At My Window Sad and LonelybyYDB95©
Joanna and Dan stumbled in drunk and happy at nearly four o'clock, and as usual Laurie pretended to sleep through their bombastic arrival. All too typical, but of course Laurie was in no position to complain when she was sleeping rent-free in Joanna's living room. At least Dan hadn't sunk to ogling or harassing her when he thought she was asleep. He saved that for waking moments only.
"Okay, I'm off to water the bathroom floor!" Dan proclaimed, rushing off toward the bedroom.
"Quiet, you!" Joanna sing-songed as she stumbled out of her high heels, which she kicked over toward the closet door. "You'll wake Sleeping Beauty!"
"That girl could sleep through a tornado," Dan shot back from the master-bathroom, where Laurie could presently hear him peeing with the door open. "You've known that for months!"
"True," Joanna agreed. "I don't know how she does it!"
She doesn't, you moron, Laurie thought, opening her eyes now that the coast was clear.
Feeling another wave of self-pity coming on, Laurie gazed out the window at the dark skyline and did her best to think of anything but the pathetic existence her life had become -- but it was no use.
It always seemed to hit the worst on Friday nights. A year earlier, she'd been a well-paid banker with a swanky apartment of her own and it wasn't at all unusual for her to just be stumbling in from a club or a party at this hour. A very late Saturday morning -- often well into the afternoon -- would follow, with a late brunch at her favorite yuppiefied coffee shop and maybe a flirtatious SMS-exchange with some guy she'd met the night before if she could recall whether he was cute, and possibly a date set for later in the week. The same thing often happened again that night. Then, on Monday, it would be back on with the tailored suit and leather pumps and off to handling more money than her parents had made in their entire lives.
Now, of course, all her tailored suits and her weekend party outfits were stuffed in a few boxes in Joanna's rarely-used dining room, which had doubled as Laurie's closet for the six long months since she'd been forced to give up her place. Pretty much everything that had made post-college life worth living was stuffed in a box in Joanna's dining room, while Joanna was still living it up on Friday and Saturday nights. Laurie could have joined her tonight, she reminded herself -- she wasn't that broke -- but the long shifts at the restaurant typically left her too tired to bother with fun, no matter how badly she missed it. Besides, it just wasn't so much fun anymore on the much-tighter budget she now lived on. And forget about dating: who wanted to tell a guy, "I used to be a banker but now I'm a waitress"?
The ubiquitous signs of Valentine's Day right around the corner hadn't helped Laurie's frame of mind any. Neither had living with Dan's crude, pathetic come-ons every time Joanna had her back turned -- everything from "anytime you want me to help you wash off that stale food smell, just ask!" to suggesting a threesome with Joanna ("Just once? You can even give me a list of where I can and can't put it!"). Watching her beloved sorority sister laugh it all off as "just a man being a man" was the worst of all. But Laurie had no other option until she found a better job. If she found one.
She'd never been a big Valentine's Day fan to begin with. Too many memories of seemingly all her friends walking the halls at school with teddy bears and flowers. Nowadays she just channeled all that distaste into energy to keep her pushing through the current nightmare.
"Everyone gets laid off once," the asshole at the bank had told her on the morning she'd found her life turned upside down. "It's not the end of the world. Think of it as a new beginning. You'll find something else."
But after three months of frantic searching, all she'd been able to find was a waitressing gig at a restaurant near Joanna's place. Joanna, her best friend from college, had insisted on taking her in rent-free at that point. "As long as you need to stay until you're back on your feet, Laurie," she'd said. "You'd do the same for me, after all." And so Laurie's entire life since then had consisted of sleeping on Joanna's couch, walking to and from the restaurant four blocks away, and churning out resumes and coverletters that were mostly ignored.
Laurie was not ungrateful to her friend. But she could have done without having to watch Joanna's life in the fast lane continue from a front row seat on the couch where her own was stalled. And she'd never understand what Joanna saw in that asshole Dan, who was still whooping it up in the bedroom while Joanna giggled at his antics.
Giving up on trying to get back to sleep, Laurie checked the clock. It was time to call the restaurant and see if they needed an alternate for the breakfast shift anyway. Friday night being what it was, anyone who wasn't too hung over to come fill in for those who were could really clean up, and Laurie had made a relative bundle that way of late. Sitting up, she found her iPhone on the coffee table and scrolled down to "work," and pressed on the number.
While listening to it ring, she looked absentmindedly back at the bedroom door -- and nearly dropped the phone in surprise. There, inside the door they had left ajar in their drunken abandon, was Dan standing over the bed, laughing at yet another of their stupid jokes.
He was stark naked, and waving his hard dick around like the magic wand he probably thought it was.
Joanna was sprawled on the bed, still in her underwear, looking up adoringly at him and laughing at his antics. Laurie was immediately filled with a contradictory mix of annoyance and embarrassment and titillation and...envy, she realized to her surprise. Arrogant jerk though he was, Laurie now saw Dan did have a nice body, and she found herself enjoying her illicit glimpse at it. He also had some kind of bond with Joanna, whatever that might be, and right now they were enjoying a delicious private moment of the type Laurie hadn't even allowed herself to imagine in all those long months.
It occurred to her, all at once, that the last time she'd even seen a guy nude had been well before the layoff. Intimacy was just one of dozens of things she had put on the back burner and left to smolder there. And here it was almost Valentine's Day, too, an influence no matter how she hated it...
Laurie whipped her glance away as Lois, the night manager at the restaurant, answered the phone. Crouching back down on the couch in case either of the lovebirds noticed they'd left the door open, she replied, "Hi Lois, it's Laurie. Will you be needing me for the breakfast rush?"
Twelve hours later, armed with two shifts' worth of tips and a wonderfully rekindled hunger that hadn't quit all day, Laurie emerged from the fitting room at her favorite thrift boutique in a long, flared, burgundy-colored dress. Admiring herself in the shop's full-length mirror, she was excruciatingly aware that she smelled like breakfast and lunch combined and felt like nine months' worth of underemployment and unemployment. But the dress was undeniably a great fit and a welcome reprieve for Valentine's Day, and it added to the pleasant tickle her glimpse at Dan had inspired.
"Oh, that's beautiful," said the saleslady who had greeted Laurie some minutes before. "Perfect for the fourteenth! Have you got a hot date for it?"
"No," Laurie admitted. "But seeing myself in this, I think I could probably get one." She welcomed back the sense of self-confidence that had once served her so well back at the bank, before everything had fallen apart.
"Excellent attitude," the other woman said. "Shall I ring that up for you?"
Broke though she was, Laurie couldn't resist. "Yes please," she said after one final look in the mirror, with a smile that surprised her.
Dan was perched on the couch -- her couch -- with his usual cocky grin as Laurie let herself in. "Laurie!" he said in mock surprise. "Surprised to see you home so early!" Laurie could only wonder if he'd still be looking so smug if she were to tell him just what she had seen last night. But, to her pleasant surprise, his barbs no longer stung with the memory of all that. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you smell like potatoes. More of 'em than usual!"
"Thank you, Dan," she said with effortless pleasure, turning to hang her coat in the closet so he wouldn't see if she blushed with the memory of last night. "Potatoes are a very healthy food, after all."
"I could certainly eat you up!" Dan said, "If you didn't look so tired, anyway." His gaze had always had a way of making Laurie feel naked in her boring work clothes -- until now that she had seen him naked. Amazing how much less intimidating a bully is when you've seen him waving his dick around like a toy, she mused as she turned back to face him.
"You'd be tired, too, Dan," Laurie said, not turning to face him. "Trust me on that." The little bastard was probably just waiting for Joanna to change for yet another night on the town, too, just like the wild nights she had known before last year.
As if reading her mind, Dan continued, "Quick, why don't you put on something cuter and come join us? We'll even wait for you to shower -- I mean, we'd have to! I don't want anyone in my party smelling like potatoes." In a stage-whisper he added, "And my offer stands to help wash you, you know."
Laurie was saved from the nasty remark she felt forming on her lips when Joanna blossomed forth from the kitchen in a glitzy dress and her trademark makeup, and her blonde hair swept up in an absurd 'do that Dan appeared to love. "Leave her alone, Dan. How much would you want to go out when you'd been on your feet all afternoon already?"
Laurie turned around to thank her friend, and saw a young man she didn't know just behind Joanna. "Well, hello," she said. "Sorry, Joanna, I didn't know you had company."
"Oh, this is Dan's cousin, Jerry," Joanna said. "He's also job hunting."
"Welcome to the club," Laurie said, shaking hands with Jerry. He was cute and, surprisingly for a cousin of Dan's apparently rather shy. She liked him immediately, particularly his blue eyes, in which she was sure she saw her own frustration reflected. "I wish I could be encouraging about the job market, but...well, I'm sleeping on Joanna's couch, aren't I?"
"Pleased to meet you," Jerry said. "And I admire your candor."
"Don't listen to her, Jerry," Dan piped up. "She's gainfully employed the same way all liberal arts grads are, as a waitress."
"No shame in that," Jerry said. "English major here."
"Economics," Laurie replied. "Lots of good it's done me lately. But waiting tables isn't all bad."
"Speaking of restaurants," Dan repeated, "We're all going out for dinner and then maybe a club. Want to join us, Laurie?"
"She never does," Joanna reminded him.
"I'd love to, thanks," Laurie said.
"You would?" Joanna didn't hide her surprise. "Who are you and what have you done with our Laurie?"
"Your Laurie had a good day at work, and it is almost Valentine's Day, isn't it?" For once, she didn't have to fake her smile.
"Glad to hear you're getting into the spirit for a change," Joanna said. Turning to Jerry, she explained, "I don't mean to kick her while she's down or anything, but we can never get her to come out with us anymore. Ever since she lost her job."
"That's exactly why I think I ought to come out tonight," Laurie said. "Enough is enough, after all." She set the parcel down on the couch beside Dan. "If you all don't mind waiting for me to shower, that is."
"You joining us?" Joanna said. "That's worth waiting for!"
"Joanna! I'm not a hermit, am I?!"
"Well..." Joanna began, failing to find a polite response.
"Are they always like this?" Jerry asked with a sympathetic smile. "Not getting that we aren't all made of money these days?"
"I'm afraid so," Laurie said. "But I do owe Joanna big time for letting me stay with her, so I put up with it."
"You don't owe me anything, dear," Joanna replied, sitting down next to Dan on the couch. "It's what friends are for."
Dan was eyeing the parcel on his other side. "What did you get me?" he asked.
"A dress," Laurie said, picking it up to put with all her other worldly belongings in the dining room. "Hope you've got the legs for it, Dan."
"A dress?!" Joanna exclaimed. "What's come over you anyway?"
"Oh, nothing in particular," Laurie said with a grin at Dan, thrilling to the knowledge that he would never know how he had inspired it. With that in mind, she added, "I'll just shower and change, and then I'm ready to go whenever you all are." Feeling particularly flirty after his kind words, she gave Jerry an affectionate touch on his shoulder as she turned to go to the dining room.
"Take your time, dear, we don't want you smelling like potatoes," Dan chirped. Laurie did not look back, and had to settle for only the sound of Joanna slapping him upside the head.
Laurie had all her pre-layoff niceties stored in the dining room, which Joanna always assured her had never been used for eating anyway; she mostly either ate at restaurants or ate standing over the kitchen sink. Laurie set the new dress on top of one of the suitcases full of business clothes and party outfits that she neither needed nor wanted to see for the time being. Against the wall that bordered on the bathroom that only Laurie used, an old bookcase served as a poor woman's dresser. She kept most of her casual after-work clothes folded in the bookcase, along with the one business suit she'd kept out for interviews and a few of what she had once called "date outfits"; these had been gathering dust for months now. She kept her bath towel draped over an open box that also had some of her rarely-used after-hours clothes.
The strip of space between the bookcase and the stack of boxes served as her changing area, surrounded on three sides by either walls or boxes. The fourth side faced the door into the living room, so of course Laurie normally closed the door. But tonight, still feeling titillated and rather attracted to Jerry, she "accidentally" left it open a crack just as Dan had done with the bedroom door the night before. Half fearing and half hoping she would attract a glance from Jerry, Laurie unbuttoned her blouse and gratefully tossed it off toward the kitchen door. She followed suit with the pants, but opted to keep her bra and panties on for the moment.
As she reached for her towel, Laurie couldn't resist a glimpse out into the living room to see if she'd been detected. She felt a surge of delicious embarrassment as she saw Jerry whipping his head away towards the television, in which Dan and Joanna were engrossed. Reconsidering her decision to keep her underwear on, Laurie set the towel down and reached back to undo her bra. She felt her face melting into a nervous laugh as she stood vulnerable in the strip of light, gazing on at Jerry. It only took a moment for him to take another cautious gander. When he was greeted with the view of Laurie's welcoming smile and her naked breasts, he once again turned away...and then turned back to return her smile as he realized she didn't mind.
Laurie nodded at him and welcomed his admiring gaze for a lovely moment, then picked up her towel and was off to the shower.
Alone at last in the bathroom, Laurie burst into nervous laughter as she pulled her panties down. With them out of the way, she felt between her legs and found she was already plenty wet with no help yet from the shower. How long had it been since she'd even masturbated? To her mild surprise, Laurie realized she couldn't even remember. Dating and, yes, sex were just another couple of things she had made up her mind to hold off on until she was back on her feet. But now the dam was broken and her long-neglected pussy welcomed her caresses like she had come to welcome the end of a shift at the restaurant.
Mindful of her friends waiting for her out in the living room, Laurie forced herself to pause and turn the water on. Then she eagerly turned the showerhead on herself, and had little trouble bringing herself off with the pulsing water.
A few minutes later, freshly showered with her long dark hair down and comfortable for the night, Laurie emerged from the dining room in blue slacks and her favorite cream-colored sweater and met Jerry's shy grin with a knowing wink. "Sorry to keep you all waiting," she said as Dan clicked off the television and stood up.
"You do clean up well," Dan admitted. "But what about the new dress?"
"Maybe if you behave yourself tonight, Dan," Laurie admonished him, drawing a laugh of concurrence from Joanna.
Laurie had rather suspected that the little show she had put on for Jerry might frighten him off a bit. On the walk to the restaurant, she found she was right. There were shy smiles aplenty, every time she tried to make eye-contact with him, but they were always followed immediately by Jerry turning his attention to Dan. This only further endeared her to Jerry, whose quiet demeanor cemented her sense that he was the exact opposite of his cousin.
Dan saw the same, and didn't seem to like it. "Listen to this guy!" he said to Laurie and Joanna as he opened the restaurant door for them, in response to a perfectly earnest observation Jerry had made about the block's architecture. "We've got to toughen you up a little, Jerry! On your own in the big city now, all the fun stuff it's got, and all you notice is the shape of the buildings!"
"I think it's refreshing," Laurie said, with a glance at Jerry that for once he didn't break. "There's so much history in this part of town and it disappears so quickly with every new store or bar or whatever that opens up. The buildings are a last link to that, sort of."
"Thank you!" Jerry said. Dan muttered a probably-sarcastic response under his breath and Joanna laughed at it as the hostess showed them to their booth, but neither Laurie nor Jerry heard.
Sensing a pause in the awkwardness, Laurie grasped at the straw of architecture. "So you like the older buildings, too, do you?" she asked him.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, I do," Jerry said. "I grew up in the suburbs, and you know how everything is all convenient but boring out there, with the big box stores and stuff. I used to love the idea of living on a block like this where you could go down your narrow stairway from your walk-up apartment and have all the little mom and pop shops right there."
"God, yes!" Laurie said as they slid into the booth across from Dan and Joanna. "That's just what I had in mind for myself when I first moved here. I got my nice safe apartment uptown, and figured in a few years when I had some money saved, I'd get a nice swanky place on a block like this. Instead..." There was no need to tell Jerry where she was living now, after all.
"You'll still get there if you don't give up!" Jerry said. "It's great to have a dream like that, especially at a time like this."
"Kids, this isn't Mister Rogers, it's Saturday night!" Joanna declared. "We're here to have fun!"
"We were having fun, Joanna," Laurie said. To Jerry she added, "Thank you, that's really sweet." Under the table she gave his thigh an affectionate squeeze.
"Ah, Laurie, we just don't want things to get too heavy for Jerry here," Dan added.
"Who said anything about heavy?" Jerry asked.
"Well for one thing, Jer, everybody in the city wants to live around here. Hardly anyone actually can. Best you get used to that, and don't build up Laurie's hopes either. You know how women get with their big dreams."
"What is that supposed to mean?!" Laurie demanded.
"Oh, he's just looking out for you, dear," Joanna said. "We both worry about you, you know."
Laurie was all set to make a comment that might have jeopardized her lease on the couch at home, but the waiter's arrival saved her.