Date: January 2016
Place: Băneasa Mall, the launch of new collection of some stupid bracelet with charms.
It’s another ‘one of those Thursdays’ in the tackiest mall of Bucharest or nearby. Outside it’s freezing cold and people gather from their workplaces for a quick dinner or window shopping session. It’s only the almost poor or above average income that still hunt for the winter sales. I won’t be worrying about them, because now I am focusing on those that seem to think of themselves as the belly button of this small universe. This is not LA, nor London, it’s just Bucharest! Don’t be fooled by the fresh air, it’s the sub zero temperatures that keep you from noticing the exhaust fumes. A few huddled up workers of the Mall avidly inhale the average Romanian drug – a cigarette.
Walking through the galleries invaded by artificial lights and sparkling shops – fancy overpriced silver items allure women’ eyes and make men dream of late-night rewards. Small round bar tables are spread and the so-called networking seems to be flourishing in spite of the damn cold of temperate climate.
I look around and notice her amidst a few men, laughing with her mouth open and head pushed back. Her luscious hair falls below her shoulders, while she tilts her head back. Seems a natural dark chestnut with honey reflexes. She is one of those little women that like to climb the 12 cm heels to feel important. Or maybe I am just mean, cause the short dress and cowboy boots become her, although one may think she could lose a few kilos. That was also mean! No jewelry, no hideous long necklace, just a small simple silver ring on the left hand (married?!) and a black wooden one on the middle right hand finger. She keeps fidgeting that one under the table as an anxiousness sign. The laughter seems to be kind of a self defense weapon, ‘cause she’s using it a lot, although men around her are busy making jokes. It’s hardly noticeable, for them I mean, to capture the eyes that swipe the room in search for new audience or new spectacle. She is slightly bored and her mind is working fast for a polite escape excuse. Well, honey… you might be in luck tonight!
„I am so fucking bored!” is the look on this guy. Yeah, she saw him, he seems to be doomed. She gave him the old cliché with the clean/good shoes and he seems to have passed the test. He is above average tall, 40 or something, although the hair is dark black. Nothing special about him either, maybe he is one of those expats that hangs out late and crawls to his fancy apartment for a dreamless night. Or maybe the Pipera corporatist type, one that is happily married to his job as analyst or something boring to do with numbers. He saw her and suddenly his posture changed. The conversation with the buddies that dragged him to this event, fade. Maybe he was never interested by the looks of the sudden change. But nah… something is wrong with a picture of the two put together, like him drawing a long shadow on the walls, strangely tall and her filling up small gap in a wall, just like small girls like to hide beneath tables to play.
– Hey, he says, after a bold move toward her table and him leaning on his elbow to reach her height. A smart move in my opinion, as he sets a barrier between her and her companions. I know we met before, but I am such an ass that I forgot your name. Forgive me!
– I have the exact same feeling, she says, her eyes really grateful. Graciously she puts one tiny hand on this forearm to let him notice the appreciation. Her hand is nice, no long painted hideous nails, but pinkish ones that complete long fingers. He noticed the hands, she thinks! It’s Iunia with N, as in June.
– What, he says, I am sorry again… I didn’t catch that!
– My name is Iunia as the feminine for the month of June. I really appreciate you rescuing me.
– My pleasure, Iunia! The things I am willing to do for a damsel in distress like you…
– Was I really? I hate being in distress, but there’s nothing I hate more than being a damsel…
– My name is Ben, but my friends call me Jerry as I am great fan of Seinfeld… stupid immature friends, I know.
– It’s pretty reassuring they don’t call you George so I’d start displaying my dancing skills for the crowd while shouting Stela, Stela…
Iunia laughs out loud, this time for real, as she is pleased with her joke. Ben&Jerry takes her little hand and keeps it in his for a few seconds. Hey fool, don’t kiss it, this isn’t the Middle Ages! For a second their eyes meet and he releases the hand saying: I am glad I rescued you!
LET ME NOT
… to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.” (Bill Shakespeare)
– Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, you seem kind of confident… says Iunia trying to concentrate real hard to find the character flaws as if they were displayed on his face. Someone told me recently that being over-polite is so last season!
– We’re not getting anywhere, don’t worry! I found it amusing and quite frankly I was bored with my friends.
– Okay, Benji! Can I call you Benji? Iunia’s disposition quickly recomposes and now she seems a different person. For the trained eye, ‘cause anyone else would’ve just missed the forced confidence boost.
– Yes, you can call me Benji, although it sounds like a pet name. Ben caught the sudden flicker in her eyes and decided to indulge her.
– Would like to be my pet? she asks and the corner of her mouth raises in a taunting smile.
– No, I am not one of those guys. Sorry to disappoint you… would you like something to drink?
– So are you one of those other guys?
– What kind is that? One that still has some manners? You, determined women of these times, are not acquainted with a man bringing you a drink?!
– Oooo, are we there yet? I haven’t even dreamt of hitting the soft spot so early in our conversation… again she seems pleased with herself and the tension raises a bit among the two…
– You seem to be engaging in some kind of fight, but I haven’t challenged you, baby! Ben notices.
– Don’t call me baby, it’s such a cliché!
They haven’t even noticed that people around them are starting to leave the party, is almost 9 o’clock and the mall closes at 10.
– You seemed in need for someone calling you baby…
– As I have already said, please don’t make assumptions. We’ve met like three seconds ago and you already know what I need! Wow, just wow!
– Even the fact that you clinging to one single word confirms what I have just said… And stop looking at your phone, you are not a child!
Iunia raises her eyes from the phone startled.
– Yes, you are right. That was kind of impolite. It’s my friends, we have this group chat, I apologize.
And there it is: for the fifth time this evening she totally changed personality, now she’s a shy girl scolded by her daddy.
– I would like a Coke, please!
Iunia starts rolling her wooden ring in a poor distraction attempt from her phone. When he goes to get her drink, immediately looks at the conversations she missed and a large smile decorates her face, as she writes back: I feel like I am a teenager… I might have met someone
– You couldn’t resist or what?
– I had to tell my friends about you, she admits sincerely. No big deal, right?! We are grown-ups!
– What did you tell them? Ben seems kind of reluctant concerning the course of this discussion.
– I told them I met an older man, what else? I tell the truth most of the time… don’t you? and laughs.
– If that was the truth you should’ve said: I met a wiser man of only 42! Tell them you met a man that makes you uncomfortable…
– I will! But what lead you to this conclusion?
– I am a grown man and kinda of present in the moment, probably unlike all the men you met…
– Uhhh, the plot thickens… Iunia looks at him highly amused. Oh, Benji, we are going to get along just fine!
– Feels that way… how old are you, Iunia with N?
– 35 but I only declare 32 since as you have guessed just right, I only date younger men!
Ben weights the information for a brief moment.
– Would you say this is a date?
– No, definitely not! Would you like to ask me out?
– Actually no! I would like to take you home and teach you some manners, but as you are too old, seems pointless!
– Ok, point made! My place or yours? Do you promise to put me in my place? ‘Cause I can’t even recall a time when a man taught me something, nonetheless putting me in the right place!
– I’d say you are scared shitless right now by this perspective… your move! Ben’s eyes are focused on hers.
– I never enjoyed chess, it’s a man’s game. This is just a battle of the sexes and out of goodwill, I will let you win!
Her cheeks turn pink in a matter of seconds giving away her flushed body. She knows it and the colour deepens. Ben laughs pleased by this small victory.
– A gentleman would’ve never laughed! You are an ass!
Ben’s laughter dissipates the tension, followed shortly by a peace offering:
– Baby, I never said I was a gentleman! I will take you home anyway, by the looks of you I fear for any Uber driver.
– Fine! I accept, Benji, but just because it’s cold and I live really close, just around the corner.
– Thank you for not fighting anymore! You let me win in a way I feel I lost! What do you do for a living, Iunia? Whose mind are you fucking with durind the day?
– Well, I thought you never ask: I am a trainer specialized in front office customer care for airlines.
– Really? And you teach people the politics of The client is always right? This is hilarious, you don’t strike me as a well-balanced, unbiased person! Were your employers drunk when they hired you or… let me guess: are you a free-lancer?
– Let me correct what I said earlier: You are an ass-hole and no, I am not self-employed! Let’s go before I literally strike you!
As they walk through the halls, Iunia’s eyes flood with tears and she looks up to stop them. She inhales deeply hoping Ben didn’t catch this. Unfortunately he did, and now he repents his behavior. Maybe he should’ve put less pressure on her, but at some point he became cocky and missed the teasing limit.
– Don’t you have another jacket? You’ll be cold!
– Don’t worry, I will be ok! and adds in a smaller voice: I am always ok!
THE PLOT THICKENS
But actually not so much.
– Take my jacket, for fuck’s sake! Ben is irritated by Iunia’s attitude.
– I am fine, I said I am fine! God, why do people insist?! Although you seem confused, I really know what I need. Trust me, it’s not your jacket! Iunia’s tongue sticks out in an infantile reflex.
– You act like a spoiled child… oh, nevermind!
– Exactly, nevermind! The car turns toward the residential units near Băneasa Technology Park.
Iunia shows him where to make a right turn as if she can’t wait to get out of the car.
– Here, just leave me at the first block.
– Wait for me to stop, don’t jump, please! his voice all coarse and tired.
The car stops and Iunia suddenly seems undecided… she takes a deep breath and says without looking at him:
– I am sorry, I don’t know what got into me, I want to say something that can explain why I charged you like that. Maybe it’s because I wanted to establish hierarchy, which sounds really stupid when said out loud. Maybe I am not used with… maybe you make me feel, no… not feel, but… oh, fuck it… just I apologize. That’s it! Good night!
She tries to escape, but Ben is quicker and catches her hand.
– I don’t even get to accept these lame excuses, huh? Why are you so scared? I see now that you are a runner and I don’t believe that you feel sorry, you just thought it was the right thing to do. I need more!
– What the hell are you saying? I am not even sure if complaisance advises to say: Nice to meet you! Iunia looks at him repulsed by the thought of him needing anything from her.
Ben lets a smirk widen on his face:
– I’d say that I was merely fucking with you, but you seem to have lost your sense of humor along with the self-worthiness you wear as flag.
– Let go!
– I will if you promise to do the same! Ben laughs and releases her hand.
– Good night!
– Good night, sweet as a summer’s day June!
– Fuck off!
She rushes to her block entrance walking proud in spite of the biting cold. She walks in her studio, happy to get rid of the boots and of „fucking Benji”. She puts some water to boil for tea, while mumbling: who the fuck does he think he is?! I need to get him out of my mind…
Iunia dials the already familiar number of her sex buddy:
– Hey, Chris! Can you come over… please? suddenly she feels all mushy inside and warm tears invade her cheeks. She lets them fall to release the sting in the eyes.
– You have to work? No, I am fine, it’s ok! I understand. No, I haven’t been crying… I told you I am fine… yeah, call me tomorrow, sure. Good night!
She takes a big cup and pours water over her favorite blend of green tea and jasmine. Pulling up close her laptop, she hopes to find some comfort in a chat with her friends, bad-mouthing men. Men are the worst!
She already feels better, crying helped a bit to raise her spirits. Not for long, though. There it is: the friend request from Benjamin Rebac staring at her. She tries to look at his pictures, but the ass-hole concealed everything and now she has to confirm to allay her curiosity. She browses through the pictures and none is indecent or silly. He is always dressed very well and his profile doesn’t show more than what she already inferred: COO at a major transport corporation, one that never shares anything funny. Super boring!
She opens the group chat and writes: Girls, I got home! Forget what I said earlier. I should’ve stayed home, the man I met really destroyed my evening. Hope you are still awake!
Mermaid, the stylish friend and the only one that has kids: Consider it just another experience. Don’t waste your energy on him, baby!
B., eternal reconciler: Yeah, men are pigs, you knew that!
Mizzy, the group’s binder and also the vehement character: Did you tell him to go fuck himself?! I don’t know what happened, but I am on your side anyways.
TLC, the sweetest voice among them, literally: You still have us, baby!
Galadriel, the wise one, a pacifist by nature: We still love you! Muah!
Pinky is missing the midnight call, probably fast asleep.
And last but not least:
Kitty: God! You talk too much, I am trying to get some sleep. Tomorrow it’s a workday for some of us… we’ll talk tomorrow baby! I love you, you know that!😛
Yeah, that feels so much better! She pulls away the laptop, draws out her bra, cuddling on the couch and falls asleep.
YOU DON’T FOOL ME
It’s a new day, it’s a new world! Iunia thinks. She woke up and realized she slept on the couch fully dressed. It’s been a long time since she indulged herself like that. She knew that today is not a working day, she has to pack her bags for a training in Amsterdam. The training starts the next day and most likely will keep her hostage in the airport for two days. These trainings are held at the Alliance HQ and they always book a hotel nearby. Cheap bastards! She missed a call from Chris, but doesn’t feel like calling back. What’s there to discuss?! He couldn’t come over, plain and simple!
Iunia’s mind is a little tormented by the fact that Ben triggered some emotions kept in a stable, safe environment deep inside her. He wasn’t even good looking, and yet she felt attracted by him in a strange way. Not one that raised sexual fantasies, but one that made her question this self-imposed lifestyle. He made her think about being taken care of, about letting a man in her life and yet she didn’t flatter herself that he felt the same. Also remembered the last time she had the exact feeling: in eighth grade when her colleagues offered to beat someone for her as a birthday gift. She smilled to that memory and a warmth filled her body: affection for Cezar, Iulian and Marius. If they would’ve still kept in touch, she could ask them to beat up Ben just because he wasn’t charmed by her personality.
You don’t fool me
With those pretty eyes,
You don’t fool me…
Iunia wished to have him fooled and wipe that superior grin off his face! Or maybe have him fall for her madly and then reject him.
Chris calls again:
– Yeah, hi!
– Are you upset? Why didn’t you call me back? I already said I am sorry…
– It’s not that, I really didn’t have time… I just woke up. Slept like a baby! Iunia rolls her eyes.
– What are doing today, can we grab a coffee?
Don’t go there, Chris! thinks Iunia.
– I am packing for Amsterdam, it’s the monthly training, I can’t!
– Can I drive you to the airport? Please, I need to see you!
– You need?! Chris, how can I put this mildly?! I don’t want to get involved, I appreciate what we have.
– Right! What do we have? Chris’s tone changes into something that feels like grudge.
– Ok, come pick me up at 2 and hopefully we’ll solve this dilemma of yours.
– It’s not a dilemma, it’s just you being stubborn!
– Fine, stop the psychological whatnot, it doesn’t become you! I said I am willing to talk.
– Ok, I’ll be there!
Iunia throws the phone on the couch in a dramatic gesture, but clearly she didn’t mean to brake it. Her phone is her everything: weapon of choice, shelter, book and defense against countless hours of boredom.
She calls Mermaid as an attempt to find comfort somewhere. She knows that on the group there is always support, but she wants to linger some more in melancholy.
– Hey, hun! Iunia greets. Can you talk?
– Sure, I always have time for you! Mermaid’s voice is already comforting, unaltered by judgement of any kind. Are you OK?
– I don’t know, that’s why I am calling. Do you ever feel sorry for getting involved in all that „married with kids” stuff?
– When I look at my boys I know it was all worth it. Why? Did you get the time is ticking alarm?
– God, I hope not! But yesterday I was affected by this man and I am scared about feeling anything. I thought my life is simple and now I don’t know for sure. What if I want all that? What if I wanted for someone to wait for me at home, someone other than a cat?!
– Please, be serious! You don’t want that, you’ll never respect a man that waits around! Maybe it’s just the fact that you cannot play with his mind… I know you.
– Yeah, maybe! I mean: it’s like that movie with Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga: how can I figure the difference between love and infatuation?! I’ll think about it on the plane and get back with a conclusion. If the conclusion is against my beliefs, don’t let me acknowledge it!
– I won’t! Iunia feels her friend smile and hangs up feeling better.
In a few hours Chris picks her up.
– Hi, he says with apologetic eyes. I brought you a „kiss and make-up” coffee. Please accept it. I went by the French patisserie and got that lemon tart you like.
Iunia kisses him as to reassure everything is fine between them.
– Thanks! I appreaciate! And I appreaciate everything you do, although I am not showing it.
She’s a terrible liar, but he is too much into her that he doesn’t even notice.
– Please let me take care of you! Chris asks and he seems very sincere.
– You know I take care of myself and don’t carry this further!
– It’s about money? I earn enough…
– No, it’s not about money, it’s about you clinging on me like you do. Sorry, that came out wrong!
– No, you are right, I should treat you like shit and this would make me a real man! I should let you wait for my calls and then given proper respect! I’d rather be myself in this case, whatever this says about me.
– I always encouraged you to be yourself, it’s what I love about you. Everything you invest in me it’s flattering, trust me. Are you proposing something or are we good as we are?
– We are good, but a man can hope!
He gives her a glance and gets back to his driving. Iunia has the commercial smile on, she fooled him once again. She can admit she needs him, but not out loud. She respects his persistence and the fact that he’s always there, he’s a great lover, but she always felt he needn’t have to be more.
Later that night, she’s checked into the hotel and now is watching her favourite show – Shameless, as a poor attempt to distract her from thinking of Ben. The lives of the show’s characters seem really fucked up and this draws her to watch. The familiar fb messenger rings and she quickly checks it: it’s him alright!
Ben: hey, baby!
Iunia: don’t call me baby!
Ben: If I call you by name, will you come?
Ben: I want to make you come! :))
Iunia: Charming as ever!
Ben: You called me, I heard! Seriously, can I come over?
Iunia: Maybe it’s the wilderness calling… and I am not home
Ben: and you are…
Iunia: At a training in Amsterdam, I will get back in two days.
Ben: Fancy some sexting?
Iunia: No, but I’ll let you sing me a lullaby🙂
Ben: Sleep tight! Sweet dreams!
NO MATTER WHAT I DO…
All I think about is you…
Iunia knows she can’t sing, but is happy to pack her bags, so the singing part doesn’t bother her as much. Someone once told her she sounds awful and she can’t stand not being perfect, so she gave up singing long time ago. Stupid, in my opinion, we should be free to act as we feel at least when we are alone! She is in a hurry to leave, although her flight is scheduled for noon. She was stuck in the airport, but the least she can do is treat herself with gaufre for breakfast. The training was not so bad, Iunia already knows the colleagues and the formal dinner is always fun. If it hadn’t been for all the wine drinking she would’ve thought they are aliens or something. But the wine helped them loosen and eventually get rid of the ties and interact like normal people. They were always curious about life in Romania and crazy stories about life in communism. She was amazed how the cultural barriers seemed to melt after leaving the formal environment…
The flight is on time and a certain excitement fills her whole body as the landing approaches. She never had that disappointment or sadness for getting back home. Romania is home and all the people she loves are home. While waiting to pick her bag, she takes a quick look at the duty free offer, and not surprisingly chooses 2 boxes of Godiva chocolates. As the doors open she spots something disturbing: Chris with a bouquet in his hand and Ben in a casual outfit, no flowers ofcourse. Iunia feels as wanting to exit on a back door although she knows well there isn’t such exit. Eager, impulsive Chris jumps over the separation fencing and picks her up! Iunia could not prevent this from happening and sends Ben a sorry smile obviously embarrassed by the whole situation. Ben stands still, one hand into the jeans pocket and stares shamelessly. He doesn’t even blink when Chris gives her the flowers and picks her bag, nor when he kisses her ostensive and drags her towards the parking spaces.
– Hei, what’s wrong? I thought you will be happy to see me.
– I am, Chris! I really am! I think there was something wrong with the food I ate on the plane…
– Who the hell eats that food?! Chris feels like scolding her, but when he sees her yellowish complexion he softens his words: You sometimes scare me with these cravings. Do you feel like eating a proper meal?
– Yeah, sure! What do you have in mind? Iunia really feels sick to her stomach and the onboard lunch is not the only one to blame. Just another Dilemma, she didn’t know Ben will be waiting, so it’s not her fault.
No matter what I do
All I think about is you
Even when I’m with my boo
Boy, you know I’m crazy over you
Chris is a little puzzled:
– What are you humming?
– I woke up with this song in my mind, you know how that is. I feel like eating pasta and something lemony! Iunia has adapted quickly to the new situation and prefers not to linger over the airport incident. She will sort it our later, she deserves a little pampering and Ben wasn’t the man for that.
– Italian it is, principessa! Chris is happy to please her.
Later that evening they finally arrive at Iunia’s place and Chris knows he won’t get invited up.
– Please, let me sleep tonight, I hate sleeping at the hotel! Besides, I feel bad when I exploit you like this! She places one tiny pale hand on his cheek and looks into his eyes with deep gratitude. She’s a bitch sometimes and he is like a faithful compagnion. Now, for the first time in the last weeks, she lets her affection show and Chris receives the good night kiss comforted.
Iunia’s finally home and the first thing she does is turn on all the lights. She draws the dirty clothes and puts them in the washing machine, then with feet on the coffee table checks facebook. There is a single message from Ben and it says: Wtf?!. She wants to discuss this with the girls, but first a warm bath is in order. Unfortunately she is not so lucky to enjoy the bath, the interphone is constanly ringing. She gets to it and answers rather edgy: Who is it? A familiar, yet annoying voice answers: Honey, I am home!. Fucking Benji!
She has time to put some sweat pants on and a sleeping t-shirt.
– What the fuck, Ben! she greets him.
– I thought that was my line! You didn’t answer, by the way!
– What are you doing here, I really didn’t call you this time. I didn’t even had the chance to have a proper bath.
– Wow, it’s hot in here, Ben passes by her and lets himself in while removing his jacket and shoes. He is already set comfy on the coach when Iunia finally has passed the initial shock. She stares at him waiting for some kind of explanation for this familiar behaviour.
– Honey, get a towel, your hair is wet. I love this sexy look, but I don’t want you to get ill because of me! he confronts her with a look that means I am here to stay! I waited for the little fucker to leave and got a little bored.
– Please don’t talk like that about Chris, you don’t know him. He is a way better man than you!
– Really? What gave him away: the roses that are still on the kitchen counter?
– I didn’t have time to put them in a vase! Iunia is almost shouting. Why did you come?
– I came because I wanted to see you, I am not a stalker. I don’t care about this guy, I feel sorry for him. I am not going to fight him for you! I want to stay the night, that’s all!
– A lot of wants there, you are kind of demanding… do I get an opinion?
– Yes, you get to come beside me on your couch after you put the fucker’s flowers in water. Nothing shows on his face, no want, no need.
Iunia is not impressed and clearly the lack of any emotions in his words is not very enticing. No, she doesn’t want this!
– I am sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I really don’t feel attracted by the perspective of you staying over. I think you misjudged me. She is serious and feels a little humiliated for some reason. You don’t get to come here and make fun of my life, you were not invited!
Ben drops the acting and comes near her: I don’t want to sleep with you, not in the state you are right now. I want to hold you and maybe get a glimpse of the real person hidding behind all the characters you impersonate. He gently caresses her face and with pleading eyes places the most chaste kiss on her lips.
– You kissed the wrong boo-boo! Iunia notices with a girlish smile.
– All in good time, sweet Iunia! and the moment of intimacy passed. Do you have anything to eat in this feminist nest of yours?
– Chocolates and tea!
– That will do!
THE BUBBLE BURST
Iunia slept the best sleep in a very long time. She opens her eyes and finds Ben wrapped around her sound asleep. She pulls herself from his arms gently and goes to the bathroom. The reflection shows was she already knows, she looks rested and a pinkish blush highlights her cheeks. It’s still early and outside is dark. Iunia makes a small espresso for her and prepares something for a frugal breakfast: toast, butter and jam. Her first impulse is to open the laptop to see what she missed on facebook and on the group chat, but something stops her. She just realized that it’s been like forever since she just stopped from any stimulants and think. Think for herself, no judgements, no presumptions, a good old fashioned introspection. Why did she let Ben stay? Where were things going with Chris? The job is everything she wanted, she dreamt of? The job met a few of the minimum requirements of a job: it allowed her to improvise often and reformulate the same information, she could travel and she earned enough. She was always happy to come home and find a familiar universe, couldn’t really complain there was nobody waiting. But everything seems wrong with the picture of her life. The thought of a baby warmed her heart, but it was a big responsibility. Plus, she was approaching 40 and never involved in a serious relationship, no man ever stayed enough to think about making it official. There weren’t many, true, but those that stayed longer never warmed up to the idea of spending a lifetime near her. Iunia wanted to insist on this thought, but it was too disturbing, she started biting her lips in an effort to stop herself from crying. And there was Chris, almost 30 years old, adventurous and kind. She could always predict his next move and this comforted her a lot. It was never a question of who earned more, in spite of what he thought. It was a matter of being taken over, shaken to knock some sense into her head, loved beyond reason. Chris wasn’t in touch with anything, he barely scratched the surface. He never saw her for real! But who wants to be seen, I mean really seen?! Who would want to see and then comfort her?! Who can stand by her side when she felt like running away, when she felt she isn’t worthy to be loved and cared for? Yes, she was a strong determined woman, always ready to deliver a funny quote or a movie quote, but never thought she deserved a love so consuming… she couldn’t find a term to compare it with (no wonder, ‘cause she never felt such love). The lyrics from her favorite band came into her mind:
I only call you when it’s half past five
The only time that I’ll be by your side
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me…
She took a deep breath… and turned her thoughts to Ben. Ben who really saw into her, saw her speech inconsistency, probably saw fear and wasn’t scared. Saw a tormented woman, a woman that was never worshipped, nor loved or fucked properly. And he was still here, he even chose to stay against her will. This felt like her cue, she shrugged her shoulders in a poor attempt to become smaller and burst into tears. Her sobbing was so unexpected that it woke up Ben who found her cuddled in a fetal position.
– Baby, what’s wrong? Are you upset I didn’t hit on you last night? He tries the funny approach. I was really tired, I am sorry!
– Don’t call me baby! Please go, I don’t want you to see me like this, she says in between sobs. Give me some paper hankies, please, and go!
– I don’t want to go, I am sure it’s PMS! The man is unbearable, this is not funny!
– No, it’s not! It’s just you fucking up my life, I was fine until now… I could handle my emotions. What do you want from me?
– Why would I want anything? Can we just be here, in the moment and not wonder? Can you please try not to control it? You can’t be constantly putting yourself through this!
– Through what? What are you talking about? Iunia’s voice grows hysteric.
– You don’t have to think about it now. Relax for a minute, and carefully turns her on her back. I saw this in a movie: Hugging provides manual stimulation of the parasympathetic system. I am not gonna hug you, I will lay on top of you. You seem to need it badly and I hope it will calm you down.
Iunia looks at him perplexed and lets her arms on the side of her body. She is almost certain this will prevent her from breathing well, but she lets him do it.
I KNOW YOU BABY
The work day seems a lot longer after the disturbing morning Iunia had with Ben. Strangely enough his calming technique worked and after calming down they had a very pleasant breakfast. Iunia tries really hard to concentrate on her presentation and on the short break – while her students are concentrated on solving a case – she checks her phone.
Iunia: Girls, I am bored! Anyone?
Mizzy: Fuck, me too! It’s one of those days
Mermaid: I am free tonight, can we do something, anything?
Galadriel: Pinky and I can reach Băneasa at half past six.
Pinky: Only 4 hours left, not cool :(((
Kitty: Can anyone shoot me like right now? I need a chocolate i.v. or 15 espressos!
B.: C’mon Kitty! I promise to buy chocolate, we haven’t met for like ages…
TLC: How long do you plan to stay? I have a meeting in Aviației at 17.
Iunia: Don’t worry, I have a lot to share… we’ll stay as long as needed!😉
Mizzy: I hope it’s something interesting, clearly your love life needs some spice!😛
Iunia: I will pretend I didn’t see that! You are jealous!😛
TLC: Uhhh, what do we have here? Iunia, please don’t take it personal or please share if it’s juicy
Iunia: Nothing juicy… at least not in the line you are thinking of…
Mizzy, what were your expectations?
Mizzy: I hope you meet someone who can fuck you properly… and don’t even get me started with Chris. If you do get me started… he is not the man for the job, he respects you too much, this is not normal! :)))
Iunia: B., feminists where you at?
B.: I apologize, but I have to agree. That Chris character is too sweet to be real.
Iunia: See you later, I have to go!
Iunia starts checking their answers and they discuss every solution. A smile lingers on the corner of her lips, the girls will be in for a surprise. As she waits for the elevator, she takes a look at the grey sky and puts her headphones on. Her favorite moment of the day, alone with her playlist. As the elevator doors open, in the mirror she sees a familiar reflection: Fucking Benji trying hard not to make fun of her!
– Hello, cherie! We meet again!
– Fuck off! You are a lousy Jim Carrey impersonator, says Iunia and draws one headphone off.
They step into the elevator and Iunia tries to pause the music, though not quick enough.
– Let’s see what do we have here! and listens to the track for some time. What the fuck is that?! Something really mushy, please explain!
– I don’t need to explain anything, as usual you mock everything I hold dear. FYI it’s the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack!
– Oh, I see! So it’s allowed to have poor taste in music if it’s 50 Shades! It wasn’t enough you have poor taste in authors! He laughs and adds in a very serious tone while touching his lower lip with his index: What shall I do with you, miss Steele?
Iunia blushes and feels like slapping him: where was the gentle man from this morning, the man who comforted her in one of the most embarrassing moments of her life?!
– Ass hole!
– C’mon, I’ll take you home for a chance to mend your ego!
– I am taking a taxi, don’t worry. I have to meet my friends at the mall.
– I’ll take you to the mall then! But promise to Love me like you do, lo-lo-love me like you do!
In the parking lot, Iunia decides to end this right now, she can’t stand being humiliated by these reactions. She is looking down and playing with the wooden ring.
– Look Ben, I can’t do this! You make me feel out of place, I am not used to this… maybe you should avoid me… that came out wrong. Not avoid, but maybe stop seeing me! I am flattered, I really am that you are interested in me.
– Really, you are flattered?! Why the fuck can’t you look me in the eyes when telling me this bullshit? Is it about this morning?
Iunia looks at him and can’t find an answer, any answer, so she just looks at him. She remembers a time when she’d rather get a bad grade than improvise and make a fool of herself. Yes, she is not prepared for this lesson either, but tries a shift of focus.
– What about this morning? I am not used to losing control, and moreover I am not used to having witnesses when I lose control. So yes, I am feeling a little exposed since I don’t really know why. You make me feel like I’m immature or something… and maybe I am. I am not ready to admit all that, I am used to hiding the flaws, the skeletons.
– Can I just say something without you reading anything into it?
– You are going to say it anyway!
– True! I was gonna say that you are pretty stupid for a smart girl and I picked my words carefully. I have bad news for you: I am not letting go! On the contrary!
He pulls her near and kisses her before she has time to acknowledge it. There is nothing chaste about this kiss and when he’s done, whispers in her ear: Sweet Iunia, I am here to stay, don’t fight me! He swiftly kisses her ear lobe and adds: Go tell your girlfriends about the ass-hole, but please don’t run from me!
Iunia gets out of the car feeling a little lightheaded. She waits for the car to leave and then heads for the mall entrance. The song plays repeatedly in her mind:
„Don’t complicate it,
Don’t let the past dictate
I have been patient, but slowly I’m losing faith
So please, I know you baby
I know you baby”
INSIDE MY LOVE
Iunia waits a little to catch her breath and then heads to Starbucks where seven of the best girlfriends ever cheer her arrival.
– Baby, baby! Baby doll in the house!
– Girls, awww… I’ve missed you all so much! followed by a lot of XOXO.
– Who drove you here? Mizzy straight as ever.
– Yeah, Baby, let’s discuss that! says B.
– Did you order anything for me? Iunia tries to buy some time.
– Yesss, c’mon do tell! I had such a boring week, I need to know someone is having sex, Kitty begs.
– Fine! This was Ben, aka Benji the ass-hole. I think it has been only a week since he’s fucking up my life. I thought he didn’t even fancy me, he’s just so annoying…
– Uhhh, Baby has a crush… OMG I had to see it to believe it!
– TLC, you are not helping… in fact none of you are helping… because you know, it kind of feels right and then he mocks me and he stayed the night…
– So you slept with him! exclaims Kitty. What’s his full name, I will search him right now?
– Nevermind… we just slept and it felt well, he didn’t try anything…
– What a waste of a perfectly good erection, Mizzy says disappointed. We should not trust you with a man!
– Don’t say that! Anyway, he kissed me in the car and this morning I had like a crazy fit or something and then he held me…
When Iunia gets to this point, her eyes are already flooded and she starts crying helplessly. The girls gather around her comforting her in any way they can. The Starbucks barista comes closer and tries a gesture that might mean they are disturbing the other customers. He gets a very clear warning to stay away from Mizzy:
– Hey, don’t even think about it! This is my friend and she needs us right now. Bring us 7 chocolate cakes and a carrot cake for her. Thank you!
– I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me, I am like a fucking mounting spring!
– Hey, hey, easy with the swearing, please!
– B., please! This is a time for cursing if you ask me!
– Mizzy, I am not asking, I am just saying… this is a public place!
– True! adds Kitty. Can we get wasted? It’s Thursday and Shoteria opens in one hour!
– Downtown, Baby! The remedy of shattered love stories, concludes Mermaid.
They head for the Old Center to their favorite bar.
Later that night, Iunia gets home partially drunk. She opens her laptop ’cause the phone battery quit after the 20th selfie. She hopes she wasn’t tagged by now by one of the girls. They share more than two hundred friends and this will look very bad on her profile. She notices that no harm was done, and the messenger window surprises her. It’s Ben.
Ben: Where were you?! I called like ten times!
Iunia: My battery died. Why?
Ben: You had me worried!
Iunia: I went downtown, I mean I had Downtown with the girls! :)))
Ben: What is that?
Iunia: Only the best shot at Shoteria in the Old Center… you are too old to know these things, no offense
Ben: None taken, you do realize you are not among the hip anymore! Are you drunk?
Iunia: Barely! And who even says hip?!
Ben: Go to sleep, sweet Iunia!
Iunia: I will in a minute! You can sleep on this, I felt the need to prove I have other staff in the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pf0r57cK2Zo
„Two people, just meeting, barely touching each other
Two spirits, greeting, tryna carry each further
You are one, and I am another”
Ben: I know the movie Quantum Love and that isn’t us, if it crossed your mind!😛 We don’t have eternity, we have right now. I prefer that for us!
Iunia: You don’t know everything! Good night!
I’M NOT IN LOVE
„Some love stories are simply not meant to be!” – thinks Iunia. But is it love or is it just solely the feeling of craving love. She just woke up and remembers the brief conversation she had with Ben. Truth be told she really wishes that he meant all he said and the sweet words he whispered when trying to calm her down. And the kiss… the kiss was close to perfection, made her remember her high-school sweetheart. She has to hold a class at noon, but the airline HQ is close to home, she can take a walk.
All dressed up she waits for the elevator.
– Hey, Iunia! the voice startles her. It’s that bitch, head of HR at the low cost she’s holding classes for.
– Hi, Georgie! How are you? Iunia tries the formal approach.
– Nothing much, it’s Friday, just waiting for the weekend. Hey, I saw you with Ben yesterday!
– Really?! (Of course you did, crazy bitch!) Yes, we met at some boring party at the Mall.
– You know he is married, right?! Cause he fooled women before, he’s not wearing the wedding ring! A large smile invades her ugly face. Anyway, it was nice to see you!
– Yes, me too! Thanks for the heads-up! I mean… men… pfff!
Iunia feels like punching something: The ass-hole! A classic fool! She hopes that Georgia didn’t catch any of this. She pulls out her phone and writes: I was right not to trust you… then deletes it… you really are an ass-hole… deletes again and thinks. Did he promise anything? Did she ask about marriage? She just assumed, so… he simply omitted. She would’ve cared if he told the truth? She never thought about being approached by married men, simply because things never got that far. She might have missed the signs, but also she knew herself to be nearly tameless. Always choosing carefully among the men that didn’t make her feel cornered. Until Ben! Ben that shared the same bed and allowed her to cuddle.
Iunia is angry with herself! She puts the phone back and decides to deal with him when he will contact her.
And she waits the entire day for a sign. At some point in the evening Mizzy calls:
– Why do you ignore us? I hope you dragged a man home, otherwise I will punish you.
– I was really hoping to have fucking Benji here, but guess what… he’s married!
After settling down her laugh Mizzy says:
– Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Don’t tell me you are sad! Please don’t! What have I told you, over and over again?
– Men cheat!
– Exactly, no exceptions! Men are pigs, so I don’t care if he’s a cheater. I am not cheating on anyone, their conscience is at risk, presuming they have one. I hope you didn’t cry, sweetie! I hate it when you cry, it’s disturbing!
– No, I am just upset.
– Good! So you will come with us this weekend and be pampered. Tomorrow we have coffee and catch the first show of the corniest movie.
– Sounds good! Thanks… you know for… everything! Good night!
Iunia feels relieved nothing more happened between them. But the kiss… the kiss was great! A cheating liar should not kiss like that!
A week later she is at Shoteria with the girls. Ben didn’t message her, as if someone warned him. Iunia opened the chat window for a hundred times, he wasn’t even active, no posts, no nothing. The man seemed to have disappeared! Fuck him and his smooth lines! Iunia has the fourth shot and squeezes her eyes after it. Three is her limit. She texts Chris: Pick me up from Shoteria please! I drank too much! His reply is almost instant: I am close, I’ll be there in ten!
Thank God for Chris! suddenly Iunia feels affection for the man that rarely asks something in return. She kisses the girls and goes outside to sober up a little. She looks up and down the street for familiar faces and spots a group of middle aged men with younger girls. She feels sorry for the easy money the girls chose. As they come closer she notices there are four men and three girls and Ben is among them. She watches him while they pass in front of her, and Ben is looking at her. Chris is here and interrupts the strange moment, excited by Iunia’s call. She smiles and they leave holding hands. It’s better this way!
“I’m not in love
So don’t forget it
It’s just a silly phase I’m going through
… I’m not in love, no no”
MY FUNNY VALENTINE
Iunia wakes up and reaches for her phone. It’s a bad habit, she knows it. It’s the 13th of February and the last two weeks almost made her believe she can be the kind that celebrates Valentine’s Day. She can’t deny she had a very good time with Chris lately. All she felt for Ben was numbed, although she kept hoping for a sign. After seeing him that night she thought he’d be all over the messenger with apologies, but nothing happened and she was too proud to write first. That was that, I will survive! Unfortunately Chris had to leave the country for a project and she had to spend Valentine alone. Iunia was a 35 year old women who never gave a damn about imported holidays, but this year was different. She wanted to be pampered and hated needing anything that depended on someone. Opening facebook was a bad idea, ‘cause there it was: corny holiday and corny posts! Let’s check on the girls!
Happy fucking Valentine!❤
I love you girls!
Mizzy: Happy fuckin’ whatever! I celebrate myself and the faboulous woman I became!
Mermaid: I have a date tonight, guys! Feeling hopeful!
Iunia: C’mon! I am the only one without a date? !
Mizzy: Don’t go there! The only reason I am not teasing you it’s because you are mourning Ben!
Iunia: He’s not dead, don’t be morbid!
Mizzy: Shhhshhh! Don’t deny that you think of him!
Iunia: Point made!
Kitty: There is nothing that can’t be healed with chocolate and shots! Yeeey, I found a date!
Mizzy: Even Tinder has a poor offer these days. Romanian women still hope to find true love on the wrong app!
Iunia: Where are the others? Girls, wake up!
Mizzy: Leave out TLC and Galadriel, they are hooked up! I hope for all of us they are having Saturday morning sex!
B.: Ok! I’m up!
Mizzy: Oh, great! Can you make that famous soup of yours? Something to mend a hangover at two o’clock after Shoteria?
B.: No, no soup for you!🙂 I don’t want to cook on Valentine’s!
Mizzy: Maybe I’ll get lucky somewhere else! Don’t mind me, I am waiting for my latest crush to wake up! The poor boy doesn’t stand a chance :)))
Iunia: I am having a shower and coffee later! Let’s see how depressed I get by going downtown.
The walk through the Old Center is clearly depressing for anyone in a normal day. It’s not that cold, but the wind pushes all the lovers to more cozy places. Iunia enjoys her coffee and then heads for a restaurant for early dinner. It’s still hours away until the bars will become crowded, she doesn’t feel like hangin’ alone. The girls are chatting about their day, but no one is single tonight. Fuck this, I am going to a movie! Iunia thinks.
At Cinema City she looks longer than usual at the shows, as if nothing tempts her. She can’t even remember a day when she went to the movies alone. OMG, I will become a sad old lady!
– One ticket for Deadpool tonight, please!
– The next show, yes?
Iunia nods and takes a deep breath!
– Is this ok?
– No, not in the middle, row H, 17 is good!
– Ok, enjoy!
I am sure I won’t, but who the fuck cares!
She walks away without a shred of enthusiasm and misses the conversation of the next customer who asks for a seat next to her. As the lights fade she notices that a taller figure is climbing the stairs and stops next to her. She reluctantly moves her feet to let him through, but instead she hears: Please don’t make a scene! Move your purse, I want to prevent you from running.
Iunia hates making a scene, so she just does as she is told.
– I missed you! I really wanted to see you, that’s why I came to this mall. Don’t say anything now, just… don’t hate me, please!
His warm breath in her ear makes her brain stop working. She opens her mouth a few times and closes it back.
He picks her hand and places a heart-shaped chocolate in her palm. Ben whispers again: Be my funny Valentine tonight!