Life for Emma was totally predictable. Work, television, bed, work. Social life, nil. Friends, nil. Interests, nil, well unless you counted wildlife documentaries, she loved animals, and the cheap romance paperbacks she read. Otherwise, there was nothing in her drab existence to write home about.
There was only one mirror in her small tidy apartment. She didn't need constantly reminding of her appearance. She avoided looking in it as much as possible.
She was 25, with a steady if boring job, and a totally boring life. Her last boyfriend, to be honest her only boyfriend, had been four years ago, and the comments he made when they broke up had smashed her already fragile self confidence like a hammer smashing an egg.
"You really thought this was serious?" he looked at her as if she was mad, "I never saw you as more than a stopgap until someone better came along. I mean, you're OK as such, but let's be honest, you're never going to be Miss World, are you? And those marks are a real turn off. Can't you get them fixed or something? Like plastic surgery or whatever? They really look gross!"
And then he was gone, along with her self esteem.
She had never been with a man before, didn't know how to read the signs, how to judge the depth of a relationship. She had thought that he loved her, valued her. She had gone to bed with him, her first time, given him her virginity. She thought it would mean something to him, but now she knew that he saw her as no more than an object to be used, a sex doll, a means to an end. He had introduced her to the delights of love making, to the silky feel of warm flesh, two people moving in harmony, breath on breath and body on body, until the supernova burst of pleasure blanked out all else. For a brief time, it seemed that they couldn't get enough of each other, then he had dumped her like a worn out shoe.
How could he have done that? How could he have said those things? A man who had pierced her flesh with his own, felt her flesh around him, touched and tasted her. Finally he had rejected her, left her, destroyed her.
For months she had been numb. Only slowly had feelings come back, and with them came self pity and disgust. She couldn't accept that the failing was his, it had to be her. She was at fault. She had repelled him, her body had betrayed her.
She withdrew into herself, weeks became months became years until her own company was all she sought, all she needed. She didn't join in the gossip at work, didn't mingle with the other girls in the office, the pretty ones with their short skirts and painted nails, make up always immaculate, clothes fitting close enough to show every curve and shadow. She dressed simply, worked silently, was polite to everyone and took little notice of any of them.
Except for Brian, when she saw him, which wasn't that often. He worked in a different branch, but he had to come over occasionally, with papers to sign and suchlike. Mostly though they communicated by e mail and over the years they had become, if not friends, at least acquaintances who sometimes passed more than just the time of day.
If she was ever going to fantasise about another man, it would probably be him, she thought to herself. Not that he was anything special, he was tall, true, and well built, as if he worked out, but he was also pale and nerdy with thick rimmed glasses. She thought he looked rather like Clark Kent. He worked with computers, and in her mind he was typical of the breed, with badly fitting plaid shirts and tweedy jackets.
But he was always nice to her, always spoke, didn't treat her like part of the furniture, and looked into her face while they talked. He was a good man.
That time had come around again! The time of year that she dreaded most, the time of the annual office party. The time of year when she sat alone and miserable in a corner of the room, nursing a drink until enough time had passed that she could reasonably be excused and run for home. The time when others laughed and danced and flirted outrageously, all to be forgotten by Monday, but she sat alone, nobody asked her for a dance or tried to chat her up. She was invisible.
That morning she had tried to find something to wear that looked at least remotely festive, and she put on a knee length skirt instead of her usual full length one, exposing her thick calves to the world.
"Those damned legs should be holding a piano up instead of me!" she though, looking in the mirror.
She had put on a high buttoned blouse over the skirt, long sleeved, concealing more than it revealed but still stylish in a way. She was no party animal. It would have to suffice. What did she care anyway?
The day came and went. Everyone else seemed to be looking forward to the after hours party. Everyone except her of course. The other girls were even more painted and sexily dressed than normal. The guys were full of jokes and hurried to finish the workload so the festivities could begin. Emma just wanted to go home, but she knew how the management would frown on such a move. They expected their workforce to be a little community all on good terms with each other. Not joining in the annual party would be viewed with some disfavour, so to keep the peace she always stayed back for it. After all, it was only once a year that she had to subject herself to this misery. She would survive, she told herself.
After an hour the party had taken it's predictable course, Emma sitting alone while the music and laughter swirled around her. Unhappily she sipped yet another drink and wished that time would fly a little faster.
Suddenly the door opened and Brian appeared. She was surprised but pleased. He must have been invited because of his close links to their own branch. Maybe for once she would have someone to talk to and the ordeal would be over a little quicker.
He looked around and gave her a smile, then crossed to the table where the drinks were to see what was on offer. She hoped that he would come over to her once he had a drink in his hand, but the thought had hardly entered her head when a couple of giggling typists cornered him and started to flirt openly, pawing at him and flicking his tie with their painted nails. He laughed, and chatted back, obviously liking the attention. It was more than she could bear. Quickly she got up and left the room as fast as she could. She hoped that nobody had seen her go, or would think that she was simply going to the ladies' restroom. Halfway down the corridor, her feelings overcame her, and finding an empty office, she sat down and began to sob, tears coursing down her cheeks and dripping onto her skirt. She felt so alone and miserable, her life was an empty wilderness with no light on the horizon. In a welter of self pity she cried in the darkened room, alcohol and misery combining to drown what little spirit she still possessed.
The hand on her shoulder made her jump almost out of her skin. Brian's voice, soft in the dark, made her catch her breath in dismay.
"Are you alright Emma? I saw you leave the party. You looked so upset I thought I'd better come and see what was wrong. Can I help?"
She opened her mouth to answer, but finally she just shook her head violently, and began sobbing again.
He crouched down beside her chair, his face close.
"I think I should get you home Emma. I'll just go and tell them that you aren't feeling well, then we'll grab a taxi. OK?"
She nodded. Anything to get out of here. He left her alone, but minutes later he was back with her coat and bag.
"The other girls told me that these were yours. Come on, let's get you back home."
He took her arm gently, raised her to her feet and led her out of the building. Outside they walked to a nearby taxi rank, and he opened the door for her, then got in himself.
"I'll see you home safely," he said "then I'll go on to my place. I don't really want to go back to the party. It's not my sort of thing really."
The evening air had sobered her a little, and by the time the taxi arrived at her place she was beginning to feel almost normal but hopelessly embarrassed. How would she ever look at him again after tonight? What must he be thinking of her?
He told the taxi driver to wait, and they climbed the one flight to her apartment. Until she opened the door she was fine, but then the sight of the small rooms, her little lonely world, her self made prison of the soul, brought all the pain back to the surface and she began to cry again.
Alarmed, he led her inside and sat her on the couch. He found a box of tissues and gave her a handful to dry her streaming eyes. Concerned, he sat down beside her.
"Emma," he said "I don't want to leave you like this. I'm going to pay the driver off, then I'll come back up. I'll call another cab later once I think you're OK. I'll be back in a moment."
Ten minutes later, he had found the milk and coffee in her small kitchen, boiled the kettle and pressed a steaming mug into her hand. Quietly, she sipped the hot liquid, avoiding his eyes, wondering what he would say next, what would she answer?
For a long while, he said nothing at all, just drinking his own coffee and watching her. Eventually he put his cup down.
"Do you want to talk, Emma?" he asked softly.
She shook her head, not looking up.
"I've thought of you as a friend for a long time Emma. If there's anything I can help with, please let me."
"A friend?" she said shakily, "You think of me as a friend? Why? You hardly know me."
"I know that you're a good person, that you aren't as shallow as most people. I know that there's an inner sadness to you. I know that you put a barrier around yourself to keep people out. I know that because I often do the same thing."
"Because, well because I'm shy, I mean really shy. I'm terrified to talk to strangers, especially women, I get scared I'll say something stupid and they'll laugh at me. I never feel like that with you though. I can talk to you."
"You were talking OK with those two girls at the party!"
He laughed, "I was putting on an act and hoping to hell they'd get bored and leave me alone. I was sure that they were just making fun of me. They probably were. You leaving the room looking upset was all the excuse I needed to get away from them. You did me a favour."
"How ironic." She answered.
He frowned. "Emma, what's wrong. Why do you feel like this? Talk to me, maybe I can help."
She began to weep again, silently. He moved along the couch and put his arm around her shoulders, hugged her to him. With his free hand he stroked her hair. For a moment she froze, then she collapsed against his chest, her tears staining his shirt. Tenderly he held her, made soothing noises, laid his face alongside hers.
The situation overcame her, exploded inside her. She flung her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his, devouring him. For a second he couldn't move, stunned, then he broke free, holding her arms. He looked at her, astonished. Gently he let go of her.
"No, Emma." He said "We can't do it like this."
The rejection was like a slap. Despair gripped her, then anger welled up like hot lava.
"Get out!" she said.
"Emma, please, let me....."
"GET OUT! GET OUT!" She was screaming at him now.
He got up and almost ran to the door. As he reached it, he turned, but she had buried her face in her hands and was sobbing wildly on the couch. His face a mask of sorrow, he opened the door and left. With a wail of anguish she flung herself flat on the cushions and cried as if her heart would break into pieces inside her. Finally she sank into a fitful sleep until morning.
She awoke next day hung over and severely depressed. Fortunately as it was Saturday she didn't have to go to work, but then after the previous night she didn't know if she could ever go there again. How could she face Brian when she saw him next? If her life had been bad before, now it was becoming unbearable.
Her mouth felt foul and her head pounded. She showered and cleaned her teeth, put on a clean bra and panties, but after that she couldn't be bothered, so she just slipped on an old bathrobe and sat numbly watching television. She couldn't have even said for certain what was on, her thoughts were turned inward, her vision was focussed on the blighted landscape of her own existence.
The knock came around mid afternoon, startling her out of a half doze. She didn't know who it could be, and she didn't really care, but she made her way wearily to the door and opened it.
Brian stood there, a bunch of flowers in his hand. Before she could react he spoke.
"Emma, please, don't shut the door, I need to talk to you. Please, hear me out."
Dully, she opened the door and stood aside. Let him have his say and then go. She was too weary and down to argue.
He came in and handed her the flowers. "Better put them in water." He said.
She nodded disinterestedly, but found a vase and began to arrange them. He sat on the couch, watching her, saying nothing until she was finished.
"Emma, please, come and sit down. I need to talk to you. I want to explain."
She sat at the other end of the couch, not looking at him.
"Emma, please understand. I didn't push you away last night because I don't like you. I really do like you. I just didn't want you to wake up this morning hating yourself."
"Oh really?" she answered sarcastically, "Well I guess you failed then, because that's exactly how I woke up. That's exactly how I wake up every morning!"
"Oh Emma, why? What makes you feel like that? I wanted to respond to you, wanted to hold you, but you were drunk and emotional and I was so scared it was just the booze making you act like that. Was it? Please tell me, now, in the cold light of day, did you mean it when you tried to kiss me? Because believe me, I need to know."
She looked up at him, suspicious, searching his face to see if he was mocking her. Finally she said "Yes, I meant it."
He let his breath out in a long sigh. "Thank goodness. I'm glad you said that!"
"You really meant that?" she asked. "You really like me?"
"Yes, Emma, very much."
She stood up. "Come with me." She said, and led him through a door into another room. When he saw that they were entering her bedroom, he hesitated.
"Oh come on!" she said "It's not like last night. I'm not going to jump on you. I just want you to see something."
She led him in front of the full length mirror, and standing next to him, she slipped off the bathrobe and stood there in her bra and panties.
"What do you see?" she demanded.
"See?...What do I see..?" he stammered, embarrassed.
"It's a simple enough question Brian, what do you see?"
"Well, you of course, in your ...errrm...in your underwear."
"Yes, but what do you really see. Tell me."
"What I just said," he answered, puzzled, "you in your underwear."
She sighed, impatient. "Brian, I am fat and ugly, surely you see that!"
He looked at her in amazement. "No! No Emma! You aren't ugly at all. And you're not fat either, a bit plump maybe, I mean you're curvier than most girls..." he was gabbling now "..but I like that in a woman, honestly I do."
"OK, so you're a chubby chaser Brian, I can live with that, but what about these? Surely this turns you off!" and she indicated the white streaks on her belly and thighs.
"Those marks? What are they? I mean, they're just skin blemishes, aren't they?"
"They are stretch marks, Brian. Pregnant women often get them, but I've never been pregnant. You think I'm big now, when I was in my teens I was enormous. I had to diet like hell to get down to this, but it left me with those marks. My last boyfriend called me ugly, said they were gross, left me because of my looks." A tear trickled down her face at the memories.
Brian turned toward her, facing her directly.
"Is that what all this is about Emma? Some jerk told you that you were ugly, and you believed him? Let it ruin your life? Well let me tell you something. There is no such thing as the perfect human being. Even Jennifer Lopez has spots on her ass."
"Well, actually, she probably doesn't. It was a bad joke. I was trying to get you out of your mood." He took her face in his hands, tilted it up to his own, held her gently.
"Listen to me Emma. Your boyfriend must have been blind and stupid if he couldn't see past a few extra pounds and some stretch marks. I think you're lovely. I've thought it for ages and never had the courage to tell you."
She looked at him in wonder for a long moment, then he bent his head and kissed her full on the lips. She stood frozen for a few seconds, then her arms were around his neck and their mouths crushed together. His arms went around her, hugging her to him. His hands roamed over her back, stroking her, and her senses went wild. She clawed at his shirt, popping the buttons and stripping it down his arms. She pressed herself against his bare chest, their mouths meeting again, the passion rising, and she felt his fingers unfasten her bra. She let it slip away down her arms and pressed her full naked breasts against him, her arms around him. Her nipples hardened with excitement. She felt a pressure against her lower belly from the bulge in his pants and realised he had grown hard. She put a hand down and fondled him through the fabric and he groaned through the kisses. Fumbling at the zipper, she slid it down and slipped her hand inside. More fabric, his boxer shorts, she could feel his hardness through the thin cotton. She fumbled buttons open, his cock fell through the slit, hard and thick with lust. She wrapped her hand around it and heard him gasp at the touch on his bare flesh. She ran her fingers along the shaft, stroked the head, and he buried his face in her hair and moaned softly.
Taking his hand, she dragged him across to the bed. He needed no bidding, he stripped off his trousers and shorts as she pulled her panties off and together they fell naked onto the covers. Their mouths found each other again and their hands roamed feverishly over each other's body. Neither could wait for foreplay, she rolled on her back, him on top, and he fumbled at his groin as he guided his cock into her, thrusting it deep as she gave a long wail of passion.
He began to thrust frantically, his buttocks pistoning between her thighs, his breath on her face, until in what seemed like only seconds he came, stiffening as he emptied himself into her. Drained, he collapsed onto her, then after a few seconds he rolled off.
"Oh Emma, I'm sorry!" he blurted. "I couldn't stop myself."
She hugged him. "It doesn't matter Brian. It was fantastic. I loved it. Next time you can take longer. We both needed that."
They lay there, talking. She told him about her only previous boyfriend, the things he'd said that led to the lost years. He listened quietly, realising that it would take a lot of time and patience to restore Emma's faith in her self, but he had plenty of both. He told her how he had known about his feelings for her for a long time, but had always been too shy to say anything, to ask her out. He told her that what was happening was a dream coming true for him.
"Are you sure you really want me Brian?" she asked, "I always thought of myself as the ugly duckling who would never ever be a beautiful swan."
He kissed her gently.
"You will always be my beautiful swan, Emma." He said
She laid her head on his chest and he buried his face in her hair. He could smell her shampoo and he kissed her forehead, her nose, her lips. Gently he worked his way down, kissing her neck and shoulders as she closed her eyes and her breathing quickened. Her body was a soft haven of woman smell and silken flesh. His mouth found a nipple and he sucked it in between his lips, teasing it with his tongue. She gasped and her fingers slid down his chest. His fingers stroked her body, sliding over her broad hips to her inner thighs. Obediently she parted her legs and he stroked the soft silky skin. He felt himself getting hard again, and as if on cue her hand trailed down his belly and she took his cock in her fingers, stroking and teasing it as it grew and thickened.