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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Fourteen, Zoe II

“It’s the same across all families. Piss them off and you’re done.”
Chuck Pavaghi


April evening, 2016

GM: Zoe’s (miserable) path takes her to a three-story house built in the second-generation Creole style that is easily recognizable by its distinctive L-shape, flush position to the sidewalk, French doors, broad roofline supported by light wooden colonnettes, and generous, traditional wrought iron gallery overflowing with potted red and pink geraniums. (In southeast Louisiana, a distinction is made between “balconies”, which are self-supporting and attached to the side of the building, and “galleries,” which are supported from the ground by poles or columns.) A wooden sign hangs from the red-bricked building’s front entrance. Faded and crammed-in letters read:

Tante Lescaut’s Occult Curiosities, Horoscopes, & Palmistry

Zoe would have to squint to make out the last two words below the shop’s name. They are even smaller and their paint is even more faded. She can’t read them now. Doesn’t bother. But she knows what they say.

Since 1721

A more legible sign on the double French doors reads simply:

OPEN

The store’s telltale chiming bell sounds as Zoe pushes the door open. The smell of old books, incense, and stranger things has barely filled her nostrils before three mewing cats—one black, one ginger, and one calico—approach her legs.

They sniff, but they don’t rub against her.

She’s too wet.

Further meows sound from further inside the store. It’s a dark, claustrophobic space cramped with overflowing bookshelves, ancient paint-cracked radiators, and occult knick-knacks ranging from pin-stabbed voodoo dolls to coiled, insignia-painted snake skeletons that stare at Amelie with empty eye sockets. Pentagrams, dream-catchers, and apotropaic talismans dangle from ceilings and partly obscure the doorways’ bead curtains.

Cats are everywhere. They roam over the stage prop furniture, track soiled cat litter over the floor, and crouch from perches atop bookshelves to silently watch the store’s patrons. Two felines even lie sleeping on the countertop that shares the cash register. They casually claim the whole space without regard for the dark-haired person who is also trying to use it. Brijbala, a twenty-something third-gender South Asian dressed in an orange… Zoe can’t remember what it it’s called. Some kind of Indian-looking robe or dress. They’re also bedecked in a multichromatic array of crystal- and wood-beaded bracelets, necklaces, and pendants. A red bindi stares unblinkingly from their forehead.

Brijbala’s eyebrows raise at Zoe’s state.

“Astagfarallah,” they murmur.

Zoe’s not sure what that literally means.

But it’s probably stating the obvious:

She looks like shit.

Zoe: Zoe adores cats near as much as dogs. Perhaps it has something to do with how unconditional a creature’s love is. Maybe that’s why she’s never gotten along with her mother.

She looks to Bri—she’s always called them Bri, whether they like it or not—and forces a smile that looks as if she’s a children’s spooky bedtime story come to life. It’s painful.

It’s probably even more painful to look at.

“…I need help.”

GM: “I can see dot,” Bri replies, eyebrows raised as they approach Zoe. “Astagfarallah, you are wet.” They raise their voice. “Tantsy! Tantsy!”

Zoe: Dot? What dot?

She nods.

“It’s—it’s not been a good day, Bri.”

She’s shivering. Drenched. Mud up to her thighs and flecked up her shirt.

GM: “I can see dot too,” says Bri. “Tantsy! Tantsy!”

“I hear’ ya da firs’ ti’, Bala, I’s comin’!” comes an elderly-sounding lady’s gumbo-thick reply.

Several feline mews and the faint rustle of beads heralds the proprietor’s arrival through a curtain of the same material. Césarine "Tantsy” Rouselle’s skin is lumpy all over and so black it has a purple sheen, while her hair so grayed and frizzy that it looks like half-worn S.O.S. pads. Her sunken cheekbones are struck with rouge and her upper eyelids are painted with fluorescent shades of pale lilac. She wears a blue moo-moo stitched with yellow stars, moons, and more esoteric planetary symbols, along with bifurcated librarian glasses that look plucked straight out of the 1960s. Three cats purr and circle around her spider-veined, swollen legs and sandal-beaded feet.

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The old woman squints at Zoe past her glasses.

“Zelda, ya look righ’ awful, wha’ happened to ya?”

Zoe: What dot? Is this more of her usual insanity? She’s not unknown to speak what sound like wackadoo words to anyone outside the occult community.

She’s long-since given up on correcting her name. At least his one has two syllables.

“I—.. It’s a long s-story.. I— Everything’s w-wet.” She blubbers her words, slurring between her crying and shivering.

“I—.. I need a shower. And food. And—and—and—andtheytookEVERYTHINGTantsy!”

GM: She needs to pee, too.

It’s been a while since she went.

Zoe: “And I need to PEE!”

Her last word blows a bubble of snot so large that its apex hovers at the low end of her vision.

GM: “Righ’, righ’, Bala, make i’ happen, willya?” says Tantsy, seemingly unbothered by the snot. Or perhaps noncomprehending. “F’get da tea, now, f’get it, willya?”

Several cats meow.

“Ov course, Tantsy,” says Bri. “I’ll see ef we haf any food.”

“Lemme see ya han’, Zelda, lemme see ya han’,” Tantsy says distractedly as Bri sets off. The old woman shuffles closer.

Zoe: Zoe is the human equivalent of a wounded animal placing trust in the first warm embraced offered. She gives her hand, trembling.

GM: Tantsy splays out Zoe’s hand in hers, squints close, turns it upside down, then right-side up, and squints even closer.

“Whoa!” she exclaims, looking back up. “I go’ sum ba’ news, Zaylee, you go’ sum BAD lines! Real bad! You gon’… you gon’ be dead ’fore da year out, ’m sorry ta say.”

Zoe: She stares.

..

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!… I D-D-D-DON’T W-WANT TO D-DIE TANTSY!”

GM: Several of the nearby cats meow sharply at the outburst.

Tantsy absently nods and pats Zoe’s wet hand, as though she’d merely said “that’s interesting.”

“Sorry, sorry, bu’ you gon’ die! Is’ wha’ ya lines say, Josie, nothin’a be done. I’m real sorry, bu’ ya gon’ die pretty soon!”

Zoe: Her words are hardly intelligible she’s crying so hard.

“Mm-mm-mom— icked— out! An— -ank, EMPTY! Clothes-!”

She points at the bag.

“A—and he—he cheated on m-me and DIED!”

She sniffles.

“D-d-did you jynx him?”

GM: Tantsy nods agreeably and pats Zoe’s hand a few more times.

“I jinx lossa folks, I sure do! You be’ I did, the car hit ’im, dinnit? Suh-mack! Middle of da road!”

Zoe: She shakes her head, spiraling water about her. Oh no. Poor cats.

“N-no! He had a—.. an accident! A heart or—or something. In the coffee!”

GM: The cats have mostly pulled away from the soaking wet intruder into their home. There’s a few affronted-sounding mews.

“Righ’, righ’, da coffee, I knew dat, Sophie,” Tantsy nods, indifferent as some raindrops splash over her face. There’s a few more absent pats of the hand. “Boilin’ coffee, he gulp it down, an’ it burned ‘im, dinnit, boiled righ’ outta his guts, it was so hawt! I made ‘im ’splode, haw haw! Dat’ll teach ‘im! Das’ wha’ he get fo’… fo’…”

Tantsy trails off.

“’Mind me, what he do, ’gain?”

Zoe: “Y-yeah! H-he must have!”

Despite her crying, the sheer ridiculousness of Tantsy brings some balance to her negative clime.

“H-he cheated on me! I said I needed him! He-.. he brought another girl! And kissed her! Then died! I think.”

GM: “Yep, yep, dat it, he died!” nods Tantsy. “You go’ it wrong, dough, he died, den he kissed da girl. Das’ how it happened.”

Zoe: Zoe squints. What?

GM: Tantsy waves a hand.

“No, no, wai’, firs’ he kissed her, den he cheated on her, den he died. Das’ it.”

“Bu’ he loved you, Sophia, he really did. ’Member him always, how he loved you.”

Zoe: “He DIDN’T! He CHEATED on me! And my—my mother shut me out of—..”

GM: Tantsy nods agreeably. “Das’ right, it real sad, real sad, but ‘is life. If you wan’, I can summon ‘is spirit, so you can say bye. Long goodbye, nice an’ proper, sweet-like?”

“I can feel ‘is spirit righ’ now, Scarlett, you’re da only thing he thinkin’ of!”

“You wan’ some weed?”

Zoe: Zoe nods, then stops.

“I.. don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Even if Tantsy can summon spirits, what if he only validates what he implied: that he never loved her? That he used her?

She regards the woman.

Drugs got her into this mess.

“Fuck it. Yes.”

GM: Tantsy ambles over to a junk-cluttered seance table with several cat-occupied chairs. She absently sits down on the cat, causing it to meow furiously and race off before it’s squashed under her posterior. The old woman reaches into the folds of her Mickey Mouse-stitched moomoo and produces two handrolled joints and a cigarette lighter. She directs Zoe to hold the former as she lights the latter.

“Dis’ll help ya talk ta as’roids too, Pisces real happy wi’ ya, ya know. Say ya gon’ live a long wonnerful life. Ya gon’ have ten baby boys, an’ twelve gran’babies!”

Zoe: Zoe takes the joint, slipping it between her lips. It comes back to her easily. Too easily. She leans in for the light.

Then chokes.

“I thought I was going to die soon!”

GM: The marijuana smoke is a welcome feeling until she starts choking.

Tantsy waves a hand.

“Two of ‘em gon’ die young, ya boys da’ is, bu’ eigh’ boys an’ foah moah granbabies ain’ bad, innit?”

Zoe: “N-no! You said I was going to die!”

She realizes then that she didn’t question it at all. She simply accepted it when Tantsy first said it: Zoe will die soon.

GM: “Oh, well, you is gon’ die soon, bu’ ya gon’ have ten baby boys ’fore ya do,” nods Tantsy, taking a long drag from her joint.

“Be’er get started on names, righ’? Haw haw haw!”

Zoe: Zoe clasps a protective hand to her belly.

NOPE.

She inhales deeply from the joint. Make it go away. Make it all go away.

“I don’t know what to do, Tantsy. I’ve got nothing.”

GM: Tantsy smacks her lips and takes another long drag from the joint.

“Naw, naw, Pisces like you, you go’ plenny. You gon’ do a lot, ‘fore ya die. Ten boys, an’ one o’ em’s gon’ be president!”

Bri appears. They’ve got a candy bar and a tea set with a steaming kettle and two full cups.

“Dat’s all de food I could find, sorry. Vould you care for tea?”

Zoe is aware that the tea at Tantsy’s is very, very strong.

Zoe: President of what? Loserville?

That single but of kindness is enough to bring the tears back, this time silently. The old woman always seems to know exactly how to help Zoe find her footing. Even if her sanity is in question.

“That would be lovely.”

GM: Bri sets down the teacups on the table, along with the Butterfingers candy bar, then withdraws.

The tea tastes incredibly strong. It’s at once sweet and bitter like black licorice and makes Zoe’s head swim. She can feel her heart pounding in her chest.

Zoe: It’s incredibly strong, but such is the norm for Ms. Tantsy. She doesn’t half-ass anything! And she has a big ass!

“I wish you could understand what’s happening, Ms. Tantsy. I really need your help,” she laments after a sip of that horrid solution.

GM: It leaves an oily aftertaste in her mouth.

Her stomach growls.

She still needs to pee.

She’s still soaked to the bone in her wet clothes.

But it is warm and dry here, at least. She can hear the rain pounding against the roof over the low mewing of the shop’s many cats.

One of them rubs against Tantsy’s leg. She smacks her lips and takes another long drag of the weed joint.

Zoe’s head feels funny. All of her feels funny. Like she’s floating away from her body and all of its aches and wants and pains. It feels like this scene can’t possibly be real. Is this actually happening to her, Zoe Kelly, whose life was fantastic just under an hour ago?

Zoe Kelly was rich. Zoe Kelly was successful. Zoe Kelly had a successful boyfriend. Zoe Kelly lived in a nice apartment. Zoe Kelly had a future ahead of her.

Zoe Kelly isn’t supposed to be a sobbing, rain-soaked mess who sits around an occult shop’s rickety table smoking weed with a crazy old lady while a sad-looking torn sack of soiled clothes sits in an expanding pool of dirty water.

“You wan’, we cou’ do a tarot readin’,” Tantsy offers helpfully.

Zoe: The tea used to be used as a private exercise in modesty. She consumed not because she liked it, but because it helped center her lifelong lack of need in reality: sometimes, those who had not had to make due with what they had.

Of course, she knows that Tantsy simply enjoys the wildly unattractive blend of spices and suffering.

Today, it makes Zoe want to vomit. It’s not so philosophical on an empty stomach.

And it’s more to pee. Her bladder hurts. And she’s hungry. Her stomach hurts. If she vomits, it’ll be bile and a mouthful of tea.

The warm-dry only makes her cold-wet more apparent. She shivers.

And then she doesn’t. She’s warm, and cuddly, and light, and loved, and—

What did Tantsy put in that joint?

She settles dilated, glacial eyes on the elder and harumphs.

“Sure. You can’t predict worse than a dead, cheating boyfriend leaving you with 8 kids after today.”

She looks left and right, making sure there isn’t any beer to hold. Superstious? A little.

GM: There’s no beer, at least. Just a glass of green-looking tea and a fat candy bar.

Tantsy just cackles at Zoe’s answer, cricking her joints as she gets up. She sets the lipstick-smeared weed joint down on the table. She ambles off, past the mewling cats, then retrieves a stack of tarot cards from a cluttered shelf. She absently shuffles them between her veined hands as she returns and sits back down.

“So which way you wan’ do it, Samantha? We kin do da love spread, da success spread, da celtic cross, c’reer, three car’, spirishal…”

Zoe’s familiar enough with those.

The Love Spread. This six-card spread helps you evaluate your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connections with your partner. It can tell you how strong and happy you are, and what you can do to improve your relationship or take it to the next level.

The Success Spread. This five-card spread is used when you are facing hardships or obstacles in your life. It can point you in the right direction to deal with a problem, and it can help you to solve the problem and overcome the challenges you are facing. It can also warn you about a coming disaster in your life and how to prepare for it.

The Celtic Cross Spread. This ten-card spread is ideal for dealing with intricate situations, helping the reader understand the full depth of the problem and the best way to deal with it.

The Career Path Spread. This seven-card spread helps you deal with the challenges in your professional life. It may include ‘how to get that raise or promotion’, ‘whether the job you are in now is the right one for you’, or ‘what other career choices are favorable for you’.

The Three Card Spread. This is the simplest and the most broadly useful spread, as it has only three cards. It is also one of the most powerful spreads, as it can give you prompt answers for anything you want to know or find out.

The Spiritual Spread. This eight-card spread helps when you are plagued by spiritual issues. It addresses your innermost fears and worries and how you can move forward on your spiritual journey.

Zoe: She snags the candy bar from the table and unwraps a corner, nibbling on it. Her mother forbade sweets all her life, even into adulthood. In her undergraduate, she once learned of moderation through over indulgence. Since then, she’s limited her sweets again.

But she’s hungry. So hungry.

Nibble nibble.

“Success.”

GM: It’s sugary, chocolatey, and buttery. It’s a poor substitute for real food.

But it fills.

Tantsy shuffles the cards some more, closing her eyes and running her fingers over them, then lays out five cards in a horseshoe spread. One card at the top. Two lower cards at the left and right. Two more cards, also lower, to the left and right of those cards.

Zoe: She swallows. It’s hard. She wants real food.

She doesn’t want the cards to be turned.

It’ll get worse, won’t it?

GM: “Okay, now dis’ firs’ one gon’ tell us ya problems, da things ya believe dat’re holdin’ ya back…” says Tantsy.

She flips it over.

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“Wuh oh,” says Tantsy.

Zoe: The color drains from her face. The candy bar rebels in her stomach.

GM: “Lesse… ya been oppressed, lately?” asks Tantsy.

“Obsessed, depen’ent, addicted, pleasuh-seekin’?”

Zoe: She stares.

GM: “Cuz da devil, he chained up da man an’ woman, see. Dey his slaves.”

“But dey ain’ lookin’ like dey min’in it too much, is dey?”

“A’ firs’, anyway, haw haw!”

Zoe: “I—.. yes, but I was punished for that already, Tantsy.”

GM: Tantsy nods.

“Shoh, shoh, dis’ jus’ how dey go’ where dey is.”

“Da’ how you go’ where you is?”

Zoe: “How I .. go where I am?”

GM: “Da man go’ a flame on his tail while da woman got a bowla grapes on her tail, which means dey addicted ta power an’ da fine things in life.”

“But dey don’ look too happy up close, now do dey? Dey los’ deir power, dey naked an’ chained up, an’ dey exposed an’ ashamed.”

“‘Cuz dat wut happen when da devil’s ya masser, haw haw haw!”

“Dey be’er fin’ some clothes! Haw haw haw!”

Zoe: “Are you saying I’ve given too much to my own vice?” She’s still confused.

GM: Tantsy takes a long drag from her joint.

“Yes, yes, def’nitely, ya vice is ya masser, an’ ’is made ya naked!”

Zoe: She begins to cry again.

“It is, Me. Tantsy, it is! I—I said yes to something I shouldn’t have, and my M-Mom caught me! She… she took everything.”

GM: Tantsy nods along.

“Das’ da devil, yessir! He a bad masser! Bu’ lesee wha’ ya need ta do now, hey? Dis da thing you gotta do!”

Zoe: She nods and waits for what comes next. Probably the police at the door. She won’t be surprised if her mother calls them, too.

GM: Tantsy flips over the card.

Zoe: Zoe wants to flip over the table.

GM: Tantsy frowns.

“Huh, das’ weird!”

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Zoe: Zoe has seen tarot readings before. It didn’t interest her. She knows that upside down is usually a bad sign.

Usually?

GM: “See, when temperance is uprigh’, da means… peace, patience, calm, harmony, seren’ty, balance.”

Zoe: She’s fucked.

GM: “Upsi’ down, here, da means… somethin’ outta balance, excess. Turbulence.”

“An’ it means das’ wha’ you gotta do, ta ’scape da devil.”

“Uh, remin’ me what we readin’ fo, ya wanna fin’ a husband, is da’ it?”

Zoe: “I’m not sure I can do that anymore, Ms. Tantsy,” she relents, her brow furrowing with thought.

Especially if she keeps offering her drugs.

And forgetting her. Everyone wants to forget her.

She’s circling the drain, and not a soul wants to save her.

“N-no, Ms. Tantsy. I—I need my life back.”

GM: “Oh, well, dis how ya ge’ it back, den!” Tantsy nods.

“Excess!”

“You shou’ eat a lotta hot dogs.”

“Do ya like hot dogs?”

Zoe: “Made from Hokkaido Wagyu scraps?”

Otherwise, no.

GM: “Made ferm any kinda scraps!” Tantsy nods. “You shou’ ea’ a lotta ’em.”

She waves at the candy bar.

“Eat ya candy, now. G’wan, eat up.”

“Excess!”

“Das’ how ya ge’ ya life back.”

“Excess!”

Zoe: “Excess? What does excess…?”

She bites a more full mouthful of chocolate. It takes a team of lawyers to get her to swallow.

GM: Her stomach loudly growls.

“Excess! Moah, moah!” exclaims Tantsy, clapping her hands.

“Drink ya tea, too. Excess!”

Zoe: “Y-yes, Ms. Tantsy!”

She stuffs the entire candy bar in. Then the tea. Then she swallows.

She feels as if her head was stuffed into a used toilet.

GM: The candy bar tastes oily and sinks down her throat like a brick. Her head swims some more. She feels woozy, but is all-too conscious of her heart’s strained beating in her ears.

Tantsy claps her hands.

“Goo’, goo’! Excess! Dat be it!”

“Make sure ya eat some hot dogs, too.”

“Or maybe pizza, dat also okay.”

Zoe: “I—I have to pee, Ms. Tants—”

She burps, covers her mouth, and runs for the bathroom.


April evening, 2016

GM: The peeling wallpaper is painted with rows of mushrooms. The toilet is moderately clean. The piss comes out of her like a released tide, and the shit after it. She feels really, really woozy. Her stomach hurts. The mushrooms swim in and out of focus.

Zoe: She ran because she has to puke, but everything inside her is fighting. The chocolate and tea have a domestic dispute in her stomach. Her head wants child support from her heart. Her heart calls its baby daddy, her bowels, who state their argument. Explosively. Her bladder finally releases with an OOOOOOoooOOOOOMMmmnYES…. Everyone else pauses. They clap. She pukes between her legs. At least it isn’t in her underwear. How does she puke so much? She hasn’t eaten since breakfast.

She’s never felt so empty. Her heart. Her stomach. Her innards. Everything except her head, which swims as if the tide that swept Moses away takes a holiday between her ears.

GM: She feels a little better, with her stomach purged. The Butterfingers bar is completely intact, albeit wet with rancid bile. The bile-soaked candy ferments in a pool of shit and piss. Zoe can smell the nauseous cocktail wafting up from between her legs. There’s some orange flecks of vomit over her thighs, too. Evidently, there’s only so far she can spread her legs under short notice.

Chuck would agree with that, wouldn’t he?

His apartment is probably clean, warm, and has lots of food.

If she’d just taken his offer she’d be clean and dry. So would her clothes. Maybe she could’ve even gone back for multiple trips of stuff from her apartment.

Then again, when Mom said she was being kicked out, did it occur to her that she’d end up here?

Zoe: Excess. If she hears the word again, she’s liable to become excessively violent.

Or she might, if she stops feeling so absolutely terrible. She wraps her hand with several layers of toilet paper, cleaning herself off as best she can manage with the dollar-store wonton-skins Tantsy buys for toilet paper.

Oh, how angry her mother will be if—

Chuck.

Suddenly Chuck doesn’t sound so bad.

In perspective, that is.

But him and his grubby hands…

She shivers. What was once a clear answer is suddenly blooming temptation.

She can always kill him. His kind die all the time and the police blame others. Never the white girl.

But he’s rich. It probably won’t be the same.

Hmn.

Maybe this will work.

Zoe opens her phone and scans her contacts: Charley, Charlie, Cheeseburger’s Cheez Hut, Chubby Classmate, Dave.

Dave?

Where is Chuck?

She keeps scrolling.

Oh. She’d put him under the prefix, "NOPE: ", along with a number of others. She resets him to “Chuck Pavaghi” in case he ever glances at her phone, and texts him.

I live with you for one month. You recover everything my mother is throwing out. You provide a space for it all, clean, warm and dry. I’ll sleep with you five times during the month at times of your choosing provided it doesn’t affect my professional obligations.

She pauses, rereading and considering. She still can just kill him. What does she have to lose?

Then she adds:

No questions asked or complaints given on what you want during those 5 so long as it doesn’t leave a mark. No videos. No pictures. No recording. Contract to be written.

GM: Chuck texts back:

one fuck a week? yeah fuck that

Zoe: Counter offer, Business Man.

GM: you need to get me off every day

Zoe: I’ll fuck you every three and you can service yourself to me on the interim two.

I know how much you want me.

GM: and i know how much u dont u must be prty desprte to be offering this soon

but tell u what youll only have to blow me half the days

actual sex the other half

stay or leave whenever u like but i cum every day your here

Zoe: $100k and I’ll agree.

God, he can’t even make full sentences.

GM: haha yeah no lol

Zoe: It’s not like the money means anything to you. It’s peanuts. You’d pay that much for an escort of my quality.

GM: yeah no lol no escorts that much

u do kno how much one costs rite?

Zoe: A white escort won’t fulfill the thoughts you have about me. You want what you want? I want cash and a place.

GM: __ur not worth 100k lol. u can fuck me every day __

Zoe: 75k, you fuck me once per day, bank days you don’t feel it, and all of the above asks.

And I get to borrow a car. BORROW.

GM: hahahaha yah ur not worth 75k either

The two negotiate back and forth. Chuck isn’t willing to make a down payment on a house to stick his dick in her, even daily. But he does want to fuck her, or he’d have just stopped responding by now.

Zoe: Okay. I get a place to stay, storage, and a car to use that I will pay for my own gas in. You get to fuck me once a day.

Is her dignity really worth a roof?

Yes.

She has none left, anyway.

And we’ll bring my things in from the garbage together. Or one of your staff.

GM: ok that works swing by whnvr

That is what her dignity is worth.

A roof.

A space for her stuff.

A borrowed car.

And no gas.

Zoe: She breathes a sigh of relief. Sorry, body. Sorry, dignity. Not sorry, Chris.

I don’t suppose I could get a ride?

GM: sure if u dont wear any clothes when your at my place ;)

bsides wen were fuckin obvsly lol

Zoe: One day without clothes for a ride.

Anything is less humiliating than this day.

GM: c u soon ;) were u at?

Zoe: She texts him the address of the shop, then pulls her clothing together, ensuring she’s clean first. She returns to Ms. Tantsy for the other half of reading and seats herself across the older woman. She looks just as crummy as when she went to pee a few minutes earlier, but with a light tinge of rose to her cheeks.

GM: She finds Tantsy asleep in her chair with a cat on her lap. Two more cats have taken over Zoe’s chair. Another feline has sat down in ‘catloaf’ position over the cards.

Zoe: She sighs.

Still hungry. Still wet. Not the kind of wet Chuck wants.

Oh, he’s in for a treat when he sees her.

For a few moments, she considers calling off the whole thing. Maybe she can call Sami. It’s been a little while since they’ve been close, but they have a history, and that history should still mean something to her. Maybe.

Not her sisters or brother. No, Mom would have warned them off.

Not President McGregor. She doesn’t want to jeopardize her PhD further, and he might be just as shallow as Chuck. At least Chuck has the means to provide for her if she really needs it. For another deal, she’s sure.

Her other friends? Her band? She can’t bear the thought of them seeing her like this. Years of friendship, and she’s still insecure about being seen as the poser rich girl. Without her wealth, she falls to pieces. What will that tell them?

Chuck it is. She’ll suffer, but she’ll benefit..

“See ya later, Ms. Tantsy,” she murmurs, dragging her back to the door to wait. Fuck, this weed is strong.


April evening, 2016

GM: Zoe waits by the door.

She’s still wet.

Still hungry.

Still vaguely nauseous.

At least she doesn’t need to pee or shit.

Perhaps she feels cleaner.

Perhaps she doesn’t.

But eventually, she gets a text from Chuck:

__Im outside_

He’s driving a flashy-looking BMW. He parks by the curb, but makes no move to actually get out and help her with her very wet and very heavy laundry bag.

Zoe: The monster emerges. He probably doesn’t recognize her.

Why is a homeless woman opening his door?

It’s locked. She knocks.

GM: He gives the homeless woman a disgusted look at the knock. He opens his mouth, as if to say something. Something angry.

Then he blinks.

Then he frowns.

He taps into his phone.

Zoe gets a text on hers.

if thats actually u text me back

Zoe: She slaps her phone against the window, showing his text.

“IT’S BEEN A LONG DAY!”

GM: “Jesus, you look like shit,” says Chuck.

It sounds more critical than piteous.

But the car door unlocks.

Zoe: She opens the back door, tossing her life onto the floor. Sopping wet. Soaked through. At least the laptop is off. It’s probably salvageable.

She opens the passenger door and falls into the car, shivering.

Still want to fuck me?

GM: Chuck starts driving.

He looks less than pleased by the sound of wet cloth slopping against his car’s floor.

“If you can’t clean up after a shower, deal’s off,” he says.

Zoe: “I just need a shower,” she grumps.

“A shower. Dry clothes. And therapy. You know I’m good for my word. A Kelly never fails to deliver.”

GM: “Yeah, we’ll see there.”

“Man, your parents must be pissed.”

“The hell did you do?”

Zoe: “Y-y-you have no fucking idea. Then again, maybe you do. Asian parents are strict, right?”

GM: “They are, yeah.”

“All about getting good grades.”

Zoe: “M-mom didn’t like learning I got into coke again.”

She looks at him sideways.

“…you don’t … do you?”

GM: “Sometimes, yeah,” says Chuck.

Oh.

Oh.

Maybe he can hook her up.

He snorts.

“Parents. Mine don’t give a shit. S’long as I do my job.”

Zoe: “Mine do. Did. Image and all that.”

There’s a long pause.

“…I’ll clean up.”

GM: “Girls on drugs are junkies whoring themselves out.”

“Guys on drugs are just partying hard.”

Zoe: Her thoughts wander to a scene involving her in a teacher’s outfit, him with a bad grade, and a riding crop. Maybe the next month won’t be what she thinks it will.

Hm.

“Well, this girl was coming home for a hit when she met her mother at her apartment handing her an eviction notice.”

A pause.

“Do you have chips at home? I haven’t had chips in years. I want chips. Barbecue. Or sour cream and onions. Didn’t they produce some Mountain Dew Dorito flavor?”

GM: “…your parents don’t let you eat onions?”

“Oh, no. You mean chips.”

“Yeah. I’ve got chips.”

Chuck grins.

“I can think of some fun ways for you to eat them.”

Zoe: “Whatever. As long as I get a shower first. And food. I’m starving.

She really doesn’t care. Is it numbness? She isn’t sure.

She nestles into her little nook of the car, wrapping herself in her arms.

“You know, if you don’t entirely abuse our deal, this could become a beautiful friendship.”

As long as it involves chips.

GM: The car is warm and the seats comfortable leather. Rain thunks against the windows outside.

“Hey, as long as you’re not a bitch about anything, I can be a great friend to have.”

Zoe: She mumbles something involving the word ‘bitch’.

“…what—”

Hm. No. She doesn’t want to ask that yet.

“Can I shower after we bring my stuff in?”

GM: “You’ll do that first, I don’t want a dirty person tromping around my apartment. Hugo’ll grab your stuff.”

The live-in property manager.

“Oh. She’s not coming by tonight, but I have my girlfriend over semi-often.”

“When she’s here, you’ll need to hide in the closet or something.”

Zoe: “Nothing. Okay. Make sure he gets everything.”

“Please.”

“I can just go out? I asked for money because Mom drained my bank. I got nothing. What do people do when they’re out of money? Like, aside from get a job. That’s obvious. They do that before they’re out of money, right? I’m actually out.”

“I guess I can get a job. That would keep me out. Or I can fuck her too?”

GM: “I wouldn’t complain,” he grins. “Hell, that sounds fuckin’ awesome.”

“Dunno she’d be into it, though.”

“She’s kinda a prude.”

Zoe: “Give her enough coke.”

GM: “She’s not into drugs.”

Zoe: “Neither was I.”

GM: “Maybe slip her something, though.”

Zoe: “There’s the vacant morals I knew you had. Good boy.”

GM: Chuck snorts.

“Like she and you are any better.”

Zoe: “You’re not so bad once you get past your cock dragging you toward the nearest attractive woman by the balls.”

GM: “Hey. I’m honest about it. You know what you’re gonna get from me.”

There’s a slight edge to Chuck’s voice.

“Families like yours get up to just as much dirty shit as mine. Maybe even more. But you guys hide it and pretend you’re better.”

Zoe: “You’re not wrong.”

She knows he’s in the life. They both know how the world works. They control related spheres, and her family is better than his.

“And you’re going to get to defile our pristine porcelain,” she answers, waxing dramatic with an amateur actress’ feigned against and the wave of a hand.

“Not that I care.” She shrugs. “Fuck the whole china cabinet.”

GM: “I don’t care about that either. I just want a hot girl who’ll suck my cock regular.”

Zoe: She slants her eyes toward him, uncertain.

“…you don’t want me because you’ve wanted to fuck the Kelly daughter?”

GM: “I mean, because you’re hot, yeah. But your last name isn’t gonna suck my dick off any nicer.”

“Sarah’s a Whitney and she always spits it out into the sink.”

Zoe: Oh. There goes her leverage.

“That’s boring.”

GM: “She’s boring.”

Zoe: “She’s your girlfriend?”

GM: “I guess, yeah.”

Zoe: “I bet I can fuck you so well you’ll leave her by the end of the month.”

GM: “Not likely, if you’re on the outs. Grandma wanted me to shack up with her.”

Zoe: “I won’t be on the outs forever. I don’t lose. Mom does.”

GM: Chuck snorts.

“Good luck. Moms and Grandmas and Grandpas don’t lose.”

“See exhibits Westley Malveaux, Susan Malveaux, Caroline Malveaux-Devillers, Gabriella Kelly, and of course Zoe Kelly.”

“It’s the same across all families.”

“Piss them off and you’re done.”

Zoe: She shrugs.

“I’ll be different.”

As if she’s the first to speak those words.

“I will.”

Now she’s convincing herself.

Her stomach rumbles.

GM: “Oh, related thing. Femdom. I’m not into it. Like, at all. Do any of that and it won’t count as sex.”

Zoe: She shrugs. “I don’t really care. Whatever you want. I’m not a starfish, so if that’s what you’re expecting..”

GM: “Yeah, don’t know any guy who’s into that. I want you to be really into it.”

“I want you to suck me off, but not all the way. I want you to finish me with your hand so I cum on the floor.”

“And then I wanna watch you lick it up.”

Zoe: “Not my face?”

“Hmn.”

GM: “If I cum on your face it doesn’t get on the floor.”

Zoe: “It does if you cum a lot.”

GM: “I like that. Watching girls lick it up.”

“Yeah, well, I cum all the time. You only get the really big multi-roper loads if you haven’t cum for a while.”

Zoe: “I wonder how much fun we’d have if you fucked me every day, but only finished every third.”

GM: “That sounds awful, why the fuck wouldn’t I wanna finish?”

Zoe: “I don’t know, cause you’ll finish more later?”

“…or you could fuck Sarah, and not finish until… later.”

GM: Chuck laughs at her second idea.

“Mmm, yeah. Maybe give her a complex over it.”

“‘I can’t satisfy my boyfriend!’”

Zoe: “I don’t really care if she has a complex or not.”

GM: “I do. Think it’d be funny.”

Her thought proves apt, though, as Chuck parks inside the Giani Building’s garage. It feels almost surreal to be heading back there. She could have just never left.

Chuck gets out, locks the door after Zoe removes her falling-apart bag, and walks to the elevator.

Zoe: Gentlemanly. At least Chris would have helped her with her bag.

She drags it with both hands, following after him.

GM: Chris also hooked up with another girl.

Before he died.

That feels like it can’t possibly be real.

But nothing about the past few hours has felt real.

Chuck, meanwhile, presses the button to his floor (their floor) once she’s hauled her falling-apart bag inside, without his help. The door dings open. He lets her drag the bag down the hallway, too. It leaves a trail of dirty water after it. Zoe has to pause several times to grab soiled clothing articles that fall out.

Chuck shakes his head.

“You coulda just taken me up earlier.”

Zoe: “Would you have taken me up, were all things switched, Chuck? Would you have so easily shown me your belly?”

GM: “I wouldn’t have had to,” says Chuck, unlocking his apartment door.

“‘Cuz that’s one area my family’s better.”

“We’d never kick out one of our own, like that.”

Zoe: She starts to cry again. Just a little. Silently.

She would never have her sisters out. No matter how badly they mess up.

She doesn’t comment on what he says. Thinking about it hurts enough. If she talks, she’ll cry more. He doesn’t like girls like that.

Then she’ll be out in the rain again.

“Will my stuff be brought in soon? I have shampoos and… stuff.”

GM: Chuck watches her cry.

He doesn’t sneer at her.

He doesn’t comfort her.

He just watches.

Then he looks down at his phone.

“Hugo says your stuff’s all gone. Parents cleaned your apartment completely out.”

Zoe:HRRRGGHH!”

Everything! All of it! Her life! Her entire life! Pictures and knickknacks and soap and clothing and books and achievements! All gone!

“How much is a murder?”

GM: Mom has always been thorough.

“Premeditated? Life with hard labor and no parole, or death.”

Chuck heads into his apartment. It’s a similar setup to Zoe’s. Identical, actually. Same floor plan. Roomy. Modern-looking decor. Glass tables and leather furniture. Big TV with a video game console.

Zoe: She looks at him as if she silently is saying, ‘Really?’ She’s heard rumors of murder-for-hire in their circles.

Zoe attempts to summon a mass of strength to carry her laundry bag over his pristine floor and to the bathtub.

GM: “That’s the law on the books,” says Chuck. “I-”

He’s interrupted by barking from a medium-sized and semi-furry brown dog that rushes up to him. Chuck grins, squats down on his haunches, and rubs the dog’s face back and forth. “Whooza good boy, Argent, whooza good…”

Argent looks at the wet, smelly newcomer into the apartment and faintly growls.

Zoe: Zoe drops the bag from just a foot above the ground, falling to her knees as the dog bounds in.

“You didn’t tell me you had a dog!”

She hasn’t seen a dog in person in— gosh, forever!

“You’ll get used to the smell! Because it won’t be here! Once I shower.”

And fuck him.

GM: “Who doesn’t have dogs, if they can?” says Chuck, not looking away as he pets Argent’s flank.

The dog woofs and looks his face.

“One of my neighbor’s been pushing to ban pets from the building, but fuck that, I’m keeping mine.”

Zoe: “You own the building. It’d be a little odd if they won over you.”

She holds a hand out to the pup.

GM: The dog warily approaches and sniffs.

Zoe: She’s owned dogs over her life, and has some basic understanding as to the human-canine butt sniffing.

She holds her hand out, waiting patiently. Only if he approaches or gives some other positive sign does she pet him.

GM: Argent sniffs some more, then finally licks her hand.

Zoe: She pets the dog, smiling for the first time that day. Dogs don’t hold grudges, so long as you’re nice to them. Or have treats.

She scratches behind his ears, then hoists her bag up and moves through the apartment, stepping over and around furniture and oddities, keeping the room as clean as possible.

Thump! goes the bag into Chuck’s bathtub. Will any of that clothing be salvageable?

She sighs.

“Shower or bed after?”

She doesn’t sound enthusiastic. It’s not his fault.

GM: The dog wags its tail and follows after Chuck.

“Shower first, then you can blow me,” he says, seemingly unconcerned.

“Maid service will take care of the laundry.”

Zoe: “I have little confidence in how salvageable my things are.”

She sighs.

“Did you eat dinner?” she asks while turning on the shower.

GM: “Yeah,” he says.

“Do you think you’ll give a better BJ before or after you’ve eaten?”

“Come to think, I’ve never had sex with a really hungry girl before.”

“Wonder if that makes it any different.”

Zoe: “No, it doesn’t, and probably before, unless you want me to puke on you. Some guys are into that. Girls too, I guess.”

She strips herself down, knocking the door over; but not closed. What does it matter? He’ll come in if he wants to regardless.

“Can I bum dinner off you after?”

GM: “Yeah, you can have dinner.”

“BJ first, though. I wanna see if you being really hungry makes a difference.”

With those words, he leaves her to it in the bathroom. The shower is exactly like her old one. The products are different, and primarily male, but there’s a couple that look like they’re for girls. Maybe they’re Sarah’s.

It almost feels like she hasn’t left home. It’s so strange to be in here. In this shower that’s exactly like her old shower, after she’s been kicked out.

Zoe: She wonders who her old place will be rented out to. Maybe they’ll take care of the place. Maybe she’ll get it back one day. Maybe she’ll murder her mother and inherit the house.

The shower itself is languorous. She doesn’t want to move, and thoughts of earlier events plague her. She wants to scrub herself clean—and she does, as if using an iron wool to rend rust from sheet metal—but the faster she finishes, the sooner she’ll have to meet Chuck.

Maybe it won’t be so bad. She’s had casual sex before, and he isn’t that bad looking. If she can forgive the fact that he’s not her kind.

Maybe it’s true what the stereotypes say. Then again, a sample size of one does not an experiment make.

Scrub, scrub, scrub.

GM: The water is hot. It feels heavenly to be out of her cold, wet, dirty clothes. It feels heavenly to let the hot water cascade over her body and wash away everything that’s made this day the Worst Day Ever. It feels heavenly to lather herself up with soap and be clean and warm again.

And she’ll get to eat, too. She’ll have a square meal and a dry roof over her head when she goes to sleep in this warm, dry apartment.

After she gives Chuck a blowjob.

Is that better than having his dick in her, or is that something else that’s better to get over with?

Then again, maybe it won’t be so bad.

Indian-American isn’t white, but he’s light-skinned enough. He doesn’t even have slanted eyes.

Grandpa’s not said nearly as many bad things about them as he has black people.

Zoe: Too soon, she shuts the water to her sanctuary off. Night one of thirty days of darkness begins!

Slight darkness.

Mocha madness?

Maybe he’ll be less repulsive if she imagines a Pequod’s logo on his chest and a caramel drizzle on his cock.

Or vanilla?

She smiles at the private innuendo and wraps a towel about herself, drying her hair somewhat with another. Chris likes—liked—her hair a little wet.

.. and out she goes, into the unknowns of the interracial dating scene, contemplating a short trip to their top-floor window on the way there.

Oh, what would grandpa say now?

GM: Grandpa knows she’s been cast out and cut off.

She comes out to find Chuck sprawled out on the couch, changed into a t-shirt and sweats, and watching TV. Argent naps in a doggy bed nearby.

When Chuck sees Zoe, he pulls down his pants.

“All right, time to pay your rent.”

“You can take off the towel.”

Zoe: Zoe pauses, eyes flicking downward. Are the stereotypes true? Does he break expectations? Can she provide a deep-throat experience without him passing the center point of her tongue?

She wonders if Argent has a bigger penis. Not that she’ll ever fuck a dog.

Her eyes wander back to him, slipping a thumb into the tension point of her towel. It falls to the floor.

Why does she feel so naked? Not literally, as she literally is.

She feels like a specimen.

GM: Chuck looks her over and grins.

“Yeah, you clean up nice.”

His penis looks pretty average-sized.

Do native Indians have smaller ones, next to American-born Indians?

Is it poor nutrition that’s responsible for that?

Chuck starts rubbing. He swiftly gets hard.

Zoe: She sinks to her knees, brushing his apart.

Well. There it is. First one she’s seen up close in years.

First that she intends to touch, anyway. There was that one time at that mock-Bachelorette party…

Okay, first the she intends to touch more than a little.

Seems normal. No protrusions. No warts.

That she can see.

Smells fine?

Doesn’t smell like anything at all.

Why is she so concerned with smell?

Distracting, distracting…

GM: No visible warts. No visible protrusions. Smells okay.

Little darker than the last one she saw, but not overly much so.

Just a penis that she needs to suck off in return for a car and place to stay.

She’s not being directly paid for this.

Does that make it better?

Zoe: She places a hand on his belly, gently urging him to lay back, fingers wrapping his shaft. She wishes he’d just asked her to fuck him. At least she could have just closed her eyes and taken it.

GM: Chuck lays back and looks glad for it.

After all, it’s late.

He’s probably had a long work day.

Just wants his new bedwarmer to suck him off and give him an orgasm without too much effort on his part.

She can still close her eyes, if she really wants.

Zoe: She used to goad Chris into sating himself with her. She got something out of that.

This is mechanical. Heartless. Cold. Dead. She could be a corpse set on a large plate and microwaved on medium for thirty seconds, then dumped before him; a doll with a pretty mouth; warm, wet, and equally disgusting.

Her mouth is moist, but only because she’s so hungry, and that thick goopy saliva from vomiting is still in her mouth. She hasn’t brushed her teeth, but she did rinse her mouth out in the shower.

Close enough. It’s not like he’s going to kiss her.

Her stomach hurts.

Zoe spits a globule of that thick stomach-saliva onto his head, standing it upright in her hand, and rubs it in as if massaging a client in a vocation she’s never had.

She knows this is bad, but it’s bad because she doesn’t have the investment to make it good. If she doesn’t, she’s going to be out in the rain again.

She fills her mouth with his shaft, locking her lips around it and pressing her tongue beneath his head.

It’s Chris. It’s Chris. It’s Chris.

It’s Chris but loyal. It’s Chris but loyal. It’s Chris but loyal.

This isn’t helping.

GM: Nothing about today has helped.

What kind of girl gives a good blowjob after she’s been kicked out, cut off, experienced (brief) homelessness, watched her boyfriend cheat on her, watched her boyfriend possibly die, gotten soaked in the rain, lost all her worldly possessions, gotten sick, thrown up, and most of all just wants to go to sleep and pretend The Worst Day Ever never happened?

Maybe one whose future is contingent on providing sexual satisfaction, though.

Chuck grins once his dick fills her mouth.

“Ah yeah. You look great. With my cock in your mouth. You can’t even talk.”

It’s amazing what difference state of mind makes. She was going to show Chris the best night of his life.

Zoe: And yet she tries. Her tongue is magic, once she clears her mind. Her lips are silk. Her hand demands his pleasure with honey more than a command.

But she doesn’t clear her mind. Not fully. Enough, perhaps.

It’d be so much easier if he’d just ask to fuck her.

GM: Easier for her.

But this is easier for him.

Chuck mostly just sits there with his legs spread, lazing back against the couch with a content look on his face. He initially looks half-asleep. To Zoe’s credit, he looks increasingly awake the longer she pleases him with her mouth. He makes a few noises. Sometimes he runs a hand through her hair, or along her face, and says “Oh, yeah, you like that,” or “Look at you go!”

But for the most part, he just watches and enjoys himself as Zoe sucks his throbbing cock.

“’Bout to cum… aim my dick with your hand…” he pants.

Aim it at the floor, of course.

So he can watch her lick up his spunk.

Zoe: Zoe has had bad days before, and she’s had to give her full effort—usually to academia, sometimes to her family—on those days. It is with that same resolve to succeed—or, in this case, to suck seed—that she levies her whole effort to finish him with such a resounding crescendo of effort that even his girlfriend will smell semen from across the city.

His words are met with doe eyes and muffled ’mmhmm’s, and when he commands her, she aims his cock at the floor, stroking him with a saliva-slickened hand.

GM: “Ahh, yeah,” Chuck pants, his breath coming harder and faster. “Ohhhh, you’re good, fuck—ohhhh, YEAH!

Zoe’s expert stroking swiftly brings him to climax as he blows his load. A moderate rope of cum squirts out over the carpeted floor.

Chuck smirks and wordlessly points.

Zoe: Chris shot bigger loads. She misses Chris. If Chris were here, she’d stab him, and take a cleaver to his balls, and puree them with cream, a dash of salt, garlic, and simmer them into a sauce, but at least he had a good-looking penis.

This looks like a mini hotdog left in the air fryer too long with a sad cough of spoiled cheese dripping out the tip.

Obediently, she lowers herself to the floor and runs her tongue through his cum. Gross.

GM: If Chris were here, would she even need to do that? The last she saw him, people were giving him CPR.

Chuck’s cum is really salty. Saltier than Chris’ was.

He grins and leans closer.

“Eat it up. All of it.”

“I’ll pay if you can burp.”

Zoe: She wouldn’t need to. She wants to.

It’s probably all the curry. So much MSG.

Zoe presses her face to the floor, the entire flat of her tongue dragging along the carpet as if she’s a cat cleaning her young. The cum is stuck to each fiber, and only little by little does she collect it.

But she does collect it, humiliating as it is. She licks every drop—every drop, every morsel, and every strand—of that little spurt of semen from the floor.

When she rises, it’s with a covered mouth and a polite-yet-satisfied burp. Ladylike to the last, even when commanded to burp.

GM: She has to ‘kiss’ the carpet, too. Use her mouth and lips, not just her tongue, to get it all. It’s like she’s kissing the carpet.

Kissing his cum.

At least there isn’t too much of it. Those multi-roper loads he mentioned.

Chuck amusedly claps.

“Not bad, not bad. I’d say that’s worth a 10% tip.”

He grins.

“I’m not sure you have anywhere… convenient, to put the money, though. Do you still want it now?”

Zoe: She smiles a faint, defeated smile; something grateful and demure, yet betraying inferiority. That’s what he likes in his women, isn’t it?

She nods.

“10% of what? Unless you’re going to get me 10% of the way off.”

He will find that quite hard to do.

“…not that I don’t want cash,” she adds, blushing.

GM: Chuck’s still grinning.

He looks like he enjoys that quite a bit.

“I liked this, and 10% of a $500 upper-range escort is $50, so $50.”

“That’s around how much they charge for additional kinks too.”

“Unless you’d rather accept payment in getting partly off.”

Zoe: She shakes her head, rolling her shoulders.

“I’ll take the cash.”

A pause.

“…will I be sleeping with you? Or the couch? Or…?”

GM: Chuck shrugs.

“I’ve got one bed. Couch is yours, or you can sleep with me if you’re naked, don’t hog the blankets, and don’t have cold feet.”

Zoe: Zoe muses on the thought.

On one hand, he’s Chuck. Being Chuck is reason enough to want to sleep on the couch.

On the other hand…

She’s alone. Completely. Utterly. Even someone like him is better than embracing a lonely heart.

“…if you don’t mind the company.”

She checks the clock. It can’t be bed time already. She hasn’t even eaten.

GM: Don’t they say no relationship is better than a bad relationship?

‘They’ probably haven’t gone through everything today that Zoe did.

It’s only moderately into the evening.

“I never mind a naked girl’s company,” smirks Chuck. “Be a couple hours before I hit the sheets.”

He flicks the TV back on.

Zoe: Zoe lifts herself off the floor and onto the sofa. She settles half a cushion away, then decides to shift closer.

Why does she want to cuddle him?

Right. Lonely.

“What is there to eat here?”

And where is that $50!?

GM: “There’s takeout in the fridge,” says Chuck. “Frozen shit in the freezer. Help yourself.”

He tucks his dick back into his sweatpants.

Zoe: She pushes herself off the sofa, sweeping into the kitchen. Her fingernails dragon on the countertops she passes, and she pulls open the freezer.

Mozzarella sticks? Mother would kill her.

Perfect.

Into the oven they go!

Ugh. Another thirty minutes before she can eat.

GM: Mozarella sticks, frozen pizzas, Hot Pockets, ice cream, and so many other bad to eat things.

Some have shorter cook times. But all entail waiting. Unless she wants to gorge on ice cream.

Gorge on ice cream naked.

Zoe: Now what?

She can’t put on clothes, which means she can’t go out. Not that she wants to.

She can’t even leave the apartment. Not without being arrested for indecency.

Zoe leans on the counter, crossing her arms at the wrists, and droops her cheek onto her palms, looking at him.

“I guess we hang out now?”

GM: “I guess so,” says Chuck as the TV plays. It looks like an action movie of some kind. There’s an exploding helicopter.

He’s sweeping over what parts of her he can see, though.

“Damn, you’re hot. I’d want you to blow me if you just hadn’t.”

Zoe: From the other side of the counter, angled as she leans, he can only see the curvature of her rear.

She glances to the oven. 29 minutes. Probably 29:50, as she only just set the timer. It doesn’t show how many seconds.

“So I’ve been told.”

She speaks each word as if in time with a metronome, playing up the advantage he just unveiled.

“Lucky. Lucky. You.”

GM: “Yep,” grins Chuck, eyes resting on that shapely rear.

“I think we’ll do anal, tomorrow. I want to ram your ass. Really fuckin’ ram it.”

Zoe: “As long as you use lube and warm me up first,” she shrugs. Apparently, it’s not something is overly concerned over, done right.

She moves back to the sofa, sitting against him.

“Get your fantasies while you can.”

I need a job.

GM: He addresses her breasts as he talks.

He makes no pretensions of doing otherwise.

“I sure will.”

Zoe: She clicks her tongue. Typical.

“…y’sure you don’t want to go again? You look like I’ll be half consumed before my dinner is done. Or we can watch a movie.”

In which case, she’ll probably pass out, and she knows it.

GM: “I got off less than five minutes ago. My dick’s gonna be sore. We can watch a movie and go again at the end.”

“Or mid-way through, whatever.”

Zoe: She chews her lip, looking up at him. Chris could go twice. Sometimes three times.

Hm.

She nestles into his arm and turns to watch the movie.

GM: It’s got a lot of explosions. The protagonist is some kind of special forces badass who leads an elite team of special forces badasses who kill werewolves. It’s Action Bill and the Danger Squad. It actually seems to be a TV show rather than a movie.

It’s dark outside. Rain steadily pounds against the windows in thick sheets. The living room is warm and dry. She can smell the cheese sticks warming in the oven. Chuck seems amply content to have a hot naked girl curled up against him.

It’s not how she’d expected to spend her evening, but it beats sleeping on the streets.

Or swallowing her pride before her friends.

Zoe: She retrieves the sticks the moment they ding, excited for something for the first time all day. She’s even able to find some marinara sauce in fridge! Yum.

The girl returns to her seat beside her Master-for-the-month and enjoys her meal, yelping when an errant stand of cheese lands on her bare thigh. At least it isn’t on his sofa, and at least it doesn’t leave more than a little red mark.

It doesn’t take long for her to pass out once she’s eaten. At least the plate makes it to the coffee table.

Despite how she’s looked down on Chuck every day before today, and despite how she’s been abused into a deal—in her eyes—to keep out of true homelessness, he’s earned some respect from her. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome of a sort. Maybe not. She holds her end of their deal, and he does his.


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Comments

This scene was an interesting little potpourri of emotions and styles. Tantsy was a hot fucking mess, and it was so amusing. It was also a HUGE change in emotional tone from the previous scene, which was starkly serious. I’m not sure whether I love it or not.

I love comedy, and I think this on its own was funny as hell to write, and it was a welcome retrieve from the darkness of the first log. However, if we want a SUPER SERIOUS story, it was tonally odd. Not really a complaint. We’re not publishing.

The bathroom scene was a lovely bit of gross detail. I appreciate someone who can get into that sort of descriptiveness in a non-sexual manner.

Chuck’s a dick. The text conversation was an interesting bit of bargaining. Part of me wonders if Zoe caved too fast and should have spent a night on the street, but what happened happened. I think she broke at a reasonable rate for one as pampered as her.

The sex with Chuck was faster than expected, but it befit the scene well. It wasn’t about writing massive amounts of pleasure. It was about an exchange.

Overall fun.

Chuck’s still a dick, but I kind of hope they find some common ground to bond on. If he just abuses her for a month (or until she leaves), she’s not going to come back to him, and depending how bad he is, she might actively seek revenge post-Embrace.

Story Fourteen, Zoe II
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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