Personal Growth

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Anna shows up as a minor character in my “No Warning,” but this is a very different kind of story.

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* * *

I grimaced again, staring at my own face in the mirror behind the bar, the revulsion passing slowly as a little crinkle between my far-set eyes. Last night… I had no idea how I could possibly work with Kyle again after that. No, “work with?” Who was I kidding? He worked for me, not with me, and that would make things even worse.

Well, for a short while anyway, I reflected. I wouldn’t have to worry about him working for me anymore, probably, not after the bosses read the report from the Norbera people. I’d seen it in their faces during the farewell luncheon: Norbera liked Kyle. And they didn’t like me. And that was that.

In three months or so I’ll be moved to another account. My bosses will call it a promotion, because they still like me and they know I’m fucking good at my job. So I’ll be given another account, as a manager this time, the sole motherfucker in charge.

But it won’t be a very important account: it won’t be Norbera, the account that’s expected to put Grob-Ligner on the map. And in thirty years, when I’m sixty-five and retiring with a mid-grade Rolex as an EVP of… what, personnel? Logistics? they’ll shake my hand and give me hugs and talk loudly about how important I’d been in the company.

Particularly in the early stages of the Norbera Account.

I shuddered again, the airport surrounding me in its sterile metallic bustle. The bartender was a fucking useless 25-year-old muppet with a stringy chinbeard and pants that hugged his butt way, way too tightly, and his selection of scotch was terrible even by airport standards. I hated layovers. For a few seconds I contemplated heading back over to Gate A58, but then that’s where Kyle was killing time.

So. Nope.

“Hey.” The scotch tasted like ass, a claimed single-malt that I knew was a blend. I nudged the glass away. “Let’s shift gears, Captain Emo. Give me a Cuba Libre.”

“A what?” The bartender blinked at me.

“A Cuba Libre.” I sighed. “A rum and Coke. Lime. Ice.” A guy took the chair two seats down from me, trying not to eye me too obviously. “In a highball glass, dear.”

“In a glass. Sure.” He stared blankly at me for a moment, and I could see in his face that I’d have to keep an eye on him. That face said he was going to spit in my drink, but how bad would that be? I asked myself. Having mens’ spit in my mouth wasn’t usually something that made me squeamish.

Fucking Kyle. I could still taste his tongue.

I propped my head in my hand and stared down the bar at the new arrival, puckish all of a sudden. He was the kind of guy who looked like he sold car parts? Oil drilling equipment? Something like that. Not something finished, not a completed product; he did not look like the kind of guy who dealt with actual consumers. No retail, ever. He looked like the kind of guy who spent his layovers drinking in an airport bar.

I glanced at the bar mirror once more, avoiding my own eyes.

“Rum and Coke,” the bar guy told me pointedly, and I glanced at the bubbles in the drink, then at his mouth.

“Mmhmm.” I put two dimes in the tip cup, mostly because I wasn’t thinking of ordering another drink, and gave him a wink. Men usually like it when I wink, but he was paying more attention to the dimes and just scowled. My reply was a giggle, but only until I thought of Kyle again. Little fucker.


I looked back toward the gate, trying to pick him out from among all the rubes. Such a mistake. But my mind told me he was glancing my way, looking for me, so I figured I’d show him what he’d missed last night. My drink tasted too sweet, my lips curling into a grimace that I turned into a smile. “Let me guess,” I began pleasantly, my voice at its most winsome. “You sell…”

The guy with the beer raised weary eyes, sunk into the kind of face that had left St Petersburg and picked up a flight in Sydney, then gone back again. Airport Eyes. He sprouted a smile once he realized, slowly, that I was actually talking to him. “What?”

I gave him a smile. “You’re on a business trip. You sell…” I sipped once more at my drink, so light on the rum, and leaned my elbow back on the formica bar. “Clown shoes.”

“You’re correct.” He straightened himself, visibly sucking in his gut. He didn’t have much of one, really, but from the fleshy look to his neck I figured he would within a few more years. The guy was probably around thirty, already balding. And, apparently, he could tell a joke. “We market clown shoes all around the world, but with an emphasis on the Pacific rim. Though, they don’t do too well there. Small feet.” He smiled when I laughed, the fake laugh I save for times like these. “I’m Dave.”

“Hi, Dave.” I warmed my smile, my body rooted, daring him to stay put. He didn’t, of course, sliding off his chair and eryaman bayan escort making his way over to me. Men are pretty predictable in general (except for fucking Kyle, last night), but men in airport bars? You could run a train by them. His handshake was moist. “My name is Anna. Bring your beer and sit with me?”

It was a suggestion that was more of a command; it’s what men like Dave want, I’ve found. They like being seen with sexy women, and they’re satisfied to be told what to do. I wondered, as I often did at times like this, what would have happened if I’d just come out and asked for it. As if asking for sex were the modern equivalent of asking for a light back in the day. “When’s your flight leave?” I asked instead.

“Oh, who knows?” It came out as a sour laugh. “Delays happen.” He looked at me sideways. “You look very nice, Anna. People like me don’t travel in suits anymore, but I’m glad you’re not slumming like me.”

“Thank you!” I caught Captain Emo’s disapproving glare, then shook it off by touching Dave’s hand gently, like a moth landing and then fluttering away again. “That’s nice of you to say. But don’t worry,” I chuckled. “You look fine.” He didn’t; he was in khakis and a blue button-up, tucked in and open at the neck. I spotted the glint of a gold chain in there, peeking out at me from among his darkly sprouting hair. “I remember the Days Of Suits. Men used to be so careful at airports! So stilted.”

He didn’t answer right away, and I felt myself flush when I realized why: he was busy squinting at my thighs. I glanced down to find that my skirt, tight over my hips, had ridden about six inches up over my knee with the way I was sitting. I paused, smiling, ready for his guilty eyes when they came back up to mine. “Yeah,” he said vaguely. He grinned, turning red when he realized I’d caught him. “Sorry.”

I just smiled and took a long sip of my drink, easily half of what was left. Once again I looked pensively over toward Gate A58. Kyle was in a nice Cuban shirt and some jeans that justified his salary, which I knew down to the penny; I’d given him his last raise, just before this fucked-up Bermuda trip. I searched the crowd, knowing he knew I was here and that he’d probably be looking over every now and then to check me.

I wondered whether he regretted kicking me out of his bed last night.

That one made me shudder, but it would be great if those intense eyes of his could find me at the bar and see me tittering with little Dave here. So I made up my mind and shrugged. “Don’t be,” I winked, my voice low. “It’s fine. And I won’t have to pretend I’m not checking out your package anymore,” I laughed loudly, and he joined me with a shrewd cock of his head as he sucked down most of the rest of his beer.

“I’ll get you a drink to make it up to you,” he murmured. “Let’s have another round here, man,” he nodded at the kid, who snapped a venomous glare at me as he dug around in the little fridge for Dave’s next longneck. We clinked glasses, then I tossed my head around the corner from the bar, to a table at the back by the windows where I could watch the planes taxi while, presumably, I let Dave play with me.

The table was in full view of A58, of course.

My plan almost worked. Almost. First and foremost I wanted Kyle to catch me rebounding off last night’s defeat in the darkness of his hotel room. That mission?

Accomplished! in spades, as he came drifting up from behind us to tell me our flight was about to board.

But I was also interested in getting Dave’s fingers wet, at least, and in that I was regrettably unsuccessful. But I gave him plenty of masturbation fodder, though, his stubby hand making it under my skirt up to his wrist while I sucked his tongue straight out of his disbelieving mouth, tasting Budweiser. When I caught Kyle’s looming shadow on the table between us, the kid moving with that creepy stealth I’d sometimes noticed in the office, I backed slowly off Dave’s unshaven face, his lower lip clasped between mine until the last possible moment, before I let it snap back against his teeth with a wet little slapping noise. “Yes, Kyle?” I husked, still looking straight at Dave.

“Flight’s boarding.” Kyle sniffed, looking away from us. “Business class goes first, you know.”

“I know.” I leaned in for one more kiss, then winked at my new friend. “Duty calls, Dave,” I smiled. “See you around.” I made strong eye contact with Kyle as we strode away, reminding him of that brief feel of my lips last night, that Dave showed how easy it was for me to leave a man with blue balls.

I was still thinking about that as I kicked my seat back in business class, staring pensively out the window while I thought about the Norbera peoples’ reactions to me, the guarded reserve in their statements. I sighed, my hands stroking the leather armrests, wondering how many times I’d get to ride in business class again.

Hoi polloi was bustling past, the carry-ons too large, all of them looking forward with stoic dread to the coach seats escort sincan back there for the six hours back home. I stirred, catching Kyle’s eye as he inched along the aisle. I was lost: what the fuck kind of face was I supposed to show him? I’d never been skittish around men, especially coworkers, particularly when I know they find me attractive… but Kyle, last night, had left me shaken. I felt my mouth freeze into a thin smile and hoped it looked right.

So many flights. So many airports. That’s the way people made their bones at Grob-Ligner when I joined up, fresh from my MBA, fired up to take on the world and obliterate it. And I had. I’d been the best for almost ten years now, ten years of constant travel, continual ball-busting, rivers of alcohol, lakes of coffee. Ten years of endless shuffling subordinates: I’d fired many. I had high standards.

Ten years of men. All shapes and sizes and smells and reasons. I’d learned early on in life that men found me sexy, which was fortunate because I’d learned, around the same time, that I found them sexy too. So I’d never really had any objection to their advances, nor them to mine. Everything had been clean and neat and tidy and cummy.

Until Kyle.

He smiled uncertainly at me, shuffling forward a foot at a time while some lardass further back took eight hours to load her goddamn bag. So different now, this kind of awkwardness. I remembered a trip, maybe seven years ago, traveling with a team supported by a guy from Logistics named Manuel. I’d never even heard of the guy, but after we’d landed the account I’d caught him staring at me in my hotel room while we all got wasted. I might have winked, might have blown him a kiss; I wasn’t sure, but whatever I did had an effect.

Then, next day, we’d been just like this: me, the ice bitch settled into my business class bubble with a glass of rose, him herded back into coach. We’d made eye contact, both grinning despite the eleven-hour flight ahead to the Cairo layover, and almost before we’d even reached cruising altitude I’d been wedged into the forward lavatory, looking down at the blue liquid in the toilet while Manuel’s sturdy penis plowed hard into my plucked little pussy, both of us stifling our grunts while the plane shuddered around us as it punched through Johannesburg’s shitty grey skies.

Even now, I could remember the trembling energy of his fingers digging into my hips. I’d been the best he’d ever had, and he’d left me sore and slick afterward. He’d had me again as we hurtled through the midnight skies over Ethiopia, three or four more hot eager spurts into my unprotected snatch; I’d never been very careful back then.

Or maybe his name had been Miguel. Who could remember?

All of this fleeted through my mind as the aisle crowd at last got moving, funneling toward their seats, and then Kyle and I had one last glance. And in his eyes, I saw it: he was me, as I’d once been. He was on the move. He was going to be in business class his next trip, and I?

I’d never again have any kind of authority over him. Not after this weekend. We both knew it. “Hey,” I called weakly to the flight attendant. I was feeling shaky, the plane August-hot. “What do you have in a single-malt?”

* * *

Another airport, another city, but everything else was different as I unbuckled the seatbelt and forced myself to stay seated while everyone around me surged to their feet. I’d nabbed an aisle at least, which had been great during the flight. But now it just meant I had the big guy from across the aisle driving his belly into the side of my head as he stretched up for his overhead bin. “Sorry,” he managed, gasping; this had to be the most exercise the fat fuck had gotten in months.

“It’s fine,” I told him softly, not even thinking about the inevitable penis he was pressing to my shoulder.

Not anymore. Growth, I told myself. For me, lack of desire for random men was personal growth.

I waited, the aisle thinning like an old man’s hair, the guy at my window seat getting all fidgety. It was weird to sit in coach, the narrow seats seeming to imprison me; weirder still to not be wearing a skirt. Wierdest of all to be paying for the flight myself. But, I reminded myself bitterly, that’s the kind of shit that happens when you fuck up at Grob-Ligner.

Aaron had been nice enough back in August, moving me (as predicted) over to another account. “We’ll get you back on Norbera as soon as we can, Anna,” he’d lied sincerely, and I hoped I hadn’t been too obvious about my contempt for his attempt to spare my feelings. Because feelings are for fucking pussies.

“So,” I’d snapped, “what’s this shit I’m doing? Troubleshooting?” I’d scanned the file, daring to be even more indignant. “You take me off Norbera to troubleshoot what? A Finnish company that makes snowshoes?” I was ripshit mad, my brain warning me that the look in Aaron’s eyes told me he was thinking of firing me now, because he and I both knew I wasn’t being taken off Norbera to troubleshoot elvankent escort bayan anything. I was being taken off Norbera because Norbera wanted me off. I tossed the file onto his desk. “Anyone can do this. Hell, Kyle Voles can do this. Put him on it, Aaron.”

He’d waited a moment to reply, just long enough for me to know it would be best for me to shut my piehole. Aaron didn’t often yell, but the white-hot rage in my brain was trying to make that happen. And damn the consequences. “Kyle’s fine where he is,” Aaron said mildly. “You? Maybe not so much, Anna.” He was trying, I knew, trying desperately to help me save face.

“I’m fine,” I spat. “I’d be even better if I was doing important work on a real account, and not dealing with people named…” I leaned in to glance at the name on the folder, “Sven? Fucking cartoon moose characters? I mean, I know my name is Anna, but that doesn’t mean I’m into snowy fucking adventures. Who’s his friend, goddamn Olaf?”

“All our accounts are important,” he said carefully.

“Yeah, well, some more than others.”

“They’re Swedish, too,” he continued as though I’d said nothing. “Not Finnish. Scandinavians can be touchy about that kind of thing.” He produced a tight smile. “If you need to head up that way, you might want to remember that. Saabs, not reindeer.”

I stared at him until his smile faded, his eyes falling to his desk. “Look,” he went on after a deep breath, “I can see you’re pissed. Anyone would be.” His eyes met mine for a couple seconds before he sent them toward the window, looking over the city. Great view up here. I was just one floor below, and likely to stay there forever now. “Things weren’t ideal in Bermuda. I get it. Happened to me once, too, in San Diego of all places. Shit happens. Bad presentation, lack of chemistry, a rip in your suit… could be anything.” He glanced at me again. “Stain on your clothes. Who knows why these things happen? The key, Anna, is to suck it up and keep going because you know, Anna, you know, that a single setback doesn’t define you. Right?”

I was glaring, a cornered bull. “I didn’t fuck up, Aaron.”

He shrugged evenly. “I didn’t say you did, Anna.” He left out the obvious addition: because Kyle saved the meeting. “I was going to pull you in once you got back anyway, though.” He lifted another memo. “Got this from HR.”


“No, no,” he soothed me, his eyebrows shooting up. “No. They say you’ve got too much unused vacation time.” He cracked a smile. “You’re the company recordholder, Anna.”

“That’s because vacation is for pussies, Aaron.” I was holding myself very still in his Eames chair, the less expensive one he used for visitors. This was bad.

“Be that as it may.” He laid the paper back down, his eyes on it, gathering himself. “Anna.” He waited for me to soften, but I was prepared to wait all week. So he sighed. “Take two weeks. You need it. It’s the holidays. Come back in January and we’ll send you off to Sweden for a change.” He looked away. “You can bring your skis.”

“Aaron?” I said it very quickly, and so quietly that I wasn’t sure at first that I’d said it out loud. He cocked his head. “Do I need to resign?”

He had to make himself smile. “You better not.” He hesitated. “But you do need to go away for the holidays, Anna. Even though vacation is for pussies.” His face softened. “Take it as a positive. Think of it as an opportunity for personal growth.”

The next morning had left me rattled in the predawn light as I’d dragged myself awake, my head and body a ragged mess like a sponge squeezed so much that it’s shredding. I’d sat up carefully in the dark, sensing that I needed silence, that I was not alone, that I needed to get home. It bugged me profoundly that I couldn’t piece together where I was nor what had happened the night before; I recalled a bar with Mark Knopfler on the sound system, a drink, some dancing.

The early bluish light was sneaking in through a big window at the foot of this strange bed, showing me huddled shapes in twisted sheets. My head felt like a sandbag as I swiveled it around, building the puzzle, taking inventory; my body felt battered and tender, the soreness deep. I had to piss very badly.

The foot of the bed seemed miles away; it was a ginormous mattress, and as I crept naked across the stiff sheets I struggled to keep my focus. The peeping sun showed me a long, hairy leg to my left, and someone else’s bare foot to my right; Jesus. If that foot was a guy’s, it would explain the dull flame I felt all through my ass and groin. I thought about getting a look at their dicks to see what I’d had done to me.

Double penetration. Who needs it?

The guy’s bathroom was a palace of marble, all gold faucets and a heavy shower curtain, complete with a couple lines of coke still chopped out on the counter by the sink. My urine was a thick, cloudy mess in the bowl, and the moment I got up I felt like I had to piss some more. “Fuuck,” I whimpered to myself in the mirror, staring into my own bleak eyes and wondering how soon I could get to a clinic; I no longer needed to go look at the guys’ cocks. I’d felt this way before. At least one of them had been too big, that was for sure. Ah well. The haggard ache in my clit told me I’d at least enjoyed getting it.

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