Amanda Andres | Music Ki Pathshala | Staffel 2

As She's Told : Chapter 1

As She's Told


Anneke Jacob




Chapter One


Shadow


The flotsam on the front desk didn't need any more rearranging. I'd done that three times already, with hands more tense and jittery by the second.

Each impatient tick of the clock nudged me; I wanted to heed the exit sign's word of command and get out the door. At last my colleague of the afternoon shift arrived to relieve me. Dear Vera. Five minutes late, again.

Before her coat was off I had her filled in: assorted information requests, a new student coming in at three, and that shipment of energy-saver kits only half processed. I hoped she'd put my breathlessness down to irritation. If she did, there was no flicker of an apology; there never was. She just nodded her imperturbable head and went to hang up her coat. I struggled a little awkwardly into my boots, straightened, took a couple of much-needed breaths and flung my coat on. Then I was through the door; under the clock and exit sign and into the snowy street.

The sun was glittering on patches of brilliant white on the roofs and windowsills. The snow at street level was the colour of car exhaust. It was ten after one and the temperature had inched above freezing. I just avoided a wet attack from the tree branches above me. Later the sidewalks would be pure ice. Not my problem.

I heard the streetcar before I saw it – that unmistakable metallic roar accelerating through the traffic noise – and cursed under my breath. The spreading puddles around the curb were ankle-deep. No time for circumnavigation; I splashed through regardless.

Luckily the light turned red and caught the streetcar for me. I searched with a little edge of panic for my token, the one thing in my possession resembling money. Oh, I couldn't have lost it…no… Then I felt it, wedged into the furthest corner of my pocket, and the red tide receded. At that time of day there were empty seats; I perched on one with care, trying to pant quietly. My ribs strained against tight bands, leather pressing into my flesh.

But I wouldn't be late.

Research questions and collegial irritation trailed after me for a block or two, and then fell behind in the slush of the streetcar's wake. My covert body inventory took over instead: a check on each hidden place held captive. Held 4



As She’s Told – Anneke Jacob

as if by hard, untiring, single-minded hands. The heat under my usual simmer turned up a notch, and then another. I sat quietly, looked out the window and hoped for the hundredth time that no one on the streetcar could read minds. The three blocks from the streetcar stop had to be taken more easily; I didn't want to be sweating when I walked through the door. Traffic noise receded behind me; I threaded through quiet residential sidewalks, between snow neatly piled or left in slushy ridges, past the driveway and up the walk. I let myself in, and closed the door behind me. Then I sank to my knees.

***

Anders got into his pickup. In the house behind him was a deconstructed kitchen, half a truckload of cabinetwork, and his crew sprawled on tile boxes, eating their lunch with the radio cranked to Q-1-0-Zeppelin. He pulled his laptop out from under the passenger seat and booted it up, angling it so that passers-by couldn't see the screen. Sandwich in one hand, he pressed some keys with the other, stroked the mouse, and made a careful check on his property. The phone on his belt bleeped.

"Thygesen," he said.

"Hey big brother!"

"Hey Svend! Are you back? How was Greece?"

"Really good. Fantastic, actually. Invite me to dinner and I'll tell all. The guy who sublet left the place in a nightmare – "

"Let me take you out. You want Italian?"

"Ugh, no, I'm sick of restaurants. Haven't you got some new dishes to try out on me? Or this new girlfriend of yours, does she cook?"

"Um – no, actually." Anders looked at the figure on the screen, retreating out of range. He switched to a different image, and watched her breasts framed between her arms as she passed through a doorway into brighter light. "Svend – not tonight."

"Oh, come on. I'll even do the shopping. Don't you want to show me this house of yours?"

"There's something I'm going to have to explain before you come over."

"What? What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong; it's just –"

"Wait a minute…. Something tells me…. You kinky degenerate, you got lucky, didn't you?"

5



As She’s Told – Anneke Jacob

A few minutes later Anders put the phone
away, his eyes never leaving the screen. Dinner out with his brother meant more time alone for his little beauty. He would have just time to feed her and take a shower. He pictured her disappointed face, and he smiled.

***

The two brothers sat in a Chinese restaurant on Spadina, melted slush from their boots converging on the linoleum between their feet. Even sitting down they looked big: four long forearms taking up space alongside the teapot and little ceramic cups. The browner arms were Svend's; Anders' were the more corded, with the small scrapes and abrasions of harder usage. They spoke low, the two long heads inclined together, switching to Danish whenever the waiter brought them another dish.

"Okay," Svend said over his plate, "Why can't I see her? Where is she?"

"Where do you think she is?"

"Oh, you're kidding! Really, she's locked up there?"

Anders nodded.

"And she likes it?"

"What do you take me for?"

Svend snickered. "Demented." Then he raised his palms against his brother's prickly glare, his blue eyes wide. "But ethically demented! Truly!"

"Damned straight."

Svend thrust chopsticks into a dumpling and dipped it in Hoisin sauce.

"How did you find her?"

Anders swirled his tea, sipped. "At a kind of party, you know, quite a tame get-together – no, actually, first I met her on a chat line."

"I thought you'd given up on those."

Anders' mouth twitched. "Not quite."

"You said they were depressing."

"Hell, yes. I couldn't sit through much of it at one go. I kept quitting and going back. But I needed some contact – some kind of chance." Anders shovelled rice onto his plate. "Good thing I did, as it turned out. But, yes, it could be depressing. Boring too. Assholes posturing, playing games; same lines over and over. Brutal, stupid."

Svend raised his eyebrows. "You surprise me." He dipped another dumpling, eyeing his brother. "Not about the chats; I mean you. Suffering fools. Gladly or any other way."

6



As She’s Told – Anneke Jacob

Anders shrugged. "Any amount of dross can be worth sifting. Depends what you're after. And how much you want it." He finished piling his plate and picked up his chopsticks.

***

It had been so precociously warm, that night just barely into spring, that windows all over the city were cracked open to the air for the first time in half a year. Grimy snow still clung, its dug-in claws trickling away into the faded tufts of last year's grass.

The smell of thawing soil brushed past Anders on its way into the unfinished room. Apart from the lit windows of neighbours and the glow of streetlights, the only light came from the computer screen in front of him. It was propped on a wooden box so as to be at eye level. The words on the screen scrolled in jerks and fits and starts: multicoloured words, a babble, a torrent of words. Anders slumped back, one long leg propped on the desk, and watched the screen from under half closed lids, eyes shifting from one chat room to another; he had four of them going. None interested him.

Three were talking about nothing in particular. One was going through a reiteration of the communication theme.



Master and i talk all the time – otherwise how would he know?

did the playlist and he knows what i wont do.

and what you like right?

yeah yeah yeah!!! rofl



Anders sighed.



but doesn't that spoil it?



The light eyes flicked wide, and followed now as the lines scrolled.



suede flogger mmmm

what do you like Mikesgirl?

* IzatU has joined d/sTO

hi all

Izzy!!

7



As She’s Told – Anneke Jacob



No answer for shadow. Anders' foot came down off the desk, and he closed the other windows. He could just remember the name from other nights, never saying much. His hands went to the keyboard, and words appeared next to his nick.



shadow, what do you mean? spoil it?



There were fourteen people in the group and eight of them greeted IzatU

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