Dylan Allen smiled when he walked in to The Smoking Dog and saw that his favourite seat was unoccupied. He hurried over to the table beside the open window and claimed it by placing the morning paper and a copy of Love is A Dog From Hell on it. Then he went to the counter to order a coffee.
It was almost eleven o'clock on a Saturday morning. Dylan thought that most of the regular patrons of The Smoking Dog were probably just waking up, which accounted for there still being several empty tables.
Dylan was twenty-seven and had been coming to the cafe since he was sixteen. It was the sort of place that pretentious art college students with multiple body piercings and aging hippies frequented. Dylan was neither, and sometimes felt as welcome there as a fart in church, but he liked the coffee shop nonetheless. He enjoyed the atmosphere, the music they played and it was an ideal spot for people-watching. Besides, it was one of the few establishments in Weyburn that still not only allowed smoking, but almost encouraged it.
Dylan returned to the table beside the window and took a seat. He smiled as his blue eyes shifted to his right and he gazed out the window. He sipped his coffee watching couples stroll by, and the occasional person walking a dog. A breeze entered through the window and he pushed his black hair back out of his eyes and picked up his book of Bukowski poems. He opened it to where he'd inserted a bookmark the night before and began reading.
Dylan had almost finished his first cup of coffee and was having his fourth cigarette as he read the poetry when he heard someone speak his name. He looked up from his book and saw Andrea Taylor standing beside the table and smiling at him.
"Hey," he said, returning her warm smile. He slipped his bookmark back between the pages and put his book down.
Andrea pulled a chair out and sat down across from Dylan. She crossed her legs, resting her hands on her lap as her brown eyes focused on him. "I called your place a while ago, but got answer," she said. "So I figured you were here."
"It's my second home," he joked, then grew silent as he looked Andrea over. "What did you do to your hair?" he asked.
"What's wrong with it?" Andrea blurted out, suddenly sounding very insecure.
"Nothing," he chuckled. "It looks really nice."
"I bought one of those home perm kits the other day. I thought I'd try it like this for a while," she explained.
Dylan's eyes lingered on his friend's curly auburn hair as he smiled. "I like it a lot," he said.
"Thanks," she said, blushing. "I was wondering what you'd think." Andrea's eyes darted about, then she turned her head back towards the front counter. "I'm going to get a coffee. I'll be right back," she said.
As Andrea walked to the counter Dylan followed her with his eyes. She was wearing a camel-coloured blouse with a tight black skirt and sandals. She wore no make-up, except for some lip gloss and a hint of eye liner that framed her dark eyes. Dylan's eyes lingered on her tanned, muscled calves before moving up her body. She was lithe, with slightly rounded hips and firm breasts that reminded Dylan of martini glasses. Her copper hair cascaded over her shoulders in corkscrews. For a moment he could see himself running his fingers through it as they kissed, or giving it a tug from behind as he nipped at her neck with his teeth.
Dylan forced his eyes from Andrea as he mentally chastised himself for what he had been thinking. He and Andrea had been friends for the better part of ten years, and their friendship had always been perfectly platonic. Their conversations were sometimes brutally frank and often very bawdy, but the only physical intimacy they had shared was an occasional hug.
Andrea returned to their table and sat down. She took a sip of coffee as her eyes wandered out the window. "She's cute," Andrea said, nodding towards a blonde woman across the street.
Dylan looked out of the window, then back to his friend. "Then go introduce yourself to her," he teased.
"Nah, I'm not into other girls," she said. "I was thinking you might be interested in her."
"I've never really liked blondes much," he replied.
Andrea surveyed the woman again. "You really should start dating again," she told him. How long has it been since you and Sara split up... three years?"
"Four," he corrected.
"Where is she now?" she asked.
Dylan let out a heavy sigh. "She got married and moved to Ohio. I found her profile on Facebook a few months ago," he said.
"Well, leave her where God flung her," his friend said, then gave him a worried look. "I hope you're not going to try to get in touch with her again."
Dylan shook his head as he put his mug of coffee down. "No. That ship has sailed. She was finished with me long ago -- there's no point. What cuts though is that she thought that I was good enough to marry, but not good enough to be friends with afterwards."
"I know, it's a kick in the teeth, but it's for the best, Dylan," Andrea told him. She began reaching for his hand to give it a comforting squeeze, then drew hers back.
Dylan pulled another cigarette from the pack on the table and lit it. "You never did like Sara, did you?" he said as a cloud of smoke left his mouth. "She could have walked on water and you'd have criticized her for not being able to swim."
Andrea hesitated, looking out of the window at a teenage boy going by on a skateboard. "It's not that I didn't like her," she said, turning back to him. "It's just that I didn't think she was right for you
"Why?" he retorted. "Was it that she was too pretty? Too funny?"
"No -- too shallow and vain," she said. "I think the only things I ever heard her talk about were the brand names of her clothes or this month's quiz in Cosmo. You need to meet a woman who can actually read a book, rather than try to chew the cover off one. And no offense, but you weren't exactly her type either. Sara's the type of woman who'd rather have a dead lion than a live dog."
Dylan laughed. "Yeah, well... I'm not exactly a barrel of monkeys to have as a boyfriend either," he droned. "I've got a lot of baggage. Sara said that I was high maintenance when we broke up."
Andrea's mouth tightened and she looked down to her coffee mug for a few moments, then locked her eyes on his again. "I'm not going to lie to you, Dylan," she began. "But, I think she's right. You've got to stop sabotaging your relationships. I see you keep repeating the same patterns. Your problem is that you have a madonna-whore complex. You expect women to conform to your unreasonable expectations. When they don't, you're threatened by it and run away and wall yourself off. Stop looking for quiet, clean girls in gingham dresses, like Bukowski wrote about." She gestured to the book of poems on the table beside the half-full ashtray.
Dylan frowned, but didn't reply for a few moments. Andrea knew him better than many of his other friends did and he had to admit to himself that she was painfully accurate in her appraisal of him. "Should I look for a Scarlet Woman then, like Crowley had as his muse?" he asked.
"No," she said with a shake of her head. "Both are extremes -- archetypes that only exist in the minds of insecure men like you. You've got to stop feeling threatened by women's sexuality, Dylan, or it's going to be a lonely life for you."
"And you've got to stop psychoanalyzing me," Dylan said, trying to hide his irritation and growing melancholia.
Undaunted by his increasingly harsh tone, Andrea said "Instead of dating women, you're courting loneliness, Dylan."
"Okay, Andrea, I think you've played ten-cent psychologist enough for today," he snapped and took another haul on his cigarette.
"It was my minor in college, remember? I needed it to get my degree in social work," Andrea said. "Besides, tell me I'm wrong," she retorted.
"It's not that you're wrong," Dylan said. "It's just that you're cutting a little close to the bone here, Andrea."
"Okay... today's session is over. Come back and see me next week. We need to discuss your oral fixation," she teased.
"Thanks, Sigmund," he said as a smile returned to his face.
"Avoid Freud," Andrea said. "Jung was a lot more accurate on many things, in my opinion anyway."
Dylan crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray and gulped down the rest of his coffee. He stared out the window expressionless as he reflected on what Andrea had told him. The truth is not always kind, and he had accepted long ago that she wasn't always either. But he also knew that she genuinely cared for him, as he did her, and she had his best interests at heart.
"What are your plans for the rest of the day?" Andrea asked, hoping to change the subject.
"Nothing -- now that you've finished emasculating me," he told her.
Andrea rolled her eyes. "I was planning on doing some shopping," she said. "Feel like joining me?"
"Sure," Dylan said. He picked up his book and stood up, leaving the newspaper for the next person who came along.
"I can put that in my purse so you don't have to carry it around." Andrea reached out for the poetry book in his hand and gave the cover a quick look. "You've got to stop reading the ramblings of mad alcoholics," she advised. "They only feed your fragile ego and make you afraid of relationships even more."
Dylan said nothing, knowing that if he did, it would only result on another onslaught of Andrea probing the dark corners of his mind. Instead, he followed her out of the cafe and down the sidewalk.
As they walked, Dylan stole glances at Andrea from the corner of his eye, noticing how her firm breasts bounced as she moved. He surmised that she was braless, but knew that was a fairly safe bet with Andrea anyway, since she seldom wore one when not at work. This was something about her that Dylan always got a thrill out of. He also found distracting at times and tried to pretend to be oblivious to.
As they passed a store displaying dresses and blouses in the window Andrea's pace slowed. She gave a tug at Dylan's arm. "Let's go in here," she said.
Dylan followed Andrea inside the store and ran his eyes over the clothes on display. He saw no men's clothing and began to feel out of place. Andrea had taken a jade green blouse from a rack and was holding it up to herself as she stood in front of a mirror.
"How does this look?" she asked, turning around to face him.
"Nice," he said as he ran his eyes over her.
"Just nice?" she said with a frown.
"Well, it's just a blouse," he said with a shrug.
Andrea gave her head a shake as she rifled through more clothes. When she found a black knit skirt she let out an excited gasp. "I'm going to go try this stuff on," she said.
Dylan watched Andrea wander off towards a changing room in a corner of the store. He stood in place, hoping that she wouldn't take too long. A little while later he heard her call out to him from inside the changing room and walked over towards the closed door.
"What is it?" he asked.
Andrea opened the door. She was wearing the blouse and skirt that she had picked out and looking nervous. "So, how do they look on me?" she asked.
Dylan smiled as he noticed how the tight blouse accentuated her firm breasts and the skirt hugged her ass and hips. "Really good," he said.
Andrea twisted herself around to look in the mirror. "The skirt doesn't make my butt look big?" she asked, laughing at the cliche that had just come out of her mouth.
Dylan could feel his cock beginning to harden and was worried that Andrea would notice. "No, it looks... fine," he drawled, staring at his friend's very nice backside.
"I probably shouldn't be asking you anyway," she giggled. "I know it's tits you go for."
"Yeah," he agreed self-consciously.
Andrea frowned, peering down at her chest for a few seconds. "Hmmm... maybe I can find one of those miracle bras that pushes the girls up so they look bigger," she said with a giggle.
Dylan laughed and took another look at her breasts pushing out at the blouse. Her nipples had stiffened and he was tempted to tell her that she already looked incredibly sexy without a bra, but said nothing.
"Okay, I'm going to put my clothes back on, then you can help me pick out a bra," she said.
"Ah... okay," he said as he stepped away from the changing room.
Once Andrea had changed she lead Dylan, albeit reluctantly, to the other side of the store. She began sifting through undergarments while he stood a few yards away. After a few minutes she held up a black lace bra on a white plastic hanger and turned to him.
"What do you think about this?" she asked.
"It looks really sexy," he grinned, imagining her wearing it.
"Good," Andrea said with a satisfied smile.
While Andrea returned to the changing room Dylan strolled towards the front of the shop, thinking lewd things about her as he gazed at people passing by. A little while later when he heard her voice he wheeled around and saw her at the counter paying for her purchases. Once she was finished she joined him beside the exit.
"Let's go," she said, sounding cheery.
Dylan followed Andrea out of the store. They turned left and continued up the sidewalk. After a few minutes she turned to him. "Feel like coming over for a while?" she asked.
"Sure," he said.
"Cool. You can give me your opinion about my new clothes." She smirked at him as they walked along.
"I've already seen them on you," Dylan replied. "They look good."
"But you haven't seen me with my new bra on."
Andrea had a nervous, yet flirtatious look on her face. Dylan found her expression out of place within the context of their friendship, but it made his cock twitch and begin to stiffen. He quickened his pace, now eager to get to Andrea's apartment on Oxford Street.
When they arrived at her apartment Andrea dropped her purse on the kitchen table. "I'm going to go put these things on," she said. "Help yourself to whatever, if you want something to eat or drink."
"Thanks," Dylan called out as he watched Andrea stride down the hall towards her bedroom.
After searching the fridge and pouring himself half a glass of milk, Dylan found some cheese scones in a cupboard. He sliced and buttered one, then leaned against the counter to eat it. When he heard Andrea's bedroom door open he looked up.
"Okay, Dylan, I need your expert opinion here," Andrea said as she entered the kitchen. "Tell me how I look with my new bra on."
Dylan could feel his eyes widen and his mouth break into a smile as he looked Andrea over. Her blouse hugged her waist and chest, but he knew it was her new bra that was pushing her breasts up into firm peaks. He loved how they looked. His cock was rock hard and throbbing within seconds.
"Does that smile mean you approve?" she asked as she stepped closer.
"Yeah," he said with a nod, forcing his eyes to meet hers.
"Look, I've even got cleavage," she announced happily.
Andrea pulled at the top button of her blouse and undid it, then opened her blouse to reveal the tops of her rounded breasts rising from the black bra. Dylan stared at them for a few moments, stricken with lust. When he raised his eyes she was smiling at him and her cheeks had grown pink.
"Do they look okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, they look really nice," he said looking down again.
"Thanks," she gushed, then regained her composure. "You know what's funny... you've known me all these years, and that's the first time you've seen my boobs -- or at least that much of them anyway."
"Well, you never wear tops that show them off," he remarked.
Andrea frowned, taking a quick look down at her chest. "I don't have much to show off," she lamented.
"You can't make that claim anymore," he said. "Because now I know better."
Dylan brought the last bit of his cheese scone to his mouth then took a bite. As he finished eating it he noticed Andrea observing him. He looked at her, puzzled by her expression. "What?" he asked.
"I like watching you eat," she said after several seconds of tense silence. She had taken another step closer and was still staring at him.
"What?" he asked, giving her a bewildered stare.
"Watching you eat makes me wet," Andrea told him. "The way your lips and tongue move. I just know you're good at eating pussy."
Dylan was pleased by Andrea's comment, but it also made him feel a little shocked and uneasy. "Ah... thanks," he stammered.
"Does me telling you that bother you?" she asked.
"No," he said. "I'm surprised, and a little shocked. But... you can say whatever you want to me, Andrea. You should know that by now."
Andrea's eyes darted about and the right corner of her mouth wiggled as she thought for a moment. "It's just that we're friends, and there's always seemed to be this unspoken line between us," she said. "We can talk about sex and stuff, but I always got the feeling that you didn't want it to go further than that -- just talking about it."
"I don't know, Andrea. It would be kind of weird, don't you think?" Dylan said. "We've been friends for almost ten years -- ever since we were seventeen. You're like a sister to me."
Andrea's full lips curled into a twisted smile. "So? There's nothing wrong with a little consensual incest now and again," she shot back.
"You're sick," he said, unable to hide his laughter.
Andrea let out a husky laugh, then gave him an almost pleading look with her eyes. "Seriously, Dylan, haven't you ever thought about us getting together? We've already got a great friendship to build on. No one knows me better than you do."
Dylan sighed and his gaze left hers. "Yeah, maybe too well," he said apprehensively and frowned.
The smile drained from Andrea's face and her expression grew dismal. "So that's it... you're punishing me because of the guys I've been with."
"I'm not punishing you, Andrea," he said forcefully, then took in a slow, deep breath. "Have I ever been disrespectful to you, or called you names?"
"No, never," she said, her voice faltering. "And that means a lot to me."
"Then judge how I feel by that," he said.
"But, beyond that, there's this wall you've built that I can't climb over or knock down," she said. "And I want to, more than anything. But it's like your heart is surrounded by barbed wire."
"Andrea, let's not get into this, okay?" Dylan's mouth turned into a tight slit as his eyes locked on hers. He turned and emptied the rest of his milk in the sink and rinsed out the glass.
"See -- you're doing it again," she spat out, her voice thick with frustration.
"Doing what?" he demanded, turning back to her.
"Running away. Pushing away someone who really cares about you out of self-protection. Avoiding things rather than trying to resolve your issues and grow as a person. Let me help you, Dylan. Please," she said.
Dylan squirmed, giving her a anguished look as he felt himself being torn in two. "I'm fine, Andrea. Thanks anyway," he told her.
Andrea let out a sigh. "Well, I can't help you if you don't want it. I can only change the light bulb if it wants to change," she said defensively. "It's just that I've seen the way you look at me sometimes. I like it; a lot. It makes me wonder what's going on behind those cute blue eyes of yours, and if I might stand a chance with you."
"I can't believe you'd even care, considering how well you know me and how fucked-up I am," he scoffed.
"Well, I do care, a lot -- so there," she joked, hoping to diffuse the tension. "Part of your problem is that you're so insecure that you can't believe that anyone could love you or find you sexy, so you look for reasons to try to convince yourself that she's just jerking you around or it wouldn't work out anyway. You sabotage the relationship as soon as it begins, rather than just taking it as it comes at face value."
Dylan pushed his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans and stared at the floor.