Blizzard — Chapter 17 by Redsliver* * *
“You didn’t take the offer.” Peter was waiting at a small table at the Sub-Way down the street from work. I didn’t want to go back to that coffee shop. I didn’t want to be confused by multiple personality girl. I really didn’t want to make a scene in front of Peter. There’s no such thing as fairies. Die Tinkerbell.
“I have, in writing, proof that I am worth more than my boss pays me,” I said with a broad smile. “He’s stewing over it as I take this meeting. I may have gotten the offer by meeting your daughter, but I’m moving up on my own merit.”
“You sound proud of yourself.” He smiled too. He took a bite of his sandwich. His long suit coat seemed out of place in the fast food restaurant. I was dressed in flannel and dress pants. My job didn’t have much of a dress code.
“You shouldn’t have bought all of that food for my apartment.”
“I should’ve bought an invisible fence and a shock collar for Alexa.” He smirked. “Installed it in your doorway.”
“I doubt that’d stop her,” I said.
“I know it wouldn’t.” He wiped his mouth. A bell jingled as the door opened. “And there’s the last of our little band. If you’re going to get lunch, I’d get in line with Wayne.”
I saw the chubby giant white-haired man come in wearing a puffy coat hung open over a sweater vest. He nodded to Peter and headed over to the line.
“Call him ‘Doctor Carlsen’ if you want to stroke his ego a bit,” he said. “Though he’s probably as ambivalent about that as anyone.”
“Oh.” I frowned. I wasn’t unprepared as I had been when I had first met Peter. Wayne Carlsen was Max’s father. I didn’t see the resemblance. Perhaps the height—Max was tall for a woman, but Wayne must’ve been 6′6″. Great, I wasn’t used to being the short man in a conversation.
“Hello, Doctor Carlsen,” I said.
“Oh? You?” He laughed the laugh I had heard over the phone. “By Peter’s description I expected you to have a bit more of a demonic snatcher-of-babies look to you. Maybe a van with ‘free candy’ spray-painted on the side.”
“Reasonably priced candy,” I corrected. “That last recession hit me hard.”
“Hit us all hard.” He laughed. “My daughter is head over heels, you know?”
“Yeah, scared the crap out of me,” I said. “I was not prepared for a woman that smart or gorgeous to notice me.”
“Then you shouldn’t go around playing hero to damsels in distress,” he tutted. “That’s just poor planning on your part.”
Our conversation stalled as they made our sandwiches. I was not used to other people buying my food. I sat down next to Peter—Wayne was a little too big.
“You were right, Wayne. Took the deal straight to his boss, and is swinging for a raise and promotion while we eat,” Peter said after they shared the direct manly greeting of wordless nods.
“Yeah, you weren’t offering near enough to move a man hundreds of kilometers from an affectionate Alexa,” Wayne replied. “She wants him close by.”
I frowned in agreement.
“Yeah, and she wouldn’t have been happy with me,” Peter said, and leaned towards Wayne with a calculated smile. “You know how close they like to get.”
“Don’t,” Wayne said with a laugh. “That fishhooks Joker thing is kinda cute when our girls do it. Touch my face, Peter, and I’m having finger sandwiches. Get it, Gene? It’s a pun; we’re in a sandwich shop.”
“Yes, quite clever.” I nodded politely. I felt like I was in the garbage compactor on the Death Star. These men could be the walls. The switch would flip and I’d be crushed and flushed away.
“What is your plan, Gene?” Wayne hairpin-turned the conversation.
He used my name like it was a shot in the dark. I nodded.
“I gotta level up the life I’ve been living. This promotion is the first step. I’m going to need a bigger apartment, to dress better, to be worth more.”
“Small things, goals. Good, you’re not a slouch.” He shook his head. “Not important. You’ve got Maxie and Alex eating out of your hand.”
“And Samantha,” Peter added to the stack like it was gasoline. I took a drink to buy myself a second.
“Maxie’s roommate? I find her frustrating. She keeps most of herself out of reach. I see a few every year. Some girls play dumb, some hide behind yeses to everything, and some retreat from any potential embarrassment. I don’t know which she is, just that something needs to change if I’m ever going to see the real Sam.” Wayne shrugged. “So, three girls, one of you. How’re you going to handle that?”
“Viagra and Red Bull for the first few days, cyanide capsule by the weekend,” Peter said. Wayne and I both stared at him. “Too much? Okay, I guess that was too much. Sorry, Gene, you’ve got me a tiny bit stressed here. Gallows humor, y’know? Gallows over a boiling tank of poisonous sharks.” Peter’s tone told me I was tolerated but not quite welcome yet. That lifted a frightening weight from my shoulders. I took a deep breath.
“Wait,” Wayne scratched his chin. “I think you mean venomous.”
“I did, thank you,” Peter chuckled.
“And boiling? That can’t be right,” I tried.
“No, that’s perfectly fine,” Peter countered.
The silence didn’t go on for as long as I felt it did. I realized I was being waited on.
“They gave me a hard ‘no’ on leaving. I’ve only got one choice: be the best for them.” Wayne looked dubious. “Expect the best from them,” I added. That cheered him up. He laughed.
“I had to push and prod myself,” Peter said.
“You thought he was an underachiever. This close to being a bum,” Wayne said, and shrugged. I frowned.
“I’ve always thought of myself as an underachiever,” I admitted. “This is the first time I’ve pushed for more responsibility, more money, more respect.”
“It’s still a dead-end job. You’re still renting out your time,” Peter said. “You don’t get wealthy as someone’s lackey.”
“No, I get wealthy helping a girl with a twisted ankle during a snowstorm.” I sat up taller. “Real wealthy.”
Wayne’s face darkened. Peter’s expression gave me a moment to clarify. It was not going to be a long moment.
“Wealth isn’t just money,” I pointed out, speaking much faster. “My parents aren’t rich, but I know what it’s like when I head back home. That’s wealthy. Max and Sam might not be as well off as Alex is, but they make me better.”
Wayne and Peter were both clearly taken aback by this statement. They studied me. Wayne and I ate in silence for another minute.
“I think I still want to tell Max to break up with you,” he said after half a sandwich. “You’ve got Alex and Sam chasing after you. She’s going to end up over her head right alongside you.”
Peter laughed. I almost interjected.
“Right. I tell Max that you’re the wrong guy, she won’t just be in over her head, she’ll dive in so deep she’ll crack her head off the bottom of the pool,” Wayne said. “I hate being stuck. So, goddammit, more than anything I want you to make her happy too.”
“I—Yes, that’s what I want,” I said. I needed to take another drink. The pair of them made me several kinds of nervous.
“And, I’m always going to take Max’s side,” he said. “Doctor Carlsen asked that I don’t go full Viking on you yet.”
I must’ve looked confused for a moment.
“Ronni Carlsen’s a GP,” Peter said.
“That’s why he had you call me ‘Doctor,’” Wayne explained, pointing at Peter. “Normally, the Carlsens go with ‘Professor’ and ‘Doctor’ rather than ‘mister’ and ‘missus’.”
“And I can’t pass up a chance to dig at him a little,” Peter said. My phone was ringing again. I went to silence the ringer with an apology.
“It’s, uh, Max,” I said behind a frown.
“Oh, you’re getting that,” Wayne said, and lit up in much the same way his daughter did. I nodded.
“Hey—” I almost greeted her.
“14 hours and 38 minutes!” she bellowed. “And then it begins a noticeable fall-off. Sam said she was right on time with me so we’re going to try again. She’s zipping—”
“Hey Max. I’m with your dad. We’re having lunch,” I said. She managed to stop motormouthing for a second.
“Huh? That’s like a three-hour drive,” she said. “Are you going to be back in town later?”
“He came into the city.”
“How?” Max said. “He doesn’t drive and he’s got class right now?”
“Put him on,” she huffed. I frowned.
“She wants to chew you out.” I held the phone out to Wayne. He laughed.
“Hi, honey. If I recall correctly, you should have Physics 2 at this time of day.” He started strong. “Yes, I know I do too. Look—Listen…”
“You got yourself a bit of a ballbreaker with Max, Gene,” Peter grinned. “For your sake, I hope Alex keeps her competitive side in check.”
“Maxie, I’m your Dad and I teach university classes, of course I’m going to say something about you missing class.” He sighed. “Listen, your mother and I are hoping to have you and—What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“It’s dinner. You and Gene and your mother and I. We’re heading back tonight. No, we won’t be here. Because we won’t be staying overnight. Because the forecast isn’t good for tomorrow, I don’t want your mother driving in that. Sweetheart. Maxie? Maxine!”
Peter was laughing in bullyish mirth. I finished my sandwich.
“Maybe I’ll ask Gene and—”
He gave up, shrugged, and handed me the phone.
“—out of nowhere. Gene and me will be busy tonight.”
“Gene and I,” I corrected. She erupted in a squeal.
“Oh my God! Our orders got delivered!”
“Wait. Can Dad hear me?”
“More than a little,” I admitted.
“Oh, well, surprise then. See you at home!” She hung up. I looked up at Wayne. We were both overwhelmed and confused.
“If you want to do dinner tonight, I’ll—” We had started talking at the same time.
He waved me down. “I’m sure you could. Max made a choice and she’s sticking to it. She’s not always had an easy time doing that. I’d rather we respected her wishes.”
“Are you sure?” I got the answer from his face. I looked at Peter and Wayne. “I’m going to go. I’ve let them cook long enough. Besides, I want more expected of me. Taking extra time for lunches isn’t going to speak to my ownership skills.”
“It was nice meeting you, Gene,” Wayne grinned. “Peter told me where you live.”
I frowned at that and said my goodbyes. I’m pretty sure they were laughing when I left the restaurant.
At the end of the day, I floated home. All of a sudden, my little corner of the world was lackluster and broken. It worked, but was it enough? Jesus, this is where I took those girls. I crunched through the snow. It was hardly a flurry, but it had been accumulating all day. At least the snow was falling down and not being hurtled horizontally at me.
I could see the girls’ bootprints on the front step. I grabbed the plow. Apartment One opened.
“Enjoying the show?” I asked Winter as I brushed the step clear. I could tell Mrs. Rabinovich in Four had been sequestered all day. Canadian winters were not doing her any favors.
“More than I expected I would,” Winter commented. “You’re walking taller.”
“How could I not?” I asked with a tilt of my head to the apartment. There had been no footprints leaving.
“I don’t think that’s the whole story,” she said. She cupped her hands around a steaming mug. The snow started falling clumpier. I frowned.
“There’s a second shovel, you know.”
“No,” she said. “Besides, you’re almost done anyways.”
I was. I thrust the last bladeful over the railing and into my unused parking space. I looked at her. She was regal, like she took up more space than her slender body allowed. It reminded me that this building was no place for a lady. I couldn’t imagine her putting up with this for even a few months. I planned to be gone with my girls first.
It wasn’t that cold out—cold enough for snow, but warm enough that Winter could stand comfortably in a sweater, pajama bottoms, and slippers. She was shorter than my girls; not as curvy or as stacked either. Her hair was thicker than any of them, but shorter. I think this was the first time I hadn’t seen her wearing a toque and parka.
“Hey, how do you know Fa—Carmine?”
“The Girl?” she asked. “Same hometown, same cliques, same same same. You want a cup of coffee? I have a whole pot.”
“No,” I said. “I’ve got people waiting on me.”
“Least I could do. I mean, for the step and all.”
“No, the least you could do is absolutely nothing,” I said. “See ya, Winter.”
“I’m not one to do nothing,” she smiled. I shook the flakes gathering in my hair onto the step. I was going to need to come down and shovel again, no doubt. “Good night, Gene.”
I put the plow in the corner of the porch. Maybe the guy in Three would help out. Probably wouldn’t. I opened the door and stepped in.
“Gene!” Alex cheered to hear the door.
“Hey there!” I said as I took off my boots. Sam rushed over to the railing over the stairs. She was wearing a less-than-opaque negligee and panties. She was grinning manically.
“You gotta hurry!” she said. I was raking the snow out of my hair and onto the mat. I stomped more off the sides of my boots. “Max, get him a towel. Alex, make—Do you want hot chocolate, coffee, or tea?”
“Maybe just body heat.” I grinned. Sam’s smile broadened and her cheeks turned red. Max rushed across the landing and into the bathroom. There was a dress code, I realized. I unlaced my boots and slung my jacket off my shoulders. I needed a hook down here so the wet jackets and everything could dry without dripping through to Winter’s apartment. Maybe another day. I carried my stuff up.
Max wore pink. Sexy slumber party was looking good. Her nightgown was longer, running down to the middle of her thighs before the lace started. It was also solid-colored; only the eagerness of her anatomy alerted me to her curves underneath. She threw a big black towel on my head. Sam snatched away my jacket to hang it up.
Alex wore green, cut in a deep vee. Most of her navel was displayed above her black thong. She was filling the kettle in the sink. They all wore thick slippers. Sam’s were black kitty faces. Alex’s were dark blue and stuffed with lots of white fluff. Max’s were the same color as her nightie. Sam slapped my flannel pants to my chest.
“Pajama party. Democracy says take your clothes off.” She giggled. I grabbed her. Max was still trying to dry my head as I pulled Sam in for a kiss. I spun her aside and dipped Max for hers. Alex made an aerial strike. The railing held when I backed my ass into it. I grabbed her bare asscheek and broke the kiss.
“Um, look at all that.” There were sex toys and torn-open sex toy packaging all over my coffee table. Alex turned her head. “I thought you were only allowed three hundred bucks?”
“There were a couple of things she didn’t get, so I got money out of Dad.” Sam rushed over to show off the arsenal.
“They’re totally crazy, Gene,” Max said. “I don’t know how you bring this kind of stuff up to your dads.”
“He called me, remember,” Alex said with cheeks burning red. Not the ones I was squeezing. I put her down and pushed her to the kitchenette.
“Go make my tea, woman.”
“But you said body heat,” Alex pouted. She laughed when I met her eyes.
“And no way Dad knows,” Sam smugly smirked. “I told him I needed textbooks.”
“Yeah, textbooks. That’s how I got my PS3 in college,” I said.
Max’s chagrin shadowed her face. She took a deep breath to school her features. She shook her head at me and then turned to Sam. “But you did need the books, didn’t you?” she asked Sam.
Sam shrugged. “We live next to a library.”
She nudged me. “Alex looks good, right? Right?” she stage-whispered. Alex twirled. Her nightgown was the most transparent, and her thong the best on display.
“Not good,” I smirked. “You girls are way too amazing to ever just look just good.”
“Flirterer.” Alex kissed the air at me. I squeezed Sam’s waist and stepped over to Max.
“We blew off your dad,” I pointed out.
“Why does it have to be my family? What about you?” She was a little defensive. I took her shoulders in my hands and kissed her ear and, when she turned her head, her lips.
“My brother hasn’t invited me out yet. And he didn’t drive into town to see us.”
“Next time Dad’ll call first,” she said.
“What’s your brother like?” Sam asked me.
“He’s a total nerd,” I grinned.
“So, Max’ll love him.” Sam stuck her tongue out at me. “So, Alex, right?”
“Are you OK? Is this like Max pushing me towards Alex before we figured out the boots?” I worried.
“No,” Max shook her head. “Sam said pajama party, and Alex brought over these.”
I was directed to warm, fluffy, button-up, full pants and sleeves, baby blue pajamas.
“I got great taste, don’t I?” Sam lifted her hands and made a rectangle movie screen by squaring her thumbs and index fingers putting the box in front of my eyes. Alex lifted the empty teacup and posed with a beautiful smile.
“The best taste in women,” I nodded. I looked at the stack of rubber, plastic, glass, motors, leather, and lubricants. I’ll be honest. I knew my ex-girlfriends owned one or two of the assortment laid out in front of me. I’d never had them live in front of me like this.
“Sam said we needed two of the strap-on ones.” Alex brought over my cup of tea. “And the ones for the butt. And the two-sided one.”
“The rest are yours?”
“Um, Sam also bought all of the batteries,” Max added. Alex and I smiled at the redhead.
“So pajama party and figure-out-what-the-toys-do party?” I asked. All six eyes looked away from me. Alex couldn’t help but be smiling. Sam had her teeth clenched and she tried to look me in the eye. Fourth time was the charm. Max took a big step back from the table.
“Maybe not everything tonight?”
“I kinda also want to play some of your other games,” Alex said of my bookshelf full of board games.
“Oh! We could make some really evil bets!” Sam jumped up and down. She rushed over to Alex and whispered in the blonde’s ear. Alex had her teeth closed on her lower lip as her wide eyes stared at me. Sam rushed over to Max.
“Of course!” Max rolled her eyes at the whisper.
“Really?” Alex said. “OK? OK! OK… I, uh, yeah.”
“Maybe we’ll need a safeword,” I suggested. “If things get out of hand, we need a way to say, No, I’m not ready or into that.”
“Nah,” Sam said. “That seems kinda chickenshit.”
“It’s not, though. Sometimes you have to be more brave to say ‘no’,” I said.
“Well, if I don’t want it, I’ll just say, ‘Hey Alex, wanna tag in this round?’” Max pointed out. “And she’ll say...”
“ ‘Maybe next time on the butt stuff’,” Alex declared. I laughed. I drank my tea. I looked at the veritable arsenal.
“Alright, I will be taking no for an answer.”
“Booooo!” Sam boo’d, laughing. “Anything else, Gene?”
“Do we have snacks and alcohol?” I got nods. “Then let’s get started.”