A Story in One Act
For Michelle, of the Whispered Pearls Podcast
Hannah opened the door of the coffee shop, surveyed the room, and sighed with relief. What she had come here to do, she didn't want to do with too many witnesses. She held the door open for her companion, a tall fellow with dark hair bound into a long braid that ran down his back. He smiled and nodded politely. "Have a seat," she said, waving vaguely in the direction of the easy chairs in the back of the shop. "I'm buying. What would you like?"
"Oh, just a tall drip," he said. "I'm not really a big fan of espresso."
"Milk and sugar?"
Hannah went up to the counter and ordered two cups. When they arrived, she carried them over to the chairs, steaming and aromatic. She set them down on the little table between the chairs, and sat down demurely.
"So we're here," he said, "and we have our coffee. Can you tell me what this is about, now?"
Hannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "You have every right to be impatient. I've been very vague about why I wanted to bring you out of the office, and you've been great about going along with it all. But before I say anything else, Conrad, I want you to promise that you'll let me finish before you say anything."
"Sure," he said. "I promise."
"This has been a long time coming. I have tried everything to stop it. Nothing has worked... the shrinks, the drugs..." Conrad quirked an eyebrow. She caught his glance and clasped her hands in her lap. "I... I think of you when I masturbate. I can't think of anything, anyone but you. I've tried to stop but my mind just keeps on coming back."
Conrad blinked, then quirked half a smile. "Did you say..."
"Yes... I did."
"Why are you telling me?"
"I have to. It's consuming me. I did it six times on Friday. Twice in the bathroom at the office, and once at my desk after everyone else had gone. Then eight times on Saturday, and nine yesterday. Conrad, it's consuming me. It's becoming an obsession."
"Alright... but that doesn't answer my question."
"No, you don't understand. I'm telling you so I'll stop. I'm telling you so that you'll know what a freak I am and it'll break this terrible tension."
Conrad shook his head and sat back in the seat. "You've gotta be kidding me. This is a joke, right? Robin put you up to this. It's some kind of dare."
"I'm telling the truth, Conrad."
"Why me? I'm no one special," he said. "I'm just Conrad from Q.A."
She picked up her cup and sipped. It was a little too hot, still, but the cup felt good in her hands. "I don't know. It's not rational."
"So you're saying you're obsessed with me. Is this some kind of a proposition?"
"No, just the opposite... I want to make it stop."
"Well... you've told me." He was looking into her eyes. He took a sip from his cup, still holding her glance.
She looked down.
He set his cup back on the saucer. "Prove it." She looked up at him, a question in her eyes. "Prove it," he repeated. His voice was low, quiet.
Her hands started to shake. "Conrad, no... I..." She looked over at the barista. She was doing something with the espresso machine, paying Hannah no attention.
Hannah drew in a shaky breath. Her hand clutched the hem of her skirt where it swung back from the point of her knee. She swallowed and turned towards Conrad, away from the bright windows. "Yes," she said. "That will do it. That will make it... make me stop. One last time, right here." She pulled the hem of her skirt up, slowly, along the side of her thigh, her eyes locked with Conrad's. She spread her knees apart, just a little, just enough, and her hand disappeared under the skirt.
"That's it," said Conrad. "Show me you mean it."
Hannah's hand burrowed deeper. Conrad could see the unmistakable movement in his peripheral vision, but he kept his eyes on Hannah's face. He watched her eyes become heavy-lidded, languid. He saw her lips part and her jaw grow slack. She bit her lip, lightly, and a little shudder passed through her body. She drew in a breath in four short gasps and held it, still staring into Conrad's eyes. Her elbows pulled in tight against her body, and her knees bent, pulling her feet to the base of the chair. Slowly, her body grew taut, a wire that ran from Conrad's eyes, through the chair, through the espresso machine and the barista and the out into the air, into the sky, vibrating, thrumming, stretching until it snapped.
Hannah's breath escaped, and she bent forward, clamping her hand between her thighs. Her breathing became heavy, almost labored, and quiet moans escaped her lips. Slowly, slowly, the spasms passed.
She pushed herself back upright in her chair. Her face was flushed and a thin sheen of perspiration had broken out on her forehead. She straightened her skirt.
Conrad made a reassuring motion in the direction of the barista. "It's okay," he said, quietly, "She's fine." The barista went back to cleaning her machine.
Hannah took a handkerchief from her purse, and wiped her forehead. "I... I better go clean up," she said. "I can't go back to the office like this." She rose and walked to the rest room, slightly unsteadily.
Hannah washed her hands and looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was disheveled, her makeup needed work... and the feeling hadn't gone away. She pulled out a brush and started putting her hair back in order. "I'm going to have to quit," she said to her reflection. "That's all there is to it."
"That would be quite a shame," said Conrad, closing the door behind him.
Hannah spun around. "Conrad... we can't. We..."