Burning in my heart (944 words)
Poll had started to sweat.
There was a sign in the café’s window. Air con broken. Ask for free ice! Another below that read: Internet down – cash only. Sorry for the inconvenience, lovelies!
She liked to use local indie places rather than visit the big chains, but she wasn’t sure how she felt about being a ‘lovely’, and despite her best intentions, Poll was already thinking longingly of the icy interior of a Starbucks, and the milky crunch of a frappe. The thought only made her feel hotter as her thighs slowly adhered to the salvaged plastic chair, and humiliating damp patches blossomed under her arms. At least they fitted the theme of her floral Cath-Kidston-a-like sundress. She had made it herself with the pattern Hazel sent for her birthday, keen to show off her lopsided seamstress skills, and the fact that she hadn’t neglected Hazel’s thoughtfulness.
She picked at the sugar on the table. The sugar lumps, like little pebbles, made her long for the beach. The small, city-bound café was a long way from the ocean. Wide pavements lapped at the doorway, and the sunbathers all carried bus passes, handbags and briefcases. Poll pushed the bowl away. Hunger gnawed at her belly. Heat always stole her appetite, but she had been starving herself for three days now, and nerves were not doing her empty stomach any favours.
She glanced at the clock on the wall. Hazel was twenty minutes late, which was frustrating, but not unusual. She wondered if they would hug. It had been months since they’d seen each other, and Poll wanted nothing more than to curl up with Hazel in her arms, but she couldn’t stand the heat. She and Andrew had argued almost every night since the heatwave struck, wrestling for space in their double bed and fighting over the duvet. She missed the way the three of them had tessellated. Arms and thighs, bellies and chins, hair and toes and breasts and ears and penis and elbows.
The door shuddered as someone jarred it with their foot, and the brick keeping it open slid out of place. Poll looked over, knowing already that only Hazel could make such an entrance. She had given up her glasses in favour of contacts, and her hair was a darker shade of red, but otherwise she looked just as Poll remembered her. Of course, the constant update of Skype and facebook photos meant it was hard to forget.
She got up, and Hazel seized her and pulled her in for a smooch. Poll was glad she hadn’t worn lipstick; it had been too hot for makeup. The kiss bewildered her; it was full-on, passionate, but still felt brief and businesslike. She felt like Hazel was putting on a show.
“Is that the dress?” Poll nodded, grateful that Hazel had noticed. “Looks brill. Your tits look great in it.”
Hazel nodded and rummaged through her bag for her purse. She glanced up at the handwritten menu and fanned herself with a lazy hand. “God, I’d kill for an iced mocha, wouldn’t you?” A waitress sauntered over, and took their order with calculated quirkiness.
“How was the train?”
Hazel rolled her eyes. “Godawful. Standing room only, and it stank. Remind me next summer to move to Alaska.”
Poll grinned. “So what’ve you been up to? I’ve barely heard from you.”
“Oh, this and that,” Hazel said with a shrug. “Work’s crazy. And there’s this beautiful boy on the floor below.” She hid a smile behind her hand; her shoulders hitched, and she let out an uncharacteristic giggle. “I think we almost had sex in the stationery closet last week, it was disgusting.”
“Oh, it’s in this old building that used to be a bank. So anyway there’s an old vault that they use to store paper and pens and all of that shit. I went in there to find some staples, and I open the door and there he is up a ladder, little butt sticking out as he reached for some ringbinders. It was all too Carry-on. It’s probably my own fault for doing a Kenneth Williams impression. Anyway the two of us started cackling like lunatics, then the next thing I know, we’re dry-humping against the flipcharts, his hand up my skirt and my tongue down his throat, then we heard someone coming so we had to cut it short.” She paused to draw breath and grinned at Poll’s blank expression. “I know, I know, it’s foul, isn’t it? I thought I was going to miss the train actually, he came over to watch a movie last night and ended up missing his bus, and I told him he could stay on the sofa, so of course we ended up fucking like pigeons all night.” She paused with a frown. “Oh, that doesn’t sound right, does it? Maybe not pigeons, maybe bunnies. Either way, it’s just as well I had to stand up on the train, I’m raw down there this morning.”
Poll took a deep breath, and forced a smile. “I have to pee, don’t steal my milkshake.”
She clattered into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her. To her relief it was a single cubicle, so nobody could follow her in. She braced her hands on the edge of the sink and stared at her reflection.
Hazel had stormed into her life, a refreshing blast of sexual freedom, candour and mind-blowing, single-focused attention. Having Hazel look at you with black-eyed lust was like being put under an interrogation lamp, spotlighted and singled out.
Hazel knew her inside and out.
Hazel had to know this would hurt.
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