to reality.
Johnny didn’t know what demon inside him compelled him to treat Gilda the way he did. Part of him just wanted to give everything up and beg her forgiveness. They could leave the way they had come to South America – with nothing except each other. In the past they had always managed to scrape by.
Yet for some devious reason he couldn’t understand himself, he kept on tormenting the only person he had ever loved. He knew he was causing himself just as much pain, if only he would face up to it. The intolerable Obregon interfering all the time, didn’t help either. Why couldn’t that damned cop just leave him alone? He didn’t need all this hassle.
If he had known the truth it wouldn’t have cheered him much. He had his suspicions, though. It was as if Ballin was still inside him, as if he would never be able to shake his powerful presence. Damnit, the man was dead, so why couldn’t he leave him alone? Whatever had happened between them was over.
Then one night everything combined to make him give up. Gilda announcing that she was leaving. Obregon and his tedious hints that Johnny should hand over the combination to the safe and be done with it. Old Tio’s looks and meddlesome suggestions. Finally, it all began to get to him. What was the point anyway? It suddenly struck him that without Gilda nothing made sense anymore. He had childishly thought to punish Gilda, while in reality succeeding only in hurting himself, and placing her life in danger.
Even if Gilda had cheated on him, what difference did it make? After all that had happened, he was as guilty as she was. More so. She hadn’t set out to deliberately torment him. That she had ended up doing so was simply because she meant so much to him. It had really been his own fault, all that had happened to him, and to her.
He had to find her before she was gone. If he could, he had to make things right again. He prayed that it wouldn’t be too late.
Why had he ever doubted her? As soon as he stopped his childish moping and sulking, he knew that he had always been able to depend on her.
In the end, with Ballin lying truly dead at their feet, everyone else had done the right thing. They were all good, decent people, except him.
His father had been right. Johnny Farrell was a loser, a nobody with an attitude, and everyone – Tio, Obregon, Gilda – everyone – had known what sort of person he was. It had been in the looks they gave him, in every word they said. Johnny was nothing but a cheap two-bit hustler. Professional dance partner, professional bed mate, professional fool. Despite all that, Gilda still smiled and told him she loved him. What had he ever done to deserve her?
Tio saved their lives, Obregon covered for them, and Gilda, she forgave him, and took him back. After all he had done to her, after all he had cost her.
On the journey back, once they were in their cabin together, he wanted to tell her everything that was on his mind. He tried to convey to her how deeply shamed he was by all he had done. To her. To himself. Yet, despite everything, he still had to ask her about the events that had led up to his departure.
“Gilda, please. Forgive me for asking, I don’t care what the answer is, I just have to know. Did you cheat on me back there or not?”
“I told you before, but I suppose you have a hard time getting it into that pretty, stupid head of yours. Never. There was never anyone but you.”
“I guess I knew that all along. Can you ever forgive me for not taking your word for it?”
“I suppose I’ll have to. Oh, of course I do. You know, I was really mad at you for accusing me of sleeping with others, when the only one who ever did was you.”
“So you knew about that?”
“Of course I did. It was so obvious. Everyone knew.”
Johnny nodded, as if to himself.
“I guess I didn’t deserve any better. From now on it’s going to be different. I swear. Never again. When we get back home, it won’t be like the last time.”
“Everything was different the last time, but whatever I did back then, we did it together.”
“I know, but I was able to shut out whoever was watching, whoever was paying.”
“Me too. We were just kids then. We didn’t know any better. I couldn’t do it again.”
“No. Me neither. Ballin has cured me of that. Gilda, he didn’t -?”
“To me? Of course not. It was you he wanted all along. Me, he just wanted to look at, and show off. Johnny, I do understand. I know what we were running from.”
“How can you know anything about that? I never dared to tell you anything.”
“Oh, Johnny. Whenever Don Farrell was whipping one of his boys, the entire building knew it. Paper thin walls, remember?”
“One of his boys? That would be me. The others were so much older they would have been gone by the time you were old enough to remember.”
“But that’s all he did, right, Johnny?”
“What do you mean? Oh. Yes, of course. He wasn’t that sort of man. I think he really loved me in some twisted way. Must have thought he was beating the devil out of me, or whatever his whiskey-soaked brain told him. Did your old man -?”
“Frank wasn’t my father, but yes, he did. Well, he tried to. He wanted to, but I never let him get close enough. In the end I got tired of running. That’s why I went away with you.”
“Whatever happened later, I’m glad you did. Without you, I would have been nothing. Listen to me, Gilda. I swear I’ll never treat you the way I did. Never.”
“That’s good, because I don’t think I could bear to go through all that again. Just one thing. I want you to know that I don’t sleep with other men, because I don’t want to. If I did, you couldn’t stop me. You have no right.”
“I know. That’s understood. I don’t own you, and I’ll never try to put you in a cage like some pretty object. Like he did.”
“Good, I won’t do that to you either.”
“Thanks, I guess. Anyway, you’re the one who makes all the decisions from now. I don’t trust myself anymore.”
“It’s funny you should mention that, because I have an idea. When we get back, we’ll start a dance studio of our own.”
“Where will we get the money for that?”
“You’ll see. We might find someone who’d like to invest in it, or maybe we can get a loan. If we can’t, then we’ll just work in someone else’s for a while. That will be almost as good. But no more private customers, ok?”
“None of that ever again.”
“Good. Now that’s settled, I think I’d like to sleep. Tomorrow night, we’re going to dance again. I’ve missed dancing with you, Johnny. In fact, I’ve missed everything about you. I hope you’re not too much – out of practice.”
“If I am, you’ll have to work on me.”
“No problem. I’d love to. Let’s just sleep now, ok?”
“You’ll get no argument from me.”
That night, sleeping so close to Gilda, Johnny had a dream. She was wearing the same dress she had that night she made such a stir down at the club. The gloves were already off, and the chain from around her neck. He was lying on the floor at her feet. She was walking all over him. The sharp points of her high heels dug into his skin painfully, but he welcomed the pain. When she stepped off him, he could hear the soft rustle of the dress falling to the floor.
Now in her underwear, she looked at him with a challenge in her eyes. He responded by crawling over to her. His lips began their lingering path across her ankles and lower legs. At some point she must have sat down. He was on his knees kissing her thighs and knees. She lowered herself down on the settee, spreading her legs to give him access. His hands began the slow, exquisite task of removing her panties.
She had already opened her bra. The sight of those firm, pert breasts drove him mad, but he wouldn’t be distracted from his penance. When the tip of his tongue reached its destination, her strong, lithe dancer’s legs shot up, and pushed him off. He found himself being pushed down and straddled. Burying his face in the warm moistness, he lost himself in the moment. Her hands were holding on to his hair, pressing his face closer, so close that he was short of air, but that didn’t stop him.
“Johnny? What are you doing? Wake up.”
“It sounded as if you were suffocating.”
“No. I’m alright. It was just a dream, that’s all.”
“A dream, huh? About what, if I may ask?”
“Nothing. Never mind. I’m just so glad we’re together again. And that the nightmare is over.”
“Me too. Come here.”
In real life, her embrace was even sweeter. He fell asleep, his head resting on her breasts, her luscious hair tickling his neck and forehead. This was where he had always wanted to be and this time he wouldn’t let his own stupidity tear him away. Wherever Gilda was, was Johnny’s home. People like Ballin Mundson could keep their wealth. All he needed was his love.