“Peter?” called the receptionist, a little blonde thing with immaculate nails. “Peter?”
I sat still. curling and uncurling my toes against the leather of my shoe soles. I was fighting twenty five years of programming and something had to give. For me it was my toes - although I’m sure my facial expression wasn’t one of steely calm, either. The receptionist seemed to count to five in her head before calling:
I raised my hand, shyly, and she dazzled me with a smile. “The doctor will see you, sweetie. Third door on the-“
“I know the way, thank you,” I squeaked, glancing left and right. Apart from one buxom lady in the corner - who was looking even more nervous than I - the waiting room regarded me with a mix of squeamishness and disgust. I was glad to be out of their glare as I shut the door behind me.
The sight was an unfamiliar one. A young, overweight man sat with the doctor. His shirt was too small and I guessed his razor had seen better days.
“Hello, Penny. Sit down, please,”
The doctor was a lean gentleman with tinges of silver in his dark hair; his voice was as refined as the fine lines of his cheekbones.
“This is Jason. He is observing me today as part of his education, Penny. Is that a problem?”
I had enough potential issues to dodge without needing to create more trouble, so shook my head, braids swaying to and fro. The doctor gave me one of his reassuring smiles and scribbled a note in his pad.
“You’ll notice, Jason, the receptionist has instruction to use Penny’s defunct name to see if she answers to it. That would be a demerit,”
The tubby man nodded, affecting a serious look. I tried very much to not dwell on the prospect of more demerits.
“How has your week been?”
“Just peachy, Doctor. I’ve been pitching in with the books this week; Dawn says I’m really helpful,” I added - a prepared answer for this one. It was one of the only predictable questions consistently asked and I’d be foolish not to think about it.
“Yes, I’ve read her report. She says your mood has really improved, Penny, since you started working with her. A real hit with the customers,” he smiled, mostly to himself. Satisfied to the point of smugness. I curled my toes again and swallowed a growl.
“Yes, Doctor. I’ve been really applying myself, like we’ve talked about,”
“Penny. I think it’d be really useful for Jason if you could explain what we’ve been doing. Your perspective is really valuable,” he said, laudably keeping most of the condescending tone from his that voice of his.
Jason was a different prospect. Where the doctor regarded me coolly, he gazed with an intensity verging on a leer. Wriggling into the back of the chair, I swallowed. “Uhm. So. A year ago I was found guilty of distributing pro-female information-“
The Doctor coughed, pointedly.
“Propaganda, I mean. Propaganda. And inciting action against the state. I was placed into the Second Chance programme by the West Court,”
“Go on…” whispered the other man. His eyes were wide, the bags beneath more obvious.
“The Second Chance programme.. gave me a chance at living a more productive life as Penny. I started seeing the Doctor after the genetic-“ I swallowed, composing myself. “Corrections,”
The older man looked pleased. Jason just leered.
“He helps keep me on the… uhm. Right path.”
“That’s right Penny,” he agreed, making a note I was hoping was positive.”You’ll have to excuse us; the training scheme Jason is involved in concentrates on practical learning. They don’t even teach what people look like after the genetic part of the programme. Isn’t that silly?”
I nodded and swallowed again, suspicion about where this was going bubbling up inside. “It is, Doctor,”
“It’d be really helpful if you could show us, Penny. Your body,”
You could say I wasn’t surprised. The wood-panelled office might have given a sheen of respectability, the terminology might have made the session seem very official - but my most prevalent memories of the place were dirty and best skipped over. Not arguing, I wriggled to my feet and popped the clasp on my skirt. The denim fell a few inches but caught on the flare of my hips, needing a further tug before it pooled at my feet. I felt the young man’s eyes on the par flesh of my thighs which - annoyingly and obligingly - flushed pink.
I knew they were nice legs - people had spent the last nine month telling me that. My hips were deliberately womanly, tapering down to delicate little ankles. The view was topped by an elaborate pair of black, laced panties in a French cut. The one time I’d worn a pair of shorts to my sessions with the Doctor I had receive a number of demerits and the order not to let it happen again.
My tank top was removed next. I still struggled with the physics of it all, getting the tight cotton over my breasts and head and shoulders without getting trapped - much to their amusement. The secret to undressing in front of other people, I’d been forced to discover, was to move so slowly as to minimise jiggling. It stood to either distract them, me or all of us. Once free, I straightened up and readjusted my shoulders. The bra held my breasts closely - their weight significant. It had taken two months of daily posture practice to rid myself of old habits. I still had to remember to arch my back, just so.
“Penny was given a… how shall we say? Full bodied rebirth. If her old self spent so much time crowing on about the difficult lives women supposedly face, it seems just to give her something equally hard. Doesn’t it?”
The other man grunted a laugh. I remained still. It was only going to get worse from this point on.
“And she’s got no… You know,”
From the Doctor’s expression I gathered this question had been asked before. His smile was knowing, superior. “Penny; would you finish undressing? The proof is in the pudding,”
Months of hidden, hard work in my tiny apartment meant I could wriggle out of a bra without embarrassing myself. Strap, strap, unclasp. Readjust shoulders. Their eyes lingered on the hard nubs crowning each one. I suspected they had been designed to be as obtrusive as possible; they certainly succeeded in that job.
“This is all flesh, of course, Jason. Not a gram of silicone to be found,”
I slipped my thumbs under the the lacy waistband of my panties, wriggling free with little show or fuss. They didn’t want a show. They wanted a puppet. And all at once I was naked. The young man’s gaze intensified, staring at the thing between my legs as if it was something other worldly. For me, it was very much the here and now. The air conditioning was cold enough to make it twitch and I had to look away from the men and their narrowed eyes.
“You see that this kind of situation is causing distinct arousal in the subject. It is one of her triggers. They’re partially genetically coded but most of the work comes from us. It’s a combination of positive reinforcement, punishment and conditioning,” he went on, as if I wasn’t there. Unfortunately (and I’m sure he felt this to be extra clever) objectification was one of the first and strongest of these triggers. Even the trick with my toes wasn’t helping me stay centred. I could barely remember what it felt like to be aroused as my old self but I knew this was distinctively different. Somewhere between stoned and tipsy, it wrapped me up in a warm and happy glow. Making it hard to think, harder still to worry.
“Does she enjoy it?”
The Doctor chuckled again. “Yes and no. It’s like a bad habit; she might want to stop but enjoys it too much. Don’t you, Penny?”
I had started panting under my breath and not realised, which only intensified the blush cheeks. Reddening only served to highlight the mess of freckles across my nose - something men tended to fall for. He clucked his tongue and asked again: “Don’t you, Penny?”
> I trotted down two flights of stairs, my pumps clip-clopping on the steel. The door I rushed to was identical to mine but ajar and the blare of a radio sounded within. My heart beat a staccato rhythm against my ribs as I barged the door open, eyes narrowed and fists clenched.
> "Hi, honey!"
> Stacee was a tall blonde of a thing, perennially 19 and unashamedly sunny. The elegant lines of her dancer's frame were interrupted by a bosom fit for a cartoon character which had the hallmarks of fake but were - she had demonstrated frequently - very much real. Or as real as things got within Second Chance. She wore a pair of sheer and shiny stockings and nothing else; I shut the door quickly with a huff.
> "Stacee. The note," I sighed, waving it lamely in her direction. "We said no more notes,"
> "We say a lot of things, Penny. Lots of it boring. How's the Doc?"
> My blush glowed hot as I sidled behind the little kitchenette to sit down, out of direct line of sight. "I'm not having a regular conversation with you unless you put some clothes on,"
> "I can't believe that doctor hasn't headfucked this boring streak out of you yet..." she grumbled, snaring a silk robe from behind her. "Happy?"
> My nose tingled; an aroma had been teasing the senses since I entered the place but was stronger near her bedroom. She must have caught my expression and scoffed. "And such a prude, too. I'm operating a strict 'two cups of coffee and two orgasms before leaving the house' policy now,"
> "Oh, fu-. Gosh. Stacee. Was your old self prone to jerking off just before company arrived and telling them about it?!" The entire statement was an embarrassed whisper and lacked the intended ire.
> "Yeah, but I didn't feel so damned cheerful afterwards," and she flicked her hair over one shoulder in a victory flourish. Coffee bubbled on the stove and - almost subconsciously - I poured her a cup. All the mugs were smeared with lipstick and my nose wrinkled a little harder. "It's so cute when you come over all domestic, Pen. I could watch it all day," she purred, eyes brightening.
> "I didn't come down here to be teased, you know. And I struggle, to be honest," I sighed. "Working out just why I get all the shame and regret and foibles and you get to live pretty much your old life in a different body,"
> "Not identical," she paused for a sip. "I get laid a lot more these days,"
> My cheap shot felt had good for a moment or two but gave way to inevitable guilt. Her scurrilous smile hid a self-hate that only showed itself occasionally and after much arm twisting; aping the most extroverted and confident parts of her old self was a brash coping mechanism wracked with sporadic bouts into emotional introspection. I could sense that brittleness on the edge of her voice, the way she held her cup.
> "Listen… Seriously. The note," she swallowed, her voice losing that affected confidence. "I have a new manager at work, only met him yesterday. Gives me the creeps - and given all the creeps I meet that is saying something. Could you come down tonight for moral support?"
> "Oh, Stac-"
> The girl could go from sexual animal to hopelessly fragile in a heartbeat; her voice was soup-kitchen thin, the colour gone from her cheeks. I nodded a second before the tears could come.
> "But you're meeting me at the entrance. The bouncers-"
> "I will, I promise. Be there at eight, okay?"
> "Eight sharp, yes. Is that everything? I have a job to get to as well, you know,"
> "That's all. Thank you." She crossed the room in two long strides and gathered me up into a hug. As usual, most of my was pressed into the firm front of her breasts; a nipple poked me in the cheek with the subtlety of a brick through the window. "You sure you have to go so soon?"
> The animal stink of arousal hung thick around her like a cloak; for a long moment it became very hard to think. I wriggled from her grasp with a squeak and frowned. "No, Stacee. Work time. I'll see you at eight," and downed half a cup of coffee on my way out. As I retreated, breathless, back up the fire escape, the heat in my throat played second to that between my legs.
> Work was already busy when I arrived; the blustery November day had thrown off everyone's schedules and brought them to lunch later than usual. I scurried through to the staff room, grabbing my apron on the way. It was half way around my neck when I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror and stopped dead. The wind has been cruel to my hair - the flat and simple style I'd prepared at home had taken a few steps towards scarecrow chic and my programmed neuroses went into overdrive. I was fishing in my purse for a brush when I felt hands on my shoulder and a coo in my ear; Dawn had appeared from nowhere. The woman was in her late thirties and held a plump figure well. Her hair was an immaculate procession of flicked curls and a few shades shy of chestnut brown. Her had big eyes men seemed attracted to and the pretty symmetry of her face overshadowed the lines around her eyes and mouth. "Oh dear," she said with a voice that could soothe a crèche. "What a mess,"
> Our reflections were framed neatly in the mirror; Dawn towered over me as most people did and her hands looked large, smoothing down my hair. We looked more alike than different and I was maybe a few years too old to be mistaken for her daughter, but the image in the mirror did throw up some odd feelings. The hands fussing with my hair likewise. "Have fun at the head doctor?"
> I fought the urge to shake my head in 'no', scared of disturbing her hands. I opened my mouth to speak but she interrupted.
> "Don't move a muscle, I'll be right back,"
> She didn't take long and I didn't move; with some effort I might have been able to but - like with so many of my new figures of authority - resistance was often much hard work for bittersweet reward. Her warm hands ran through my hair again and she hummed for a few seconds before breaking into a smile. She had pulled the unruly male into a set of bunches - not-quite-pigtails - which draped across each shoulder. As a hairstyle, it rather completed my look. My legs were bare under a bottom-hugging denim skirt and my shoulders were bare aside from the spaghetti straps of my shirt. The newly styled hair made me look even younger than usual and my toes curled into the soles of my shoes at the thought. Her smile was also rather unhelpful.
> "Perfect! Okay. You start, tell Cherrie to take her break. I'll catch up with you later,"
> I trotted off to front of house with the feel of her hands still playing in my hair and the odd swaying of my hair making it difficult to forget. I was only saved from my reverie by the sheer wall of sounds, smells and sights of the diner in full swing; Cherrie spotted me and her eyes lit up. She almost sprinted past me with a brief pat on the back - I took her place behind the counter with markedly less enthusiasm.
> Two groups of middle-aged women sat at either end of the shiny metal bar, gossiping over coffee ruined by chocolate and milk. Their insipid chattering was only interrupted by noisier shrieks of laughter, though even this was lost in the hubbub of the lunchtime rush. The long expanse between those two groups was occupied by a couple of men sat alone; they wore the smart casual uniform of technicians from nearby data foundries and I guessed they'd been given the short straw on lunches. The closest two squinted at me and I - verging on petulant - slapped my right hand down onto the counter. Where thumb and forefinger meet sat my tattoo - the circle-and-cross of Venus. The mark was mandatory in people who had survived the Second Chance program. Most men - along with a surprising amount of women - looked for almost obsessively on strangers. These young men, at least, had the good sense to look abashed.
> Restless, I embarked on a quick patrol of the counter with the coffee pot. One of the offending men shyly pushed his cup towards me and I topped it and held back a huff. The cup moved back towards him with a huff and he said: "I'm sorry, miss. Honest. It wasn't what it looked like,"
> I raised an eyebrow and his skin flushed pink. He couldn't have been more than 18 himself and had the pasty flesh and timid manner of someone sent straight from school to the dark server rooms buried underground; hard and debatably pointless work that, nevertheless, kept men in employment. Even if they did turn into guys like this.
> "I mean it!" he insisted, still not loud enough to be overheard. "My supervisor, Gerold, he comes in here a lot. He talks about this scurl and I didn't believe him, is all,"
> Scurl' made me scowl; a rather silly portmanteau of 'Second Chance' and 'girl' that was rarely used nicely. "Oh? What does Gerold say?"
> "He… uh…"
> "I haven't got all day," I said, his timidity under my skin now. "Spit it out,"
> "He said you were super-hot, that's all. I didn't believe him,"
> I was too riled to shrink into my shell; my blood too hot. "Well, it's f.. F.. Gosh-darn rude behaviour, whateveryournameis,"
> "Alec, miss. It's Alec. And I'm real sorry - I guess you haven't noticed the others before.."
> "So… how many of you have been in and looking for me?!"
> "I'm the fourth, miss, if you don't count Denis,"
> "And you come here for your lunch and to peer at the freak, is that it..?"
> I hadn't slapped him but his face told a convincing story otherwise; pallid, pale and open-mouth. "No! No, miss, not freak at all. Gerold, see, spoke right highly of you and…"
> That shut me up, prompted quick thought. Most men treated Second Chancers with derision, suspicion or both. There were subsections of the male population who had taken a different path, however, and a some revolved around the downright fetishisation of 'scurls'. Such men were usually harmless, creepy admirers but there were dark tales of horrible outcomes. The police paid the same care to Second Chance crime as they did criminal-on-criminal and one had to look after oneself.
> "Well. Thank you, I think, Alec. For being honest.." I mused, my lips suddenly dry. He didn't look like a psycho-obsessive but they rarely did. In the busy confines of the diner I was safe, of course, but stepping carefully was key.
> "Honest, miss, I meant no harm…" he spluttered, sliding a roll of bills at me. "For the coffee and the upset," he added quickly and scurried out of the door. The closest gaggle of women giggled rather cruelly and tapped empty glasses on the bar for service and - with a blush - I rushed to attend.
> The day seemed out to get me; to keep me on the backfoot and under siege. Back-to-back conditioning and work didn't help matters, either. Young Alec was the cherry on top of the whole mess; outside of Stacee's ribald comments and the insidious conditioning from my Doctor, I really wasn't used to positive attention. Not for the first time I was thankful for work - after a brief lull came the dinner rush and the place turned into a production line stained with greasy food and half-heard statements. I flirted with the idea of letting off a little steam in the bathroom but couldn't bring myself to. It wasn't just the disgusting staff facilities that kept me from giving in.
> From the moment of my rebirth I had felt compelled (sometimes against my will and better judgement) to report each and every orgasm in lurid detail to my Doctor. I had adapted, almost, to his smug, satisfied smile but the idea that his leering protégé might be there made my skin crawl and took the edge well and truly off. Revulsion is a wonderful motivator towards good behaviour, never let it be said otherwise.
> Ariel was my cover and late - as usual - clomping across the floor. Straw-like hair gave her the harried look of a scarecrow without the figure. She had probably once had a full figure like mine but given up keeping it. Most Second Chance bodies put on weight quick without primping and exercise as to reinforce a sense of dependency; pneumatic blondes like Stacee were exceptions to the rule. I met her sad eyes for just enough time to pass off my apron and no more, rushing out through the kitchen, dodging dirty dishes and sardonic wolf-whistles from the bus boys in equal measure.
he day seemed out to get me; to keep me on the backfoot and under siege. Back-to-back conditioning and work didn't help matters, either. Young Alec was the cherry on top of the whole mess; outside of Stacee's ribald comments and the insidious conditioning from my Doctor, I really wasn't used to positive attention. Not for the first time I was thankful for work - after a brief lull came the dinner rush and the place turned into a production line stained with greasy food and half-heard statements. I flirted with the idea of letting off a little steam in the bathroom but couldn't bring myself to. It wasn't just the disgusting staff facilities that kept me from giving in.
From the moment of my rebirth I had felt compelled (sometimes against my will and better judgement) to report each and every orgasm in lurid detail to my Doctor. I had adapted, almost, to his smug, satisfied smile but the idea that his leering protégé might be there made my skin crawl and took the edge well and truly off. Revulsion is a wonderful motivator towards good behaviour, never let it be said otherwise.
Ariel was my cover and late - as usual - clomping across the floor. Straw-like hair gave her the harried look of a scarecrow without the figure. She had probably once had a full figure like mine but given up keeping it. Most Second Chance bodies put on weight quick without primping and exercise as to reinforce a sense of dependency; pneumatic blondes like Stacee were exceptions to the rule. I met her sad eyes for just enough time to pass off my apron and no more, rushing out through the kitchen, dodging dirty dishes and sardonic wolf-whistles from the bus boys in equal measure.
The night had turned cruel, the wind sharp and relentless. It threw my hair over my shoulders, made my legs grey with cold. A few real girls walking were dressed for it but the Second Chance code was strict; if I had more clothes than flesh on show I could find myself in trouble. That usually meant choosing to keep warm my top or bottom. My clingy leather jacket had seemed a good compromise in the warmth of home. The ten minutes it took to totter over to Stacee's workplace proved me quite wrong.
Stacee was waiting for me; strange given she would probably flounce in late for her own funeral. It was nominally a good omen but probably spoke more about her worries about this new boss more than a seachange in her timekeeping. Her work uniform made me feel covered up; she wore the stockings from earlier under a pair of ruby, 4' heels. A pair of black denim shorts that were more painted on than anything hugged her hips and led to a top that was less garment and more like a wide wet of braces, slashed down her front. She had the combination of washboard tummy and heavy breasts many men lusted after; the outfit announced them like a foghorn. She wrapped me up in one of those suffocating hugs more bosom than arms; the two monkeys hired as bouncers sniggered. It's the only noise I'd ever heard them make.
A couple of their ilk were scattered around inside - failing to look discreet, all grafted muscles and ill-fitting suits. Stacee's led us at an impressive pace through the main room - a wide ballroom affair with high ceilings decked out in cheap velvet and expensive chrome. Waitresses flitted between tables like hummingbirds pursing nectar, nimble and focused. Some carried trays of scotch or steak with the measured balance of a tight rope walker, the sharp staccato of their heels adding to the ambiance.
The place was named 'Morelli's Grill'. If Morelli had ever existed he was long dead but a grill it remained. Unlike my place of employment, the joint was situated on the edge of the financial district and attracted a higher calibre of clientèle - bankers, investors, stock brokers and other kinds of people made rich through risk. I gathered the meat was excellent and the liquor selection peerless but that wasn't the place's main draw - the servers were. The waitressing staff was comprised of disgraced financiers - men who had tried to cheat the system and lost. Second Chance had a very specific template for these men; transforming them into cosmetically stunning, image-obsessed sex-addicts with Daddy issues sent to work in places like Morelli's. These girls gave the mostly married clientèle pretty flesh to paw at, certainly, but they served more as a warning - do not turn crooked or you could end up like them.
The main bar was an unnaturally long slab of polished mahogany; I was led to a stool at the end of it and out of sight from the main tables. I'd met the bouncy brunette behind the bar before; she cheerfully fetched me a soda water whilst Stacee glanced nervously over her shoulder.
"Thanks again, Pen. I don't think he's here yet but…"
"It's fine, really. I'm not sure what good I'll b-"
"It's enough just to know you're here,"
The voice was cool as a spring day and just as unrushed. It's owner arrived silently but once present he was impossible to ignore. He looked big enough to lift the bar with one hand. His suit was tailored around these arms and shoulders, his handsome face an afterthought. His grey eyes were like a placid lake - so calm they made me uneasy.
"Mr. Doran! Penny. This is Penny, my friend. She didn't want to walk home alone so I said she could wait here. That's okay, isn't it?"
He looked at her like he might a dog clamouring for a walk in the rain, not quite sighing. "This once, Stacee. Don't make me regret it," and, sensing his tone, she picked up her tray and shimmied off to the main tables.
Mr. Doran didn't move. I sipped politely on my drink and fought the urge to look over my shoulder and still he remained; the silent scale of him demanding attention. I blinked at him and smiled with a confidence I didn't feel.
"You didn't want to walk home alone?"
I nodded, cursing Stacee's lie. Improvisation under pressure was hardly a strong suite of mine. "Our neighbourhood is a little flunky when the sun goes down,"
This amused him, curling his mouth at the corners. "You live together?"
"Oh..! Not together-together, no. We live in the SC Block off of 5th. The bus doesn't run that way," And even if it did, I couldn't imagine riding it alone to be anything but terrifying.
"All boys together down there, is it?" he asked, his lips still curled. "The frauds and the cheaters and the cowards and… you. What is it you did?"
His presence seemed to suck sound out of the room; silence hung in the air between us begging to be filled.
"Pro-female activism," I said it without pride or remorse, without emotion or conviction, lest it give him more reason to pry.
"Ballsy," he nodded, voice level. "Stupid, but ballsy. But don't mind me saying that b-word, do you?" he asked with pantomime patience. "You don't still have a pair down there, do you?"
"No, I don't mind. No, I don't have," I asked, petulance creeping into my tone. He held my gaze for a second before breaking into a guffaw.
"Ah, I'm just fucking with you. I work for the Authority, I know the drill," he said, suddenly animated. "I'm here temporary, see. The place needs a shake-up and they think I'm the guy to do it," He jammed his hands into his pockets and tilted his head to regard the floor. "Your buddy Stacee has a lot of friends here,"
I nodded. She told me often enough and toe-curling detail. Actual sex was frowned at on site but she frequently slept in another bed. 'Slept' being an inaccurate euphemism.
"She's not one of these soulless Barbie dolls," he said, throwing a hand to encompass the room. "These idiots like a little sass with their ass," and I wasn't sure if he was still talking to me until he turned back around. "I'm not offending your politics, am I, sweetcheeks?"
I growled. My usual level of self-control was slipping through my fingers; this day had found me wanting. Embarrassment and arousal had cumulated around the edges of my mind, brought me to boil and left me to simmer. The man tilted his head, as if straining to hear my growled retort, and something snapped. "You know it does. Worse than that - you know I shouldn't tell you it does. Does bullying little girls make you feel like a big man?"
"Being a big man makes me feel like a big man," he said, smoothing his lapels over the sculpted lines of his chest. "And I don't bully girls. I bully things like you,"
He hadn't moved any closer but I could smell him, a sharp scent of something expensive intermingled the more natural scent of hard work and grit. My feet dangled from the bar stool, reminding me to re-cross my legs. I laced them together so hard it ached.
"Balls, I mean it," he grinned, grabbed my shoulder. "I have guys in my department who don't talk back to me like that,"
I needed very much to leave. I needed to run and run and run until I was too exhausted to feel anything. But his gaze pinned me to the stool, my smile made an abstract part of my insides glow and I was hit with a feeling of emptiness that made me squirm. "Where do you work, sweetcheeks?"
"I work in the Diner across from the data foundries," I said, voice small.
"I want you here. Need more spirit like yours slinging drinks every night,"
"Er, no. I mean… that's not possible. My Doctor controls my work schedule and Diane organises around-"
The man placed a finger on my lips. The tip was wide, flat and warm - easily pinning them shut. "You're cute. Don't worry. I know a guy who knows a guy. We'll give you one shift a week, see if they idiots like you,"
I swallowed an protest but he read my expression like a book. "Say: 'Thank you, Mr. Doran',"
I did - my voice a hoarse whisper. He took a step closer and his form blocked out most of the room, became my vista. The bartender was nowhere to be seen. "You smell great. Different Second Chancers smell differently - did you know that?" he said, breath hot on my ear. "Girls like you have a sweet taste, Like cinnamon,"
I couldn't smell it. Just him.
"Who fucked you last?"
Asked like he might request a library book. Voice cool enough to chill a Martini.
"Doctor," I told him. "Last week,"
"Ah, he dips his pen in the company ink, does he? Who could blame him. Man like that, probably knows how to press all your buttons,"
My breath came in little gasps now; fleeting and hurried. His lips lingered at my ear, errant strands of hair waving with each exhalation. "He does.."
"Seems like cheating to me," and suddenly he was a step back, buffing his nails on his lapel. "Kacey? Get Penny a real drink, please. On the house," and with smoothness of step he ambled away into the crowd towards the really expensive tables. The perky bartender placed a Scotch in front of me; I did my best not to throw it in my face.
Neither Mr. Doran nor Stacee returned for a long while so I nursed my drink and watched the floor. It was an interesting environment; like the Serengeti in formal wear. The men clustered in packs, bragging loud enough for others to hear. The waitresses were the gazelles, perhaps, flitting between the predators and trying remain free from their grasping hands for as long as possible.
It was bawdy but not graphic - plenty of girls sat on laps and hands sat on rears without anything to make a prude blush. The bouncers, I understood, did not take kindly to public lewdness. This restraint struck me as an odd small mercy; the serving girls hid barely disguised sadness behind their smiles and the men had a lot of fun at their expense. All except Stacee, of course. Mr. Doran was on the money with her; she stood out for all the right reasons and was kept up at the expensive tables by popular demand.
Mr. Doran stayed up at the top tables, too. The man drew the eye even amongst the well-dressed and affluent clientele - taller and bolder, wearing his outsider status like a uniform. Stacee had described her old boss as a middle management type, fussing with ledgers and rarely leaving his office to rub shoulders with the clientèle. Mr. Doran was clearly taking a different tack. His musk lingered in the air, my thumbtip crept towards my mouth before I realised. I slapped the offending hand down on the bar and scowled; it didn't pay me much mind.
A few hours later and Stacee's shift was finished. We passed a few men looking rather worse for wear. One or two of them waved with drunken fondness at my friend, ignoring the plaintive encouragements from the bouncers to get up and get out. One of the suited gorillas placed a hand on my shoulder. A section of the wall beside him opened silently. Mr. Doran ducked through the hidden door, that slight smile on his lips. "Ladies,"
I waved, limply. Stacee mumbled something with an equal lack of commitment.
"Couldn't bear the idea of you making that trip home alone. My driver is going to take you,"
A silent, shiny slab of black glass and metal idled at the kerb and he gestured to the side of it. "Oh, really, it's-"
"I insist," He said it like you might say a private joke to the uninitiated.
I took a seat next to Stacee, the leather of the upholstery warm and smooth. "Only the best for my employees - the old and the new," came his punchline. My cheeks went red as the machine pulled out into traffic.
It took Stacee a few moments; eventually she leaned forward and crooked her head in my direction. "What did he mean?"
"He means he likes you. He told me as much himself,"
"Really?! Cool.." she grinned, shoulders still hunched. "But no. You're a crappy liar, Pen. You know something. Old and new, he said,"
I winced, turned my gaze to the city blurring by through tinted glass.
"Old and new. Old… Wait. The fuck. Is he offering you a job?"
"I didn't want to say anything-"
"I think it's a jo-"
"Don't bullshit me. Are we going to be work buddies?!"
"This is exactly what I didn't want to talk ab-"
I don't know if Stacee's original self used to be tactile. Maybe she had a long history of it. But - damn - that girl could give a hug to kill a bear. A few long, breast-crushing moments later she let go and squealed. "This is going to be so-"
"I mean it! He wasn't seri-"
She folded her arms and smiled triumphantly; any more words would be wasted on her. As would sulking. Almost left me wondering why I was even her friend in the first place.
We drank in Stacee's apartment; I wasn't given a choice in the matter. It was an expensive French white wine (a gift from an admirer) served in coffee cups; another victim of her anti-chore lifestyle. She was regaling me with what she felt to be vital gossip about Morelli's and gleefully ignoring my protestations before she interrupted herself with: "So he just asked you?"
Stacee's sunny demeanour always made it hard for me to lie. I wrinkled up my nose and breathed deeply; the tapping of her manicured nails let me know she was still waiting. "We had a conversation. About you. Then about me. It was a bit… heated. Then he asked me,"
"What did he say about me?"
"He said you're great. He said the customers like you most because you don't take their sh.. You know. Nonsense,"
She smiled with the smug satisfaction of a well-fed kitten. I almost laughed. "And then what?"
"He was a creep. He wasn't very nice and got a rise out of me. He seemed to like that part and got all up close and said he wanted me to come and work,"
"Up close? Like…" Stacee shimmied over until her face was inches from mine. "Like this?"
I nodded. Her grin was wide and child-like. "He's pretty big, huh? I know you like them big,"
She knew no such thing but that didn't seem to bother her. The smile didn't falter, I could smell the tipsiness from her lips. "Did you pop a lady boner?"
I could feel the heat between my legs still - it had barely had a chance to cool down. Something about Stacee's tone was stoking the flames. "I.. Maybe?"
"He said he likes you?"
I nodded again. I felt her hands trace along my shoulders and through one of my streams of hair. "Oh, this is great by the way. Who put your hair like this?"
"Dawn. At work,"
"The only times guys have ever wanted my hair like this is for one thing: handlebars," and she broke into the kind of giggle that'd make a priest choke on his wafer. He fist tightened in the braid to my left and tugged, tilting my head to one side. I frowned, blinked a few times. She grabbed the other side and pulled me forward into a kiss that was warm and wet and not without hunger. "Definitely. Keep. The hair," she whispered, her tongue tracing my bottom lip. I grunted; the blush spreading across my cheeks hot to touch. She didn't seem to mind.
She dragged me against her - the impact (or something more) made her groan into my mouth. A fist remained wrapped tightly as her other snaked across my shoulder and down, using the small of my back as an anchor to pull me close. Our bodies mashed together, hot and breathless and peppering each other with kisses. My logic was struggling to catch up - a happy glow and animal hunger within having taken the driver's seat in its absence. It'd just been that kind of day.
"I don't do this…" Stacee murmured, voice husky. "With everyone I… work with…" But I barely heard her. Her fingers held fast onto my makeshift leash, highlighting clearly who was boss. I'd been begging for a boss all day.
Our bodies were a tangled mess against the wall - my weight pinning her in place, her fist keeping me so close the kiss hurt. Complaints evaporated before they could take shape. We were a roaring flame; hot, fervid and constantly moving. The girl grunted, pulling her head to one side and mine towards the floor. "Just this once," she whispered as I felt my knees soften, my body fold to kneel. Her spare hand tore her skirt out of the way and without really thinking I dragged her satin underwear down with me. I looked up with a gasp, startlingly close to her sex; it was almost hairless and glistened with sweetness - a scent that threatened to overwhelm at such proximity. Her words had given way to action and guttural noises - the ardent squeaks of a porn star enjoying herself. I had a brief moment to try and compose a thought of my own before she dragged me forward and I could think no more. My lips met her in an 'O' of surprise and she dragged me closer, a moan like the hiss of a kettle sounded from above. Her hand in my hair was joined by another on the back of my head and - with little chance to take a breath - she held me that bit tighter.
She became my world in that instance; my senses were hers to control and command. She made hard, determined little circles with her hips and my tongue came out to meet. The taste of her was everything and everywhere; a warm glow with a sharp edge making me long and work for more. Stacee barely seemed to notice, her fist tightened against my scalp and her hips changed from circling to bucking. The wet noise of her pressing against me again and again was lewd and made it harder to think, impossible to concentrate. My body reacted by itself and my hips followed her lead, bumping and shifting in a rhythm of their own.
The half words, curses, moans and sighs came more frequently from above. Her breath was short, her hips rolling so quick they were more a vibration, an eager thrum against my face. A gathering sensation settled onto me like a shadow and with an almighty cry the girl came. Her movements turned jerky and chaotic, her spine arched wilfully between the wall and I - the pressure between her hips and her hands made fireworks pop behind my eyes. My hips began to jitter and my toes curled. I hummed in a contented way, lips tingly and raw, until Stacee broke into a giggle and finally pulled me away. Hung from her hand like a marionette, I giggled too. Nervously, happily, stupidly.
"I don't know.."
"If you say 'what came over me' I am going to scream," I pouted, the corners of my wet mouth pulling up of their own accord.
"I mean it!" she squeaks, finally relaxing her grip in my hair. "I'm not… you know. A.." she whispered "Lesbian,"
"You're a disgraced investment banker transplanted into a porn starlet's body, Stacee. It's an odd world we live in,"
A quiet enveloped us - a thing as close to silence as two young women panting and catching their breath can be. "That's never happened before," she said, finally.
My brow furrowed, head cocked to one side. "Why..?"
"I guess dudes aren't interested in it,"
I paused, finally phrasing: "I was. Am. Whichever,"
She drew me into her lap with a surprising tenderness, a slender hand stroking where she'd pulled my hair. "Mm. That you are," she insisted, an octave below her usual melodic trill. "You could've said no, though,"
"After the frying today was did to my brain? Am not sure I could have if I wanted to. Which I didn't," I was quick to add, shifting to try and get comfortable. I had just settled when I heard a muffled 'bleep-bleep' from my purse and sighed. Stacee looked confused. "Darn. Mr. Doran must've contacted my Doctor already,"
"How do you know?"
"That's the tone that sounds when I've been scheduled at interview. They don't let me turn it off. Oh boy; is he going to have a field day with all of this,"
"Are you going to be okay?"
"We'll see. If I'm lucky, he might even class this as good. If," I gave the girl a hug and stood, shaky after such exertion. "I'll come and see you tomorrow. But no notes, okay?"
"Okay, sweetcheeks. I think we're past that now, anyway," she winked. There was a glimmer in her eye that made me scurry to the door; it was that or stay all night and never leave.
I just about made it to my bed before collapsing into a deep sleep full of half formed people and faraway voices. My standard 6am alarm was the only thing to disturb said sleep, dragging me into the cold, dark morning.
The red light above my shower told me there was no hot water; I freshened up at the sink instead. I repeated Dawn's handiwork in my hair; the feel of my hands tugging the tails into place took me right back to the night before. The feelings lingered and I noticed my reflection - a fresh-faced, wide-eyed girl chewing her bottom lip; a naughty visage that threatened to stick in the mine. A faceful of cold water turned out to be an effective plan B.
Next stop was the closet - a procession of skirts, shirts and blouses but no trousers. There were specific rules about how much flesh I was allowed to cover; I was permitted the skinniest of jeans, for example, but had to wear a top of such skimpiness that it didn't seem worth it. My skirts and dresses were as conservative as I dared - between glasses and wardrobe choices I'd heard every 'sexy librarian' crack in the book (plus a few that hadn't been written down - for good reason).
My outfit started with charcoal tights, turning my legs dark and shiny. Next came a plum-purple pencil skirt that stopped just above the knee but stuck to every inch of me on the way. A black and white polka-dot belt hugged just above my hips, giving way to a black silk blouse with delicate, puffed sleeves. I plucked a shoebox from the bottom of my closet and rifled through the contents until I found two lengths of ribbon - dotty like the belt. Guided by intuition alone, I tied one into each braid. I completed the outfit with a pair of patent black pumps blessed with a fat, 2" heel. They made my walk rather noisy but gave - at least - the illusion of stability.
My make-up regime was deliberately uncomplicated; blush to my cheeks and a tint to my lips just shy of fire-engine red. For good or ill the Second Chance people had gifted me with long, thick lashes that looked mascara'd without cosmetic assistance. Watching them flick up and down was rather distracting, igniting old, sinful memories long past. The patter of rain at the window brought my back to reality; I collected my purse and umbrella before heading for the stairs.
It was another blustery day; sun glared on new puddles and the trees bent in the wind. A few lonely figures, clad in bright orange jumpsuits, attempted to sweep litter with little enthusiasm. Their kind were ubiquitous just before rush hour - overweight, middle-aged women with dour expressions and watery eyes. Such a wretched existence was reserved for persistent criminals who resisted re-education programmes. They lived somewhere separate to the rest of us.
I fished my phone from my purse and clicked through a few screens. Aside from my pending appointment (illustrated by a gold alarm bell and a countdown timer) the device showed a news feed, a message stream and my credit balance. The later was surprisingly high; a few clicks told me Stacee had added 30 overnight. The memory of the night before made me stumble, catching myself before I fell. A group of teenagers across the road pointed, laughed and wolf whistled. I bit back a growl and fled into a coffee shop on the corner.
My basic salary was the same as Stacee's; she bumped hers up with frequent tips from grateful clients. My allowance went towards food and clothing and I rarely had spare for coffee - making it quite the luxury. The shop was decked out in wooden panelling and warm fabrics; some interior designer's distillation of an autumn day. The girl behind the counter was suitably perky - a tanned, skinny thing who looked old around the eyes. "Those ribbons are so pretty," she used the same tone she might use with a young girl who'd managed to tie her shoelaces.
"Thanks," I nodded, pressing my phone against the sensor until it went 'bing!'. The counter smiled with relief. "We get a lot of sc… people like you trying to steal coffee. I don't like it one bit," she pouted. I nodded, dumped sugar into the cup and slipped away. Warm fingers made the torrid climate feel a little brighter, my step a little bouncier.
The Doctor's office was a ten minute walk away; a tall, handsome cobblestone building on a leafy street on the nicer side of town. I paused under the entrance awning, a familiar heaviness suddenly stuck at the bottom of my stomach. I knew I'd have to talk about what Mr. Doran had said. If I was really unlucky I'd have to tell him about Stacee, too, as well as my fan at the Diner. I gave a shiver unrelated to the weather and slipped into the foyer.
"My goodness!" chirped the voice behind the desk. It was the same blonde thing from the day before, blue eyes and snow-white teeth. "Don't you look adorable? Colour me super jealous," She was a girl-girl, no tattoo or tell-tale signs. Her enthusiasm was rather disarming and I gave in to the urge to hide behind my coffee cup for a moment. "The Doctor is waiting for you, Penny. Go on through,"
His office had that usual scent of varnished wood and old cigars, low levels of light filtered through an oak tree at the window. The man rarely moved from his perch behind his desk and was true to form this morning. Long fingers knitted together on the desktop. "Busy girl," he said, a smirk teasing his lips. "Sit down, please,"