It’s late on a Tuesday night in early December and Helena can’t sleep.
Maybe it’s the increased sugar intake, she ponders, that’s a reasonable enough explanation. Claudia and Pete are so excited about Christmas, they cannot stop themselves from testing any and all edible, holiday-themed wares they can lay their hands on, and gift those that pass their scrutiny (which standards is not very high, in Helena’s opinion) to unsuspecting friends.
Although Helena is seriously considering whether people who gleefully shove so much refined sugars onto others should be considered “friends”.
She sighs heavily as she flicks through the channels of a silenced television. It’s times like these that her love/hate relationship with Farnsworth’s technology is at its peak: she’s far too tired to read a book, but far too wired to attempt sleep. The Television usually provides lulling visual stimuli (an oxymoron, she knows), but not today. Not in December, when late-night consumerism is at its best. Or worst. Depends which side you choose to look at it.
Twelve minutes of flicking go by before Helena finds BBC America. One of those dreadful hospital soaps has just finished.
Helena stares blankly at the credits as they roll, having decided to endure this particular channel. She is rarely patient with any form of broadcasting, but there is something about BBC America that calms her – maybe the fillers that have London’s landmarks. It settles her to know that what she knows, what she has grown up knowing, still exists and still matters.
The next show looks like a cooking show and Helena reaches a lifeless hand to the remote, but then a brown haired voluptuous woman appears on the screen, apparently, doling out recommendations for the preparation of a Christmas turkey.
Helena’s eyes scan the subtitles without conscious effort. Something about the words that flash on the screen in ominous, block capitals tickles her.
The words the voluptuous woman chooses to use are quite… delectable.
Helena’s eyebrows draw closer together and she focuses on the woman on the screen, and her hands, as they massage the turkey (its pink meat yields to her touch), and her words, as they appear on the screen, and her lips as they shape them.
She finds this combination… seductive.
She puts the volume up – just a bit – so she can listen to this woman, and what she hears both relaxes and entices her. Her mouth falls open and fills with saliva which she swallows thickly. Only she’s not sure if it’s the woman causing this, or her food, or her words.
Helena spends an entire hour staring at the brown-haired, buxom Brit on the telly, by the end of which she isn’t tired anymore.
Not one bit.
She’s something else entirely.
She takes a quick look at the digital clock under the TV: 1am. Myka, who has been sound asleep since 10pm, utterly oblivious to her lover’s plight, will be up in three hours. She has her annual review with the Regents in the morning, a day she likes to start early so she can be prepared.
Such a girl scout, the cynic in Helena commentates, and her lip begins to curl in a small, evil grin. But then she visualises Myka in Khaki uniforms; with that buttoned up shirt that’s a little too tight on her chest, and those front pockets that are placed just right; and that skirt, and how it clings to her perfect backside, and that row of buttons down its front – oh so practical.
And she’s not smiling anymore.
Helena’s mind whirrs with possibilities. Waking Myka up is a dangerous thing, particularly before important days, days in which she needs to be at her best. Myka will surely glare at her, give her that deep, dark green scowl, and her nostrils will flare and her cheeks will flush and her lips will…
Helena shifts where she sits and her mind empties, save a horribly debauched thought.
“Bollocks,” she mutters and heads to their bedroom.
When Myka’s alarm is due to goes off, she had already been awake for nearly three hours. She’s on her side, nestled against Helena’s body, her head atop Helena’s shoulder, her hand across her abdomen, under the thick winter blankets.
Up until a few minutes ago, they didn’t need those blankets, but now that Helena's finally settled, Myka covered them up.
(and switched her alarm off, while she was at it).
As hard as it is, she wrenches herself from the body she had spent the past three hours pleasuring, the body that pleasured her in return, and gets up for a run, and a shower, and a healthy breakfast, and a read of her file, and other prep she deems critical for her annual review.
When she gets back home late that afternoon, Helena is in front of the TV, flicking through the on-screen TV Guide.
Myka leans against the door frame, watching her raven-haired sweetheart scanning through hundreds of channels’ listings. She’s obviously looking for something, she decides, based on Helena’s intent look, purposeful body language and incessant muttering.
The longer she watches her, the less tired Myka grows.
“What are you looking for?” she strides into their living room slowly.
“A cooking show,” Helena’s answers quietly, but this isn’t quiet that’s induced by thoughtfulness or even embarrassment. Helena is adamant she will find it.
“A new hobby?” Myka steps up behind her, lets her fingers dance along the ridge of her shoulders.
“You can say that,” Helena muses, and Myka knows what that means and she is willing to help.
She brushes Helena’s hair from her left shoulder and across the top of her back, towards the right, exposing Helena’s neck and the small purple bruise at its base. She then leans down with a hum and captures still sensitive skin and muscle between her lips, then teeth, renewing the treatment she subjected it to a little less than twelve hours ago.
Helena shudders and her hands fall limp in her lap. Myka, still gnawing lightly at the soft, fragrant juncture, feels as a new kind of tension building in Helena’s upper body.
“Care to go to bed to finish this?” Myka propositions.
“But the show…” then Helena yelps when Myka sucks too hard at the exact same time as her right fingertips stretch across her glowing chest and down.
“I think I’ve earned the right to get even,” the tall agent whispers in Helena’s ear before running her lips along its shell, and Helena turns around to take Myka’s lips in hers.
Myka has earned it, and as much as Helena would like to find out who that sensual culinarian was, Helena would much rather find out how Myka’s body would respond to a new combination of kisses and bites and pressures.
It’s Myka and Helena’s turn to host Christmas this year, and Claudia is staying with them to help prepare for the plague of locust that’s due to descend on their small house in about a week’s time.
Myka is busy in the kitchen, preparing a battle plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day cooking, optimising the order of goods in the fridge and freezer.
Helena is in the living room with Claudia, wrapping presents and ardently declining Claud’s persistent offers of chocolates and sweets.
“What’s the time?” Claudia asks with a mouthful of seasonally coloured M&Ms.
Helena squints towards the telly to adjust her sight after hours of artistic gift wrapping, “Nearly ten,” she answers.
“Oooh!” the young agent exclaims, “Can I put the TV on?” she asks at the same time as doing it, “You have BBC America, right?” she turns to the correct channel without even looking at the remote or the screen, “Nigella has a new Christmas special.”
Helena give Claudia a questioning look.
“You’ll love her,” Claudia smiles and throws herself on the sofa while turning the volume up. “It’s like food porn, but better,” she replenishes the chocolate in her mouth, “because she talks, omigod,” she pauses to crunch and swallow the sweets, “she talks like food is sex, but not in a dirty way.”
The engineer isn’t sure what to make of that description, and she does wonder what on earth food porn is (and she is not entirely sure this is the kind of television she would like to share with Claudia), but then Claudia yelps and points at the telly, and Helena turns around, and she knows exactly what Claudia means. “Nigella,” she repeats and nods slowly, joins Claudia on the sofa and helps herself to M&Ms.
After Claudia turns in, Helena goes to the kitchen to drag Myka to bed. Myka resists to begin with, muttering something about not having dealt with the vegetables yet, but then Helena steals her glasses from their perch at the bridge of her nose, throws them carelessly on the kitchen counter and hauls Myka to their bedroom, where she wastes no time whispering sweet words of poetry and love and beauty and adoration to her beloved.
Helena whispers to Myka’s ears, to her cheek, to the hollow of her neck. To the skin across her chest, to the skin between her shoulder blades, to the small of her back. To the backs of her thighs, to the dip behind her knee, to her calf muscle, to her shin, to her feet.
Out of breath and aroused beyond measure she ever thought possible, Myka husks “What’s gotten into you?”
Myka is not complaining, not at all. She’s the highest she’d ever been on this torturous pleasure that Helena is oh, Jesus Christ, and she whimpers when Helena’s teeth clench around her Achilles tendon.
Helena doesn’t hear Myka’s exclamation. She can’t process spoken language anymore, she is only attuned to shudders and gasps and quivers.
Helena makes herself comfortable in the guest bed Myka and she share when they spend a holiday at Pete and Leena’s. She reaches for the book on the nightstand, lifts it slowly, considering whether she has it in her to gobble another chapter before they switch the light out.
The thought of the word “gobble” makes her feel unwell, as she feels Christmas dinner, with its unwavering presence, in her digestive tract.
She breathes deeply to settle the discomfort under her diaphragm and decides that maybe not a whole chapter, but a few pages, at least, until Myka finishes her night routine in the bathroom.
When Myka comes out, she’s so immersed in the book, she pays no attention to Myka who goes to their suitcase, rummages in it and saunters to Helena’s side of the bed with a neatly wrapped, thick, rectangular gift.
She nudges Helena to scoot towards the middle of the bed, and places herself next to the artificer’s midriff, with the gift in her lap.
“Merry Christmas,” Myka says through a saucy smile.
Helena beams at her from above the book before she notices the present. “Another one?” she asks in mock surprise.
“You don’t have to,” the curly agent mocks her lover.
“I do want to,” Helena sits up and tugs at Myka’s threadbare sleep shirt, pulling her in for a kiss.
The gift wanders from Myka’s lap to Helena’s without their lips parting. Helena manages to divest the present of its colourful sheath without looking, still completely absorbed in Myka’s lips.
Myka slows the kiss and urges them to part, so Helena can inspect her gift, a gift Myka knew to give her in private. “Does it hit the mark?” she asks with a wicked grin that has her biting on her lower lip.
Helena runs her fingers across the shiny hardback and opens the book. The cover creaks as it turns to reveal the first page, scribbled with a dedication to her. The glossy page feels cool against the pads of her fingers and she is revels in the scent of colour print on high gloss paper.
She flicks through the pages and receives a second hit of the intoxicating smell of fresh publication and lands on a recipe for cinnamon and cardamom prawn noodles.
Her eyes skim over the words on the page, full and luscious and ripe words that form descriptions as rich as the food and–––
“It does,” Helena whispers, and she loves Myka so much for understating this thing she doesn’t quite understand herself, but would much rather enjoy without unravelling its mystery.
“It does wonderfully,” she places the book down on the nightstand and pulls Myka to her, until she is on her back and Myka is on top of her and their fingers unwrap other gifts without them needing to look.