“My name is Michael,” the tall man with the white hair says. “This is the good place.”
He has a very trustworthy smile, Tahani thinks, and he looks totally comfortable in his long white robe. A robe that’s nearly identical to the one Tahani herself is, for some reason, wearing.
“So I’m dead?” she asks, again.
“Yes,” Michael says. “You are dead, and this is your next step in the universe. Welcome.”
They two of them are kneeling on opposite sides of a white low table. Apart from the table and white mats they’re kneeling on, the room is empty. Three walls are plain white, the fourth one consists of sliding windows covered by thin white drapes. A soft, sweet-smelling breeze comes through an open window. It’s really not Tahani’s style, but it would be impolite to comment.
“And this is…?” she says.
“The good place,” Michael says. “The place where the best, most morally advanced and most chaste people get to go after they die. It’s your reward for a proper, virginal life.”
Chaste? Virginal? Only a lifetime of hiding her feelings lets Tahani keep her face impassive. Yes, she has spent her whole life failing to reach physical companionship, and technically she has died a virgin. By some definitions. And not by choice. It is rather disappointing to find that this will continue in Heaven. Or something like Heaven.
“I see,” she says. “I accept, of course.”
Michael smiles at her.
“Of course,” he echoes.
“This is your home,” Michael says a little later. They’ve left his office and walked through the neighborhood, greeting other occupants on the way. They are standing in front of a low, plain house. It’s white, and like the office the general theme is plain walls and large sliding windows. Out of one a woman walks. She’s short, blonde and beautiful. Like Tahani and Michael, she’s wearing a white robe.
“I thought I heard voices,” she says. “What’s up, Mike my boy?”
“Eleanor,” Michael says. “Meet Tahani Al-Jamil, your soulmate. Like you, she lived a chaste life and died a virgin.”
For a split second, Tahani thinks she sees Eleanor’s smile falter. Before she’s even sure she’s seen that, the smile widens and Eleanor holds out her hand.
“Cool!” she says. “Welcome to our home, I guess!”
Tahani takes the offered hand. It’s warm and a bit rougher than Tahani’s own. She enjoys the feeling of it. Enjoys touch. Which is apparently not something she should do. She abruptly pulls her hand back.
“So pleased to meet you,” she says.
She turns to Michael.
“Tell me, what does it mean to be someone’s soulmate?”
“Oh, it’s very straightforward!” he says, then goes off on a long tirade on companionship, mutual understanding, emotional support and just about everything one might desire from a lover except sex.
“I see,” Tahani says as after a while.
Eleanor looks just as stunned as Tahani suspects she does herself.
“But I’m boring you!” Michael says. “I’ll leave the two of you to get acquainted. If there’s anything you want, just ask Janet!”
He waves and walks off.
“Janet?” Eleanor says. “Who’s Janet?”
Both Eleanor and Tahani yelp in surprise as a woman suddenly appears behind Eleanor, accompanied by a loud boinging sound.
They get along. Sort of. Tahani thinks she manages not to stare too obviously at Eleanor’s body. She thinks that Eleanor may be staring at Tahani’s. Or it may be wishful thinking. After all, Eleanor actually is the kind of chaste person that is supposed to be in the good place, and which Tahani is most decidedly not. Tahani can tell from the way Eleanor doesn’t even notice how her robe drapes over her body, or how Tahani can see right down the front of the robe when Eleanor leans even slightly forward. Which happens surprisingly often. So often that Tahani would think Eleanor does it on purpose, if she didn’t know that Eleanor is a truly good and chaste person.
Tahani becomes very good at stifling her moans while she masturbates in the bathroom.
“These are your new clothes,” Michael says at the start of the third week.
He’s holding up two robes of white, very sheer, cloth. They’re definitely going to be see-through once someone’s wearing them.
“They’re kind of… not so hidey,” Eleanor says.
Michael looks confused for a moment. He looks from the robes, to Eleanor, to the robes, to Tahani and finally back to the robes.
“Oh, right,” he says. “That’s the point.”
“It is?” Tahani says.
“Yes, you see, here in the good place our bodies no longer count. Which means that people don’t need to cover them up any longer. But most of you are so used to doing that, that we ease you into it.”
“Ease us into it,” Eleanor says.
“Yes,” Michael says. “First you get plain white robes. Then you get see-through white robes. Then, in two weeks, we all go naked.”
“Naked,” Tahani says. “All of us. All the time.”
“Yes,” Michael says. “Precisely.”
Eleanor laughs nervously.
“Totally looking forward to it!” she says.
“As am I,” Tahani lies.
If Eleanor had been driving Tahani nuts before, it’s nothing compared to what she does now. She can almost see Eleanor’s naked body through the sheer robe. Her smooth, creamy skin. Her smallish but gorgeous breasts. Her tight behind. Her darker patch of pubic hair. And the house is so small and open that they are constantly close to each other. Tahani is constantly aroused. She dreams about making wild love to Eleanor almost every night.
As a distraction, Tahani plans a party for the entire neighborhood. It’s a lot of work, so she has to spend a lot of time not thinking about Eleanor. Which is good.
On the other hand, throwing a party means she gets to see Eleanor get drunk and dance. That’s less good. Because Tahani can’t stop staring. Particularly after Eleanor initiates a wet robe contest by pouring vodka all over herself. And then over Tahani.
“Come on, gorgeous!” she yells. “Dance with me!”
The height difference between them makes it really look like Eleanor is staring at Tahani’s breasts. Which is clearly impossible, because Eleanor is a good person who’d never do a thing like pouring vodka on someone just to make their clothes even more see-through. That’s something Tahani, a total fraud, would do.
“Oh, I’d love to,” Tahani says. “But I need to oversee the bar situation. Rain check?”
“Sure, babe,” Eleanor says.
She leans forward and tilts her head up.
“Maybe we’ll have a private dance party ourselves at home later, huh?” she says, winking at Tahani.
Tahani stares back at her.
“I have to go,” she says, and hurries away.
One morning a few days later, as Tahani is eating her breakfast éclair and surreptitiously admiring Eleanor’s sheer-cloth-covered ass, their clothes vanish in a puff of smoke. One moment, Tahani is wearing her thin white robe, the next she’s wearing nothing and a layer of pale gray smoke is expanding out from her skin. Eleanor’s ass is suddenly a whole lot more visible. Tahani looks away, trying not to blush.
“Whoa!” Eleanor says.
She looks down at herself, then over at Tahani. Her breasts bounce a little as she turns. She smiles nervously.
“So this is how it’s going to be, huh?” she says.
“I suppose,” Tahani says.
She puts down her pastry and shakes her hair into a more comfortable position. When she looks down again, Eleanor is openly staring at Tahani’s chest, her mouth slightly open.
“Holy…,” Eleanor says.
She shakes her head. She gives a stilted smile.
“Holy breakfast foods,” she says. “Most important meal of the day, am I right?”
“Of course you are,” Tahani says.
She held out her éclair.
“Do you want some?” she says.
“Oh, I want some,” Eleanor says.
She shakes her head.
“Oh God,” she says. “Sorry, I need to go… powder my lips. Or something like that.”
She hurries away. Tahani frowns at her vanishing back.
“Eleanor?” she shouts. “Are you all right? Is something wrong?”
From the farther reaches of the house, a shout of “I’m OK!” comes.
Tahani frowns. Slowly she finishes her éclair. There is something odd about Eleanor’s behavior. It is almost as if… Eleanor is just a horny as Tahani. Tahani’s frown deepens. It is almost as if Eleanor isn’t actually perfect.
She heads into the house.
There are moans coming from Eleanor’s bedroom. And a loud steady buzzing. Tahani knows that kind if buzzing. It’s a vibrator. She used them a lot while she was alive. She’s been thinking of asking Janet to get her one here, but not quite dared. Clearly Eleanor is braver than Tahani.
Tahani sneaks a look around the edge of the door. Eleanor is on her bed, eyes closed, back arched and legs spread. Her hands are, just as Tahani guessed, working a vibrator between her legs.
Eleanor is just as bad as Tahani. Worse, even, since Tahani has settled for using the handle of a hairbrush.
“Oh, Tahani,” Eleanor moans.
Tahani’s knees goes a little weak. Her heart speeds up. And, for once, she lets herself act on impulse. Or maybe rather horniness. She steps into the room.
“Yes, Eleanor?” she says.
Eleanor startles so bad that she throws the vibrator across the room. She fumbles in vain for something to cover herself with.
“Tahani!” she says. “Holy shirtballs, you’re here!”
“I am,” Tahani says.
“So, er,” Eleanor says. “I was just…”
Her voice fades away. They look at each other.
“Oh, fork it,” Eleanor finally says. “You already saw. I’m neither chaste nor a virgin. In fact, back on Earth I was a total slut, and I loved it. I’m not supposed to be here. I’m a mistake.”
“Really,” Tahani says. “I wasn’t. A slut, that is. I was a virgin when I died. Never slept with a single person in my whole life.”
“Congratulations?” Eleanor says.
“Oh no,” Tahani says. “I did try to get to sleep with people. It was just that they always went for my sister instead of me.”
“They were morons,” Eleanor says. “Becuse you are crazy hot. Really. I’d love to fork you.”
“Even though we’re not supposed to?” Tahani says. “This is the good place. It’s beyond base bodily urges.”
“Yeah, right,” Eleanor says. “If it is, why do we still have them? Because you do too, I can totally see you trying not to stare at my hoobs. Which, by the way, you are totally welcome to stare at.”
Tahani first looks away, out of habit. But the she changes her mind. She turns back, and openly looks at Eleanor’s chest. It is a very nice one.
“I don’t think this is the good place,” Eleanor says. “The real good place wouldn’t leave us with these urges and then tell us to deny them. No, I’m pretty sure this is actually the bad place.”
Tahani thinks about that. It actually makes sense.
“I think you’re right,” she says.
“So we may just as well go with it and have at each other,” Eleanor says.
They may indeed. Tahani takes the few steps over to Eleanor’s bed. She sits down on the edge of it.
“So,” she says. “How do you want me?”
In his office, Michael is looking at a monitor showing Tahani and Eleanor making out on Eleanor’s bed. He’s unshaven and nowhere near as neat-looking as he was when this iteration started.
“Really?” he says to the empty room. “She figured it out this time too? They never even met Chidi and Jason!”
He sighs deeply, reaches for a remote control and pushes a button. The monitor goes blank. Michael picks up his recorder.
“Attempt number six hundred and fifty-five,” he says. “This time we will try to…”
A single tear runs down his cheek.
“I don’t even know any more,” he says.