A flower that blooms in adversity is rare. You’ve wilted somewhere along the way, in between folding bed sheets to desired crispness and replacing towels in dirty bathrooms. Scrub floors until they gleam. Dust mirrors until they shine. Reflective surfaces are your specialty, but you barely look at yourself these days. Enough to tie your hair behind you. Enough to remember you exist, because it is all too easy to forget.
The pay is above average- it is a five star, after all. Once in a while, a finely minted man of ambiguous age will slip a tip into your apron, and you treat yourself to a pastry and late night booze. Late forties? Upper echelon fifties dipped in formaldehyde? It doesn’t matter. You wear nude stockings now. They like those.
They’ve hosted a party in one of the larger suites, and today you need to clean up the grime. Gloves, always. Check. Deep breaths. Check two. Blood stains on the sheets, and other muck. Check three. Hopefully they rewarded their victim well. You fold. You tuck. You scrub raw and clean and new. Your teeth clench into a hard edge. The water runs.
Your last roommate at the old place did this sort of thing, once in a blue moon. Where is she now? Is she doing alright? She barely posts on social media nowadays. The stripping will leave her debt free once college is over. Her body was like a thumbtack when you last saw the girl; sharp and bright and nothing but function. At some point, you thought you loved her.
More scrubbing. Even more scrubbing.
Then, a knock at the door. You freeze.
“Just a moment!”
Unclench. Unglove. Check four, open the door. There’s a woman on the other side: a slim, collected blonde in red, white, and black. Her lips remind you of carnivorous flowers. You call to mind a Vileplume in overhead view, sweet scented and lush. There’s no chance that she was the victim of last night’s festivities. She carries herself too well. She is too unlike you.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” the woman says, and the pity washes over you. You welcome it like rain after a dry summer. “I left something here. It will only take me a few moments to retrieve it.”
Double take. Check five. You picture her with a strap between her legs as she ushers her way inside without asking. Her form is a strange mark that mars the room; a blade cut against lonely flesh. She opens a shelf by the night stand close to the bed, and procures a pair of hexagon earrings, slipping them on silently. You realize, entirely too late, that you have spent all this time staring.
In a smooth, fae like motion, she slips a bill into your pocket, before crossing the halls and disappearing past a corner. You bite your lip. It’s enough for a week’s worth of groceries- half a week if you indulge. Her number decorates the upper left corner, in clean, rounded strokes. You quickly punch the digits into your phone, for a later date, when you feel more reckless. Your thumb rubs the bill to blot and blur the pen marks.
No one else gets to have this.
The rest of your day fades into routine. Clean the rooms. Slip new plastic bags over dust bins. Count numbers on the doors. Picture how many strangers are having sex on this floor. Politely shove away the persistent advances of that annoying greeter near the front. He’s balding and old. He thinks a fancy suit and a view from the top is enough to earn your pussy. You picture the beautiful woman in red spitting on his face. It makes you smile.
Your apartment is fifteen minutes by rail. It’s crowded at the end of the day, but the Rose Hotel is one of the first stops that it serves, so you always have a seat. There’s a man with an attentive Squirtle beside you; the little ball of blue is trying its best to play some sort of phone game. Your Eldegoss is not one for apps or sitting still in a monorail ride, but in early mornings when you are free, you go on walks together to watch the sunrise. She murmurs gently in your pocket. You want to do better for her, but for now, this is all you can manage.
It’s dark when you finally get inside. Neither of your two roommates have returned to your shared sardine tin of an apartment, so you hog the smart TV and binge watch a children’s cartoon. People your age are in charge of cartoons now; the flavor is strange and bitter. Those people are living the dream. You’re scrubbing toilets.
9:43pm. Your fingers hover over the mystery lady’s number, but ultimately, you put down your phone.
It’s morning when you realize that you never asked for her name.
Roommate 1, Saya, is bright and energetic as she makes fried eggs and tomatoes for all three of you, in between mouthfuls of exposition about her favorite pet trainer this challenger season. “Gloria’s gonna make it to Leon, I can feel it in my bones!” She says this every year, but you don’t have the heart to chastise her. You want her optimism to rub on you vicariously, just as Saya lives vicariously through young female challengers.
Roommate 2, June, brushes toast crumbs off her coat and rolls her eyes. She works at an upscale hair salon, and much like you, has her dreams on a lower shelf to consider only in dark hours. Saya still holds onto them- ugly scrawls framed as a painting rather than thrown out and discarded. They’re both prone to heated arguments about money owed and who cleans the bathroom this week, but at least Saya is a far more agreeable person to be with.
“I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Broken clocks are still right twice a day,” says June, accepting the offered sunny side up.
“I’m right about this,” Saya insists as she feeds her Blipbug scraps of an apple. “I’ll bet my rent on it.”
“Please, don’t,” you groan. “You don’t have that kind of credit.”
You thank Saya for the eggs and rush out of the door to catch the monorail to work. The number burns a hole in your head, like trepanation through desire alone. Whatever text you send will not be Shakespeare by any means, but the worst that can happen is not getting a reply back.
me: Hey it’s the girl from yesterday afternoon. At the hotel. Would you like to meet up sometime?
Poetry in motion, but there’s no harm in trying. You clean toilets and replace toiletries. An affluenza sufferer in his mid twenties tries to look up your skirt in mid morning, and a forty-something dame in a dark, severe dress buys you lunch at noon. Mystery woman returns your text on your last spoonful of minestrone.
hot hotel lady <3: I am only free on some evenings and late nights. Saturday at 9pm work for you? Here is my address.
me: That’s fine!!! Thank you! See you then.
Two days from now. Casual encounters are so few and far in between for you, and you don’t entirely know the protocol. Is there protocol? Is it fine to text in between to confirm? Is it encouraged to throw a compliment before coming? Should you send a selfie in lingerie?
Too many exclamation marks, you decide. Too late to correct.
The mornings pass like fluid through intravenous. Saya won’t shut up about Gloria. June won’t stop complaining about her coworkers. You walk your Eldegoss through the park as sunrise greets Wyndon. You bury your face in her cotton mane. You think of the woman and her soft, pillowy breasts, the stretch of red doing little to conceal. You think of your old roommate, and the kiss you stole from her in New Years when the both of you were plastered. You think of Saya and her dark lips pursing into a cupid’s bow as she sips afternoon tea.
Your Eldegoss rubs her head against your nose. Work starts at 10am. You braid weeds into a crown and toss it over the park bridge. Had you been a bit younger, you would have made a wish.
At your job, baldie greeter says good morning in your general direction, and attempts to make small talk. He asks for your holiday plans. You tell him that you have an exciting date with the newest season of a dragon cartoon aimed at seven year olds. Top of your priorities, you insist. June did not invite you to her cool kid cocaine party hosted by no name affluenza DJ and blunt fringe sundress quasi-model. Saya is a loser, like you, but she’s a loser with a good relationship with her family. You’re alone.
“Want to spend Christmas with me, love?” baldie asks. He has no right to have any self esteem. He’s well into his forties and unmarried, and he thinks your cunt is a hot topic because you carry yourself like a noose carries a body. Get them sad girls, old man. They’re easy.
“Can’t miss my cartoon!” you reply with a thin smile.
Smooth exit. You fold a lot of towels today. You picture throwing baldie in a pit full of soiled ones. He’s wriggling like bait on a hook as he drowns in soggy fabric. Saya is there, throwing apple cores into the ditch. The beautiful blonde kisses you on the mouth. You’re both wearing vintage bikinis. A dragon flies overhead. You’ve never felt sexier.
An alarm rings. Fifteen minute break. You steal chips from the concierge, and wolf them down in the bathroom.
(She carries herself too well. She is nothing like you.)
Break over. Fold blankets. Fluff pillows. Draw curtains. Think of your tongue lavishing over a pink nub. Dust tables. Your thumb pinches the other. She moans like a saccharine pop song line. Vacuum.
Work is done by 10 at night. You hurry home and head to bed early. On the other side of the wall, a boring musician with a day job as a telemarketer fucks June raw. Her moans are rehearsed and practiced, like the smile you offer to guests at the hotel. You think you only hate her because she is so much like you. Maybe you’ll buy her an adventurous lip color for Christmas.
Still, she could stand to be quieter.
You dream of fucking the blonde on the beach. Blonde on the beach with some fancy alcoholic beverage- isn’t that just the trope? Her red string bikini borders on decorative. She pulls off her bottoms and you grind against each other on a beach towel. Red lip color peppers your skin. Waves lap at your feet. At the back of your head, you know that this entire scenario is ridiculous gloss. You don’t care. It’s your dream.
The sky grows dark. You’re back at your job folding an endless mound of towels that reach the ceiling. You fold baldie greeter into a clean rectangle, and sort him with the sheets.
Saturday comes. You aren’t ready.
You still have your old roommate saved on your phone. Annie. 22. Fake redhead. Spindly and frail boned. She was your first kiss. You’re afraid for her. You doubt that it’s love, but it’s still enough for a checkup.
me: been a while. Are you doing ok?
The job drones on without a single reply. You expected as much, but it hurts anyway. Blonde at 9pm. A quickie at her apartment and then you both move on with your lives. She lives in the basement floor of a brownstone, and small plants decorate the path to her door under the stone steps, lit up by solar lights plugged into the dirt. It’s charming, almost, the care she put into the presentation.
She wears dust pink instead of red- matching pajama tops and bottoms. Her smile is soft in the pale light of the evening. You call to mind wildflowers that grow near the beach, tiny and delicate. You think of Annie- is it alright to think of Annie? Everyone you first meet begins as a mishmash of memories and people from before. They only become their own form if they stay long enough to take up a more solid mass.
She ushers you inside. Oleana, she says. Her name is Oleana. It’s a lovely name, like Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers, or Mary Shelley’s fine script in her letters. You offer yours. She takes your hand and her lips ghost over the backs of your fingers.
Her apartment is like a dollhouse, or an organized backdrop from a Miyazaki film. It’s full of knick knacks and collected trinkets, but it’s tidy and carefully presented. Curated, almost. You’ve seen the houses of college kids and fellow 20-somethings. They’re haphazard piles of individuality, constrained by budget and floor plan. There’s plenty a pride flag; there’s mounds of stuffed animals, along with countless attempts to retrieve a stolen childhood through inventive space management. Oleana’s living room echoes this, but somehow it lacks the clutter and anxiousness of previous homes you’ve seen. She already knows what she wants and who she is.
How old is Oleana anyway? She could be anything. Late twenties- rarefied thirties. You try to crack then nut open as she leads you into her bedroom. Her bed looks vintage- romantic metal frames and pillows with lace edging. It fits two. She sits by the end of it, and crosses her legs.
“How would you like me?”
I didn’t expect to get this far, you want to tell her.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to do the blunt of the work,” you say instead. Your fingertips tingle in anticipation.
“Hop to it then,” Oleana instructs.
Annie, says the voice inside your head. Don’t think of Annie . You cross the space between you and the woman. Your left hand tucks loose strands behind her ear, chased by your mouth, to nip at the lobe. You move slowly, silent and dutiful. Her breath is hot and quiet by your neck. You slip a palm under the pink top, and pull it over her head. Her breasts are bare underneath, milk pale and full. Her nipples pebble under your hesitant touch. She’s like a doll in a toy house; blond roots and ivory limbs. You’re trespassing.
You trail a line of saliva from ear to nape, and her hands fiddle the waistband of your pants. She pulls down and follows your pace, fingers reaching your heat. An index crooks its way inside, pushing the fabric of your panties to the left. You try not to squirm- she’s a lot more forward than you. You squeeze her breasts in response to her sudden invasion.
“No need to drag this out,” Oleana drawls. “I am not a pilgrimage.”
It annoys you, somehow. You think someone with her looks deserves a tad more respect, but if she wants a dumb fuck then you’re plenty dumb and plenty eager. The tape goes on fast forward; your clothes heap on her wooden floor. You’re grasping at each other like those tacky female wrestlers in those niche cat fighting videos. Her body is an unfamiliar plane, so you test for common ground. Worry the hollow of her neck. Fuck your tongue into her belly button. Press your mouth against her thighs to worship the skin there. She yanks at your hair, impatient.
“You seem to want to steer the wheel,” you say, laughing in between sharp breaths.
“You’re boring,” she replies, exasperated. “You’re an awfully boring top.”
“I dunno. Some girls like this stuff.” You smile, trying to mask your comparative inexperience. “But you’re more than welcome to put me in my place.”
There it is. Her shape changes, from doll to doll maker. You’re not exactly afraid; this feeling is more like fear’s bastard horny cousin. Is there a formal name for it? It could use a more dignified moniker.
“Are you offering?”
“Yes,” you say, a bit ashamed by your enthusiasm.
“Pat the bed three times, like this,” she says, and slaps the sheets with the flat of her palm. “Do it any time, and I’ll stop.”
You nod. She ruffles your hair, and steps away.
“Right then, no point in wasting time. Hands behind your head. Bend over at the foot of the bed. No words or movement from you.”
You comply swiftly. The bed is low to the ground, but it’s still strange to have your bottom up in the air and your knees on the floor. Oleana is a stranger, after all. Maybe you’re just a glutton for danger, or you hate yourself enough to chase it. She pats your flank as though you are a well behaved hound who worked especially hard today. Her fingers examine clinically, spreading your cheeks and parting your lower lips. Breath exits your nose in shallow exhales. No words, she said. She’s making this difficult.
You hear footsteps, and a drawer opening, then a clink of metal and rustling fabric. It could be anything, really. She’s beside you again moments later, with some unknown instruments left to rest on the side of the bed. No movement allowed, so you can’t exactly turn to see. A thin slip of leather teases the tender mound of your arse, drawing little circles onto the flesh.
“Ten lashes for putting me through that snore fest, young lady. Five per cheek.”
I’m sorry, you almost say, until you remember. The riding crop slams down with a bright crack, and you yelp with the sudden sting of it. One. That’s not a word, right? Two. You make a sound that’s between a groan and a cry. Three. You sink your teeth into her floral quilt, leaving it wet with drool. Four. You’re pretty sure that the space between your legs is a weeping mess. Your eyes are a weeping mess. You don’t want her to stop.
She pauses to massage your rump. You hate it. It’s so condescending, but somehow you want to lean into her hand. No movement, though. There’s that.
Seriously, fuck this bitch. If this is a one night stand and she’ll leave you dry afterwards, Saya and June are gonna have to deal with a sodden, grumpy mess of a roommate for at least two weeks.
Her middle finger finds your clit. You cry into her blankets as she glides against the tender pearl. You want to thrust your hips against her hand, but you’re all too good at following instructions. She pats your head affectionately.
“I’m stopping for exceptionally good behavior, but you’re still on thin ice.”
There’s a blunt end of a strap-on teasing your entrance. She slams home with no lead up. It’s larger than what you’re used to taking, and you feel pried open with every slow, deliberate thrust. Her hands are equally relentless. You’re pretty sure that you’re annoying the neighbors with how much noise you’re making.
Her torso folds over you. You feel like you’re being swallowed whole. You’re so close to release, but she’s being an arsehole about the whole thing. You whine and keen beneath her. She grabs your waist, and her teeth torment your ear.
“Say sorry.” You can feel the smile in her words. “Say sorry for topping poorly, and then you can cum.”
“Sorry!” It’s all too immediate. This whole situation is more absurd than the bikini dream, but at least it’s real. “Sorry for wasting your time!”
Your orgasm is brief white spark, yanked out of you with deft fingers and a timed thrust. You want to apologize for leaving spit all over her sheets. She pulls away from you, and you barely manage to pull yourself into a seated position. You hug your arms.
“Shower’s left of the hall. Feel free to use the spare bath robe. It’s the yellow one. If you have time afterwards, do you want to watch a movie in the living room?”
“I uh. What.”
“Did I stutter?”
Dommed, then a movie. Must be the alternative version of Netflix and chill. Alright. This is a thing that is happening. “Sure. Five minutes.”
Her soaps and toiletries are more floral than your usual fare- you tend to stick to nondescript scents. You’re decent in a hurry; two roommates has done plenty to expedite your bath routine. When you return to meet her in the living room, Oleana has traded in her pajamas for a robe as well; the fabric is black with red florals, shining dully. It looks like real silk, and not cheap, Halloween satin. She pats the space next to her on the couch, and you settle in the crook of her waiting arm. She slings it over you, spare hand holding a coffee mug filled with brandy.
“I’m thinking something specific,” Oleana says. “Say, children’s movies from the 90s, back when they actually made movies for girls. None of this modern day, masculine is default, bollocks. I’m tired of robots and superheroes.”
“Mulan,” you blurt out. “I use to watch that obsessively. It was my comfort movie.”
“Good taste, but I’m really not in the mood for Disney at the moment.” She takes a swig from her cup, and offers it to you. The brat in your head says, indirect kiss as you down the liquid, before handing it back to her. “Have you ever seen Alfonso Cuaron’s A Little Princess? It might come off as garishly Orientalist now, but the costume and set design still holds up.”
“I have never heard of that, no,” you say. Domme who likes children’s movies. You’ve seen weirder.
“That was my comfort movie,” she says, low and oddly gentle. Now you really feel like you’re trespassing. “Hopefully they have it in the catalog.”
She pulls it up from the list. You watch it in silence with her - all 97 minutes of it. The apartment feels like a dollhouse again for its duration. You press your lips against her wrist as the music swells. You’re probably just a bit too buzzed, but her face leaves you wanting.
“Goodnight, principessa, ” Oleana says with a parting kiss. “Let’s do this again sometime.”
Wyndon is cold at night. The brandy doesn’t help. You think of Annie again, now that the glamour is gone. She still hasn’t texted back.