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Man in the Making

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Rey had come straight from work to my place. She looked great in her pencil skirt and white blouse. I thought about how Tarkin got to look at her all day and black tendrils seemed to spread through my chest. Did he stare at her ass? I had stared at her ass. Not openly, but I had. He probably did. I wanted to beat his scrawny ass to a pulp.

“Ben?”

I turned my gaze to her face.

“What?”

“I said, if you want to spend New Year’s with your family, that’s okay.”

I looked at her for a few seconds, trying to reel my mind back from murder and focus on what she’d said.

“No,” I said.

Then I mentally kicked myself. I was being presumptuous, assuming she wanted to spend New Year’s with me. We had spent every evening since Christmas together. She had friends, she probably already had plans and this was her way of telling me.

“Do you have plans?” I asked.

“Um, not really, I mean, some friends of mine are having a party.”

I nodded. I tried to not feel disappointed.

“Okay,” I said.

There was a pause.

“Do you want to come?” she asked.

Oh… shit. I wanted to be with her, but I didn’t like parties.

“I don’t really like parties,” I said.

“I know.”

Right, she did know.

“We could do something else,” she said.

I wanted that. But…

“You should go to the party,” I said.

“What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know.”

She kept looking at me.

“I wanna spend New Year’s Eve with you,” she said.

Fuck, I had to go to that party.

“We can go to the party,” I said.

“We don’t have to.”

“It’s fine.”

I was lying, but I didn’t want to disappoint her. And I would be with her, so that was worth going.

The party was just a couple of blocks away from Rey’s place, she had told me. She didn’t live in the shitty neighborhood where she’d lived before. This was probably safer, I thought when I parked on the street outside her building. Maybe Tarkin paid her better than I had. That thought didn’t sit well with me.

I headed up the stairs, there was no elevator, to the third floor and knocked on the door. Rey opened it, wearing a green dress and more makeup than she usually wore. She was putting on a pair of dangly earrings.

She smiled. I would never stop being amazed by that smile, especially when she was smiling at me. It was dazzling.

I gave her a kiss.

“We have to wait for Rose,” she said, “Paige’s sister. Come in.”

Paige was Rey’s roommate. I knew her by name only. Rey and I had only been at my place. I’d been here once before though, when I came to pick her up.

The apartment was tiny. The front door led straight to a combined kitchen and living room that was probably half the size of my living room. The furniture was a mix of styles and there were lots of nick-nacks that I suspected Rey had bought at flea markets. She’d told me once, back when she was still my P.A., that she liked going to flea markets.

“We started early,” Rey said, nodding at two wine glasses on the kitchen table. She was still fiddling with her earring. “Do you want some?”

“Is this yours?” I pointed at the glass that still had some wine in it.

“Yeah.”

I picked up the glass and emptied it. Rey made a scandalized face.

“That was mine,” she said.

“You can’t have it back.”

She smiled. Then she swore and stopped with the earring.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I haven’t worn earrings for ages and I think it’s healed.” She started towards the bathroom door. “Oh fuck, Paige is in there. Can you try?”

She handed me the earring. It was the kind with a pin.

“Your ear is red,” I said.

“That’s because I’ve been trying to put that on.” She gestured at the earring I was now holding.

She tilted her head to the side, to give me better access. Her earlobe was small and the fucking pin thing even smaller, not to mention the miniscule dot that was the hole where the earring was supposed to go.

“It won’t go in,” I said.

“Pretend it’s your cock.” She kept her head still, but moved her eyes to look at me.

“In your ear?”

She started laughing.

“Give it another try,” she said then, keeping still again.

I did.

“I think it’s healed,” I said then. “It only goes in like, halfway.”

“Push it through.”

“No.”

I wasn’t going to do that.

“Just do it.”

“No, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t! Please, I want my ear to stop being red before we get there.”

Fuck. I pushed the pin through her earlobe but I felt absolutely fucking horrible when I did it. That was her ear!

“It’s through. Shit, it’s bleeding!”

“It’ll stop.”

She grabbed a tissue and held it against her ear. I felt so guilty.

“I’m never doing that again,” I said.

She looked at me.

“I’m okay,” she said. “Look, it’s already stopped.”

It didn’t matter what she said, I had hated doing that.

She threw away the tissue and then she stepped close to me.

“I’ll wear earrings more often from now on,” she said, looking up at me. “So it doesn’t heal again. Okay?”

Maybe I could buy her some earrings. Not just to keep her from forcing me to jab her with sharp objects again, but because I would like to do that.

She got up on tiptoes, placed her hand against my neck and put her lips against mine in a soft kiss.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her mouth still close to mine. She gave me another kiss. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I kissed her again.

The bathroom door opened. The woman who stepped through it was about Rey’s age, pretty, although no one compared to Rey in my eyes.

“Hi,” she said. “You must be Ben. I’m Paige.”

She held her hand out.

“Hi.” I shook her hand.

She didn’t give me the sort of appraising look that some of Korr’s friends had done, nor did she exchange one of those knowing glances with Rey, the ones that made me wonder what might have been said about me, or if I was uglier than expected or something. The fact that she didn’t do either of those things made me feel more well disposed to her. Although, without even having met her, I’d already liked her far better than that Finn guy.

“Rose just texted me,” Paige said, holding her phone up. “She’ll be here any minute, so we can go down.”

We did. Rose arrived and then I was walking down the street with three beautiful girls. I had never done that before in my life. I put my arm around Rey and kissed her temple.

“You look beautiful,” I said, because I hadn’t said it earlier and she really did.

“And you’re very handsome,” she said.

I gave her a skeptical look. I knew I wasn’t.

“You are,” she said.

“You really are,” Rose chimed in.

And then she got a look of mortification on her face.

“And that was a private conversation,” she said, “which I had no business being in.”

I felt embarrassed too, but I couldn’t help but to feel a little bit flattered. Did she really think so? Maybe her eyesight was bad and she needed glasses.

Rey eyed me. ‘You see?’ she mouthed.

I didn’t really want to stay on the subject, so I was grateful when Paige said:

“Should we buy some wine?” She gestured at the lit up window of a store. It was one of those small, open-all-night-long places.

“We already have wine,” Rey said.

“Yes, but I mean more wine.” Paige smiled.

They had a brief discussion about it, then decided they didn’t need any more wine.

The party was in an apartment that was only marginally larger than the one Rey and Paige shared. It had a separate kitchen, but it was tiny. I had figured I would be the oldest person there, since Rey was ten years younger than me, and that I would stand out because of it, and most of the guests were in their early or mid-twenties, but there were some who looked as if they might be in their thirties too.

I didn’t want Rey to get angry with me for being unfriendly or unsociable, but I didn’t know what to talk about with these people. I grabbed a beer and did my best not to look like I wanted to leave. I said ‘hi’ to people who said ‘hi’ to me. There weren’t enough places to sit, so I ended up with Rey sitting sideways on my lap. She had no difficulties talking to anyone and of course she knew many of the guests already.

I did talk to Rose for a bit. She was a software engineer and she told me about that. She said her dream job would have been to work with CGI, but the movie industry was hard to get into, even the geeky jobs, her word, were so sought after. We talked about movies for a little while. She was nice actually.

“Am I too heavy?” Rey asked me after a while. Her hand was on my neck, her fingers playing with my hair.

“No.”

“Are you being stoic?”

“No, you’re really thin.” I put my hands on her waist. “Look at how tiny that waist is.”

“You have huge hands.”

“Even so, that is a small waist.”

She turned to face me better.

“Okay, I didn’t want to tell you this, but I sold all my organs.”

“Did you get good money for them?”

“Yeah, the black market is booming.”

“Maybe I should sell something.”

“Yeah, a kidney at least.”

She smiled and I smiled back at her. She gave me a kiss.

“Do you think I’m too thin?” she asked then, a small frown appearing between her brows.

“No, you’re perfect.”

She looked at me. “So are you.”

A little before the clock struck midnight, everyone filed outside to see the fireworks. Someone dropped their champagne glass on the sidewalk and there was a bout of shrieking. I hadn’t bothered to bring a glass, I wasn’t a huge fan of champagne. I had my arms around Rey instead, her back pressed against my chest. She was shivering a little. There still wasn’t any snow, but it had gotten colder in the past few days. I held her closer.

Fireworks erupted in the sky, glittering like jewels, the noise deafening.

“Happy New Year!” someone yelled and others responded.

Rey turned to face me.

“Happy New Year,” she said.

“Happy New Year.”

We kissed, a long kiss, with tongue, and it felt as if we were the only two people in the world.

The fireworks kept lighting up the night. Then Paige showed up.

“Are you guys staying?” she asked.

Rey looked at me.

“You decide,” I said.

“I’ve had my fill,” she said.

I met her gaze, trying to gauge if she was only saying so for my sake. She could probably tell, because she said:

“I really don’t need to stay.” She turned to Paige. “We’re gonna head home.”

“Oh, good, because I’m exhausted, but I don’t wanna walk home alone. I’ll just go get Rose. Don’t leave without us.”