[Author's Note: Apparently, this is now a thing. I started the whole kerfluffle by writing this, and then the marvelous Marian over at Runaway Sentence wrote this, so I in turn wrote this, which induced Maid Marian to write this. Whatever this thing we have started is, this is part 5 of it. I don't think you need to read the previous ones to enjoy this one. But it can't hurt. (Previous warnings still apply. All of these stories are about adults doing adult things, and some of those things may include saying bad words and/or engaging in sexual activities. If you're offended by these stories, I guarantee a full refund of all the money you've ever paid to read this blog.)]
I always hate waking up. I'm never sure where the line is between the dream world and the real one, and it takes about thirty seconds of terrified thought before I banish the phantasmagoria of dream space for the concrete reality of my bed, this space, my life. I heard two things at once, the distant hiss of my wife starting her shower, and a bang, followed by a yelp, coming from the boys downstairs. I hauled myself upright, pulling my pants on to investigate, suddenly remembering when I felt unfamiliar pains from muscles I hadn't used in a while. We had spent long hours at a charity function last night, then come home and started some stupid fight. Then we made up.
I went downstairs, feeling like I was walking through paraffin wax, and separated the boys, who were bickering over a toy lightsaber. I put the toy out of reach, then set them on more appropriate tasks, drank some coffee, served breakfast, and kissed my wife, hair wet and gloriously messy, when she came down to continue the process. My uncle always said it required less manpower, was less costly and less complicated, to occupy France than it was to raise small children, and nearly every day we proved it.
Between the two of us, we eventually got clothes on everyone, shoes on feet, and the two hellions out of the house. She was fixing her hair in front of the mirror, corraling a stray hair and tucking it into the neat dancer's bun she had assembled. I noticed avidly the way her blouse gapped and tugged where it tucked into her slim black skirt. I felt a slight, distant ache, the throb of memory from last night. I loved watching her when she thought I wasn't watching.
She had thoughtfully constructed the classroom snack last night, so we both gathered our materials together and set off, her for the school and then back home to work on her consulting business. She dressed up to work at home because that made it easier to dash out to lunch meetings, and because she said it reminded her not to slack off. We parted at our cars with a final kiss, her getting into the gleaming new cherry red compact SUV, me into the older grey sedan. I felt the familiar churn when her high heels left the ground as she climbed in.
I drove to the office sedately, half listening to NPR tell me about records I will never buy and books I will probably never read. My mind was still half in the fugue of dreamland as I parked in my usual spot, taking my travel cup of coffee and my duffel bag into the studios. Our building looked like it had been left here by a more advanced species, all darkened hardwood and sharp angles with enormous windows everywhere. My office was still when I got to it, my pens capped and put away, my desk clear of scraps of paper, my office whiteboard virginal and pure.
Aimee, a brunette who wanted my boss' job without stopping at mine first, was at the door before I even set my cup down.
"Hey, Michael? Can I talk to you about something?"
"Of course," I said. She came in and shut the door behind her. She had a dark blue dress on, the kind that wraps around like a toga on top, and some kind of deep black hosiery that sucked your eye in, along with gray shoes with a modest heel. She always dressed like a model. today in cool shades of blue, black, and muted gray, all the way down to her necklace and a dangling bracelet. If she were a male, I'd refer to her as a sharp dresser.
"I wanted you to hear this first," she said. She had a great body, fleshy where my wife was toned, bawdy, funny, and very creative. We had just come off a long project, a series of ads about orange juice that had required some long nights. We had always had a light, easy relationship, bantering flirtatiously. I remembered exchanging those looks, two adults knowing they were alone. I felt a charge, and I always wondered if she did.
"I'm going back to Philadelphia," she continued. "My college friend is opening her own firm, and she wants me to come work for her." I looked at her evenly, trying to weigh her words. Her face was pinched and tight. The sunlight gleamed off of the corner of her cat's eye glasses.
"That's great! Congratulations!," I said. I started calculating what that meant. More work for me? Less? Would they hire? Does that mean I have to delay my departure? Do I really want to leave? I looked down at her shoes, elegant and restrained. She leaned back on her heels.
"Thanks," she said, looking down. "I'm going to miss you," she said. "More than most." The looked at me full on. Did this mean something? The look felt smoldering. Was I reading into it? I felt my pulse start to pound.
"I'll miss you, too," I said. What else could you say? "Have you told Dave?"
"Nope," she said. "I'm going to," she added. "Today. I wanted you to know." She shifted her weight, crossing one foot slightly in front of the other. I had never touched her, but I can't say I had never thought of it. I felt something in the room, like the silence had weight to it.
"Thank you. I'm really happy for you. I'll miss those late night work sessions though. Nobody's more fun than you," I said. I came a little closer to her, setting my coffee on my desk. I could picture my arms sliding around her waist, pinning her against the door. The thought came unbidden, but once I entertained it, it was persistent. Something about the way the fabric covered her hips, sloping at her waist. It was warm, it seemed to invite touch.
She was looking away, her gaze distant. "I have to get to Dave before he gets wrapped up in something," she said. I thought about never seeing her again. Would I regret never tasting her lips on mine, never feeling the plush softness of her pressed against me? Was she thinking along the same lines as I was? All I knew about her was she was divorced and seldom talked about it. Was she picturing the hem of her dress coming up above her smooth thighs?
"So I assume we'll do something Friday? Like a dinner?"
"I suppose," she said. "Up to Dave, I guess."
"Yes," I said. She moved her hand towards the door handle. Was this my chance? I felt myself preparing to take a step forward.
"Good luck," I said.
"Thanks," she said, and smiled brilliantly. She grasped the door handle and pulled it open, heading down the hall. I exhaled deeply. At times, I don't understand myself at all.