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We exited the playing area wearing grimaces and wry smiles. Another narrow, low-scoring defeat. I pushed the gate a little harder than I meant to and it clanged loudly against the pitch wall.
“Whoops, sorry,” I said to Greta, who was walking just ahead of me.
“All good,” she said, then laughed once. “Frustrated?”
“Uh, yeah.” It was actually more exhaustion – the gate had slipped from my grasp as I’d opened it. No lingering post-match anger. But I saved a few joules agreeing with her.
“If I’d just put that one on one away…” She trailed off. James told her not to worry about it, and the rest of us all chimed in with agreement.
I felt bad for Greta and Kelly. Us guys get to sub off if we’re running out of steam. But as the only female members of our team, they had to play a full game every week. And it’s not unfair to Greta to say that she is a big woman. In fact, she wears her size proudly and unapologetically. It does however mean she finds the last five minutes pretty gruelling – even at our team’s relaxed pace.
We weren’t bad skill-wise, but there was an unspoken agreement that we weren’t going to kill ourselves (or each other) trying to win at lunchtime indoor soccer. As a result, we tended to lose close games to opponents who wanted it a bit more. They always seemed more coherent, more attuned to each other’s styles. This might have had something to do with the fact that we all worked in different departments of the company, descending on the arena from a few different offices. In fact, I was the team’s sole representative from our Skye St building.
The warm summer sun assaulted us once we stepped outside the air-conditioned arena. I said goodbye and walked in the opposite direction from my teammates, who mostly worked up by the railway station. Once back in my building, I walked past the elevator, down a small passageway, and straight into the shower cubicle without knocking. It was a small office and I’d always had the shower to myself; this time was no exception. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone else even knew it was there.
It wasn’t huge, but it was comfortable – one glass-doored shower unit at the end of the room, a hand basin and mirror on the left as you enter, and, opposite, a small bench to sit on. I flicked the nozzle on, shed my soccer gear as quickly as my weary frame would allow, and jumped under the water while it was still lukewarm.
The problem was my manager. We had agreed that I could take 45 minutes instead of the allotted half hour for lunch on football days as long as I made up the time at the end of the day. Still, I’d been back at my desk later than expected a couple of times and he’d let me know about it. I knew he’d be watching my empty chair like a hawk, so I made it my business to be showered and back to work as quickly as possible after the game.
When I returned to my desk, still a little damp on my forehead, I checked the time. 12:56. So I’d been gone 46 minutes. I was in the clear. He may have been a micro-manager, but he wasn’t a tyrant.
I gave Crystal a brief match report that evening. It’s hard to tell over Skype, but I’m pretty sure her eyes glazed over a few seconds after I launched into it. I mean, she had asked how it went, so I told her, but I always knew she wasn’t really interested. All the mm-hmms and ahs without any discernible change in facial expression. At the end of it, she just said too bad, maybe you’ll get lucky next week.
If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, you’ll recognise this moment. You’re trying to connect with each other but the spark just isn’t the same when you’re dealing with pixels on a screen and croaky sound. I felt guilty, but I was starting to treat our evening half-hour chat like a chore to be endured. Except at the end of it, I didn’t have anything to show for it, like a pile of clean laundry or a pristine living room floor.
I knew I still loved her. It was just getting harder to recognise the ‘her’ I’d fallen for before she went off to Iowa. She seemed to have gotten colder towards me, less ready to smile at my dumb humour, less engaged in the stories I had to tell. Worse, she barely had anything to tell me. No updates on what she was working on, precious few details about the other students in the writers’ programme. If she didn’t want to share any details of her life with me, why was she sharing any of her life with me in the first place?
I don’t know. Maybe it was all in my head. We signed off with the usual I love yous and went back to the lonely comfort of our increasingly independent lives. My upstairs neighbours embarked on a noisy sex session. God, I thought, how I’d love to pay them back.
The next day, I was in the kitchen getting coffee when Anna walked in, water bottle in hand. After the usual chit-chat about work volumes and managers busting our balls to get us to process faster, she widened her eyes as if she had just remembered something and asked how soccer had gone the day before.
“Another loss,” I said. “We just can’t catch a break.”
“Oh, güvenilir bahis no. What’s the deal? You seem to lose a lot.”
“Ah, I don’t know, I’m not that worried really. We’re just not as fit as most other teams.”
“I thought you were, like, super fit.” Her round, brown eyes held my gaze after she said this, which I took to indicate sarcasm.
“Haha, yeah, I’ve spent years in the gym to get this body.” This lanky, uncultivated body.
She furrowed her brow a little, then looked down and laughed. “You are such a hard worker.” She looked back up at me. Those eyes again. “But I thought you walked home from work each day? Isn’t it 45 minutes to get up the hill?”
Ah. So she was serious.
“Oh yeah – well, it does wonders for my heart, if not my abs.” A little self-deprecation. Trying to keep it light.
She smiled and moved in to the sink with her water bottle, which she started filling. I shifted slightly along the bench to accommodate her. Suddenly, her physicality seemed to fill the room: the contours of her waist, the small tattoo on the back of her neck, the firm bulge of her calves as she leaned forward slightly to reach the tap. I’d expanded the gap between us to about half a yard but it felt like millimetres, as if she was a magnet pulling me in.
“I used to play football,” she said. “Back in Puerto Rico.”
“Oh, really?” It was hard to imagine Anna – classy, well-dressed Anna, always in heels and brand name clothing – running around a soccer field. “Do you still play?”
“No, no. Haven’t played since I moved here.”
“I ask because we could actually use another female player. We have to have two women on the pitch, and at the moment we only have two, so there’s no sub for them.”
“Huh.” She stepped back from the sink and replaced the cap on her bottle. Then she looked at me, and her deep brown lips hinted at a smile. “Well, I do miss it.”
“Hey, you should totally join! It’ll be great. Bring some gear and come along next week.”
“Is the boss okay with it?”
“Yeah, yeah, you just have to work a little later at the end of the day.”
“Okay. You should probably send me a reminder on Monday, otherwise I’ll probably forget.” Just in case I thought she was too eager.
“Sure,” I said. “And thanks. With you, I’m sure we’ll get that elusive win.”
“Like a lucky charm,” she said.
I was reminded of Crystal saying we might get lucky next week. The difference was, this moment had a little tension about it. That strange and powerful awareness of her body that had struck me a moment ago, and those deep eyes that seemed to suggest so much.
“Hope so,” I replied with a smile.
Outside the soccer gym, everyone fell over themselves praising Anna’s superior passing and finishing ability. She’d scored three goals and set up two, carrying us to our first victory of the season. To be honest, she was on a different level from the rest of us.
“That second goal,” said Kelly.
“So awesome,” said Carl.
“Please,” said Anna. “I couldn’t have done it without Greta’s awesome pass.”
Greta, not nearly as red and puffed as usual, said, “Haha! Yup, I sure meant that one.”
She looked exaggeratedly to the side, as if to check if anyone could hear how dishonest she was being. We all laughed.
“Okay, guys, we gotta run,” I said. “Got to keep the boss happy.”
“Yeah man, see you,” said James.
Anna and I turned and started towards the office. She was smaller out of heels, almost petite, but made the most of her size by walking with her head up and shoulders back. I couldn’t help noticing the smoothness and definition in her legs, as well as the tightness of her stomach. An athlete’s body.
“You were really very good,” I said. “Did you play professionally back home?”
“Semi-pro,” she replied. Her usually evenly browned face had a pleasing post-match blush. “If a meal and a few beers provided by the opposition count as payment. We don’t really have professional women’s sport in Puerto Rico.”
“Man, that’s too bad,” I said. “I mean, I’m happy we get to reap the benefits though.”
“Haha, yeah, me too. I enjoyed it.”
I checked my phone. 12:36pm.
“Hey, I think we’d better run back if we want to avoid a sternly worded email.”
“Oh, shit. Right.”
Anna started up a jog through the busy lunchtime streets; I trailed a few metres behind. As she got in the building and up the stairs first, I offered her first shower, which she accepted. She emerged six minutes later, her short, dark hair slightly curled from the steam, and said, “All yours.”
“Thanks,” I replied. “That was quick.”
But not quick enough. It was after one o’clock by the time I sat back down, and sure enough, the boss sent an instant message asking if I’d be staying later that day to make up the extra minutes. That meant missing my usual train and getting home a half hour later – just in time for the daily Skype call. Not ideal. But I could only say yes, and mutter to myself about the limited showering facilities.
I türkçe bahis barely even remember that afternoon’s Skype. I’d only just got in the door and didn’t properly feel like I’d gotten home yet, so I was distracted and a little flustered. I think we spent an unreasonable amount of time with her focusing on why I was flustered and whether I might be getting sick, and me trying to convince her I was fine and there was no need to worry. So funny, the way communication can deteriorate to such a degree that you don’t hear each other even after ten minutes of repeating the same thing.
We won again the following week. Anna was the key again. More importantly, her presence seemed to lift the rest of us. We kept our discipline when she was off the pitch, and we worked harder to get into good positions to score. It was high fives all round afterwards, especially from a beaming Greta, who scored her first goal for months. “Fucking awesome, you guys!”
Back at the building, Anna insisted I shower first as she’d gone first the previous week. I nodded thanks and dashed in and out as quick as I could. She looked a little tense as I exited. I checked my phone: 12:55pm.
“Sorry, I was as fast as I could,” I said.
“All good,” she replied with a grim expression before going in.
Crystal and I ended our Skype call early that afternoon. She said she had an assignment due for a workshop the next day, and she didn’t have that much new to tell me.
I hesitated before speaking, but couldn’t help saying something. “You don’t seem to have a lot to tell me at the moment.”
“What do you mean?” asked Crystal.
“Just… When we talk, like… I guess I want to know more about your life there, how you’re doing, and…”
“What do you want to know more about?” She seemed irritated.
“I don’t know. Anything. What you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. I guess.”
Crystal hardened imperceptibly, then said, “You know, I’m only reflecting what I get from you.”
“You’re only reflecting?”
“Yeah, you’re don’t exactly seem thrilled to see me when we talk.”
“I…” So it was my fault? “O-kay.”
There was a pause while we avoided each other’s gaze. Well, I avoided hers. I think she might actually have continued staring down the barrel at me. It’s hard to tell when the placement of laptop cameras means you’re never looking someone properly in the eyes anyway.
“Look,” she said. “I’m sorry, I’m a little stressed out right now.”
“Then talk to me,” I said.
“I gotta go.”
She signed off. No goodbye, no I love you. I stared at the screen for half a minute, then got up and put my soccer gear in the washing machine. It was sweaty and tangible, the opposite of anything to do with Skyping Crystal. I wondered if our connection would feel any more real if she were there in the room with me. It was hard to imagine.
The following morning, Anna asked over IM if I had lunch plans. We went to a nearby park together and sat on a concrete bench. She was wearing a well-fitting, medium-length blue dress with gold trim. Her pink lipstick shone in the sunlight. I’d started to notice these things.
“Did the boss message you yesterday?” I asked.
“Yes, he did. You?” Anna asked.
“No, I was back in time, thanks to you letting me shower first. So you had to stay late?”
“Yeah. God, he’s so anal.”
“It was really frustrating because I volunteer after work on Tuesdays, so I was late to my class. God, I hate being late, you just feel like such an idiot. So incompetent.”
“That sucks. I have a standing appointment on Tuesdays after work as well, and I hate being late for it.” All true, if not exactly as worthy as volunteering. What can I say? I’m selfish, I guess. But I really wanted to preserve that window of free time each day before the Skype call. It made me a lot more relaxed, and I thought it was important to give Crystal my best, even if she wasn’t giving a lot in return.
“Ah, too bad. I was going to ask if you would mind showering second and staying later, but that obviously won’t work.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“It’s okay,” she said. She looked off at some fruit trees on the other side of the park. “I’ll see if I can work something out.”
Crystal and I reconciled somewhat over the following week. We both apologised and acknowledged how hard it was to maintain our connection at distance. I told her how much I missed her, physically and intellectually. She suggested we reduce our call frequency to twice a week, Wednesdays and Sundays, which I agreed made sense and would give each other a little room to live and breathe.
My actual first thought when she said it was: great! The after-football shower problem will be solved. That maybe showed where my priorities were. I didn’t mention it to her, though.
After the game the following Tuesday – a tight 3-3 tie with the top team in the division – Anna and I were walking briskly back to the office when she güvenilir bahis siteleri started speaking.
“I had an idea about the shower thing,” she said.
“Oh yeah?” I was still a little out of breath from the game and wanted to conserve energy – my usual selfishness – so I didn’t tell her it was no longer a problem.
Anna hesitated, then said, “It’s a big shower, so, uh, I think it could accommodate both of us.”
It took me a few seconds to register what she was saying. “You mean…”
“I know, I know.” She laughed nervously, as if disbelieving of what was coming out of her mouth. “It sounds insane. But we’re both adults, and we have commitments we want to keep, and there’s really no other way.”
We continued walking in silence for a moment. My head spun with the myriad paths this could take, from amazing to terrible.
“Believe me, I tried to think of something,” she said. “And I was worried about gossip, but nobody ever goes near that shower except us. I don’t even think you can hear it running from the elevator.”
I was picturing the layout of the ground floor and internally agreeing with her assessment of the shower’s I privacy when she said, “Come on, man, don’t leave me hanging here, I already feel like a-“
“Okay, okay,” I said.
“Okay as in yes? Or okay as in enough of your stupid ideas, Anna?” She looked up at me with half a smile. The pupils of her eyes had widened measurably, dominating the deep brown iris that encased them.
“Okay as in yes.”
Thinking about that moment later, I wondered why it hadn’t felt wrong; why I had only hesitated for a few seconds before agreeing. I knew even then that I wanted this, whether or not Crystal ever found out. It was like I was on a train that had started running from that meeting in the work kitchen and there was no way to stop it. I didn’t intend for Crystal to find out, obviously, but the way things had been between us, I wasn’t so concerned that she might.
And as for the commitment I had to keep no longer existing, well, can you blame me for not setting that straight?
“All right,” said Anna. “Okay. Let’s go do this.”
She walked into the building first. I followed her butt, toned and firm in flared, bright orange shorts, down the passageway and into the shower. As predicted, nobody saw us. Once inside, I closed the door and locked it while she turned the shower on.
Anna turned around and looked me in the eye. Then she turned her attention to removing her shoes; I did the same, trying to focus on what I was doing. I still couldn’t help looking across at her from time to time, and I saw that she was doing the same, sneaking glances at me.
It’s strange. One of the most erotic moments of the whole thing was seeing her peel off her socks and place her bare feet on the tiles. I’ve never had a foot fetish – to each their own, it’s just not my thing – but here were two parts of her, stripped for the first time in front of me, sinewy and warm from exertion. At that point I wasn’t sure if she would be taking everything off, but that was part of the tension. There would be more flesh revealed; the question was, how much?
I took the next step by quickly removing my shirt and shorts; she followed soon after. We were watching each other quite openly now. I saw her flat stomach and the most beautiful slow curve between her breast and her hip; she seemed to be focused on the muscle around my groin. Her underwear was all black Lycra and hugged her skin tightly. I felt like my vision might blur, or that I might suddenly wake up. Somehow, I held myself together.
My question of how much I was going to see was answered by her fingers gripping the fabric below her chest and peeling the bra up and over her head. She was now topless before me. Her breasts fell slightly as she lowered her arms and dropped the freshly removed garment to the ground. They were full and oval, larger than I’d imagined. Her areolae were small, a raised dark ring around her nipples, which stood out a little paler and pinker than the skin around them.
“Thank God for sports bras,” she said with a nervous giggle.
I did my best to return the laugh, as if this wasn’t the most intense and unreal experience I’d ever had.
She then hooked her thumbs into the elastic and slid her underwear down over her feet, revealing sleek, evenly tanned legs. Jesus. This was it, then. I followed suit and removed my underwear.
We were now completely naked. Anna looked at my dick hanging down in front of me.
“Thank God for briefs too, huh.”
She turned and walked into the shower. I watched her bronze form in the mirror, then caught a glance at my comparatively pale and hairy (but much taller and stronger) body. Yup, this was happening. And she had just complimented me on my package. I felt a shot of precum leave my balls and travel into the base of my dick.
I’d hoped I wouldn’t get turned on. I think I’d hoped that. I guess I thought it would be too embarrassing. Well, I was certainly mortified when, upon entering the shower cubicle and seeing her rub soap over her breasts, I began to grow erect. I moved away from her and into the corner, trying to hide my growing member. Unfortunately, as she twisted to rub the sponge down her legs, her butt cheek brushed my hand.
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