Olivia sat in front of Gerry, watching him cry. If he had an aura, it would have been beige stained with blotches of purple anguish and green fear. He honked into an worn handkerchief with his initials sewn into the corner, a stray thread hung from the G and she tried to ignore it.
‘You have to consider this as an opportunity. A fresh start-‘
He crushed the damp handkerchief and his eyes, soft fruit from grief’s orchard turned hard and hot with anger.
‘Didja get that shit offa greeten card? ‘
She did not flinch. She used to, every time but after a few times, you got used to it. She hardly ever blinked. Her smile widened and she leaned over the desk.
‘Anger is part of the cycle of emotions related to such a momentous change in your circumstances. ‘
It was when he flinched and came forward that she stepped back and reached for the capsicum spray. She used to rely on chivalry but the last few years had leveled the playing field. It was not that the balance of power had changed rather that the scarcity had made everyone fair game for everyone else. Desperation made people do awful things. She depressed the button and watched Gerry clutch at his face, straining and screaming before she heard the clatter of shoe leather on tile.
The last hour of her day was spent on paperwork. Emails sent and work days planned for weeks ahead. She worked quietly and quickly, perfect nails flashing in the light of the monitor. Although she performed with a quiet efficiency, tonight she was motivated by an outstanding appointment. She finished, logged out and said goodbye to the security guard before getting behind the wheel of her BMW. Her only tangible concession to luxury aside from her apartment.
Her appointment was to appear at a small brick house downtown. She typed a four digit code into the keypad on the door and entered. She knew to take her shoes off and in her stockinged feet, she padded down the hall.
The silence was part of the ritual. At work, she spent most of her time explaining how things were, making decisions about people’s lives and futures. Here was somewhere that she could relegate herself.
She unbuttoned her suit jacket. The air was cool and she gave an involuntary shudder but she was never sure if it was the temperature or her anticipation. The lights went out and she hitched up her skirt and lowered herself onto her knees.
She heard him then caught the musk of his skin. He was clean sweat and cinnamon, coffee and the faintest hue of citrus. His fingers brushed against the nape of her neck.
‘Why do you turn the lights off?’
He chuckled and the sound made her clench her thighs together with excitement.
‘This is a place of transition.’
‘Unbutton your shirt.’
She gasped when his fingers tugged at her hair. The bright flash of pain was it’s own relief, excitement and faint dread accelerating the moment.
His fingers closed and he pulled her head back as his mouth came to her ear.
‘Do as you’re told.’
She unbuttoned her shirt. Surrender was easier in the dark, she enjoyed the struggle to let go as much as the letting go itself. His hand found her left nipple through the silk of her bra and pinched it between thumb and forefinger. She cried out and shut her eyes as his hands pulled her shirt down to the elbows, trapping her arms.
His right hand came up and pulled her hair again, forcing her head backwards. He slipped the thumb of his left hand into the corner of her perfectly lipsticked mouth and held it there.
‘Have you been a bad girl again? ‘
She spoke only in vowels but she was beginning to spin and seethe beneath his attention.
‘Now the thumb stays, but you stand up and keep your legs apart. I’m going to show you what happens to mean girls like you.’
She sagged against the rough certainty of his hands as he drew her up. He tugged her underwear down her thighs without ceremony and moved so that his right arm crossed over her stomach and his palm was flat against the curve of her pudendum. With his index and ring finger, he gently drew her labia apart, his breath sounding like the herald of some dark, terrible animal. He moved the tips of his fingers down to moisten them from the sap that had been welling there since she had made the appointment with him. Then he pushed his thumb a little further into her mouth and his fingers stroked her cheek. He made small, precise strokes, as delicate as a bee feeding, as a surgeon’s incision around her aching clit and she was there within moments. Constricted and stripped of all decision, making her feel free in ways that would unnerve her friends and alienate her colleagues.
The orgasm she had in his arms was an invasion, a bacchanal, an abduction and it broke the spines of her anxieties completely. She would have screamed but the universe did it for her as she sobbed with joy.
He turned her around, pressed her face into his thick, furry chest as she cried it all out. These crashes were accepted by him and she found they were as important as the scenarios themselves.
Some hit the gym or the bar. Olivia came here and it was the best of both of the former. Less chance of self deception and better conversation.
There in his arms, she wept for the guilt she carried. Already thinking about how she was clear now, no hard feelings towards Gerry at all. She signed his severance package with an enthusiastic flourish in her head already.
Desperation made people do awful things but it also inspired some beautiful things too. Fucked and frightened, stripped of decision, she was free of everything.
They had met three months ago. He had a workshop out back where sculptures hung on wires and the greasy smoke of molten metal clung to his overalls. Thick from heaving metal and quiet in the way animals are quiet.
He showed her that love in ritual.