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Skin and Bones

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The ceiling fan spins. The coffee drip weeps bitter black tears. Sad, grayish patrons sit at wobbly tables. And Lilly waits.

Their fingers tap the counter. 20 minutes until their lunch break. Could they really hold out that long? They were feeling cagey.

The need to walk and pace and pinch and pull their faded redish pinkish hair burns like a hot iron.

But Lilly waits. They had patience.

The place suffocates in it's own sadness. It burns their lungs. Instead of hot stale air, Lilly thinks they may be breathing in the powdered bones of former baristas. Highschool graduates like themselves, with no experience. Maybe they were kicked out too.


And there's that bell again. Relentless and bloodthirsty like some sort of anticlimactic demon escaping it's tomb. Lilly doesn't look up, even when the chilled wind from outside runs through their hair and kisses both cheeks.

Her shirt is black and tight. They know it's a woman from her voice. She wants her coffee black. And Lilly's eyes roll over what curves their visor and the counter don't cover.

/Cute person. Don't fuck it up./

It's quiet. Too quiet. And Lilly is becoming hyper aware of their movements. Even the feeling of curling their fingers around the pot's handle feels like it's being scrutinized.

They look for an instant. Big blue eyes tracing the contours of their body. They blush hard and turn their face away.

"You look ready to kill someone." The stranger says in a voice like silk. It runs up their spine, but Lilly says nothing. At first, they think it's a joke.

So they laugh, "It's been a long day."

A smile cool amd collected,"You want a job?"

And Lilly jumps a little. Because yeah, getting away from this piss puddle would be a dream come true. Enthusiasm clouds proper judgment.  But they had no resources. No references.

After they came out as, well, them, they lost everything. Then the idea sinks in. They turn again, facing cool blue eyes.

Was this some kind of joke?

Was she offering to let Lilly help her off somebody?

A business card is slipped into their hand along with a wrinkled fiver. They catch a whiff of roses mixed with blood. 

"Athanasia Sterben. Writer, editor." In cursive, with a phone number underneath.

"Let me know. I'll give you some time to think about it." Athanasia takes her coffee, winks, and leaves.

Their insides go runny and pool between their thighs. 20 minutes can't pass any slower.


It's 2am. Lilly lays on their frameless bed, tracing the contours of the ceiling. The warm humid air suffocates. Their legs kick off the blankets. Their entire trailer stinks of coffee now, because all their clothes smell like it.

Pantless, shirt rolled up exposing their chest, but just insecure enough to keep it on, even when they're alone.

It's a joke. It has to be. If they called the number, they'd probably get the suicide hotline or something.

It's sad that they think about calling, though. Sad they fantasize about her, those eyes, that smile. Unreal almost. Looking at them, needing them for some task. At once, they'd felt like their was no option but to say yes.

Fingers smooth down their stomach and into the waistband of their underwear. Two fingers timidly rub at their clit. They choke on a moan.

Maybe that's what she was counting on. Vunerable kid with no prospects. Maybe she'd been watching them. Their legs spread wider as they cry out.

Why was the idea so appealing? A timid fingertip and they nearly go rigid.

They could be molded to suit her needs. They could learn. Life for Lilly had been a long gray stretch of apathy punctuated with blue sadness and flaming anger. Pink purple happiness always slipped through their fingers.

Their orgasm is a tiny stutter that barely registers, but the ache between their legs is gone. They stick the offending digit's tip in their mouth and clean it off.

It could be just their scattered senses, but they swear they taste blood and roses. A decision is made before Lilly consciously things about it.

"I'll pick you up after work." says Athanasia with her silky voice. And the ache returns, throbbing.

"Yeah," Lilly replies, "okay."

They sleep better that night than they have in their 18 years of life.