Florence Spring trudged down another empty street. A bag full of lipstick, foundation, eye shadow, and all manner of items designed to make a girl of the nineties a sight to behold, swung from her shoulder. The tote banged against her hip, aggravating an already aching bruise. Even though drizzle soaked her face, she resisted the urge to wipe it off. She knew it was her duty to represent the products she sold to the best of her ability. The handbook for sales 101 read, better to appear damp, than smudged.
This wasn't how she'd envisioned life as an Avon representative. Where was her dark castle? Her mysterious hero? When would she find a beautiful man with a penchant for leather and rubber? She joined up to find her Edward Scissorhands. The closest she'd come was his porno alter ego, Edward Penishands.
If Eddie Cain wiggled his dick in his front room window one more time as she walked past, she would take the gold-handled nail scissors, on special this week for two dollars with any order over twenty dollars, and snip the little worm off. Bad enough she'd gone out with him once--once, and only once. The relationship had been doomed from the start. After his mother died, Eddie became most odd. Their one date had confirmed her belief that he was strange.
Snuggled together upstairs at the back of the number forty-six bus, he had whispered that he would like to handcuff her to his bed and whip her with a riding crop. She hadn't even had a chance to answer before he let out a low moan and spontaneously ejaculated, leaving a noticeable stain on the front of his gray gabardine pants. She'd graciously lent him her jacket to carry in front of him as they climbed from the bus and entered the movie theatre. When he unzipped his fly and pulled the worm free at the first on-screen kiss, she excused herself and fled. She never did ask for her jacket back. It was her favorite too, genuine faux leather and fur. Never mind. She doubted even the dry cleaners would have been able to get the spunk stain out.
Cautiously, she approached number ninety-two Stoffer Street. The curtains hung open, however the front window stood bare. Eddie appeared to be out. She checked her watch. Bang on time. Eight p.m. as usual. She passed by every Friday night. He lived on the most direct route from her allotted sales patch to Nelson's house. Eddie always waited for her. This time of the year he was usually silhouetted by the living room light. He'd never missed an opportunity to wiggle his wanger at her before. As much as she hated to admit it, she missed the little bugger; the wanger, not Eddie. She needed a good laugh after the dismal sales she usually mustered and Eddie always managed to add some element of humor to the whole sordid show. If only he learned to do the comedy act without the nudity he could take his show on the road. Of course, he could take it on the road with the striptease if he wanted to appeal to a whole other audience.
Truth be told, seeing him semi-naked once a week was, she suspected, the closest either of them had come to dating lately. If only she could find her prince charming, all dark, mysterious and quiet. She had a thing for silent movies. Everyone knew men of few words were sexy. You could imagine all sorts going on in their heads. Plans to show you the world, slay dragons, and win your heart. No one wanted to deal with the truth of them wondering if your boobs were real or if you had tissues stuffed in your bra, or calculating how long it would take them to wrestle you out of your underwear.
With a shrug, Florence tugged her jacket collar up in a feeble attempt to protect herself from the steady precipitation. She hated winter. Every year her mother reminisced about her childhood in England, telling Florence about the huge family Christmases they had which broke up the long cold months. Nothing happened in winter in New South Wales. Florence only had her mother's secondhand memories of chocolate box celebrations. Although, Grandma Wilson did her best to break up the monotony of endless gray days with her Christmas in June party. Florence recalled the last outrageous family event only six weeks ago. What had that been beneath the mistletoe with Nelson? She shivered, even though she wasn't cold. She needed to push that memory right out of her head before she reached her destination.
With a dismissive toss of her head, just in case he was watching, she left Eddie to his own sordid devices and continued on her way--her ego a little deflated. Even the local flasher had lost interest.
She turned the corner and a feeling of contentment swept over her. Her best friend Nelson's home was her bolt-hole from reality, away from her parents and the madness at her house. The small, rundown, two-bed town house might look in need of TLC to some. To her it stood out as an oasis in a horrible sales jungle. A lamp lit vision shrouded in mist. The tiny house was a cottage by the sea, a cozy little shack in the woods, anything her imagination fancied.
Not bothering to knock, she turned the handle and stepped inside. A blast of motor oil and male musky-scented air greeted her, along with Nelson's cat, Killer. She lifted the undersized ginger fur ball to her face and rubbed him against her cheek, giggling at his loud purr. He waited for her every week, as did Nelson. She always popped in to warm up before he escorted her home.
A shout came from the kitchen. "That you, Squirt?"
She put the cat down and dropped her heavy bag on the side table. After tugging off her sodden woolen gloves and damp jacket, she tossed them on the banister to dry.
"Yeah, it's only me."
She secured the front door so Killer couldn't escape, and sauntered the length of the threadbare carpeted hallway, glancing at the shiny new bolt and padlock on the basement door. She stopped on the threshold of the kitchen and stared at the vision before her.
Nelson glanced up from where he was kneeling on the floor. His eyes were hidden by his tousled dark hair. A huge grin spread across his face. "Hot chocolate's by the stove."
She stared at the red and polished chrome monster currently taking up half the floor space. "What are you doing?"
"Fixin' my bike."
"In the kitchen?"
He grunted as he tried to shift something. "It's rainin'. Pass me the wrench."
She did as he asked, and then scooted around him to collect her reward. Cup in hand, she climbed onto the cherry red counter and sat cross-legged to watch him tinker. He was a mechanical whiz. None of it made any sense to her so he'd given up explaining how things worked. He didn't explain much. When they first met she'd thought he couldn't speak at all. In time she had come to realize he let his actions do the talking. Like putting the pink marshmallows, currently bobbing on a chocolate sea, in her mug. His mum must have dropped some off. However only Nelson would remember, or care, that she preferred the pink ones and pick them out especially for her.
He dropped the wrench and it bounced on the floor with a metallic thud. Nelson got to his feet, and stretched, no doubt to work the kinks out of his back.
"Is it fixed?"
A smear of brown grease trailed across his left cheek. If she added one to his right cheek and placed a feather headdress on top of his dark hair, he could be an Indian from a John Wayne movie.
"Dunno." He curled the corner of his mouth up and gave a shrug before crossing to the sink and scrubbing the oil off his hands.
"Have you seen Eddie Cain lately?"
He picked up a tea towel and walked across the room, wiping the water from his hands.
Florence rested her chin in her hand. "He wasn't in his window when I walked past."
"He's never missed a chance to flash his unmentionables at me before."
Nelson's deep, and delightfully dirty, chuckle filled the room. Florence lifted her mug to her mouth to hide her reaction. She would never sleep with Nelson, but she doubted any woman could resist that filthy laugh--pure, unadulterated vocal foreplay. No matter how many times she heard it she had the same physical response, a warm shudder starting in her stomach and exiting through the top of her head, and a clenching of everything below her belt.
She couldn't imagine life without Nelson. They had been inseparable since childhood and she would never risk ruining the safest and most comfortable relationship in her life by falling into bed with him. Besides, she wasn't sure it wouldn't feel a bit odd to sleep with a man who had always appeared to see her as a mate.
He treated her as an equal, and had never once put the moves on her, other than a few weeks ago under the mistletoe when they had both had a bit too much of her grandmother's dry sherry. The memory of his tongue in her mouth and his hand on her boob made her shudder as heat spread through her body. She took a deep breath. Hell, she needed to get laid. She had real issues if she was even contemplating sleeping with Nelson. She wasn't. She wasn't. Her body was, and she had no control over its ungodly desires.
"And you miss it? Must be impressive."
She dragged her mind back to the conversation. "You've never seen it?"
Nelson reached out and wiped her milk moustache, before sliding his chocolate-flavored thumb between his lips and grinning at her. His eyes were so dark she couldn't tell where his irises ended and his pupils began. A glow flowed through her. "Guess I'm not his type."
Florence grinned. He had a point. Now she came to think about it, she had never heard of him flashing a man. Maybe he was worried he couldn't compete. That would sure be the case if he took on Nelson.
When she was seven she'd shadowed ten-year-old Nelson until he finally repented and accepted her friendship. They'd been inseparable ever since. Growing up, they'd seen each other naked on several occasions when they used to go skinny-dipping. She'd only seen his equipment once since he hit puberty, purely by accident. They were out walking in the forest looking for mushrooms when they were in their late teens. Nelson had wandered off and told her he would be back. Scared at being left alone she went to look for him and found him with his hands full, apparently having just finished peeing against a tree. She'd got an eyeful before she turned and fled. His was the first adult naked wiener she'd ever seen, and to date she hadn't seen any better. She'd never told him she witnessed him in all his natural glory, and he had never asked why she had acted so strangely for a few weeks after the event. Her dreams had been filled with visions of his impressive equipment day and night. She had lost a whole week of her life, blotted out by confusion, lust and horror. Time had passed. Mickey Andrews had asked her out on what had been another disastrous date that had ended with her vomiting her chicken curry into his lap, and life had gone back to normal.
She put her empty mug on the side and took the tea towel from Nelson. Carefully, she wiped the grease off his face and planted a kiss on his cheek. "All clean." He put his hands on her waist and helped her slide off the counter. She lifted her head and stared up at him. "Nelson, I really think something might have happened to Eddie."
"Not your concern, Squirt."
"I should go round and check he's okay. It's not like he has anyone else to worry about him."
Nelson shook his head. "I'm not goin' to rescue you."
"Tomorrow I'll see if he's on display. If not, I'll knock on the door and check he's all right. I won't need to be rescued."
"Like you didn't need rescuing from Mrs. Grimes?"
Florence humphed. "That was a simple territorial misunderstanding."
"Not what you were yellin' when she was sat on you in the middle of the street."
"Avon made a mistake and gave us both the same sales area. I could have fought her off."
"And the time Billy Connor had you in a headlock?"
"It could have happened to anyone trying to make a citizen's arrest. How was I supposed to know the old lady was his grandma and he was helping her walk to the bus and not mugging her?" Nelson's grin widened. Florence glared at him. "You're a real pig some days. I'm going home." She stuck her nose in the air and flounced across the room.
Nelson followed, stopping to lean against the kitchen doorframe. "You wanna lift?"
Florence thought for a moment. Walking alone in the dark wasn't her favorite pastime. Her trip home would be quicker and warmer if she was snuggled up to Nelson's back. She turned and glanced at him. An easy smile lit up his face. She could never stay mad at him for long. "Okay. Are you sure the bike is working?"
He shrugged. "One way to find out."
Coat and gloves on, and bag slung over her shoulder, she made her way to the kitchen just in time to see Nelson wheel the bike out the back door. She stopped long enough to rinse her mug, scoop up Killer and give him a kiss, and then followed Nelson into the night.