On Your Back, Part 1

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 24 April 2000)

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On Your Back
Part 1 of 2

    Jansen walked out of his office shaking his head and frowning. It wasn't
even noon yet but it was turning into a long and somewhat unpleasant day. The
phone had only stopped ringing while he was on it. Every time he hung up, the 
red light started blinking to let him know that he had more messages.
    Well, this was what it was like at the start of the semester. He spent 
the whole summer begging people for content, which he didn't get, and then 
all of the sudden, the semester broke like a flood and everyone was 
scrambling to get their material on the web. Fifty emergencies bloomed in the 
space of a week, and he was left to try and solve everyone's problems.
    It didn't help that his grad assistant had decided to pass on her final 
year of school to take a job with an internet start up company, and that she 
had made more money in her signing bonus that he would get in the next year 
combining a webmaster job with teaching.
    He strolled down the corridor towards the back door to see if the rain 
had let up and his frenzied thoughts were interrupted by a female voice.
    'Excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me with something.'
    He wanted to say no. She was coming out of the computer lab and doubtless 
she was having some sort of problem that he wanted nothing to do with. It 
wasn't his job. They had assistants in the labs, after all. 
    'Sure,' he said, adding the sort of sigh that made it clear he really 
meant no.
    'Look, if you're too busy-'
    He looked at her.
    She was obviously a graduate student. About 5'3', well-built, short red 
hair that was somehow still full and very feminine. He wasn't sure what was 
more striking about her- the crystal blue eyes set in the perfect rounded 
face or the ample breasts straining at the white mock turtleneck, which 
looked awful hot for a warm late August day.
    'What's the problem ?'
    'I'm working on a web page and I can't seem to get my table to format 
the way I want. Andy said that you're the guy to ask, but you look kind of 
stressed right now.'
    'Yeah, I'm your man,' he said, cracking the biggest smile he could 
manage under the circumstances.
    'If you need a few minutes, that's fine. I was just going out to have a 
cigarette and-'
    'Well, let's take a quick look and then you can have your smoke.'
    'Do you disapprove ?' she asked.
    'Why would you think that ?'
    '˜Well, you had this sound in your voice-' she said, somewhat 
    'No, I don't care. It's your body, and you seem to be taking pretty good 
care of it-' he replied, before he knew what he was saying.
    'I'll take that as a compliment, then. Come on.'
    She reached out and took his hand and he felt himself get very warm. The 
contact was brief but electric. She walked over to one of the computers and 
he motioned for her to sit down.
    He knew what the problem was immediately. She was working in Dreamweaver 
and the table was autoformating the height. He shoulder-surfed the URL and 
then told her to make a pair of small but important changes to the code. She 
thanked him, looked at the results, smiled, and headed towards the back door. 
Just like that, she was gone, leaving behind the slight smell of musk and 
    It was a pleasant smell.
    If I were anyone else I'd say I need a girlfriend, he thought to himself, 
and went back to his office.
    Sitting down again, he pulled up the url.
    It was really good work, if she had done it herself. Very good.
    He pulled the URL up on his iBook, changed his connection to the airport, 
and headed for the back door with an idea in his head.
    A crazy one.

    She lit the cigarette casually, hiding her nervousness. That hadn't gone 
very well. She was hoping to impress him with her work because she needed 
that grad assistanceship, but he'd seemed so disinterested.
    'I shouldn't have told him that I smoke,' she said quietly.
    But she did smoke, and she was proud of it. She'd decided over a year ago 
that she wasn't going to hide that from anyone. She had been about to grab a 
smoke and that was that. She took a long pull on the cigarette and sat down 
on the wide steps and thought about whether or not to try and approach him 
again. Maybe even tell him that she was desperate for an assistantship which 
meant something. They had plenty of crap being someone's glorified gopher or 
secretary. That wasn't what she wanted.
    She was blowing a long stream of sweet smoke into the hot summer air, 
heavy with the promise of more rain, when he sat down next to her.
    'Did you do this yourself ?' he asked, pointing at the website.
    'Yeah,' she said. 'You didn't seem impressed.'
    'No. I mean, yes, I was. It's quite good, really.'
    'You're just being nice.'
    He smiled.
    'I don't think we got off on the right foot. I'm Thomas, but everyone 
just calls me Jan.' He extended his hand. She switched the cigarette from 
right to left and shook it firmly.
    'Angelis. But people mostly call me Gelly.'
    'Look, Gelly, this is going to be a little forward, but-'
    He paused, realising that was a bad choice of phrasing. 'The short of it 
is this. I need a graduate assistant very badly and your work is very good.'
    'So I look like the type of girl who needs a little financial aid, eh ?'
    Jansen groaned inside. This wasn't going well at all.
    'No, not at all. I-'
    Gelly drew deeply on her cigarette, exhaled, watched for more disapproval 
but saw none. There were times she regretted the british stubbornness she'd 
inherited from Mum.
    'Well, a guy can hope.'
    'Then your hopes are warranted. I am eligible for an assistantship and 
I'm in dire need as well, so you picked the right point in time.'
    'Have you filled out all the paperwork ?'
    '˜Well then, all I have to do is interview you and we're all set.'
    Gelly reached down to stub out her cigarette and Jan touched gently on 
the shoulder. 'No need. We can do it right here. No sense wasting your 
cigarette like that.'
    'That's nice of you.'
    'How long have you been smoking, if you don't mind me asking ?'
    'I started when I was a junior.'
    'So that's seven years ?'
    'No, silly. A junior in college. I moved into my sorority house and all 
the girls smoked. At first it was kind of a turn off. My parents smoke and I 
always said I would never smoke, but after about a week, I realised that all 
these girls were smoking because they liked it. I started talking to one of 
the girls about why she smoked and the next thing I knew, she had me smoking, 
    'Do you ever regret it ?'
    'God no. I love smoking. What I regret is not listening to my mum. She 
told me I would like smoking and she was always trying to get me to give it a 
try, but I was too stubborn. What a waste. I missed out on three or four 
    Gelly drew deeply on the cigarette and stubbed it out. 'My smoking isn't 
a problem for you, is it ?'
    'No. I was just curious, that's all. You obviously enjoy it, and I'm not 
your parents. If you like it, well that's fine. It's not like you're going 
to be living with me.'
    'Let's hope not-'
    Jan looked at her and she knew immediately that had come out not quite 
    'I mean, that might not be cool with the school.'
    'Not the plan for the man ?' Jan added.
    Gelly thought she might just like working with Jan.
    Tired and a little fried from another hectic day of work, Jan was glad it 
was Friday. It was time to go home, run a few miles, drink some beer, and 
settle in to repeats of Harsh Realm and Brimstone on FX. Although, that was a 
lot of excitement coming off an hard week of work. 
    'I really ought to drop the sarcasm with myself,' he cracked.
    Then he saw her, like that Police song, standing in the light rain, 
waiting for the bus. The light was red so he had to stop anyway, so he rolled 
down his window. She was just finishing lighting a cigarette, so either the 
bus wasn't coming for a few minutes or she was really desperate for a smoke. 
Either way, he was suddenly feeling generous, so he searched for his most 
helpful voice.
    'Hey Gelly, want a ride ?'
    'That's okay. The bus will be along in ten or fifteen minutes and it 
stops just a few blocks from my apartment.'
    'Do they let you smoke on the bus ?'
    'Well, no. Are you going to let me smoke in that nice car of yours ?'
    'Sure. Hop in.'
    She didn't have to be asked twice. As soon as she got in the car, she 
rolled the window the rest of the way down, took a long drag on the 
cigarette, and politely blew the smoke out the window. Jan looked at her and 
hid his smile. She was very attractive and with that long cigarette in her 
pale hand she reminded him of - Brenda.
    She noticed the look and misread it because he did a fine job of hiding 
his smile, even from his eyes.
    'If you don't want me smoking in the car, I don't mind-'
    The light turned green and he pulled out onto Route 11.
    'You really seem to be concerned about how I feel about your smoking, 
    'Well, if you could see that look you just gave me-'
    Maybe there had been that sadness in his eyes that he always felt when he 
thought about Brenda.
    'It's not what you think. I was just thinking about Brenda-'
    'Brenda ?' Gelly asked, her voice full of teasing.
    'Yeah. Sort of an ex.'
    'Care to explain what sort of an ex is ?'
    'No,' he answered, watching out of the corner of his eye as she took 
another draw on the cigarette. It wasn't helping him any that she actually 
looked more than a little like Brenda- except that she was thinner, slightly 
less pale, and more breasty, his idea of perfection. 'She was- uh, she is- 
not something I can talk about.'
    'Sounds like a forbidden romance,' Gelly said with a smile. Her green 
eyes sparkled and he had a stray thought that he fought down with some 
difficulty because it was definitely against the rules.
    She drew on her cigarette again and he admitted to himself that he liked 
to watch her smoke.
    'I'd rather not go into Brenda-' he said, and groaned.
    Talk about a poor choice of words making a lie out of the truth.
    'That look on your face says otherwise.'
    'The point is,' he said, forging ahead, 'is that she smokes. I don't 
have any problem with smoking. When she comes to visit, I let her smoke in my 
car, in my condominium, and we sit in the smoking section when we go out to 
eat. So I certainly don't mind your smoking.'
    'Well, that's a relief,' she said, with only mild sarcasm in her voice.
    'You remind me of her, that's all.'
    '˜And if I didn't ?' Gelly asked.
    'I'd feel exactly the same way. Besides, I'm just giving you a ride, 
it's not like you're living with me, you know.'
    They laughed at the joke between them.
    Gelly guided him the rest of the way. It was out of the way, but when she 
lit a second cigarette and that link to his old love strengthened, he 
realised that behind his words he really didn't mind.
    He didn't mind a little too much.
    The problem started when he finally turned down her street. He'd only 
driven down half the block when he realised that fire trucks were blocking 
the rest of the street. There were quite a few trucks and the situation 
didn't look good. The car in front of him stopped, received an explanation 
from a police officer, and turned around, squealing tires leaving a cloud of 
rubber smoke behind. The officer shook his head and walked up to Jan's car.
    'You live here or just passing through ?'
    Gelly exhaled a creamy cloud of smoke and turned to face the officer. 'I 
live down the street in 189.'
    'Well, you'd better find somewhere else for the next week or so, ma'am. 
The Bell Atlantic folks cut a custom joint in the gas line. I guess it was an 
undocumented modification of the line- no schematics in the city planner's 
office, and the company that made the part went out of business. They have to 
bring in another vendor to design the fitting, install and test it. That'll 
take at least a week.'
    'Can I at least get my stuff ?'
    'No. Can't do that. The line is off, but it will take a day or two 
before we let people into the area. Safety precaution. One careless flick of 
your lighter and boom, you know ? I'm sure your boyfriend here will take good 
care of you.'
    'I'm not her boyfriend,' Jan objected weakly. 'But yeah, I'll take care 
of you.'
    He pulled away, backing up and doing a nice slow k-turn.
    'I can get an hotel. The landlord probably has to cover it.'
    'Nonsense. I have an extra bedroom. I'll put you up.'
    'I don't know,' Gelly teased, drawing on her cigarette. 'You were pretty
 quick to tell that policeman I'm not your girlfriend.'
    'That's different. I like my job. But I don't have any problem putting 
you up, as long as you're willing to live on my schedule.'
    'What's that ?'
    'I get up early, go to bed late, and make lots of noise.'
    'Loud music, I hope.'
    Gelly stubbed her cigarette out in the car's ashtray, opened the box, and 
    'What ?'
    'Oh, I'm out of cigarettes. My carton and my wallet are in my apartment. 
I have about twenty dollars with me. Shit. I'm homeless and broke.'
    Jan saw a sign outside the Quick Stop. '˜Marlboro, 18.99/Carton.' 
    'You're in luck,' he said, pulling in and parking the car.
    'You don't have to let me smoke in your condo, Jan.'
    'Do we have to have this discussion again ?' he asked. 'Let's go in 
there, get some cigarettes and snack food-'
    'Rent a good movie and relax. Did you know your right eye is twitching ?'
    'Yeah, it does that when I get stressed out.'
    'Well, I know how to fix that,' she said, and got out of the car without 
elaborating. He watched her walk towards the store, her pert backside 
twitching in perfect rhythm to her gait, and he wondered exactly what he was 
getting himself into. It wouldn't be the last time he had that thought.

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