Four Letter Words
Trudy has already made the coffee by the time the young woman reaches the counter; black like her hair, with a dash of cream the colour of her skin.
"Here you go," Trudy smiles shyly as she lays the coffee on the counter in front of her. The woman smells of coconut and spice; a foreign land Trudy wants to explore but doesn’t know how to get there.
"Thanks," The young woman places the money on the counter and walks away.
Trudy watches her discreetly. Everything about her radiates sophistication tinged with an untouchable coolness. Her voice, her walk, the way she holds her cup, holds her pen as she writes lazily in her notebook. Trudy wants to know her words, swim around in them and dive into their depths.
Trudy heard her boyfriend call her name the other day. "Cassandra." The way he said it didn’t do her justice. When Trudy speaks her name in her mind she rolls the sses around her tongue, savouring every syllable.
Trudy looks up at the clock. He will be here soon to take her away. Where does he take her? To secret places where she reveals parts of herself only lovers get to know? Stripping away the barriers that hold her safely in the mystery of being anyone, before taking her into the dangerous realms of becoming someone.
The phone rings and Trudy jumps.
"Hi hon, it’s me."
"Oh, hi." Trudy turns to look in the mirror above the phone, looking past her own reflection to watch Cassandra write.
"What time you off today?"
Trudy sighs. "Eight, remember? I’m on a double shift."
"Oh, yeah. I thought so. I was just checking."
She can hear the longing in his voice. The need just to have her for a second on the other end, hear her breath in his ear.
"I’m kind of busy Matthew..."
"Oh, right. Yeah sorry."
She hears his disappointment and feels a twist in her heart.
"So…I’ll come by and pick you up..."
"Okay." She nods, noticing how Cassandra’s hair shines under the lights. "That would be good. Thanks." She hangs up on his prolonged goodbye. She turns to the coffee machine and tightens her apron absentmindedly, not realising how much it constrains her breathing.
Cassandra is twenty one. It was only a couple of years ago that her body finally fell into all the places she wanted it to be. Her ‘baby fat’, which had long outstayed its welcome, dissolved, leaving appreciated remains in her breasts, hips, lips and bum.
Cassandra has no time for women who label their curves fat, moaning to one another about how big they are and swapping their latest fat busting diet books which they’ll read for a week, move onto the next and forget about the week after.
Curves are a woman’s weapon. But that weapon is not unique so it only works until a more finely tuned weapon comes along and entices your lover away.
The café door opens and Jimmy walks in. Her mind processes his movements in slow motion the way a film slows down to emphasise this is the character you are going to lust after for the remainder of the story. Cassandra stubs out her cigarette and is simultaneously annoyed and relieved that he still has the ability to send a bolt all the way from her chest, winding dangerously in knots through her pelvis down to her toes. It annoys her because she knows she is not the only female he has this effect on, and more annoyingly he knows it too. She’s relieved because this is the first man who has ignited such passion in her and for years she worried she had been absent the day they’d handed out the sexual desire in high school. Looking back she now realises it was just because she had never come across many males who were attractive enough to desire.
"Hey," Jimmy falls into the seat across from her and flashes her a grin.
"Hi," Cassandra takes another cigarette from the pack trying to keep her face expressionless, trying to suppress the lunatic grin that threatens to rupture her cool façade every time Jimmy is within two metres of her.
His fingers brush against hers lightly and the fire is nearly enough to light her cigarette.
"You’re late. Where you been?" She moves her hand away, flicks her lighter and blows a trail of smoke slowly into the air watching it trace a ring around Jimmy’s shoulder.
She knows where he’s been of course. But she always plays along.
"Oh, you know. Around," Jimmy gives a non-committal shrug. Everything about Jimmy is non-committal. His favourite words are: Maybe, Possibly. What do you think? If you want to. You know...
Cassandra nods. She doesn’t say anything. He taps his fingers and she knows he’s uncomfortable because he hates silences. She likes how she knows this about him because it gives her a sense of power once in a while just to sit there, not saying anything and watch him squirm.
"What you been up to?" He sits forward.
"I wrote some stuff." She glances over at the closed notebook which lies beside the heaped ashtray.
"Cool." Jimmy nods. "Can I read it?"
"No." She shakes her head. "You know I hate anyone reading my stuff."
"I’m not anyone. I’m Jimmy." He flashes her his charming smile and she involuntarily smiles right back.
"Not today. Maybe some other time." One day she will let him read her work. When she gets over the stage of it all being about him.
"I wish you would smile more." He says wistfully. "You have such a beautiful smile."
She wishes he would give her more to smile about. She shrugs. "It’s good that I’m not happy all the time. I need pain and dissatisfaction to cultivate my art; pour it into my pen and let my distress bleed across the pages..."
Jimmy laughs, shaking his head at her and she detects a mixture of fascination and mockery in his eyes. "You’re so weird Cassie. But smart. I like that about you. Not many girls I know are as smart as me."
She gives him a wry smile. "And exactly how many girls do you know Jimmy Genius?" The question is posed as half serious but he chooses to interpret it as a joke as he always does.
"Oh you know, I have five or so I know pretty intimately." He grins, stealing one of her cigarettes. "Don’t know how I handle it. You chicks are such high maintenance."
"Cheep cheep," Cassandra says dryly.
"Yeah that too thank god. Saves me having to wine and dine you first."
She leans forward to light his cigarette.
He tilts his head slightly and looks into her eyes. Properly into her eyes like he’s searching for her soul. It’s moments like these when she knows he probably really does mean it when he says he wants to marry her. But not yet of course. She’s figured out his plan, overheard enough to clarify her calculations and so she has a plan marked out herself.
"Shall we go back to mine?" He smiles hopefully.
She stubs out her cigarette. "Sure, let’s get out of here."
She watches as he gets up and walks out, not bothering to see if she is close behind. She knows he thinks he will never need her. That he is oblivious to the fact that she knows before he came here to meet her this evening that he had sex with someone else. And she knows that it’s the third girl he’s bedded in the past four months.
She knows he thinks that she’ll stick with him and when he’s finally ready to settle down (34, 35) they will marry. And they will. And he will never cheat on her again. She knows this because she understands how his philosophy works. He decided the first week they were together that she was ‘the one’ but he feels he needs this time to mess around; then after marriage never again.
He thinks that she will be the perfect wife because she is the near perfect girlfriend – never complains if he sometimes stays out all night, doesn’t question his every absence, every whereabouts.
And she will wait until he is in his middle 40s or 50s and he is coughing up his own guts due to chain smoking and holding up his drug-harrowed face and drooping beer gut. She will wait until his teeth have rotted and yellowed and his hair has dissolved into nothing and his Viagra becomes the weekend recreational drug.
She will wait until the only sex this decaying old man will ever come across is with his loving faithful wife or a steamy fantasy in his head. She will wait until he appreciates that coming home to her and falling asleep in her arms will be his saviour from wallowing in the alternative lonely boredom.
Then she will periodically come home late, not return home at all from time to time and enjoy sex, possibly with three different men in the course of three months. Age will have been kind to her as it has been with all the females in her family and she will from the age of twenty five give up smoking and alcohol to maintain as much of her youth as possible.
And she will laugh and bask in her liberation. And he will sit at home in the dark alone wondering what he had done to deserve this. And he will wonder if all the times she’d said she loved him, if any truth had ever surrounded it.