When our lunch break arrives, I’ve gotten used enough to a drooling horse looking over my shoulder that I have resolved a couple of my tasks, as much as I would have achieved in those cursed days when a migraine blindsides me. I look forward to spending an hour at my workstation eating a cold sandwich and watching YouTube videos. But my coworkers have stood up to leave the office, and Jacqueline places a hand on my shoulder.
“Come with us, let’s have lunch at the place where we usually go,” she says, slipping into a thicker French accent. “You shouldn’t be alone today.”
I’m deflated, exhausted, and a horse keeps staring at me. I may as well follow my coworkers into some tumultuous restaurant that will drain the remainder of my energies. I nod, then stand up slowly.
“How nice,” Jordi says with a smile. “I’ll get to spend some time with my senpai.”
Once we exit the office building, I’m careful to lag a bit behind my colleagues. I have shoved my hands into the pockets of my hoodie, and I’m squinting at the midday sun although it’s October. While we follow a walkway lined with leafy trees, I hear Jordi and Jacqueline laughing as they gabble. They make it seem so easy.
Our destination is a popular restaurant located in a building with a crystal facade that resembles a wavy mirror. The owners must be rich; they feed every worker in the nearby office buildings that doesn’t spend the so-called lunch break in front of their desk by their lonesome. As soon as Jordi pushes the glass door open, the din from the dozens that are already enjoying their meals threatens to scrape my nerves raw. The conversations are loud enough to drown out the clatter of cutlery against plates, but none of the patrons seem bothered by the noise. Most of them are either wearing business suits that look freshly ironed and pressed, or casual clothes worn with care.
The interior is decorated with panels of dark wood. A huge illustration behind the bar, that covers most of that wall, shows a team of rowers during some competition, the sea foam frozen and tinted yellow by the sunset, making it resemble a giant’s golden shower. The tables are homely, the kind you’d expect at your grandparents’ living room.
A cheerful middle-aged woman seats us at a square table so small that our plates will touch each other. Jordi and Jacqueline are regulars, so I let them worry about all the details. But even if we had come here for the first time, I’d prefer if they handled everything while I sat quietly. The world is a big game board and I’m missing most of the pieces.
As I peruse the menu, I have a hard time focusing on the options because I’m reflecting on the absurdity of spending a third of my daily salary on my lunch, and then I realize that I had forgotten entirely about my horse stalker. I shoot up in the chair. I guess the horse disappeared to wherever hallucinations go when the mentally ill originator forgets about them. Have I lost it so much that I can just brush off a bipedal, castrated horse that insisted on talking to me?
“What kind of wine would you prefer, Leire?” Jacqueline asks, seated in front.
“Wine? Is that what you do on your lunch breaks? I’m surprised you don’t get drunk and fall asleep at your desks.”
Jacqueline smiles widely.
“You’re very funny. We’ll get our usual, then. White wine from Álava.”
I’m unused to dealing with Jacqueline in an informal setting. She could pass for someone’s mother with that air of nurturing maturity of hers. And I’m trying hard to avoid plunging my gaze into the low neckline of her blouse.
When the waitress arrives to hear our orders, she glances at me with curiosity before addressing Jacqueline and Jordi in a friendly tone. My coworkers order in five seconds. I haven’t weighed my options, but I want to get through this lunch break as soon as possible, so I pick one of the combo plates. Jacqueline and Jordi continue their conversation while I hunch over, zone out and wring my hands. I feel like an outsider in a group that’s been together for years.
Shortly after, a waitress brings us a pitcher of water with a lemon slice floating inside, along with a bottle of white wine. She looks at me with a critical eye, which startles me. What the hell have I done to her?
Jacqueline pours some white wine into her glass, swirls the contents, then takes a sip.
“He was gentle and patient, and eager to learn,” she says as she lifts a corner of her mouth and narrows her eyes, pleased with herself.
“Who was?” I ask for whatever reason.
Jacqueline licks the wine off her lips and points at Jordi with her pinky.
“Jordi asked me about my recent date. A sweet young thing, fresh out of college. He even showed me his guitar and played me a couple of songs. He seduced me properly, although he didn’t need to bother! And he was a master of oral.”
I sigh, then shift my weight nervously. The images of a drooling horse get replaced with Jacqueline splayed on a bed covered in black velvet, as she runs her fingers through the hair of a kid who’s lapping at her juices. My pussy tingles.
“Is this what you guys do during our lunch breaks,” I ask hoarsely, “go on about your sexual escapades?”
Jordi pours himself some wine.
“I want to know. It’s entertaining.”
This is why I don’t go out much. Too many weirdos like these two. They’re just as strange as the stalking steed.
“You see?” Jacqueline says. “He wants to know, and I love to tell my stories.” She tilts her head at me. “Does it bother you to hear about sex, Leire? I didn’t take you for a prude.”
My stomach churns. Do not be fooled by her air of maternal kindness, I tell myself. She’s a predator, a vampire that thirsts for a whiter kind of bodily fluid.
“Me, a prude?” I ask in raspy voice. “You have no clue who you are talking to. I just hate that I’m not the one getting fucked.”
I regret my words as soon as they jump from my tongue. Jordi chuckles, but Jacqueline nearly chokes on her wine, then she giggles for a few seconds. She places her warm hand gently over mine.
“Instead of being envious, sweetie, you should get out there and seduce some guy,” Jacqueline says. “That way, we can both be happy!”
When she lifts her hand, my own feels cold. Her smile is now a sickening reminder of the horrible things she’s capable of doing, like making my crotch uncomfortably sticky. She’s no longer a woman, but a depraved crone.
“Maybe you should stop bragging about how many twenty something year olds you get to fuck, particularly when our intern is involved,” I suggest as my heartbeat quickens. “Do you want him to keep picturing you in sexual circumstances? You can bet that this horny little puppy is already jerking off thinking about you.”
“What can I say? If it gets him off, count me in. Isn’t that right, honey?”
“Hell, you could fuck each other if you wanted. One day you’ll end up doing it just because you may as well. Do you know how awkward that would make working at the same table? But go ahead, just give him a taste of what you’ve got down south! See what he thinks of you after that.”
Jacqueline giggles. She leans towards me and opens her mouth, but the waitress interrupts us to place our meals before us. As I stare down at my two eggs, three breaded loin chops and a load of fries, I realize my mistake: I’ve trained my stomach to survive on cold sandwiches, to the extent that my organ may have shrivelled. But the scent does make me salivate, so I’ll force myself to finish my meal that I will have wasted a significant percentage of my daily salary on. I reach for the salt and pepper shakers and pour a dash of black and white crystals onto my plate.
Jacqueline has ordered grilled fish with potatoes, bathed in a sauce that smells spicy. She brings a morsel to her mouth and chews on it delicately as she narrows her eyes at me. After she swallows, she wipes her mouth with her napkin, smudging her lipstick.
“Since you’ve brought it up, I’d be fine with teaching Jordi a thing or two, but he’s not interested. Ah, if only men were like women, huh? They wouldn’t need us to teach them anything. We’re all mistresses of lovemaking.”
I stop shoving fries into my mouth.
“Speak for yourself. Also, what the fuck, Jordi? What kind of relationship you two have? And what kind of man are you that you don’t want a sexy mommy like her?”
Jordi rests his elbows on the table and turns his palms calmly towards the ceiling.
“I’m just not into sex. I’ve never found it interesting on a personal level. I like hearing about Jacqueline’s adventures from a human perspective, you know?”
“No, I have no clue what you are talking about. How could anyone not be interested in sex? It’s the only way to reliably escape from the nightmare of being alive. Even masturbation is enough, most of the time, to make the pain go away.”
As soon as I stop talking, I feel the heat in my cheeks. I pretend I’m eager to swallow more of my eggs, then I wash it down with a sip of lemon-flavored water. A waiter walks past carrying a tray with plates of steaming hot meat. His ass is big enough that I’d fill my hands with it.
For whatever reason, I continue talking.
“Look, it doesn’t matter if you have a dick, a vagina, a rod, a strap-on, a cunt, a snake, a tail, a horn, or even a pair of wings. The whole point is to enjoy the act because it makes you forget that you remain here, and that there is a world out there in which people get eaten by wild animals every day.”
Jordi clears his throat, then pushes his glasses up.
“Anyway, I’ve been learning a lot about myself and my tastes since I started working at our beautiful company, but sex hasn’t entered the picture yet. Maybe one day I’ll find someone with similar interests, who knows. I’m not in a hurry to explore that aspect of life.”
My heart is thumping as if I just ran uphill. Jacqueline looks back at me and shrugs. She lifts the wine bottle and attempts to fill my glass, but I move her hand away. She pouts.
“You need to loosen up, sweetie.”
“No, thank you, you can get drunk by yourselves, which I’m realizing you have done regularly during the workday. No wonder you two assholes look so content all the time. If you keep drinking, you might forget that you are going to die someday, that your life is meaningless, that our company will eventually lay us off and we are too old to start over. Sooner or later, we’ll be left alone to face the rest of the universe!”
Jacqueline laughs, then she pours herself another drink. She studies my reaction as her lips curl into a naughty smile.
“You need to get fucked, Leire.”
My nostrils flare and a flush spreads across my cheeks. Jacqueline smirks. She must think she’s won.
“How nice. I could have spent my lunch break watching prank videos of people farting on YouTube, but instead I followed you so you could tell me to get fucked.”
I take an angry bite of a greasy fry. I’m mad because she’s right. I want a good cock inside me, and I also want to rip Jacqueline’s blouse open and munch on her tits. But mainly I need to get through this fucking workday without losing what remains of my sanity.
Jacqueline takes a swig from her wineglass, then she licks the rim as she smiles at me again.