Impact of Collision Ch. 04

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Again, this is a collaboration with the magnificent SiteNonSite, who has been posting it under Novels and Novellas, which is hilarious, as SiteNonSite stated, it started as a 250 word rom-com submission for a “micro-fiction” contest.

So hopefully you have read Chapters 1 to 3 before starting on this Chapter, if not I would encourage you to go back and have a quick read.

If you haven’t read SiteNonSite’s work, please do yourself the favour and take the time to read all of SiteNonSite’s stories if you haven’t already.

I hope you enjoy this story.

Special thanks to HaltWhoGoesThere for proof reading this chapter for us.

Impact of Fascists

The alarm goes off like a clarion call. I shoot out of bed in a frantic rush to untangle myself from Claire and silence it. I remember flashes of the night before as I rush for the bathroom. I want to lock myself in, to gather my wits, but Claire is right at my heels, babbling and laughing. And just like the dance floor, my body again follows her lead, laughing and joining the babble.

I try to tell Claire, as she doesn’t have to go to work until later, that she is welcome to stay in bed and let herself out. But she races to get dressed with me, so we can leave together.

We clatter down my steps laughing and talking over each other, Claire in her party heels, me in flats for work.

We reminisce about the successful opening night as we walk crosstown, merging with the crowds heading to work. Claire is laughing again, as she reminds me of the older couple who propositioned us.

“…but perhaps they actually wanted us to go back to their place to see their collection,” Claire says sarcastically.

“I’m still drunk,” I whine, the walk feeling like we’ll never get there.

“Thank goodness Sophie saved us: ‘These two are mine!’,” she laughs, imitating Sophie’s accent. “I wonder if she told Paula you called her a boss bitch?”

“Ohmygod…” I groan, remembering, “That was awful, but at least she took it well.”

I can feel myself flushing with embarrassment again thinking about the night.

Hangovers are always hard for me, I don’t mean the illness and headaches – although those can be terrible – but I suffer from anxiety after I drink. I slowly remember things I said or did and feel mortified. I am famous for calling friends the next day to apologize. This one is epic. I want to beg Claire’s forgiveness, even with all her laughter and glee, I’m sure it’s papering over her own mortification and embarrassment, that everything is ruined.

When we woke up, we were embracing each other, naked, my hand between her legs. What happened the night before was still a blurry fog. Walking together I am setting a staccato pace, making a conscious effort not to think about it.

I feel myself blushing again, the shame of it all threatening to overwhelm me. But Claire is holding my hand and going on about the dinner as if nothing had happened, as if nothing is wrong.

Looking at her, I think of our faces pressed together, her hand still cradling my cheek, her other hand… her wet fingers running over my wet fingers, lacing between them until they touched my shaved skin.

“Oh Sarah,” she’d breathed in my ear, her fingertips stroking between mine, “t’es très belle.”

“…but I had heard that Cindy Sherman broke up with him because he liked to call her ‘mommy’ while they fucked,” Claire is explaining. We are standing on line for coffee and I’ve entirely lost the thread.

“Who?” I ask, making Claire narrow her eyes at me suspiciously.

“Steve Martin. Have you not heard a word I was saying?” She teases, smiling at me in mock outrage.

“I’m trying to keep up,” I mumble as we move towards the counter.

“Next!” calls the young barista, her cheery high pitched voice slicing through my skull.

“I’ll have a caramel macchiato and?” turning to Claire.

“Double-shot espresso. Please.”

I pay for both coffees and we move to the side to wait for our order.

“Have you got much on today?” Claire asks. She is studying me. It feels like there is more left hanging behind her question.

“We have a deadline next week, hopefully not too bad today though. You?”

“Today is going to be mad and there’s a function tonight at MoMA if you are up to it…” her voice is filled with anticipation and hesitation.

“I don’t know how you do it,” I tell her. “I’ll be lucky to make it to 5. I think I need a quiet night in after last night,” I tell her.

“Yes, well,” she hems, sounding slightly downhearted. “…Sophie is here until Wednesday, so I not only have to work through the weekend, but I’m going to be on call until she leaves.”

“I guess I won’t see you much this weekend then?” I reply.

Her face drops, I can see I’m disappointing her and hate the thought of making her sad.

‘What are we doing?’ I wonder, wishing I could run and hide.

“I london escorts guess not…” Claire agrees halfheartedly, before perking up. “But you can always come to MoMA with me tonight!”

“SaNah?!” The barista calls. We look at each other and share an eye roll.

We get our coffees and she walks with me to work, giving me a kiss on each cheek. I watch her walk away before I turn to go in. In her little cocktail dress and heels, her hair a mess but pulled back as neatly as she could muster, Claire is a textbook example of a walk of shame.

It was, I think, the longest Friday in the history of the five-day work week. When I turned around to go into work Keith was standing there holding the door for me, sporting artfully raised eyebrows.

“That wasn’t Ms. No One, was it?” he asked wryly.

“She’s my friend,” I mumbled into my coffee as we walked to the elevators. “We went out last night. She works at a gallery, we went to the opening of their latest show.”

Sitting on the toilet that morning, Claire washing her face in the sink, I’d sniffed my fingers. They’d smelled like pussy. Pressing into the elevator with Keith I wondered for the thousandth time if it was hers or mine or both.

“What was the show?” Keith asked.

I thought of Claire staring at me, holding my face in her hand, our bodies pushed against each other, touching ourselves.

“Sarah?” Keith asked.

I looked up from my coffee blankly.

“What show?” he said.

“Sophie Calle?” I shot back.

“Oh wow, she’s great!” he said, leaving it at that. Maybe he was letting me off the hook. I hoped so, but can’t stop myself from going on.

“I had no idea who she was until last week, but yeah, the show was fantastic, really great,” I told him nervously. “You should definitely go see it”.

I thought of telling him about meeting “Sophie” and Paul Auster. Of how Auster had stared at my boobs until Sophie laughed and told him I had lovely eyes as well. That Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were fans of our interactive map… That Lou was a gentleman and surprisingly soft spoken. But in the end I held my tongue, deciding to quit while I was still ahead.

Instead, I closed my eyes, as the elevator began to rise and my stomach dropped. I was sweating mescal; sure Keith could smell it on me, that everyone in the elevator must have smelled it on me. I realized I was holding my fingers to my nose, sniffing them. I dropped my hand and looked around guilty hoping work would be quiet. I really didn’t think I could have been useful at anything important. I kept thinking about Claire and remembering little flashes of things, her thumb in my mouth.

I made a bee-line toward my desk to start my day and was still watching my computer start up when Kathy from Style came by asking for help. Both Keith and Ben were suddenly too absorbed in whatever they were doing to notice.

‘Motherfuckers,’ I thought to myself.

“Please Sarah, can you take care of…” Kathy started in on me.

What little attention I had for her is broken by the recollection of Claire’s wet lips whispering, “take care of yourself…”

I could feel myself flushing, thinking of her hand cradling my cheek pulled our faces even closer.

“Please Sarah,” she had begged. “Do this with me.”

I was snapped back to reality, when Kathy started tapping her foot.

Kathy was standing there staring at me. “Sarah, are you with me?”

“Uh, Sorry, it’s just PowerPoint isn’t really what we do?”

“But you could do a graphic for the Style section?” she asked hopefully. I tried to focus. “We have some new homewares that we’re promoting. Starchitect-designed, blah blah blah – So we have a basic white room, and we want to highlight different elements, it’s for the web issue, so we want it interactive, so people can click on it and see a range of different styling options… that is what you do isn’t it? It’s not really for PowerPoint, but I wanted to put it into my presentation for the meeting tomorrow.”

Our interlaced fingers, wet, squeezing, pressing into me.

My free hand clutching her shoulder, our breasts touching. Looking into Claire’s eyes and seeing her pleasure at what we were doing together.

Fucking Kathy’s stupid dead eyes staring at me expectantly.

“I’m sorry Kathy,” I told her flatly, taking her printouts. “I’m just starting my day. But I didn’t understand this was something that needed to be turned around so quickly. Let me look this over and discuss it with Keith. I’ll get back to you by this afternoon.”

Kathy seemed to understand she was getting brushed off and left without so much as a thank you or so long. Keith and Ben looked over, I shrugged.

“Fuck her if she can’t take a joke. Her emergency is not my fucking problem,” I told them. Keith nodded approvingly and Ben laughed. Both men went back to what they had been doing.

I remembered screaming “oh london escort JESUSGOD, OH Claire!” as I came and felt myself blush scarlet.

I could feel Keith watching me and tried to hide my face in my hand. Did my best to look as if I was consumed by something work related.

“Do you want me to call Jen?” Keith asked, naming Kathy’s boss. “I can tell her we’re not photoshop.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary, I’ll email Kathy and let her down gently,” I replied. “But I’ll tell you if she doesn’t get the hint.”

The morning crawled by. I was too anxious to text Claire, but kept checking my phone to see if she had texted me.

By the time the afternoon rolled around I hadn’t heard from Claire, so I decided I would send her a message. She had taken me out after all…

Thanks again for inviting me, I had a wonderful time last night.

Her response was almost instant:

I’m so glad you came! You were the first thing Sophie talked about this morning. Paula thought the boss bitch story was very funny! (Ouf!)

I felt a spike of joy. My whole body reacted, surprising me. I’d been so uneasy all morning; had kept catching myself sniffing my fingers. But I missed her, and was so happy to see her reply.

Thank God! I hated the idea of embarrassing you in front of your boss.

No not at all, everyone thinks it’s a great story, and that you were beautiful and charming.

I wanted to keep texting but I knew she was busy, so I left her alone. And while I did my best to hide how terrible I was feeling, I think Keith knew and took mercy on me, ordering in a hot lunch for he, Ben, and I. Which was good, because that afternoon there was an unexpected drop of census data and all three of us worked like crazy to get it formatted and published. We ended up staying a little late, Keith finally calling it “rock solid” at 7pm.

My walk home that evening felt especially lonely, walking against a sea of bodies making excited chatter sounds. Turning the corner there was no one, my block felt like an apocalyptic scene, the entrance way to my building looked especially filthy, there was nothing but silence. I climbed the steps to my floor, the worn steps sounding dull, my pace slow.

‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself Sarah,’ I commanded uselessly. I was imagining Claire dressed up, laughing, touching a man’s arm.

‘Sometimes you sell art to flirt,’ I thought to myself glumly as I opened the door to my dark little apartment.

My phone chimed. It was a text from Claire, so I opened it. It was a selfie, holding the phone high. Behind her was the atrium of MoMA, a small crowd in cocktail dress, waiters serving champagne and hors d’œuvres. Claire was in the corner of the screen pulling a face, eyes crossed, cheeks puffed up, the tip of her tongue sticking out of her pursed lips. I covered my mouth and laughed as I closed my door.

Wish you were here!

I wish I was too!

It’s not too late, jump in a cab!

No I’m nockered, but I really do wish I wasn’t, you look beautiful.

Another picture arrives, the phone still held high, but in this one she is smiling prettily into the lens, her eyes look sexy, she’s wearing a beautiful black top of sheer fabric and no bra.

I’m putting on a show!

You’ll get lucky tonight for sure!

No, my date stood me up 🙁

For a hot moment I was upset, wondering who would stand Claire up, but then I realized she meant me.

Now I feel bad!

Don’t! No one is here yet, you’re not even late. Your name is at the door.

I looked at the picture of Claire and her sheer top and I leapt into action. I was cleaned up and changed into a little black dress in less than ten minutes. I almost skipped down the street to the avenue where I caught a cab.

“I KNEW you would come!” Claire squeals as she sees me. That alone made it worth coming out.

We crash at her place. all but falling into bed. I make no pretense of asking for a night shirt, dropping my towel and sliding into her big beautiful bed. A few minutes later, she slides in behind me, damp and naked, her body cupping my back protectively.

“My Big Spoon,” I murmur before passing out.

Saturday Claire has to work, but we spend the morning together getting coffee and going for a walk before we agree to meet that night and go our separate ways, her to the gallery and me to do my housework. That night after accompanying Sophie to a performance by Laurie Anderson at The Kitchen we end up back to my apartment. I had gotten Claire a toothbrush that may as well have been a diamond ring, it made her so happy.

“How do I keep on ending up sitting next to Lou Reed?” I ask her as we get ready for bed.

“I think Lou wants a taste of Young Sarah,” she teases, bumping my hip with hers.

Claire jumps in the shower and is in bed before I even finish brushing my teeth. She london escort agency is snoring softly when I climbed into bed. I spoon her, enjoying the old fashioned smell of her hair, the feel of our bodies pressed together.

Tuesday night Sophie insists Claire bring me to dinner at Paula’s loft. It’s a formal affair with almost 30 people seated at a single long table. I sit between the French ambassador and Molly Ringwald, who actually spoke perfect French. I sit there feeling like Alice, having already fallen through the looking glass.

“I’m going to have to learn French,” I tell Claire as we go for our coats, which I can tell pleased her to no end.

Sophie pulls Claire and I aside as we are leaving and gives us each a bag with a large heavy book in it. The cover is pink metallic with a picture of herself – it’s the catalog for Take Care of Yourself. When we got back to Claire’s we find Sophie had inscribed them to us. Claire’s says: Claire, j’espère que tu prends soin de toi. T’es la meilleure gardienne. Sophie xx and mine says You are a Boss Bitch Sarah, The moment when you laughed, I knew you understood. Ne vous excusez pas. Soyez courageuse, sans peur. Soyez audacieuse. Soyez vous-même. Sophie xx.

I have a vague understanding, but ask Claire to translate Sophie’s words for me.

“She’s written ‘Don’t apologize. Be courageous, fearless. Be audacious. Be yourself.’ She’s wonderful,” Claire says sleepily.

Claire, who had been running hard straight through the weekend, apologizes for being so tired, but can hardly keep her eyes open. I help her undress and put her to bed like she’s a little girl, laughing and teasing her. I kiss her and wonder if I should stay. I’m wide awake. I imagine slipping out, but instead undress in the dark, and slipping into the big four poster, holding her. Enjoying the contact.

Even though Claire starts work later than me, on Wednesday she wakes up extra early and makes me coffee and a crepe and sends me off to work with two kisses.

Alone in my apartment that night I lay in bed thinking of our crazy week; of Claire. My pillows smelled like her. As strange as it sounds, the madness of the night of the opening had receded in my mind, it’s not as if it never happened, it’s just that it was the exception, which is not to say the rule wasn’t extraordinary. Claire and I had been sharing beds and sleeping naked all week. Nothing had happened, besides holding each other in our sleep – waking up entangled and clutching each other was our thing. After months alone it felt so good to be close to someone again. It just seemed so natural, so… us.

But it was more than that too. Climbing naked into Claire’s bed, her climbing naked into mine, there was a frisson of excitement, a thrill at the possibility of things going further, going too far. I was having uneasy thoughts about that thrill when my phone rang, it was my mother. My stomach ached, but I’d been avoiding her calls all week. I knew how the conversation would go… ‘you haven’t been to church, you need to look for a husband, work isn’t everything Sarah Beth’.

“Hi mom,” I said as cheerfully as I could manage.

“How are you darling? What have you been doing lately? You must be busy, you’re so quiet.”

She was mad I haven’t called her. I absorbed the jab without comment and proceeded to tell her about work and my evenings with Claire. I was careful not to mention the sleepovers – something that would never have raised an eyebrow for my mother, but I still hadn’t felt comfortable sharing. She listened politely, making hmms and ums at the appropriate times, but I got the uneasy feeling that she was just waiting for her turn to talk; something was coming.

“Your father was talking to Danny the other day… he had waited for you to get over this city thing, but you took too long and he’s met someone else.”

“Mom, I really don’t ca-“

“Listen to me Sarah Beth, you’re my only daughter. Danny is a good man,” she told me. I thought of Danny calling me a cold bitch as he walked out on me. I remembered his resentment and the little put downs, the belittling phrases he would use to diminish me and make me feel worthless over the years; it feels like my whole life.

A rage boiled within me, and I was afraid I would yell at her, that if I said anything at all I’d scream. I had my hand clamped over my mouth and my eyes squeezed shut against the tears I felt sure were coming. I could hardly breathe.

“I spoke to Father Mike,” she says quietly after a very long silence. Maybe she sensed she’d gone too far. “He’s Catholic Workers. They’re… you’ll like them. He said you haven’t stopped by yet, you really should.”

The silence stretched, but I felt my breathing calm, the threat of tears receded.

“I will when I have time, mom. I’ll talk to you later.” I replied, and hung up. I’d never hung up on my mother, but I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I lay in bed thinking about Danny, all the shitty things he said to me, about my weight, my looks, about me not being smart enough. I wondered about his new girlfriend, wonder who she is, how they met. I surprised myself by not feeling jealous or even sad. I felt relieved.

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