1. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    17,242
    █████
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    █████That Monday evening the Turner household celebrated Carol’s first official day on the job. They held the little party upstairs, since Carol’s in-laws had the largest dining room in the triple decker. William Sr. and Carol’s mother-in-law, Mary, took the heads of the table. Tommy and Jessica sat on one side, toward the windows, and Carol sat on the remaining side with Billy, who spent much of the time disgruntled.
    █████Shortly after dessert, Uncle Mikey and Aunty Penny came upstairs with their brood. The kids split up by age and escaped to various televisions while the adults remained around the table to talk about Carol’s new position.
    █████She certainly harbored many misgivings. Having finished the day a few hours ago and having had some time to reflect, she realized it would be irresponsible to go back there tomorrow. But she had a real job now and would not be able to forfeit the paycheck unilaterally. She would first need the support of the Turner clan. She attempted to garner a shred of sympathy from Billy and her repugnant in-laws by divulging some of the less consequential aspects of the job. “I work in the same room with him, all day long,” she reported. “I have to face the wall and sit on a stool.”
    █████William Sr. sagely declared, “Good. No big puffy chair for the help; backless stool keeps you alert. No problem with that. Sounds like this feller knows his what-for.”
    █████Billy Jr. grunted, “At the sheet metal plant, I don’t even get a chair. On m’feet all day.”
    █████William Sr. addressed Carol, “Don’t get on yer lily-white high horse if he gives yer sweet butt a pinch, neither. Just thank him fer the compliment and go about yer business. Hell, I give my little worker bees a swat on the butt whenever they do right, and not a single one’s ever complained.”
    █████Gramma Mary shrewdly muttered, “Such the proud cock in the henhouse, Bill.”
    █████Billy Jr. groused, “I don’t want no white-shirt swattin’ my woman on the butt.”
    █████Uncle Mikey taunted, “Then get a real job and start makin’ a decent living so she don’t have to, numbnuts.”
    █████“Mikey’s right, boy,” William Sr. declared, “and that’s fer shit-sure. If yeh could provide fer the little lady, she wouldn’t have t’work. Yer mother here ain’t worked a day in her life, ‘cause I’m a real man.”
    █████The insinuation that Billy was, ipso facto, not a real man, made him even more irritable. He did not need reminding, at home, of his inadequacies. He heard it often enough at work and at the corner bar.
    █████Now they were all yelling at each other, the women too, and Carol really didn’t think this was going her way, so she interjected, “It won’t stop at pinching my butt, once it starts. I’ve seen and heard enough to know that Dr. Spencer believes in managing with a firm hand.”
    █████Gramma Mary sagely advised, “Face it, girl, a strong man’s guiding hand will only improve you.” Then, without missing a breath, she said, “You didn’t say you’re workin’ in a doctor’s office, honey.” She sounded impressed.
    █████Carol said, “He’s not that kind of doctor, Mary.” She tried to stare at the ceiling, but could focus on nothing at all; it was hopeless.
    █████Her mother-in-law kindly said, “Yer just bein’ a grump, that’s whut. Can’t be all bad. Can’t yeh think of some nice things about yer new job, workin’ in a doctor’s office and all?”
    █████“Well, there is no time limit for lunch, and I can take breaks whenever....”
    █████There were gasps around the room.
    █████Uncle Mikey stormed, “I only get a half hour fer lunch! We got a frickin’ young woman exec-a-tive here!”
    █████Aunty Penny jealously asked, “What exactly is it you do, honey, asides sit there and look pretty?”
    █████Carol blinked and confessed, “Well, umm, not much, really. So far the job is mostly just reading. But there will be filing and dictation, too.”
    █████Aunty Penny, her eyes like slits, hissed, “Yer’ getting twenty bucks an hour with no punchin’ out or nuthin’, just to primp on a chair and stuff papers in a drawer, and yer complainin’? Christ, honey. Sounds like yer gonna shop more than yer gonna work.”
    █████William Sr. snorted, “Well said, Penny. Billy, what d’yeh think o’that? Think yer little lady can put up with a little swat on the tush now an’then fer twenty bucks an hour into the cookie jar?”
    █████Billy Jr. muttered, “Shit, I don’t make no twenty bucks an hour. An’ I gotta punch out, too.”
    █████Uncle Mikey said, as though stating the blatantly obvious to a child, “B’cause yer a brainless dipweed, like I’ve been tellin’ y’all yer mis’rable life.”
    █████Gramma Mary pried, “Sooo, this doctor o’yours, how old is he, anyway? Bet he’s an old coot, all the doctors is old, that’s whut.”
    █████Carol stammered, “I dunno.”
    █████Uncle Mikey suggested, “Well think, girl! You’ve seen his desk. What about the pictures of his kids? How old are they?”
    █████Aunty Penny glanced at her husband with approval, apparently impressed by his powers of deduction.
    █████Carol murmured, “He doesn’t have pictures of kids.”
    █████Gramma Mary suggested, “Prob’ly all off to college then.”
    █████Aunty Penny nodded.
    █████Carol thought this might have been the end of it, but Billy Jr., had become uncomfortably obsessed with the question and pressed, “Well, woman, how old do you think he is?”
    █████“Umm, not that old, really....” She knew for a fact he was twenty-six, and younger than she, but she prevaricated, “Most likely in his late twenties or early thirties.”
    █████Billy Jr. railed, “Well, goddamnit, that’s your age! Does he wear a ring?”
    █████“Umm, no,” she said, staring at her lap.
    █████Billy Jr. stood so abruptly that his chair and beer can went flying. “Yer quittin’! Yer quittin’ tonight, bitch!”
    █████William Sr. dangerously hissed, “Sit down, Billy.”
    █████Billy Jr. did not hear his father. He jabbed a finger at Carol’s forehead and said, “I won’t have no wife o’mine lookin’ sexy fer a white-shirt who might-a necked with’er in some car in high school!’
    █████William Sr. stood, hauled his arm back, and backhanded Billy Jr. across the face, knocking him back into the cupboard. Billy Jr. staggered back up with a bloody lip and clenched fists.
    █████“I said, sit yer dumb ass down, Billy.”
    █████Several kids peeked around the corner— the youngest of Uncle Mikey and Aunty Penny’s brood, as well as Tommy.
    █████One of the cousins declared to Tommy, “Grampa Bill just kicked your Dad’s butt.”
    █████Tommy shrugged and mumbled, “They fight all the time.”
    █████Aunty Penny yelled, “Go play afore I tan yer hides.”
    █████Carol cast her eyes about furtively for Jessica and Colleen, suddenly filled with anxiety that they might have been spying from around a corner, perhaps listening in on this trash from behind the parlor’s entertainment center. Carol did not condone Jessica’s exposure to swill of this kind, but in such a tiny house, with three families packed in on top of each other, the occasional broadening of Jessica’s horizons could not be avoided.
    █████Gramma Mary stood up and brought back a few more beers, saying to Carol, “Well it sounds t’me like yeh picked yerself a nice young gentleman t’work fer. Doctor ‘n all. An’ Billy,” she said to her son, “don’t you worry none. Carol knows her place, an’ she’s a happily married gal, an’ this Dr. Spencer sounds like a real gentleman and a puhfessional, so you ain’t got nothin’ t’worry about.”
    █████Carol quietly said, “Maybe entering the workforce is a bad idea.”
    █████“No it ain’t,” said William Sr. “Hell, someone downstairs gotta pay the rent. Don’t you worry yer little head, an’ if my boy gets all smarmy, you just come’n see me, and I’ll take his scrawny ass out t’the woodshed straightaways. Asides, we’ve all been waitin’ fifteen years fer you to get off yer ass and apply yerself.”
    █████
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  2. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    17,242
    █████
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    █████Colleen and Jessica had been hiding around the corner, behind the colossal entertainment center, just as Carol had suspected, and they had heard the entire exchange. Now the conversation between the adults had devolved, if such a thing were possible. They had popped another round of beer cans, and the cousins knew that all sense of coherency would soon be lost. They crept back to the stairs and retreated to Jessica’s narrow, cheerless bedroom. Colleen flopped onto the bed and scowled at the hanging lightbulb. Jessica sat cross-legged on the old chair at her small desk, and absently riffed the pages of a book that she wanted to return to before bedtime.
    █████Colleen gushed, “Your Mom’s new boss sounds like a real catch.”
    █████“Yes,” Jessica agreed, “and Father Figure thought so, too.”
    █████Colleen qualified, “But, like, it sounds like your mom might go over his knee now and then. You catch that bit about a firm hand? Your Dad didn’t like that part at all.”
    █████Jessica shrugged and said, “I don’t see why it troubled him. At least I won’t be the only one around here hiding bruises.”
    █████Colleen stared at the ceiling, altogether oblivious of Jessica’s melancholy, and said, “You’re so lucky your Mom’s going to work. I wish my Mom would get out of my hair.”
    █████Jessica thought about her father, and how he hovered around the hallway whenever she stepped out of the shower, and she wondered whether the dresser would be enough to barricade herself in this bedroom. She replied, “Umm,” and wistfully thumbed through a text.
    █████“You and your goddamned books. Don’t tell me you’re gonna do more homework tonight.”
    █████“I am the youngest in my class. I have to work doubly hard to keep up.”
    █████“Hah. I know some girls in your math class with Marshall. They say you always have the right answer, always.”
    █████Jessica shrugged.
    █████“They also say you could be friendlier.”
    █████This accusation made Jessica wince. It struck a nerve. She had no friends, outside of family. None. Zero. Null. Naught. “I am friendly to you, Colleen.”
    █████“Duh. We’re cousins, and we live in the same house! And speaking of friends, I gotta say this: you could be a better friend to me.”
    █████“How so?”
    █████“Why do you keep trying to break up with Jimmy?”
    █████Jessica sighed. “Because I don’t like the way he touches me, and I have nothing in common with him. He never wants to talk. He is childish.”
    █████Colleen scoffed, “Childish! He’s a year older than you are, you nut! You should feel lucky to have an older boy. Especially being, well— oh, don’t look at me that way, Jess”—
    █████“A freak.”
    █████“Not even! Just, well— nerdy. In a cute way. Like a shiny bug.”
    █████Jessica petulantly said, “Thanks. Thanks a lot. So, according to Miss North Shore, I’m nothing but a bug. Whatever. Look. Summer is over, Coll. I am extremely busy with school, and I don’t see why I need a boyfriend.”
    █████Colleen chittered, “You’re such a little girl sometimes. Come on, Jessi, I’m trying to get it on with Carl; you know that.”
    █████“I don’t see what that has to do with me.”
    █████“Well how are we supposed to do stuff together and hang out if you don’t have a boyfriend?”
    █████“Colleen, I do hang out with you. We do aerobics together, just about every afternoon.”
    █████“Yeah, a whole fifteen minutes. I mean with guys. You gotta have Jimmy on your arm when we hang out, to put the idea in Carl’s head that he should have a girlfriend, too.”
    █████Jessica stared at Colleen and gritted her teeth. The freckled redhead had stunned the whole school on the day after Labor Day weekend by strutting off the bus with the bombshell figure she had grown over the summer, which she flaunted to devastating effect with low-cut tee shirts that exposed the edges of her push-up bras. The daily aerobics and calisthenics endowed Colleen with a tiny waist and firm little butt to match. Jessica had observed the way Colleen drew boys’ eyes. Jessica didn’t think that her vivacious and extroverted cousin needed help from anyone. But then again, she had the distinct impression that Colleen would not get the hell out of her room, and let her get back to her homework, without some kind of concession.
    █████“Okay. If Jimmy can act civilly for three days in a row, I will think about hanging out with him again. But only as friends, and only for you, and only if he keeps his hands to himself.”
    █████Colleen nodded rapidly and enthused, “Great! You’re the best, Jessi!”
    █████“Just as friends, I said!”
    █████“I’ll tell him, I swear.”
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  3. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    █████
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    █████Hours later, Jessica lay upon her bed, in the darkness, wide awake and stark naked, surrounded by books. She had barricaded the door soon after Colleen had left. Jessica touched the opposing posts of the footboard with her toes and imagined that her ankles were tightly bound apart. She stretched her left arm up and back, to grip the post of the headboard. Her right hand worked feverishly between her legs, but with the aid of her better than average imagination, she could convince herself that all four limbs were spreadeagled and tightly bound. She arched her back, slippery with sweat and exhausted by constant terror, and writhed in imagined agony, due to the mice. She had begged her abductors not to tie her down on the cellar floor again, because the mice would return and gnaw at her flesh. She felt their whiskers first, and by thrashing she could usually scare them away before they bit, but it had been hours tied down here, and she was so tired, so terrorized by the mice, and so fatigued by the cold that it would almost seem a mercy when the horrible men finally came back and turned on the lights to scatter the mice and ravish her until she lost consciousness.
    █████Jessica had lost track of how many days this torment had gone on, since she’d been snatched off the street on her way home from school. She could no longer tell for sure whether it was day or night, nor could she recall the last time she had slept. Not since before the abduction, she supposed. She couldn’t sleep a wink, not with the relentless assaults of the mice. Yet all the while a deeper dread loomed, the heavy oak door at the top of the stairs, which would open and shatter the darkness with a spear of bright light, and then the boots would descend. The first two times, it had been one pair of boots, but last time, four men had come and ravished her hard, to make her learn, while the leader had eaten her meager supper, the slab of bread and butter, right before her famished eyes. Hours or years later they had trudged back up the stairs, laughing and high-fiving each other, and had left Jessica chained naked to the stone floor in pitch darkness to await the return of the mice. In parting, the leader had promised that he would bring even more men next time, to entertain her. He had promised that they would have a real party.
    █████Next time.
    █████But then she heard noise from a new direction, from above and behind her head, first a scratching that mercifully scattered the mice, and then the muffled tinkling of broken glass, followed by a loud, persistent pounding on what sounded like flimsy plywood, until splinters of particle board burst into the room and pattered upon her naked body as the room was cloven in two by a shaft of bright sunlight. Then a tenor hail called into the hole, propelled by the sunlight, the melodious voice of an angel.
    █████“Jessica? Jessica?”
    █████Her breath caught with sheer incredulity in response to the voice, her savior, her angel, and he called two more times before she managed to sob, “Ronald? Ronald, is that you?”
    █████The pounding and clawing on the particle board became more frantic, and she burst into tears, sobbing, “Please hurry, Ronald, before they come!”
    █████Her angel rashly divulged, “They’re upstairs; hold on,” and Jessica’s chest was filled with terror— not for herself, but for her savior, her angel, who had placed himself in peril, just for her.
    █████Most everyone paid Ronald little account. To Jessica’s mother, and her aunts, and Colleen, Ronald was just the young man who delivered the pizza on weekends. But Jessica knew better. Ronald led a secret existence, just for Jessica, in the role of her glorious angel.
    █████He tossed a sledgehammer through the cellar window, and it clattered on the floor. Her abductors must have heard it, because now muffled yells from upstairs shook the floorboards, and boots pounded upon the rafters as her tormentors raced for the cellar door.
    █████“Oh god, oh god oh god, Ronald, please hurry, save me!”
    █████“Coming,” he said, pulling himself head-first through the window. He grabbed onto the basement’s ceiling joists, flexing his massive arms with easy power, and he dropped in a lithe, fluid movement, like a cat, onto the floor. He wore bluejeans, boots, and nothing else. His long, dark curls draped down over the slabs of muscle on his chest, and his coal-black eyes smouldered as he looked down upon her ravished, emaciated form. “Oh, Jessica!”
    █████“Please, my love, they are coming!”
    █████But he had run out of time. “One moment,” he snarled, and snatched up the heavy sledgehammer just as the stout oak door at the top of the stairs slammed open. Suddenly the small basement room exploded with harsh fluorescent light, and Jessica screamed with terror at the clomp-clomp of descending boots, but Ronald, the Pizza Boy, her angel and her god, brandished the iron sledgehammer and charged them heroically. The battle happened so fast that Jessica barely had time to exhaust her first scream. Ronald fought with a frenzy for his love, somehow wrested a knife from one of them, and had just managed to take down the fourth and final rapist before a gunshot rang out. Jessica screamed herself hoarse and craned her head to see Ronald on all fours, stabbing down repeatedly into the torso of the monster with the gun. Then all was silent, except Ronald’s hoarse, ragged breaths.
    █████“Ronald, oh god... Ronald? Please...”
    █████She heard him crawling toward her, his hoarse breath growing louder and more labored. Then he reared up into view, drenched red with the blood of the monsters he had vanquished as well as the life that pumped like a dam-break from the ragged hole in his chest.
    █████“Oh god, oh god Ronald, no, noooooo!”
    █████With the last of his strength he gently cut the leather straps and helped Jessica to remove the buckles from her ankles and wrists. Jessica registered the burning pain that returned to her hands and feet as blood flowed into her extremities for the first time in eternity, but how could she begin to acknowledge that feeble pain, in terrible proximity to the death of her god and savior before her very eyes? She raised her little hands to his beautiful face, caressed his cheeks, bathed his forehead with her tears.
    █████“I love you, Jessica Elizabeth; I will always love you.”
    █████“Oh Ronald, I love you too, please don’t, please don’t die! I’ll get you out of here.”
    █████He rolled weakly onto his back, and on every labored inhalation bubbles and spatters of fresh blood burst from his perforated lung like spittle.
    █████“I will save you, Ronald, hold on, don’t die!”
    █████“No, no. Please, Jessi, just— just get out of here. Run, go now, before more of them come.”
    █████“Noooo, no, Ronald!” she wept, clutching his face, caressing his long curls, “Come with me, get up, lean on my shoulder!”
    █████“Can’t... can’t, so tired....”
    █████“Don’t you close your eyes, Ronald! Don’t give up on me; you can’t die, you can’t!”
    █████Jessica’s attention began to drift. The vision dissipated; darkness took her, and she half-awoke with just enough lucid cognition to form a small smile. She would await the new dreams, the dreams to come, with anticipation. The Ronald Fantasy needed more work. It might proceed with more realism, more plausibility, with minor adjustments. Maybe not a gunshot. Maybe just a knife wound. Not quite fatal. So that she would be able to thank her god and savior properly, whilst lovingly nursing his near-mortal wounds of passion. On further reflection, the story needed work in every respect. Pizza Boy as Adonis, indeed!
    █████Yes, Jessica decided with sanguine conviction as the darkness took her and pulled her back into dreamland, she needed better material.
    █████Her dreams had always sufficed to entertain. Until lately. Jessica Elizabeth Turner, despite her humble upbringing, had never wanted for anything, had never found a single aspect of her life lacking. Lately, however, she would gaze at her reflection and behold a woman strangely unfamiliar, a nascent beauty in search of an evasive and indefinable sublimation, a stranger transfixed by new, barely comprehensible desires.
    █████
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  4. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    █████
    █████
    █████Carol’s second day on the job passed with a semblance of normalcy, a procession of phone conferences and meetings, convened either within the office or elsewhere, at venues that drew Dr. Spencer away. The second day had no visitations by sales interns, and Carol devoted the full eight hours to production. She finally reached the bottom of her pile of corporate training materials by mid-morning, and began to actively assist in the office. She started to make a dent in the backlog of filing, during which she formulated a plan to reorganize and consolidate the filing system, so as to improve the efficiency of document retrieval.
    █████The only dark cloud was Dr. Spencer’s disgruntled, vaguely irritable demeanor. He did not direct his antipathy at Carol specifically and never once took it out on her. But every once in a while, she would catch him gazing at her with an expression of apparent dissatisfaction. At one point, in his absence, Carol self-consciously checked her blouse for wrinkles, inspected her pantyhose for runs, verified that she had put her thin red belt through all of the loops in her skirt that morning. She could find nothing out of place, and tried to put his persistent scowl out of her mind. Yet it went on all day, particularly when he came in and out of the office, on his way to and from meetings. He would glare wordlessly in her direction and would attempt unsuccessfully to conceal his irritation if she reacted.
    █████At the end of the day, he made his first attempt to be civil, by complimenting Carol for the large dent she had made in the filing backlog.
    █████She thanked him appreciatively and confessed, “All day I’ve had the impression I had been displeasing you somehow.”
    █████He blinked, shook his head, and demurred, “No, of course not; why would you think that?”
    █████Carol shrugged and said, “Maybe just a mistaken hunch.”
    █████“Well, good evening, Mrs. Turner,” he said.
    █████On her way out of the office, the truth suddenly dawned on her. He had been angry all day, livid in fact, with resentment cracking through the façade like a draft through an old window frame, and all because she had withdrawn Jessica’s photograph.
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  5. thinskin

    thinskin Porn Star

    Joined:
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    I am just going to eat dinner then I will spend my early evening catching up with Grace!

    thinskin
     
  6. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
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    :) thanks!!!!!!!!

    Look everyone, this place is REALLY slow. I can easily forget that I'm posting this. I don't intend to be an attention whore, but if you're reading this it does help to let me know.
     
  7. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
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    █████
    Chapter 3: Matchmaker
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    █████On Wednesday morning, Dr. Spencer dreaded the return to his own office.
    █████Back on Monday evening, when Mrs. Turner had withdrawn the photograph and had taken it home, he had convinced himself that she would bring a less risqué portrait on Tuesday morning. He had looked forward to the following day, for the first time in memory, on the impetus of that expectation. He could close his eyes and visualize every minute facet of Mrs. Turner’s daughter, from her lean, coltish legs and elfin figure to her enigmatic smile and espresso eyes framed by waist-length chocolate hair. Therefore he would have been pleased to have seen a new vision of the daughter bundled into a winter coat, but on Tuesday morning Mrs. Turner had returned with no replacement whatsoever.
    █████All day previous, he had thought he had been doing well, had believed himself to have effectively repressed his disappointment that Mrs. Turner had confiscated the daughter’s photograph on Monday evening. He had effectively repressed the fire that had raged in his chest, or so he had thought. Yet Mrs. Turner, perhaps motivated by some deep maternal instinct, had seen right through him and had confronted him at the close of the day.
    █████Now he dreaded the confrontation that would surely come. Mrs. Turner knew, as well as he did, of his affliction. How would she react? Best case: he would lose yet another administrative assistant, and this one more promising than any other in recent memory. Good job, he castigated himself ruefully. Worst case: she would call him out for his profligacy, and maybe even report him to Human Resources. Such a complaint would not go far; he owned a third of the company’s equity, after all. But the incident would get back to his father, which would be bad. He had crossed a line, most definitely. The producers and the sales interns were supposed to dwell on opposite sides of a strict divide, and by betraying an inexplicable and admittedly perverse attraction to Mrs. Turner’s daughter, he had definitely crossed that divide. The sales interns were poisoning his mind, and now there would be hell to pay. Oh, well. Maybe some good would come of it, bring things to a head, give him the pretext to abolish the internship program once and for all. Sales would take a short term hit, no question, but the company would recover and emerge from the forcible eradication stronger. With these dark thoughts circling furiously in his head, he stormed into his office at nine-thirty on Wednesday morning, a half hour late, ready for whatever would come.
    █████He immediately observed a new photograph on Mrs. Turner’s desk, an eight-by-ten portrait set within a silver frame.
    █████Mrs. Turner had stepped out, so he just stood and stared. A different composition. More recent. Jessica Turner stood on a sidewalk with a redheaded friend, presumably waiting for a school bus, since they wore bookbags over their shoulders. Jessica wore a white skirt dappled by large pastel polka dots and a matching top with a short hem that bared her lightly tanned midriff. Her blazing smile leapt across spacetime to set fate into motion like a plummeting hourglass. A small caption along the bottom of the photograph said, “Back to school, first day!” For the hundredth time since Monday, he wondered whether she could possibly have been eighteen.
    █████He tore his eyes away, both immensely relieved that the first photograph had been replaced, and adamant that he would not be caught, even once today, looking at the new one. He strode to his desk, booted his computer, and immersed himself with work, so that he would appear oblivious to the change in scenery when Mrs. Turner reappeared.
    █████
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  8. thinskin

    thinskin Porn Star

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    Well I was enjoying this but I cannot resolve your position on other threads as a book burner with your undoubted talent as an writer!

    Thinskin
     
  9. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

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    ? I oppose burning books. Most writers do. ?
     
  10. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

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    █████
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    █████Carol had stopped in the cafeteria to make a quick assessment of the refrigerator, the microwaves, and the coffee makers. She could save money by avoiding the downtown convenience stores and sandwich shops, but only if she would be able to store provisions in the company cafeteria. A quick perusal convinced her of the adequacy of the facilities, and she sat at one of the tables to make a small shopping list of food, personal supplies, and plastic containers that she would use to neatly store the victuals.
    █████Vanessa Curtis sauntered in, wearing a smart gray business suit with a silver blouse. She took a seat across from Carol without invitation. “So,” Vanessa broached unbidden, “he never told me. Producer or accessory?”
    █████Carol blushed and replied, with her eyes riveted to her list, “I’m not at liberty to say.”
    █████“Huh. Producer. Fair enough.” Vanessa pursed her lips and continued to silently assess Carol. Then she added, “You don’t look it.”
    █████“Look like what?” Carol asked, perplexed.
    █████“Like a producer. You look more like an office accessory.”
    █████Carol muttered, “Umm, thank you, I think.” She added a few more items to her list and bashfully looked up to see that Vanessa was still staring. “May I help you?”
    █████“I’ve had worse around here than Nelson,” Vanessa confided.
    █████“You mean Dr. Spencer?”
    █████“Yes,” she said, chuckling. “You are a babe in the woods, aren’t you? As I’ve said, I’ve had worse. Spencer at least appears to give a shit. I sometimes can’t tell whether he has authentic pangs of conscience, or if it’s just an act. I like to imagine that he really is conflicted, as he... does what he does to me. It helps me to persevere. Donner doesn’t have a shred of pity or compassion. But then again, maybe it’s just that Donner’s been at it for so long that he no longer bothers with the pretense of decorum. Maybe you could shed some light on that, from the insider perspective.”
    █████Carol had to fight back nervous laughter at the notion that Vanessa, of all people, would regard one such as herself as an insider. She muttered, “I’m sorry. I really couldn’t say.”
    █████“Well, I’ve enjoyed our little chat. I’ll let you get back to it.” Vanessa Curtis stood and departed with an insolent shake of her cute butt.
    █████Carol sighed and finished her shopping list. Then she decided to start her coffee break early and took a walk out to the Charles Street grocer.
    █████She returned with her supplies a half hour later, organized them into new plastic bins, labeled the bins, and put them up in the cabinets or on the racks of the refrigerator, as appropriate. Then she returned to the office to find Dr. Spencer working at his desk, typing on his computer and barking into the phone handset at the same time. He nodded curtly to acknowledge her arrival, but didn’t even bother to look at her. She stopped short at her desk, because a torso and pair of feet emerged from underneath it: a technician, finally installing her own office phone. After a few moments he popped out from under the table, introduced himself, and handed her a cheat-sheet.
    █████“Your voicemail password is 1234. You can change it to whatever you want. It’s all there on the sheet. Also, how to set your greeting, listen to messages, delete messages, and transfer calls. There’s a hundred other functions, but most days of the year that’s all you have to know. Call Information Services if you have any other questions.”
    █████“Thank you very much.”
    █████“Anytime,” he said with a pronounced grin and a wink. Carol stared at the technician as he loped toward the door, and couldn’t help but wonder two things: had he ever played with one of the sales interns, and was he misapprehending that she might be one of them? Vanessa had just said, in the cafeteria, that Carol looked more like an office accessory than a producer, and Carol very much doubted that Vanessa was the only person in the company who would make that observation. But then the technician caught the eye of Dr. Spencer, who hit him with a cold glare. The technician double-timed it out of the office.
    █████Carol took a seat and scanned down the phone’s cheat-sheet. She experimentally called her home phone. In order to receive voicemail, she would have to set her personal greeting, and for that she would wait until she had the office to herself.
    █████Dr. Spencer hung up and remarked, from his desk, “Sorry about Jorge. Always on the prowl. God’s gift, or so he thinks.”
    █████With a wry grin, Carol said, “He looked at me as though I were an accessory.”
    █████Dr. Spencer only said, “He should know better,” and resumed typing.
    █████They exchanged no further words for the rest of the morning, but at thirty minutes to noon, he snatched up his jacket and attaché. A car key dangled from his otherwise empty ring finger. BMW. She sighed and reflected on the family’s twelve year old Ford Escort and the bumper stickers that concealed the worst rust spots.
    █████“I won’t be back until two o’clock at the earliest. Sales call.”
    █████“Break a leg, sir.”
    █████He chuckled and muttered, “A thespian.”
    █████Carol averted her eyes; she had no idea what he meant, but she said, to her computer, “Pardon my saying so, but you seem to be more chipper today.”
    █████“I like what you have done to the place,” he remarked, before he could catch himself.
    █████She closed her eyes, shook her head, and muttered, “Men.” She rounded on him and said, “Sir, I’ve told you. I really don’t mind. And if it mattered to you, whether or not I kept her picture here, you should have said something. Your attraction to my daughter is nothing to be ashamed of.”
    █████He coldly said, “It is not an attraction. I just”— and then, to her utter astonishment, he blushed, but having been trained through seven years of undergraduate and graduate education to always finish a thought with coherency, he set his teeth with determination against the blush that he felt rising in his own cheeks and soldiered on. “I just— it is just that she draws the eye. It can’t be helped, an autonomous reflex, nothing more.”
    █████“A reflex,” Carol repeated skeptically.
    █████“Assuredly,” insisted the eminently desirable yet ridiculous man.
    █████She shook her head again, utterly exasperated, and said, “Sir, you’ll be late. Drive safely, and good luck.”
    █████He resisted the impulse to turn the conversation back to the issue of the photograph and instead ran with the change of subject. “Jeff Anderson is the one who needs luck. He didn’t close the deal on Monday. I would have liked to have fired him, but in truth I do not yet have the authority, and besides, I suppose it would have been too spiteful an impulse. So we are going back together, and I am holding his hand this time.”
    █████“He should split the commission,” she declared.
    █████Dr. Spencer barked out a loud, authentic laugh.
    █████She snorted and remarked, “So you, uhh, serviced Vanessa Curtis on Monday, and wasted your afternoon, for nothing.”
    █████Dr. Spencer smirked and murmured, “You catch on quick, Mrs. Turner.”
    █████“Drive safely, sir.”
    █████“See you this afternoon.”
    █████
     
  11. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    17,242
    █████
    █████
    █████He returned at four thirty, in an even better mood. He barged in just as Carol reached the end of the backlog in filing.
    █████With a glance at the three or four remaining forms in the outbox, he said, “You’re a lifesaver.”
    █████“Whatever will I do with myself now?” she asked.
    █████“Don’t retire yet, Mrs. Turner; I assure you that we will find something.” He hung his jacket on a brass coat rack and strode to his desk.
    █████Carol tried not to let her eye follow the pendulous sway of the silver and onyx cufflinks on his wrists. His fingers blurred across the keyboard as he brought up his email.
    █████Carol tentatively inquired, “So, it went well, then, sir? The sales call?”
    █████“The Christmas bonuses ought to be good this year. Of more immediate concern, Anderson gets to keep his job. Funny how I am less than thrilled as to the outcome.”
    █████Carol didn’t comment. She went on with her filing.
    █████At ten of five, she began to wrap things up and tidy her worktable, which had been cluttered with papers destined for here or there. He noticed the change and checked his watch.
    █████He remarked, with what measure of nonchalance he could manage, “Heading out soon, Mrs. Turner?”
    █████“Yes... if that’s all right, sir. Unless you have more for me to do, of course.”
    █████“Don’t be ridiculous. You have children at home.”
    █████“Yes. But several relatives look after them and don’t mind a bit. The thing is, sir, I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m a clock watcher.”
    █████“I have the impression that you are an industrious worker who takes initiative. And your family needs you. So don’t be ashamed of striving to achieve some balance in your life.”
    █████“If you say, so, sir. But I can stay late. If you have meetings to prepare for tomorrow, or whatever. I can call home to let them know, if need be. I can be flexible.”
    █████“I will keep that in mind for the future, Mrs. Turner. But the agreed-upon arrangement is a nine to five workday, and I will not be imposing upon you except in the event of dire need. Having school-aged children at home, you need and deserve to be able to count upon a dependable schedule.”
    █████
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    __
    █████
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  12. clarise

    clarise Precious princess

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Messages:
    17,242
    █████
    █████
    █████Dr. Spencer left task lists at her computer each morning. The assigned tasks were invariably ranked by priority, and the desired completion dates spanned months into the future. He never inquired as to the status of specific tasks, apart from just one remark, on Friday afternoon, a week after she had been hired, that he admired and valued her work ethic.
    █████Carol only gradually acquired a rudimentary comprehension of her supervisor’s daily activities. He used advanced mathematics every day. Most of the books and journals that cluttered the ubiquitous shelves were either mathematics or physics texts.
    █████Dr. Spencer held a Ph.D. in mathematics, as well as an M.B.A., from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She had learned these particulars inadvertently, in the process of filing a two year backlog of papers. She had found his curriculum vitae buried in one of the immense stacks.
    █████The more she learned about him, the more she convinced herself that he and Jessica could have made a fine match, if only the timing had not been so atrocious. Why could Jessica not have been just a few years older? Carol dwelt upon the inopportune timing to the point of obsession and grew progressively more resentful.
    █████
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    █████On Saturday morning, Carol cradled a coffee mug in two palms, stared out of the kitchen window, and idly catalogued the dimensions of her bitterness. Tommy’s Playstation chattered its incessant inanities from the parlor, almost loudly enough to mask Billy’s ragged snoring from the bedroom.
    █████She had been working full time for the first full week of her life, yet only three days’ worth of dishes filled the sink. Neither Tommy nor Billy would have touched the dish soap. The six year old and his purported father did have one thing in common, that being their approximate maturity level.
    █████Jessica had to have been the one.
    █████Carol’s eyes drifted upward and fixated upon sheets of pink fiberglass that sagged beneath the plane of the ceiling. Billy had taken four ceiling tiles down, years ago, in pursuit of some long forgotten project. Not only had the endeavor fallen by the wayside, but he had ruined the tiles by leaving them out on the porch, exposed to the elements and partially crushed under a pile of rusty tools, through an entire winter. Fiberglass dust had been shedding and falling onto the kitchen counters and table ever since.
    █████A door opened down the hall. Billy’s snores persisted. Small bare feet padded rapidly through the hall and passed into the kitchen. The feet could only have been Jessica’s. Carol smiled to herself. She herself had failed in all respects apart from one: Carol’s one success, dearest Jessica Elizabeth, would provide the means of her redemption.
    █████With the far edge of her peripheral vision, Carol observed that Jessica walked blindly, with a heavy textbook not three inches from her nose. She seemed to be doing homework on every waking moment, and she seldom ever slept.
    █████“Analytic geometry, Jess?”
    █████“I found this book in the school library.”
    █████“It’s Saturday, honey. You should find something fun to do.”
    █████Jessica did not answer. The book challenged and entertained her. She barely understood half of the material that she read, but she methodically filed all the questions away in her compendious head. “Colleen and I will go jogging later,” she said.
    █████Carol watched Jessica rummage blindly in the refrigerator, using only her sense of touch, while continuing to read. She emerged with a carton of milk. She shut the refrigerator door and simply lingered, at an impasse, with the milk cradled under an arm and the book in two hands.
    █████Carol set her coffee mug down upon the counter, found a clean glass, and relieved her daughter of the milk carton.
    █████Jessica glanced up from her book to see her mother pouring the milk and remarked, “Thanks, Mom. I could have done that.”
    █████Carol returned the milk to the refrigerator and gestured toward the kitchen table. Together they sat down.
    █████Jessica pointedly closed her book, after first memorizing the page number, and inquired, “How was your first week at work?”
    █████Carol nodded briskly. “Good. Not great; just good. Nothing is ever perfect, is what I mean.”
    █████Jessica did not require elaboration. She did ask, “But your boss: he is a good man to work for?”
    █████“Yes. I believe he is.”
    █████“What is he like?”
    ”Lonely,” Carol replied.
    █████Jessica knew the meaning of loneliness. She got along with almost no one, and could tolerate the company of almost no one, apart from her Mom, and perhaps also her cousin and best friend, Colleen, in small doses. “What else can you tell me about him?”
    █████“He loves books.”
    █████Jessica looked up from her glass of milk and book with a skeptical glare. No one, in her experience, loved books, apart from herself. But she was a freak. There were regrettably few freaks in the world, by definition, and even fewer of her particular strain. Hence her paucity of friends, and absence of soul mates, a lack that had vexed and saddened her more than a little bit, of late, for reasons that she did not understand.
    █████“Really,” her mother insisted. “He does love books. Or at least, I would have to think that he does. He has about ten times as many books as you do.”
    █████“Huh,” replied Jessica, no less incredulous.
    █████“Then again, I suppose if you ever acquire even half his money, you’ll beat him hands down.”
    █████“Mmm,” Jessica mused, “I have been in need of a healthy goal.”
    █████Carol winked and confided, “He also loves your picture.”
    █████Jessica instantly flushed deep incarnadine. “What picture?”
    █████“I have your back-to-school picture on my desk. I’ve caught him checking it out three times.”
    █████“Huh,” replied Jessica again, more incredulous than ever. “Why would he check out a picture of me?”
    █████“Because you’re beautiful; that’s why.”
    █████Jessica muttered imprecations.
    █████“You are.
    █████Jessica continued to mutter. Then she formed words. “He sounds like a fat old pervert.”
    █████Mom simply chuckled and smiled to herself.
    █████Shocked Jessica warily demanded, “What?”
    █████Carol gazed contemplatively at the fiberglass that hung from the opened ceiling and said, “Oh, nothing. Just that I don’t think there’s an ounce of fat on him.”
    █████For the third time in two minutes, Jessica muttered, “Huh.”
    █████
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    █████
    █████