“For chrissakes Jack!” – Emma threw a cushion.
“What?” he shouted.
“Stop droning like a mozzie!”
Since they moved in together six months ago, Emma had grown, first accustomed; then to acknowledge; but now to really, really, really dislike some of Jack’s more anti-social habits. Especially when she had friends round – and this was in front of Lucas, one of her latest new friends, at her latest new job. She found herself getting embarrassed, precisely because Jack wasn’t.
“Sorry Lucas.” she said as Jack returned to his soundscape, stopped droning and began instead drumming his fingers to the tinny beat which was audible to the entire room.
“That’s okay.” offered Lucas – he was more comfortable sharing with Emma alone anyway, he didn’t like the look of Jack or the sound of his music.
“Shall I carry on?” he said, trying to make his resentment at Jack’s presence look like sympathy and understanding for Emma. They settled back again into the large, comfortably soft sofa and Lucas continued his story from the photo on his phone where he had left off.
“So, at the hotel pool the next day, I got to know the rest of them. Here I am with Isabella – she was one of the dancers.”
A lot had happened since Lucas had been away backpacking around Europe. For a start, Emma and Jack had gone from just mucking around to getting unofficially engaged to full-blown living together. Jack had been the perfect dating lover, pursuing Emma enthusiastically with flowers, promises and great sex. But since he moved into her smallish beachside flat he hadn’t been trying so hard. He was home most of the day while Emma was at work and if he wasn’t home he was surfing. Three to five nights a week he was playing guitar with his band so, on those rare occasions when they did spend an evening together, he was always tired. Somehow, he seemed a bit more ordinary than Emma remembered him when they first met at his gig at the surf club.
The thick cicada-filled summer-night air was oozing through the open balcony door as Lucas’s hand brushed against Emma’s thigh as he continued his slideshow. They both noticed.
Lucas had fancied Emma since the first time he saw her, and he was sure one day he’d get into her pants. It was quite a shock to discover, on his second night back in town, that a boyfriend had “moved in”. He looked up and could see the back of Jack’s head—he was rocking backwards and forwards in the bean bag that was placed only a few metres from the huge TV screen so that the headphones cord would reach. The volume in the headphones was full-on, but although the TV volume was turned down, Lucas could see from the predictable open-legged posturing and posing that this was a heavy rock band playing live – one of his least favourite things. Jack began to make low moans as he became more involved in the music.
Emma sighed and pulled Lucas’s face back around to face hers. Without thinking, Lucas kissed her quick and hard. Emma was surprised and glanced over to Jack – he was completely oblivious in the front row of the gig. Lucas stared at her, breathing heavily. He swallowed and kissed her again, this time softer and longer – he slid in his tongue searching for hers. Emma didn’t stop him, but didn’t encourage him either— she took it. She could feel Lucas’s hands moving under her shirt and up and down her back as his kissing got heavier and hotter. Lucas rolled his weight onto her. She looked desperately past his ear to see Jack still getting off on the music.
Emma was getting turned on and dug her nails into the back of Lucas’s neck and pulled his hair slightly. This was getting beyond her control. The two of them slid to the floor tangled together like string. Their hearts beat loudly and every nerve-end jangled in the silence of the room. Their hungry mouths breathed each other in and they began to grapple under each other’s clothes.
The action got hotter and louder. The band played faster and faster. The camera angles cut quickly from one shot to another. Jack began moaning louder. Emma began moaning louder. Lucas began moaning louder. Emma became conscious that she was making a hell of a row. She lifted her head from the floor to check on Jack again before falling back into her soft-hard, wet world of excitement.
The drums and the guitars built as they reached the finale—the crowd was screaming – over a thousand fireworks exploded into the night air above the stadium.
Emma opened her eyes slowly and bought the ceiling fan into focus to the sound of muted applause and cheering. It was a very long while since she had felt this satisfied. Lucas quickly disentangled himself, grinned wickedly at Emma and left the room. She pulled up her panties, pulled down her T-shirt, straightened her skirt and hair and sat back down on the sofa. She had just picked up Lucas’s phone when Jack spun around.
“That was bloody fantastic.”
Lucas returned to the room carrying a glass of water.
Emma felt his dampness between her legs when she stood up to see him out.
“Come again.” shouted Jack from behind Emma as she left the room.
“Sure will. If you like.” replied Lucas, grinning back to them both.
The setting was spectacular.
Toby surveyed the scene as he felt the back of his knees being gently prodded by the plush leather chair that a uniformed waiter was graciously guiding him into. He sat down and smiled with satisfaction—this was going to be good. A special dinner for a special occasion.
He checked the knot of his tie that he wasn’t used to wearing and made himself comfortable in the chair, resisting the instinctive impulse to deck the waiter as his hand reached across his lap to position an elegant napkin. He admired the table in front of him with its crisp, white table-cloth and the impressive array of highly-polished silver cutlery. He found himself in awe at the amazing attention to detail. The handles of the knives and forks matched the pattern on the base of the single, silver candlestick exactly; and the salt and pepper shakers stood to attention like two silver soldiers waiting for orders. There was already a bewildering collection of gold-rimmed plates on their table, which, had they been blessed with speech, would have uttered confident endorsements on the superlative quality of the cuisine they nightly contained.
Melissa was already seated and she was struck by the imposing grandeur of the room before she became aware of the splendid table displays. Her gaze was drawn upwards to the spectacular domed ceiling high above them – it’s deep blue surface encrusted with jewels which sparkled like thousands of tiny stars. She made a mental note of her position in relation to the massive, weighty chandeliers which looked like they were fashioned from millions of delicate slivers of ice.
Around the room various trolleys waited to be wheeled into position to prepare, pour, garnish, carve and flambeau. Although more than half the tables were full, each one seemed like a separate universe with the occupants apparently oblivious to the activity of their nearest neighbours. The tuneful, piped classical music sounded like it was being performed by a string quartet playing somewhere in the vicinity concealed by a velvet curtain. Candle flames danced magically along one wall reflected in the shoulders of the vast array of neatly aligned liqueur bottles behind the bar. The heavy clinks of knives and forks against the edges of china plates echoed above the general hum of conversation. Nobody was whispering but the atmosphere was one of quiet. The waiters spoke with such studied and elegant expertise that they were only audible to the diners they were addressing.
Prompted by a silent cue the waiters periodically disappeared with commitment through a single swinging door and returned with their arms laden with domed-covered dishes. Toby thought; How come they never collide with each other? Melissa thought; How come every one of the waiters is male—not a single women?
Toby fingered the leaves of the small flower display in the centre of the table and looked across to Melissa. He smiled slowly, absorbing her image in these surroundings: she too looked spectacular. She opened her legs wide so that the white of her small knickers could be seen through the split of her dress by anyone on the other side of the room.
Melissa’s eyes met Toby’s and, pouting, silently blew a small kiss to him, screwing up her nose delightfully. As Toby looked at Melissa, he remembered the first time they met. The first time they kissed. The first time he touched the soft white skin on her belly. The first time he slipped his hand inside her underwear. The first time they spent the night together.
Toby was distracted when his drink arrived and he took the first sip with a particularity that he was determined to sustain for every taste sensation tonight. They bent their heads into the large unfolded menus at exactly the same time. Both their mouths became wet with anticipation as they surveyed the wondrous delights to come.
Dinner proceeded slowly and meticulously. No diner left their table, fearing if they did so they might miss a moment of pleasure. Each course arrived with grace, was eaten lovingly and was then cleared away with precise elegance. Each wine was poured delicately, splashing sensually into the large accommodating glasses – a waiter seemingly appearing from nowhere when the level in one of the glasses slipped below halfway.
Toby was enjoying every morsel and every moment. He hardly said a word during the entire meal, preferring just to look around, savour every moment, and make a movie of it all in his mind that he could watch again and again. Melissa knew this and didn’t trouble him more than returning adoring looks.
After dessert, Toby settled back in his chair and took a deep breath. He licked his lips lazily and took another mouthful of dessert wine. With the glass still up at his lips he saw Melissa’s face through it and smiled at the way the glass distorted her image. He was a little drunk.
Melissa raised her glass and, with her head to one side smiled and mouthed the word ‘cheers’. Toby raised his glass and said
“Cheers darling.” shifting his glance away from Melissa to the woman who was sitting opposite him – his wife. Judy. She raised her glass and chinked it with Toby’s.
“Thank-you darling.” Immediately behind Judy, on the other side of the room, Melissa had her glass raised too. Toby was very pleased. How clever they had been.
However, his smile slowly turned to a confused frown as Melissa gently dabbed her lips with her napkin, placed it carefully in front of her, closed her legs, rose from her table and walked purposefully towards the table where Toby sat with his wife. As she strode between the other tables towards them, Melissa swung her hips wide so that her long split dress swished around her. Reaching her destination, Melissa lent over provocatively and whispered close to Judy’s ear while staring directly at Toby with her dark eyes and deep cleavage.
Toby was too shocked to intervene; he tried to make out what Melissa was saying by studying Judy’s face without changing his own. He relaxed – it was good news. Judy turned, slightly startled at the closeness of this person speaking in her ear.
“Oh Melissa, it’s you!”
“Hey.” smiled Melissa getting all girly.
‘This is my husband, Toby.” Judy said.
‘Toby, this is Melissa, from my Pilates class. She just wished us all the best for our anniversary. I told her this morning that we were coming here to celebrate.”
“Hi Toby, how was your dinner?”
On his lap Toby drew in his napkin and screwed it up into a tight ball. He dropped it on the table and watched it relax, expand and unscrumple.
“Spectacular Melissa. Thank-you. Spectacular.”
It was only his second week and third day at work. Malcolm was finished. He tidied up, completed the final paperwork and sat back to finish the article about classic car maintenance that he had started reading, but hadn’t meant to get so interested in. Malcolm thought it amazing what you could improvise with when you didn’t have the proper tools handy.
In the next cubicle the toilet flushed and he heard the grunt of trousers being hoisted up and a belt being refastened as his neighbour left the room. Malcolm sat for a few minutes more enjoying the solitude after the hand-dryer had finished blowing.
Suddenly, in a barrage of noise, two men banged into the room and marched their way to the urinals. He recognised one of the voices as that Markus bloke who occupied the desk just in front of Catherine’s.
“You should see her, she’s a beauty, mate. I wanted black because it won’t show any nicks. I had to wait an extra 3 weeks but it was worth it. Tell you what. I’ll give you a lift home in her tonight”.
Malcolm tried to discern who the other voice belonged to as they became inaudible for a while and then audible again over the noise of the automatic urinal flusher.
“Hey, what about that new bloke who wears the daggy ties?”
“Yeah, he’s ripe.”
“He’s got the new Masterman account to submit this afternoon; I’d love him to screw that one up. You know he’s been here early every bloody day this week arranging red pencils on his desk – who uses pencils?”
Malcolm looked down at his tie and screwed his face up as the two other men spat with laughter.
“Tell you what, I’d love to add a few extra zeros to his spreadsheet while he’s out at lunch – he’ll get in a heap of trouble with old Nobbs when they check the totals.’ They both continued snickering as they moved to the sinks to wash their hands. Malcolm instinctively lifted his feet from the floor for fear of being discovered. He felt an itch in his nose and prayed his body wouldn’t let him down. The two men left him with his trousers still around his ankles.
45 minutes later, with the lunch hour over, the lift-door slid open and Malcolm stepped into the staff-friendly open-plan office. He saw that Markus bloke swaggering confidently towards him from the end of the office where Malcolm’s desk was and Markus’ desk wasn’t.
“Just borrowed one of your shiny sharp pencils champ. Is that okay?” Markus grinned as he strode past.
“Sure. Okay.” Malcolm stammered with one hand over his tie.
Malcolm looked back over his shoulder to see Markus hovering with intent over Catherine’s desk. She smiled at something he said, but not like she was really interested. Malcolm reached his desk and sat for a few moments staring at his screensaver – a swiveling clock bouncing around the edges of his computer screen. Catherine smiled warmly in his direction. He met her eyes and returned the warmth but then looked away when heard giggling from the water cooler behind him. He dared not turn to see if it was the other office girls, not him, who Catherine had been smiling at.
He looked at the spreadsheet on his computer screen – several thousand cells of independent data organized with logic and formulae into a meaningful holistic entity. He’d saved it before lunch, but instead of using this one, he now used an older version of the same file from his back-up to attach to his final submission of the Masterman account and sent his email 15 minutes before it was due. Later that afternoon Mr Nobson, the department head, would be calling him into the glass-walled central partition to discuss the totals. Catherine lent back in her chair and talked openly and honestly to a close friend on her mobile phone.
At 4:40pm precisely, with a twitch of one stubby finger Mr Nobson ushered Malcolm into his office. They discussed the numbers, the methodology and the resulting expectations.
Today, Malcolm would discuss the numbers with extra pride and smile through the glass wall for everyone – especially that bloke Markus – to see. Everyone, including Catherine, would surely see his confidence rise.
Then suddenly slide like a dead body into a bath.
Even with the soundscape of a dozen muted office conversations, ten printers rolling and various telephones ringing, everyone could see what Mr Nobson was saying as he lent forward, eased his half-rim glasses down his nose and peered over them towards Malcolm.
A few minutes later Malcolm shuffled out of Mr Nobson’s office like a scolded child. Everyone was looking at him. Catherine looked sympathetic and sad. He’d had a severe private ticking off in public and he was still on probation. From now on he would be getting the most tedious of the tedious jobs that fell on the department to handle.
The rest of the afternoon passed predictably and at 5:00pm exactly Malcolm slid his jacket from the back of the chair and prepared to leave the department for the day. He removed his raincoat and umbrella from the sliding cupboard next to the door on his way out and remained remorseful on his silent journey down to the ground floor in the crowded lift. Even though it was starting to rain outside, Malcolm had to squint from the sudden gush of sunlight. He turned in the developing rush-hour crowd to walk to his usual bus stop to catch the 5:23pm. He could see Catherine ahead of him and watched her calves tighten and untighten in her stockings and high-heels as she walked. He had taken only a few steps himself when he heard the ‘beep beepity beep’ of a car horn. He stopped walking, and turned to see that bloke Markus and an accomplice speeding from the underground car-park past a queue of traffic in a shiny black car. Catherine turned to look at the car and shook her head as they disappeared around the corner of the office building – then she noticed Malcolm, held up her bent little finger and smiled.
Malcolm smiled inwardly with enormous satisfaction—it was a long time since he’d felt this good. He reached deep into the pockets of his raincoat. With one hand he squeezed his growing erection and with the other he squeezed the metal of an object he’d found earlier that afternoon in the caretaker’s room.
In the distance he heard the screech of tyres and the clang of metal as people ran around the corner of the office building to assist the wounded.