"Lindy, toss me one of those peppers, would you?"
"Red one, Rob?"
"Ah, yep. You said you do like curry, right?"
"Yeah, I do, but nothing too extreme, okay?"
"Got it Mel. I promise your mouth will be mostly intact after."
"Well, it's not a curry, if it's not hot."
"You said 'a mild dish'. I heard you Rob."
"Yeah. Mild. For Mindy. Well, I intended that, for a start."
My name is actually Melinda. Rob likes to mess with it as much as possible. He's the same with food. Rob and I had been living together for about six months. Oh, not cohabiting. Sharing the house, not the bed. Got it?
It was nice and comfortable, to tell the truth. I'd gone through a rather exciting period where I lost my boyfriend and my flatmate more or less at the same time. I'd had time to become comfortable with the lack of boyfriend, and stumbled on Rob as a flatmate. It worked out well.
"You want rice with that, Milly?"
"Doesn't work? Okay. Brown?"
"You can't call me 'Brown', Rob"
"Well? Mel? Hell. Hee hee."
"If that's your best work, no wonder you have to work nights. Yes please."
"I don't have to. I choose to. Could you get it out for me? I don't want this to burn."
"You could turn it down, Rob."
"Ruins the effect. Thanks. And the pan?"
Rob was a musician. He played bass in a covers band, but had plans to do all sorts of stunning things. Like all musicians. I'd heard him play though, and he wasn't bad. Not bad at all.
His life was more exciting than mine. I studied. Endlessly. I'd started off as a med student, and drifted into research. I was working part time in a lab, studying sleep, would you believe? We got people in, wired them up, and told them to relax. Bloody strange way to make a living, but it paid for my studies, and then meant I didn't need to go cap in hand to my father, a major plus.
"Ooh, ooh, pineapple?"
"Why not Mel?"
"Can't afford it. You have half the week's groceries in there already."
"Smells nice though, doesn't it?"
"It does, Rob."
We didn't have a lot to do with each other, on the whole. I would come home in the evening, in time to find that Rob had cooked me a little something, and was on his way out to some bar, where he would play until the early hours. He would return around the time I got up for work, and we might say hi again.
I know what you are thinking. A flatmate who cooks me hot meals? A guy? Yeah, great, I know. He was a bit messy when he got here, and I still needed to clean up the kitchen after him at times, but it was well worth it, and he made up for it by cleaning the bathroom every weekend, without fail. The only time he didn't do it, he was sick in bed. I had to insist that he stay there.
"It's ready, dreamer."
"Thanks Rob. Bowls, yeah?"
"Yeah, think that would be best. Want to watch the news, Melinda?"
"It's finished already. Here you go."
"You want to pay attention, and not call me a dreamer."
"Sorry Mel. Sit down, and I'll bring it in. Take the forks."
Okay, one more thing. He's... well... decorative. Tall, strong. Not much of a chest, but stunning arms. Must be the guitar, I guess. Rugged smile, deep eyes. Alright?
"You want a beer?" he called to me from the kitchen this time.
"Yes please, Rob."
"Well, bloody come and get it. I've got my hands full here. I'll have the lager."
"Yeah, alright. So much for sitting down."
"Well, don't want you putting on weight."
Mid twenties is a good time, I think. We had both been in a few relationships, and we knew that even this sort of arrangement needs work, and compromise, and we gave it lots. In between, we gave each other shit about everything.
"Oh God, this is really good, Rob. What is it?"
"Huh? Oh, I don't know. This. That. Chilli sauce?"
"No thanks. It's quite hot enough."
"I think you've burnt out your taste buds."
"I know I've burnt out my wallet, Mel."
"What do you mean, Rob?"
"Oh, sorry. Thinking out loud. I guess I should say though. We're just not getting anywhere with the band. Money wise I mean. We're having a ball, but just not making a buck."
"Don't look too worried. It's not a problem with the rent. Well, not yet."
"You going to have to get another job?"
"I've thought about it Lindy. But I just don't see how I can manage. It's all I can do to get through the night now. If I had to work days, I think I'd keel over."
"Hmmm. You want another beer?"
"Nah, better not. I need to drive downtown tonight. Barry's car isn't going. God, more expense."
"So really, you need a job where you can nod off."
"Yeah. You don't see those advertised often."
"You know what I work at?"
"Vaguely Mel. Research."
"Yep, I did know that."
"Rob, you're obviously tired now. We pay people to come and sleep at the lab. Not much, but..."
"You pay them?"
"... it's better than nothing... Yep."
"Oh, shit, why didn't you say?"
"I just did. You interested?"
"Hell yes. But it would have to be during the day."
"That's alright. Actually, my team is looking for someone to do just that."
"They are. Tell you what, leave that mess, get off to work, and I'll clean up here. Monday, I'll check with the boss, and see if you can apply. No promises."
"Oh, Mel, you're an angel."
"No Rob, it's a white coat I wear, not a pair of wings."
"Same thing. Gotta go. I guess you'll be asleep in the morning then, being Sunday?"
"Yes, I will. Thanks."
"I won't make you breakfast then."
"Alright, see ya, Elin."
"No. Not Elin."
It snowballed from there. Monday morning, we had Rob visiting down at the lab for his first sleep. For the initial session, we normally don't attach anything. There are enough distractions for them to get used to. It's a minor miracle if they sleep at all.
Rob was a natural. We showed him around the room, and let him see what we did there, showed him the video cameras, and explained the rules.
"So you chicks sit at the other end of the cameras, and watch me on the video screens?"
"Well, someone does, Rob. Might not be a 'chick'."
"Rob, it's research. We need to find out things about how you sleep. In any case, this time, no instruments. We'll just have a look at the screen now and then, to check that you are okay."
"And I just lie down here and go to sleep?"
"Yep, that's it. You can read, or watch TV for a while, if you like."
"Listen Mel, you know, I generally sleep in..."
"The nude. Yes, I saw you, if you recall."
"Yeah. I did apologise."
"Doesn't matter. You caught me one morning as well, remember?"
"You had knickers on."
"You shouldn't even have noticed."
"Oh, yeah. Of course. I didn't. You know I didn't."
"Neither did I." We were both grinning now.
"I would have noticed, I must admit..."
"... but I was staring at your breasts."
"Hmmm. Enough of that now. These ears have walls."
"I'll be good."
"Keep your underwear on, Rob."
"Not sure I can sleep, then."
"So that's it? Nothing else I need to know?"
"You just need to remember that you are being recorded, so don't do anything you wouldn't want on tape."
"Like jerking off?"
"Definitely like jerking off. You'll be on the Internet in twenty minutes."
"Okay. Well, night Mel."
"Night Rob. Sweet dreams."
I left him there then, and headed for the control centre. I wasn't on monitoring that day. I had to process some tapes and data from the previous night, so after I checked that everything was alright, I walked out to the communal office, and started work. Half an hour later, I went back to get a coffee, and Rob was asleep.
That was the last time I was in the office until after dark. The numbers I was processing for the previous night weren't making sense, and I had to check the machinery against the tape, to make sure there hadn't been a screwup. It took my whole day, and then some.
When I arrived back in the office, Stephanie was just closing down the session on Rob. He'd already left. I received an enthusiastic report on his first monitored sleep, and left for home, hoping he'd be there. It was time to give some more shit.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the little celebrity." I'd caught Rob, just as he was walking out to his car.
"Celebrity? Why is that?"
He must have been oblivious to what had occurred that day, because he couldn't have hidden it. "You might be on the Internet after all, Rob."
"Huh? What for?"
"Your performance, of course."
"Performance? What are you talking about, Mel?"
"At the lab today. Remember I told you to keep your undies on?"
"Yep. And I did... Oh... But when I woke up..."
"Yeah, they were on the floor, weren't they?"
"Yeah. Hadn't thought about that. Oh, God, what did I do?"
"You took them off."
"Under the blankets."
"That's alright then. I put them back on under there too."
"Yep. You remember why you took them off?"
"Ah, nope. Oh, God!"
"You were... excited."
.... There is more of this story ...