|A Professional Mystery
Author: Medieval-Rogue PM
He wore...a disheveled buttonup while leaning back against scarlet pillows. Mature. Sleek. Professional with a touch of affection. Just like me, people would say. Only, there are quite a few things people don't know about me. [Short Story]Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Words: 3,368 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-21-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2453081
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Professional Mystery
There are a few things people don't know about me.
"Die!" I shouted. "DieDieDieDie...DIE!"
The gory sounds and images radiating from the television screen clashed oddly with the clean, contemporary look of my living room. Mature. Sleek. Professional with a touch of affection. Just like me, people would say. Only, there are actually... quite a few things people don't know about me.
Believe it or not, screaming my way through a video game is one of the lesser secrets I carry.
It was no use. The scantily clad character which I called my own on the screen lost her epic battle against an abnormally muscular man.
Irritated and bored, I dropped the remote controller, switched off the console, and abandoned the system. Stepping sorely towards the kitchen, I could feel my back groaning with each step, slowly realigning after lying on my belly for so long.
No one else was in the kitchen. Surprise. Aside from the occasional get-together with a friend or two, I was usually alone in the apartment. I found my coffee mug, cold now, and took a sip, wincing at the bitter, creamy taste. The rest of the drink was downed while I looked over some papers from that week, business figures and projections, current events and headlines. I stopped when an advertisement caught my eye. On the glossy page was a photograph of a handsome man, some unknown model. He wore a sleeveless shirt beneath a disheveled button-up while leaning back against scarlet pillows. The pillows were similar to my own cushions in the bedroom, and the man's eyes reminded me of... something else that had once been in my bedroom.
My heart rate quickened. Swirling sheets, sweat-creased brows, languid limbs, a kiss on the forehead. The memory of the crimson pillows being clawed aside flashed within my mind's eye, like the television screen from earlier. Clothes puddled on the floor, breathing stirring locks of red and brown hair, and lying on a lean man's chest as the sun rose.
With a long sigh, I gently closed the magazine. Damn.
I think it's interesting that if my mother heard how many curse words fly through my brain at any given moment, she would probably chase me with a rolling pin. Of course, then I would only think more of that kind of... verbiage.
A strand of red hair fell into my eyes. It always did. I hated it and liked it, and I was much too lazy to let it grow out. Long hair is a bitch to take care of.
I didn't often have free days. Actually, I never had free days. I was always either working, preparing to work, or done with work but preventing my body from collapsing with the work. On the odd days that I was doing none of these things, I worked at not working, or I dug up work, or I drove myself crazy, which in itself is a lot of work. What can I say? I have a high threshold and barrels of ambition.
So, it will suffice to say that on this day, I didn't want to brood on the past, and I didn't want to go crazy, or work, or not work, for that matter. That was why I trudged back to the living room, plopped down with the controller, and made it a mission to beat some burlesque character on the video game I had been annoyed with before. Within minutes I was muttering urgently again.
"Come on, bloody die already, f'cking son of a diseased hooker!"
After several ugly rounds of my skimpy character bouncing, moaning, and dying on screen, I gave a whoop of triumph to see the virtual bastard lose. I drew up a bag of potato chips from the nearby coffee table and munched happily to the victorious theme music, no matter how childish it seemed.
Hell, it beats cold coffee...and cold pillows.
I'm not a teenager (thank goodness- I hated high school drama). My age says I'm an adult- twenty-one years old- but I don't always feel it. Sometimes I feel younger. Other times, I feel older... Much older. The complex maelstroms of emotions and actions that I have been caught in within my life make me oblivious to the years. I don't think human spirits understand math, or age, for that matter.
"Ow...bitch..." I winced as a piece of the chip I was chewing dug in between my tooth and gum. Just in the middle of plying the pain away with my tongue, a static-tinged set of lyrics broke out nearby.
"When you walk away, you don't hear me say..." I reached for my cell phone atop the coffee table. "Simple and clean is the way that you're makin' me feel tonight, it's-"
"Hey," I answered the call, still using my tongue as a wedge to free the food item from my gum. The song abruptly ended, though I had heard the ring tone enough times to not mind. Utada Hikaru, "Simple and Clean."
"Hello," my friend replied. I could picture her leaning over the counter in the coffee shop she worked at, long, brown hair tussled from the venue's daily affairs. Jasmine. She was a year or so younger than I, but acted more than twice her age. We made small talk for a while, and I finally got rid of my oral pain after resorting to manicured nails. Clearly, I'd honed the skill of multi-tasking.
"So will you bring anything over?" I asked, looking at the clock. She was going to visit me when she clocked out, so I could expect an hour's time to pack up the game console. Not that she didn't already know of my quirky pastime. I just didn't like the mess the controllers presented on the living room floor.
"Cinnamon rolls and smoothies," she answered. "What else?"
"Oh, I don't know," I rolled my eyes, even though she couldn't see it. "Coffee. You do work in a coffee shop."
"Yes, but it's six o'clock, and I don't want to know what you're like as sleep-deprived and caffeine-crazed," Jasmine said. "It's cinnamon rolls and smoothies. No argument."
Five minutes later I was debating just brewing some coffee myself instead of grumbling about my mean, yet caring friend while crumpling up the potato chip bag and setting about the task of cleaning my small mess before the television. Mature. Sleek. Professional with a touch of affection. That's how it looked when I finished, settling comfortably on the couch with my file of papers from earlier.
"Dirty politician, economic fluctuations, bla bla..." I narrated as I flipped the pages. "Bla, natural disasters, and...pretty model boy from before." Oh yes. The same advertisement I had seen in the other magazine was in this one. Sensual colors toning the flesh of the man in the photo, his lopsided grin matching sultry eyes and mussed hair. "Damn," I repeated my thoughts from before, only, thankfully, this time I wasn't plagued so much by memories, but rather...the irony of it.
I swear that the universe tries to send messages to us sometimes. I just never figure out what language the message is in until it's too late. The language...is irony, and even though I picked up on it that time, I still couldn't decipher the code.
The unknown model was still grinning at me when a knock came at the door. I tossed it aside and stood, briskly moving to the door and unlocking it.
"Hiya," I greeted Jasmine across the threshold when I opened it, allowing her and the cup tray and bags she carried into my home. She smelled like...big shock here...coffee. Coffee and syrup and young spring and old mother nature. Jasmine set her things down on the kitchen counter and looked at me as if reading my thoughts. "You know, I wonder if you were only inclined to be my friend because of my connections with the beans you love so much."
"Not the connections," I said, teasing. "The smell."
I heated the cinnamon rolls on a ceramic plate in the microwave as she talked. Work was busy, as always, more so because of one particular customer who was rather...creepy. The cinnamon rolls were too hot to eat, so I sipped the smoothie, acquiescing that although it wasn't coffee, the French vanilla raspberry flavor was satisfying.
"And what did you do today?" she asked me just as I dipped my finger into the frosting of the roll. My answer was a shrug as I licked the the sweet icing from my finger. Jasmine's golden brown eyes bore into mine. "So...memory lane and ...what? Video games?"
I glared. "I know I'm not that easy to read." This is very true, one of those things more people are aware of when compared to, say, my video gaming binge, but they're aware of it in a way that makes them seem entirely unaware of it. If that makes sense.
Most of the time, I just...keep a professional mystique.
"No, but you don't have many days off work, and you don't do much of anything else when you do," she acknowledged, noisily drinking her smoothie. I was curious about what flavor hers was. Mint, perhaps.
"Sometimes I go out of the house," I pointed, finally biting some of the warm roll. It was a spicy contrast to the smooth flavor of my drink.
Jasmine didn't reply to that except for a smile and a roll of the eyes. We talked of other things. Work. Books. Her boyfriend. My lack of one. The things we usually spoke about.
When the cinnamon rolls were long gone and there were only noisy ice chunks at the bottom of the smoothies, Jasmine grabbed her purse. I accompanied her to the door.
"Thanks for coming," I told her, smiling as I leaned against the door. She still smelled like coffee, and I was two and a half feet away from her. "Next time we'll make it a breakfast date."
"Of course. Then we can get a discount because I work there!" Winking, Jasmine leaned forward for a customary hug. "Sleep some, hmm? And when you do, do it well. Pleasant dreams and all that."
"Maybe," I winked back, waving as she smiled and began walking down the hallway. I watched to make sure that she made it safely to the stairs, another custom we shared, and then closed and bolted the door.
Alone again, per usual, I looked around the room, wondering exactly what I was going to do now. Jasmine suggested sleep. I didn't feel like it. Dressed in a silk camisole (with no bra beneath,- it was more comfortable that way) and old jeans, I felt like lounging on the couch and watching a good movie. With popcorn. Or something akin to the experience. Casual.
A sudden chill came over me, though, and I moved back to the kitchen, heating a mug of water for tea. I like tea almost as much as I like coffee. It was in the middle of sipping some chamomile that I heard another knock at the door. Of course, I thought what all of those people think in the movies before something dramatic or at least interesting happens. Hmm, who could be coming to call at this hour?
Jasmine. Maybe she left something, was the answer in my head.
Scanning the kitchen counter to see what she may have missed earlier, I traipsed back to the front door, unbolting it and opening it easily. Only...it wasn't Jasmine.
The chill I had experienced earlier came back in full force, raising the goose flesh all over my beige skin. My arms folded. Defense mechanism, I suppose.
Staring at me with a soft smile was a man slightly taller than I. His green eyes were ones that had seemed to stare out at me through a glossy magazine advertisement from before. Lean, handsome, and dark-haired, I could already picture him pinned against scarlet pillows, inhaling deeply as I...
"Hi," he said from across the door frame.
"Hi." It was awkward. I made myself seem as I always did. Mature. Sleek. Professional, only this time, no affection. I kept trying to gauge how well I was pulling it off. Considering how fast my heart was suddenly pounding in my ears and the whirring of a dozen thoughts at once, my cumulative answer was: horribly.
"It's been awhile." His voice was the same low note it had always been, like a masculine purr. Lustful, aching memories were simmering in the back of my mind.
"Yes," I answered. And there was this huge...gap between us, as if neither one of us knew what to do- beckon, kiss, hug, laugh. We had parted without many words, and no real harsh feelings. It...it had all just escalated so fast one night and then... He left in the morning.
But now...he came back.
And then the message that the universe was sending me got through.
"Come in," I said, stepping aside and watching his face dawn with relief. Really, it hadn't been that long. A few weeks, at most. But... after something so memorable...it had seemed such a long time. Much too long to avoid. The gap closed, slowly, with every step he took into my home, one hand in his coat pocket and one resting on the back of his neck. Such a beautiful neck.
I left him at the couch and fetched my tea, making a new cup for him and pulling out some dark chocolate squares from the cupboard. Chocolate is served best with hot tea, not milk, as many people think. And I always have some chocolate around.
"These pillows remind me of yours," he said when I reentered the living room, pointing to the advertisement I had been trying to ignore. In the bedroom, his emerald eyes said, politely leaving his full memory unspoken.
"You're right," I acknowledged, and set two cups and a plate of chocolate onto the coffee table. "Have some," I added, sitting beside him, although it felt too close.
I suppose I can't put into words what the message of the universe was to me in that moment, but it was something akin to, Try. Go on.
Maybe he had heard the same message I had that day. "I'm sorry," he said abruptly, honestly.
The memories on the back burner? Simmering? They boiled over, then. His large hands skimming my skin, pulling me close, warming my body from the chill that a morning alone always brings.
"For what?" I managed past the lump in my throat.
"Leaving," he said, skipping any genteel way there may have been to say it. The lump in my throat didn't seem to budge.
"I know," I said, although until he had said it I hadn't. Technically, I was telling the truth. "I am too. Although..."
Ayden's green eyes were deep with the same things they had been that night a few weeks ago. Love or lust, I think it was a mysterious blend of the two. It was unnerving, and each thump of my heart was like a bass note thrumming in my veins.
"We don't regret it," he injected in my momentary silence. It's funny how well he knows me. He and Jasmine both...although I'm unsure that either of them have met more than once, if at all.
And then his hands were one mine, his mouth set in determination and head tilted towards me. It's what he does when he's saying something important. Then again, most of the things he says, especially to me, are important. "It was different...and it's different still. First time, and all that, makes a difference between friends."
His authoritative voice brought out my own inner lion, which roared alongside my drumming heart. "And is that all we are?"
"You know we aren't," Ayden said with a look. The look said, "Who do you think you're fooling?" This wasn't a business deal, and I couldn't really manipulate him. "If that were all that existed between us you would have stopped. I know you. You wouldn't have even let me continue trying, let alone go on the way you did. Eagerly."
"True." I looked at his dark hair, picturing it between my fingers. "Then what do you propose?"
He quirked an eyebrow and then did the unpredictable. He laughed, a lopsided grin plastered on his face as if we weren't discussing the serious matter of two lovers' heartstrings. I didn't quite know what to do about it, and so took up a piece of chocolate. Bittersweet smoothness rolled over my tongue as Ayden's deep laughter roiled itself into heavy breathing.
Then he looked at me. Just looked at me, not even giving me the pleasure of an answer. I could almost picture him shaking his head, but he wasn't. Just...looking at me. And it made me smile, one of those small ones that brings a warm spreading like liquid through one's body. Even my sheer camisole felt like too hot a burden.
It propelled me forward. Try, go on, again! the universe told me. It didn't need to. My lips were on his, fingers touching his stubbly cheek and making me wonder why he hadn't shaved this morning. Maybe he was at his breaking point like I was. Ayden's fingers gripped my waist more assertively after the first few seconds, his lips pressing back with slow-burning lust.
When we pulled apart it was only to press our foreheads together, breathing heavily as if we had done so much more than kiss. "Tomorrow morning. Coffee," I uttered, swallowing. He nodded, the short bangs of his dark hair sliding against my forehead.
"Call me when you're ready, or I'll show up when I am." It was almost a threat: I'm not backing out, and I won't let you either.
That was the moment- that pivotal moment in a person when they wonder whether what they feel is love or infatuation and so resist expressing it. He finally took up a piece of chocolate, savoring it while watching me sip more tea.
After we both finish the refreshments in contemplative silence, we stood together and I walked him to the door. He hadn't taken off his jacket, so I paused, unsure what to do now that he was to leave.
He wasn't so unsure. Again there was a hot rush of lips, and if possible, this one seemed slower, more lasting. Dragging his lips up and off of mine at last, he kissed my forehead, leaving me to inhale his wonderful scent that reminded me of mint, pepper, pine, and cotton sheets.
"Goodnight, Liz," he murmured, and I drank in the sight of him for the night.
"Sweet dreams, Ayden," I answered, and opened the door for him, relishing his smile and my subsequent warmth as he walked down the hallway with the promise of tomorrow still with me.
I closed the door and leaned against it, still feeling flushed, imagining my morning routine for the following day and encompassing Ayden within it.
I was definitely not thinking about it at that moment, but most people who know me, the ones that really don't know me, probably wouldn't think I was capable of such a moment- basking in the aftermath of a kiss and awaiting more of such intimacy in the morning. But that's because, with them, I maintain...a professional mystique.
With precious few, however, I was willing and wanting to bring more light to my numerous shades of mystery.