House of Syn - Chapter 6
When Valen arrived at the shop it was 1:00 on the dot, and Brian was just showing the last customer out. It immediately hit her like a ton of bricks how gorgeous he looked that night. He was wearing black pants and a black sleeveless button down shirt with white stitching. He had a few buttons unbuttoned. His hair looked all sexy - tousled and kinda flippy at the ends. She wondered if he really just looked that good all the time, and if so, how much work did he have to put into it?
He greeted her, let her in, and locked the door behind her. Then he turned off the outside music and lights. She felt kind of special being allowed in the shop after hours. That is, until she noticed that there was porn playing on all the monitors on the walls today. Some busty blonde was taking on two beefcakes. There was no sound, but it still made her pretty uncomfortable considering who she was around.
'Just deal with it,' she told herself. 'Just don't look at it. If you don't look at it, you won't start thinking about it.'
When Brian turned around and looked at her, he shook his head and smiled.
"What?" she asked.
"In your hair," he said, walking up to her to look at her headpiece more closely.
"Oh yeah! Look, Brian!" she said, excitedly, pointing to the headpiece she was wearing in the side of her hair. It was a black silk rose with three red bells in the center of it. "Bells! Ha ha ha!"
"Where the hell did you get this?" he asked, poking it with his finger to make it jingle. "Oh God, they jingle and everything!"
"I ordered it online. I've had it since Christmas," she explained. "I don't really celebrate Christmas, on account of my being Agnostic and all, but there are some things about the holiday that I can't help but enjoy. Like the presents, the food, the decorations. The headpieces."
"I really want to take a look in your closet one day," he said. "Or on second thought, maybe I don't."
"Hardy har har," she said. "So, what's on the agenda tonight, Sensei?"
"Well, since you asked," he said, and walked behind the counter. He pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels and two shot glasses. "First thing you need to do if you're going to hang out with Zacky, is learn to hold your liquor."
She walked up to the counter and propped her elbow up on it.
"So, this is about that minor passing out thing last night, isn't it?" she asked.
"Yes, that minor thing," he said, opening the bottle and pouring them shots. "So, we will drink during lessons from now on. This will build up your tolerance. Okay?"
"Yes, Sensei," she said, obediently.
"Stop calling me Sensei," he said, handing her the shot.
"Yes, Sensei," she said, and took the shot.
"I've got my work cut out for me," he muttered, and did his shot.
"So, how many shots do I have to do?" she asked, as the whiskey burned its way down her throat and into her stomach.
"Just a couple for tonight -"
"Good. I gotta work tomorrow."
"Then we move on to the beer in the fridge in the back."
"You'll be fine," he said, pouring her next shot. "Just don't propose to anyone at work tomorrow."
He gave her a smug look.
"Did I really propose to you?" she asked, laughing.
"Fuck yes!" he said, and they did their second shot.
"I did not. I am going to remain in denial."
"I wish I had video of it," he said, grinning at the memory. "You were sooo drunk, and you were slurring your words. You had one eye like half open. I was trying to put you to bed, when you started tapping my face and going 'Brian, Brian, I have something to say!'"
"Oh God, just stop there," she pleaded, already holding her head in shame. But the tale just went on.
"And you were like 'Even though I'm really drunk right now, and I kinda feel like I'm totally gonna hurl - but don't worry I'm not, probably - I just want you to know that you're beautiful !"
Valen groaned with sheer unbelievable embarrassment. She had to admit, though, it was absolutely hilarious. She reached for the bottle of Jack and poured herself another shot as he continued to enjoy telling the story, whilst laughing his ass off. If he didn't have such a great laugh and such a pretty smile she probably would have stalked off in a huff. But she just couldn't help but let him have his fun.
"Then you were like 'And I want to maul you sexually! Do you wanna marry me?' and then you just passed right out! I was like 'Oh shit!' It was hilarious! I wish you remembered!"
"I don't. How 'bout we never speak of that incident again?" she asked, hopefully.
"Not a chance. I will never let you live it down," he said. "So since we want to avoid you doing that to Zacky, it is important that you build up your alcohol tolerance."
"Fine," she grumbled.
He took her to the Employees Only area in the back, and got her a beer from the fridge, then took one for himself. It was pretty much like a big office, but with papers everywhere. She was just thankful that there was no distracting porn. Though she figured she might have to find out the name of that one video that was playing out front so she could obtain it for private viewing.
"How do you get anything done in here?" she asked, moving a stack of records off one of the chairs to take a seat.
"This is just organized chaos," he said, sitting in a chair opposite from her. "I know where everything is."
"Suuuure," she said, unconvinced.
"And I make Johnny come in during tax season to help me with the books," he admitted.
"Oh, he's another bartender at Nocturna. You didn't get to meet him?"
"Well, I'm sure you will soon," he said, opening his beer and then sitting it to the side. "Before we start tonight's lesson, I want to give you a sort of disclaimer."
"None of the advice I am about to give you reflects on me in any way," he made it clear. "I think you're a fun girl; bats and bells and all. But - you are asking about Zacky. And Zacky has certain tastes. So I'm going to help you become the kind of girl that could get, and hold, Zacky's attention."
"Okay," she said, scooting forward on her seat with anticipation.
Someone was finally going to explain to her how to get a hot guy. She had been looking for the answer to this question for a long time!
"Now before we start, how sensitive are you?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" she asked. Sensitive where? Down there? How would she know?
"I mean to criticism. If I point out something that I want you to change, will you get upset, cry, throw a tantrum, sulk, be mad, what?"
"Um, I am sensitive, but I know you are doing this to help me. So whatever you have to say I will listen and try my best to do it," she said, with an obedient nod.
"Okay good. First thing, then, is that..."
"Well..." he said, looking like he was trying to figure out how to break it to her.
"Just be blunt," she said.
"You talk too much."
"Oh my God!" she cried, horrified, and covered her face. "Really? I'm a motormouth? That's horrible!"
"Valen," he said, calmly. "Let me remind you, I'm not saying I think you talk too much. I am saying you talk too much for Zacky. He likes a little mystery. Okay?"
"O-okay," she said, and nodded. She took a long drink of beer to calm her nerves. This was going to be harder than she'd thought. Receiving criticism from someone she looked up to as much as she did Brian was going to be painful. But she figured no pain, no gain. "Well, okay, how do I fix that?"
"You know when someone asks you a question, and you answer it, and then you feel the need to elaborate on that answer?"
"Oh, okay," she said, unsure if she could do that.
"We're going to practice that skill later. Now, the next thing is you have some habits that make you come across as shy and timid. Zacky does not like shy and timid. He likes confident and sexy."
"Okay, confident and sexy," she said, making a mental note.
"There are many ways to come across as confident. The most important two would probably be eye contact, and having a confident walk. You almost never make eye contact with me, you always look at me when you think I'm not looking at you."
"So you've noticed," she said, definitely not happy about that fact.
"Yes. Who wouldn't? We'll have to work on that over time. But what I want to work on first is your walk."
"What, so now I walk funny?! This is bogus! This is abusive! You're personally attacking me! You think this is funny, don't you? This is just inhumane! You hate me don't you?! I don't deserve this!"
Brian just stared at her until she calmed down.
"Okay, go on," she said.
"Right. Like I was saying. There's nothing wrong with your walk, it's just that you walk like you don't want anyone looking at you."
"Well, I don't!"
"Then people won't! And Zacky won't! It's a self-fulfilling wish!"
"I see your point, Sensei," she said, thinking it over.
"Stop calling me Sensei."
"But I enjoy it," she pouted.
"Fine. You may call me Sensei, but only during lessons."
"Yes!" she said, victoriously.
Brian just ignored her.
"If you want to make your walk look more confident, you have to remember to stand up straight, don't hunch over and scurry around like you're hiding. Stand up straight, hold your head up high, and take long strides. Long confident strides."
"Okay," she said, nodding with her beer attached to her lips.
"Time to practice. Stand up," he said, standing.
"Oh, I can practice at home. I don't really have to do it now, do I? I don't want you watching me walk, that's creepy!"
Brian pointed to a picture of himself and Zacky on the corkboard above his desk.
"Do you ever want to go out with that guy?"
"Which one? Just kidding."
"You know, I really can't tell sometimes if you're fucking with me or not," he said, suspiciously.
"Oh, I'm just playing with you. Of course I mean Zacky," she said. "And of course I want to go out with him. So I will do your ridiculous walking exercise."
"Good. Stand up."
She stood. He gave her directions on where to walk and how. He watched her do it while he gave her pointers. He made her walk back and forth over and over while he leaned against the desk, drinking and watching. Finally he decided she'd done it good enough.
"Okay good. That's just confident walking. We'll do sexy walking another time, once you've got this down."
"Great," she muttered, not looking forward to it.
"The next thing I want to talk about is that you always laugh with your hand over your mouth."
"Oh, that? I didn't think that I did it that much anymore."
"Well, you do. Why?"
"Oh, I used to have braces and I was self-conscious about it so I would do that to hide them."
"Well, what are your teeth like now?"
"Okay, I guess," she shrugged.
She huffed. She really didn't want to.
She made a fake plastic smile.
"You have great teeth. Try not to cover them up. A pretty smile is a woman's most valuable weapon," he lectured.
"You are a little too good at knowing all this stuff about women and sex appeal. Do you just sit around and watch women all day?"
"Hello? Look where I work," he said.
"You have a point," she laughed.
"That's right. Now, the next thing is -"
"Wait. There's more?!" she cried.
"Don't you think this is overload for Lesson One?"
"Fine. What is it?"
"Okay, your clothes. While they are...interesting...they just take attention away from your face."
"How is that bad?" she asked, confused.
"Well, you have a nice face, but you wear these outfits that look kinda overdone, like you're trying to stand out, but then you walk around like you don't want to be noticed, it's confusing. And then when you wear makeup you wear entirely too much -"
"Why don't you just shoot me?! How about that?!" she snapped, plopping down into the chair and chugging the rest of her beer.
"Valen, don't be like this," he pleaded, sitting across from her. "I'm just trying to help!"
"Could you help without pointing out how much I obviously suck?"
"You do not suck. Okay, just do this for me, until further notice just tone your look down a bit."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"No jewelry, no makeup, no weird hair dohickeys, no crazy patterns, no polka dot explosions. Just wear stuff that's...basic. Then sometime this week we can go shopping to find you some new clothes."
"I need new clothes?!" she cried. "It's that bad?! I have to get rid of my clothes?!"
"We're not going to replace your clothes, just add some new things," he said.
"Okay. Well, just tell me what I'm supposed to buy and I'll get it online when I go home."
"No no no, see, you need to stop doing stuff online," he said. "Start shopping in real life."
"Because it's a different experience when you shop in real life!"
"Cause you can try things on, and I can go with you, and we could get lunch..." he said, obviously trying to talk her into this.
"Okay, so this was Lesson One. How do you feel?"
She thought about that. A few things came to mind.
"Flattened. Insecure. Terrified of things to come," she rattled off.
"Well," he said, with a laugh. "Change is scary. But hey, you're not doing this alone."
"Aww. Why are you being so nice to me?" she asked.
Brian looked self-conscious for the first time ever.
"I'm not. I'm not being that nice," he said, and started paying a lot of attention to his beer.
They were both silent for a moment.
"So, then for tomorrow just practice everything you learned tonight," he said, and grabbed one of his business cards off the desk. "Then call me and tell me how it went. We can figure out a time to go shopping. That can be Lesson Two."
He wrote his cell number on the back of the card and gave it to her.
"Oh wow, I wanna give you my number, too!" she said, excitedly.
"Go right ahead," he smiled, and handed her the pen.
She wrote her number on a sticky note and stuck it to his knee.
"I would have never thought to put it there, but okay," he said, with a chuckle. "At least I have it now."
"That's the idea," she giggled.
Valen was going to walk home, but Brian insisted on walking with her since it was late and she'd been drinking. She hung around as he closed up the shop.
"Brian, does being around porn all day ever make you sick of it?" she asked, as they left together.
"Nope. I could never get sick of porn. Baby thinks I watch too much of it, but I think that's kinda silly," he said.
"Yeah, it's just a form of entertainment," she said. "It's an art form."
"That's exactly what I told her!" he said, nudging her. "You're the first girl to agree with me on that."
"Yeah, well. I just don't see the big deal. I like to watch it. I'd love to work at a porn shop. I think you have a pretty sweet gig."
"Thanks," he said. "It definitely keeps me entertained."
There were some weirdoes tottering about, the very kind of guys that would bother her for money if she was alone. But they took one look at Brian and kept going in silence.
"Thanks for walking me home," she said. "Even though it's only like 3 1/2 blocks."
"You're welcome," he said. "It's the least I could do since I was so 'inhumane' to you earlier."
"That's right! You're just so mean!" she teased.
When they got to her apartment building he waited while she let herself into the front door. Then they waved goodbye to each other.
She went upstairs and threw herself on her bed, realizing that she was exhausted and a little drunk. She was also horny. So she got up to get her Red Devil out of her drawer. She promised herself that she would not think about Brian while she used it this time.
But she did.
Then...she did again.