Josie leaned back, distancing herself from her computer screen. Surely, that was enough editing for one day. Her eyes felt squint, the back of her head throbbed in the way only an impending headache could. Josie sighed and closed the browser window. She took her coffee out onto the small, metal balcony and watched Melbourne go by, beneath her. Out in the wind she felt the beginnings of her headache receding and the wind washed her mind clear.
Straining her eyes felt good. The rush hour crowd passed by beneath her, 30 floors down, on the footpath. Her eyes adjusting once more to the middle-distance. A little boy with an amazing mohawk and his mother went by, a good looking man in a business suit brushed past people rudely in his haste before disappearing from her view, enveloped by the buildings.
Inside, Josie resisted the urge to turn on the TV. She logged onto a social chat site and talked to a few anonymous avatars. It wasn't really her thing but Josie was new to this town, had few friends as yet and therefore little social contact. An idea gripped her and she logged onto a dating website, wrote a brief profile and submitted a photo. Losing her nerve she logged off forgot about it and made dinner for herself.
It was a few days later that Josie remembered she'd signed up to an on-line meeting-place, having finished a particularly meaty editing session. She decided to check it out. The results made her jump up, she looked again at the computer screen, from the safety of standing behind her chair, 87 responses? She grinned, trawling through the messages. A lot of crap, some men in their mid fifties only looking for younger women, who had to be in there thirties or younger. She deleted all of these without reading them. It narrowed the field to 50.
Josie decided that she had to pick at least one and she would have to meet him. It seemed only reasonable and hell, the odds were pretty good. She set about her task with her tongue firmly tucked to one side of her mouth, held there by her teeth. It was one of her more awful habits, she wasn't even aware she was doing it.
Two hours later she had narrowed it down to a selection of ten men, 8 of which sounded too good to be true. Five of them had left telephone numbers. Instead of messaging, she took the bull by the horns and decided to call. Josie looked at the clock, 7pm on a Thursday. Was that an ok time to call? The first one was Ralph. At Ralph's house a very young voice answered the phone, a child of around 7 or 8? Before the man could come to the phone she'd hung up. Josie carefully deleted his profile from her selection.
Harry answered the phone and sounded annoyed, she very nearly hung up. She introduced herself and there was a pause. Silence down the line that made her a little nervous.
“I'm impressed by your nerve.”
She sighed into the receiver and they chatted for a few minutes. Harry had just gotten home and jumped in the shower, the phone had forced him out and he was dripping, hence his annoyance. As they chatted for a little longer he seemed to relax. He told her most women on the site started their correspondence via email, and that sometimes, he spoke to ladies three or four times this way before they stopped. No one rang him, it was almost uncouth. He laughed into the receiver and Josie felt her heart jump. It was a great sound, deep and easy.
Why was a nice-sounding man such as this one, looking for dates on an Internet site, why couldn't he snag girls in the real world? Josie didn't ask. She learnt that Harry lived across town and that they both had Skype. She agreed to talk with him some more in a day or two, neither of them suggested meeting in person and after that they hung up. Her fingers tingled as she set down the phone. What was wrong with him? The man seemed a little too good to be real. Perhaps he had bad acne scars? Perhaps he was fat?
On Monday her phone rang, it was 11 in the morning so Josie presumed it was her agent. She answered brusquely, caught off guard by Harry.
“We seem to have a habit of talking at inopportune times.”
He worked from home, he said (although he didn't tell her what he did for a living and Josie didn't ask). He wanted to have a Skype chat with her that evening. Was she free? Josie hesitated, she didn't want this man thinking she had nothing better planned. Testing her luck she declined. He didn't say anything right away, only breathed down the phone line.
The thought struck her that for strangers, they were standing very close together, his breath made it sound like he was actually breathing on her. Josie sighed, exhibiting another of her bad habits. She caught herself and tried not to exhale too heavily into the phone-line.
“Oh alright, I may not be free this evening but you work from home, right? What about right now?”
She bit her bottom lip and waited for his response. Harry cleared this throat.
They exchanged Skype details and got off the phone. She logged on and waited. It dailled, Josie picked up and there they were, facing one another on the little web-cam screen.
“Hi” She said shyly.
He grinned at her, a lopsided grin that looked like one side of his lips were activated by a string. He had a dimple. She broke into a broad grin, her stomach flip-flopping. Off to a good start.
She learnt all types of things about Harry. He was 33, a writer, Irish and knew few people in Melbourne. He'd come here several years ago chasing a woman. She had left him some time ago, since then he had been saving for money to go home. He didn't go out and meet women the regular way because it meant sitting in bars or going to shows or watching bands and all these things cost money. Money that he was saving to pay off his debts and pay for a ticket to the UK. Damaged goods. Josie thought to herself as he talked. But he was fun and easy-going and they laughed a lot.
Josie was more cautious about telling him things about herself. At 26, she felt as though she should be in a better place in her life and had made some interesting choices but she was a good copy editor and this well paid work in Australia was her big chance. She told Harry about her job and talked about where she would like to travel. She kept the conversation vague and the details of her own life hazy. Josie wasn't sure why. She didn't distrust him, it just felt too easy and she refrained from attempting to spill her life story over the Internet to a man she had never met in the flesh. At 2pm, Josie excused herself. She had to get back to work.
They hadn't arranged to catch up again and Josie thought she might like to meet him in person. He lived around an hour away from the city but public transport in Melbourne was good, perhaps she would call him later in the week and arrange something. She put him out of her mind and got stuck back into her work load. Later she went to the gym.
Two weeks passed and Josie found herself wondering if she had made a bad impression. She regularly used her vibrator to stimulate herself and more than once she had caught herself fantasising about Harry's cute, dimpled grin as she used the buzzing tool on her pussy. Had he lost interest? Never one to stand by as the rest of the world turned without her, Josie picked up the phone.
When she rang his number, it went through to voice mail. Before she could over-think her reaction, she breathed playfully into the receiver, doing (what she thought sounded like) a Marilyn impression.
“Hey Big Booooy, it's been so long since I've heard from you. Don't you wanna play with me any more?”
She gently replaced the receiver with a click. Josie went for a run. When she got back her answer service was blinking. She grinned and retrieved the message, hugging a cushion from the couch to her chest in anticipation.
“Hey”, and then came one of Harry's characteristic loaded silences;“Don't take this the wrong way. Was it you that just rang me? Some cute, saucy vixen left a message on my phone. I thought it might be you.”
That was all. He hadn't said that he'd like to speak with her, in fact, she was a little disappointed. Except for the fact that he had described her greeting as saucy, he hadn't really given her a reason to contact him. So she didn't. Metaphorically sitting on her hands for a few days, Josie left things as they were.
Saturday rocked around, Josie watched commuters on the streets below change from suits rushing to drone-jobs, to big groups of teenagers; families with pushers and couples hand-in-hand. Sometimes the scenes below made her so determined to be part of life, instead of observing that she caught the lift the 30 floors down and went out to walk in the streets, brushing past real people with relief as she headed towards to City Baths.
Josie loved to swim, she liked the feel of the water on her skin and the bubble of protective not-noise that closed around her in the sub-terrainium seclusion. Exhaustion too, was a welcome retreat from the addled wondering of her lonely brain. This particular Saturday she finished up at the pool and stepped outside onto Swanston St feeling sufficiently elated. She made her way back to her apartment with a spring in her step.
Once inside, Josie hung her bathers over the balcony to dry. Out in the wind she heard the phone ring. She raced to answer the call.
“Hi” Josie answered breathlessly.
“Hey Babe” Harry purred into the phone.
“Oh, it's you.” She pretended to be non-nonplussed.
“Yeah it's me, Crazy Girl. Who else would call you at 9.30am on a Saturday?”
Josie laughed quietly. My mum. But she didn't say anything.
“I'm really lonely, and horny today. Come over?”
What was left of Harry's Irish accent twanged sexily at her.
“No.” Josie didn't know why she was overly cautious with new people but she trusted her instincts implicitly.
She sensed he was about to hang up.
“You can Skype me if you want? Just give me a minute or two to put some clothes on.” She added wickedly and giggled. As she hung up, Josie thought she heard Harry groan.
Like a woman possessed, she hatched a plan. Her hands shook but she felt emboldened by his blatant offer and her sex tingled. She rushed to the freezer and took out an ice-cream, frozen-in-a-cone. She put her wet bikini back on and moved her laptop into the lounge room. Josie set it down on the glass-topped coffee table and settled herself on the floor in front of the couch.
He dialled through and she picked up the call. As the web cam kicked in, before she lost her nerve she picked up the frozen treat. He waved. Josie put her fingers to her lips and indicated he shouldn't speak. She put the ice cream in her mouth and cracked the outer layer of chocolate, eating the thin layer of chocolate and all the nuts. She looked into the web cam and carefully positioned her body so he got a good view of her lush breasts and perky pebbled nipples. Her suit was still wet and it worked to her advantage.
Josie began to enthusiastically make delicate love to the ice cream in her hands, squeezing the vanilla treat between her lips and melting the cream until it ran suggestively down her lips and chin. Harry stared at her performance, wide eyed. He leaned in. Josie knew she couldn't eat the whole ice cream without saying something.
“Do you like that?”
Harry nodded, mute. His laptop screen shook as he moved it, directing the web cam at his crotch. Through his light-coloured jeans Josie could make out a straining erection. Ice-cream caked all around her mouth, she grinned. Devilishly made her terminate the Skype call. No sooner had she wiped her mouth and popped on a ti-shirt, than the phone rang. He didn't greet her, but Harry paused just long enough for Josie to be sure who was calling.
“Thank you.” Josie purred.
“Wanna come over now?”
And Josie hung up.
She laughed at the receiver, did a little run around her apartment with all the nervous energy accumulating in her system and then she took herself off to a warm shower. She changed into tight jeans and a halter top, ate some muesli and made the decision. She dialled Harry's number.
“Hullo, Harry's phone”
Josie didn't bother to say who it was.
“But you could come here?”
He paused. She licked her lips in the delicious, characteristic, shocked Harry-silence.
“Well Harry, I'll give you my address and you can decide for yourself.”
After hanging up the phone, Josie felt a pang of apprehension. She was dizzy with desire and in her haste, had given her details to a total stranger. Josie ran a hand through her long, honey-brown locks and glanced at the door. Maybe he wouldn't come. She began clearing her junk from the lounge room, just in case. All the while wondering how long it might take, if he did decide to show up.
Josie painted her toenails. She made vegetable stock using her nervous energy to chop and dice things she found in her fridge. She sought out containers and froze some of it. A few hours passed. Perhaps he really isn't going to show up. Restless, Josie bundled her hair into a loose knot on top of her head, located a book of short stories a friend from home had sent recently and threw it and a rug into a big, old carry-all.
Josie was determined to find peace of mind at the park. Then at least, if he did show up, hours later and cocky with it, she would have the last laugh. She wrenched the door open, almost careering into a visitor. Harry. How in the hell had he gotten up the lift without being buzzed into the building? She scowled at him, her black mood dissipating. He wore beige-ish moleskins, a dark blue ti-shirt, comfy-looking skate shoes and a wicked grin. One dimple taunted her. His blue eyes twinkled at her, mocking her anger.
“Hey Lady. Goin' somewhere?”
Josie felt a bit silly.
“I was going to the park to get air. Interested?” She swung her daggy shoulder bag between them and he eyed her with interest.
The Irish twang to his monosyllabic response caught her off guard. Her senses zinged with lust.
“Oh”. Josie let all of the air out of her lungs in a rush.
“Can I come inside?” He gestured towards the inside of her flat.
Josie nodded dumbly. Harry took one long, searching look at her face and grabbed her hand, hauling her bodily back over the threshold.
“You're a moody one.” He looked at her in a disarming way that made her feel like he was looking right through her. She felt a twinge of regret at her childish behaviour.
“I didn't think you were coming.”
“Oh. O.K.” Harry rubbed his hands together in an unconsciously nervous gesture.
He paced about the lounge room. Josie blushed, recognising that he would be remembering what she did on the web-cam, only hours before.
“You're much better looking in person”, she ventured brightly.
“Yeah, you too.” He racked a hand through his messy hair. “C'mere?”
With a degree of uncertainty, Josie went. She stood two foot from him and looked up into his eyes. He was a good looking man, taller than her by a good few inches and by god, he was nervous. He tugged a belt loop at the front of her jeans shyly but firmly, encouraging her to close the distance between them. Harry crooked his finger and lifted her chin. Their eyes met.
His expression was sizzling hot. Josie bravely put her hands on his chest, palms first. Under the thin layer of his worn ti-shirt, he was hot. His heart was hammering too. Josie slid her hands from his pecks, to the his neck, lowering his face towards hers. She filled her nostrils with his unfamiliar scent. It was the last sensation to hit her, before their lips met.
“You drove me crazy this morning” he murmured onto her lips.
“Kiss me, fool” Josie shot back, licking his lower lip and opening her mouth to take his tongue.