Australian TV was weird. Australian Bachelor was even weirder.
Maybe it was the accents. The accents had been all G’Day in her face since landing at the airport. Australians were like Canadians with the politeness and apologies, just with more weird spiders and shit and cute koala bears.
Speaking of koala bears… Eleanor still was yet to see one. Indigenous species my ass.
She took a moment to wonder where the vocabulary had come from. She’d only know Chidi a handful of days but already the nerd was rubbing off on her. Oh, well. She was in Sydney, Australia! She was trying to be a better person. Which she thought was definitely at better odds of happening with Chidi around; her own, personal ethics professor, the angel on her shoulder. She wondered what the devil looked like and mostly saw a tiny version of herself. Cute, but evil. Her alma mater in life until the incident in the parking lot.
So what if a little bit of nerdiness rubbed off on her. She could handle it. She’d still be the coolest one in class.
The Australian bachelor was talking to the camera about his latest one on one date. He had a surfer’s body, which Eleonor appreciated, but his voice droned on and on… oh to have the problem of twenty five beautiful woman falling at your feet. Eleanor rolled her eyes and was glad for the hesitant chap on her door so she finally had an excuse to mute the TV.
She wished she could mute hot guys in real life. Maintain the illusion for a little longer. She thought about that Jason dude who had shown up for Chidi’s study. Now there was a dude she would like to mute. All hot looking on the outside… but dumb as a shit on the inside. She’d nailed his home state on the head. Florida. Eleanor snorted to herself. She used to know guys like Jason. Guys who didn’t care much for the rules. But where those guys she used to know got a secret thrill out of it, of being the “Bad Boy”, she thought that Jason was different. He wasn’t doing bad stuff to be bad, he was just… Actually, she didn’t think Jason had many reasons at all. He just did stuff. Some good, some bad. All of it dumb as fuck.
Eleanor rolled off the motel room bed, its bouncy springs squeaking beneath her. The room was small but clean and there was a pool she planned on making the most of while she was here.
Another knock on the door, more impatient this time.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Eleanor grumbled, searching the room for her wallet where she had stuffed a handful of Australian dollars from the money exchange at the airport.
Most of her money was being spent on takeout. She wouldn't have minded so much if the motel hadn't been geared towards tourists. Everything was kangaroo burgers and ostrich steaks. It had taken her this long to find a pizza place with normal toppings. It was enough to make her turn veggie.
But wouldn't veggie be more ethical anyway? came a wayward thought that sounded an awful lot like Chidi Anagonye. Huh, Eleanor thought. I can live without meat. How hard can it be? She'd eat her bbq chicken and pepperoni pizza and damn would she enjoy it, but it was going to be her last. No more meat after tonight.
She nodded to herself, pleased at the decision. She smiled when she thought about Chidi and how proud he would be that she decided this all on her own.
Eleanor opened the door, money ready in her hand. “You're not the pizza guy,” she blurted. No pizza guy she had ever seen had legs like that.
Tahani Al-Jamil smiled, a small nervous quirk of the lips that Eleanor found mesmerising. “No. I hope you don't mind… I, uh - my hotel's not far, but it was a bit… I brought beer.” She held up a six pack.
Eleanor grinned. “You had me at legs.”
“Nothing, come on in.”
Tahani followed her inside. From the corner of her eye, Eleanor watched as the other woman assessed the room. Tahani’s face was a carefully controlled mask of neutrally, but no way hell was a woman like her comfortable in a place like this. If anyone ever needs to torture her for information, just lock her in this room.
“Take a seat,” said Eleanor. She pointed at the couch, realising too late it was covered in her dirty clothes, half eaten packs of chips and empty candy wrappers. That left only the bed. Eleanor flushed with embarrassment but Tahani took it in stride and, as graceful as a cat, lowered herself onto the edge of it. And immediately sank backwards as the mattress sagged.
“Oh my!” she gasped, clutching the cans of beer that she almost dropped to her chest. The short skirt she wore rode upwards and Eleanor caught a glimpse of smooth, toned thighs. Damn, those legs just keep going.
“Yeah, sorry. It's not the best. Drink?”
Tahani nodded and handed over the beer. Eleanor turned her back, figuring she could give Tahani a moment to compose herself. She pulled back the ring on one of the cans, the gas fleeing out with a hiss, and glanced around the room, realising she had nothing to put it in.
“Sorry, no cups.” She handed over the can to a more comfortable looking, if not relaxed, Tahani.
“That's quite alright. I'm not averse to slumming it.”
Eleanor smirked as she opened her own can and took a deep drink. Damn, Australian beer was good.
“So,” she began, drawing out the word and perching on the end of the bed, leaving about a foot of space between her and the pair of legs that was Tahani Al-Jamil, “what brings you to my neck of the woods?”
“Oh, well,” Tahani all but stammered. She didn't seem at all like the woman plastered all over the gossip magazine's. Eleanor couldn't see a shred of the confidence that was usually there, had to be there, as she maneuvered the world as Kamal’s sister. “After meeting everyone today… my hotel room felt a bit big. And empty,” she admitted.
Eleanor nodded. She thought a woman like Tahani wasn't used to being alone. Always someone there to get her just what she needed. Or what they thought she needed.
There was a gloom settling over the evening that Eleanor didn't like. She decided to try lighten the mood. “What, didn't feel like spending the night getting acquainted with Plato and Aristotle?”
Tahani’s eyes narrowed slightly, but there was the beginnings of a smile curling her mouth. “I know Chidi means well, but it's not exactly light reading, is it? I think in this case, I'd prefer the movie over the book.”
“I know, right,” said Eleanor. Then, in a eureka moment, she exclaimed, “We should make a movie! You can be the star.”
Tahani grinned. “Tahani Al-Jamil, the first and only truly ethical movie star.” She looked up to the ceiling, as if imagining that world, that life and Eleanor looked too, seeing herself by Tahani’s side. After a moment, the grin faded and Tahani’s face sobered. “No, no. I promised myself I would stay out of the spotlight.”
“Yeah, you're right,” said Eleanor. “Besides, I don't know how to make a movie. It'd tank its first week.”
They cluncked their cans together and smiled.
Eleanor watched the way Tahani drank her beer. Small, elegant sips. Drops compared to the waterfall flooding into Eleanor’s mouth with each swallow she took. She forced herself to slow down, match Tahani’s pace, but she felt nervous and wanted to drain the can, find some courage at the bottom of it. She searched for something to talk about, anything, but what could she possibly have in common with a woman like Tahani?
“So,” said Eleanor, “your near death experience?”
“Ah, that.” The question had an almost comical stiffening effect on the other woman, like honey crystallizing when left in the jar too long. “It’s not all that interesting.”
“Oh, come on.” Eleanor lowered her voice, leaned a little closer to Tahani as if about to tell her a secret. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
Tahani’s lips pursed together in thought. She even to another sip of beer, a larger gulp that any she had taken thus far. “Alright then. What was your experience?”
Eleanor smiled in triumph, but it quickly fled as she begun her retelling of that day. Telling Chidi about it, her friends back home, there was always an aloofness to the way she spoke. Like it was no big deal. But the truth was, that single moment, that split second, had terrified her. So much so, that she was changing her whole way of life.
Fair enough, she hadn’t exactly been successful trying it on her own, but now she had Chidi and Tahani and Simone (and yeah, maybe Jason too) she could do better this time. She would do better this time. And maybe the dreams would stop. The dreams of her death, of a life wasted, of an eternity in hell that she could never escape from.
“Well, I was in the supermarket. Stocking up on some essentials. Ya know, like Lonely Gal Margarita Mix for One.”
“You know what, it is. I always put in half a bottle of tequila to make it taste better. I don’t know why I kept buying the stuff. Anyway… So I was leaving the store and of course my bags burst. Just my luck,” she muttered darkly. “Margarita mix went rolling across the parking lot, bag of chips and candy bars at my feet. I go to pick it up and I hear this noise. Familiar but in a kind of far away way. So I look up and there’s this chain of shopping trolleys rolling right at me. And I’m frozen in place, bottle of fake margarita in my hand. And I’m like, this is it. They’re gonna hit me and I ain’t moving.”
“Then what happened?” asked Tahani, staring at Eleanor with eyes wide in anticipation. Not because Eleanor was telling the story particular well, but because, Eleanor thought, it might just be all too similar to what Tahani experienced herself, that she knows what that moment feels like. That split second of time forever frozen and repeating in their brains.
“This guy - I didn’t even get a good look at him - came out of nowhere and pushed me out of the way. Just in time too,” she added, “because those trolleys had an appointment with a forty ton truck that I so did not want to be in the middle of.”
“Wow,” Tahani breathed. “You know, it was some strange man that saved me too. Never saw him. Neither did anyone else.”
“Hey! Maybe it was the same guy. How weird would that be?”
They laughed, but neither of them found the conversation all that funny.
They drank more beer and Eleanor stood up to get them both another. She tossed her empty can towards the trash can and missed. A second later she was glowering in annoyance when Tahani’s went flying smoothly across the room and neatly landed on target.
Eleanor sat back down on the bed. “So what was this guy saving you from?”
“Ah, right.” Tahani opened her can of beer and proceeded down at least half of it in one go. Eleanor raised an eyebrow, but decided it was probably best not to comment. Then Tahani told her what had happened.
“They built a statue of Kamila,” Eleanor said slowly and carefully, just to make sure she was understanding this right, “in a nightclub?”
“Yep,” said Tahani tempestuously. “Right there in the middle of the dance floor, bold as brass.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Eleanor. “And I met that Jason guy today.”
Then they both burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it.
“Anyway,” said Tahani, gasping to get her voice back, “after that mystery man saved me I realised how much my resentment of Kamila had taken over my life. It was time to change.”
“Well, good for you,” said Eleanor, surprised to find that she meant it. The beer had definitely hit her brain by now, loosened her up. She found her hand on Tahani’s thigh and couldn’t remember how it had gotten there. Tahani didn’t seem to mind. Eleanor leaned in and said, “Kamila’s not even all that. You’re way prettier than her.”
There was a moment of shocked silence, broken when Tahani smiled, wide and wet and barely all together as her eyes filled with emotion. “You know, I think you’re the first person who’s ever said that to me. I could kiss you!”
“Whatcha waitin’ for, girl?” said Eleanor lightly, jokingly, but the way Tahani looked at her made her realise it wasn’t a joke. An intense gaze that seemed to have Eleanor locked in place. Brown eyes flecked with gold that revealed too much and nothing at all.
Tahani really was up for kissing her.
Well, fuck me. This evening just got way more interesting.
Before either of them could move, there was a knock on the motel room door.
Eleanor was ready to curse whoever it was straight back to hell when she remembered she was actually expecting this knock.
“Ooooh, pizza!” Eleanor jumped to her feet. “You hungry?”
“Famished,” said Tahani and the way she said it, all breathless and rough, Eleanor knew she wasn’t talking about the pizza.
Fuck me fuck me fuck me.
“Hi!” She paid the guy, didn’t even complain that he was late and still gave him a tip. (Ha, old self, take a look at me now.) She didn’t feel all that hungry anymore, but she was glad for the food, for something to do.
The room was getting way too hot way too fast. The old her, tiny evil Eleanor on her shoulder, wouldn’t have cared, would have forgotten all about the pizza and jumped Tahani right then. New Eleanor was more cautious. Nervous. And she had no idea what to do.
“You like The Bachelor?” she asked Tahani.
“Of course. In fact, I’m good friends with-” She held up a hand, cutting herself off. “Nope. Nevermind. Yes, let’s watch The Bachelor.”
They both sat at the head of the bed, the pizza between them. The episode Eleanor had been watching was over, but it was a night of reruns and the next was already starting, the recap letting her know what she had missed. They eat pizza and drank beer, made fun of the surfer dude bachelor and his dilemma of what hot girl to pick.
They watched one episode and moved onto the next and Tanhani became even more exasperated at the antics and fake drama unfolding on the screen. Eleanor laughed so hard she had tears in her eyes.Tahani leaned over and wiped a drop from her cheek, her thumb grazing Eleanor’s skin and making her shiver. Suddenly, everything ceased to be funny.
“I think I’m rather drunk,” Tahani mumbled.
“Nothing wrong with that.”
“No, but I... I don’t want you to think I’m just-”
“Tahani,” said Eleanor with a touch of her own exasperation. Her skin was on fire where Tahani continued to touch her. “I’ve been waiting for you to kiss me for like an hour and if you don’t do it soon, I’m going to-”
Tahani tasted like beer.
That was all Eleanor could think. All coherence had left her brain the moment Tahani’s lips had touched her own.
Tahani’s skin was smooth like silk against Eleanor’s. She couldn’t get enough of it. One hand against a soft cheek, the other roaming up a leg that went on and on and on. She liked the way Tahani seemed to tremble beneath her touch, like she couldn't quite believe it, like the lifeforce of lust and need and want flowing through Eleanor was cascading its way into Tahani with each graze of a fingertip.
Eleanor deepened the kiss; rolling Tahani onto her back and pressing her into the mattress that tried so hard to swallow them both. She had forgotten about the pizza box still lying between them until she heard the rattling of leftover crusts against cardboard. The sound of it was so unexpected, so mundane, that she couldn’t help the giggle the that filled her throat, escaping into Tahani’s mouth and pulling them apart.
“Let me tidy up real quick,” Eleanor mumbled. Tahani’s thigh was hot where Eleanor still touched it. A little higher and she would be… “ Real quick,” she promised.
“Alright. Mind if I freshen up a bit?” Tahani nodded towards the bathroom.
“Sure.” Tahani gave Eleanor a kiss so quick and chaste she barely felt it. Then she was climbing off the bed, walking to the bathroom like a model along a catwalk. Eleanor found herself staring, her jaw aching with the grin on her face. Tahani smiled shyly and the bathroom door closed and Eleanor felt like she could finally breathe for the first time all night.
She hopped off the bed, quickly grabbed up the pizza box, trying to fold the cardboard so it would fit in the motel room’s measly sized trash can. She succeeded in only toppling the bin over, spilling its contents all over the floor. She sweeped everything she could into her arms and left the room, dumping it all in the motel’s larger trash cans outside.
Gone barely a minute, but when she returned to the room, the TV was off, the lights were dimmed and there was Tahani on her bed in nothing but red lacy underwear that far exceeded anything in Eleanor’s imagination.
Tahani raised an eyebrow, a coquettish smirk on her lips. “You like what you see?”
“Hell yeah!” said Eleanor.
She closed the door behind her, locked it, and went over to the bed. At the edge of it she hesitated. That stupid, pesky angel on her shoulder was making noise in her head and she struggled to ignore it.
“You sure about this?” Eleanor asked weakly, afraid to hear the answer incase it wasn’t one she liked. “I mean, just how drunk are you?”
Tahani sighed and sat up on one elbow, resting her chin in her hand. “Eleanor, I’ve been waiting all night for you to fuck me and if you don’t do it soon-”
That was all Eleanor needed to hear.
Quickly, she closed the short distance between her and the bed and Tahani. She hardly cared about the squeaky springs or the way it sagged beneath their combined weight because there was Tahani’s lips and legs and skin and underwear Eleanor made quick work of removing - and, boy, were her neighbours gonna hear a show tonight.
Tahani yielded beneath her touch, letting out short moans and gasps the more Eleanor teased; her tongue circling a hard nipple, her fingertips grazing inner thighs but not yet seeking the warmth and wetness that was all Tahani promised.
She trailed slow kisses from Tahani’s breasts and down, down over the taut muscles of her abdomen, her belly button. Then her tongue was inside her, tasting her and Tahani writhed beneath her, hips jerking, begging for more. Eleanor gave it, one finger, then another, until all she could feel and taste was Tahani Al-Jamil.
She was slow, almost careful, in the way she moved. She wanted this moment to last, not yet ready to end the song that her touch released from Tahani’s lips.
Fingers threaded into her hair, twisting into a fist that tugged with Tahani’s impatience, her need. Eleanor ached with her own arousal, her own impatience. Her tongue circled Tahani’s swollen and throbbing clit; sucked on it once, twice, thrusting her fingers deep inside. Felt Tahani coming undone around her, beneath her. Three short gasps and an incoherent cry, body jerking and, finally, becoming still.
Slowly, deliberately, Eleanor extracted herself, smirking as Tahani, still swollen and sensitive, groaned out a whimper. She crawled back up, capturing Tahani’s lips with her own.
“So,” Eleanor breathed out, pulling away slightly. Her voice was just a murmur moving against Tahani’s lips. “Should I get out the pull-out?”
Tahani leaned back, eyes darting to the couch and Eleanor’s mess that she hadn’t bothered to move, then back again, narrowing slightly. “I think I’m fine here, thank you.”
“What, the great Tahani Al-Jamil, slumming it by sharing a bed?” Eleanor gasped dramatically.
“Shut up.” Tahani rolled Eleanor onto her back and began attacking at the clothes still covering Eleanor, tugging and pulling impatiently until Eleanor acquiesced and gave her hand. Her sweats and tank landed in an untidy pile next to the rest of her dirty clothes on the couch. “I’m not done with you yet.”
“I hope not,” said Eleanor and grinned.
The night was far from over.