jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Like a clap of thunder, the music stops. The DJ shouts “Fuck!” and the dance floor is restless rather than pumping, edgy and discordant rather than in harmony. There are calls of ‘what just happen!’ and the DJ still cursing about a technical glitch, and everyone waits. The lights are garish without the accompanying beats.

Jeroen’s hand squeezes her shoulder, Orhan fingers dig into her back, and a chill falls over her body.

There are times like this when she freezes, and she feels herself watching the scenario play out before her, rather than participating. Where she doesn’t see herself as in control, as teasing and stroking the men either side of her, but as the meat in the sandwich, as someone – or even something – who could be tossed between two uncaring men like a toy, whose arms and legs could be pulled off on a whim, and the sight of her limbless would be amusing rather than cause for sympathy.

She stills herself, eyes down, not meeting either Orhan or Jeroen’s. She doesn’t need their reassure, not right not. She needs for them to relax their hold on her, needs to break out from the cage of their arms. Her breathing becomes more rapid, her chest heaving. She rolls her shoulder under Jeroen’s hand, hoping, hoping she’ll get away without needing to fight… and his hand flexes, not quite away, but he asks, in a normal voice, now capable of being heard in room, “You ok?”

She looks up, meeting Orhan’s eyes first. He stares down, frowning, concerned. The pressure of his fingers ease, and instead he rubs her back. Jeroen likewise rubs her shoulder, rough enough to be friendly. She turns to both of them, smiling, feeling the air in the space between them, freer once more.

Next: 49. Nibble

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

A new song starts, a quicker, more rolling beat, and Orhan’s hands drift further down, now emphatically on her hips, fingers splaying, digging in. The line of politeness has now been crossed, and sex can be the only intent. She smiles, and in time with the music, turns in her centre spot, and slides her arms around Orhan’s neck, resting her wrists over each other. It brings his smiling face closer, so their noses are nearly touching. Her breasts meet his chest, her nipples pushing against the material, eager to rub against his muscles, and behind her, Jeroen closes the gap, and now nothing could pass between the three of them, not even air.

She’s never been good at just moving her hips, but she tries, gently gyrating them. The two men pressing against her mean she’s restricted, but it creates a tender friction. Orhan moves in counterpoint with her, and she can feel his jeans rubbing through her dress. Not on her clit, but on the pubic bone, which almost serves as a shield over her clit. She senses it, not quite ready, not quite there to be excited and teased. Close though; the stirring in her stomach is quickening as she continues to dance almost solely with her hips.

Then, from behind, Jeroen slips his hands upwards, and they sit under her breasts. She bites her lip, holding in a sigh. Orhan smirks, and winks at Jeroen over her shoulder, upwards to accommodate his height.

“You move very… nicely,” Jeroen says, his voice low, so much that she more feels his words than hears them. She is about to respond, when he glides the edge of his large thumbs along the underside of her breasts.

And swiftly, she wishes that she was naked, and her clit begins to hum.

Next: 48. Wait…

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Orhan lets go of her hands, moves them to her waist. His fingers rest at the place were her stomach ends and her hips begin; a place, she’s always thought, that marks where touching above is gentlemanly, and below is sexy. It’s the perfect place, she thinks, for him to linger for a while, between chivalrous and seductive.

The music changes, a slow beat, its rhythm lulling, almost soft. The kind that makes her step gently from one foot to the other, a slight shift in weight rather than taking her foot the ground. Jeroen in front of her falls in pace with her, while Orhan moves his knees; she feels his thighs bump softly against the back of her own.

The music starts to seep under her skin. Her pulse falls in with the beat, or so it seems, for it throbs right through her, from the base of her neck to her clit. The lights too flash in time, and the three of them, together, sway like they are connected by more than clutching hands and sensual desire. For a moment, she closes her eyes, and she enjoys the warmth of the two men, and the surrounding sound.
When she opens them, Jeroen tries to move closer, but she shakes her head, lolling it in time to the music.

“Take it slow, take it slow,” she says, exaggerating her lips so he can read them, so she doesn’t have to shout.

Jereon rolls his eyes, but with humour, and keeps that tiny distance that would take only a nudge from someone passing by to close. Though it is like they are in a bubble, enclosed and separated by a membrane of light and sound waves from the other dances, moving in time with them, but not able to touch.

Next: 47. Undulate

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

ThreeJeroen blinks, and she realises that he hadn’t noticed Orhan attached to her. His expression sours, and he starts to slide away. She grips his hand tighter, steps towards him, Orhan in sync with her. She looks back at Orhan – his teeth are bright white in the flashes of light, and his eyes are open, accepting, while Jereon’s face is hard, irritated.

“More fun with three,” she says, adding a chuckle to make it seem the most obvious thing in the world.

But Jereon doesn’t respond directly.

She watches as the instinctive unwillingness to share flash across his face. His eyes looking on her greedily, possessively, and flicking with annoyance back at Orhan. But she keeps Orhan’s hand close to herself, holding it near the top of her thigh, and she looks up at Jeroen, unable to keep the begging from her eyes, but steely enough to let him know that this is all or nothing.

Orhan shuffles closer to her, and she can sense from how near he is that he will not need convincing. Jeroen purses his lips, and looks between her and Orhan. But he hasn’t let go of her hand, so she ducks her head a little bit, her eyes casting down, and she peers back up through her eye lashes, demure, pliant, and her body almost shudders when Jeroen drops her hand, and grabs her shoulders, pulling him to her with Orhan pressing in behind her.

“You’re too kind,” she says, teasing, not to let him know she was ever worried that he might say no.

“Just shut up and dance,” he says, wry, a fraction perturbed, as if his pride has taken a tiny blow.

Not because he’s had to share her, but because, in the battle of wills, she won.

Next: 46. Sway

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

To the Floor
Again, her next words are cut by Orhan falling back next to Jeroen, forcing himself into the picture again. Once more, the contest is on. It does, she admits to herself, amuse her to let it continue for a while. Granted, it may well be a double or nothing game, but the night is still young. The night is always young, she believes, until dawn.

Jeroen swings back his beer, draining the bottle. “I think it’s time we danced.”

He doesn’t take her hand, but his fingers circle her wrist. She let’s Jeroen pull her to her feet, away from the table. With his grip tight on her wrist, she reconsiders her earlier assessment of him as ‘sweet’. She didn’t pick up on arrogance, or his power. Probably because she let Diarmuid distract her. Then again, Jeroen could be unaware of his strength. The grip isn’t bone-crunching, but it won’t take no for an easy answer.

She beckons to Orhan, a little wildly, insisting he join them. He starts to shake his head – conceding territory, but her hand is insistent. She wants to be fought over still, before the final decision. Jeroen is about to pull her out of view of the table, but Orhan stands and tumbles after them, grasping her hand, and they make a strange chain through the crowd, a moray eel snaking with electric flashes through the water of the tank, curving around the rock-like tables and the schools of people. Jeroen uses his size to mark the passage, though people quickly fill the space, she and Orhan still ducking and weaving.

A space in the crowd appears, and Jeroen dives towards it. She and Orhan are dragged there, and the three of them glide into the pool of light, forming an arc, with her the fulcrum.

Next: 45. Three

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

“I do wonder, though,” Orhan continues, “if you are maybe taking a risk.”

He actually sounds concerned, properly worried for her safety. She isn’t sure whether she is touched or annoyed.

“There is risk in everything. And I can look after myself,” she says, flatly.

He nods, and she tries to detect a patronizing edge but can’t find it.

“No doubt. But we all need a little help sometimes.”

Warmth fills her, but before she can speak, Jeroen’s face pushes between them, and he claps Orhan on the shoulder.

“Say hi to—”

She doesn’t catch the name or names in the din. Orhan gives Jeroen a knowing glance – not irritation, but an acknowledgement of the game. He gets up though, and Jeroen takes his seat, swaying jocularly towards her and giving her a quick nudge with his elbow. He looks back though at the gathering, smiling with real joy.

“I have been lucky in Cambridge. I have made a lot of friends.”

“Real ones?”

He looks at her askance, a little put out. “As opposed to what? Mirages?”

She shrugs. “Some people disappear when you really need them. Like mirages. All fun, but no substance.”

He seems to understand, and says, “Well, I have both. There are always more superficial ones than real ones. Besides, it takes time for people to become real friends.”

Jeroen’s voice is so serious that there is a line of pain in it. She says to that, kindly, “You’ve worked on it.”

He nods, deeply. “Of course. You have to.”

She wonders about the people who have moved in and out of her life, the drift that is living. She wonders too for how many people she was a mirage.

She isn’t sure if she likes the idea of being so insubstantial.

Next: 44. To the Floor

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

A hand falls on Jeroen’s shoulder. From the smiles exchanged between him and the man and woman who are behind him, he knows them. Reluctance flashes across his face, but he excuses himself, and stands just a bit away from the table to talk with the couple.

Orhan casts his eyes down, as if that might hide his smirk. But before she can move closer to him, or speak, his face turned to hers, and he says;

“Do you always talk with strange men when you go out?”

She laughs. “I’d hardly call you or your friends strange.”

“But you do not know us. We might seem friendly and nice now, but who knows if that will last…”

She can’t tell if it’s a threat, or a test. Or a promise that they are both more ‘dangerous’ than they seem. But she sees another way that could be interpreted, and she chooses to pretend she’s read it that way.

She makes to stand. “I can leave if you’d like—”

A look of minor panic sets his face. “Oh no! I’m sorry, I wasn’t being, what’s the word…”

She settles back down again, though poised, ready again for faux-flight.

He snaps his finger. “Underhanded. Please, no, your company is… very nice.”

She turns her chin upward. “Just very nice?”

Orhan beckons her closer. She allows a beat to pass before complying. He almost speaks in her ear to say;

“Lovely and enchanting.”

She inclines her head, and leans away. “Better.”

He says, more genially, “I am only wondering what you want.”

She winks. “One can’t give all their secrets away at once.”

His hand caresses his bottle of beer. “I doubt it will be a secret by the end of the night.”

She smirks; she bloody well hopes not.

Next: 43. Jeroen

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Diarmuid’s gaze swivels in Xavier’s direction, and he frowns.

“Right. That’s a problem.” He glances back at her, and then cocks his head at his two friends remaining at the table.

“Have fun.”

She thinks he means it. Almost.

Diarmuid leaves with his pint, Xavier oblivious to his approach. She can’t decide if this will be a train wreck or a dance, so stops watching, and turns her attention back to Orhan and Jeroen.

Jeroen chuckles. “Diarmuid finally doing something about that crush of his. At long last…”

Orhan nudges Jeroen, and he just smirks.

“I guess it is just us then…” Jeroen says. He shifts back on the bar chair, opening out his body. She acts on the cue, and stands to move over a few seats so she next to Jeroen and opposite Orhan.
And then, the mood sways as the lights change colour.

The friendliness between Orhan and Jeroen doesn’t vanish, but they are now not looking at each other. They lean forward, elbows out on the table – firm, a bit forceful – as if to edge the other out of her field of vision. It is unlikely that they imagine that it has served to make them loom larger in her eyes.

The men each try to steer the conversation – so much so that her attempts at words are lost as the one tries to one up the other, be the more witty or charming or cocky or whatever they think she will find appealing. It has the effect of deflecting attention from her, inviting her instead to watch the verbal sparring, the attempts to glare each other down while pretending that this is not what they are doing. It’s almost coy and feminine, but for the fact that their bodies are tough and able to make this physical.

Next: 42. Orhan

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

He smiles, a little jolly, which takes her aback.

“It’s cool. Glad a girl knows what she wants and how to get it. Only, you’ve got no hope with me.”

She turns her head sideways, flirtatious and teasing. “Is that a challenge?”

“No, statement of fact. I’m gay.”

She knows her face has become fixed, trying to mask not so much disappointment, but the inward kick she’s giving herself for not having realised. Unfortunately, Diarmuid can see the exact trajectory of the kick, and he becomes smug again.

“Oh that poor gaydar of yours…”

She makes her best rueful expression, and gives his arm a playful nudge. “Hush. Take it as a compliment I was considering you.”

“Hmm. I suspect you’d consider most men, even if briefly.”

A genuine flicker of hot angry boils in her chest

“Not saying that it’s a bad thing—”

“But you don’t mind me thinking that you think it is.” The words are said through her teeth. He probably can’t even hear her, but he must catch her meaning.

His jaw locks as he swallows, frowning at her. “Alright. I’m an arse sometimes.”

She waits a long moment, before saying, “Apology accepted.”

Diarmuid raises his beer bottled, and she her cocktail glass.

About half a minute after their peace treaty, she speaks, feigned coyness. “So you’re not even up for an experiment?”

Diarmuid chuckles. “Not me. Xavier would, but go anywhere near him and I’m not afraid to fight dirty. He’s mine tonight.”

She looks over to where Xavier is talking with Square Glasses. Xavier’s face is animated as the other guy does the talking, the kind of interest you show to someone to indicate your rapt attention.

She looks back at Diarmuid, and indicates over her shoulder. “You sure about that?”

Next: 41. Competition

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Second Round
“You two stopped talking clothes and crap?” he asks.

“We were having a sociology discussion,” she retorts in a sing-songy voice. “You can join us if you like or sit there a be grumpy!”

It’s a surprise when Diarmuid actually laughs, a genuine, rich throaty laugh that she finds hits her in the right places in the chest. It’s a further surprise that she’s willing to give him another chance.

Perhaps it’s arrogant to assume that she has any say in this matter, that in this dance of negotiation and game-playing of whether sex will occur that she has the lead. Well, she thinks… They talk about women being easy to get into bed, but in her experience, it’s men who are the easy ones.

Xavier breaks her train of though. He says, looking not at the bar, but some space over her shoulder,

“My round, I think.”

The glasses are all still half-full, and Xavier gets up without asking for anyone’s drinks, and heads in the opposite direction of the bar. She follows his track, and knows what his goal is – or rather, who. Square Glasses is leaning on the marble wall, and Xavier’s approach is too calculated with casualness to be aiming for ‘just friends.’

Ah well, she thinks, and rules Xavier out of the equation of possibilities.

Diarmuid hasn’t spoken, but he’s looking at her, as if waiting for her to do something. She obliges, flicks her hair back with a roll of her head, feeling it fall against her skin, and bites her lower lip before taking a sucking sip from her beer bottle.

Diarmuid smirks. “I know what you’re on about,” he says.

As apparent as her plans were, it still riles to have them pointed out. And she suspects Diarmud isn’t a man who likes to be played.

Next: 40. Deflection

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

She frowns at the word ‘marketing’, like he’s applied a commercial to what everyone is wearing.

“Personal choice has to come into it too,” she protests.

He shrugs. “Sure, that’s what they want you to think.”

She tries to keep the tone light, and puts one hand on her hip, grinning as she says, “Capitalist conspiracy then?”

“Oh of course!”

“So, do you think I’m the product of marketing?”

She can’t help notice Diarmuid roll his eyes, and excuse himself, for what is probably the bathroom.
Xavier sniggers, and then says, simply, “We all are. Even Mr. I’m Above All That who just left us. It is all about creating an image of ourselves. Did you really dress ‘just for yourself’ tonight?”

She doesn’t need to think about that. Of course she didn’t. But this kind of spotlight on her isn’t what she wants, so she shifts it away.

“Diarmuid doesn’t look like he cares that much how he dresses.”

“No, and when he comes out somewhere like this, that is what he tells himself, and what he tells himself each time he throws on whatever he picked up from the floor or yanked out of the closest. But that’s to tell himself he’s a real man who doesn’t care…”

She can fill in the blanks – when in fact, he does.

“You’re a smart guy,” she says, meaning it, rather than flirting.

“Nah, just another smart enough guy in a smart city.”

She doesn’t quite believe his humility, but it’s nice to hear anyway, and she wonders what it would be like to hug him.

She gives Xavier her wide toothy smile, and leans forward, allowing her breasts to ease further out of her dress. Xavier only gives her a pleasant grin.

Then Diarmuid returns, and looks between them both.

Next: 39. Second Round

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)


Orhan appears behind Xavier like a magician, magically holding the tray of drinks in one hand and managing little bow. Jeroen and Xavier pounce on their bottles of German greedily, while Diarmuid took his pint after waiting for her to get her and Orhan to get their Coronas.

“Cheers folks.” Diarmuid says it before anyone, not so much with enthusiasm, but the kind of masculine ‘here’s to us, fellas, now let’s keep it real’ tone she’s heard countless times.

They all raise their glasses.

“Old friends and new!” Jeroen says, looking at her on ‘new.’ They all sip or gulp at their drinks, and she winks at Jeroen, who does so back.

“Now, I hope we are not going to all sit here all night, because I need to dance!” Orhan declares, hands splaying on the table as much as the crowded space allows.

Xavier holds up his bottle. “Need a few more of these first.”

Jeroen rolled his eyes. “You never dance, Xavier.”

“Might be the first for tonight!” he says, feigning offence.

“I’ll get you up,” Diarmuid says, offering a cheeky grin, which Xavier doesn’t react to. Diarmuid sniffs, and looks to the dance floor. She notices the tightness in his body, and decides he doesn’t need enticing back unless he wants to.

Now Jeroen is talking with Orhan, and again she can’t hear. She tries to turn to Xavier, but before noticing a man with thick blond curls and square glasses shift behind their table, past Jeroen’s shoulder. She stares after his retreating figure, and in doing so, notices that Xavier does the same.

She smirks, and says to him, “Worried he’s stealing your style?”

“Ha!” He chuckles around the rim of his bottle. “Nothing unique about any style anymore. It’s all just marketing.”

Next: 38. Xavier

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Fish Tank
Before she can say anything, Jeroen and Xavier bend their heads together to talk. She could only see their lips move, not make out any words, just like fish bubbling underwater.

She turns to Diarmuid, whose flat mouth smile seems more tolerant that pleased.

What the fuck is his deal? She wonders, remembering the lip-smacking from the street. Maybe he’d hoped to scare her off.

She squares her shoulders, and settles into the chair. She is not leaving now. Diarmuid doesn’t speak, so she takes the initiative.

They make small talk: Been here often? (Both before but not frequently) What do you think of it? (It’s alright, he says, which she agrees to, knowing her true response will take too long and make no sense to him.) What do you research exactly? (He starts giving her a dry scientific explanation about something to do with insect genetics but soon she’s shaking her head with incomprehension.)

The chat exhausted, she looks about the bar and near the dance floor, at the people moving through the light like water. All they need is a fish tank in here, she thinks, like they have in some of the really swanky bars in the larger cities. That said, it would seem far too ostentatious for Cambridge, too over the top. Besides, it’s better now, watching people glide and shimmer in the blue light.

“People watching?” Diarmuid asks.

She nods. “People are interesting.”

He raises a sardonic eyebrow. “You think so?”

“You don’t?”

“Most people are so self-absorbed they don’t see past the end of their own nose.”

She looks at sideways at him first, before returning to the crowd. Yes. They are all caught up in their own little dramas, unaware of anyone but their immediate circle.

There are worse things they could be doing, she decides.

Next: 37. Cheers!

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Already, they’re keeping an eye on her. They sway through the crowd like a single unit, the four men around her, Jeroen’s hand still on her shoulder, her fingertips touching Orhan’s elbow. It is packed so tight that drinks could spill with one careless step, or even careful step; those prone to tentativeness could easily get in the way of the casual and flippantly easy-going.

The bar is to the left, the dance floor to the right past some couches and bar tables. Two women of about forty get up from one, taking their bags and coats. She and her new gang stake the table like it’s made of gold, clutching at the four bar chairs and a fifth that Xavier manages to grab as he passes it like dogs with bones. Then they sit and nod at each other, as if this is a feat of genius.

“Ok, drinks?” Jeroen asks.

Orhan sighs. “Yes, my turn. Out of one queue, into another…” He mutters, and after taking requests, leaves them, nudging his way through the crowd back towards the bar.

Xavier says something, but no one can hear him, and he pretends to smack the table, his hand slowing down mere millimetres from the faux marble surface. Jeroen raises his hands, as if making a point.
“See! No conversation!” he shouts.

She screams back “Yes!” Diarmuid only looks wry, and he glances at her, as if waiting for a reaction. There is none of the sleaze she saw before, but a kind of… amused interest.

Somehow, with these men, she doesn’t feel the need to flirt, to lean forward pushing her breasts out, or to smile too broadly to catch their attention. Perhaps because she already has their attention, Jeroen’s at least. And perhaps because she doesn’t want to give Diarmuid another reason to look at her like she’s foolish.

Next: 36. Fish Tank

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Down Below
“Just you then…” Diarmuid purrs, and his tongue slips out between his lips. It’s so over-the-top sleazy that she laughs out loud, but Orhan looks honestly mortified.

“What are you, a slobbering dog?” he asks.

Diarmuid holds his hands up in protest. “Hey, just saying! Not like I’m going to pounce on her.”

She thinks it would be unwise, at this point, to say she wouldn’t mind that at all.

“No, you certainly won’t,” Jeroen says, voice completely ironic. Diarmuid cocks his head at him, folds his arms, eyes narrowed slightly, before wagging his finger at Jeroen, but he doesn’t say anything. She detects volumes of history hidden in these interactions, but decides not to pry.

They continue along the queue this way, bantering, laughing, asking non-serious questions about each other. When they get to the door, at last, the doorman looks them over, and decides they’re all fine. She wonders if he noticed that three of the men are all wearing Converse, Xavier being the exception.
The stairs drop, sharp and sheer, space economised so tightly that she has to lean back a little to stop the feeling of falling forward. Jereon puts his hand on her shoulder, firm but not gripping her.
It makes the journey down the stairs less frightening, and she’s able to give the ticket man a genuine smile rather than a fixed grin of terror.

They pay for entry, and squeeze into the bar together. Free of the staircase, the bar opens up, a vault packed not with treasure but people. A thin aqua marine light bathes the marble walls, a soothing colour but also icy cool. Somewhere you can feel relaxed, but not cozy. It makes bare skin look even more naked, and she wonders what it would be like if they all were.

Next: 35. Table

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

A flicker of triumph runs through his eyes – he made her laugh, of course he’d be pleased – before it shifts back to focusing interest on her.

He puts his hand out. “I’m Jeroen.”

Tall, broad, blond, and with that name and accent. Dutch, she decides. As she puts her hand in his, feels it almost get lost in his grip. She gives her name, and he repeats it, dark blue eyes not leaving hers.

Over his shoulder, she can see his friends nudging each other, attempting sly winks but they are patently obvious. They are an intriguing mix – all international, she would guess, postgraduates, or scientists, or both. One is slightly rotund with a boyish grin and thick eyebrows to match thick-rimmed square glasses, whose dark hair suggest origins from somewhere Mediterranean. Another is lanky, with long side burns and mustache and rich dark skin tones – Middle East maybe? The third is all average, in height, build, and hair, but has beaky features that could be ugly on another man
No harm she thinks in keep her options open.

She angles her body towards the others, opening the space between her and Jeroen to include them. “How do you all know each other?”

“We’re work colleagues.” Jeroen mentions the name of a genetics lab that sounds vaguely familiar. There are so many science parks centres clustered on the outskirts of Cambridge that she
She keeps her smile broad, knowing all her teeth are showing, making full eye contact with each of the men as she takes their hands. She was half right about their backgrounds. Xavier is from Portugal, and Orhan Turkey, but the German turned out to be Irish Diarmuid.

“Are you meeting friends?” Orhan asks, kindly, as is she might be a lonely soul.

She shakes her head. “Just me.”

None of her friends would come out with her on a night like this. Nor would she want them.

Next: 34. Down Below

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jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

A queue is snaking out from the bar she wishes to enter. She looks down the length of it, and assess it will be at least a five minute wait.

She decides she can afford five minutes.

She attaches herself onto the end, and is soon joined by a group of four men. They are maybe her age or younger, with fresh as daisy faces, eagerness, joy, excitement of the night before them. They are chatting to each other – pleasantly, without any macho posturing. This is good. She can handle a bit of cocky strutting, but she prefers to view if from afar, the other side of the room or opposite side of the street, something to be noticed, watched, but heaven forbid interact with; too many thought showing off to their buddies constituted finding a woman to holler at or pull her hair or try and grope. Like in the playground, but far more threatening. A pack is different from a group of friends.
One of them – tall, blond, broad – turns to her and smiles, and asks her how long she has been waiting.

“Just got here,” she says.

“Oh, that’s good. How long do you think it will be?”

She detects a slight accent through the word perfect English.

She tells him. He nods.

“That’s ok. Better than ok. At least we can talk out here.”

She cocks her head. “We can talk inside too.”

“Ah, but with all that music throbbing and people trying to talk to each other, you end up Shouting! And Screaming! Trying! To Make! Yourself! Heard!”

He mimics the hoarse shouts that everyone uses in a club to make themselves heard, replete with the excessive, expressive facial movements that accompany them so well that she giggles, her hand going to her mouth, almost shy.

He seems very sweet.

Next: 33. Origin

Image found on flickr, by Alex Brown, used under the Creative Commons License.

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Next Stage
The breeze stills, and a true, gentle quiet falls upon her. She stretches both her legs out, letting the back end of her heels clack on the pavement. A satisfying sound, one that brings her back down to earth, to normality.

As if on cue, people begin to appear on King’s Parade. Two bikes sail past, the riders wearing academic in gowns, bats heading towards the belfries of Gonville and Caius or Trinity. A group of students come laughing from out of Senate House passage, and an elderly couple – a man carrying a walk stick, a woman holding his arms – hunched over, moving carefully past her place on the wall. The man smiles and nods at her, the woman inclines her head with easy grace.

So old fashioned. So Cambridge.

When they are near the gates of the Old Schools and the Senate House, she stands, and walks in their direction. She goes through the rising bollards that split King’s Parade where it turns into Trinity Street, where the asphalt narrows and begins to weave past colleges and shops encased in sandstone. The University Press is a glass shell encasing highbrow academia. Beyond it, Michael House café and church stands almost shyly across from the block of Gonville and Caius.

She knows there is a bar further down, past chic clothing stores, one that sinks into the ground. Now it feels like people are drawn to it, all the moving figures in the street drawn to the place as well. A crowd, a mass to get a little lost in.

Perfect for the next stage of the night.

Next: 32. Queue

Image found on flickr, by Nick Stenning, used under the Creative Commons License.

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

Swiftly, she leaves the square, strides up the side of the church where Auntie’s Tea Shop sits, the chairs now piled up on the outdoor tables and cordoned off like that will protect them. Reminders of the people that aren’t filling them, of the lack of anyone around but the eyes that are piercing her back.

She exhales, thinking it is just her, a sudden tension born from inside that is manifesting in imaginary beings. The release is fleeting; the sense of a persistent stare is still present.

At King’s Parade, she looks up. King’s College chapel looms over her in the dark. And despite her unknown observer, she stops, takes a deep breath.

The sky is that dark shade of blue that sits beyond twilight but just this side of night time. Against it, the spires of the chapel are branches studded with wood knots, or gnarled pieces of fruit. Beautiful, frightening, out of reach. She swallows, and moves across the parade, heading for the low wall that blocks the front lawns of the College from tourists and the town. The huge, billowy horse chestnut on the lawn in front of the chapel itself undulates in the breeze. It is a large, woolly beast that could smother, or protect.

Breathing now juddering, she falls back onto the wall, sitting hunched over, eyes furtive and darting around her. Each little rustled paper grabs her eye, each scurrying leaf seems a threat. But there is no one there, in any direction. The street, often so busy during the day, is bizarrely empty except for her.

She inhales. And now, with the chapel and the chestnut at her back, and the realisation that she is really, in fact, not being followed, or watched, she sits up straight, and relaxes her grip on her shawl.

Next: 31. Next Stage

Image found on flickr, by James Bowe, used under the Creative Commons License.

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (jar lanterns)

She turns from the Guildhall, and moves with a casual, cat-walk step, a promenade around the square. She curves past the now-shut clothing stores in one corner, and is soon under the stained glass windows of Great Saint Mary’s.

Looking up at the church, she thinks of the tower. She’s never been up in it. She wonders if the stairs upwards would be tight, a press of bodies and unyielding stone. She imagines herself, and another, the solid bulk of a male form, in there, alone, and what they might do, tangled on a staircase.

The thought tantalises. But it is only brief, for when reality kicks in, she snorts. It would be fucking cold and probably drafty.

The images on the glass are obscured by a dull light from inside the church. She releases a long breath, and wonders at how easy her thoughts become profane, without pause or consideration. In a church? In anywhere that is considered special, important, holy?

Rarely does she consider her soul (and then only to question whether it exists or not), or the idea that there is more to the world than the material. The experience of the body, the heights of sensation to which it can climb and plummet, those moments of fusion to another person, suggest something greater beyond herself, beyond the limits of the skin.

Suggests does not equal reality.

A chilly wind blows across her back. She shivers, wraps the shawl tighter, and glances in the direction that it comes from. The empty market stalls are still empty, but rather than a mere absence, she feels a void, a nothingness.

For now, she senses there is something, or someone, in the darkness.

Next: 30. Observed

Image found on flickr, by mrhayata, used under the Creative Commons License.

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

July 2015

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