Simon Giordano dropped his gaze from the girl because her large boyfriend had noticed and was glaring at him like a pit bull. He kept his attention firmly on the coffee machine.
They were an odd couple. The girl was a petite, Vietnamese beauty of exquisite features. The boyfriend was a hulking, tattooed Lebo who would no doubt have a muscle car with a noisy sound system parked around here somewhere. He had the look of a thug from a tribal crime family.
Simon chided himself for thinking the word, ‘Lebo’. Lebanese Australian, he reminded himself as he kept his eyes cautiously on the frother. He wouldn’t dare glance over there until they were gone but his mind he kept replaying the electrifying moment she’d given him the look. Their eyes had locked for a second too long, alerting the silverback.
Being a barista was a monotonous job and most customers drove Simon mental with their impatience and demand for perfection in all things. It was those small moments – the flirts and smiles shared with attractive customers – that got him through the day. And the warmth of the café. Melbourne winter was miserable and this was far more tolerable than his old gig in a freezing warehouse.
He imagined what he might do if he were a bolder man. Walk straight over and compliment her right in front of him, perhaps? Give her his number while pointedly ignoring the boyfriend? Maybe he would say, “Hey babe, is this guy boring you? Come with me, I drive a . . .” Simon’s fantasy trailed off as he couldn’t think of an impressive make of car. He wasn’t a car guy.
Simon knew he would never do any of those things because he was not the sort. He was studying law at the University of Melbourne. Working weekends and some evenings because his QC dad was short of cash from all his pro bono work for refugees and Aboriginal land rights, and his mum didn’t make much teaching art at the special school. They weren’t poor – his family lived in a two-million-dollar house in Malvern – but cash flow was tight lately and his parents had always expected him to be as independent as possible.
His upbringing, he supposed, was probably quite different to that of the . . . boyfriend.
That was Simon’s problem. Girls could smell his niceness, good manners and responsibility a mile off and they hated it. What would he have to do to affect a bad boy image? Too late to learn guitar. Get a motorcycle license? Switch specialization from constitutional to corporate law? More money in that, more cutthroat . . .
“Oi, mate! Ya deaf?” The words cut though Simon’s pondering. Oh shit, it was the boyfriend! His heart skipped a beat. “Can we get a bill over here, if you want ya money.” At least his malevolent glare had gone, replaced with a haughty sneer directed at the world in general. Avoiding eye contact for all that time had worked. Simon congratulated himself on his self-control because he’d really, really wanted to look at that girl again.
He took the bill over, his disciplined eyes still strenuously avoiding the girl’s elven face, pretending the most beautiful thing he had ever seen was not right there in front of him. Oh God, he could smell her hair.
He took the money and the pair left. Safe.
As he cleared the table, Simon noticed that the bill had been left under a plate of smashed avo. He picked it up and saw that something had been written on the reverse side.
It said, “Stephanie,” in neat, good-girl handwriting, plus a mobile phone number and a winking smiley face.
Simon glanced around nervously, put the paper deep in his pocket and completed the rest of his shift in a trance.
To message, or not to message? It wasn’t really a question because he knew he would. It had been too long. He’d last felt the touch of a woman a year ago, before Belinda had harshly dumped him and started going out with that bogan in Engineering. That was reason enough to compel a healthy young man to take a risk.
Plus, the curvy and buxom Belinda had been intensely jealous of petite Asian girls. She reckoned Aussie boys should stick with their own and would say outrageously racist things whenever she spotted a couple breaking her rule, which was most days, though she adhered to no corresponding principle about who Aussie girls may date.
She was a nasty piece of work, Simon had later realized. Belinda had a mean streak in the way she spoke about people and she enjoyed hurting others when she could. He remembered the unhealthy delight she got from smothering him under her meaty, ginger-haired vagina. Then there was the sadistic way she’d broken up with him, gleefully showing him a photo of her new boyfriend. He was better off without her.
Still, Belinda had been a woman and now he had none; his loins were insisting on action. He was going to message this Stephanie even if it endangered his life. But he’d be careful, of course.
Hey it’s Simon from the café, got your note
How was your focaccia?
Um bit dry
Thanks for your number : )
Kinda noticed you were with a guy, don’t
want to intrude
Simon swore. Her messages were taking a lot longer than his. He realized that if he tried to give her the decent guy routine, not wanting to step on anyone’s toes, that would be the end of it.
She wasn’t in love with him. She wanted to fuck. He would have to take full responsibility for setting it up and appear casual like he did stuff like this all the time, make it easy for her. Be bold. With a boyfriend like that, clearly she was not attracted to meekness.
He must either charge ahead or quietly back out.
It had been a year. He was twenty-one. He charged.
You’re cute, what you doing Friday
Want to go for a drink in St Kilda
Kinda cold, want to stay home
Wanna come over and watch a movie?
You live alone?
Stephanie sent him the location. It was a terrace house in Carlton. Pricy – he wondered what she did. She only seemed about his age.
It started off fine. Great, in fact. She invited him in, poured drinks, they had a chat. She was studying dentistry. Her parents paid her rent. They were both doctors and so was her older brother so she was the failure of the family. One day she wanted to set up her own practice. She also wanted to visit Europe.
The topic of her boyfriend came up. Stephanie told Simon he was a bit of a dick; too possessive and controlling. She was thinking of breaking up with him. Yes, he came over to her place sometimes. No, he wasn’t coming tonight. Yes, she was sure.
The boyfriend’s name was Habib. He was older and his work had something to do with nightclubs.
Then they watched Troy, covering themselves with a blanket. Kissing and cuddling ensued. After so long, it felt good. Her shape was incredible. That tiny waist – how did all her organs fit?
Stephanie was shy about undressing but had no inhibitions about disrobing Simon. Soon he was completely naked while she still had on her bra and tracksuit pants. She seemed to be deliberately taking things slow, which was fine. A couple of times Simon thought she glanced at the clock.
There was a noise at the door . . .
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