| Continued from part three, this is part four of five.
"So," I said, as Penelope shut down her terminal one Friday afternoon. While we had managed a quickie during lunch, it had been too busy for more than that. "What do you do when you leave here?" I was almost embarrassed by my question, but I realized that, after more than a year, I knew shamefully little of her life outside the office. She stopped and looked at me in a sort of puzzled way, as if assessing my earnestness. I waited, for I was puzzled, too. Why had it taken me so very long to ask her such an obvious question? Did I think that it was intruding to show an interest in the rest of her life? I suppose I had, crazily, been trying to keep our relationship strictly business – even if much of that business was sex. Paradoxically, I had been holding her off while becoming intensely intimate. Suddenly it seemed incredibly silly.
"I mean, what do you do with yourself – with the other part of your every day?" I sputtered and stumbled, acting not at all the dominant partner. I felt stupid, but once voiced, I needed to know something else about her. She was, after all, so much more than just a lay – just an easy piece. "I mean," I stammered again, "if you don't mind me prying."
"Well," she replied, her voice sounding, at once, slightly suspicious and slightly amused, "not much really." Her eyes drilled into mine as she paused, then, apparently satisfied, she went on, "I usually work out a couple of hours at the gym," – her lithe body was certainly a testament to that – "then go home. You know, the usual stuff, groceries along the way, eat, watch the tube, bath, read, and go to sleep." She shrugged her shoulders, turned, and gathered her belongings. "Not really an exciting existence, eh?"
"What about socializing – friends?" I queried, somewhat baffled.
"Oh," she conceded, "I meet a few girlfriends occasionally for drinks," she shrugged, "but most of the old gang has moved on – marriage, families, careers. My circle seems to be shrinking." She sounded, not unhappy, but resigned.
"Does anyone know about – er – this," I gestured vaguely about, "our 'arrangement'?"
"No." She sounded tired, just talking about it. "No. We exchange war stories, et cetera, but I keep rather mum about the details. All they know is that I work as an assistant in some arcane financial institution. I've told them it's classified and they've stopped asking about it. That's all." She gently but most certainly halted my inquiries, at least for the moment, by putting on her coat. Picking up her purse, she turned to the door.
"I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable," I said, watching her face. "Maybe I shouldn't pry – or maybe I should have asked those questions long ago, eh?"
"That's all right," she smiled, wanly, "it just that that seems like almost another universe; it feels a little funny talking about it here." She shrugged again, then paused and stared intently at me.
"I know," she began shyly, "that it is not my place to ask about your 'other' life…." She let the sentence hang unfinished.
It was my turn to shrug. "Those are the rules of the game, I guess." There was something necessarily uncomfortable in the air, and I found that I had to turn away when I continued. "So I can't tell you about my marriage, that years ago succumbed to the rigors of my business – and business affairs. And you've no need to know that, despite it all, I remained faithful during its entire nine years." Where was I going with this? "Since then I have continued to work too many hours; I have had drinks with 'the boys', a few short relationships, and a lot of one-nighters; however, since the beginning of our 'arrangement' I usually just run, read or work out in my spare time." I turned to her again, and smiled. "It's none of your business, if my life outside the office is quiet and routine and not quite boring. But thanks for asking."
She turned back to the door as she muttered, "You're welcome," opened it and left, calling over her shoulder, "'Bye. See you Monday."
"'Bye," I muttered. I felt strangely titillated. As if we had each opened a secret box, and just barely peeked in. It was strange; she had not mentioned anything about other guys. Next week, perhaps, I would get a better look into her inner workings – her secret box, as it were.
–– o ––
But that, as it turned out, was not to be; at least not as I expected. Monday morning Penelope came in looking extremely distressed. "What's the matter?" I asked. She looked terrible, and my gut was seized with a knot of concern than surprised me. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I have," she whispered, "in a way."
She looked at me and said in an icy voice, "Robbie dropped by yesterday."
"Oh?" I raised my eyebrows as a sort of non-verbal, "go on."
"Yeah." There was a venom in her voice that I had not heard before. "Yeah, mid-day. He just sort of showed up – out of the blue. I'd just got back from the gym and he knocked on the door." Penelope sat down and shook her head heavily, then continued. "He must have been waiting, and seen me drive up. In any case, he asked how I was, all the while trying to look past me into the condo. 'Fine,' I managed to say, civilly, keeping him standing at the door.
"'You look like you're doing all right, eh? No money problems?' he asked.
"I wanted to scream at him, 'How the hell would you know?' or 'No thanks to you!" but I resisted. All I said was, very calmly, 'I don't want to speak to you. Please leave.'
"He said something like, 'I understand how you feel. I really do.'
"'No you don't,' I said quietly. Then," Penelope stopped, and shook her head in disbelief. She raised her eyes and looked at me as she continued, "Then, he had the audacity, listen to this, he actually had the unbridled nerve to suggest that he might be able to pay me back a bit, if I could just lend him a little front money. Can you believe that!? I could hardly breathe. And when I didn't respond, he started to tell me how much he needed. 'If you could just lend me….' Well, I just went ballistic; I couldn't help myself. I really lost it." She dropped her gaze, looking almost embarrassed, although, God knows, one could hardly blame her. When she raised her eyes again, to recount the rest of the encounter, she graced me with a hint of a smile.
"I got in a few good shots, anyway. I pummeled and kicked him, chasing him off my doorstep, screaming obscenities at him as he fled. I'll tell you, he made a damned quick escape once he got in his car. I don't know if he heard me, but, I was so angry, I just stood there, tears streaming down my face shouting after him that I never, ever, want to lay eyes on him again!" She paused and caught her breath, staring at her hands, before adding, "So that was my Sunday. How are you?"
Her eyes were glistening, as she sat looking at me, trembling. At that moment she looked so fragile and hurt, there was nothing to do but gather her up in my arms and hold her close. "How could he have done that?" she asked, her voice muffled against my shoulder. "How could he…," and here she began to collapse under the weight of her emotions. "How," her voice broke into a sob, "how could he think he could ever come back!?" There was a terrible sadness in her sobs. I could feel her tears moisten my shoulder as she gulped and sniffed and fought to control the body-wracking sobs.
"The bastard, the fucking bastard!" I grumbled under my breath, angry with him for upsetting her more than the original scam. "Oh, Penny," I squeezed her tighter, "you poor, poor dear." As lame as trite as it was, I could think of nothing else to say. I just continued rocking her gently. Slowly she pulled closer into me, holding me tight by the front of my shirt, transforming our rocking into a sort of languid dance. We glided across the office; I kissed the top of her head. Smoothly collapsing onto the couch, Penelope raised her face to begin kissing me.
Notwithstanding, at that moment I thought of her, not as a sex partner, only as a friend – a friend in need, a friend that needed comforting – comforting and soothing of her jangled nerves. I continued to rock, stoking her, petting her, hugging her, and slowly her fingers, clutched before her in an anguished knot, began to unbutton my shirt and undo my pants. What followed was so much more an act of compassion than an act of passion – so much less sex than love, and friendship and comfort. Reclining her gently back onto the couch, I stroked her labia with my erection, coaxing her dew out from the hidden folds. Ever so slowly, I entered her, all the while holding her tight and kissing her softly. There was no violence, no aggression, no dominance or submission – just caress and calm. More than making love, we fashioned, between us – between friends – between equals – a tenderness meant only to heal emotional trauma, salve wounds, and soothe scars. We held motionless for a long while, fused at the genitals, bathing in the human connection. Gradually a long, slow rhythm materialized between us. Slow silent strokes, way, way in, then slowly, slowly out, back and forth, in and out with a nearly somnolent cadence. Arousal inched forward cautiously, yet inexorably. It seemed like hours before we finally surrendered to the delicious sensations and let ourselves go – accelerating at last to a sharp, spiky climax. Mouth to mouth we traded the welcome sighs and moans of gratification.
Cleaning up in a mutually ecstatic daze, then set to each retrieving a bit of routine at our respective desks. We hadn't exchanged a word since the start. We didn't need to.
–– o ––
After that, Penelope began to open up a little. "I know it's none of my business," I said one day, "but you know, I know absolutely nothing about your social life, your relationships, your sex-life outside our 'arrangement'. I mean, do you date or whatever?"
She looked almost a little embarrassed as she turned to face me. Dropping her hands to her lap, she started: "Since I've met you – since Robbie – I've only had a very few dates – granted, two of them ended up weekend flings, basically by default – but there hasn't been much."
"Oh," I asked, showing an almost morbid interest. "Who'd you date?"
"I don't know," she said dreamily, "A couple of guys I met at the gym, at various times; a few some of my girlfriends set me up with." She paused, lost in thought. My god, she looked wonderfully innocent as she stared into the ether, continuing. "Sometimes it really concerns me that I never actually find any of them – the events or the guys – satisfying. I've never felt, within myself, the slightest glimmer of love in any of them – for any of them. I was never even tempted to let any germinate, even in the short-term. It's kinda sad, really, but then again," her voice dropped ever so slightly into a soft sultriness, "I'm pretty much getting all the sex I need here at work." She gave a low, wry chuckle before adding, "So there's really very little point in flogging a lame, go-nowhere relationship, eh?" Straightening her shoulders and looking me in the eye, she concluded, "So, the short answer is: no, I haven't dated much in the past year and a half."
Some time later that day, Penelope picked up the thread again. "Mind you," she pointed out sagely, "I don't believe my inability to find love is in any way the fault of my current circumstances. If blame is to be placed anywhere, it falls on Robbie. I had trusted him – loved him, I think – and he destroyed that trust. He betrayed me." She paused for a minute, before continuing. "And it was that betrayal that hurt more than anything else." Penelope went silent again, and began fussing at her desk. I thought, perhaps, she'd decided not to say any more, but as I turned back to my own tasks, she looked over at me and spoke again. "Regardless of whether I am scarred or simply unlucky in love, please know that I hold our 'arrangement' entirely blameless in this regard." I knew that she was, in her own way, excusing me – forgiving me. I merely nodded and smiled my response. "I'll get through it," she muttered.
"I'm sure you will."
A few days later, in a quiet moment in the afternoon, she seemed to take up where she'd left off, as if there had been no time elapsed. "I think I've actually scared more than a few suitors away, now that you come to think of it." We stopped for the moment while she considered what she meant. "I mean, I've got certain needs now, know what I mean?" I nodded. "And sometimes you've just got to demonstrate – usually you've got to – to get the idea across. I mean these are circumstances that are not easily illustrated in everyday language, eh?" It was strange to see Penelope getting as agitated as she was. "Why can't I find what I need – a wonderfully sensitive male with a raw take-control libido – which, as far as I can see, is a real paradox – and doesn't really exist." Calming slightly, she pierced me with her gaze, "No offence. I mean, you're the closest to that I've ever met, but you're my boss. I don't know."
Irrationally I felt just a little tinge of pride at that. Whatever she felt about other guys, I was different.
"Whenever I try to get something exciting started, it all seems to become awfully, uncomfortably contrived. It just isn't the same if you have to orchestrate it yourself. I have to be way too aggressive to get what I want – what I need. It just does not work. I don't know why." She shook her head sadly. "And the few men that actually have understood the rules of the game were just not nice people, as it turned out. You know the type – macho power-trippers. Delighting in the power they thought they had over me. Yuck! Men! I'm probably better off without one."
I suddenly felt more than a little shitty. "Sometimes," I was forced to admit to myself, "I don't think I'm too far removed from a description like that." I said nothing.
"You know," she went on, almost to herself, "part of the thrill is that I'm usually at someone else's bidding – the acts are nearly always someone else's decision. Paradoxically, it's a sort of obligation without responsibility: and there is a strange kind of comfort in the abdication of sexual responsibility." It was an oddly profound thought, and with that she turned back to work and never brought up the subject again.
I worried about what kind of straw tower I was building. A fantasy had become our reality, yet, it was so ephemeral I wondered how long it could possibly last – just what would be the strong breeze that would eventually blow it out of the sky? Still, we – it – the relationship beast – continued, and it continued to grow, even if a little more slowly than at the start.
–– o ––
Interestingly enough, not all of the power-brokers in the underbelly of the city's financial community are testosterone jockeys. Margo was one of those rare female sharks. Nonetheless, business is business; it made no difference to me. So it was that, after some negotiation, I was putting the final touches on an agreement between Margo, a smartly dressed, if somewhat severe, silver-haired, late-fifties businesswoman and myself. Catching me by surprise, my mind being on the document on-screen, Margo announced imperiously, "I think I'll just let your rather infamous assistant make me comfortable while you finish up there, Dan." Standing up, she started toward Penelope. "Mmmm," she added in a low, husky voice, "very comfortable, I think."
Penelope turned and was caught, like a deer in the headlights, in Margo's gaze. There was a moment of stillness as Margo paused, staring appraisingly, before stepping right up to Penelope. Penelope's eyes flickered with a strange mixture of apprehension and curiosity as Margo gently grasped her upper arms and bade her to stand. Penelope stood with her arms limp at her sides, her eyes held firm by Margo's, while Margo's hands migrated forward, smoothly molding Penelope's pert breasts. Penelope remained motionless, while her breasts were sensuously kneaded, slowly and gently. A vague look of bewilderment settled onto her visage, at the same time a pleased smirk shaped Margo's lips. It was fascinating to watch this strange dance beginning. The communication that was occurring was silent, yet voluminous.
Penelope's hands began to work, dangling empty at her sides, in time to the manipulations at her chest, as Margo quickly, yet casually unbuttoned Penelope's blouse, spread it, then evenly took the now bare delights firmly back in hand. Penelope's gaze never wavered but her jaw dropped slightly and her tongue peeked out to wet her lips. Very gently, slowly, so as not to frighten her partner, Margo dropped her own hands, and took Penelope's, placing them on her own bosom. Penelope simply allowed her hands to start molding and caressing the proffered bust, as Margo returned hers to their kneading. The room, while suddenly unbelievably quiet, had filled with an almost tactile electricity. The flickering apprehension in Penelope's eyes softened and relaxed, and while curiosity was still evident, so was a faint glitter of pleasurable arousal.
As gracefully as a flower bending in the breeze, Margo leaned forward and kissed Penelope's lips – soft and sensuous at first, then becoming hungrier – more carnal. Penelope's eyes opened wide for a moment, but she didn't pull back. And soon she was receiving the lingual caress with enthusiasm. Gradually the silence was disturbed by the slurping, sucking sounds of deep and passionate French kissing, all the while both participants squeezed and pinched and shaped one another's boobs. Then, during a particularly frenzied oral attack, Margo let her hands drift down over Penelope's abdomen to her hips, which she seized and pulled firmly, grinding Penelope's skirt-covered pudendum against her thigh. As Margo leaned back slightly, releasing her lip-lock, a sigh escaped Penelope's mouth. Continuing southward to the hem of Penelope's skirt, Margo's fingers looped back up the fronts of those perfect thighs to discover Penelope's nakedness beneath.
Of course, I can only guess at the nature of her manipulations down there, nevertheless, they produced, from Penelope, a sensational series of quiet moans and sighs. Then Margo seemed to tow Penelope by the pubes over to the couch, and, raising her hands to Penelope's shoulders, applied downward pressure, coaxing my marvelous assistant to a crouch at her feet. "Take off my panties," she whispered with a husky authority that broached no discussion. Still held by her partner's gaze, Penelope drew her fingers down the front of Margo's suit, then extended them up beneath the hem. Margo just watched her eyes and smiled as Penelope wriggled the silken dainties off her over her hips and down to her ankles. Margo placidly stepped out of them and sat on the couch, taking Penelope's face lovingly in her hands and pulling her between her knees.
Sitting with her knees wide, Margo let go of Penelope's cheeks to flip up her skirt, then clasping the angelic face once more she purred, "Make me happy, Penny. Make me real happy." Letting her fingers walk up to Penelope's temples, Margo leaned back on the couch, pulling her accomplice firmly into her crotch.
Penelope remained passive mere moments. Then, grasping the seated hips, she began a fierce attack, grinding and writhing like a wild beast between the enclosing thighs. Margo closed her eyes and threw her head back, her fingers entwining Penelope's hair, holding the attacking mouth resolutely in place. The chorus of gasps and sighs, slurps and moans became louder and louder until, at last, holding Penelope suddenly motionless and squeezing her legs tight over Penelope's back, Margo let out a loud, sustained, breathless wail. In the panting silence that followed, she went limp, holding Penelope, still hidden under her skirt, captive with her legs. Returning her feet to the floor, Margo gently pushed Penelope away. "Why, thank you, my dear," she whispered while reaching for her discarded panties. Looking dazed and drained, Penelope simply nodded and stood. She had not spoken during the entire episode, but a faint, contented smile traced itself onto her lips as she returned to her desk.