Wrong Side of the FencebyCatalingus2005©
Warning: This story contains sex and erotic moments, but by and large is not an erotic story. I chose to post it here because there aren't many avenues on which one can drive a car such as this:
A plate explodes against the wall a few inches away. Ceramic dust coughs out as it bursts. She's screaming again, mad about something I'm not sure what, and then she starts to hit me. I'm pushed to the wall and a knuckle catches above the left eye. A fist mashes against my breast. I fold over. Now I'm screaming, too. She doesn't stop. I'm trapped below a picture we took together at the mall. I am melting like a popsicle and drip, drip, dripping on the freshly-cleaned carpet.
We make love that night. She is selfish, as usual, but less demanding and much more gentle. It ends, as always, with her sitting atop my face and rocking herself to orgasm. She rests there a moment afterwards, panting, before climbing off. She doesn't apologize for the fight afterwards, like she used to. But I know. Her hand rests on my stomach as we sleep.
I look up. Neil is walking towards me and he smiles. His shirt is white, buttoned and pressed. His pants are dark and his tie is red. Short brown hair sits atop an oblong head. He could be anybody.
"What's up, Neil?" I ask.
"Just wondering if you got that request in. We're all out of claims reports again." He leans on the cubicle, hip cocked out, and bites his lip. "What happened to your eye?"
"Slipped in the bathroom," I shrug. "The floor gets so damn slick, and I never remember to put a towel down. I'm probably lucky it hasn't happened before, or that I didn't lose an eye."
"I'll say. You get it looked at?" He's frowning.
"What, with our benefits?" I give him a smile to distract.
He laughs, a big comfortable laugh, and steps away. "Good point! Hope I never get hurt too bad; with our package, it'd be cheaper just to die."
I suppose it would.
"Listen, ah..." he looks away for a moment, nervous for some reason. "I was just wondering if you were going to the barbeque this weekend. I didn't see your name on the pot luck list and it'd be a shame if you didn't come."
"I didn't even know about it," I say. This news seems to make him sorry he mentioned it.
"I...well, you should plan on coming. It's going to be fun." He hurries away.
There's not much to work on; I'm ahead of the game right now. Next week they'll get the post-holiday return shipment and I'll have a hell of a time. For now, I have space enough to put my feet up and work slowly.
I'm not entirely sure how I ended up doing something so trivial...cut down to basics, my only real job is to design, distribute, and redistribute any and all forms used by the company. Its chimp work...but then, most work is. Millions upon millions of hairy Neil apes content in their cages. Well, not content really, but only just barely aware that anything's the matter.
I check my e-mail.
There are a few requests there, that can wait, and a message from Susan in accounting about a company barbeque at her house this weekend. I only get the e-mail because it's a mass mailing. She and I both know that lesbians aren't invited to her gatherings. Sorry, Neil.
It should bother me a lot more, but I can't quite bring myself to care. A bunch of people who don't fully like each other at work standing around drinking beer and not fully liking each other in the sun. It doesn't strike me as all that appealing.
She probably wouldn't want to go anyway.
I snake over to the staffroom for some coffee, and hanging above the machine is the potluck list. More than fifty names run down it, scribbled in a greater variety of color than any rainbow. How many people even work here? Jonetta's bringing apple pie. It almost makes me want to go.
The only coffee available is decaff. The purple handle is clean, and the pot full. Dark liquid, settled silently inside, looks eager for motion. Nobody wants to settle for it, and it tries to look large and proud anyway.
I pour myself a cup. I'm just blowing through the steam to cool it when Susan walks in to grab a doughnut.
"Oh, hey!" she says excitedly.
"Morning." She brushes by on her way to the food. It's a small room, and our shoulders rub against each other as she passes. I decide to toy with her a bit, just for being a huge phony bitch. "I'm pretty excited about this barbeque thing!" I put on my most lightweight, honest face. "What made you think of it?" I smile and sip my useless black sludge.
She shrugs casually, but her eyebrows climb a half-inch. "Oh? Are you coming?"
"Well, I'd hate to miss it. It sounds like such fun!"
"Oh, I don't know," fresh lines are appearing around her mouth. She soldiers on in the face of threat. "It doesn't sound like we're going to do much more than eat."
"Really? I heard that there might be a volleyball tournament."
"I don't think so. Too much work, really." The sunny cheerfulness is spilling right out of her and coating the floor with a glistening luster. She speaks quicker.
"In that case, I'll have to think about it. But I bet everybody else will be disappointed to know there's not going to be any volleyball. Neil was very excited about it. Should we tell them?"
"No," she blurts out, then "no, I don't want to do that just yet. After all, there's always a tiny chance that I'll be up to it. Wouldn't want to shut the whole thing down before we even start, you know."
"Ah, good point. I'll start putting a team together." I waltz out of the room, caffeinated by the knowledge that she'll be worrying about this all day. It seems so sad, when the best you can do to manifest your fate is to protect volleyball from the lesbians.
She left me a message, while I was away from my desk. She wants to meet for lunch. My heart flutters but my stomach tightens.
"So how's the day?" She smiles. We both ignore the purple island forming on the creamy sea of my face. It hurts, though.
"Not bad," I shrug. "Susan's having one of her barbeques this weekend."
"Hm," she's looking over at the television in the corner, all huge screen and no volume. A weathered-yet-strong looking reporter is discussing the days events, although without sound the footage of old suits and large crowds could be anywhere in the world.
"I thought maybe we could go," I offer. I don't mean it, but for some reason I want her to want to go. Just so I can say "never mind."
She looks at me, then, frowning. "You know we can't do that."
That's the worst possible response. "It's just that some people from the office..."
"We can't." She's upset.
"Okay, geez. It just sounded like fun. And Susan would positively hate it." I giggle.
"The last thing we need is negative attention like that. Somebody like Susan would probably spend the rest of her life spreading lies just to return the favor. I don't want to have to move."
"Me neither," but I don't know if I mean it. "So what should we do this weekend, instead?"
She's back to looking at the television, half-listening. "Hm," she says.
There's no fighting that night. We watch TV, talk about unimportant things and fun memories, and read together in bed. She says we should catch a movie this weekend, and recommends one that I've been wanting to see. I think about walking out the door, just out and away. But where would I go?
"You should rub my feet," she says. She is sitting there in her robe, flipping through the channels. She didn't even look at me to say it.
I rub them, kneeling before her. And then later, when she scoots down and parts her legs, I lean in. She enjoys it that way, for a while, breathing heavily and locking hands in my hair. I can hear the T.V., muffled by her thighs. Then the fire breathes in her eyes and I know I am in for a long night.
"You're not going, are you?" Neil asks.
"What?" I look up.
"To the barbeque tomorrow. You're not going." He's leaning on the carpeted cubicle wall again. I didn't even notice him. He looks sad.
I sigh, and shrug. "I suppose not. You know I'm not really welcome."
"What on earth do you mean," he's so imperceptive it's kind of cute. Like a puppy.
"Never mind, Neil. Look, you'll just have to find somebody else who is a flawlessly perfect server to play on your team. Somebody who has equally great sense of fashion, humor, and modesty. I'm sure there's someone, somewhere, like that."
He shrugs. "The only person I know like that is me, I'm afraid."
We share a laugh. "It'll be fun, Neil, but I do have other plans."
"A date?" He winks.
"Maybe," I wink back.
"Ah, well. As long as you're having fun," he waves his coffee cup at me, and heads off. I watch him leave. He'd be a great big brother. My own brother wasn't all that different than Neil. Or maybe I just remember him that way. Absence does that.
Somebody put a picture up in the break room. A blonde lady who works on the phones all day...her name escapes me...is laughing at the camera and pointing to a bunch of men looking proud. A pie of some sort adorns her face, dripping from her nose and forcing her to keep one eye closed. The caption tells me it's from the barbeque the year before. I suppose it's hilarious, but I don't see how.
I keep coming back to look at it, though. I drink four cups of decaffeinated coffee just for the chance to see it again. It's a stupid picture, but something about it fascinates me. I can't say for sure what.
I feel very tired, and it's Friday.
"I hate my job."
She groans. "Not again."
"It's just monotonous and dull. It's boring, boring work."
"I know. You tell me all the time."
"I can't help it, dammit. I can't just start loving my job because you don't like to hear me talk about it!"
She turns off the television and turns to me. "But you never do anything about it, Brenda. All you do is complain. You never fix anything. You just live to point out how fucking broken it is!"
I feel smaller now, with her voice rising. I do not want to make her angry. "I can't just fix it. You know that. It's the only company in town that's big enough to need people like me. This is my only way to get a foot in the door to actually being able to use my degree."
"Well, why on earth did you come to this place anyway? A dyke human resources girl in a small Midwest town. It's ridiculous! It doesn't make any sense!" She shakes her head.
I start to shout at her. I want to say "I came here for you, you jerk, because you wanted to be near the stupid lake," or "what on earth would you know about those kinds of choices? You pretty much run the show with anybody you meet, and you work at a gas station of all things." I want to say a lot of other things, too. I stare at her. Her irritation drifts into concern, and she asks if I'm alright.
My mouth doesn't work. I feel no emotional response to her except that I want to say all these things and none of them are true and I'm not sure what that means.
"I'm going to bed," she says, and gets up. I sit alone for a long time staring at the place where she used to be, a small indentation in a leather sofa.
They're playing volleyball when I get there. I walk through the fence gate unnoticed, and sit on a picnic table at the edge of the yard. The people who were eating her are finished and either playing the game or watching and cheering. My only company is their semi-eaten remains. One paper plate tips over in the soft breeze, and paints brown sugar beans across the table. I watch the plate slide across and off the surface and flutter softly to the edge of the yard. The metallic fence greets it there, and it cannot get out. The wind picks up but the plate just stays, pressed desperately against the fence and looking out at the world beyond.
"Brenda?!" I look up. Neil is jogging over to me. He has a beer in one hand, and is careful not to spill. "I thought you weren't coming!" He sits down right next to me. Other people are glancing at, or even blatantly talking about me. Most of them don't notice or don't care, either one. I'm only really a big deal to two people there: gentle-giant Neil and the sulking Susan. She's definitely seen that I'm here, with a face like that on her skull. Neil nudges me. "Want a beer?"
"I'm fine, thanks," I smile.
"What made you change your mind?" He asks.
I look at him. He's earnestly glad I'm here, but there's a soft concern there as well. Neil is more perceptive than I give him credit for. "I guess I came to say goodbye," I say.
He looks at me for a moment, without responding. "Why?" he asks.
I put my hand on his shoulder. Suddenly, I'm comforting him. Go figure. "It's hard to explain. But it's the right thing to do."
"I suppose." He looks up at the blue sky. "You thinking of you?"
"Yeah," I smile. "I guess I am."
"And it feels right?"
"Then do it."
We sit for a moment, letting the breeze tickle our cheeks. It's hard to realize a friend from work is the best you have, when it's already too late to enjoy that discovery.
I take his beer, and have a taste. "You ever feel like you're on the wrong side of the fence, Neil?" I ask.