In the Hallway


At least, he thought so. He could not be certain because he had never tried any other flavor. Like a lot of people, Tom had occasional fantasies about hot naked women submitting to him as their master. But so far it had only been a fantasy.

Nature called, interrupting Tom's reverie about whips and handcuffs. He rose from his desk, left his cubicle, sauntered past 8 other cubicles, and headed for the exit door. The insurance firm he worked for, Dunwoodie Booth LLC, occupied over 6000 square feet of office space at the east end of the first floor of an anonymous office building. The men's room was near the entrance foyer and elevators at the center of the building. The short walk to the men's room would be as much of a diversion as he would likely get this morning.

It was not even 11 o'clock, and Tom was bored. Worse, he was frustrated. It had been so long since he had gotten any that his dick was growing stiff, not from arousal, but, he was sure, from fossilization.

The previous night, alone in his apartment, he had spent fully ten minutes staring at his face in the mirror. He was not a bad-looking guy. 29 years old. Five feet eleven inches. Dark hair. Not fat, but not too skinny. Somehow, though, the combination had not attracted any women lately. He did not know why. Staring in the mirror did not give him any clever insights.

At the end of ten minutes he decided that staring in the mirror was not going to wise him up about women, so he left the mirror for his computer. He got onto the Internet, and tapped various key combinations searching for answers to the ultimate question:

How do I get women?

There was no shortage of websites with answers. Some told you what you had to wear. Some told you what you had to say. Some promised to reveal the one thing you had to know to drive a woman completely crazy and to submit to you. Most promised all these wonders once you agreed to fork over $19.99 and get behind the paywall. Tom was getting desperate, but not desperate enough yet to pay money for what he knew was bullshit.

After about thirty minutes of amused browsing he found a website that did not want his money. It was called The name did not sound promising, but the site had an attractive, professional look to it, not to mention a hot blonde in a form-fitting minidress on the home page. With nothing better to do, Tom scrolled through its pages, looking for some wisdom to help him get laid.

"Are you frustrated? Do women ignore you?" the Site asked.

Yep. That's me, Tom thought as he followed the Site's prompts.

"Stop being the nice guy", it urged. "Deep down, women don't want a nice guy. They want a man. They want a man who tells them what to do. So, stop asking. Tell them. Tell them what you think. Tell them what you want. Tell them what to do. You will be amazed at the results."

The words rolled on in this vein.

Tom knew that the part about nice guys was true. One of his last dates had been with a woman named Lissette who had flaming red hair and amazingly bountiful breasts. Tom had been so in awe of her that he practically stumbled over himself in a futile effort to please her during their two-hour dinner at a trendy new restaurant. He had thought he was doing well and at the end of the dinner suggested going back to his place. That was when she fixed her piercing blue eyes on his and gave him a look of pity that Tom could tell she had had experience practicing.

"You're a really nice guy, Tom," she had said. "But, well, I know this maybe sounds weird, but . . . I don't date nice guys. I'm sorry."

Tom had been struck dumb at the time. He had no idea what to say. He was too nice to try to convince her on the spot that he was not nice, just so he could sleep with her.

So, instead, he took her home. He never saw her again.

Tom's sobering experience as a nice guy made him receptive to try something different. But as he scrolled through testimonials of previously hopeless guys who had tried the Tell Don't Ask method and now boasted about their success bedding women he could not help but think it was a con job.

"This is complete bullshit," Tom said to himself. It was a great fantasy, he had to admit. It probably did have a point. He knew he was too nice. He was courteous to a fault. Lately, courtesy did not seem to have gotten him anywhere. It was nice to think all he had to do was tell a girl what to do and that she would do it. If only the world worked that way.

He ended up spending about an hour poring over the website and its advice, and the numerous testimonials about the effectiveness of the "Tell, Don't Ask" method. At once skeptical and eager, Tom pored over the text that urged him to let out his inner master. If he did so, it went on, the women were certain to come running. Running away is more like it, Tom thought.

At about 11 p.m., done with reading about the sexual bounty that inevitably followed the adoption of the Tell, Don't Ask method, Tom finally logged off the computer and retired to bed. He spent a few more minutes looking at bondage porn on his Kindle before falling asleep.

In the morning, awake and showered and putting on his favorite black pants and blue shirt, Tom thought about the advice he had read the night before. He thought it would be fun to try. But he could not imagine how. They day ahead, passing the office hours reviewing insurance forms and calling clients, did not seem to offer a promising opportunity to flex his skills as a sexual master.

Several hours later, as he walked along the office building corridor, heading toward the bathroom, he thought some more about what he had read and wondered if he would ever get a chance to try it. He doubted it.

He let out a sigh. What good was it to have all this advice about what to say to girls if there were no girls to say things to?

Ahead in the hallway, just beyond the bathrooms, a flash of long legs in a short skirt caught his eye.

3. Introductions.

As the woman ahead of him came into view, Tom recognized her. Sort of. He did not know her name, but he had seen her before, in the hallway and in the parking lot. Their eyes had met a few times, but he was not sure she would have remembered. For some reason, he thought she worked at the accounting firm at the other end of the building. Bowlevin something, he recalled.

She was good-looking, that was certain. The skirt she was wearing was shorter than any he had seen her wear before, and it showed off briskly moving legs that were lean, long, and shapely. As his eyes swept up her figure they lingered for just a moment on breasts that bounced lightly with each step. When his gaze arrived at her face he saw she was looking at him.

He guessed that she, like he, was heading for the bathroom. If so, they would pass each other in a moment, because the men's room was 15 feet past the women's room in the hall ahead.

"I should say something," Tom thought. Tom was not exactly the kind of guy who spontaneously struck up conversations with cute girls in hallways. But, emboldened by the lessons of the previous night's Web visit, he was determined to say something.

But before he could think of something, they passed each other.

As they did so, each glanced at the other. Tom thought he saw the hint of a smile on her lips as she looked at him. He struggled to think of something to say. But the moment passed, and each passed the other heading on the way to his and her respective bathrooms.

As Janna walked passed Tom, she thought, "He's better-looking than I remember." She looked at him as they passed, and she noticed that as they passed each other his lips parted and his brow furrowed. She hoped he might say something. But he did not.

She felt a twinge of disappointment. She walked on and opened the door to the women's room.

After passing Janna, Tom mentally kicked himself. "Way to go, dude", he thought. "I should have said something." He kept walking, and opened the door to the bathroom. He heard the girl behind him open the door to the women's room at the same time.

Tom walked into the bathroom. He unzipped and did his business. As he did so, he stared at a crack in the off-white wall in front of him and thought about how he might step up his game on the way back to his office.

What would he say? What would he do? He did not have any guide to follow. Then he thought about the website he had pored over the night before.

"Tell, don't ask!" it urged.

That seemed stupid. But, lacking a better plan, Tom zipped up, washed his hands, and walked to the bathroom door with an idea he would try this approach, one way or another.

He stopped for a moment, thinking to himself that women probably took longer than men. He wanted to time his opening the door so he would run into her again.

Meanwhile, Janna, having finished her business in her own bathroom, and now drying her hands under the blow drier fixed to the wall next to the sink, was thinking about the attractive man in the bathroom on the other side of the wall. Was he interested in her? He had given her a long look. She had thought he was about to say something, but he did not. Would he say something if they met again? She hoped he would. She did not know what she would say, though. If history was any guide it would probably be something off-putting.

With that not-too-optimistic thought she finished drying her hands. Giving herself one last glance in the mirror she decided to hitch her skirt up from the waist just a bit to expose more of her legs. Then she opened the door to exit the bathroom.

Tom and Janna exited their respective bathroom doors at the same time. Tom was pleased with himself for having got the timing just right.

Tom decided he had to say something, even though he had not figured out what. She was looking at him as they approached each other in the hallway. His mouth opened to let some words out, but before any could it clamped shut again. He still could not think what to say.

His moment was about to pass.

Janna was wondering if he was going to say something, when, suddenly, her left heel caught in a snag in the carpet. Her distraction with the man in front of her left her unprepared to respond, and she started pitching forward.

Tom, whose eyes had not left Janna's face, saw her stumble. He stepped toward her and threw out his arms. He meant to grab her arms but he somehow missed and his hands slipped past them to her sides. Seeing the man in front of her, Janna threw her own hands out directly in front of her. Tom caught Janna by her sides just as her hands pushed forward against his chest. She let out a small gasp.

"I've got you," he said to her, and he did, if just barely. He steadied her and moved his hands off her sides and toward her elbows. But he did not take them away completely. His first instinct was to ask her "Are you O.K.?", but something in him bit the question off before he asked it. Instead he just looked at her.

Janna, for her part, was feeling quite O.K. She liked the feel of his firm chest under her hands, which she had pulled away only partly, leaving the tips of her fingers on the front of his shirt. She felt firm muscle under the shirt that she would not have guessed at from his slim figure. She looked up at him as she drew her hands away at last.

"Thank you, sir," she said and smiled. She quickly wondered why she had said "sir" to him. Was she just being polite or did she mean something else? Where did that come from? she mused.

Tom wondered too. I like the sound of that, he thought.

"You are welcome," he said, more formally and steadily than he expected to. He felt he ought to ask her how she was. Or ask for her name. But something inside him struggled against the impulse.

Don't ask, he thought to himself. Tell.

He let go of her elbows and stepped back. His eyes swept over her and he was struck by the way her blouse draped over and accentuated the firm rise of her breasts. Get a hold of yourself, he thought.

"I'm Tom," he said. "Tell me your name."

"Janna," she said, thinking as the words left her lips that there was something slightly odd about the way he had said what he had said.

"I work at Dunwoodie, at the end of the building," Tom said. "I think you work for Bowlevin on the other end." It was all he could do to make it sound like a statement, not a question.

Something in Janna sensed, vaguely, that there was something strange about the way he was talking to her. But she could not figure out what. She was still thinking about the way her body felt when his hands had caught her, and how his chest had felt under her own hands. She wished he had not let go of her quite so soon. She liked the feeling of being held up by him.

"Yes," she said.

"Well," he said. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Tom knew there was one more thing he needed to do. A voice inside him, a voice he had never heard before but that was growing louder with confidence, told him how to do it.

"Tell me your number, Janna," Tom said to her.

As soon as he said it he wondered if it was a mistake not asking her politely. I can't believe I just said that, he thought. I didn't even ask. She's going to think I'm an asshole and tell me to fuck off.

Janna stopped and paused and looked at Tom's eyes. Her lips parted in surprise. It occurred to her that he was not asking her, he was telling her. The word "no" welled up inside her and was ready to burst out of her mouth, but she shut her lips and stopped the word from getting out. She looked up at the ceiling, and without thinking or fully understanding why she faintly, almost inaudibly, whispered the word "Yes."

She looked back at Tom. She told him her number.

Tom memorized each digit. He held her gaze for a moment, and then said, "Thank you."

Without saying anything more, he walked past her on the way back to his office. He fought the urge to look back at her.

Janna was still rooted to her spot in the hallway. She did not move at first. She did not know what had just happened. She had given her number to this man, Tom, and then he had just walked away. She glanced back over her shoulder. Tom was walking toward the door at the far end of the hallway. He did not look back.

Janna wondered if she had been a fool to give him her number like that. Why did I just tell this stranger my number? she thought.

He had not even asked her for her number. He had just told her to tell it to him. And she had.

She had said yes.

She shook her head and smiled faintly. How about that? she wondered. Maybe there was a little submissive in her after all.

She started walking back to her own office at the other end of the building. She guessed that Tom would call or text her, but she wondered when or how he would.

4. Words and Pictures.

When Tom arrived at his cubicle he leaned over his cubicle desk, set his hands on the surface, and let out an exclamation of air. He could not believe what had just happened. He had told a cute girl - no, a hot girl! - from the other end of the building to give him her number - and she had! He had not even asked. He had thought she would be offended or think him presumptuous and would refuse. But she had not. She had given it to him. Tom shook his head. Nothing like this had ever happened to him.

Now that he had her number, he had to do something. Obviously, he would text or call. Probably text. That would be easier. He could break in the ice more slowly. If he called her she might think he was coming on too strong. And he could think about what he was going to say before saying it.

He started thumbing the line "What R U doing . . ." and then stopped. He hit the delete button until each letter he had written had been erased. Don't ask, he thought. Just tell her. It worked the first time; he might as well try it again.

Back in her own office, Janna was still somewhat flustered by what she had done. She had given a total stranger her name and number. But he was kind of a cute stranger, she thought.

Her phone pinged. A message. She opened it.

"Hi, Janna. It's Tom."

"Hi Tom," she replied, and then she added, "Thanks for catching me. I am not in the habit of tripping and falling into the hands of strangers. But I'm glad you were there."

Tom looked at her reply. She was chatty, he was pleased to see. This might be fun, he thought.

"It was no trouble, and my pleasure," he texted back. "I was surprised. You didn't look like the tripping sort. You'll have to complain to the landlord about the defect in the carpet."

"I just might do that," she texted in reply. He was courteous as well as cute. Realizing suddenly that she was in her office and was supposed to be working, she looked around to see if Roger was looking her way. He was not.

"Tell me what you're doing," said the next text. He was a little bossy, that was for sure, Janna thought. He seemed to prefer not to use questions. She wondered if it was some sort of game. Whatever he was up to, she enjoyed bantering with a man who was firm and direct as well as courteous. She decided to play back at him.

"Right now I'm at my work cubicle texting a bossy stranger," she texted.

Tom's eyes widened a little, surprised at the nibble he had gotten on the line he had tossed out. He could not let that one just lie.

"I got the feeling you like bossy," he texted back.

Janna looked at his text. Her eyes widened and she noticed she could feel heart beating. Where was this going? She thought. She could not believe she was doing this - texting a total stranger this way. But she was having fun, and her body shivered with a frisson of sexual excitement she had not felt in a while. What to say, however, to that comment? Saying no - well, it would not shut down the conversation, perhaps. But it would dampen the sense of excitement it was giving her. Responding positively might send him the wrong message - but what was the right message? She decided to keep playing.

"Sometimes," she texted him.

Tom saw the words. The thoughts in his head became fuzzier. He might not be the smoothest coat in the closet but even he knew an invitation when he saw one. Now he had to think of a clever response to keep this moving.

"I imagine you don't get it as much as you'd like it," he texted back. Argh, he thought as soon as he pushed the send button. That could be taken a different way. It was early in the conversation to be headed in that direction. Once again Tom worried he had gone too far and that she would blow him off.

Janna caught the double meaning of his text. Is that what he meant? Or was that a slip? She was feeling playful but did not want to come across as easy.

"You have quite an imagination, I think," she texted back. "Especially for someone who works for an insurance broker."

"You would be surprised how imaginative an insurance broker can be," he replied. "There's nothing like catching a pretty girl in a short skirt in the hallway to get the imagination going."

"Thank you. Do you compliment every girl you catch in the hallway?" she texted.

"No. You're the first one," he texted back.

"I feel special!" she replied. She added a smiley emoticon to the message, something she seldom did.

Tom was pumped. This was going well and he was surprised at the ease with which he kept the banter going. He had her attention. It was time to take another step.

"You are special. I can tell. Now I'm going to do something for you. I'm going to let you show me how much you like bossy. So here goes. Take a selfie. Now. Make it hot, anyway you want. Then text it to me. Don't wait. Do it now." The words flowed as his thumb moved over the keypad. He paused before hitting send as he wondered if he had gone too far, too fast. What the hell, he thought. He was on a roll. This wasn't the time to stop. He pushed it.

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