I haven’t fully recovered yet from the Moderna booster shot, but at least I don’t have a fever anymore. I spent the day after the jab with temperatures close to 39ºC. The following day they averaged about 37.5ºC. Besides the inevitable decline of my cognitive abilities during the fever, I experienced muscle pain, a troubling, pulsating headache at the base of my skull, and maybe worst of all, I developed something of a bronchitis, for which I’m still taking asthma medication. Still, it seems I’ll have to continue this life of mine.
Anyway, I had been working on this scene for days, and frankly I wanted to put it out there and move on. I’m not entirely content with the result, but it achieves all it was meant to.
Jacqueline and I walk arm in arm under her umbrella along the puddle-infested pavement, as we head towards my coworker’s chosen pub. Raindrops are pelting the umbrellas and plunking against car roofs; only the occasional motorbike’s engine sounds over the white noise of the downpour. Rivulets run across the street and into gutters where they turn white with froth. With each inhalation, watery air enters my lungs. Jacqueline and I remain silent as if we had agreed to wait until we reached a shelter.
We pass the courthouse, and after we hurry to cross a short zebra crossing, we continue along a leaf-littered pavement lined with nude trees. The umbrellas of the strangers that pass us, as well as ours, sway and dance in response to the gusts of wind. Rainwater falls from the ends of the fabric in curtains while cold raindrops hit my bare legs like tiny daggers, as if the water was trying to push through to enter my bloodstream and feed on my living tissue.
By this point of human civilization, when most things are airtight and insulated from nature to prevent damage to buildings or our vulnerable lives, stormy weather should have been forbidden by law, yet it continues to make everything on earth quiver and shiver and whimper in terror at the sight of the freakish beast known as rain. However, being so close to Jacqueline’s warmth has given me goosebumps on top of those the cold provided. With every breath I take, her scent invades me. It’s musky with an undertone of rose petals and honeysuckle. This also causes a slight but noticeable warming of my genitals.
My mind drifts to daydreams in which I’m lying in a stroller with the canopy down. I’ve never quite known which way to go, but with Jacqueline driving me around, I don’t have to worry.
Jacqueline slows down as we reach the end of the canyon made of wheat brown apartment buildings. Beyond a small square with a garden enclosed by a green and yellow, knee-high hedge, a daisy white building, that likely contains one or two hotels, hides the view of the La Concha beach. The air is damp with the smell of the ocean, a touch of seaweed mixed with brine.
“That’s our pub,” Jacqueline says.
She tugs on my arm so we won’t miss the green light. The shopfront of the pub is wooden and painted charcoal black, which clashes with the building it’s embedded into. The fake, gilded signs written in English evoke decades long past. Must be an Irish pub.
Jacqueline closes her umbrella as I pull the pub’s door open. In the interior, thick wooden beams run across the ceiling, the dimmed bulbs highlight a few cobwebs, the pillars are made of mortared bricks that remind me of an old factory, sets of stairs lead to raised platforms where they’ve set up a few tables, and wooden banisters have divided up areas like a row of tables next to the windows, or the mezzanine. A musty aroma permeates the room as if mildew had grown in the wood paneling. The room is also filled with the low murmur of conversations, mixed with soft rock music that comes out from a tinny sound system hanging above the bar counter.
The brass umbrella stand is stuffed full, so we walk further ahead while the floorboards creak beneath our footsteps and our umbrellas leave a trail of rainwater. Groups of men or couples sit at worn out wooden tables with scarred surfaces, furniture likely made with love, at least of money.
“Let’s see if my favorite tables are free,” Jacqueline says cheerfully.
She walks ahead, but as she disappears past a pillar, the sole of my right sneaker slips on wet wood, and I stumble backwards onto my ass with a loud thud. I suck in my breath and hold it as my ass cheeks complain.
A guy sitting at a nearby table is eyeing my crotch while he nurses his beer mug. What the fuck is he looking at? Ah, my legs are spread as if I were about to give birth, and I’m wearing a damn dress, so I’m flashing my panties. I bang my knees closed, mortified. However, the guy had already averted his gaze to stare into his beer. He had a chance to ogle my barely covered vagina, but he rejects it? Am I that disgusting? What has my life become that some pervert wouldn’t even bother checking out my privates for more than a second?
I try to stand up quickly, but Jacqueline approaches me and stoops to help me up.
“You okay?” she asks.
“I mean, besides the embarrassment.”
“Don’t worry. We can sit at one of my favorite tables, so we’ll be fine.”
As I hurry up beside Jacqueline, I avoid glancing back at the fiend who had gotten an eyeful of my likely wet panties. We walk up a short flight of stairs. Jacqueline guides me to a high-top, round table next to a decorative barrel and a pillar that hides us from the rest of the pub except for the bar counter, the bartenders and a nearby table occupied by a mixed group in their early twenties.
We lean our umbrellas against the banister. As I drag a tall stool to our table, Jacqueline unbuttons her designer coat and takes it off, revealing a crimson, lace dress with long, sheer sleeves and a choker neckline that pushes her large breasts together. The skirt of her dress ends mid-thigh, but black, opaque stockings hug the rest of her shapely legs. Her dress is tight enough to display the curves of her stomach and her wide hips.
Jacqueline laughs softly. She helps me take off my thick corduroy jacket, and we drape my jacket and her coat over the barrel.
“A bit overdressed for this place,” Jacqueline says mellifluously, “but you had waited for a good while to see more of me. Oh, and look at that, your nipples are poking right through your bra and dress as if taunting me. As I thought, you have surprisingly big boobs for someone so skinny. It’s a shame that you choose to hide them with hoodies and sweaters.”
I’m dizzy and speechless as a flush of warmth spreads throughout my midsection. The next thing I know, I’m perched on my stool, and Jacqueline has dragged hers close enough that her thighs almost touch mine. But I’m disappointed that she hasn’t taken me in her arms and filled my mouth with her tongue. A part of her must be afraid of becoming too involved with a creature like myself.
Jacqueline brushes a lock of my hair behind my ear as her cobalt blue eyes lock into mine, causing goosebumps to erupt all over my body. I can’t look away, although my face is burning up.
“You are much cuter when you blush like that,” she whispers.
I discern the webs of striations in her irises, that encircle the black holes of her pupils. That gaze captivates and possesses anyone who meets it, and the longer she stares with hunger into the eyes of a victim, the more they lose themselves, becoming so engrossed in lusting over Jacqueline’s presence that they forget the corpses strewn about the ruins of this society. It may also lead to madness and eventually death for those unlucky souls unable to fight back.
“So, what do you want to drink, sweetie?” she asks.
“W-well, just travelling to Donostia has worn me out, so I need a coffee.”
“Alright. What kind?”
“A latte would be fine, but I should be the one…”
Jacqueline shushes me up. She stands up, then steps gracefully past the brick pillar.
My coworker has taken the lead in this gathering. She’s turned into a predator that’ll try to drag her prey into her cave. I can’t wait for her to turn me inside out and devour every morsel of my flesh.
Jacqueline reappears once she reaches the bar counter. A female bartender, who is wearing a white T-shirt tucked into black trousers, approaches my coworker and greets her as if they know each other. Jacqueline nods towards the backbar, where the rows of liquor bottles glisten in the dim light.
From this angle, her dress delineates her firm ass cheeks. I need to knead that ass and stuff my nose up her asshole. She must work out, while in my spare time I barely retain enough energies to trudge up to my sofa and pass out. I avert my gaze partly because I fear getting so horny that I’ll become incoherent.
Two of the young guys sitting at the nearby table, and facing the bartenders, crane their necks to check out Jacqueline. One of the girls, who looks like a college student, looks over her shoulder to figure out what has titillated her pals. These girls may be much younger, but they ain’t Jacqueline.
My coworker is taller, stronger, healthier, more beautiful than me. She has the passion and drive to succeed in life. Jacqueline surpasses me in every parameter, except programming. I’m quite sure that she can’t program for shit, so I have that going for me. What am I doing, though? Would it be possible for a woman like Jacqueline to fall for someone aged by stress and who lacks any charm, a creature with no redeemable qualities other than having a job with a decent paycheck, the occasional urge for self-abuse, a fetish of collecting unplayed board games, and a penchant for masturbating to elude her despair? How did I dare to invite Jacqueline out on a date? I’m a cockroach that skitters about in this world of towering humans.
I rest my elbows on the table and hang my head low. The rain is beating on the windows, which muffles the murmur of conversations and the clinking of glass. I close my eyes and listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Californication’, that’s playing on the speakers. A song that never got old, and that makes me nostalgic for a youth I never had.
When someone’s footsteps approach me from the nearby pillar, I open my eyes and find myself staring at Jacqueline’s ample thighs. Her legs appear taut and muscular underneath her black stockings. I straighten my back. My coworker’s cobalt blue eyes sparkle with mirth, her teeth gleam white, her lips are full and red, her neck slender and smooth.
Jacqueline places my latte, served in a glass, in front of me. A fork-length away, she places her glass, which is filled with a yellow liquid. They stuck a slice of orange on the rim.
“What the hell is that?” I ask hoarsely.
Jacqueline chuckles as she climbs onto her stool.
“Sorry, I don’t know shit about drinks.”
She smacks her lips, then rubs my nape with her warm hand.
“What’s got you down, baby doll? I wish I knew what’s going on in that head of yours.”
If Jacqueline knew, she would regret it and never look my way again. I wish I didn’t know about the monster that dwells within the confines of my skull.
“I wonder… why an exquisite creature like you, with all your charms, wastes her time working at our shitty office surrounded by miserable people, or at least one miserable person and that happy-go-lucky intern of ours. Shouldn’t you be out there conquering the world instead, maybe starring in movies?”
Jacqueline caresses firmly, but slowly, the muscles in the back of my neck. My heartbeat accelerates as my chest rises and falls with deep breaths.
“Oh, you just think so because you are seeing me through your adoring eyes, sweetie,” she says in a sultry voice.
I dare to hold her patient gaze for a second before I focus again on the cracks in the wooden table. I sip my latte, then wipe my lips with the back of my hand.
“I don’t know. Our job feels like having settled for a boring, dead-end life with no meaning other than being employed.”
Jacqueline takes my chin and turns my head towards her. That beautiful face framed by raven black locks fills my vision. Her sapphire earrings contain a polygonal, distorted version of my own visage.
“Leire, you know you can relax.” Her voice is low and husky, with hints of that French accent that reminds of wine in an old oak barrel. “Back when I drove you to the train station, we spoke without issues, didn’t we? We had no problems getting along, no awkward silences or anything like that. Right?”
I can’t remember anything about our conversation during that ride, just that my heart beat fast and that I wanted her to drive me to her home and take care of me until morning. Now I wish I could press my lips against hers and taste her warm saliva, at least to forget for a while about my life and this shitty world.
“S-sure,” I whisper, “but these are different circumstances.”
“Because you have invited me out on a date?”
Jacqueline fixes her lips in a reassuring smile. Is she testing me to clarify my intentions? A woman who only sees another as a potential intimate friend wouldn’t invite her on a date. Maybe I have mistaken why Jacqueline agreed to meet me today, and I’m about to be shot down with the harsh truth of how reality works.
“Yes,” I say.
She touches the tip of my nose playfully.
“You’ve already been brave enough. Now we will open up about the inner workings of our minds and hearts so that a budding romance can blossom between us. Surely you can say whatever happens to pop into your brain.”
A shiver runs down my spine. I shift my weight in the stool.
“You have no idea the kind of ruination you’ve invoked.”