Two Sides

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Marley

When I was 27 years old, I began a new job in product marketing in the tech field at a Fortune 500 company. Okay, maybe it’s more like Fortune 100; it is huge. I went from an office of 100 people to a company with well over 8,000 employees. I was one of many, many, many young people existing in a land of cubes.

Over time, I became really good at my job. So good I moved from a cube in the center of the floor to a cube with a window in the corner and had ten people reporting to me. But, although my manager assured me I was one of his top performers, I felt like my life began and ended with the company. Work was the only thing I thought about. It was the only thing I cared about, well, that and my ancient cat Gizmo, who didn’t give a shit what I did as long as the litter was scooped every morning and he had fresh water and food in his bowls.

So I quit at 32. I just up and left and began my own marketing firm out of my tiny one bedroom urban apartment. Working for myself has a lot of perks. The non-client dress code of flannel pajama pants and tank top is one of my favorites. Signing for packages braless straight out of the shower for the UPS guy probably isn’t the worst part of his day either.

The other benefits aren’t as great, but the money is pretty good and my hours are much more humane. Even better, no expressionless, boring gray cube. Instead, I have a bright and cheerful apartment.

But no matter how hard I work I can’t seem to lose my old employer as one of my major accounts. My work with makes up 50 percent of my revenue, and now that I’m self-employed, I charge them almost three times what they used to pay me per hour for my services. I insist that the price gauging is in exchange for the fact that even with the increase in overall salary, I can now only afford major emergency health insurance at $386 a month. So, if I get cancer or get hit by a bus, maybe I’ll be okay. But anything less, I’m screwed. But the truth is, I charge them so much because they’re a pain in the ass as a client. So I apply a “high maintenance” surcharge.

One of the requirements for being a successful contractor is to attend a couple of major conferences each year. People meet me. I dazzle them. We exchange cards and usually within four weeks I’ve got a handful of new clients asking me to find new, better and cheaper ways to pitch their products.

Let’s get this straight, right away. I’m not a computer nerd. I may work for such a company, and I may speak the jargon fluently, but I am not a coder, an engineer or a genius. I hold my own, which would be enough for this crowd if I had a penis, but the fact that I have breasts and a vagina makes me one of the few women around the work place, let alone at a conference.

This year’s major conference was on the west coast. I walked into one of the larger rooms that was set up for a session. The speakers were working diligently at the front of the room making any last minute changes to their slide decks. I scanned the 250-person room for a spare seat that wasn’t going to sit me by one of the annoying techno-geek fans or worse, someone who would mumble everything that technically was wrong with the session while I sat next to him. To my relief a couple of old familiar faces had their arms in the air and were waving at me excitedly.

Justin, an engineer two years old than I am, had started at the company the same week I did. We were in human resources orientation together and did our best to keep each other awake during the sexual harassment training. Justin is a complete neat freak. He’s OCD to a fault. I once caught him alphabetizing the items of his desk drawer into separate organizational compartments he purchased at the Container Store. Regardless of his germ-o-phobe, organizational issues, Justin and I got along like brother and sister. We spent a lot of time together before I left, but our relationship had broken down to simple one-line Facebook Wall messages since then.

The other familiar face was Edwards. Edwards was older than both Justin and I. He has a first name, but no one, no one, as far as I know has ever called him anything but Edwards. If you ever see a group of techies walk into a restaurant you’ll know who the Edwards is right away. They’ll be four younger ones in jeans and button down shirts that came wrinkle free out of the dryer. The group will be between 25 and 35. Then there will be one in the group in his low to mid-forties. His hair will be gray at the temples. He’ll have laugh lines around his eyes. If he’s married, he’ll have a wedding ring that’s been so long on his finger that it’s too snug for him to ever remove without having it cut off. He’ll also always wear a sports jacket. Sometimes it’s over a dress shirt and pants. Sometimes, maybe on Fridays, it’s over a t-shirt and jeans. But it’s always there, the stupid sports jacket. He thinks it divides the men from the boys, but really it just screams, “middle management over these guys.” It also means he makes at least $100,000 hd porno more than the rest of them do.

Before I left the company, I noticed that Edwards had started taking notice of me. And it wasn’t my performance that had him intrigued. I remember one Friday night I was headed to a concert with a girlfriend and her husband. I ran into the bathroom and changed out of my pantsuit and into my single-girl-on-the-town outfit. You know, the one with the shiny, red shirt cut low enough that the black lacy push up bra just barely peaks out from underneath. The black pants that fit tight across the bottom but flare in the legs. The 4-inch tall boots that make you feel like you can take on the universe.

I remember as I went back to my desk to grab the tickets out of my desk drawer before leaving that I crossed in front of my boss’ cube.

“Marley, come in here for a minute would you?” Deacon had asked.

For the record, I loved my boss. Deacon is the Michael Jordan of marketing. He looks like Jordan. He plays like him, and I swear when he’s about to slam dunk for the company his long ass tongue falls out of his mouth. I stood in the doorway of Deacon’s office looking curious. Edwards sat on the couch by the window and as he turned his head from Deacon to me he exhaled. He didn’t just breathe. He let his entire mind and body go and stared at me breathless. I didn’t want to call attention to it, so I acted like I hadn’t noticed. Deacon and I had our short work conversation before he wished me a fun time at the concert and a relaxing weekend.

But from then on, whenever I was in the non-professional proximity of Edwards I could feel him looking at me. I heard him expel the same sexually frustrated exhale. But when we worked together, he was completely professional. He was friendly, but he kept his distance. Over the five years I was there, first as a marketing associate and then as an assistant director, we built up a report that bordered on a decent friendship. There was banter. There was laughter. There was cohesive communication in the office.

However, periodically he’d come into my office steaming over some fuck up in a product guide after having to hear how my department sucked from a room of his overbearing engineers. He’d never accuse my department of doing anything wrong, not because we didn’t mess up from time to time, but because if we did make a mistake he knew it instantly when he looked at my face and rather than an apology, I’d know how we were going to fix the problem and fast. If my department wasn’t in charge of the fuck up, I’d reach into my desk drawer and pull out the proofs that showed that all of his people signed off on the project prior to publication, and he’d retreat back to the engineering dungeon to cook his own people in his fire of rage.

I knew in my head if things were different he probably would have asked me out. Even though he wasn’t my manager, he was several years older than I was, which I sensed was more of a problem for him than me. But I wasn’t going to pursue him out of respect of the fact that Edwards had lost his wife Jennie to breast cancer 18 months after I had started working for the company. I took his attentions as the sign of a widow who had all kinds of mental, emotional and physical conflicts happening all at the same time. He still needed time.

I walked toward Justin and gave him a hug and then leaned in so Edwards could kiss my cheek.

“Wow, leave the company and you start wearing skirts to work,” Justin joked.

“I’m self-employed. Get me a couple drinks at the parties tonight and find me a CEO with a marketing crisis and you’ll probably get the leg and the cleavage to see if he’ll throw any kind of business my way,” I responded sitting between them as the lights dimmed down and the session started. “It’s called desperation.”

The speakers introduced themselves and the slide presentation began. Twenty minutes into it I had a hard time concentrating on the screen. It was like I couldn’t focus. Then I realized that I had lost my peripheral vision.

“Fuck,” I said quietly.

Edwards and Justin leaned in.

“It’s not that bad,” Edwards whispered. “They’ll fix the glitch in the next release.”

“No, I’m getting a migraine,” I answered back.

“Can you see?” Justin asked. “When I get them the aura is so bad I lose my vision.”

“I’m starting to get dizzy and nauseated.”

“Are you staying in the hotel?” Justin asked quietly.

“No, I was cheap and opted for my sister’s house halfway across town near the park.”

“Here,” Justin said taking me by the elbow. “I’ll take you to the elevator. You can lie down in my room. I have some Excedrin in my bag in the bathroom that you’re welcome to.”

I let him lead me to the elevator and push the button. “7208” he repeated for the tenth time while handing me his key before the door shut.

I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall. I have had migraines off and on since college. I reached the seventh floor and sex izle stumbled down the hall to the room, when I entered I noticed housekeeping hadn’t been there yet and hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. One of the two beds was made military neat, the other looked like someone had had a WWE wrestling match in it. The daylight lit up the room like it was on fire, which made my head feel like it was exploding. I tried to pull the dark shades closed but only one would shut effectively. The other seemed bent and twisted into the open position.

In the bathroom, I swallowed two Excederin and then I went back into the bedroom. The made double bed was too close to the sunny window. The messy one was a bit shaded due to the curtain I could shut. So, I unzipped my skirt and laid it out neatly on the made bed. Then I took off my pantyhose and placed the wadded up nylon inside my suit coat and put that over the skirt. Dressed in my long-sleeve black lace camisole and my underwear, I gathered up the white sheet and polyester bedspread from the floor straightened them out and pulled them up over my head as I buried my face in the pillow shutting out all noise and all light. Luck was on my side, and I fell asleep quickly before the pain exploded behind my left eye.

I semi-woke some time later when I heard the door open. Justin whispered to someone about me still being there and going to a cocktail reception and a late dinner. I could still feel my head thumping so I fought to stay unconscious.

The next time I came to I heard soft typing on a keyboard. The lights were off in the room and it was dark outside as far as I could tell. The only illumination came from someone sitting at the desk across the room with his computer screen purposely dimmed for my benefit. It was Edwards. His sports jacket was on the back of the chair, and he was viewing his notepad expressionlessly.

“Hey,” I said quietly.

*****

Edwards

I looked up when she greeted me from the bed. The laptop screen I had been focusing on and off of for two hours made it difficult to make out her form. But as my eyes adjusted to the poor lighting, I saw that she looked similarly to every other time I’d snuck a glance in the last two hours.

She’d changed so much over the last several years. When she was hired she always wore black or brown pant suits over comic book hero t-shirts that matched whatever color Converse shoes she was wearing that day. Her spiky brown hair had always been tinted strange colors in the early years, too.

Somewhere along the way she’d evolved into an overtly self-confident and beautiful woman. It began about when she was promoted to assistant director of product marketing. The pantsuits were still there, but she had designer labels on them and they were cut differently. Her shoes got higher and had more straps. She looked more refined. Now as she lay in the fetal position hugging the pillow to her head I tried to not think about the image I saw when Justin and I had walked into our room earlier. She had been in the middle of the bed turned onto her left side. The curve of her ass had escaped the covers and her black pinstripe panties fell an inch below where the black lace shirt began. Quickly, Justin had tucked her back into the blanket, like he hadn’t seen anything. In addition to the change in wardrobe, Marley’s now shoulder-length, caramel-colored brown hair had wavy ringlets that fell around the pillow.

Justin had run out for a late night. I’d preferred to stay with her, this girl, rather than do my usual beer and wine purchases for those further down the corporate food chain.

“How’s your head,” I asked quietly turning the laptop toward the wall so I could have a better view of her in the dark.

“Better, thank you,” she said removing the bedspread but pulling the white sheet tighter to her body. “What are you doing here?”

“Justin and I are roommates for the week,” I said.

“Things that bad with the economy that super mega company makes management share with the underlings,” she joked.

“Well, we can’t all be successful entrepreneurs,” I responded.

“I suppose I should let Justin have his bed back,” she said rubbing her eyes.

“It’s my bed,” I answered. “Stay as long as you want to.”

“Your bed?”

“Do you really think Mr. OCD would leave his bed like that?”

She smiled and nodded her head in agreement but said nothing.

I cleared my throat a bit. “Is self-employment working out for you, okay?”

“Sure. I mean, I can afford my apartment. I paid off my car, my college loans. Now if I could find a health insurance company that wanted to insure me, I’d be golden.”

“You’re young. You’re obviously healthy, what’s the issue?”

“They all seem to be freaked out about maternity riders,” I said.

I stared at her. “That you want one or don’t want one?”

“That I thought it would be easier to just pay it up front now for down the road, since I plan on doing the self-employment thing altyazılı porn for a while. I mean, I’m trying to be practical. I am 34. But they just turn me down.”

“Is there someone you’re thinking of having a baby with?”

“No, but you have to pre-pay for a year before any of the insurance would kick in anyway, and I’m not ready to give up on motherhood as a goal yet.”

I looked at Justin’s neatly folded bedspread. “I always thought I’d be a parent, too,” I said quietly.

When she didn’t respond, I figured I’d scared her but instead she comforted me.

“I’m so sorry about your wife,” she said gently.

“It’s strange, for something that happened a long time ago, I can’t seem to get away from it. Everyone knows me as that guy,” I said. “Edwards, the guy with the dead wife.”

“Matthew, you’re not that guy.”

I raised my head at the sound of my first name. No one at work ever called me that. I met her eyes as she sat up and leaned against the cheap headboard of the hotel bed. I moved to Justin’s bed and sat down.

“Then what kind of guy am I?” I asked curiously.

“You’re the alpha. The one with brains and tact and the American Express card with no limit.”

“The daddy. The big brother?” I asked.

She laughed. “No, definitely not. You’re just – confident.”

“Well, so are you,” I said. “Particularly in those shoes.” I pointed toward one of her heels on the floor with my toe.

She laughed and then stood up covering herself with my loose sheet. Her hair was a mess, and I loved the way she stood there barefoot. “If you’ll hand me my clothes, I’ll get out of your way,” she said sweetly.

“Sure, sure, sure,” I said quickly rising and picking up her jacket and her skirt. With her left hand holding the sheet together near her chest, she reached out her right hand and took the clothes. I backed out from between the two beds to let her by.

As she bowed her head and went to pass, she stopped. “Why didn’t you ask me out when I was at the company?”

It was a bold question. I was an idiot to think she’d never noticed how I responded to her when she’d walk into a room. She was the first woman I’d had any interest in after my wife passed. She was the only woman. For nearly a decade I threw myself into my work with a practically all-male workforce as a safe coping mechanism. But no matter how much I worked, I still thought of her as the bright spot in my day – until she left and my walls closed in.

“I thought you’d think I was too old,” I said honestly.

She nodded and went to the bathroom. I sighed, reached for my sports jacket on the chair and put it on. When she’d leave, I’d have no excuse not to head down to the local pub to start the social rounds. I turned around and opened the curtains so that I could look out on the city lights. I sat down on Justin’s bed and stared. A few minutes later, Marley slid onto the bed behind me. Her long arms ran over my shoulders and hugged me backwards.

“You should have asked me,” she said whispered before she kissed the right side of my neck. My eyes shut and I exhaled sharply as she nuzzled in deeper.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Saying yes,” she said pulling my jacket off of my shoulders.

I turned to face her and found her white, naked skin illuminated against the black background of the dark room. She leaned in and kissed me softly on the lips while she unbuttoned my shirt.

I held her hands up to my chest when she’d undone the last button. “Marley, when was the last time you had sex?”

She gave a little sigh. “You don’t want me to answer that question.”

“Yes, I do.”

“When I worked for the company.”

My eyes popped out of my head.

“What? I know. I’m pathetic.”

I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her more deeply.

“Oooh,” she purred. “That’s a good start.”

I stood up and undressed the rest of the way in front of her. She sat up on her knees and touched my chest. “How long has it been-“

“I took my wedding ring off six months ago,” I answered. “I was married the last time I touched a woman.” I waited to see if that would scare her off.

She looked at me in the eyes. “Well, then, I guess we’re both due,” she said pulling me down on the bed. I crawled over her naked body taking in everything: the pointy knees, the firm thighs, the hard nipples. When I touched her, she shook from what I hoped was more excitement than nervousness. We made out for a long time. We rolled one way and back the other, careful not to roll off the small double bed onto the floor. I loved the way her breasts fit into the palm of my hands. As I gently moved my fingertips over her nipples her legs tightened around my right thigh and her eyes rolled back into her head. I licked her right nipple, pushed myself up on my arms and knees and gently pushed apart her thighs as I kissed my way down her belly to her sex.

My face sat centimeters above her folds taking in the smell and the texture of the layers. She was trimmed neatly but not waxed. The hair was soft and just about to curl with any extra growth. I reached out with my tongue for a taste. When I made contact, she moaned and stretched out her legs settling in for the duration.

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