Honeysuckle, Sex, , the Caged Bird

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Author’s Foreword: Another compact, standalone workplace fantasy. I wrote this a few years ago after a medical scare. My thanks to Kynhalis — a friend and terrific editor — for helping me make this story better. Enjoy the gumbo and don’t forget to try it with the filé…

—–

Ding.

My apartment doorbell rang. I wiped off my hands and traveled the short distance from my kitchen counter to the door.

When I opened it, I prepared to revel in the subtle scent of honeysuckle I knew to follow. In the doorway, a half-smirking brunette about my height — because I was barefooted and she was in heels — wrestled to keep an oversized purse on one shoulder and a portfolio of papers from falling from her opposite arm.

“What a day. Be glad you missed it,” she said firmly as she strode through the doorway.

“Come on in and make yourself comfortable, Emmy.”

She dumped the papers and her purse on the kitchen table and looked around. “Whew. Sorry. I missed the first bus so that stuff was getting heavy.”

“I made extra food if you want some,” I said, sitting down in front of the stack and starting to go through all the papers.

I had been brought in earlier in the year as the Head Administrator of the Greater St. Stephen’s Hospital to arrest the hemorrhaging of cash and try to return it to its former glory as a moneymaker for HealthCare Associated. Emmanuelle Tanner was my number two. A late thirty-something of boundless energy and good ideas, she was also quick to get frustrated and criticize. We spent a lot of time arguing with each other. She and I had spent our first three months around each other in perfect conflict, but when we gelled, it started working. But still with a lot of arguing.

We spent almost no time together outside of the office so this was a very unusual occasion. I’ve also hated to admit it to myself, but I have been drawn to her inexplicably. A curvy girl who seems to put every extra pound on her chest or butt, she’s cute without being that girl that every guy drools over and every girl is jealous of. She’s the type that actually cares about the people she works with, is quick-witted, and terrific at her job. In other words: a keeper. When you work together, though, that path is blocked with metaphorical gates, guns, and land mines.

So, I spent all of my time looking right into her eyes and trying not to think about anything else but the professional that could or would take my job once all of this was done. I stayed focused on her face. It only worked marginally. She was adorable when she wasn’t worked up about something. Still pretty cute then, too.

“Mmmm.” She looked in the pot. “What is this?” She was already opening cabinets, trying to find a bowl.

I rolled my eyes. “Gumbo. Rice goes in first. Wine and filé on the table here.” I marked up a page and circled a number at the bottom. “Did you look at these?”

“Yup.” She kicked off her heels and sat down next to me with her bowl and an empty wine glass. It was difficult not to notice her legs out of the corner of my eye, crossing effortlessly under the grey pinstripe pencil skirt she wore. After she had filled her glass, she asked, “What do I do with this?” She held up a small can of filé — powdered sassafras root.

“Sprinkle on top and then stir it in.”

She smelled the can, shrugged, and complied.

“And your thoughts?” I asked.

“It’s working,” she whispered conspiratorially. She looked me right in the eyes and smiled. “Eight months and you can see it now.”

“Hot damn. Good news, good news. But, fuck, two months longer than it should have taken.”

She ate. I continued going through the reports. Margins increasing. Complaints trending down. Workforce feedback strengthening. Lost in the figures, I heard her clear her throat. I looked up. I had forgotten she was there. I checked the clock. I had been zoned out for 20 minutes.

“Shit, Emmy. kaçak iddaa Sorry about that. What did you say?”

“I said, ‘That was awesome.’ I’m stuffed. I don’t think I’m going to be doing much dancing tonight.”

Friday night. Bar and club night for the office. Boy, I really had looped out the last few days to have forgotten about that. Not that I ever went. Or was invited, for that matter.

“What do I need to sign so you can get out of here?”

“I’m not in THAT big of a rush.” She poured another, though smaller, glass of wine. “This isn’t exactly fair, having food and alcohol waiting for me. It’s the thin folder in the back.”

I went through everything in a few minutes, put it all back in the folder, and went to give it back to her. She was staring at me.

“Where did you go?” She was dead serious.

“Just a few days in Mexico.”

“Bullshit. Where did you go? No warning? No notice? You don’t do ANYTHING without a plan.” She paused. I could tell she was gathering her thoughts for a second assault. She was calculating the odds that I would verbally eviscerate her as I had previously when she tried to get anything remotely personal from me. She came at me again. I was proud of her. She had a good nose for what fights to pick. She was going to be a terrific Hospital Director one day soon.

“I saw something in you on Wednesday. You were scared of something.” Pause. “We’re not at work now, and even if we were, you can’t treat everyone in your life like strangers. There are people that care about you, even though you can be a complete asshole.” Pause. “I care. And I know something happened. No one outside of this room needs to know and if you won’t tell me, then for the love of God, tell someone because I know you well enough to know that there’s a good chance that you haven’t told a damn…”

“San Francisco,” I whispered. I wasn’t going to let those run-on sentences keep going. Once she started, it would never end until we were both pissed at each other. She was a bulldog. And she was right. I needed to tell someone. Did I really want it to be her?

She stared in silence. Then, her mouth opened, but nothing came out. Her eyes were tearing up. She shook her head and turned away.

“I blanked out in the middle of the day. My brain just stopped working. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t form coherent thoughts.”

“You covered well with that line about going to the warehouse. I wouldn’t have known you didn’t go unless I hadn’t called later to check in on their frame of mind after one of your little ‘inspections.’ They said that they hadn’t seen you for weeks.”

She turned back toward me again. She was composed. A real warrior. She couldn’t fool me, though. She genuinely cared about the people around her in a way that I never could or ever would. All I had thought about was how she would use this against me to take my job, but I should have never worried.

“Everything seemed to clear up a few hours later, but I didn’t want to consult anyone here.” I paused. She knew what I refused to say: that I wouldn’t have people talking behind my back, giggling about any weakness.

“Did anyone go with you?”

“Of course not. Who would I have taken?”

“I would have gone with you. You shouldn’t have gone by yourself.”

“Don’t lecture me, Emmy.” I snapped, suddenly very embarrassed at how her simple words meant so very much to me. I reminded myself, though, that I didn’t mean anything more to this girl than as a coworker or a mentor — she treated everyone with care when she wasn’t driving toward a goal, and this was just her treating me like everyone else. No point in fooling myself.

She interrupted any further rant from me with a quiet, “You’re OK, aren’t you? That is why you’re telling me? If something was really wrong…” She wiped her eyes and stood up from the table. “Goddammit, Victor, I don’t give a shit about your job! All I’ve been thinking about kaçak bahis for three fucking days is whether or not you’re OK. You’ve got me defending the fact that I give a shit about whether YOU…” I got one of her signature finger points directly at my eyes and the briefest of dramatic pauses before she continued, “…you, Victor Dietrich, and not you, almighty Director Sonofabitch of St. Stephens — will live or….”

She trailed off and looked away. She crossed her arms low across her stomach and walked slowly into the living area and sat on the edge of the couch facing away from me.

“You ARE going to be OK, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

I walked into the living room and stood beside her. She didn’t look up. She just reached up to take my hand and squeezed it. I hadn’t been able to appreciate how deeply she could empathize with others. It probably was hell for her. I hadn’t done a damn thing to understand it and only repaid her care with mistrust. I owed her more than that.

I sat down beside her. A deep breath. An admission. “Do you think it’s weird that I found myself wishing you were there with me?”

“Weird? No, I don’t suppose so. If I had to guess, I’m the closest thing to a friend that you have around here.”

I shook my head, “Not as a friend.” She stared at me and didn’t move a muscle. She wanted my trust. I was about to show it and see how she handled it. I looked down as I continued.

“You know, something like this hits, and you see things differently. Suddenly, things you put off become things that can’t wait. People become more important than things. A lot of my trip was spent in this…different world…seeing these different things.” I paused. “My taxi ride for the return flight had me on the streets well after midnight. It was so deserted. And yet, I didn’t feel alone. I had someone there with me. Someone I realized I cared very deeply for. I didn’t think about whether she felt the same about me. I just thought about her and how much I missed talking to her. Arguments and all.”

I looked up and directly into her blue eyes. They were wet. “Any idea who she is?”

“Say it,” she mouthed almost soundlessly.

“You.” I put a hand under her chin, pulled her toward me gently, and kissed her. And she kissed me back. I bit her lip. Not hard, but hard enough so there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding of the intent. She bit my tongue back, and at that moment, I completely let go of what little composure I had left. I wanted this woman more than anything I had ever experienced in my entire existence.

I turned toward her, grabbed her around the waist, and pulled her onto me. She enveloped me in her arms and legs, and her hair formed a curtain that separated us from the rest of the world. I pushed her down on the couch and bit her clavicle while I fumbled with the zipper of my jeans. Her mouth was on my earlobe and her shortish nails dug into my back. We were both breathing fast and heavy. All I could think of was my need to be inside her.

I wasn’t making progress fast enough for her. I felt her shift her skirt up her thighs and belly and move her panties to the side.

When I freed my cock from my pants, I pulled back enough to look her right in the eye. I was hoping for something from her — anything — that confirmed this was mutual. But when I saw her face. Her beautiful face. Hair pasted to her forehead by sweat. Her parted lips. Her eyes boring a hole in me. Something happened. I stopped caring. I wanted her. I wanted to be in her. Physically. Mentally. I needed to be in her.

Without waiting for approval, I pushed myself inside her.

Everything after was a blur. I have no idea if it was a minute or an hour, but it was intense. My body tried violently to disappear completely into her. I couldn’t push myself into her any harder. I tried. My mind wanted to disappear into her as well. As to her mind, I couldn’t say, but her body pulled illegal bahis me to her continuously and met each of my thrusts with one of her own and with the same ferocity. The end, when we came together, was a mutually welcome respite. Had we continued any longer, I have a strong suspicion that one or both of us would have gotten hurt.

I collapsed on top of her.

As my head began to clear, I could tell my heart rate was near maximum. Her skin was on fire. The whole apartment smelled like honeysuckle and sex — a combination of scents I hadn’t experienced at one time in over 30 years.

I shifted to the side so I could look at her face. She smiled. Rosy cheeks. Beautiful. She put her hands on either side of my face and kissed me tenderly.

When she spoke, her voice was so smooth as to be hypnotizing, “I’ll give it to you — when you say what’s on your mind, you commit to it.” Her breathing was becoming slower and more regular. Mine not so much yet. “You know, if I had the slightest inkling that you felt like this, I wouldn’t have come over tonight.”

I could only manage a puzzled expression.

“Victor, I just fucked my boss.” It was matter of fact–no guilt or anger.

“What? Emmy, what the…? What are you…? Then what was all that ‘you Victor and not you boss’ stuff then?” The historical significance of my inability to articulate complete sentences was not a point I could appreciate until informed about it much later, which is itself another story.

“You silly man. Of course this was about you and me. This? Between you and me just now? Has only crossed my mind about a hundred times.” She smiled again. I loved seeing it. She continued, “It still doesn’t change the fact that the answer to the question, ‘Did you fuck your boss?’ is, ‘Yes.'”

I sat back on the couch and looked at her. She shifted her legs and collected herself, trying to smooth her skirt back into place. I put myself back in my pants and zipped up. We were both more than just a little messy.

“I don’t want to feel like this was a mistake, Emmanuelle,” I managed with some conviction.

She shook her head. “I wouldn’t change this for all the money in the world. The almighty Victor losing control.” I could feel my face reddening. She hit a nerve. “Don’t be embarrassed. It was an intimate moment I will cherish forever. I can tell how rare those connections are for you. I feel incredibly special.”

She said the right thing — the perfect thing — again. And then, suddenly and completely out of the blue, I found myself overwhelmed by the thought that I was trying to keep a beautiful songbird in a gilded cage…

We spent a lot of time together. The only thing that prevented rumors about the two of us was that I could be as tough or tougher on her as on anyone else. There were still clearly a lot of conflicts, but she and I had worked past taking things personally, and the fury was more ideological than anything. To outsiders, though, it looked like we hated each other.

It would ruin us both if this became a thing or if any rumors started. My time here was ending. The reports that started the evening showed that. My career was also winding down. I only had a few more of these in me. But her career still had 15 or 20 years left. She would accomplish more than me. I owed it to her to free her from this cage and let her sing where she pleased.

How sad I felt at that moment. I had had her for a fleeting instant. My Emmy. But now, that voice in my head was telling me that I had to let her go.

I stood up. A little shaky. I bent over and kissed her forehead gingerly and for a lot longer than I should have. Goodbye, pretty bird. Be free and sing!

She grabbed my hand. “I will always be there for you. Always. You can doubt the world, but do not doubt me. Understand?” I nodded. “I’m glad you’re OK.”

“Me, too.” I walked back to the kitchen table and poured two glasses of wine. As I handed her glass back to her, I tapped my glass to hers and then took a sip, staring her in the eye more than just a little mischievously. “Better now, though.”

She shook her head and laughed. “Idiot.”

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