by Togi Kayako (土宜草子)
I first see Shelly at the local high school track, on New Year’s day, though I won’t learn her name for ages. She’s built sturdy as a tank but looks like Bambi as she eases up off the bleachers, wobbling on her spotless pastel pink skates. She hears me skate up, glances at me with those big, brown eyes and cold-reddened nose, and I’m already a goner.
My face does something I hope is a smile. I’m hungover and regretting my resolution not to drink already, squinting against the morning sun, and cold as shit to boot.
But I want it to be a smile, in my heart.
She turns away quick enough that she almost falls over, so I’m guessing whatever I did wasn’t a very good smile. I stick to the inside of the track and skate my laps at an easy pace, getting my rhythm back after a year and change of no practice.
Her progress is like a montage as I loop around. Scowl as she struggles to find her balance. Thunk of skates as she tries to walk instead of roll. Hair twirling to one side in the breeze.
A brilliant smile as she does her first perfect lap.
New Year’s morning: day one of my resolution to learn roller skating, which I’d picked more or less at random. I’ve almost managed the difficult art of “standing” okay, and Marie breezes by me like something that had naturally evolved on wheels. She’s taller than me, all sharp angles and long limbs, wearing black and looking a little like she wants to punch somebody.
Better not to stare and move up on that hypothetical list, I figure.
Besides, I have a million things to focus on. Head up, shoulders square, core engaged, whatever that means. I imagine Captain Picard pointing at my stomach and have to stifle a laugh. There’s no way I won’t fall over if I start laughing, so it’s strictly off limits until I’m de-wheeled.
Marie laps me, hips low, eyes focused ahead. Her hair’s really cool: a faded pink tuft over buzzed sides. I wish mine looked that good short, or I hadn’t forgotten a hair tie. I’ve already sputtered out a bunch of long strands when the wind whipped it into my mouth.
I try to mimic her stance, and by the time she comes around again, I’m starting to get the hang of it.
I discover exactly how tank-like Shelly is when she elbows me in the ribs by accident. Probably would’ve been fine, if I hadn’t been distracted. Shouldn’t have slowed down to rubberneck at somebody yelling in the parking lot.
By the time I realize that, I’m on the ground. I manage to land on one knee pad, but I kick myself hard in the thigh with my other foot.
Pretty sure the first words I ever say to Shelly are, “Fucking ow, fuck!” Who’s the smoothest? Not my dumb gay ass, that’s for sure.
The fall shreds one knee of my pants. I really liked those jeans, and they weren’t cheap, so I agree to let her pay me back.
Okay, I turn her down at first, but she insists, and I basically melt like butter when a pretty woman gets stern with me.
I meekly hand over my phone, and let the pain in my leg distract me from the urge to throw myself at her feet. Then I pick my tattered jeans and pride up off the ground and scuttle away to my car.
Weirdest way I’ve ever gotten a girl’s number, hands down.
I run into Marie mid-February, and when I say “run into” I mean literally. I don’t take my usual three lane safety distance that day, because I figure I’ve gotten good enough.
Also I like skating next to her, even though I can’t keep up.
Someone’s arguing in the parking lot, and I turn to glance at the noise. Most of me stays in my lane, but my left elbow goes rogue and catches Marie hard in the side as I go by. She slows down to see what the trouble is, like a sane person, and I don’t and I outweigh her by like… a lot.
Anyway, she falls over and swears loudly and then I almost fall over too trying to bend down to see if she’s okay. I wind up kneeling over her so I won’t roll around, apologizing nonstop.
“Let me pay for your pants,” is the first non-apology thing I say, like the world’s creepiest collector. She says it’s fine, but there is no way to fix that tear. I slap a hand down on the track in irritation, mostly at myself. “No, seriously, it’s the least I can do for mowing you down like that.”
After a tense moment, she shrugs, and passes over her phone. Great, now I’ve probably intimidated her on top of the whole bodily harm thing. I set my name as “Shelly who ran you over” and hand it back.
For some reason, she smiles at me before she gets up with a wince and leaves.
It takes me three tries before I manage to send an initial text to Shelly.
if you’re serious about the pants thing I’m going to go shopping this weekend
I tap out two more messages in a rush before she can reply.
my name’s Marie btw
got a killer bruise, wanna see?
Is that weird? Oh shit, that’s definitely weird. I used to swap pics of injuries with some of my old friends, but I have a sinking feeling it’s not a “normal person” thing.
At least I didn’t make a joke about kissing it better.
My phone vibrates in my hand and I peek at the screen between my fingers.
I’d be happy to go shopping with you, Marie! When/where?
There’s a brief pause, but she sends one more message before I can suggest the half-empty local mall. It still has a few decent clothing stores.
And sure, send a pic if you want
I’m wearing my home clothes, a tank top and boxers. That’s decent enough to send a pic, right? I have to hike up the boxers a little to show off my new purple splotch but I manage a clear shot in the mirror.
And obviously, gotta caption my masterpiece: looks kinda like a bunny I think
Oh my god, she sends me a full body shot with one hand hiking up the leg of her adorable cat boxers, and a thin sleeveless top on. I stare for way too long before I snap out of my hot girl trance. Write back something sympathetic, c’mon, brain.
Oww, that looks painful! :( I’m so sorry.
We agree on a time to meet at the mall this coming weekend, and that ends our conversation. It’s not a date, I tell myself firmly.
My eyes drift over to the side of my closet with all my nicer clothes. Not a date!
I look at her picture again, then set my phone face down and shove it away so I won’t be tempted for a third time.
Shelly turns up at the mall wearing a dress. A nice, fitted pink dress. Holy shit, was this a date and I hadn’t realized?
If it is, I am so, so underdressed.
There are still Valentine’s decorations up all over. I’m sure it’s just that plus some wishful thinking on my part.
She’s acting normal enough. Casual chit-chat as we walk around the mall, and helpful comments on which jeans suit me when I ask her opinion.
Mostly she seems pretty distracted, looking off into the distance. Am I keeping her from an actual date or something? Fuck.
Maybe if I wasn’t barely able to function around her, I could scrape up the guts to ask.
When we pause at the exit to the mall, I panic and wind up only saying, “Thanks for coming with me. And for the jeans.”
She’s bolder than me, thank god. We’re gonna be skating buddies but on purpose now! My heart’s racing, especially when she beams at me and says she’ll try not to knock me on my ass again.
I laugh at that and can’t help trying to flirt. “Well, you’d have to manage to catch me for that.”
She’s giving me the most intense look, and I can’t read it at all. I say my goodbyes and hurry home to nurse my sudden, massive boner.
When Saturday comes, I wind up in one of my more casual but still definitely meant for a date outfits. Marie turns up looking much the same as usual, and I feel instantly overdressed.
She looks a little startled when she sees me. Okay, so I’m sure it’s too much for the mall, but I’m here now. I’ll have to live with it.
“Hey, Shelly, right?” Marie recovers, breaks into a toothy grin. “Ready to brave the hellscape of women’s clothing?”
I laugh at that, because yeah, it really is. “Ready as anyone can be. Lead the way.”
After a few rounds of watching her turn and pose in skinny jeans, I realize, no, I am not ready at all. I wouldn’t even get bronze in the not staring at her ass event, but she keeps asking my opinion so I have to keep looking.
I try to look away the rest of the time, but there are mirrors everywhere so it’s kind of a lost cause.
There’s an awkward silence as we head out. Marie thanks me for like the hundredth time and then stops, watching me.
I blurt out, “Do you wanna skate together? I’m starting a new job, so I have to switch to evenings from next week.”
When she agrees, I feel my whole face light up. “Cool, I’ll do my best not to run you over.”
She says something about catching her, but I’m busy being lost in her amazing blue eyes. I get to hang out with her more! Yes!
We meet up a few times a week, in the evenings. No one’s ever around, so we can talk about anything and everything. I learn that Shelly’s a huge nerd: sci-fi shows, indie games, and a whole bunch of anime, ninety percent of which I’ve never heard of.
I’m back in good form now, so I give her all the skating tips and tricks I have. She gets better every week, and soon enough she can keep up with me unless I’m really trying to show off.
Which I do a lot, because she laughs and applauds every time.
We stop for a water and snack break, sitting side by side on the empty bleachers. I bump her with my shoulder when I make terrible puns and she squeezes my arm sometimes.
I don’t know if we’re dating or not, but it feels like it.
Skating nights with Marie are now my favorite thing in the world. Speeding around the track, laughing and egging each other on. How gorgeous she is when she focuses to show me some cool move or speed skating trick. The heat of her when we sit close and chat while we’re resting.
She’s into much cooler stuff than me, but never teases me for being a geek.
I almost kiss her a few times, but something always breaks the moment. She takes a drink, or a car alarm goes off, or once someone nearly brains me with a frisbee.
Maybe I should ask her what we are, but I can’t find the right words. We text and meet up all the time, and we’re both casually touching each other constantly.
I don’t want to mess up what we have, so I wuss out on asking over and over again.
The weather forecast for that night says there’s almost no chance of rain. It’ll be fine, I figure. We can leave if it starts raining too hard.
But after we switch back to shoes, drifting across the field and chatting, the sky opens up all at once.
Shelly grabs my hand and drags me to the dugout nearby. We’re barely inside when hail mixes with the rain, pinging off of the roof. I plunk down on the bench with a sigh of relief.
“Wow, close call there. So much for the forecast.” Shelly turns to look at me, backlit by the track lights, raindrops sparkling in her hair, and my brain blanks out.
I take one of her hands and tug her to me, cupping her cheek and kissing her, finally.
She makes a happy noise against my mouth and then she’s got both hands on my shoulders, pushing me back to the wall as she straddles my legs.
Okay, we’re actually doing this, holy shit. I grab her ass, which is even more amazing than I’d imagined, and pull her as close as she can get.
Even over the hail, I can hear the sound of us making out, filthy and a little sloppy with how fucking into it we both are. Her weight on me is driving me crazy and I try to grind up against her, but I’ve got no leverage.
That’s when she leans over and says right into my ear, “I want to get my fingers in you so much.” The curl of her tongue that follows leaves me gasping.
“Fuck yes, god, Shelly,” I try to get a hand on the button of my jeans, but she’s not getting off my lap. The way she’s trailing little bites down my neck is also super distracting. “Shelly, c’mon, work with me here.” The words come out a lot more needy whine than serious protest.
She hops off my lap, and then bats my hands away to make short work of button and zipper. My head thunks back against the wall when chilly fingers slip under my panties, stroking down over coarse hair to hit the hot, slick mess between my legs.
I grab a handful of her shirt and reel her in so I can kiss her more. Her tongue’s in my mouth and she’s teasing the tips of two fingers inside me and everything is so perfect I could cry.
“You’re so wet,” I manage to say between several deep kisses. Her skin is crazy warm against my hand and I really wish I had a better angle. Almost as soon as I think it, my wrist twinges and I yank it back. “Ow, shit, okay we’ve gotta move.”
There’s enough light behind me that I can see how wide Marie’s eyes are. “What’s wrong?” she asks, letting me go the second I pull away.
“Hand cramp.” I laugh, shaking out the offending wrist. “How about you get on your knees so I can tug these damn jeans out of my way.”
My heart nearly stops when she does exactly that, sliding off the bench and kneeling at my feet. “Thought you’d never ask,” she says, breathless.
I wouldn’t have guessed this about her, and I tell her as much.
“Yeah, remember when you knocked me over?” Marie hides behind her hands, then peeks over them up at me. “You slammed your hand on the ground and all I could think about was you, like, pinning me against something.”
I take her arms and push them back, so she’s got her elbows resting on the bench. “We should really talk about this first, but… how about you keep your hands right there for me?” My voice gets growly when I think about how much I’d love to pin her to all kinds of things.
Marie gives me a jerky nod. “Yeah, I can do that.”
“But it’s fine if you need to move,” I say, as normal as I can, dropping a couple soft kisses around her face for good measure.
Then I slide my hands down her waist and drag her clothes down her thighs. She hisses at the cold or the exposure, but follows up with another nod when I give her a questioning look.
Now I can really fuck her, with her splayed out on her knees in front of me. The feel of her around my fingers, hot and clenching down, drives me crazy. I slip a third one in and she lets out this long, helpless moan mixed with a string of swearing and pleas for more.
I kiss her, can’t stop kissing her, and I wish we were somewhere warm so I could feel every inch of her bare skin up against mine.
With three fingers sliding easy inside her, I’m struck by an idea that’s worth pulling back for a second to share. “Bet I could get my whole hand in you, with some time and lube.”
Marie’s hands clench down hard on the edge of the bench, and she about crushes my fingers inside her. “You can’t just say things like that, fuck.”
“But you like the idea, don’t you?” I lean in, getting my mouth on her ear and the heel of my hand on her clit. “I’d love to be in you, Marie. Tie you down and stretch you open little by little until I could fill you up so full.” Something about that does it for her and she lets out the prettiest stuttering moan I’ve ever heard as she comes around my fingers.
Her head flops forward against my shoulder as I slowly pull out. “Shelly, you’re the fucking best,” she mumbles, planting a wet kiss against my neck. “Gimme a minute and maybe I can do you?”
“Yes, but let’s go back to my place first or I’ll get icicles,” I say, breaking into awful, snorting giggles.
Shelly reaches up to pinch my cheek. “Aw, my delicate snowflake.”
I grab her wrist and lean in close. “Say that again between my thighs, I dare you.”
“Challenge accepted,” Marie says. She tugs her jeans up with that toothy grin of hers I want to see every day forever. “Let’s get out of here.”