Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Once Upon a Time - Part 2

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part two of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 2
Freaky Friday
    I was not looking forward to Friday. La-ura was more stressed out than usual and like an evil stepmother, took it out on her underlings. But, Friday was looking forward to me.
    I heard the last ding of the elevator take its final cargo of the day, sans me,
on to brighter, happier, drinkier pastures. Dates, dinners, movies, hook-ups, were all going to be happening without me in the mix. I sighed and pulled my hair back in a ponytail, until I reached up and remembered ponytail was such a strong word in relation to my hair--an eleven month-old baby would have had a larger cluster of curls to clutch. Had I tried to pull it back with a scrunchie, the scrunchie would have fallen to the floor. Oh well. It would grow--or so I’d been telling myself that for the past eight months.
    When I didn’t change my name, I had made the next logical, radical move and had my hair chopped. Seriously, that was the name of the cut, the Chop. I went to the uber-trendiest salon in the Loop. Can’t remember it’s name, since I threw away my stylist’s business card before I was even finished trying to re-comb what I called the Hack. I had done a better job cutting my own hair--when I was seven. They were so trendy, they didn’t take tips and saved all the shorn hair to recycle--into placemats or something. Here’s a tip, no one wants to eat off of placemats MADE OF HAIR. While six foot tall runway models can pull off the Chop, five-foot-three-ish, brownish-haired with cowlicks, MaryBeths with freckles, have a much tougher time. Well, at least my blow-drying time had been cut in half. Who was I kidding? It took me all of four minutes.
    Back to the drawing board. Miracle of miracles, Miracle actually stood a good chance of winning a really good account; instead of the kitty litter or organic soup crap we’d been dealing with, Dino had actually helped put us in the running to do the marketing for a new celebrity fragrance. I can’t name names, let’s just say it’s a world recognized rock star with a wicked sense of humor, or unfortunate drug habit; how else to explain the name of the fragrance, Rapunzel. 
    We just received a sample that afternoon, which was why I had to spend a good part of my evening trying to slam down some catchphrases. I always tried to get the bad stuff out of the way first. I also always used pen to paper, believing that I was more creative with a direct physical sensation flowing from my brain, down my arm, through my fingers, drawing out the words, before doing clean-up on the computer. In a pinch, I would use magic markers on watercolor paper--it was as fun as coloring.
    I made my list of possible catchphrase candidates for Rapunzel, knowing that even the stinkers could trigger a winner. I got the obvious out of the way first:
Let Down Your Hair
    I knew La-ura would think it too trite, and heaven forbid a copy writer ever gets branded for being too trite.
Happy Endings
    Alluding to the fairy tale, I didn’t think Happy Endings would fly either; conjuring up seedy back room massage parlors with a payoff, was the last thing this celebrity would want to tout.
Three...Third Item...Starting Now...La Di Dah...Hmmmmm....
    I colored and shaded my initials, drew a heart around it and added a TLA with Dino’s name. I was so paranoid I spent another five minuted blocking out his name. All I could come up with for bad idea number 3 was Rapunzel...Rap, Rapture...nothing. Damn. Why can’t I use my powers for good? I even tried writing with my left hand. So much for that theory of using the non-dominant side of your body to explore new horizons. The only other thing I could come up with was Once Upon A Time. I could hear La-ura now, “Been there, done that.”
     I decided to do some research. I read the ingredients list from the lab that came along in the little white cardboard box. The perfume itself was in a nondescript brown medicine bottle--the design of the container would theoretically coincide with the marketing branding and image, or simply be decided based on a huge discount of perfume vials from the manufacturer. The vial was wrapped in a folded, white sheet of paper that contained a typed list of ingredients. It itemized the usual suspects, bergamot, ylang-ylang, vanilla, sassafras; interesting choice--who doesn’t love the smell of root beer, I thought, as I continued to scan. Along with vetiver, which is used in over 90 percent of most perfumes, it looked like a pretty standard recipe. I had learned and surprisingly retained a little bit of my fragrance formulation knowledge from the dog perfume campaign we had done last year. The jingle would still occasionally get stuck in my head. “I think I “ruff” you...” sung to the tune of the old Partridge Family hit. It had been a disturbing promotion featuring television commercials with the owner falling in love with his pooch, sharing his bed and licks of his ice cream cone.
    I shook my head. Focus. I continued reading to see if there was anything else that could help spark some sort of idea here. Though the ingredients were listed, dosages and amounts were, of course, never revealed, guarded as closely as celebrities’ real ages and weight. Insider trading and espionage didn’t only happen on Wall Street. What the? Something caught my eye.There were a bunch of ingredients I didn’t recognize, ending with -ynols, peptides, blah-bety-blah nucleosis sounding words. There was even a warning in fine print at the bottom of the page. I read it aloud.  
 “Patent Pending: PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL! Proprietary information related to formulation and subsequent distillation may not be discussed or disseminated among public or private parties, and is available only upon approved request, subject to legal review. Pheromone technology may or may not be contained in above formulation and is the sole right and property of the manufacturer. Pheromone adaptations obtained legally through organic compounding thereby not subject to regulatory mandates will be heretofore referred to as Ph-uX: Ph-uX is considered the legal and intellectual property of aforementioned formulary and not available to be used, distributed, manufactured, or copied in any way, without the express written consent of owner.”
    Hello? Ph-uX? I would imagine it was meant to be referred to by the individual letters: “P-H-dash-U-X. I did have to wonder which rocket scientist came up with that moniker. I could just picture a room full of scientists who had never in their lives been on a date; sitting their in their wrinkled white lab coats, greasy hair and dirty glasses guffawing about their new secret ingredient that will change the world. Either they were so far gone down their self-absorbed scientific journey of discovery and had no idea what they were naming their magic ingredient, or there was one, lone guy with a chance, with a sense of humor. “Ph-uX!” I said out loud. “Me likee!”
    All I knew about pheromones were that they were the holy grail of sex--a chemical signal of attraction, odiferous clues used to entice and/or select a mate. La-ura had said something about a new compound that was very exciting, meaning she hadn’t read the report or understood what she read. I’m guessing Rapunzel was operating on the premise of a guarantee to get laid.
    Rapunzel was to be an androgynous perfume, for both teams looking for love. The warning only served to pique my interest. What if it was truly an aphrodisiac? Since the Middle Ages, just as alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold, herbalists had tried to distill that most elusive elixir of all, sexual desire. Given a choice, I would bet any scientist worth their salt would go for the passion-producing perfume of sex appeal every time, over a little cold, gold rock.
    I shook the bottle and held it up to my computer screen. It was a pure liquid, no sediment stirring. I unscrewed the top and took a deep breath. I dabbed a little at the pressure points on my wrist. I sniffed. The top notes were crisp and clean smelling. I couldn’t stand sweet, overbearing perfume. I waved my arms around, letting the perfume settle, and interact with my skin chemistry. While I waited, I looked around the empty office, far from being creepy, it was awesome being all alone and having the power to do whatever I wanted. I kicked off my shoes, cursing the sadists who lusted after the first woman to stand on her tiptoes and subsequently decided to imprison the rest of us in heels, and punched up Pandora on my laptop. In homage to my one true love, I play-listed a bunch of Dean Martin songs to try help get my creative juices flowing. Other assorted juices of mine apparently needed no help.
    I started dancing around. Sometimes motion helps knock loose a few brain cells, forcing them to do a little work. I dabbed a few more wafts of perfume on some more pressure points, not much pressure between my cleavage, but there you go, and one at the hollow of my neck and one little dribble behind my ears. I am not usually a perfume girl. I had been blessed, or cursed, with a hyper-olfactory system. I go through periods when fake scents can gross me out, but I was enjoying this formulation and waiting for inspiration. The middle notes of the scent were addictive, and I almost hyperventilated, sniffing and sniffing.
    I wasn’t sure if what I had read had planted those seeds of the promise of being indescribably alluring, or if I was just hypersensitive, inhaling the new aroma, trying to get a feel for it.
    The base note of the formulation, or theme of the perfume, was elusive. I was gyrating around, belting out a loud and proud “Everybody Loves Somebody...” and trying to think about what I was smelling. It was good, but I couldn’t say why.
    The music was so loud, the perfume so strong, my mind so scattered I never noticed the announcing ding of the elevator. It took a full second to realize someone was clapping. At me! “Bravo, bravo,” said the man of my dreams. I stopped mid-twirl.
    “Dino,” I said. “What are you doing here?” I clapped my hand to my chest and inched over to my computer to turn down the music.
    “I forgot my phone, can you believe it?” Dino said. “You’re working on the perfume, huh?” He walked closer. “Let me have a smell.”
    I cannot to this day believe my audacity, but I lifted my head and threw out my neck, as if issuing an invitation to a vampire. He leaned in and over, his dark head of glossy curls brushed my chin as he inhaled my scent. I was so sensitive to him, I could feel the draw of his breath whooshing back up his nose. His lips were slightly parted and felt like a kiss on my collar bone. I think I may have whimpered. I locked my knees so that I wouldn’t dip into another curtsy; and hoped I wouldn’t swoon.
    Dino stood back up. “Nice.” He stared at me for a second and leaned back in. “That’s really great. You smell awesome.”
    While Dean Martin segued into “Memories Are Made of This,” Dino segued into my heart, and personal space, drawing up my hands to his chest.
    “May I have this dance?”
    I giggled and we sashayed and spun and tangoed around the office. Even though I was stone cold sober, I felt I had never danced better before. Sometimes we’d catch each other eyes and just grin; sometimes he’d pull me close. Nuzzled into his embrace I could hear his heart beating, before he sent me off into a spin, his warm hand confidently twirling me away, before pulling me back.
    The song ended along with the best four minutes of my life. I held my breath, as Dino held my hand. “MaryBeth.”
    I tilted my head and smiled, trying not to leer.
    “You wanna...” Dino began.
    I had no idea what he was going to ask me, because we pulled together, a magnetic force greater than the both of us, kissing, kissing, kissing as if to save our lives. Hell yeah, I wanna, my hormones hulaed.
    He broke the kiss but not contact. His cheek rubbed against mine, his hands caressed up and down my arms. He took my right hand with his left and squeezed. I squeezed back and he pulled me down the hall behind him.
    I am not ashamed to say I was so aflame with desire, I would have done it on his desk. Props to him that he had a little more class than that and steered us out to the alcove in front of the elevator.
    Waiting for the elevator could have been a little awkward but our love coach arrived right on cue. He pushed me in ahead of him, jabbed the lobby button and we commenced making out. I pushed him away for a split second, to look at him, to capture this magic moment, and also to make sure he saw me. He lowered his head and looked at me, his eyes darting back and forth; no words were needed. His shy smile was chased away by my kiss.
    This was the best four minutes of my life, and no matter what happens, I will always have special feelings for that elevator. Some elevators are tricky. Any engineer of any building is first concerned with safety, weight, capacity, drag. That’s a given.
    A good engineer will require extra safety features, going above and beyond standard specifications and recommendations. Maintenance protocols are followed to a T, knowing that precious cargo is being transported day in and day out, and the efficacy of any building is its access.
    But a great engineer, a great engineer will not neglect the feng shui of the insides of an elevator. Soft lighting will cascade from the ground up, not glare down harshly from above, like a lone naked lightbulb in a police interrogation setting. Industrial lighting, while sufficient, serves to highlight shadows of too long noses, breakouts on the chin, and features the shaded shifty eyeballs of the desperate, rendering a gaunt expression as if to reveal what someone would look like as a skeleton.
    A great engineer will sped a few more dollars to have soft carpet. He or she will choose soothing complimentary colors, preferably from nature, but not green because green is tricky and not everyone can pull off green, especially in low light. A great engineer will make the inside of an elevator look as if it were lit by candlelight, a place where magic can, and will, happen.
    We bounced around the three walls of that elevator, kissing, licking, sucking. Forget Dino’s desk, it would have been awesome to have done it then and there; the thought of a security camera only making it seem that much more thrilling. Dino pushed me back against the wall, grinding into me. I knew I would end up with bruises, and I couldn’t wait to witness proof of our love; badges of honor.
    I usually ride the El, but Dino hailed a cab. We ended up at my place in about fifteen minutes. I lived in a fourth floor one bedroom walk up. Since I didn’t have a boyfriend or anything, I had nothing but time to make sure it was kept clean enough. It wouldn’t have mattered. Dino didn’t notice. We had held hands the whole ride home. Walking up the sixty-five sets of steps, I felt as if I got to know everything about him based on the push, pull, caress, and interlocking squeeze plays of our fingers.
    As soon as my front door slammed behind us, we lost all control. I could no longer smell the perfume, although perhaps I had become inured to it. Dino unbuttoned my blouse, nuzzled my throat and groaned. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” His hands grabbed at the short ends of my hair and pulled and pulled. He cupped my head and squeezed it, murmuring how sweet I was. I would never forget how he said my name. “MaryBeth,” he had breathed. “Oh, God.”
    I tucked my fingers inside the starched collar of his shirt. I had no idea where his suit jacket went. The backs of my fingers tickled inside his collar, down his thick neck, parting his shirt to kiss his neck. I pulled him down to the couch and reached for his belt. Time stood still as I undid the button of his pants. He held his breath as I pulled his zipper down. I love that part.
    I always thought I looked much better in my bra and panties than full on nude, but my nipples were thrusting for his attention, and Dino’s mouth, like a heat-seeking missile, zoomed in to them. In the soft glow filtering from the kitchen light, backlighting Dino kneeling before me, he looked like he could have been Rapunzel’s prince. OK, there were a few details missing: long locks for him to erotically entwine himself in, for one. Didn’t seem to present a problem. In fact, I loved how he was massaging my head, his fingertips even taking the time to gently rub the tips of my stubby curls between the pads of his fingers. I swear, that hardly perceptible touch made me shiver. He then moved on to caress my breasts before kissing all the way from my ticklish bellybutton down...
    As I breathed in, my mouth parted and I could smell and taste Dino. If he had worn aftershave or cologne, it had long worn off, leaving behind the much more erotic theme of his own chemistry. His skin temperature was elevated, his arms warm and slick with sweat. I licked his bare shoulder, causing him to clamber back up my body. He cradled my head with both hands again, crushing his sculpted torso against the full length of my lascivious body. I felt each cell strain to lift and cushion his weight. “MaryBeth,” he whispered again. I was so glad I didn’t change my name to Mystery. This felt so right, so real. He skimmed his lips across my jawline and m-m-m’d on my ear lobe. “You are so beautiful. What are you doing to me?”
    I heard something drop to the floor. As I glanced down, even in the dim light I could see it was the vial of perfume. I must have tossed it into my purse without even thinking. I grinned. Time for a little more fuel to the fire. Dino groaned as I stroked my hands down his back. I let my left hand drift off, fingers wafting to reach the bottle on the floor.
    I wedged my hand with the perfume between us. “What do you think, Dino? Do you like this new perfume?”
    He nudged the bottle away with his cheek to kiss me deeply. He pulled away. “I think I like you better.”
    I unscrewed the cap. “Smell it,” I said.
    He took a quick whiff and then burrowed between my breasts. “Ah, God. You are driving me crazy. You smell better that any perfume.” I felt and heard him draw a deep breath. His right hand reached up to bat away the bottle. It spilled, splashing the remaining precious drops on his hand.
    We laughed and I tried not to think of how I was going to explain to La-ura that I needed another sample. All I could think about was that I wanted to pre-order a case load.
    Dino’s hand, still damp from the potion, worked its way under the lace of my panties. He knew his way around my body as if we had done this may times before. Maybe it was his perfect pressure, or the synchronicity of his caressing friction, or maybe it was all enhanced by the power of the perfume, and that crazy Ph-uX ingredient; I had never felt so close to perfection before. My writhing panting paused as I felt that hollowed out vacuum feeling in my ears, which always happens right before I...
    “Dino!” I whimpered and said his name again. I may have even screamed. Once. Or twice. Dino joined me in his own greedy, orgiastic hootenanny, a strange exhausting primitive experience where we were both abandoned of all etiquette. “Ph-uX,” I whispered, which seemed to send Dino into an even greater frenzy. I do believe that is my new favorite word. “Ph-uX.”
    Unbelievably, I fell asleep. I have no idea how long I slumbered, missing out on my very own real life dream. How dare I? In what universe would I go to sleep after achieving nirvana? I had just remembered feeling so complete, I had had no control.
    My eyelids fluttered as I felt a kiss swoop down on my brow. “Hey, sleepyhead,” Dino said. We were on my couch, laying sideways but facing each other, with Dino cradling his arms around me. Even in that position I wasted time multitasking, kicking myself for wasting precious seconds. How could I have fallen asleep? The defining moment of my life? The apogee of my dreams come true and I’m snoring on Prince Charming? Oh dear God, I hope I didn’t drool. I licked my lips.
    He kissed the tip of my nose. “You are so sweet.”
    “How long have I been sleeping?”
    “Too long. Play with me some more.” He kissed my lips.
    I stared up at him. He smiled. “What?” he asked. “You don’t snore. You didn’t blurt out embarrassing requests like, ‘spank me, pull my hair, make me call you daddy,’ or anything.”
    My stomach rippled as I laughed. “Thank goodness for that.” I was embarrassed to have fallen asleep. It almost seemed more intimate than what went on right before I fell into a coma. Almost...but not quite.
    “I say we move our headquarters,” I said.
    “Right behind you,” Dino agreed. He held my hand as we moved into my bedroom.
    The time for shyness had long gone; its mast had set sail, rutting into my thigh right about the first time our tongues had said a ‘howdy-do’ to each other. Yet, I found myself holding my breath as I invited Dino into my boudoir. I didn’t have much money, but heaven knows what little I had added up to incredible wealth compared to my talent for designing. I worried that he wouldn’t like the haven I had created for myself.
    As long as you didn’t peer into the corners too closely or strain your neck checking out the ceiling line, I had done a decent enough job painting my room. I chose the paint based simply on the name, Periwinkle Pearl. I should note that I do not have a great track record pulling stunts like that; I once had to ruin a perfectly good manicure because the ‘Pink: Love Guaranteed’ nail polish color I had once chosen was anything but pink, and guaranteed nothing but ten days of anguish.
    The only thing special about my bedroom, other than the palest pearlized blush of the bluish-lilac shimmering color, captured from the sky mere seconds before dawn in springtime, was that it was celibate monk cell clean. By not trying to design or decorate I had come up with a style that was perfect for me. I had finally gotten a headboard the year before, yay, welcome to adulthood. My mom had donated two ancient round end tables that had been butt ugly in my family’s living room my whole life, but when placed on either side of my bed as night stands, they managed to grab a second chance at funky chic. I had simply replaced the drawer pulls on an old, mismatched brown dresser with shiny stainless steel knobs. The only other furniture in the room was a giant rectangular mirror, framed in a wide band of silvery curlicues, standing on one end on the floor. My comforter and sheets were a wonderful crisp clean boring white. I always felt like I was entering a spa when I came into my bedroom. Unfortunately my zen-ness did not extend to my drawers or closet; enter at your own risk.
    Dino seemed to like it well enough, but truth be told, at the time I was flattered that he only had eyes for me. I could have made out with him forever, but like most guys, Dino played to win. At risk of downplaying the most important moment of my life with a sports metaphor, I was his biggest cheerleader.
    Dino was gone the next morning when I finally woke up. I stretched and smiled and reached for my cell. He had left me a message. I kissed my phone as I played it. “Hey MaryBeth,” his message began. “Wow. You are amazing. I had such a great time last night.”
    “Hee hee hee,” I laughed.
    “Um, listen, though...”
    Da da dum...I heard the ominous drum beats of doom begin. What the Ph-uX? I heard him clear his throat on his message. “I really like you and want to see you, but it will be awkward right now so we need to be careful.”
    Hm. Awkward? How? And for whom? I thought we were in love. What happened last night just doesn’t happen to everybody. OK, ass. How ya gonna get out of this one?
    “Let’s just take it slow, and keep this between us, OK?” He said. I guess I could see his point. La-ura was our boss and it could get ugly. One of us could even be fired and it didn’t take a genius to realize that I wasn’t the one playing hide-the-sausage with La-ura, or the one she’d miss most...if at all.
    “I have some plans that I can’t get out of this weekend, but we’ll definitely talk this week.” Long pause. Then he hung up.
    I do not know how I made it through the weekend. It certainly wasn’t by coming up with any new slogans for Rapunzel. Susie came over on Sunday and I made her listen to Dino’s message fourteen times.
    She blew out a breath. “You know, MaryBeth. He almost had me, until the part about ‘we’ll definitely talk this week.’ Why the word ‘definitely’? Why hasn’t he called back and talked to you in person. And, finally, he never said his name, or La-ura’s name, so you can’t even blackmail him.”
    “I don’t want to blackmail him!” I said. “I just want to be with him. Limbo sucks. This not knowing. Does he like me? Is he going to break it off with La-ura? He does have to worry about his career, you know.”
    “Just seems like he could be a little more gallant about it all,” Susie said.
    “I’m not giving up yet. Who knows what Dino could do next?” I said.

Stay tuned for part three...

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