"Its all about sex. All of it."
Lucy grins over the linguine. Josh lounges back in his chair.
"Are we still pretending this is a first date?"
"Are you saying I can't talk about sex on a first date?"
"Ummm. Are you the kind of girl who talks about sex on a first date?"
"I'm not really talking about sex, I'm talking about...that other stuff."
"Which of us has to say sorry about Felicity first?"
"Fuuuuuuuck. How did he get up there?" Lucy walks slowly about the bed, wondering if she should use the handhold presented to her. No, no. Baaaaad Lucy.
"I think it was the milk. I put the wrong milk in the hot chocolate." Amy tidies his clothes into pile, uselessly. She's covered herself with her dressing gown, uncomfortably aware that nothing in her wardrobe really fits her at the moment.
Of course its the milk. Half a glance at Amy shows that. Her every step is half walking, half-drifting; her own inflated mammeries pushing up into her face. But Lucy has decided to be mad at Sharon later. It's bad enough the mess with Michael. Amy is probably just going to die if Lucy mentions that as well.
"Pulling people off your ceiling is getting to be a habit. We should put a crash mat up there."
"Is he going to be OK?" Amy crouches by the headboard. She has acquired an unaccountable urge to hold onto something heavy. "I mean....he's pretty..."
"Hard to tell. " Lucy sucks her teeth, trying to contain her laughter. "Was it ....always that size...?"
"I think so. Balloons bounce, you know. Look; I can fix this, but we're going to need to.....you need to squeeze yourself back down first."
He's groggy when he wakes up. That makes everything easier. This had better be persuasive.
"Don't move. Don't move sweetie. You took quite a knock" Amy presses a cold compress down. "This is Lucy. She's a nurse."
That is almost totally true. She's done first aid with St John's ambulance. Then a refresher course. Head injuries are tricky but at at least she's sure nothing is broken.
"How do you feel? Can you see my fingers?" Lucy is brusque, trying to give the impression that she does this all the time.
"Yeah....I....yeah...three fingers. And....three....what....happened....just...bigger....Oh shit. My head hurts. Like really hurts."
"You got a little enthusiastic with Amy and whacked yourself on the headboard. It's OK; I've seen worse. Careful!" She moves to support him as he tries to sit upright on the bed.
"I thought....ceiling...and....oh, that hurts!" His eyes swim as Lucy suddenly presses the ice pad on harder. Hopefully he realises he's naked under that strategically positioned sheet.
"Sorry! You what....?" She smiles beatifically. "Don't worry too much; things can be a little scrambled after a knock like that. It's very common to be disorientated and not remember things clearly. Just let it go."
"Yeah....thanks....I just thought....I...." he looks at Amy, squinting at a perfectly normal C cup, thoughts chasing an escaping muse. "I....."
Amy giggles bashfully. Lucy smiles in what she hopes is a reassuring manner. "Don't try to think too much about it. So long as you're not totally delusional I think we can leave you crazy lovebirds alone again without dragging you half naked through A&E...right?"
"Yeah...I thought...ok....would have sounded crazy anyway...hard knock huh?"
London is a bright smudge between her ankles; swaying through the cradle of the bedsheet and her inflated thighs. A splash of warm milk is curdling where her exposed tummy edges to fuzziness and secret warmth. She checks her phone. God, how did she ever think of doing this before GPS?
"Moooocy." The sound is low and spent from the moon suspended above her.
Lucy can't see Sharon talking. She's the other way around. She feels only her lift communicated through the impromptu harness. She puts out her touch against pastel pinks and beige and white. Soft hair yields about exposed flesh; rubbery and perking and pluckable. Lucy sighs and circles, awhirl of rounded nubs, remembering their deeper and deeper tones, until they climax in the secret folds. The drawn tightness. The intense pressure of a lover who takes draws you up rather than down.
Part of Lucy would be happy here. But she can feel her weight returning. Thoughts of Josh like an anchor, sound and firm to hold her.
"Yeah. I'm here, Shaz. We both are." She sighs. "Ready to go down?"
Sharon says nothing. She is all hollows and buoyancy and stars. There is nowhere to hide within herself, from herself. A softer deeper moan escapes her from self-realisation, from the spot where Sharon-the-Girl is, not Sharon the Balloon-Cow. Fuckinghellthatwasgood. It seems to say.
Lucy smiles wanfully.
"Shaz, you are a lovely and sensible person. And far too sensible to be mixed up in this shit. It's Thursday night and you should be studying for your accountancy or something. Not stuck up here with me. So I'm sorry that I got you into it. And I'm sorry about how it turned out. The thing is...I've got the feeling you're not sorry. I've got the feeling that a bit of you has been secretly enjoying it. There's something of you in here.
"Moooocy" moans Sharon. With her milk spent, her ballooned body seems barely half the size it was on the patio. She seems lost in the afterglow of pleasure and guilt.
Lucy reaches into herself for that feeling. For the control. For the Strange.
"You make a cute and sensuous balloon cow, Shaz. But I liked you better as a girl. Come back to me."
"OK. I should have explained how I felt. Mark me down as one of those guys I'm stupid enough to not be able to tell the difference between fear and disinterest."
"Well.....I shouldn't have turned your last girlfriend into a balloon cow. I am really, really, really sorry about that. Honestly"
"We weren't technically..."
""Balloon. Cow. Floating. With udders." Lucy waves her hands. Suddenly its all perfectly ridiculous and understandable.
"I think....three glasses of...what is this stuff again? Three glasses is probably enough...."
Lucy twirls her fork. "OK. OK. We are not going to apologise to each other about Felicity again. Ever. Understood?"
"Or else....what?" Josh lets the question hang "I end up on the ceiling?"
"If you're lucky." says Lucy, playfully. "I have this, like, awesome burden. It takes just one moment of inattention from my legendary self-control and whoosh." she flicks her wrist demonstratively. A prawn flies off her fork and sails across the room. "Oh.....shit."
Felicity disappears for two months. The doctor's note to her HR director says stress-conditioned latent acrophobia. When she comes back, it's as if nothing had happened.
"We could just...coffee. Yeah"
"I didn't mean..."
"I wouldn't mind if you did."
"It's not....it's not quite....all about sex. Not really. It's about... fear of...., I guess. Oh, that's a crap way of putting it. Not fear....Just...not recognising the sensual part of myself. Not accepting that part of myself. I get tingly-scared; not tingly-nervous. Then it all bubbles up....out...Whooosh. " She's a little bit drunk. It's good. She's safe with him.
"I can do expresso, you know. I have a machine."
Lucy laughs, (God, she sounds like a teenager). "Lets be careful with things under pressure!"
Sharon writes the ad the next day. Lucy nods over her cornflakes; mumbling "Sure; £450 a month? Can we get that?
"Yeah, with the DLR running nights, it's pricey enough even off high street now. And its a good time of year with Southbank; we've got all these wealthy foreign students looking for digs about now.
"I'll clear my things out of the main bathroom."
Sharon spent most of sunday scrubbing the bathroom down. Just because...memories.
"Luce.....about the other night....I wanted to say..."
"Forget it Shaz. It's alright. It doesn't mean anything." Lucy doesn't look up from her phone and breakfast. "Josh is coming by later. Do you mind?"
"No. I meant...we....umm.....thanks. That's cool. Josh, I mean. I guess you are an item now?"
"Now we just....Mmm....like this?" He kisses Lucy on her neck. She's surprisingly ticklish there.
"You're...ok...with this. With me?"
"I think so...I think you are too. I think you've needed to be ok with someone for a while"
That much is true. Lucy can feel the Strange asking permission. She could if she wanted. She totally could. But it's a part of me not some unbiddable tide; and I feel as I feel and want what I want and do what I choose. She accepts her desires, and in that moment has agency. Control.
With a smile none can see she decides not to, and leaves the light on.
For some reason, Amy looks over her shoulder even though she's the only person in her flat. The pneumatic hiss of brakes on the number 73 makes her jump. The indrawn breath is the smell of apricots and henna lingered from the shower. Slank down her hair, she traces the procession of droplets through the curve of her breasts to where the towel arcs about her hips. The slash of red cotton is suspended in steam and the wrinkle of her nose, showing a secret edge where it snagged and baffled.
She looks back in the mirror, arcing below the fabric where her fingers touched and grazed. Above the fuzz of her secret tenderness, below her belly, the Nub. Puce-folded translucency of a hidden valve. Another nozzle.
Lucy practises. Hand out, eyes half shut, and that feeling.
The balloon bounces twice on the floor of the sitting room, then rises sharply to the ceiling, rebounding with something lighter-than-air. A smile, and it descends again.
She has totally got this.
Upstairs, Sharon checks herself over very carefully in front of the mirror. She prods her skin, feeling its texture, elasticity. No tufts of hair betray themselves (well, except where they are supposed to be). He tummy is smooth and flush. She jumps; just to hear the reassuring thud of coming back down again. Her breasts fit neatly into her small bra, and seem content there.
Her sensibleness wheezes out in a sigh. Her eyes are brown and broken.
She fucked/was fucked/really enjoyed herself with Lucy. She might be a bit lezzie. A little bit anyway. You can be a little bit. Right? It doesn't mean anything. She bites her lip. It's not that she doesn't like guys. She's been with men. She thinks of them, sometimes, just,....but who the heck is she kidding?
But that's not the real problem.
She still feels Strange.