"She walked into the room in a Santa suit and I could tell she was trouble..."
from Yuletide Mindfuck
Shane Houston finished his shift at 1pm on February 14th and left work with a spring in his step. He even blew a kiss to the check-out girl as he stepped out the door.
There were several reasons for his lightness of mood. His new first-floor manager's job at the 86th Street branch of Barnes and Noble was one. What a splendid fluke that had been. Intently discussing the American crime novel with a staff member while making a purchase just after New Year, the possibility of employment had sprung from nowhere. You'd be a real asset here with your background knowledge. You think? Any jobs going? Well as it happens... He had above average computer skills and an approachable air and he knew his Dashiell Hammett from his Raymond Chandler. Before he knew it, he'd been plucked from the drudgery of his video store clerk's job and transplanted somewhere that made him feel good about himself.
His creative writing evening-class was going well too. The tutor had praised him roundly for the freshness and vigour of his assignments in the new term and his most recent had drawn an ovation from his fellow-students. Now Smoking Gun magazine was showing serious interest in one of his short stories. He had even felt inspired to start penning a secret piece of fiction for the eyes of one reader only. It was a 1940s gumshoe parody with himself in the Sam Spade role. The further he got into it the more overt was its eroticism, but that was no surprise. The lissom, blonde 'dame' of the piece was firmly based on Sammy after all.
Ahhh, Sammy. Well wasn't she the reason behind all his good luck? She had strolled into his life on Christmas Eve and made him believe that the good stuff could happen to him. That jobs were there for the asking, that publishers might actually notice he could write. Hell, she had even made him feel mushy about today's date. Here was a Valentine's Day which he didn't resist by railing inwardly against the card companies' cynical peddling of sentiment in the name of Capitalist gain, those money-grubbing bastards. No, here was a Valentine's where giddy waves of excitement were emanating outwards from his stomach to his extremities, making him feel like a school kid. Where he was promised an evening with that elusive, magical 'special person'. Where he would get seriously, unequivocally laid. Hoo-fucking-ray.
There was a big dumb grin all over his face and he knew it, as he set off for the subway, hands plunged into the pockets of his greatcoat in protection against the sharp February air. Who would have believed that a workplace blowjob from a random girl at Christmas could lead to a legitimate dating scenario? (Who would have believed in the workplace blowjob to start with, for Christ's sake?) But two days after Christmas he had actually taken her out - to a sushi restaurant as it happened, her selection from his suggested options. Possibly so she could have a giggle when he OD'ed on wasabi and struggled not to blow snot out of both nostrils. But Japanese condiment-related mishaps notwithstanding, here he was, going steady with the gorgeousness that was Sammy Lasalle and finalising his preparations for a beautiful Valentine's night in - a full-on, irony-free embracing of every last clichéd tradition.
A twenty minute trip on the Green Line brought him to Broadway-Lafayette, where he emerged into the cold sunlight to seek out his finishing touches. Chocolates he bought from Roni Sue in Essex Street Market - dark Belgian truffles and lots of them. The pre-ordered roses he picked up from Clinton en route to his apartment - big fat velvety ones in a deep reddish-purple, full compliment of twelve. Significance of that number? He realised he didn't actually know. But if that's what tradition dictated as a symbol of affection, who was he to fly in its face? He rushed the rest of the way to his new place to get the blooms out of the biting cold and into water.
Shane's modest fourth floor rental, just a turn of Delancey, was humble but clean. The old high school friend with whom he had recently begun sharing had generously agreed to absent himself that day, which freed him up, as he bustled through the door, to carry out a quick V-day make-over. Romantic jazz was ready in the stereo. There were the huge church candles he had bought online and a bag of rose petals separate from the newly-bought bouquet to scatter festively about the place. His lasagne, the one dish he had perfected during his errant student days, was ready-made and waiting in the tiny kitchenette's tiny fridge. The Moet and Chandon was there too - Moet and Chandon for Christ's sake, his credit card knew he liked this girl - and the ice-maker had been doing its thing in preparation for the ice bucket he had especially purchased. All of which made the discovery on the living-room coffee table more irritating.
It was an innocuous-looking red envelope to be sure, with the words Open Me Now written on the front in silver pen. The card inside raised his smile with its photograph of four disordered feet sticking out from under a duvet. So did the sheet of vellum which fell out of the card, on which was a pencil sketch of his lovely girlfriend idly brushing her hair while wearing not a stitch of clothing. He guessed it had been drawn by Vanessa, Sammy's best friend and a graduate from the New York Academy of Art. The thought of Vanessa so perfectly capturing Sammy's lithe curvaceousness over a protracted sitting for his benefit was wonderfully exciting. God, he had enough trouble as it was meeting Vanessa's eye, following the role the girl had played in bringing him and Sammy together, and he tried not to dwell on the artist. It was enough that the subject of the portrait had bestowed on him such an exquisitely sexy gift.
He went back to the card. The silver-inscribed rubric within turned his smile to a frown of consternation. Want to get in a tangle? Ask for me at Park Central Hotel. 870, 7th Avenue at 56th. I'm waiting. Kiss.
Ehhh - not the plan. Dinner at his, hadn't he been clear on that? Of course he had, they'd agreed. Okay. Generally 'capricious' was good. He liked 'capricious'. 'Capricious' had brought him and Sammy together for crying out loud. But Jesus, there were limits. Let herself into the apartment, drop off a card and rearrange the whole evening? This was the Valentine's date he'd been subconsciously planning for years. And she'd just jettisoned the whole thing. Damn the girl! What, his living quarters suddenly weren't sufficient for a romantic interlude?
He stood for a few minutes, then he stomped around the limited space of his apartment checking out all his preparations. Then he stood a while longer. Then he sat down on his black leather make-out sofa and brooded some. He took out his cellphone and called Sammy's number. It rang six times and went to voicemail. He was too angry to leave a message. Finally he took the mini backpack he used for class, shoved the champagne bottle irritably inside it, grabbed the roses and stormed out. Okay - you want to blow your money on a hotel room, that's just fine. But maybe tell me about it first? The elevator was not working any more than it had been when he arrived home, only this time the fact caused him annoyance. Was Sammy generally this inconsiderate and he just hadn't noticed it? Quietly fuming he left the building and headed back to the subway.
Across the street a blonde girl and a redhead sat in a car, watching him go.
'Well, he looks reallllllly pissed,' observed the latter, matter-of-factly.
'Yeah, he does,' admitted the blonde. 'But there's no going back now. And 'pissed' is kinda the point.'
Red shook her head. 'God, girl, I've trained you much too well in the ways of mindfuckery. I've created a monster.'
'Yes, but at least it's a pretty blonde monster with the use of her eyelashes.' Blondie gave her friend a demonstrative flutter. 'He'll forgive me, you'll see.'
'Which is more than I will, Sammy, if you ever enlist my help with anything like this again.'
'Oh Vee, admit it - you've loved every minute.'
'The sketching, yes. The subterfuge, maybe. The digging in sub-zero temperatures, most definitely not. My hands are still chapped. You totally owe me.'
'I do not!' Blondie protested. 'I told you - you get the bigger room from now on.'
'Starting right away?' inquired Red, raising a hopeful eyebrow. 'I could do with more bedroom space in case things get - athletic tonight.'
'Oooh, that's right. Your big Canadian's coming over to give you a special Valentine,' Blondie grinned deliciously. 'Lumberjack Dave's gonna topple you before you get to wish him a Happy One. Timber!!!'
'He's in TV production,' Red said archly. 'But - yes, you're right about the rest.' And she smiled at the thought. 'Looks like your boy's been hitting the gym since he met you.' She watched Shane's retreating figure. 'I think he's got it bad. Okay, he's far enough away. You ready to do this thing?'
'Think so. Let's see. Outfit - check. Camera - check. Lipstick - check. We're good.'
'Didn't I tell you that part?' So she told her.
Red rolled her eyes to the heavens. 'Jesus, Sam, the things I do for friendship.'
'You get the room right away.'
'Well I suppose that's more than fair.' Vanessa paused to look at Sammy before they left her car. 'You do realise you're going to drive that poor boy crazy.'
Sammy smiled her sweetest. 'Well a girl can only hope.'
Shane was frustrated, as he renewed his subway commute, but ultimately not surprised. It wasn't as though Sammy hadn't teased him before. That had begun on the wasabi date. After the sushi rolls they had retired to the Lower East Side apartment Sammy shared with Vanessa, just a half-mile from his own new living space, to let the simmering eroticism of the evening boil over into furious lip-lock and urgent delving beneath each other's clothes. The nature of their first encounter had sped up the whole courting process, it seemed; Shane had peeled Sammy's curve-clinging red dress from her body and was in the process of removing her sheer lace panties when she restrained his ardour with a firm finger to the chest.
'Slow down, buster,' she had said, blue eyes a-twinkle. 'What sort of girl do you think I am? Just 'cos I blew you first time we met... You don't get inside those till next year!'
He hadn't either. She had teased his cock very literally - with her fingers, her tongue-tip, one hard nipple or the other, the oiled-up cleft of her tight, round bottom - for five more days. She had even imposed a 'no-climax rule' on the final two. 'And no sneaky jerk sessions while you're alone. I'll know.'
New Year's Eve they had stayed in and played long and slow on a spread-out sheet with the massage oils he had bought her for a late Christmas present. 'Something we can both enjoy, how clever.' The build-up to the Times Square ball-drop had been playing out on the TV screen behind them. She had taunted his unrelieved erection mercilessly with her slicked-up body that night. At one point he had hovered above her, his straining tip pressed full against her panty-crotch, a sheath of thin, sodden lace all that prevented the union of their sexes. Five minutes to twelve and she had slithered the garment off her legs but still made him wait. 'Not yet baby, not yet. C'mon, just kiss me...' At final countdown he had been poised once more, staring into her flushed, panting face beneath him. Five, four, three... And on the stroke of Midnight he had delivered his very first stroke into her.
'Ohhhh Shane, Shane baby... Happy fucking New Year...'
The memory had him bone-hard by the time he arrived in Grand Central Station for the hotel. He shuffled out of the train using the roses to shield his bulged crotch from view, several of the blooms getting bruised through collision with other commuters in the process. His anger was dissipating nonetheless as he walked the four blocks to the Park Avenue. How could it not as he recalled the most fabulous opening to any year in his life? Six weeks of fucking, flirting, laughing, sharing passions late into the night... He had even been persuaded to share some of his writings with her; she had been apparently mesmerised. And she had spoken French to him...the actual language.
'You're a French grad?' His reaction had been a little too taken-aback.
'Who's gone on to take French and Business in grad school,' she had ticked him off with mock-haughtiness. 'Pretty blonde stranger in a Santa suit sucks you off and you just assume she's a dimwit? Very lazy stereotyping if I may say so.' And she had smacked his wrist and kissed him.
With this endearing memory he passed under the blue awning into the hotel lobby. Well, he thought, staring at the brightly-lit opulence around him, if you were going to make a last-minute change of venue for a date, if might as well be somewhere fabulous. A dark-haired girl with clipped-back hair and a professional air greeted him at reception. 'How can I help you, Sir?'
'Have you a room booked under Samantha Lasalle?' She made a few clicks at her computer and reported back in the negative. 'Ehhh...' Shane tried to pretend he knew what was going on. 'Okay, it must be under Shane Houston.' It wasn't. He looked at her, perplexed, and she returned a sympathetic glance. 'Hang on a second.' He turned aside and tried Sammy on his cellphone again. She was still not answering. He went back to the receptionist. 'Look - are you sure there's...'
'Actually,' she said, her calm professionalism melting into a knowing smile, 'I think the person you're looking for is in the Silverleaf Tavern, just across the lobby.' She indicated the direction.
Shane smiled back in relief. 'So she's got you playing with me as well now. Thanks.' With renewed purpose he brandished his bouquet and headed to the tavern for his Valentine's tryst.
The sumptuous, moodily-lit space had a few patrons seated about, but he found her alone at the bar, back turned to him. Her strawberry-blonde hair was draped artfully about one shoulder and she was wearing the same red dress, plunging to the smooth curve of her lower back, as on that first official date. Ohhh yes - she had on the hold-up stockings as well. Fabulous. One hand propped her chin and there was a tall glass in the other - most likely containing her favourite Long Island Iced Tea. And she was wearing dark glasses, to ward off any preying Valentine barflies, he thought.
Shane found that his heart still jumped at the sight of her. Naughty little game-player... He grinned, strode up to her and, dropping the backpack, linked his arm around her waist from behind. The barman was turned away, so he brazenly grabbed one breast thought the velvet material and clamped his lips to her neck, setting his flowers on the bar so as to embrace her fully. 'You are a very bad girl...'
Something about her body-shape clued him in first. He had got to know Sammy's physical layout fairly well over a month and a half and this just didn't quite feel the same. The way the girl flinched in horror and broke away confirmed the suspicion of that first split-second, along with the speed with which she wheeled around in her chair and whipped off the glasses. Her general outline and accessories were Sammy-esque, of that there was no doubt, but she was - well - Korean. And outraged.
'Find yourself some other bad girl, you fucking pervert!' She flung the Iced Tea around him. It splashed extravagantly, soaking his face and neck.
Shane stood spluttering wetly, hands outstretched in astonished pacification. 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else. I was told they'd be...'
'Get the fuck away from me or I'm calling the cops!' She was standing in front of him, same height as Sammy, with dyed-blonde hair - or was it a wig? - and a face incandescent with fury. 'Go grope somebody else's tits!' The barman had turned to see if muscle was required in the situation. All the other denizens of the bar were staring at him.
He grabbed the flowers and the pack and backed off, still beseeching tolerance. 'Sorry, my girlfriend was supposed to be here, you two look... Okay, okay, I'll go.' He made for the exit as fast as he could, dripping all the way, but bizarrely she called after him before he could complete his escape.
'Hey, you, come back here!' He swung around and saw to his confusion that she was approaching him, thrusting a folded paper napkin in his face. 'Take this, clean yourself up, you're a fucking mess!'
He took the napkin robotically, staring in bemusement as he did. Her expression seemed expectant, so he opened it to pat his face dry, only to see the message that was inked there. He stared back at her, but she shrugged, grabbed her purse and made to leave. 'Hey - what -?'
'Read the napkin,' she told him brusquely, but as she walked out past him he was sure there was a hint of amusement on her lips. He walked dazedly into the lobby, picking a lump of ice from his shirt, and briefly glanced over to the receptionist. She caught his eye and looked away, as though trying not to smirk. He considered approaching her, but suddenly felt so conspired- against that he decided otherwise. Instead he hurried outside onto the street and properly checked the words on the napkin.
Having fun yet baby? Go back to Barnes - and pick up a copy of 'Spank You Kindly' - the section should be obvious. Don't you think Chan-sook and I could be sisters?
'Funny,' Shane said aloud, his heart rate slowing, but a sense of inevitability growing there too. 'Alright, let's just do this thing. Whatever you want, babe.'
He wrapped his coat tighter around him as he bustled uptown to the workplace he had left not two hours ago. Fuck the subway. Wrapping his greatcoat around him to protect his saturated shirt against the increased chill, he bustled the full twenty blocks, clutching the battered roses tenaciously. Full of surprises was his new girlfriend, Christmas Eve should have told him that. As should various other occasions in her company.
Like that cinema visit shortly after New Year, where the 3-D science-fiction extravaganza on screen had proved a secondary attraction to the oral attentions she had provided. Those nimble fingers pattering about the crotch of his jeans as they lay back in one of the plush double-seats reserved for couples. Teasing him to a thundering harness before deftly unzipping him and plucking his rigid length free of his clothing. That blonde head descending, still wearing the damn 3-D glasses, as he stared in transfixed amazement not at the screen. That hot juicy mouth gobbling him up so that his jaw dropped. Christ, did this girl always go down in public? Several minutes' worth of outrageous soft-sucking bliss around his hard shaft until a female attendant had tapped Sammy on the shoulder. His girl had raised her head inquiringly, while Shane attempted to conceal his huge erection.
'You try that again and I'll report you,' the usherette had scolded in a hiss. 'There are children in this theatre, you ought to be ashamed.'
'Oh come on, like you weren't checking him out,' Sammy had replied in a gleeful whisper, patting her boyfriend's rezipped crotch. 'It doesn't get much more 3-D than that big-boy, now does it?'
The manager had been called and they had been asked to leave. Shane still didn't know what happened at the end of the movie.