Winding Down

Checking In on our old friend, “The Grind.”

Emma tapped the pencil against the kitchen table and frowned. This was getting her nowhere. The words on the monitor read “Blah, blah blah. Blah blah,” and the scribbles on the piece of paper sitting beside it weren’t doing that much better.

Anyway, she’d rather pay attention to her boyfriend, who was darting through the apartment, sweeping up and donning his wardrobe. While he popped his collar and slipped an already knotted tie around his neck, he caught her eye and smirked that smirk.

She was such a sucker for that smirk.

“Whatever will you do without me for the rest of the day?” he asked.

She waved her hand at the laptop. “This, for the afternoon,” she replied. “Tonight I think I’m going to fuck a Russian sailor. Maybe two.”

“Sounds exhausting.”

“Do you have to work on Sunday?” She drew out the have long enough for him to know she was serious.

“Yes,” he reminded her. “Just like the other fifty-one Sundays since this time last year.”

“You didn’t really work all those Sundays, did you?”

“I was supposed to work the other fifty-one Sundays,” he admitted.

She bounced in her chair. “Exactly! You have no sense of personal responsibility!”

“It’s true.”

“So play hooky!” Folding her hands in prayer, she added, “Please! I’ll give you a blowjob!”

He seemed considering it, but his shoulders fell in resignation. “Em, I have to talk to my editor. For real this time. I’m getting too old for this kind of life.”

“Dude, you’re not even thirty.”

I can’t spend another night in a holding cell,” he sighed. “I just can’t.”

Reluctantly, she agreed. Sure her initial attraction to him was that whole bad-boy thing, but that was going to wear thin soon. Hell, it was already starting to. She was sick of worrying all the time. Creases were already forming on her forehead. Besides, it’s not like she was one of those harpies who lived to control and emasculate; growing up was kind of his idea in the first place. She should probably be encouraging him.

Still, she was sitting here, wearing the pajamas that never failed to turn him on, yet he was halfway to the door. Couldn’t he talk to his boss tomorrow? Or, like, a half hour late? What did she have to do here? It was time for a Hail Mary. “But it’s Valentine’s Day!”

“It’s March.”

“It’s my birthday!”

“You’re a Leo.”

She grunted, “You just had to be one of the attentive ones, didn’t you?” Her fingers snapped as something occurred to her. “That reminds me: what’s a nine-letter word for ‘Kipling’s Kitty’?”

“Shere Khan,” he said. “Is that something you’re required to answer for a job listing?”

After a moment of intense concentration, she replied, “Yes.” As subtly as possible, she flipped over the newspaper to the side that didn’t feature the crossword.

“Anything else potential employers need to know about racist colonial literature before I go?”

Her eyes widened, and she sat straight up. “Dude, you should get a cat!”

“I don’t like cats,” he reminded her.

“You should get a cat for me.”

“Why don’t you get a cat for you?”

“Because you’ll end up being the one who has to feed it and take it on walks anyway.”

He shook his head. “You don’t take cats on walks.”

“See?” she said. “You know shit like that. I promise I’ll come over and visit it every day.”

“I don’t want a cat.”

She sprang to her feet and ran her hands seductively over his chest. “For me?”

“Not even for you.”

With a pout, she slipped a finger between a pair of his buttons and tickled his skin. “If you loved me, you’d get a cat.”

“Are we really using that word, Em?”

Fuck. That was a really good question. That’s the word that ended her last relationship, and he had his own hang-ups about it. But really, the only problem here seemed to be those letters strung together in that particular order. Everything else existed already–for her, it had set in just before they got together for real back in November; she was pretty sure he’d made it there even earlier than that.

They should say it soon. This was getting ridiculous.

“I was kidding,” she told him.

“Of course you were,” he replied.

It was time to change the subject, and since her hands were in the general area: “You should lose the tie.”

“Oh, hell no!” he snorted.

“Why not?”

“It’s my thing,” he replied.

“I had this denim jacket for years,” she said wistfully. “I wore it all the time, even under heavy coats in the winter. It was my thing. I totally grew out of it.”

“You used to be smaller?”

She narrowed her eyes. “I’m not that small.”

He shrugged.

“Jesus, dude, we’re almost the same height!”

He shrugged again.

“Listen,” she continued, “when you get to be my age, you’ll find that things aren’t really that big a deal.”

“Your age?” he laughed. “Em, you’re thirty-two.”

“I’ve crossed the threshold, dude!” She pointed at her forehead. “I have wrinkles!”

He kissed her there. “So?”

“The boobs go next, you realize,” she told him. “I know how much you like the boobs.”

He gestured to her computer. “Find a job with insurance, and we can fix that.”

“Lose the tie, Max.”

“Never.”

“For me?”

He pulled it over his head and handed it over. “For you.”

Emma bit her lip.

“Anyway,” he concluded, “I kind of want to get this thing with Myron over with. He yells a lot, and my nerves are shot from getting arrested this weekend.”

After she released him, they retreated to her bedroom, and she tossed the tie onto the mattress, where it would probably be used later as a restraint. She slapped him on the ass. “Go be an adult, dude.”

Before he crawled out the window, his preferred exit, he said, “My name’s not Dude, Em.”

“My name’s not Em, dude,” she replied.

He smirked that smirk again.

They had to say it soon. This was getting ridiculous.

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