“Gods, I am so sick of this,” Indra said, leaning on the door of the crane bay. She was tired and dirty and disheveled. She pulled off her welding mask and dropped it next to the door. Her face was streaked and smudged with soot and sweat and dirt. Next, she pulled off her welding gloves and ducked out of her leather coat and apron, both of which were soaked with sweat. Finally she undid her belt buckle and let her welding chaps fall in a heap. She was dressed in shorts, knee-high steel-toed boots, and a flimsy tank top soaked with sweat. Her hair had been blue that morning, but now it was soaked and streaky and bits of bleached white were showing through. The dye was running down her neck in sweaty droplets.
She opened the fridge next to the door and grabbed a beer, then reached into the freezer compartment for a one-liter ice bottle. Then she walked out into the crane bay and plopped down on the couch next to J.D, flinging her arms and legs out wide to let some heat evaporate.
J.D’s face crumpled up next time she inhaled. “Phew!” she exclaimed, looking up from her laptop and raising a hand to her nose. “Girl, you stink!”
“Tell me about it,” Indra said, first rubbing the ice bottle across her forehead, then rolling it slowly up and down her stomach and chest. Under the soaked tank-top, her nipples sprang erect at the sudden cold. “It must be a hundred and twenty degrees in the studio and I fucking hate this piece.” Finally she stuck the ice under her leg, twisted the top off the beer, and took a swig. She leaned her head back on the couch, leaving a faint trace of blue dye on the upholstery, and closed her eyes.
“What are you working on?” J.D. asked.
“I’ve been working on the armature for Cruelty,” Indra said. “Uh, that’s the next gargoyle in the series. I’ve been doing sketches and brainstorming for a couple weeks, did a few little clay models last week, and now I’ve decided what it should look like and I’m making the first full-size armature.”
“So you’ve been in there with a torch and a hammer all day bending and welding red-hot bars of metal?” J.D. asked.
Indra nodded. “I’m fuckin’ beat,” she said, reaching down to shift the ice bottle from her right leg to her left.
J.D. smiled a gentle smile, finished typing a line, and snapped her laptop shut. “I can tell,” she said. “I feel it in my back and arms just looking at you. Sit still and I’ll give you a shoulder rub.”
J.D. set the laptop down and stood up stretching. She was tall, lanky and angular. Most of the time she was awkward and timid, but right now she was relaxed and mellow and she moved like a lazy cat. Her dark hair fell in curls to her shoulders as she moved around to the back of the couch and put her hands down on Indra’s shoulders.
“Mmmmm….” Indra said as J.D’s hands dug into her aching muscles. “Thanks, J.D, this is really great.”
J.D. just smiled. “It feels good,” she murmured. “I feel all your muscles letting go of the stress…. I feel how tired you are.” She moved her hands inward to Indra’s neck, working her head back and forth, then outward and down to rub Indra’s aching arms. “Hand me that ice bottle and lie down for a few minutes, and I’ll do your back.”
With a smile, Indra laid face down on the couch. J.D. rolled the ice bottle up and down her back a few times, then set to work smoothing out Indra’s knotted back muscles. “Damn,” Indra murmured. “You’re really good at this. You sure you’re straight?”
J.D. laughed. “I’m sure, Indra. Besides, I wouldn’t want to come between you and Philo.”
Indra grinned. “You sure about that?” she said. “The reviews so far have been pretty good.”
J.D’s hands stopped for an instant, then went on. “Too much information, Indra. I don’t want to hear about it.”
“Oh, hell,” Indra snorted. “Like anybody here doesn’t know. There’s not a single gods-damned secret in this warehouse and you know it. Not one.”
“Hey, no fair,” J.D. protested. “You’re getting all knotted up again. And all I was asking was to be allowed to pretend, okay? I just want to pretend things are … you know, normal.”
“Sorry,” said Indra. “I’ll try to relax.” She willed her knotted muscles to relax and be still. J.D’s hands would squeeze, and then a tingling, shocking wave of relief would follow. It felt incredible. “I got a nice normal idea for you,” said Indra. “We could go out tonight on a date, take a break from holding it all together, and just be a couple of regular lesbians.”
“Hear me out, J.D. There’s a party at the L club tonight. If we go there, we’ll be in the middle of a crowd of women who are into women, and we can pick up the vibe and have that whole romance thing going on top of just being friends, and it’ll be nice. I’ll put cover cream on to hide my tats and we could handcuff ourselves together so we don’t wander away from each other, and nobody thinks twice about handcuffs at the L club. When the party’s over, or when we head off by ourselves, you go back to being straight, I go back to being bi, and the two of us go back to being just friends.”
“Indra, you’re tired. You’d get Lost. And I …. What if we get Lost together? How would we get back here?”
“Hell, we all get Lost sometimes,” Indra said. “No point living in fear.” She paused pensively, making a face. “Besides, maybe Lost is better.”
“Huh?” J.D. jumped back. “What the hell do you mean by that?! You can’t really want to be Lost!”
Indra stared into the couch cushions. “It’s a choice,” she said. “At least it’s a gods-damned choice.”
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.