Frivolities and Pretense

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“Come sit on this,” Luke said. I’d just walked in the door, struggling under the weight of an awkwardly shaped, obnoxiously orange armchair.

“Excuse me?” I asked, setting down the tangerine colored monster.

Our technical director was bent over a huge sheet of Plexiglas with a power saw in his right hand. He was replacing the store fronts of our newly renovated theatre space downtown.

He was grinning his charismatic, lopsided grin. His eyes were a brilliant blue, and his slightly shaggy hair was hanging into his face.

“Well, when I start to saw this, it’s going to jump around a lot. Come sit on it for me, so it doesn’t move.”

I smiled at him — no typical sex jokes that theatre people are so fond of, even though this one would have been an easy throw away — just a private, coveted smile as I stepped up into the storefront in order to bolster the Plexiglas.

He was right — the sheet of thick plastic came to life beneath me when he began to cut it. The two of us sat there, me sprawled back on my hands, trying to put my whole 135 pounds on the piece, vibrating in a manner that would have been obscene if it wasn’t just us; he, bent over the saw, hair obscuring his face for the moment, the muscles of his shoulders pulled taunt as he hunched over. I wondered how my thighs would feel, wrapped around those shoulders — soft, warm flesh against hardened muscle, undulating back and forth.

We didn’t speak, with the exception of a swear word or two when the Plexiglas began to reseal itself from the heat of the saw as he cut it. When he was finished, he gave me a hand up and out of the storefront, and I went back to moving the neon sign of all armchairs into the performance space.

Luke and I had liked one another immediately when we’d first met. I had a sarcastic sense of humor that he appreciated, and we were both incredibly straight-forward when it came to work — both always looking for more efficient ways to do things. It’s why we were so good at our jobs, and why I had been sought out as a front of house consultant for this up and coming theatre company.

I’d fallen in love with the space the moment I saw it — an expansive, historical five story brownstone downtown that Nouveau Théâtre Collective was renovating into a performance space, gallery, and bar. Luke had been the man to meet me at the door; an impromptu meeting, late in the evening, and as we’d walked through the darkened space, we’d shot machine-gun dialogue back and forth about the possibilities, the lighting, the seating, the upcoming season. We’d gone out for drinks, later, in a large group of theatre people, and managed to close down the patio at Arthur’s, growing progressively louder the more scotch we drank, talking about everything from the escalating situation in Iran to the wide-reaching implications of the creation of the state of Israel.

I’d signed a consulting contract the next morning, although I would have done it for nothing if they’d asked me.

* * *

Later that evening, after the Plexiglas episode, I was sitting on a folding chair in our coat closet of a box office space, filling out deposit forms on a clipboard perched precariously in my lap.

Luke was slated to be building me shelving units later in the week, but currently, the walls were freshly painted and bare. The plastic drop-cloth crinkled every time I moved my feet.

A shadow fell across my paperwork, and I looked up to see Luke, down to his undershirt, his face and arms streaked with satin black latex paint — he’d been finishing the air conditioning units that hung from our exposed ceiling.

His manner at work was always intensely professional, but also tended to set people ill-at-ease. His casual, slouching stance as he leaned over the half-door to my box office illustrated this perfectly.

“Didn’t know you were even still here,” he said, shoving his hair back behind his ear.

“Mmm,” I said, noncommittally, tallying receipts with my tiny calculator, willing myself not to screw up a long string of addition.

He was right, it was almost midnight. The rest of our staff as up on the fifth floor, in our office space, tidying up the day’s paperwork and scheduling tomorrow’s production work.

The shadow did not move, and it was unnerving. I finally looked up again, to see him just watching me punch in numbers on the calculator. I noticed he’d been sweating.

“You know how many times I’ve told you not to fuck with me when I’m doing deposits?” I asked, my tone a smidge playful but also quite serious.

“Yep,” he replied, placing his arms on his lower back and stretching. “That’s why I keep doing it.”

I narrowed my eyes a little, struggling to keep the smirk out of the corner of my mouth, and exercised the quickest way to make him disappear.

“Mmm-hmm. Oh, by the way, when are you going to build me shelves? And fix that damned door — you know it still doesn’t shut right. And can I call a plumber yet about the handicapped stall in the ladies room, or are you still convinced you can do that halkalı escort yourself?”

He raised an eyebrow like a battle flag.

“Oh, I see how it is. You take, and you take, but you never give, Haley,” he sighed melodramatically. He was also beginning to take a step back — he knew my shelving units were ten days overdue, to say nothing of the back and forth pleas of mine to let us call a professional plumber to deal with the ladies room issue.

I waved my hand at him dismissively. “If you’re going upstairs, tell Ellen I’ll be up in a half hour with these.”

He was already walking off towards the freight elevator as I said it.

* * *

A half hour turned into forty minutes as I reworked the numbers a second time to make sure they were right. Then I stood up, cracking my back and wincing at the noise, which echoed like a gunshot in the dark, empty space of the now-deserted second floor.

And then I heard the freight elevator, a loud and glorious thing that I loved — the old hardwood paneling, the sliding gate, and the 1920s styled buttons.

I gathered my paperwork and exited the box office, down the dim hallway, skirting toolboxes and shopvacs as I went. I stood in front of the huge metal doors to the elevator, and a moment later, Luke’s face appeared in them as the elevator began to pass the second floor. He stopped it when he saw me, and I stood back so he could kick the left hand door open — it was still sticking like a son of a bitch.

“Going up?” he asked. I noticed he had an assortment of various front of house paraphernalia he’d horded from the basement — floor lamps, push brooms, and, in the corner, a modern drinking fountain still in its elongated cardboard box.

“Since when do we have a drinking fountain?” I asked, stepping in and throwing my full weight backwards to close the door behind me.

“I found it downstairs; never been opened. I don’t precisely know how to install one, but I’m going to take it upstairs and see if I can’t learn.”

He stretched his arms up to bring down the old wooden elevator gate, and his undershirt became untucked from his demolished khaki work pants. The waistband of his boxers was inviting, and his stomach, hardened from constant work, begged for the touch of my hand. Instead, I turned and pushed the ornate, round “UP” button.

The elevator shuddered up to the fifth floor. We were silent, and kept an unobvious but carefully observed distance from one another.

* * *

It was approaching one a.m. when I exited the elevator and dropped a thick bank deposit bag and its accompanying manila file folder on the desk of Ellen, our executive director. She and James, our artistic director, were perusing the West Elm catalogue, looking for a sofa for our lobby. The fifth floor was all converted loft space, and Ellen and James occupied the two separate studio apartments there. It was a convenient arrangement, and it made them easy to find, even at one a.m.

“I’m going home for the night. I have to do mundane adult things, like pay bills and do some laundry, before I come back in tomorrow.”

Ellen nodded, clearly exhausted. James, however, always animated, began talking a mile a minute.

“I really think we ought to stick with an espresso brown sort of leather for the couch — I want all the furniture in the performance space to match, and the rest of it is all that dark wood, you know? Also, I’ve decided our ticket boxes and program holders should be silver — I know, you don’t have to say it, it’s a brilliant contrast…”

Then he noticed Luke hauling our new-found water fountain out of the elevator.

“Luke — you’re walking her to her car, aren’t you?”

Nouveau Théâtre was located in the more shady part of the downtown arts district. Renovation of the entire area was exploding ever since we’d bought our space six months prior, but a block-long walk to my car at this hour was never a good idea.

“Mmmm,” Luke responded, “In a second. I want to look at these instructions.”

I collected my purse and laptop bag from my desk, impatient.

“I’m worn-out — I can’t wait for you to screw around with that drinking fountain for another hour; really. James will walk me out.”

James was clearly not impressed with the idea of being torn away from his West Elm catalogue to walk me to my car.

Luke tossed the instructions back into the box, frustrated. He had trouble turning his mind off, sometimes, I thought.

“Fine, alright, fine — I’ll look at this tomorrow.”

He grabbed his jacket from the coat rack and then brushed past me, taking off down the four flights of stairs to the front door. I followed slowly, much more cautiously — he’d taken all the wall banisters down last week to re-stain them and hadn’t put them back up yet.

“When are you going to fix the lighting in this hallway?” I called down to him; he was already a floor beneath me.

“As soon as you stop bitching about it,” he retorted quickly. olgun escort But the sound of his heavy, thudding footsteps stopped — he was waiting for me.

“My job is making sure patrons don’t kill themselves and then sue us from beyond the grave, okay? That’s my sole responsibility here — front of house operations.”

I’d caught up to him. He didn’t say anything, but I knew he understood me and secretly agreed with me — he never touched me, but I sensed him watching me carefully negotiate the last treacherous flight, keeping a free hand ever-so-slightly outstretched towards me in case I tripped over something in the gloom.

Then we were out, the “CUH-CLACK!” of the front push-door to the theatre bouncing off the walls of the surrounding buildings. The wind was pleasantly cool, a summer wind, and the night air was quiet.

We walked without speaking; we were much too tired to carry on any pretense. At the crosswalk, he lifted my laptop bag from my shoulder and carried it the rest of the way.

When I was safely secured in my car, he spoke to me through my open driver’s side window as I lit a cigarette.

“Where are you parked?” I asked quietly, through clenched teeth as I flicked my lighter into life.

He jerked his head left; back the other way. He waited for me to take a long, first drag on my Camel, and then plucked it carefully from my fingers to take his own drag. He didn’t ask permission, but then, I never asked either.

Then he nodded, once, sharply, and said in a normal speaking voice that seemed much too loud on the deserted downtown street, said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

Always a little bit of a charade. Even technical people can act – it wouldn’t do to have the house manager fucking the technical director on a nightly basis. We liked our love affair like we liked our scotch — straight and neat.

I nodded back, and he was gone in a beige flutter of his raincoat, which he never seemed to take the time to button.

* * *

The drive was always hardest, late at night, even though it was only fifteen minutes uptown to suburbia. I rolled down all the windows to let in the night air, in hopes it would keep me away. I sucked greedily at my cigarette until it was only smoldering ash.

And finally, mercifully, I was home, turning into the driveway of an old Victorian house that was being slowly rebuilt as we had the time. Myself — I kept a tiny studio apartment downtown, because it was convenient, but this sprawling house (a sin of sorts, in a city so starved for space) was a luxury I loved deeply.

Luke was waiting for me as I stepped out of the car. The demeanor was different now, and the smell of honeysuckle from the wall of it growing up the garden trellis was mingling with a fresh, wet smell in the air. It was going to rain, later, I thought.

I stepped out of my car, and shut the door. He was no longer standing by the garden, with his hands in his pockets — he’d stepped forward, and slid his hands around my neck and then over my shoulders. I was already soaking wet, the lace of my panties sticking to the gentle folds of my cunt. He knew this, he always knew it, and he could have had me right there, in the garden, if he’d wanted me, but instead he kissed my face — the corner of my eye, my cheek, my chin — and finally my mouth. He tasted like peppermint and sweat.

I leaned back against my car, pulling him against me in the thick silence of the night; his hardness, almost painfully constrained by his boxers and pants, pressed against my own eager parts. His hands were roaming, now, sliding up and over my breasts, one layer at a time — up and down over my summer sweater, then around to my tender sides just to tease, then up and down under the shirt and back to the sides, then finally, mercifully, pushing up my bra to run a gentle hand over my nipples. I jumped as he stroked them, imagining them blushing a deep rose color in the dark, and a tiny, thin moan escaped my mouth. It was barely audible, but his face was buried in my neck, teeth taking tender nips at my skin, slow, slow, everything excruciatingly slow.

He always did this to me, drew it out, never with malicious or even arrogant intent, but mostly because he just wanted it to go on and on. It was like rich dessert, he’d once explained — your body longs to devour it the second your eyes see it, but your mind knows better, makes you draw it out, and savor it. He liked to savor me.

And then he was twisting my nipples, still tenderly, still slowly; it would have been soothing if I hadn’t spent the day as his professional colleague, forced to retire only in my private thoughts of bed later that night. As it was, the methodical, constant turn of his fingers against my nipples was enough to make me beg.

“Please,” I said, breathless, “take me inside.”

I felt his mouth curve into a smile against my neck, and then we were walking, quickly, so quickly, up the stone şişli escort path to our front door, a jangle of keys and a “click-click” turn of the lock, and we were in. Moonlight streamed through the three huge windows in our parlor, throwing pale, mosaic squares on our hardwood floor.

I wanted to see his tanned, naked body with those silvery squares of light thrown across it. I pulled him into the parlor, down to the floor with me, and the spontaneity of it spurred him on. In a moment, my sweater was off, and he had jerked the hairpin from my hair. It unrolled like a Roman window shade down my shoulders, rich brown against olive skin. He loved my hair, and immediately ran a hand through it, gathering it at the back and giving it a soft but firm tug to let me know just what sort of things he was going to do to me.

His hand slipped to my back, and in a snap of the fingers and a shrug, my bra slid off my shoulders. I was busy fumbling with his belt, and couldn’t manage to get it undone before he pressed himself on top of me. It was always a back-and-forth game; me trying to speed the process up, and him trying to slow it down. I began rolling my hips up and down off the floor, grinding against him, silently pleading. And then he began kissing me, which just made it worse.

Luke’s kissing was an inspired sort of creation — not practiced and not particularly suave; more like a warm patchwork quilt of technique, a lazy sort of dabbling in this and that. He licked the corner of my mouth, and then teased my lower lip with his tongue. Then he’d give me a fond, slow bite, and pull back just slightly enough so that our breathing flooded one another’s mouths. Then on, and on, like a delightful sampling of multiple dinner courses.

It was in these moments I decided I could live forever.

And then his rough, broad hand was kneading the soft flesh of my hip, and I knew I had to have him.

“Luke,” I moaned in the breathy, soft voice I knew he loved. My words tripped out of my mouth, across his lips, like feathers.

“Yes,” he said in agreement, and picked me up from the floor. We loved every inch of that house, but the bedroom with our sprawling wrought iron bed was what we loved the most. The trip up the stairs was a blur of hands, groping, touching, desperation and then restraint; he would gain a step or two, and I would reach out to stroke his throbbing cock through the layers of fabric, then I would gain a step myself, and he would take the chance to slip a hand between my legs. It seemed like our lips even left one another, and by the time we reached the top of the stairs, we were both gasping for breath.

His patience had worn thin by the time we reached the doorway bedroom, and he bent over and lifted me up in one smooth motion, not a wedding stance, but a much more fluid, primitive motion, by my hips. And then I was falling, back onto our bed with its white cotton sheets, worn impossibly soft by wash after wash.

He had dropped beside the bed, and was negotiating the buttons of my pants and then stripping my panties off with relish. Even in the barely-there light from the moon, he could see my pussy glistening. More than that, he could smell it — immediately, the scent of musk and warm, damp earth flooded the room. That was always the last straw for him.

In an instant, his own pants were gone, and he was on top of me, our bodies finally able to run against one another in ultimate freedom. He slipped his thigh between mine, pushing my legs open, and I arched my back up, riding his thigh in a handful of slow strokes, streaking my wetness across him. My slit was flooded with wetness so hot, it was almost shocking to the touch, and it smeared up and down his thigh as we moved, like an elegant, embossed invitation to a private affair.

He moaned, a low, ravenous sound, and then readjusted to slip two fingers into me. They slid in easily, all the way, and he began stroking that tender spot deep inside me. His hands were gentle as salvation, and sweet as sin.

Once, twice, then again and again. I reached down, desperate for a distraction, and suddenly my hand was filled with his cock, pulsing like an exposed heart. I slid my hand up and down the soft skin of his shaft, back and forth, not so much teasing as I was soothing myself. His intense moans turned into eager groans, and he thrust himself back and forth slowly, hot cock slipping in and out of my delicate fingers.

Some nights, when we weren’t so exhausted, he’d command me to turn around, on my knees, and grab the footboard of the bed. He’d force my hips high in the air, exposing me, so he could lick and kiss and suck from behind. Sometimes he’d just run his tongue up and down my slit, stopping to give my throbbing clit a teasing flick; other times he’d lick all the way up my ass, tonguing all around my asshole until it was dripping wet, then shove two fingers inside while he fucked my cunt. We could watch ourselves in the huge mirror that set atop our bureau; we both got off on the picture of my tits bouncing up and down, my mouth parted in a silent “oh no, don’t — oh yes, please” cry.

Some nights, he’d lay me down and lift my feet up as we made love, first my thighs pressed against the front of his shoulders, then all the way up, until my toes wrapped around the top rod of our headboard. These nights, he’d pump his cock slowly in and out of my cunt, listening to all the wet, sucking noises as he emptied and then filled me.

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