by Craig J. Sorensen
The air is stunningly crisp and beautiful today, clean and vibrant, and the sky is especially blue. Ironic, really.
Simone shrugs. Her eyes are more intense than the sky; I knew they were blue, but I didn't realize they were the color of summer sun filtered through a cobalt bottle.
I shrug back.
That first day we met, fifteen years ago, we sat across the big conference table, two newly hired programmers ready to ride the wave. Growth at CMR Corporation was swelling. I thought Simone was cute, in a stuck-up, prissy sort of way, her hair bound in a tight bun on her head, a crisp dark gray suit over a snow-blind blouse.
I loosened my tie and released the top button of my shirt. She looked along the wrinkles of my rolled shirtsleeve and shook her head. Within a day we were working on the same project.
I stopped thinking Simone was cute.
Management actually had to separate us early on -- put us on different projects -- like kids that thumbed noses and pushed at each other's desks in middle school. Simone drove me batty with her carefully marked timelines that read like the German Rail System. All that methodology mumbo jumbo was for people who couldn't think on their feet.
I'd stopped surfing in my mid twenties. On the ocean, that is.
Who the fuck wants to see some fancy Gantt chart when you can show them the screen they are going to be using? Let the user click some buttons and look at the screen. "It'd be easier if this was here. Can you add an edit check to this? Can you add a function key that goes right to that delete screen?"
"You bet!" Some quick changes to the code and back at their desk. "How's this?"
"Awesome!" It transforms before their eyes. They feel invested.
Just enough, just in time, baby.
The rumors of Simone's failed marriage were confirmed when they changed her nameplate from Smythe to Van Gaarden. I watched her gait the first time she walked by, a crease on her ring finger. I expected a spring in her step.
If it had been me, I might even have produced a nice girly prance.
But Simone had that same stiff back and tight jaw. It confirmed that Simone traded in her soul when she got methodology.
When the Japanese bought us, Simone elevated to director. She was over me for the first time, guns blazing like Butch Cassidy. The new boss admired her: Divorced, methodical, intelligent, workaholic.
And not too bad to look at, I supposed, with her bright red hair and snowy skin, which I hear is quite prized in Japan.
Simone set out to bring me down, and it was all I could do to play her methodology game. But play I did. I whipped out Gantt charts like a porn star burning through condoms while the new boss played footsy with Simone under the table. I heard she resisted -- with utter deference, of course -- but she resisted.
I still didn't like Simone, but I found a little room for respect.
Then, when the brilliant venture capitalist bought us, at the first management meeting Simone looked briefly at me. She didn't usually give off much expression, but the look in her eyes told a story, complete with protagonist and antagonist.
There she sat in a pale grey pinstripe skirt and jacket with a pewter blouse buttoned to her alabaster neck, a black choker with an antique cameo and her hair clipped tight, lips puckered like a virgin anus.
The new owner wore jeans and a "Megadeth" T-shirt. His legs were nervously anchored in bright pink flip-flops. "I like people who think on their feet, who aren't afraid to fall, and know how the fuck to get back up. Roll with the changes. Just enough, just in time." My mantra. I couldn't help but grin. His eyes centered on me. I wore canvas pants and a "Foster's Beer" T-shirt despite the current "business casual" dress code. He smiled. He looked at Simone and his brow furled.
I was a director in about a month. Our titles were again the same, but Simone reported to me.
Simone has worn the same perfume since we sat across the table in our first meeting. That scent is on the breeze when she closes the trunk of her meticulous Mercedes. I slam the back door of my Escalade, grubby bits of dried mud caked on the scratched black paint, from the questionable practice of using a luxury SUV for four-wheeling.
I'd learned to read Simone's smiles, her sort-of secret language. They say Eskimos have dozens of words for snow. I know that proper Ms Simone has a hundred ways of smiling "Fuck you." But the smile she flashes now defies the usual categories.
The "package" they gave me was simple. One week's pay for every year served: fifteen weeks, down from the two weeks per year they gave earlier pruned branches. I hear that was true for all of the cuts this round. Perhaps Simone and I have something else in common and have again been rendered equal -- like trees in a clear-cut rain forest. Both of us, stretched across the ground, roots bleeding sap through the stump, waiting for loggers to drag us out.
I turn up the main road in my Escalade. Simone's car follows. I slow my pace. She slows with me.
I turn down a familiar side street. Three blocks away is my customary respite from Tanja when we can no longer stand to look at each other. It's a dive of a motel, fifty years past its heyday (if it ever had one). I've come to know many of its rooms recently.
My usual motivation for going here would outwardly seem to be gone. Tanja even gave me an obligatory kiss and a smile when I left this morning. But I know that Tanja will berate me for "losing" my job. Tanja is nothing if not understanding.
When working on projects, I've been complimented on my ability to ride changes. It's what made me a Director a month after the entrepreneur bought us. My going into this motel is just that anticipation. Still surfing.
Just enough, just in time, baby.
Room key in hand, I look at her Mercedes. Simone applies a fresh coat to her glossy, bright red lips in the rearview. She pulls out a tube of mascara, unscrews it, pumps it back and forth like a porn fuck and refreshes her Egyptian tomb lashes.
How many times have I wanted to pull the pin from the top of her head like a grenade? Would she explode in anger?
Strangely, Simone releases her hair and it rolls down her shoulder like a lava floe. Did she just wink?
I mount the stairs, and she remains in her running car. I stop at the familiar door and savor the comforting juicy rumble of the old air conditioner. I look back at the Mercedes. Simone backs out of the space and drives off without looking back.
I toss the file-folder with the Severance details on the scarred desk and fire up the old TV.
Tanja always "forgives" me in due time. What she doesn't know is that I'd likely be content to be unforgiven.
There was a time when Simone and I were two sides of the scale, in perfect balance. The French Cigarette company that came between Japanese order and Baby Einstein chaos seemed quite happy to feed the contention between people, regardless of position.
Simone and I sparred. Neither got a leg up. Progress was slow as it usually is in a disputatious environment.
Nonetheless, if Baby Einstein hadn't bought us, Simone and I might still have our jobs. Turns out he had sold out his first company just before the dot com bust. The guy could build a startup, but an operating company, especially in a collapsing economy, was a different story.
Three carefully spaced knocks on the door and I open up. Simone's perfectly applied makeup, soft perfume and long wavy red hair brushed to perfection are all a strange comfort. "You do know how to pick a place," she says.
"Severance checks aren't what they used to be."
She flashes a half-smile. "You like it. You look right at home."
I wave her in. "Ya think?"
She sets a round tube on the desk. I usually drink what's on sale, but I do know what Glenfiddich is. Glenfiddich 30-year-old, no less. The big "30" on the box is a dead giveaway.
"I figured if I left it to you, you'd get Jim Beam."
"Jim Beam? On the contrary, I wouldn't have gotten something that nice."
She laughs. "Remember that first meeting with Baby Einstein?"
"You call him Baby Einstein?"
"Since that first meeting."
"Didn't stop you from lambasting me on how 'anal' I was."
Her hand swings like a windmill in the thrust of a tornado. The bold pop echoes through the room. The sting that cuts through my welling anger is...exquisite. It's a blast of cold winter air after crawling out of a stuffy conference room after a marathon meeting.
She shakes her hand. "Ow. Been wanting to do that for years."
"Oh yes." Fuck you smile Number 42, a personal favorite. I lace my fingers in luxurious locks that smell like a fancy garden and pull her face to mine. She tries to shove me away. She's half my size, but surprisingly strong. I push my mouth so hard into hers I'm sure we'll need his-and-hers orthodontists. I rub her head like I'm polishing a bowling ball and spread her fresh lipstick like I'm smoothing wet concrete. My cock starts to ache.
She pushes me back and our mouths pop like a Champagne cork. She teeters, steadies with a fistful of my retro Led Zeppelin t-shirt yanking some chest hairs. "Feel better?"
"Fuck yeah. And if that's supposed to be that no smudge lipstick, I'd ask for my money back."
She looks in the mirror and wipes the smeared lipstick with her thumb. "Bastard."
"Bitch." I get two cheap motel glasses, wipe hers carefully with the bottom of my shirt.
"Prick." She opens the scotch.
"Cunt." I hold out the glasses.
When the Japanese company bought us, Simone mocked me. The more I tried to fit in, the more she mocked. I couldn't beat her at her game, so I held on like Wile E. Coyote on a cliff face. I hear she had me on the short list. But her new boss was reluctant to let anyone go who knew a great deal about any of the business systems.
It probably didn't help her cause that she wouldn't fuck him on the sly.
Simone touches the Glenfiddich to her lips and licks it off. She breathes through her pearly teeth to inhale the bouquet.
I drain my glass like Tidy Bowl down a crapper. "Yum."
She shakes her head and takes her jacket off. "Could you have at least gotten a room where the air conditioning works?"
She holds up her hand up. "I've felt cooler Santa Annas. So, what did they give you for severance?"
She refills my glass.
The Glenfiddich is half empty by her estimation, half full by mine.
By now Tanja is home, thumbing through the ever-mounting bills. She's wondering where I am. I'm usually prompt to go home unless we're on the rocks.
We're not on the rocks.
I turn off my cell phone, and grab Simone around the waist. She reaches under my arms and locks her slim fingers like an eagle's talons into a rabbit's shoulders.
I think of the old adage: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I want to be best enemies. Even in my grasp, she somehow strips with military precision and drapes her clothes like a valet over one of the ugly orange side chairs. I'd have never imagined that she would be wearing sexy silk lingerie beneath her staid suit.
She reaches inside my pants and strokes like she's polishing fine silver.
I rub my razor stubble against her cheek like a leopard celebrating a downed impala. She whispers in my ear, "Fucker."
Her elbows squeeze my neck. Her stocking legs circle my hips and her wet cunt soaks through her panties and cools on my hard cock. She shimmies up me like a tree and kisses down on me as if she's smudging me the way I did her.
Her tongue forces mine back into my mouth like a big cock fucking my throat. Lord, what a powerful tongue. No wonder she talks so well.
By now Tanja must be getting pissed.
I release Simone's garters and they dangle like overcooked pasta. I toss her on the queen-sized bed and rip her panties off.
"You know what those cost?"
I sniff them. Her cunt smells great. I dive to the source. I lick up her lips, flick her clit, then slide back south. She gasps when I penetrate her anus. "Jesus. Stop. I mean, uh, don't. I mean, don't stop!"
Simone's bra is loose. I squeeze her tits and she grunts. Her hips curl in a plea.
I guess it was self-absorbed arrogance: I thought I was essential. Each time they did cuts, my survival reaffirmed how entrenched I was.
I sat bewildered while they told me that I was being downsized. Words rolled through my head. Base words. Crude words. But I smiled and said I understood. I even shook my fucking bosses' hands.
Since I was laid off on the same day as Simone I didn't even get the perverse pleasure of letting her go.
Don't get me wrong. When I'd let the members of my team go there'd been no satisfaction. I hadn't slept for a month while I absorbed the pain of seeing people who had worked with me pushed out into the street. The only satisfaction was that the severance packages were so generous.
Of course, Tanja was understanding: "Get some fucking sleep or you won't be worth a shit at work. They'll fire your ass."
The sun is eclipsed behind the buildings to the west and Simone and I fuck on. Control released, regained, we turn over and under each other. With Tanja the limit is fifteen minutes. Not my preference, Tanja's. Simone must be getting sore. My balls feel bluer than her eyes. I lengthen my stroke. I hold my breath. I lean my head back and let the twinge of an orgasm grow.
She slaps me. "I'm not done yet!"
The red seethes through my mind. "You're fucking fired!"
We stare in shared fury. Her staccato laugh makes her cunt ripple around my cock. "You can't fire me, I fucking quit."
I kiss her deep and our tongues duel. I pull out to let my need cool. She gets our glasses and fills them with equal measures of the last of the Scotch.
Her stockings are wrinkled around her ankles. She clips them to her garter and smoothes them. They're the only thing she's still wearing, and of course they're crisp and perfect.
I sip the Scotch and savor like she did. "How did it feel when you got divorced?"
"Huh?" She drains her glass down her gullet. The question obviously surprises her.
"How did you feel after your divorce?"
"Walking on a cloud."
The Scotch is fine. I sip again. "It didn't seem like it."
"Good." She spreads her body wide on the bed. I poise above her and she snakes her legs through mine. I slide back down her warm pussy. She smells like heaven, Scotch breath, smothered perfume, expensive shampoo, woman sweat and cunt.
Lots of delicious cunt.
I watch my cock withdraw all the way to the tip. The shaft is redder than her lips when we started this. I shove it back in.
She looks like hell. I feel like hell.
I stroke her clit and pound her. Her voice gets louder but her limbs get limper. She feebly scrunches her tiny fingers and toes into the bed. Her eyes and mouth pop wide and she screams. Those blue irises are as slender as my wedding band. Her supple stomach ripples and her pussy snaps like a bear trap. I shoot for what seems an hour. She swallows hard, as if my load had blasted all the way up her throat.
I turn on my cell phone. Five missed calls, all from Tanja. The smell of motel-issue Safeguard soap and Suave shampoo wafts on the moist breeze.
"Where the hell are you?"
"They had more layoffs."
"Oh fuck, don't tell me. I told you you need to learn to play the game better. Goddamn it, don't even bother coming home right now."
The shower sounds like summer rain. I look inside the open bathroom door and see a white figure behind calcium-deposit shower door, a shock of red dancing behind her as she meticulously scrubs. She's fucking whistling like a bird. She opens the shower door slightly and one blue eye peers out. Her hand extends and the middle finger rises like reveille.
It slowly curls, come hither.
"You got it, Tanja." I turn off the phone and toss it on the bed. I fight my wedding band off and toss it with the phone and head for the shower.
I still hate Simone. Simone still hates me. Between us we have thirty weeks to find out how much.