Lisa and Etienne continued to see each other secretly. Etienne had Lisa teaching classes at the dance school so he could conveniently pull her into the back room for “one on one” time. He loved the thrill of the knowing that someone could discover them at any minute; the affair brought exhilaration to his daily life. The rush he felt during the private encounters left him feeling free of his problems. The failing economy and the expense of his divorce were threatening his livelihood. Acting on sexual impulse with Lisa was enough to mask the turmoil of his otherwise depressing situation. The more risky the encounters the longer his good feelings would last; Lisa was like a drug. As his days became more stressful, his sexual needs became more extreeme.
One night after class, Lisa invited me for a drink. Weeks prior, she confided in me about her relationship with Etienne. She swore me to secrecy and asked me for my honest opinion as it applied to her circumstances. She explained that during the day things with Etienne were normal, almost like a married couple. They would plan the studio’s teaching schedule; go shopping for supplies and share meals before evening classes. They spoke mostly of dance, their shared passion, and the future of the studio. Etienne dreamed that one day Lisa would run her own studio, bearing his name, on the other side of town. Lisa felt that these types of conversations proved that their relationship had a public and lasting future. Then Lisa began reflecting on the darker side of things.
Most nights, after class was finished, Etienne would follow Lisa home to her apartment. There he would drink and conversation would shift from dance to sex. Etienne knew that Lisa was deeply devoted to him. Not only as a student, but as a lover and potential boyfriend. He preyed on her vulnerability by promising that sharing in his fantasies would seal their union. He wanted to bring other people into the mix and experiment on levels that made Lisa uncomfortable. She was embarrassed by the proposition, but considered participating in the hopes of keeping Etienne engaged. From my perspective, it seemed like Etienne’s thrills were rooted in his power to manipulate. If he could turn a good girl bad, he would experience unparallel ecstasy. The delight was not derived from the acts as much as the power over another person.
Lisa was not naive to Etienne’s manipulation tactics. She explained that he would use his influence to control students at the dance school. He studied great leaders and self help gurus to master the art of suggestion. For example, Etienne would compliment certain students and have them believe that they had special talent. He would pull them aside and tell them that they had the potential to teach their own classes at the school. To develop their extraordinary skills they would need to take extra class and a certification course, which, naturally cost hundreds of dollars. In few instances, the students would successfully complete the training and actually become a certified instructors. In this case, Etienne would put them to work but without pay, since they were still in an “apprentice” phase. So you see, the exceptional talent, was only part of a greater money marketing scheme, the result being free labor for Etienne and his dance school. Thus, Etienne’s manipulation tactics carried over into his personal life.
Lisa understood she was being used on some levels and she expressed anger and frustration over the state of affairs. She wanted to swear Etienne off and cut the physical ties but she still loved the man he was during the day deeply. Lisa wanted to bargain; find a way to keep him in her life. She considered an ultimatum…he dates her publicly or not at all. In fact, she had the perfect opportunity to present her terms. The next weekend was her best friend’s birthday party. She planned to invite Etienne as her date. I would be the only other dance student at the party and I already knew of the relationship, so there was no concern over the business and pleasure boundaries. It would be an opportunity to start fresh, taking the dark relationship into the light where the manipulation and erotic dares would cease. He would be the same man he was during the day at night. Makes perfect sense, don’t you think?