When Logic Lingers
The clear bright blue sky was deceptive when Artie looked out the window that morning. When he stepped outside he needed to go back in and get a heavier coat. The radio said that the temperature fell below freezing during the night and that the daily high would be in the mid thirties. As he drove out, the trees along the side of the road bent sharply in the wind and he thought fallen branches might be a likely obstacle later in the day. He had expected snow any time now but the sky stubbornly refused to let one flake fall. Most sane people would have the good sense to stay out of weather like this; which is exactly what Artie planned to do.
With the inventory, looking for the location of artifacts, and general upkeep of the Warehouse Artie was able to keep busy until well in the evening. That night Artie was trying to unjam an object caught in one of the gears in one of the prototypes of Tesla's magnetic prepetual energy generators. He had unscrewed everything he was comfortable that he could put back together and almost had a hold of the obstruction with a pair of needle nose pliers. When Claudia slammed the door he dropped pliers inside the machine.
"You're back early. How did the date go?" Artie asked irritated not looking up from his work as he tried to get a hold of the pliers without losing a finger.
"What is with men?" Claudia threw her bag on her desk. "Men? What am I talking about. Boys! All of them little boys." She spoke the last sentence spitting out each syllable with exaggerated enunciation as she paced the room.
Adjusting his glasses and leaving some oil smudges behind. Artie looked up from his work. Claudia was wearing a light cotton purple skirt that was almost too high for modesty or at least it would be if she sat down. Her shirt was barely more than a purple camisole under a gauzy white long sleeved shirt. He opened his mouth to talk for a moment the words didn't come. Staring at her longer than necessary he finally said the only appropriate words that came to his mind.
"Aren't you cold?" he asked still staring at her.
Claudia looked down at her clothes and gave a little laugh. "I'm freezing."
Artie took off his sweater and handed it to her. She didn't button it up and Artie was distracted by the fact her skirt was shorter than the sweater. He quickly chased away any fantasies that were starting to form around the periphery of his mind.
"You look bea… Ah… You're dressed up." Artie stammered as she sat on the edge of the desk he was working at while he was trying to ignore the loss of a good two inches her skirt didn't have to spare.
"Yeah. Todd, the fracken D-bag, said to wear something nice tonight." She looked down at her shoes she was swinging in front of her.
"What happened?" he asked rearranging items on the desk, anything to keep from staring at her legs.
"So I put this getup on and he takes me to some skeezy drive thru, in my car." She spoke while making angry gestures with her hands. Sometimes Artie wondered if she would be mute if she had her hands tied behind her back. Again killing fantasies that started to come at the idea of Claudia tied up.
"My car." Artie corrected, doing his best to stay focused on the subject at hand.
"Fine, your car." She growled at him before continuing. "Which if you think about it makes the whole thing worse. I spent the rest most of my evening trying to eat a cheeseburger without staining myself or the upholstery, cause God forbid anything happen to your interior Mr. Anal Retentive about everything, while trying to keep Todd's hands out from under my skirt. I mean… Hello! No means no, man." She sat and fumed quietly.
Artie could feel the color rise up his neck into his face. His temper almost snapped at the idea of anyone, let alone an upstart teenage boy, touch his Claudia without her permission. He stood up straight settling himself before he asked the next question.
"What happened next?" His voice was so low that it startled her. Claudia knew that sound, Artie was getting ready to blow a gasket.
"Don't worry, I didn't get anything on the seat…" she started trying to calm him down.
"I don't care about the damn car!" Artie realized he was yelling so he paused until he could modulate his tone better. "Did he hurt you?" He spoke each word slowly and deliberately. He didn't want to scare her but he also didn't want to snap and go kill Todd. Not yet at least. When she didn't answer immediately, he stood in front of her placing his hands on her shoulders and looked her in her eyes; then repeated his question much slower and softer than the first time. "Did he hurt you?"
"No." She said softly still kind of scared by his reaction
"No." He repeated not breaking his stare from her eyes.
Claudia looked at the wall, at the door, at the computer, anywhere so she didn't have to sit under his stare.
"Look, when he wouldn't take no for an answer I punched him in the Adam's apple and left him by the side of the road. The jerk." She mumbled and pulled the sweater around her tight.
Artie patted her arm smiling, "Good girl. You'll find that most boys are complete asses and very few of them grow out of it." He scanned the table trying to remember where he laid down the pliers. You're young there will be others." He looked up at her and immediately got uncomfortable with the close proximity. He started to back up, rubbing his beard to cover up the color coming to his face. Claudia oblivious to his discomfort grabbed his free hand and pulled him closer.
"Artie, I'm sorry, if we are going to continue this heart to heart I need to fix this." Claudia licked her thumb and tried to rub off the oil smudges. She continued talking, "Is it just too much to freaking ask for someone with half a brain, can make me laugh, and almost as awesome as me."
"Tall order." Artie chuckled.
Claudia smiled at him. "See I need to find someone I click with, like we do." She had gotten the oil off and laid her hand on his shoulder.
Then she looked at him. It was the first time she had ever seen him. He held her gaze until the fantasies started sneaking in. Taking both her hands he placed them on her lap. When he started to pull away Claudia grabbed him by the front of his shirt and jerked him off balance toward her. Before he could stabilize himself she kissed him. When he resisted she wrapped her arms and legs around him; unless he wanted to take her with him, he was stuck. Realizing this Artie stood still, hoping the path of least resistance would make this end before he was pushed too far. He closed his eyes waiting and praying that she wouldn't notice the physical reaction she was having on him. When Claudia's tongue flicked across his lower lip one question came to mind:
What flavor of lip gloss is she wearing?
Then the dam broke and he returned the kiss. It was mango. Artie kissed Claudia with the intensity and passion befitting a man who, in spite of trying not to, has been pining over a woman for two years. The completeness of her overwhelmed him. Her breath was peppermint candy with a very faint undertone of onions. Vanilla sugar floated off her warm skin and filled the air. As she melted into him he felt her heart beating fast through his shirt.
His hands slipped up her thighs and under her skirt till he got to her panties. Soft cotton with a thin lace edge. While Artie wasn't a man of many fetishes, he would never think of cotton the same way again. Slipping his fingers under the lace edge, he was surprised at the absence of the usual marker of most women. Claudia's skin was completely smooth without the faintest trace of hair. He was almost pushed over the edge when she shuttered against him as he slid his thumb just inside the top of her labia. He held one arm around her while he started to slip one of his fingers inside her. He moved slowly and deliberately until the cold slap of reality hit him.
"I didn't know those existed anymore." He thought to himself.
Withdrawing slightly but still holding her. The moan of her disappointment tore at his heart. Resting his forehead on her shoulder he took a deep breath before he asked his next question, "Claudia, are you a virgin?"
The dazed mood she felt evaporated immediately. Looking at Artie with sock and surprise; she pushed him away. "Excuse me?" Artie repeated himself. Her face burned crimson not able to look at him anymore, she finally whispered "yes."
Artie shook his head while he straightened up and slowly backed away from her. He rubbed his beard and quickly scanned the room while he thought. "I can't do… I'm… You're too…" he said. Finally resolved to his course of action he was able to look at her, "I'm not going to do this to you."
Claudia sat motionless but Artie saw something break inside of her. He tried to hug her when he saw her eyes well up but she just pushed him away.
"No no no." Artie stood as close as she would let him. "Not like this. You deserve more than to, to lose something as precious as that on my desk." He finally caught her eye. "You are worth more to me than that."
Claudia slid off the desk and started walking out the door. Artie tried to follow her but she just held up her hand and sharply said, "Don't."
Artie gave up on his work that night but didn't return to Leena's either. He had a lot to consider.