Stopping the clock, a short story by dariomcgeachy. Date added: 2012-07-21. Times viewed: 342.
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- Intro: Ever since puberty, when girls had gone from boring non entities to terrifyingly alluring enigmas, Lee had put the female of the species on an impossible pedestal. It was time for that to change.
Stopping the clock
By Dario McGeachy
Lee was trying hard to commit the moment to memory. He looked past the naked girl sleeping next to him and blinked his eyes at the alarm clock on her bedside table. It was Sunday morning, 7:17 and the milky light from the winter sun had just begun to brighten the room; coming through the venetian blind in bars which picked out the motes of dust hanging in the air. The sun wasn’t visible yet, but from his position on the bed Lee could see the sky turning pink behind the tall trees which lined the park adjacent to her house.
‘Try not to think about it. Just put it out of your mind’.
Lee’s mind took his request under advisement. Ignored it, and then ran through the girl’s key attributes for the hundredth time.
Hot? God yes
A rich family? Probably
Way, way, way out of his league? Yes. Definitely.
Lee felt his heart rise in his chest, a feeling of smallness. Inadequacy multiplied by anxiety.
Lee had not slept. He wasn’t used to sleeping in strange beds and he definitely wasn’t used to sharing. During the long night his sleeplessness had combined with the gradually fading glow from the night’s alcohol consumption to create a kind of limbo, a surreal waiting room for him to occupy while she slept; the world on pause. Like every occasional insomniac Lee hated sleepless nights. Not so tonight, determined as he was to drink in every moment of this new experience. She had to wake up soon and the spell would be broken. He lifted the sheets and stared down at his naked body, the titanium morning erection which had been with him for the last 20 minutes confirming he wasn’t going to be getting any sleep any time soon.
Exasperated, he thought once again of how she'd fallen asleep, shuffling backwards till her bum was nestled in his crotch. He remembered her mumbled goodnight, already half gone, and then, only moments later, how the pattern of her breathing had changed and she was lost to the cycles of sleep and circadian rhythm.
That was 6 hours and 37 minutes ago
He remembered his own attempts to sleep, how much he’d wanted to follow her into unconsciousness, like this was nothing new, like he was taking it all in his stride, a number of unforeseen obstacles however, had presented themselves.
First of all, he found he had to keep his head tilted backwards and out of her hair lest he swallow several strands with each inward breath, still, that wasn’t too bad, he could live with that.
His right arm was draped over her body so he could feel her chest rise and fall with her breathing, his arm strategically positioned so her breasts just about touched at the end of every outward breath. He could definitely live with that.
What he couldn’t live with was the dull tingling which had grown in his left arm. An arm that had jutted out behind him at an entirely unnatural angle, as if from a corpse dropped down the stairs; he’d thought about ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’. What the hell was he supposed to do with his left arm? What did he normally do with it? Lee found he didn’t know. Resigned, he’d slowly extricated himself from the warm embrace and rolled over to take advantage of the thin slice of mattress left available. This was where he’d stayed.
It was 7:25 now and the room was getting brighter at an alarming rate, the bars of light creeping towards the bed. He didn’t know how much time he had left but it couldn’t be long; an hour? 45 minutes? His heart rose in his chest once more, what would she think of him in the cold light of day? How could he possibly sustain a relationship with this girl, how could he possibly get through the morning?
To calm himself Lee returned to the memory of how they’d arrived back at the house. How they’d clattered through the door in a riot of laughing and shouting, falling over themselves as they’d run up the stairs. He thought of her outside the bedroom, how she'd suddenly gone quiet whilst reaching for the handle, leaning forward and resting her head against a panel of the door as if giving herself one last chance to change her mind. Then, the glorious moment when she’d turned to face him with a finger to her lips and backed in to her room. After that things started to get a bit fuzzy, he was sure he could remember everything but the order was getting mixed up. He remembered he hadn’t been nervous. Like squaring up for your first fight and finding you’re not scared.
Ever since puberty, when girls had gone from boring non entities to terrifyingly alluring enigmas, Lee had put the female of the species on an impossible pedestal. Throughout his teenage years he’d avoided any event which might involve girls, immersing himself in the male dominated worlds of computer games and fantasy role play. When the enviable interactions had occurred his bumbling stammering performances had scarred him deeply. In the last couple of years he’d found some solace, if he buried his feelings deep enough he could pull off a passable impression of a normal human. He’d even gained a few female friends. Girls who seemed to like his company, who would laugh at his jokes when he was part of a group but who still seemed markedly uncomfortable when they found themselves alone with him.
Lee wasn’t stupid, he knew what the problem was, he knew he cared too damn much but how could he not? How could anyone possibly affect a cool, nonchalant attitude when the rewards were so great? When a confident interaction, a couple of laughs and some perfectly judged piss-taking could result in the planting of a seed, the beginning of a thought, a ‘Why have I never considered Lee before’ or ‘Lee’s actually cooler than I thought’ or even, and his pulse quickened at the thought, a drunken confession to girlfriends during pre-lash drinks; ‘I’m taking Lee home with me tonight.’ Lee wasn’t fussy, he’d take any of the above, anything which could possibly lead to that promised land of soft skin and softer lips, in jokes and DVD box sets, hands slid cheekily into jean back pockets or play fights on lazy Sunday mornings; the girl wearing only her pants and one of his old T-shirts. More than that it was the self confirmation, the knowledge that he was a normal functioning member of the human race, a man who wasn’t betraying the countless generations before him who’d successfully passed on their DNA, the final banishment of that sense of inadequacy which seemed to spill over into so many other areas of his life. All this before you even considered the sex... But yeah, no big deal, just be cool, you’re not bothered. Whatever.
The girl stirred slightly and broke Lee out of this all too familiar train of thought, he held his breath as she rolled over on to her back but she didn’t wake. A contented smile breaking as he saw her face again. Oh yeah, he thought as he studied her pale features, the Promised Land.
How had he done it? What perfect storm had brought him here, to her room, to her bed? Lee studied the events like an algorithm. He’d been in a good mood, a great mood in fact. He’d worked a long shift and the relief when it finally ended was immense. He’d burst out the door, ran to his car and cranked the stereo, freedom! Thank Christ. He’d known he’d be late to the pub and when he got there the evening was already in full swing, his friends bantering back and forth, him playing catch up and the alcohol in his blood feeling so fucking good. They were quickly on to the club, a dingy Indy dive that plays great music, really loud. Lee had seen her early but was quick not to stare, he wasn’t going to ruin this night getting hung up on some fantasy girl, kicking himself for not having the balls to talk to her. They’d been on the dance floor when Lee found he was empty. It was the last time he saw his friends that night. He’d been at the crowded bar for a good few minutes when he’d realised she was next him. What had come over him? Adrenaline? A rush of blood to the head? Lee wasn’t sure but before he knew it, with no preamble, no introduction, he’d launched into it.
‘Tell you what; if you get served before me you’ve got buy me a drink.’
‘You must be fucking joking’ she’d shot back
‘But if I get served before you, and I have been standing here a good 5 minutes already, I’ll buy you a drink, whatever you want, go fucking nuts’
Her face softened slightly, Lee could tell this girl was used to being chatted up by arseholes and had developed a strong defence mechanism but what he didn’t realise was that this mechanism had no experience dealing with someone with as little experience, as little guile, as him.
‘Okay smart guy, you’re on, and I’ll have a triple Vodka Redbull.’ Her eyes gestured left and Lee turned to look at the bar
‘What can I get you mate.’
‘Ahh fuck’ Lee had sighed as he ordered
‘That backfired didn’t it’ she’d said moments later while sipping coyly through her straw
‘Honestly, the bar staff are all blokes, you’re pretty god damn cute, I just thought I’d give it a go’
‘Ahhh so I’m cute am I?’
‘Oh shit I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant, it’s...’
‘So, not cute then?’
‘Oh no, my god you totally are’
Her smile was broad now, lighting her whole face
‘Relax, I’m fucking with you, you don’t do this often do you?’
‘You could say that’ Lee had chanced meeting her eyes, ‘how am I doing?’
‘We’ll see’ she said, still smiling, ‘you smoke?’
‘Well I do, come on’
With that she’d led him outside and they’d talked, she was passionate about music, she had opinions. Lee had spent a lifetime listening to music in lieu of having a life, he was on safe ground. An hour had passed before he’d asked if she wouldn’t rather go inside and when, without a second’s thought, she’d given him a firm ‘No’. Lee felt something in him shift. This is it, this is living, a glimpse of a life only read about, viewed from afar. He’d felt bold.
‘Alright but can I just... I’ve got a hunch about something and you know, if you’re gonna hijack my entire evening...’
As Lee spoke he’d put his hand up to her face, brushing a few stray hairs back behind her ear. He leaned in, and he kissed her.
‘A hunch?’ She’d exclaimed, hitting him gently as they parted, ‘A hunch? I’ve been stroking your arm for twenty minutes!’
Lee had felt invincible, he was the fucking king, this was who he should be, who he was meant to be and this is how he would feel from now on. It was time to take another chance.
‘Do you know what the most spoken line in movies is?’
She’d taken a moment before answering ‘Yes and yes’
‘Sorry?’ He hadn’t been ready for that
‘I mean, and that is a pretty cheesy line by the way, yes I know what it is, and yes I would, I think I’d like that very much’
‘Okay,’ Lee had taken a beat; he’d looked down at the floor, it was happening, he was going home with her. It was the greatest night of his life, bar none, he’d breathed in deeply, lifted his head, met her eyes and he spoke the line.
‘Let’s get out of here’
‘Oh Mr Darcy, I’ve never felt like this before’ she’d said, mock swooning as they left
‘Your place or mine? He’d said grinning uncontrollably
‘Okay, now you’re really pushing it!’
Lee sat up in the bed, he felt emotion swelling in his chest once more but this time it wasn’t anxiety. He felt pride, relief and utter contentment. He clenched his fists and closed his eyes. He’d done it, it had taken 21 years, but he’d done it. What did he have to fear now? What more did he want? This girl, this gorgeous, funny, sweet girl was way, way, way out of his league, he couldn’t help that. She’d have offers from guys who were, smarter, richer, better looking. Guys who could take her places he couldn’t and he wasn’t going to deny her those experiences, he wasn’t going to clutch on desperately. There would be other girls, he knew that now. All he could do was enjoy the time he had with her, however long that might be. Lee searched his mind and found that for the first time he could remember, he genuinely didn’t care, he was just happy he was with her now. He looked at the time; he’d been in limbo for seven and a half hours now. His life had been on pause for a lot longer than that; it was time to play, time to wake up, time to stop the clock. Lee leaned over and put his hand gently on her shoulder. She stirred lazily, opened her eyes and looked up at him.
‘Hey,’ she groaned sleepily, ‘how are you feeling?’
‘Fine’ he said ‘I feel fine’
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