House of Syn - Chapter 7
Valen woke up the next morning still feeling a tad bit drunk. This actually proved to be a good thing, because it made it a little bit easier to practice her confident walk all the way to work and all the way into her cubicle that day. She noticed that when she used this particular walk, she felt better for some strange reason. She had glimpsed her reflection in the storefronts that morning and she thought that it made her figure look better, too. She was having a hard time with the making eye contact thing, though. She had tried it at Starbucks, where she normally went in the mornings to grab her morning coffee. She had made eye contact with the barista as he passed her the coffee she'd ordered.
He'd smiled at her.
It was a bit shocking. Guys just didn't go around smiling at her, and at first she didn't know what to think. She was flustered, she just grabbed her coffee and left. What was he doing smiling at her? What for? The longer she thought about it she didn't think that he was making fun of her, but she couldn't imagine what else it could be. Was he just acknowledging her eye contact? That seemed plausible, but in a way it seemed like more than that. It seemed like some sort of small gesture of approval. But for what?
She decided that it must be that guys appreciated confidence in a woman. And after all, she wasn't a bad looking girl. Brian had said that she had a "nice face," and even though that was not the same as being called pretty by any stretch of the imagination, it still implied that she was not hard on the eyes. That was good to know.
She had done her best to look understated that day, even though she thought that was entirely bogus. Understated was just not her thing. She normally wore things to work like pinstripe suits and red stiletto pumps with a flower on her lapel, or a red hairnet on her hair. Or maybe a Japanese inspired top with sticks in her hair. Anything to give her look that extra kick. Instead today she had worn a plain black suit and she had only put on lip gloss and mascara. She'd put her hair into a simple twist.
She felt so...naked.
'It's because I don't have my things,' she thought. 'My things that make me who I am. I have to talk to Brian about this and tell him that I am not happy like this. If I have to give up my things to be with Zacky, maybe Zacky is not worth it.'
She couldn't figure out her discomfort, though. She didn't know why she felt this way. So...so exposed.
And then she had a terrible thought. What if what Brian had touched on was true? What if she did wear the things she wore simply for the purpose of standing out? That would mean that she did it to get attention, wouldn't it?
'Why would I purposely try to draw attention to myself, when I can barely stand to be looked at by attractive men?' she wondered. 'Do I dress the way I do in hopes of being noticed, but act the way I do because deep down I still don't think I deserve to be noticed? Or is it that I try to dress myself up to make myself someone I'm not?'
She realized it was a little of both. She really did have outlandish taste, but she didn't have the confidence required to really pull it off. So she dressed herself up for attention, but then cowered away from it. And she did overdo her look sometimes. But how could she fix that? She didn't have the answers, but she decided to put the issue aside for now. Thinking about it made her uncomfortable.
When she got to the office and sat down, she felt fully sober, having consumed her morning cup of joe. The first thing she did was sign onto her computer to review the work she had to do that day. She did it all within a few hours, as usual. Then she proceeded to bring up the secret chat program she'd installed on her computer so she could talk to LordPein for the rest of the day, and essentially get paid for it. If they insisted upon giving her such easy work, and the boss never made himself available, she was just going to have to find a way to entertain herself.
As soon as she signed on, she got a message from LordPein.
"How is the porn guy?" he asked. "Did you see him? Did you go for drinks?"
"I did! He's great! He's so nice! He has such great friends! He has the best smile! He has the cutest dog!" she typed. She proceeded to gush about Brian for at least a half an hour, with little prompting from LordPein.
"So does he like you?" he finally asked.
"He has a girlfriend."
She tried not to show the whole world of disappointment that related to that fact. It would not help matters.
"You gonna steal him from her?" he asked, and then typed in a winking smiley.
"Ha! As if I even could. And besides, he is happy with her. Very happy. I wouldn't endanger that."
"Wow. Sounds like you like him already..."
"I don't like him like that. He is just so cool."
"Well, how is he cool?"
"He just is."
"Well, does he like Star Wars?" he asked.
Star Wars was a big thing amongst the two of them, but somehow she knew better than to even imagine that Brian would share her love for the sci-fi classic.
"I didn't ask, but I don't think its his style," she said.
"What about Star Trek ?" he asked.
She put a blank space in the reply field and sent it.
"Well, does he read Manga?!" he demanded.
She was about to get off of this subject, hoping not to reveal how different from her Brian really was, but instead she had to tell him to hang on because someone was coming up to her cube. She had to hide her chat screen.
She pulled some work up onto the monitor and pretended to look busy, just as her co-worker Adam strode up. Adam was very handsome in a very Abercrombie and Fitch type of way - tall, light eyes, dark hair, and clean cut look. He'd always come over and ask her to help him with additional projects. She did it, because she never had anything else to do since all this stuff was so easy for her anyways. Computer code was easy, it was straightforward. It followed standard rules. Not like guys. Guys she couldn't get. They confused her. But hopefully Brian could help her figure out these rules...
"Good morning," Adam said.
"Morning!" she said, with her usual giggle.
Even hot guys that she wasn't interested in made her nervous. Why? Because they always doled out that thing that she hated - scrutiny. They scrutinized every woman and were always checking out girls. She always knew that when hot guys were around, she would be scrutinized, and more often than not, she would not make the cut.
"You look different today," he commented, leaning on the corner of her cube, propped up on his arm. A certain interest was carried in his tone. "Did you lose weight? Change your hair?"
"No," she said, nervously, and smiled.
'Act confident! I should act confident? Right?' she wondered. 'What if I can't? Oh no! I mean, if I can't even act confident with this guy, who is essentially just a typical preppy pinhead, how will I ever go out with Zacky? I have to do this. I can't let Brian's hard work be for nothing!'
"Oh. Well, I was just wondering if you could help me with these corrections?" he asked, holding up a manila folder full of documents. "I'm swamped and Mary Pat just keeps drowning me in files!"
"Sure," she said, and reached for the folder.
"Thanks so much," he said, handing it to her. "You're just so fast with this stuff."
"Yeah, well, I'm glad I can help," she said.
She let her eyes gradually rise up to make eye contact. It felt weird, unnatural and scary to even be trying something like this. But once her eyes met his, she realized there was really nothing to be afraid of. There was nothing malicious there. His eyes were a stormy gray, very beautiful. And even though she'd always thought of him as a pinhead who would look down on her, he didn't really seem that way at the moment.
He smiled at her.
'What the fuck is up with this smiling thing?!' she wondered.
She smiled back. From behind her hand.
"You know what, you're adorable," he said. "Thanks for helping me out."
"No problem," she said, and waved.
He walked off looking a little confused, but also a little intrigued.
"Hm," she said, cocking her head to the side as she thought about the day's events so far. What did this mean? She really wanted to call Brian and ask him.
'I couldn't. Well, that would just be weird,' she thought. 'I mean, yes, he gave me his number, but that doesn't just mean I can call whenever I want. Or does it?'
She thought hard. Then she turned back to her computer and pulled up her chat screen. She asked LordPein under which circumstances it was okay to call a guy who had given you his number.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "Cause, I think he only really gave it to me so we could talk about this thing we are planning. See, I am interested in a friend of his and he's supposed to be helping me get in good with the guy, so to speak."
"Oh. In that case, he definitely isn't trying to keep you for himself."
"Yeah, I know. But it's not like I expected that. I'm just happy he wants to help me."
"But he gave you his number, so you can call to chat. Guys don't give out their numbers all willy nilly. They will get girls' numbers in heartbeat, but they won't just give out theirs to a girl they don't want to talk to."
"Just call! You're just friends anyway. Who cares? If he doesn't feel like talking, he won't pick up."
"Oh, it would be terrible to have him ignore my call."
"OK. Be right back."
She took out her phone and opened her contacts list. She did not even have to use the scroll bar, because there were only about 5 numbers in it besides Brian's. And one was to the pizza delivery place.
'I have no life,' she thought. 'Well, not offline.'
She stared at Brian's number. She wanted to call. She wanted to ask him what this smiling thing was about. But she also just wanted to talk to him period.
'I really have to get over this,' she said, and put the phone back into her purse. But then she took it out and stared at it again.
'LordPein is right. If he doesn't want to talk, he won't answer. Then I'll just leave a message. God, what will I say? I won't leave a message. It would be too awkward. If he doesn't answer, I'll just hang up. He'll see I called, and then he will call me when he wants to talk. Then I won't have to worry about being a bother.'
She took a deep breath and dialed the number. It rang a few times, and no answer. She hung up.
'I should have known he would be busy,' she thought, with a sigh. 'He's gonna think it's so weird that I just called him in the middle of the day when he told me to call and check in with him after work. What do I do now?'
She was about to put the phone back into her purse when it started to vibrate. She had an incoming call from an unknown number.
'God, another wrong number,' she thought. After all, the only time her phone rang from an unknown number was when someone had misdialed.
"Hello?" she answered, prepared to tell the person that she was not Leon Phelps, Marco Guerrera, or Burger Town.
"Hey," a sexy voice said.
"Who is this?" she asked.
"Brian. You just called me," he said. "I'm calling you back from the shop phone."
"Oh hi!" she said, dragging out the 'I' and then lapsing into a little giggle fit. "I um, I thought you were busy, since you didn't answer. I mean, not that I expected you to. I thought you were probably working."
"Well, I am here at the shop, but it's kinda dead right now," he said. "The busier time is usually after five."
'God, he sounds so cute over the phone!' she thought.
"Oh, so then you don't mind talking while you're at work?"
"Not at all, it passes the time. So what's up? Are you still at work?"
"Yeah, I don't get off until five. Listen, something strange has been happening today..."
"What's that?" he asked, sounding curious.
"Um, I have been trying out that eye contact thing with random guys, and every time I do it, they smile at me. What does it mean?"
"Well, that depends. Is it a quick smile or does it kinda linger?"
"It's definitely the lingering kind."
"It means they are flirting with you," he said. "That would be the time to flirt back, if you are interested. If not, then just ignore it."
"What if I'm not comfortable with flirting?" she asked, biting her nails at the mere prospect.
"I can teach you a few simple techniques."
"Oh. Okay," she said. That didn't sound like it would be hard. She would just learn a few things and use those. "Sounds easy enough."
"Then you can just practice them on me."
Suddenly it sounded like it was going to be hard. Very hard.
"So, I was thinking maybe Wednesday we could do Lesson Two," he said. "What do you think? Does that day work for you?"
"That works," she said. "Even though I hate shopping in the real world. All those people and lines. Ugh."
"It all depends on where you go. I have a few places in mind. You'll have fun. You'll see," he said.
She started to feel excited about this little outing. More time alone with Brian? That was always a good thing.
"Oh hey, Baby just walked in," he said, sounding excited. "Can I call you back?"
"Sure," she said, trying not to sound disappointed.
When Valen hung up she realized that it really was for the best that Baby was around. She was a constant reminder of a fact that Valen could never afford to forget.
Late on Tuesday night, Valen was sitting at her desk and surfing on eBay. She was looking for pink powdered wigs. There was a cosplay convention coming to town. At these conventions, anime and manga fans dressed up like their favorite characters and acted out scenes from the manga/anime. She had been going to them for years. This year she was going as the Renaissance princess from the series Eviyone.
The convention wasn't for 6 months, but it was the sort of thing that required months of preparation. Sometimes she had to even make or sew parts of her outfits. There was a very fine line between being in character and looking like you were wearing a Halloween costume you bought from Walgreens.
She was looking at pictures, examining the texture of a certain wig, when her cell phone made an unfamiliar "Ping!" sound. Then it started to vibrate. She picked it up and looked at a display.
1 new text message
Valen's heart skipped a beat. She never usually got text messages, so she had only one guess as to who it was from. She checked the message, only to find that she was only half right. The text was from Brian, but the message was from Baby.
Baby had him text her to send her phone number along, in case Valen wanted to chat with her or go out again. Valen saved it to her Contacts List. She put it under her real name, Saskia. The more she heard about Baby, the more annoying her nickname became. She wondered if it would be okay if she just called her Saskia, even if nobody else did?
She was kind of happy to see her Contacts List growing again, even if only by one. She told Brian that she would give Baby a call. He text her back.
"So what are you up to?" he asked.
She definitely did not want to admit the truth - which was that not only was she shopping online, she was shopping online for cosplay outfits. She came up with a vague answer.
"Not much, what about you?" she asked.
He wrote back to say that he was working, but that he was glad he was off Wednesday and Sunday. Those days Johnny took over.
Since she was talking to him, she took the opportunity to ask him the name of the movie that was playing the other night when she was in. At first he said he had to check. Then he wrote back and gave her a name. It was "Cum Scene Investigation 2." After she laughed out loud for about two consecutive minutes, she received another text.
"Why? In the mood to watch it?" he asked.
She wondered if he meant watch it on her own, or come over and watch it with him? She imagined trying to watch that movie with him anywhere in the vicinity, and even the idea was just too much for her to handle. That would only lead to him being mauled. She had to get that idea out of his head, immediately. She wrote back and said that it just looked interesting and she thought she would add it to her collection.
"You're not going to buy it online are you?" he asked. "Come buy it here! Support local merchants!"
"Ok ok!" she wrote back. "See you in a few, then."
As she left her house, headed for House of Syn, she felt excited that he was asking her to come by the shop again.
'Don't get any ideas,' her sense of reason stepped in. 'It's just business. He just wants your money. It's not like he called and said 'Let's hang out.''
The realization slightly dampened her mood, but she was still excited to be seeing him. Even if only briefly. She changed into a black baby tee, some black capri pants and some black and white polka dotted high heeled shoes with open toes that strapped around the ankles. Then she headed over to the shop.
As soon as she reached the street, she saw Jimmy standing outside the shop. He was wearing a House of Syn makeshift sandwich board that he had probably constructed and drawn himself. It was noticeably too short for his tall frame. It had a cartoon picture of Brian surrounded in items that had 'XXX' on them.
"Go in the shop!" he was yelling at random people. "You know you wanna go in! Don't be shy! Hey, you over there! I see you, man, don't try to hide from me!"
Valen stood at the cross walk cracking up, listening to Jimmy publicly yell about House of Syn to random passersby. God he was loud! And shameless! It was great!
"House of Syn has the highest quality DVDs and the biggest sex toys known to man!" he yelled at a group of young hipsters. "This shop is so cool, so hip, it defies logic! It defies science! It's so hip, it's unhip!"
They went in, probably due to fear of Jimmy.
By the time she crossed the street and walked over, he had taken to just directing people into the shop like he was directing a landing airplane. One man tried to sneak past him, but ended up jumping about a foot off the ground when Jimmy screamed "You need porn!" at him right as he was passing. He looked at Jimmy in shock, and took off running.
"You'll be back later and we both know it!" he yelled after the man. "We both know it, man!"
A group of girls approached, and Valen knew they were in for it next.
"Ladies! Come to Jimmy!" he said, throwing his arms out. The girls went and encircled him, and he stood there talking to them like Hugh Heffner surrounded in bunnies.
"Have you seen the shop owner?" he asked them.
"No, what's he like?" one of the girls asked.
"Fucking hot. Tall, buff, long hair. Tattoos and shit. You should go see, girls. 100% prime grade A manmeat in there, I'm telling ya."
"Oooh really?" they started to giggle. "Oh my Gawwd!"
"You won't be disappointed," he said, steering them inside. "Get in there."
Valen walked up to the door and gave Jimmy a wave.
"Valentine!" he cried, and gave her a big hug. "Last time I saw you, you were wobbling on your bar stool!"
"Yeah, I know," she said, turning a little red from embarrassment. "It was a crazy night."
"Hell yeah, I noticed - House of Syn!" he yelled at a random businesswoman. She jumped and gave him a look of shock. He smiled and waved at her. "Hey, have you been in this shop? It's awesome. Go in, go in! Buy stuff! Then take it home and enjoy it when nobody is around! Or when they are!"
Valen was surprised when the woman deliberated for a few seconds but actually went in.
"How the hell do you do this?" Valen asked, throwing her hands up in amazement.
"Don't tell anyone," he said, wrapping a long arm around her shoulder. "But, I have certain powers. Suggestion. Subliminal messages. They can't resist me. I'm stronger, mentally. I trained, you know, when I was only 10 years old. In the mountains. With an ancient samurai in Japan."
"Sure, Jimmy," she giggled.
"I did! I did! Are you making fun of me?!" he asked, playfully poking her.
"Stop stop!" she laughed, batting at his hand. He kept poking her in the arm and the sides. Even the neck!
"Stop stop!'" he mocked her, still randomly poking her. "Say you believe it! Say you believe in my skills!"
"No!" she cried. Jimmy grabbed her and picked her up, bridal style. "Agggh! Put me down!"
"Ha HA!" he said, maniacally, and turned her upside down.
"AGGGGH!! Brian help me! Brian!" she screamed, flailing madly. "Brian save me!"
Jimmy started laughing so hard he could barely hold her up. But he still had time to yell "House of Syn!" to random people on the street. "We have fun in there! Like we're having fun out here! There's hot chicks in there!"
People laughed at her predicament as they passed by into the shop.
"Jimmy seriously, I'm gonna hurl!" she cried.
"Brian is too busy with all his many customers to save you! Bahahahahaha!" he laughed. But he turned her upright and put her down.
"Oh my God, what was that for!" she screamed, hitting him in the arm.
"Do you believe in my skills?" he asked, looking at her all bug-eyed.
"Yes! Yes, I believe!" she cried. "I swear! You studied in Japan with a Samurai!"
"Good. Now, let's go shop," he said, dragging her into the store.
When they walked in and she got a view of just how many people Jimmy had lured/urged/threatened into the store, she was shocked. It was like a party in there. People were dancing to the music, looking at the products, trying stuff on, playing with vibrators, talking about porn, looking at movies, watching the porn on the screens, meeting each other, exchanging business cards, and of course...hitting on Brian. Especially that group of girls Jimmy sent in by telling them how hot Brian was. Apparently they weren't disappointed with his looks.
"So what brings you to this humble establishment?" Jimmy asked, as he took off his sandwich board and set it aside. He was wearing another outfit similar to what he was wearing the first time she saw him. Black t-shirt, black pants, a sweet belt, and a satin tie. Only the tie was chopped in half at an angle.
"I came to get a movie," she explained.
"You watch porn?!" he gasped. "I thought you'd be a goodie two shoes!"
"Well, I am good. But porn is just like an outlet for fantasy. It doesn't mean you do those things in real life."
"But you should! You should do them all!" he cried, wholeheartedly. "What movie are you getting?"
She made him bend down so she could whisper the title in his ear.
"Oh my God! CSI:2 is a classic!" he said. "Have you seen the first one?"
"Well, no. I - "
Before she could say anything, he had determined that she could not buy "Cum Scene Investigation 2" without having seen "Cum Scene Investigation 1" first. Without saying anything to Brian (who was surrounded in customers anyway), Jimmy went and changed the video on the monitors, putting on CSI:1. He turned the volume up, too. Valen didn't know whether to laugh or run. Before she could decide, he pulled up a couple of chairs behind the counter and plunked them down into them.
She thought she would be highly uncomfortable watching it in public, but it was just fun sitting there with Jimmy and watching it while listening to his crazy comments about the things going on. After awhile, Brian was behind the counter with them, ringing out customers, and even he was laughing at Jimmy's take on the film.
She was having fun, but she wanted to talk to Brian. Every now and then she would catch his eye and he would smile. She tried hard not to smile back, knowing she would want to cover her mouth. So she ended up smirking and looking stupid.
"Fuck! Gettin horny!" Jimmy announced, making a lot of the customers laugh.
Valen started laughing, too. But the movie was making her horny, too, despite the joking atmosphere. Jimmy turned his head slowly, looked at her, and raised an eyebrow.
"Come sit on my lap, Valentine," he cooed, and patted his lap.
"Brian save me!" she screamed, and ran for it, leaping over Jimmy's lap.
Jimmy was hot on her trail, and she had no idea what he would do. She'd seen Brian go into the movie area, so she dashed back there. She ran smack into Brian, who caught her.
"Save me! Jimmy's horny!" she cried, holding onto him for dear life. "Hide me?!"
Brian must have had no clue what she was talking about, but he laughed and wrapped his arms around her. She felt like she was going to melt into the floor. His body felt so good. All those muscles and that hard stomach... It was only making her horniness worse. She found herself clinging to him shamelessly. And it was now definitely not due to fear.
"Come here Valentine," Jimmy sang, coming around the corner. He looked disappointed to find her clinging to Brian. "What is this? Gates, you stole my friend?!"
"No way, man. This is my friend," he taunted. "You can't touch."
"Why not?" he demanded, putting both hands on his hips and pouting.
"Because she does not like your skinny ass, she likes Zacky," Brian said.
"Why would anyone like Zacky?" he asked.
The three of them had a good laugh at Zacky's expense, simply because he was not there.
"I don't know, but I kinda volunteered to hook her up with him," he explained. "It's a whole project now."
Valen didn't really mind if he told Jimmy, she just wouldn't want him to tell Zacky. She was sure he wouldn't, though. That would defeat the whole purpose of the plan. Zacky had to see her again after their work was done. Not before.
While Brian and Jimmy were talking about her plan to snag Zacky, Valen was wondering just how long Brian would let her hold onto him. He didn't seem to be having a problem with it at all.
'Man, he smells so good,' she thought, inhaling deeply.
Watching that movie had thrown her mind right into the gutter, and at the moment all she could think about was how much she wanted to pull his shirt off and run her hands up and down his bare chest. She could only imagine how good he looked underneath those clothes...how good he would feel...She just wanted to lock him in this room with her alone and unzip his pants with her teeth.
She didn't realize how tightly she was holding onto him until Jimmy commented that soon Brian wasn't going to be able to breathe.
She laughed, nervously, and let go immediately. She was so embarrassed she couldn't look at either of them.
"Well, you scared the shit out of her," Brian told Jimmy. "If I was a girl and you chased me I would be scared, too! I would run. Far away. Or kill myself!"
"Please, girls dream of having the Jimmy," he said, smoothing his hair and making a sexy face.
"That's nice," Valen said. "I have to give it to you."
"Thank you," he said, and straightened his tie. "When Zacky fails epically to fulfill your sexual needs, call me."
He made a telephone gesture to his ear and winked at her.
"Sure, Jimmy. Absolutely," she said, humoring him.
"So, can I come with you guys tomorrow?" Jimmy asked. "I wanna help pick stuff, too!"
Brian looked at Valen for her answer.
She hadn't even noticed he'd told Jimmy about where they were going. But she had spaced out for a good five minutes. She didn't want to give up her alone time with Brian, but she liked Jimmy. And she was sure that she would have alone time with him at some other point.
"Sure," she said. "The more the merrier."