by Madeline Masters
Raymond shuffled down the stairs.
“I’m coming, Christ! No one ever comes to anyone’s house anymore, especially not invited,” he thought, which made this occurrence exceptionally uncomfortable for him. He looked through the pane of glass in the door for a long moment. He saw the girl, sure, but was anyone lurking in the bushes, waiting to jump him?
She wasn’t white, and for some reason this made him trust her less. But she was brown, maybe Indian, not a race he associated with home-based crime. Still.
He kept the latch on the door and opened it.
“Hello? Yes? What do you want?”
“Hi!” She was bright and friendly and didn’t seem apprehensive at all. So she was probably selling something.
“Are you Raymond Simone?” Immediately she scolded herself. “You’re supposed to ask for ‘Raymond Simone’ first, not put him on the spot. Stupid.”
“Ah – yes,” Raymond admitted, unable to lie.
“Hi, I’m Mridula.” He tried not to react visibly to her foreign-sounding name. “I’m sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to share something with you I thought you might like.”
“Oh, kaaaay…” he murmured. Now he was really confused. Suspicion was creeping, and the warning flags climbed up their polls.
“It’s – a piece of art I made, from something of yours…” She was still smiling, but the word STALKER quickly scrawled itself on his inner eye. The flags began to flap in a tempestuous breeze.
“It was something you didn’t want anymore,” she went on. She was holding a large, flat something covered in a black trash bag behind her back.
“Shit, she went through my trash?” Images of all the dirty, embarrassing things he had thrown out in the past two weeks flashed through his mind. The more she explained, the crazier she sounded.
But she was clean, her clothes fairly neat. Two t-shirts, dark jeans, green Chucks. And she had delicious, heavy-looking breasts that balanced her rounded hips and thick waist. “Juicy” was the word for her body type. All that juice was condensed into a short frame, like a pomegranate, or a really good orange.
“I don’t think you’re a weirdo,” he concluded, out loud. “But do you have any idea how creepy you sound right now?”
“Yes, sorry,” her face fell a centimeter. “I’m not a weirdo, though. I work for UNICEF full-time, and I have an apartment in Cabbagetown, and a dog. I’m normal, I just, like…”
“To come to stranger’s houses?”
“Well… you said you don’t think I’m a weirdo, and I don’t think you’re a rapist. A rapist would be inviting me in right now,” She pointed out. “Unless you already have a victim in the back…” she craned her neck, looking around Raymond’s shoulder for show.
“No, no other victims. So if I invite you in, that makes me a rapist?”
“No. You seem okay,” she admitted. “But a girl can’t be too careful.” A moment to acknowledgement that truth passed between them.
“You know what? It’s okay. I’ll leave the door open,” Ray offered. He decided their mutual distrust was a sign they should trust each other. Mridula hesitated.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll come in.”
She followed him through the doorway into the split-level late 20th century 3-bedroom home just blocks from High Park. She wondered how much this place cost and if she’d ever be able to afford living in a house rather than an apartment – not even a condo – that was above the 10th floor. Raymond pulled the door closed, but not until it latched.
They sat on the couch. Mridula held the large something covered in a black trash bag in her lap, since the coffee table was scattered with glasses, tissues, and coins.
This was also her first chance to see all of Raymond. Very tall, pretty thin, head a little too big for his body. And hairless. She could see the faint shadow of the hair he could still grow but chose to shave down for the sake of uniformity. Black button shirt, drab grey trousers. No shoes, just ugly black house slippers.
She took these moments to take him in as she readied her cargo for its reveal.
“So, do you want to see it or have me explain first?”
“Let me see,” he replied.
She held one end of the object still while she slid off the black bag. As she revealed it, he saw a rainbow of colors, then the shape of the colors, then what the shapes were. And then he realized what she had found.
“Those are my discs.” Should he feel offended or amazed or curious or intruded upon?
“Yeah, exactly!” she said happily. “You left them out by the dumpster, so I saved them. I kept thinking I should make something with them, so — here they are!”
There were his floppy discs, his bits and pieces of music he’d abandoned as an old hobby that wasn’t going anywhere, subjected to the de-cluttering he’d undergone when he moved into this house.
The neat plastic squares were laid out in straight rows end to end, and stacked on themselves, making the thing 3D. He couldn’t tell how they were fastened, but it was just rows and rows of colorful discs, facing different directions, on a flat piece of wood. It was eye-catching and colorful, but he didn’t know if it had any meaning beyond that.
“Wow, that’s – interesting,” he said. His words did not sound as flattering as he intended them to be. He really liked it, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of the piece itself or because he was seeing an old friend whose obituary he’d already read in the news.
“Thanks. It was a lot of fun to make.”
Raymond looked again at the piece. It wasn’t perfect. Some of the discs were a tad crooked. He wasn’t sure if this added to or detracted from it. He looked at Mridula. The part in her hair was slightly askew.
“So, is there any rhyme or reason to how you put this together?” he asked, making conversation.
“No, I just left it up to chance and aesthetic. I tried not to cluster all of the same color in one spot though,” she added. Just then Ray noticed one grey disk surrounded by red ones.
“I liked reading the labels on them,” Mridula went on. “I mean, some of them are obvious, but…” she pointed to the one that read Raymond Simone’s Resume. “What was that for?”
“Oh, I had a job interview, and they wanted a digital copy of the file,” he answered. He didn’t really want to talk about it. He hadn’t gotten the job. But he knew what the next question would be.
“Did you get the job?” she asked enthusiastically.
“Oh well, probably better off without!” she was so damn positive. He wasn’t. He gave her a sideways look. She was that kind of young that was so annoying – just old enough to think she knew what she was doing, but still young enough to make stupid, risky, rookie mistakes. It sucked to be old, he decided. He wanted to be able to make mistakes and not dwell in the consequences for the next decade.
Then she looked over at him and smiled. She was young, and ignorant, and pretty in the exotic way. He liked how greatly her teeth contrasted with her brown skin and even darker brown lips.
“Well, I haven’t really decided what I want to do with it yet,” she admitted. “I mean, do I keep it? Do I sell it? Do I give it to you?” there was an awkward, breaking moment. “I don’t want to force it on you, and I really don’t want you to take it just to be polite and then get rid of it. I’d be happy to keep it, but, it’s so easy to hold onto things and hoard them. It means more to give things away, I think.”
She’d obviously thought about all this before she came through his door. He guessed that was why she’d come by in the first place, to find out what she should do with it.
“I got rid of the discs,” Raymond began, “It doesn’t seem fair for me to benefit from them any more.” They looked at each other. What was the next polite move? “Anyway, looking at them will just remind me of my sad, old, forgotten DJ days.”
“Oh,” she said quietly. “That’s cool that you were a DJ.” She looked at the piece again. “I like it because – your art and my art came together to make new art.” Then she turned another smile on him.
“Yeah,” he said, and felt a weird, swelling, rushing from his stomach to his chest, like acid reflux, but not as unpleasant.
Really without thinking, like his arm muscles were spring-loaded, he put his arm on her back. It happened to land on her bra clasp, which he could feel through her layered t-shirts. He thought about how it must be straining under the weight of her breasts. Her head turned quickly to him, but her face didn’t say she minded.
She reciprocated by putting her hand on the side of his face. His weekend stubble scraped her palm. The acid reflux surge bent his waist forward, so he leaned in and put his pale, thin lips on her full, soft brown ones. It only took a few moments before her tongue slipped into his mouth.
The piece slid gently off her lap until it rested on the floor, and with the same fluidity of motion she swung her leg around and sat on his lap.
“He’s not even cute. So why do I want to kiss him so damn badly? He’s thin and bald and his face is odd, but he’s completely beautiful somehow. And I like that he used to make art. The accent helps, too.” But she knew it wasn’t a love thing.
A huge rush of adrenaline soaked into Ray’s muscles as his body parts moved on their own to fully enjoy this rare and unexpected experience. He got to heft those heavy breasts, and Mridula didn’t even flinch. Instead, she slid her hands up his shirt, running her fingers over his bony ribs and flat chest. They gripped each other completely.
She kissed his neck and made her way up to his ear. Then she whispered, “Let’s come together like our art came together,” with that same youthful optimism. An extra rush of blood immediately tightened his trousers.
He imagined every moment of their sex in fast motion, tasting the luscious possibility of it as he licked her slightly salty neck and squeezed her bottom with tenacious fingers. But then he nudged her back, unlocking them. He couldn’t look at her face as he said, “I can’t. I’m married.”
Her whole body tensed for a moment, but then she also looked away shamefully and replied, “Yeah, I have a girlfriend.” When he registered fully what she had just said, his member throbbed almost painfully as he imagined her brown lips on the nether regions of another beautiful female. “I’m bi,” she explained. “I haven’t been with a man in over six months. Sorry. It sucks liking both.” She was still straddling him. They both took a moment to transition from committing the act to feeling guilty about it.
Again, smoothly, Mridula swung her leg around and was back to sitting on the couch next to Raymond, no longer touching.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and glanced over at her still face.
“No, I should be – you’re married! God, that’s really serious. It was good of you to stop when you did.”
He didn’t feel like he had done the right thing, just that he was too cowardly to deal with the consequences if he’d gone any further.
She breathed out a long, deep breath. Smoothed her chin-length black hair. Then turned back to Raymond.
“So, what do we do with this thing?” she asked, her expression pleasant. He realized she meant the piece.
“Take it home. Hang it up. Get a few more pieces together, and have a show. But if you do sell it, tell me first,” he concluded.
“Deal,” she said, holding out her hand. They shook. It seemed oddly platonic after the groping and kissing. Like they had gotten together, fallen in love, and broken up all in the last 10 minutes.
She stood and straightened her t-shirts. She picked up the piece and slid the black trash bag over it. Then she walked to the door. Raymond followed her at a safe distance.
“Don’t worry, I won’t bother you again. Thank you for letting me in,” she said.
“No worries. Thank you for sharing your art.” She smiled, and slipped through the doorway. He closed it gently behind her. Click.
“God, I really need to jerk off,” he thought, and walked slowly, shamefully, up the stairs.
Today’s incident would fuel his jerk-off fantasies for a very long time, he realized. He would fulfill the act alone that they could not commit together.
Outside, Mridula took the gentle, careful steps that she always took when exiting the home of someone she should not have kissed. The crotch of her cotton cartoon panties was uncomfortably wet. She hoped she could find a public washroom big enough for her and her art before she got to the subway station.
Now when she hung her art on the wall, she’d think of the forbidden, passionate moment she had shared with the odd, skinny man who’d given up his art for practicality.
It was time to sell her first piece.
Madeline Masters has been a writer since she penned and illustrated her first book in the fourth grade, “Asmo Alien.” The book was constructed from cereal boxes, wallpaper scraps, and hot glue. Madeline is now a fundraising copywriter and a freelance writer based in Buffalo NY. She spends her time with her Canadian lover, her Welsh Corgi, and her snail Jiffy Lube. She is addicted to Netflix, peanut butter, and buying black boots.