RIDE AROUND MIDNIGHT
This story belongs in the Uber category. All characters are created by me though they may occasionally remind you of someone.
This story depicts a steamy, romantic relationship between consenting adult women. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top right corner of your screen right away.
All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
The registered trademarks mentioned in this story are © of their respective owners. No infringement of their rights is intended, and no profit is gained.
NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR:
Written: January 2nd - 5th, 2017, for the 2017 Royal Academy Of Bards' Valentine's Day Invitational.
Thank you very much for your help, Wendy Arthur :)
As usual, I'd like to say a great, big THANK YOU to my mates at AUSXIP Talking Xena, especially to the gals and guys in Subtext Central. I really appreciate your support - Thanks, everybody! :D
Description: A major snow storm is never good news. A major snow storm on Valentine's Day is downright awful news, especially for all those who are out in it trying to earn a living. Cab driver Tanja Laursen is one of those unfortunate individuals. Her evening is already a bust when fate finally intervenes and she finds herself sharing a meal with a cute blonde - perhaps Valentine's Day will produce some magic after all?
'-For the weather report at a quarter to six. We don't have windows in our studio, but we have a roving reporter standing by. So, Rasmus, what's the situation out there?' the radio host said before throwing to the unfortunate individual who had been on duty on the evening that had been supposed to be a fun affair for everybody.
'Miserable! The snow is still bucketing down… we've got fifteen centimeters already and there's more on the way. It'll probably get here about eight or nine or so. It's freezing cold, and the wind chill factor's gotta be in the double-digits below zero… that's what it feels like on my cheeks, anyway! The road services are doing what they can to keep the main streets clear, but the high winds and the continuing snowfall turn it into mission impossible. It's really killed Valentine's Day this year, that's for sure…'
Sighing, Tanja Laursen turned down the volume on her taxicab's stereo before she returned to tapping her fingers on the leather steering wheel. The look through the Skoda Superb's windshield onto the streets of Copenhagen only confirmed what the roving reporter had said to the host back at the studio - the snow was still coming down hard, there was no relief in sight, and the high winds just compounded the misery.
She had been a cab driver for ten years and an owner-operator for the last five of her thirty-four years on the planet, but she had never experienced a Valentine's Day that had been such a bust as the one she was living through at that exact moment. Though it was supposed to be one of the busiest nights in the first few months of the year, the streets were more or less deserted save for the hardy few who hurried along the slippery sidewalks looking like stray polar bears that had escaped captivity.
The Skoda's wipers swished back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, to get rid of the unwanted white stuff that fell from the sky, and the heater was going at one notch below the 'Sahara' setting. Even so, the conditions inside the taxicab weren't too warm because of the wind chill factor that blasted against the metal sides of the station wagon.
All drivers and owner-operators working for the 10-10-10 cab company were required to wear a uniform, and thus, Tanja Laursen wore dark-blue slacks, a pale-blue pilot shirt with a name tag and a company logo, a dark-blue neck tie, and finally a dark-blue winter jacket with the cab company's logo on the left front. In addition to that, she wore a dark-blue, knitted cardigan under the winter jacket so she wouldn't risk catching a cold that would render her unable to pull the seventy-hour working weeks she needed to earn a living.
As the traffic lights turned green at the City Hall Square, she continued along H.C. Andersen's Boulevard headed for the next intersection. After making a left onto Vester Farimagsgade, she trickled past some of the classier hotels to see if she would get lucky, but the doormen in their fancy frocks were all passive. If she continued straight ahead, she would end up back where she started, so she hung a right onto Kampmannsgade, drove over the bridge spanning St. George's Basin and turned left onto Vodroffsvej to get over to Gammel Kongevej or further onto Vesterbrogade.
Choosing the small side street proved to be a mistake since the city's road services hadn't bothered to clear it. Tanja cursed out loud and slowed down to a safer twenty-five kilometers an hour so she would have time to stop in case something unexpected happened - like being lucky enough to get a paying customer.
At the far end of Vodroffsvej, she came to a halt at the intersection at Gammel Kongevej near the planetarium while she debated silently with herself on which direction to go; she had a choice of going right to drive past the many restaurants on the old boulevard, or left to enter the cinema district. The snow was coming down as hard as ever, so she imagined the restaurants were well-short of their expectations for the evening.
Sighing again, Tanja turned the leather steering wheel left and drove into the cinema district. The Imperial was showing a superhero movie she had never heard of, and the lack of movie-goers on the snow-covered sidewalk meant the showing hadn't finished yet. A single glance at the long line of waiting cabs at the taxi rank proved that taking her chances there would be a waste of her time.
The takeout businesses around town seemed to have a good night as the delivery cars and vans from the various pizza parlors raced through the streets on a hopeless quest to get through the snow before their deliveries turned cold. The sight of one of the flat-red delivery cars from the All U Can Eat chain of independent pizza parlors fish-tailing across an intersection where the traffic lights had already turned yellow made her stomach growl - she was in the fourth hour of her shift, and the only nourishment she'd had during that time had been a peanut candy bar and a mug of black coffee.
Tanja sighed again and trickled past the Imperial to get to the Palace multiplex the next street over. The large building was painted in a multitude of garish colors to highlight its nature as a family entertainment hot spot; the electronic amusement arcade in the basement was one of the largest in Scandinavia or indeed in northern Europe, and the dance club at the far end was renowned for its world class guest DJs.
Turning right and driving across the bridge spanning the open trench where the subway ran, Tanja's eyes zoomed in on the group of people who trickled out of the cinema's main entrance just as she drove across the next intersection. The trickle soon turned into a steady stream of people who acted as if they were surprised to find that it was still snowing.
"Finally!" she said out loud, mashing the throttle to be the first cab in line. She had barely pulled up to the curb before all three passenger doors were opened and three young, well-dressed people - two women and a man - climbed inside in a hurry to get out of the snow.
"Oh! The weather's even worse now!" a young woman who was sitting behind Tanja said as she found the seat belt and buckled up. In her mid-twenties like her two companions, the young woman reached into her purse to find one of her credit cards. As she did so, a whiff of her expensive perfume wafted through the cab. "Driver, you accept this card, right?" she continued, leaning forward and holding out the card.
Tanja looked at the black Visa card and nodded. "Yes we do, Miss. Where to?" she said as she turned on the electronic meter and readied the GPS access pad.
The young man on the front seat turned around to look at the young women who occupied the back seat. "It's way too early to go home… how about the Shipyard?"
The two young women looked at each other before they broke out in knowing snickers. "Works for us… driver, the Shipyard club down at the docks," the first young woman said.
Tanja nodded again and closed the GPS access pad - she didn't need it since she knew exactly where the Shipyard club was located. Looking over her shoulder to find a spot between the many cabs that had popped up out of nowhere when the multiplex had released a load of potential customers, she drove into the snowbound traffic and set off for the popular night club that had been created inside the vast assembly hall of an old, abandoned shipyard.
The next hour went by without further fares, so Tanja's stomach turned grumpy and began to send out a constant series of rumbles. Just when she had made the decision to drive into the covered gas station at the old Shell House on Kampmannsgade to get a greasy snack of some kind, her private telephone rang from deep down in her pocket.
She quickly mashed the earpiece into her left ear and retrieved the telephone before it would go to her voice-mail service. The caller-ID belonged to one of her friends from the community, and a brief smile flashed across her face. Accepting the call, she put the telephone back into her pocket so she could keep both hands on the steering wheel through the atrocious driving conditions. "Hi, Christa, you gorgeous bunny-girl. What's up?" she said in a voice that was colored by the smile she wore.
The woman at the other end of the line let out a wild giggle before she cleared her throat to get down to business. 'Hi, Tanja! Are you working tonight?'
"I'm always working."
'Of course… Merete and I were wondering if you had the time to pick us up? There's a big Valentine's Day event going on at the Pan & Pandora tonight… and it's still on, we just called to verify… so… uh… we don't wanna miss it. Unlike some people I could mention. Sticks in the mud who need to get out more and meet some gals.'
Tanja chuckled at the thinly veiled insult. "Yeah, I got time to pick you up. And some of us need to work hard for a living, ya know. We can't just sit in an office from eight to four and have fun."
'Just to let you know, I got a paper cut yesterday!'
"Awww, poor you! But anyway… I'm at the Bispebjerg Hospital, near the Tagensvej, Tuborgvej intersection so it'll be, oh, a short fifteen minutes before I can be at your pad. On second thoughts, we better say twenty minutes. Quarter past seven or so. The streets are so awful tonight you wouldn't believe it."
'Honestly, why don't you go home and take the night off for a change? Wear something nice and sweet-talk that cute blonde down on the first floor… what was her name?'
"Come on, Christa… I can't do that!"
As Tanja spoke, the traffic lights turned green ahead of her, but the line of cars was so long, and the first car so slow to get away, that only a small handful of vehicles made it across before the lights changed to red again. Rolling her eyes, she came to another stop behind a taxicab from a competing company.
'Why not? That's how me and Merete got hooked up-'
"Well, you could do that 'cos you're a natural charmer. I can't," Tanja said and took a gander at herself in the rear-view mirror. She had always considered her eyes to be the highlights of her otherwise plain face. A shade of blue not often seen outside of the movies, they held a certain mystique that some women found attractive. So far, so good, but the less said about the rest of her face the better. Mousy-brown hair and matching eyebrows, gray lips, a nose that had a slight kink to it halfway up, and a chin that had a nasty tendency to turn double if she didn't watch her eating habits. On top of that, she had a grayish, pasty complexion from the crazy hours she worked. All in all, she wasn't what anyone would call the 'catch of the day.'
'Oh, come on… that's just B.S., Tanja.'
"Hey, do you want me to pick you up or what?" Tanja said in a joking fashion as the traffic lights turned green once more. The driver of the taxicab ahead of her stepped hard on the gas to get across the intersection, and that left her plenty of time to take a more cautious approach to the maneuver.
'All right, all right… so… are you coming?'
"I'm already on my way. Going down the upper part of Tagensvej as I speak… closing in on the subway station… shit, the lights at the Lygten turned red. They always last an eternity," she said and put her foot on the brake pedal.
'Okay, I'm gonna tell Merete. See ya soon, Tanja. Bye.'
"Bye, Christa," Tanja said and removed the earpiece. Across the intersection on the snow-covered sidewalk near the subway station, a person dressed in dark clothing - that had turned white on the shoulders by the falling snow - stepped out onto the bicycle lane and waved his or her arm to catch the attention of any vacant cabs in the vicinity.
"Aw! Typical!" Tanja said as she rubbed her brow. Moving her hand up to the right arm on the steering column, she turned the windshield wipers up another notch to verify that it really was a potential fare, and found that all the signs were there.
Pondering her options, she thought about calling Christa at once to say there had been a change of plans, but that wouldn't be a nice thing to do to an old friend. On the other hand, she could use the money the fare would give her. On the third hand, it wasn't always the best neighborhood to pick up fares - she had been tricked there once by a young fellow who took off from her cab the moment she had come to a halt at the destination.
The decision was made for her when a vacant cab from the same taxi company she worked for slid around the corner from the Lygten. The other driver spotted the waving person at once and drove onto the curb to pick him or her up.
Shrugging, Tanja stepped on the gas to move on as the lights turned green.
Eighteen minutes later, she double-parked on Livjægergade in front of a five-storey apartment complex. It didn't take long for Christa Simonsen and her wife of the past two years, Merete Lystrup, to come out onto the snow-covered sidewalk wearing dark overcoats that no doubt covered elegant clothing fit for the Pan & Pandora LGBT night club.
The two women hurried across the piles of snow on the small street and almost jumped onto the back seat of the warm, cozy Skoda. After shutting the car's doors to keep King Frost on the outside, Christa leaned forward and put out her hand that held three one-hundred Kroner bills.
"Hiya, Tanja! Thanks for picking us up. We gals need to stick together, right?" she said with a wink. Thirty-three years old and possessing plenty of boi-ish charm, Christa Simonsen had been a player in the community before her heart had been captured by the woman who occupied the left side of the back seat.
Grinning, Tanja took the bills and put them into her liner pocket. She still activated the electronic meter for the sake of the monthly controls by the authorities, but the money on the side was an old arrangement for making sure the Sisters were safe in the bustling, and not always gay-friendly, nightlife.
"Hiya, Christa… Merete," Tanja said over her shoulder. Craning her neck, she checked out Merete Lystrup in the mirror and saw that the white-blonde beauty had only grown prettier since the last time they had met. "So… the Pan & Pandora, huh?" she continued as she stepped on the gas and ventured back onto the narrow, snow-covered street.
"Yeah! They've advertised like crazy since the New Year," Merete said from the back seat in her trademark husky voice that had been the cause of plenty of fluttering tummies when she had been unattached. "It was in all the community leaflets and magazines. Didn't you see their ads?"
"Sure I did," Tanja said, turning the leather steering wheel to clear a big pile of snow that the Weather Gods had decided to dump in the middle of the quiet Livjægergade, "but Valentine's Day is the busiest evening of the first half of the year… or it was supposed to be, anyhow."
"You said it…" Merete continued as she looked out of the Skoda's window as the taxicab trickled along the snow-covered street. "Look at this awful weather! We've been watching TV2News all evening to stay updated, and they say we may get as much as fifteen centimeters more going into the night hours!"
"That's what I heard too," Tanja said and let out a sigh. She turned the leather steering wheel right as they reached a small intersection, and they were soon headed for Østerbrogade - the main artery presented the fastest way to the night club that was located deep in the maze of side streets surrounding the no-driving zone at the heart of Copenhagen.
"Mmmm," Christa grunted, "that's why we called the club to verify the event was still on. They said it was, so… here we go. It's gonna be great."
"Hey, Tanja," Christa said, leaning forward on her seat after they had driven through the white world of snow for a quarter of an hour, "have ya thought about what I said 'bout going home to sweet-talk the blonde-"
Up front, Tanja rolled her eyes that were growing weary from staring into the whiteness outside. The ubiquitous LED lamps that lined every street and road in Copenhagen cast bright cones of light down onto the snow-covered pavement - that was good in and by itself, but it gave the snow that was already on the ground an odd, greenish hue that was tiring to look at after a while. "Aw, Jeez, Christa… give it a rest, will ya?"
"I think you should talk to her! I definitely think you should… you never know where chatting to a cute blonde might lead you… right, sugar?" Christa said and leaned across the back seat to surprise her wife with a wet smooch on her cheek.
Chuckling, Merete pulled Christa close for a far better kiss before she moved to the side so she could see Tanja in the rear-view mirror. "Is she the gal you mentioned once, Tanja? The cute one living on the first floor of your apartment building? Is it true she's working in a hardware store? You know what that means, right? It means she has…"
Merete and Christa looked at each other before they broke out in identical snickers. "Skilled hands!" they both said as one.
"I knew I shoulda kept my mouth shut around you tweety birds," Tanja said and let out another deep, dramatic sigh that was tempered by a low chuckle. "Yeah, it's the same gal. Her name's Maybritt. And I'm not gonna chat her up on Valentine's Day… that would just be the ultimate in cheesiness."
"But you-" Christa said, but Tanja shook her head at once.
"Not gonna happen, so save your breath, Christa. Okay, we're almost there," Tanja said and made a tight left turn into a narrow alley that ran along the back of the Pan & Pandora club. At the end of the alley, a street sign marked the area beyond it as part of the zone where most motorized traffic was prohibited save for emergency vehicles, delivery trucks and taxicabs.
The pedestrian zone known as the Strøget was covered in what appeared to be forty centimeters of snow, but plenty of party-clad people braved the windy, snowy conditions to loiter near the many clubs in the area for a quick cigarette before they would return inside. "This is as far as I can go, guys," Tanja said and turned off the electronic meter. "There's too much snow ahead, so…"
"Okay, Tanja," Christa said and reached up front to shake her friend's hand. "Thanks for giving us a ride. Are you still on the street when we're looking to get home?"
Another cab came up behind Tanja's Skoda Superb so she activated the turning signal to tell the other driver that she had parked. "I don't know… what time would that be? I think I'm gonna call it quits at midnight or so."
A charcoal-gray Mercedes from a competing cab company soon trickled past her clearly looking for fares from the night club district, but when the driver spotted the forty-centimeter wall of snow on the Strøget, he reversed back where he had come from.
"Shit, we'll definitely be here longer than that. They've got all kinds of neat entertainment planned, so… uh… I guess we'll have to risk a regular cab home," Christa said and looked at her wife who could only shrug in return.
Grunting, Tanja turned around to get a better look at her friends. "If you call a regulated cab and not one of those Uber crooks, you'll be fine. That's a guarantee."
Merete grinned and reached up front to touch Tanja's hand. "We will, Tanja. Thanks for the ride… we'll call you tomorrow to hear all the saucy details about what you and the cute blonde got up to."
"Aw, Jeez!" Tanja said and clapped a hand over her eyes; she couldn't stop a throaty chuckle from escaping her lips as her two friends exited the cab and hurried through the wall of white that still came down from above.
Later on in the evening, closing in on twenty past eight, Tanja had made good on her earlier promise to her growling stomach by returning to the covered gas station that was located on the ground floor of the legendary Shell House building on Kampmannsgade.
The diesel pump she was using sent out the customary strong smell, but Tanja was so used to it after ten years in the business it didn't register with her any longer. When the tank was full, she removed the nozzle from the vent and re-attached the filler cap.
She had to wait at the pump while the computer inside it processed her diesel card and printed out the receipt, and it gave her an opportunity to look out onto the snow-covered street where the only traffic consisted of empty buses, equally empty taxicabs and a plethora of takeout delivery cars that were all in such a hurry that they couldn't even be bothered to wait for the red lights. How the streets weren't littered with wrecked pizza vans was beyond her.
The snow was coming down harder than ever, and 'bleak' didn't even begin to describe the scene. Sighing, Tanja took the receipt after the machine had finished printing it out. She checked it as she always did and stuffed it into her wallet when it turned out to be correct.
Her stomach had sent out frequent distress calls for the better part of half an hour, so instead of returning to the snowy world outside the gas station, she drove away from the diesel pumps and over to the only empty bay close to the station's store.
After locking her Skoda by pressing a button on her keyfob, she strolled over to the brightly-lit store to find something that could quell the gnawing hunger she carried in her gut. The glass doors slid aside for her, allowing her free passage to the neat, clean and tidy environment where the conditioned air held a mix of a hundred different smells.
The shelves abounded with all sorts of goods that had very little to do with the core business of getting fuel: family magazines, adult magazines, comic books, regular books, family DVDs, adult DVDs, flowers, cacti, cheap reading glasses, even cheaper sunglasses, windshield wash, WD40, motor oil, window wipers, ice scrapers, snow shovels, spark plugs, car bulbs, and an endless array of other things on offer. In addition to that, the store had an ice cream freezer, two refrigerated cabinets for fresh milk, cream, cheese, sodas, beer and salads, a heated bake-off cabinet for bread and pastries, and a grill where a whole row of frankfurters were sizzling in plenty of grease.
The acne-riddled young man behind the counter looked up when Tanja entered the store, but soon lost interest and turned his attention back to the magazine he was reading. Pop FM, the most popular of the privately-run radio stations in Copenhagen, played from the store's speakers, and they chose that moment to cue Adele's Hello.
Tanja scrunched up her face and began chewing on her lips while she thought of what she wanted to eat. The sizzling sausages called out to her like latter-day Sirens, but the heated bake-off cabinet looked inviting as well. A closer inspection of the bake-off pastries left her with a sinking feeling - the Danish looked like it had spent the entire day in the heating cabinet, and her favorite pastry, the Dagmar pie with two kinds of frosting, was soggy and carried a gray tone that betrayed the many hours it too had spent behind the glass doors.
Sighing, she shuffled over to the sizzling grill, but neither the greasy mini-sausages wrapped in bacon, nor the even greasier frankfurters could capture her interest after all, especially not at the extortionate prices they were going for. Instead, she strolled back across the smooth floor to one of the refrigerators to check out the salads the store had to offer.
She could only roll her eyes at the dishwater-dull, pre-fabricated sandwiches and salads for sale, and she had to let out a muted curse at the prices that were all on the wrong side of thirty-five kroner for something that didn't look to be worth more than fifteen.
The candy shelves came to her rescue, and she settled for another of her favorite pastries, a raspberry Swiss roll that only cost twelve kroner. Snatching the plastic-wrapped, pre-fabricated dry pastry off the shelf, she shuffled back to the counter where the acne-riddled sales clerk waited for her with a bored expression on his face.
At the last moment, she decided to splash out on something to drink as well, and she made a detour to one of the refrigerated cabinets where she took a can of Cocio Classic chocolate milk off the shelf.
"That'll be twenty-five kroner," the acne-riddled youth said as he moved the two items Tanja had bought into the red beam of the bar code reader.
Tanja didn't even try smiling at the young man as she put the coins needed into the funnel of the automated cash register. The coins clinged and clanged on their way down into the guts of the machine where they were counted and accounted for. When the cash register accepted the payment, the receipt was printed out. The young man had already begun crumpling it in his hand when Tanja spoke up. "Hold it, fella… I need that for my accounts."
The acne-riddled sales clerk only offered her a bored look as he uncrumpled the piece of paper and handed it to her.
"Thanks," Tanja said and shuffled out of the store just as an older, white-haired cab driver from a competing cab company came the other way. The two drivers nodded a quick hello at each other before they went their separate ways - the older man went up to the counter to pay for the diesel he had bought, and Tanja shuffled over to her Skoda to tear open and dig into the junk food.
She came to a grinding halt halfway there when she realized with a rising sense of annoyance that the snow was coming down even harder after her brief visit in the gas station's store. "Oh, for cripes' sake," she mumbled, staring out at the dense flurry of snow-white flakes that filled the air under the LED street lamps. The strong winds made the flakes tear around and create drifts and banks within moments of landing on the ground.
Though Kampmannsgade had already been cleared once, it was filling up with snow at an alarming rate. Even the takeout delivery cars had slowed down to a crawl to avoid ruining the pizzas they were hauling through the snow, and that alone made Tanja sigh out loud as it meant the conditions had turned from mere atrocious to downright undrivable.
She shook her head as she sat down in her Skoda Superb and put the can of chocolate milk in one of the cup holders. When her fingers knocked against the leather steering wheel by accident, she lost her grip on the wrapped Swiss roll that ended up on the floor mat with a bump - but even the rough landing couldn't put as much as a dent into the pre-fabricated pastry.
The plastic wrapping was soon torn off the package, and the sickly sweet raspberry pastry ended its days between Tanja's jaws where it was joined by healthy swigs of the chocolate milk.
After getting a quick fix from the junk food, Tanja started her taxi and drove out into the grotesquely awful conditions. The abundance of snow that still fell from the sky made it just about impossible to get anywhere, and she knew she could forget all about finding fares in that kind of weather. As she drove through the city streets, she thought she had become the last person on earth - she saw no one who looked like they had even a remote interest in catching a cab.
The Skoda Superb's anti-locking brakes and traction-control systems worked overtime each and every instance she as much as touched the pedals, but she didn't find herself in any dangerous situations until a Sunday driver in a Volkswagen Up created one for her by swerving into her lane not six meters ahead of her cab when he tried to make a turn he shouldn't have.
Cursing out loud, Tanja employed her skills and experience behind the wheel to keep the larger taxicab on course and away from the smaller vehicle; she got through the mess without a scratch, but the other driver wasn't as skilled - though he was only going at less than thirty kilometers per hour, he over-corrected, spun around in a three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn, and nudged his white VW nose-first into a bank of snow that was even whiter than the car. "Tough shit, sunny boy," Tanja mumbled as she shuffled around in her seat to find her rhythm once more.
"Oh, what's the damn point… there's nobody here," Tanja said as she felt the anti-locking brakes send their characteristic rumbling sensation through the brake pedal and up into the sole of her boot. A set of traffic lights near her home had turned red just as she had reached them, but she released her foot from the brakes which made the Skoda trickle across the deserted intersection despite the glaring red lights that shone down from above.
Turning off Sallingvej, she went a short distance up Limfjordsvej until she found a free parking spot. She slotted into it double-quick, turned off the engine and let out a lengthy, frustrated sigh. The oddly-shaped lumps of snow next to her were in fact cars that had been covered by the white stuff, and another sigh escaped her when she realized she would need to spend half an hour or more the following day just sweeping her taxi clean.
Though it was a quarter to nine in the evening, the tireless Turkish immigrants who owned the Pizza Palace on the ground floor of the apartment building where Tanja lived were still hard at work behind the steamed-up storefront windows. The man who was beating a defenseless glob of pizza dough into submission behind the counter waved at her as she shuffled past out on the sidewalk.
She couldn't wave back since she carried her roof light in one hand - the electronic light was far too expensive to leave unattended overnight - while the other held up the winter jacket so she wouldn't get a truck-load of wet, icy snow in her hair, but she nodded a hello on her way over to the stairwell access door which was located between the pizza parlor and a hairdresser salon. The whiff of spices, kebab meat, sizzling French fries and freshly baked, steaming hot pizzas that greeted her when she walked past the restaurant sent her hungry stomach into a growling frenzy, and she had a strong hunch she'd visit the shop sooner rather than later.
After checking the mail box at the foot of the stairwell and finding nothing, Tanja began the long trek up the stone staircase to get to her apartment on the fourth floor. The staircase had been washed by a professional cleaning company only two days prior to the relentless onslaught of the Abominable Snow Storm, but so much slush and snow had been dragged inside by the residents coming home from work that it had been a waste of time for all involved.
Upstairs at her apartment, Tanja put down the expensive roof light and snuck her hand into the pocket where she always kept her keys. No keys. She furrowed her brow as she checked her other pants pockets as well, but the search yielded nothing save for old lint and a candy wrapper that she had meant to throw out at the first given opportunity. "Aw… aw, I don't believe it…" she said and let out a groan. Her hands went on a quick tour of all the pockets in her winter jacket, and then her cardigan - it only had one, so it was a quick job - but it didn't give her anything.
"Oh, for the love of… I changed my uniform pants just before I went to work," she said in a tone that made it sound like a single, long groan. Her eyes rolled up until she looked at the button-light attached to the ceiling of the stairwell. "And I forgot to transfer my keys… gimme a break… how could I have been so stupid?!"
Groaning out loud, Tanja gave the sturdy, burglar-proof door to her apartment a small headbutt, but while the cool surface gave her flushed skin a brief respite from the heated blood that coursed through it from the annoyance - and embarrassment - it didn't open it by magic.
A strong utterance of "Fuck!" burst forth from her lips; the barked word echoed up and down the stairwell, but yielded even less than the fruitless search through all her pockets had done.
"Of all the stupid, dumbass things to do… Jeez, Tanja… when you mess up, you really fuckin' mess up! Gawd!" The undeniable statement was followed by a deep sigh that came from the bottom of her soul. "Well, at least I have a lifeboat," she mumbled as she picked up the taxicab's expensive roof light and shuffled back down the staircase.
When she had moved into the apartment building some eighteen months earlier, it hadn't taken her long to discover that she and the cute blonde down on the first floor were the only single women; the remaining eight apartments sharing the same stairwell were all inhabited by mature families or twenty-something bachelors.
As one of the first things she had done after moving in, she had asked Maybritt Bentzon if she was interested in swapping their spare sets of keys. They had agreed at once that neither of them would ever feel comfortable if the keys were in the possession of some random guy who would have access to their apartment while they were at work - or even when they were at home - so the keys had duly been swapped after a nice cup of coffee.
It had marked the first time she and the cute blonde had shared a word, but it hadn't been the last. It turned even better when she discovered through a distant, mutual friend that Maybritt was a fellow lesbian - that part was almost too good to be true. Tanja's low self-esteem and modest nature acted as a roadblock against any attempts on her side at making a pass, but at least there wasn't any unwanted baggage between them.
Tanja sighed as the first signs of a blush slithered across her cheeks. Embarrassment was the order of the day; not only for locking herself out like a drooling idiot, but for disturbing Maybritt Bentzon on Valentine's Day eve after saying countless times over the course of the conversation with Christa and Merete that she wouldn't. "She's probably got a smokin' hot date with her… and here I am, interrupting them like a damn fool… shit!"
As she reached the landing on the first floor, she put her ear close to the door to Maybritt's apartment to check if she could hear female voices - if she could, she had already made up her mind that she would shuffle next to door to the Pizza Palace and drown her sorrows by binge-eating the biggest, greasiest item they had on the menu. She had pretty much memorized their index so she knew exactly what she wanted.
Her attempt at listening to what was going on beyond the door was interrupted by the mournful, electronic wails of an ambulance and a paramedic unit that slithered past out on Sallingvej going at no more than twenty-five kilometers an hour. The wails echoed up and down the stone stairwell for a while until the two emergency vehicles had moved further along Sallingvej up to the intersection at Godthåbsvej near the Grøndal Church.
"Someone's having an even shittier night than I am," she mumbled as she moved back to the door to Maybritt's apartment.
Trying again, Tanja leaned in to listen. She tried to persuade herself that she wasn't eavesdropping although it was awfully close to it, and she only stood like that for a short moment out of fear of being busted by one of the other residents. She couldn't hear anything save for faint music, so she squared her shoulders and reached up to press the little button for the doorbell.
The ding-dong was heard loud and clear through the burglar-proof door, but nothing came from it. Tanja let out a deep sigh and took a step back to ponder what to do. She soon came to the conclusion that she was fresh out of options - save for gorging herself on pizza next door. There was a spyhole in the door, but she drew the line at peeping into a stranger's apartment.
Moving over to the staircase, she put her hand on the center rail but came to a halt like she wanted to give Maybritt Bentzon one last chance to come to the door. When nothing happened, she stuffed the taxi's roof light under her arm and set off for the pizza parlor.
She had already opened the glass door to the street - and had prepared herself mentally to go back into the Arctic conditions outside - when she heard the lock being turned up at Maybritt's apartment. Spinning around, she cast an expectant glance at the landing in the hope of seeing Maybritt's cute face peeking out.
Her reward came a few seconds later when Maybritt Bentzon did in fact slide the safety chain aside and popped her head out of the doorway to see what was going on. "Hi, Maybritt!" Tanja said and hurried back up the stairs before her downstairs neighbor would change her mind. "Boy, am I glad you're home…"
"Tanja? Whatcha doing home this early?" Maybritt said, stepping out onto the landing with a puzzled expression on her face.
Tanja noticed at once that the outfit worn by her neighbor wasn't flashy or extravagant like it would have been had she had a date in her apartment, but rather a casual ensemble of socked feet, old blue jeans and a red sweatshirt where the sleeves were just on the long side for her smallish frame. Tanja found relief in the sight, glad that she hadn't interrupted anything. She also found confirmation of the home-grown theory that Maybritt Bentzon always looked mighty fine, no matter what she wore.
"There's so much damn snow everywhere that I-" Tanja said on her way back up the short flight of stairs closest to the main entrance. She never got further into her reply before the delightful smell that wafted out of Maybritt's apartment trickled up into her nostrils and sent her headfirst into an all-out food-gasm.
Sniff, sniff - "Oh, Gawwwwd, what an awesome aroma!" she croaked, peeking beyond Maybritt's shoulder to try to look into the kitchen.
Chuckling, Maybritt shuffled around on her socked feet. "Well, it's just a home-made tomato sauce. Plenty of spices and a few secrets… I'm cooking pasta."
The GRRROWL! that emanated from Tanja's stomach was loud enough to echo up the stairwell; the embarrassed groan that followed on its heels did too. Slapping her hand over her eyes, Tanja shook her head in defeat. Her cheeks were burning from the inappropriate reaction, but her self-esteem was saved another knock by the warm chuckle that escaped Maybritt.
"Hungry, eh?" the blonde said, once more shuffling around on the landing to combat the chill that snuck up her legs from the stone staircase. "When did you last eat?"
"When? Only 'bout half an hour ago," Tanja said in a mumble. "Listen, Maybritt, I need to-"
"That couldn't have been much if you're hungry again already…?"
"It wasn't. Just a pre-fab raspberry Swiss roll from the gas station. Shrink-wrapped."
"Tanja, really! That junk food is so bad for you!" Maybritt said and threw her arms in the air. "I'm almost afraid to ask what you're having for dinner…"
"Dunno yet. Something I'll throw together. Maybe buy a pizza or shove a frozen lasagna in the nuker. But, Maybritt, listen-"
"Oh, hell no! You're coming in with me, Sister!" Maybritt said and grabbed hold of Tanja's arm. In no time flat, the forceful blonde had dragged the reluctant brunette into the apartment's hallway and had shut the burglar-proof door behind them. "Pick any coat hanger for your jacket… uh… and you can put your flashy roof light there down on the floor somewhere. Is that a new trend in lesbian bling?"
Tanja chuckled at the silly question despite her befuddlement. Bending down, she took great care when she put the expensive piece of electronic equipment down on the hallway's carpet. "Not exactly. I always slide it off the roof when I get home so it won't get stolen. It's worth nearly twenty-five-hundred kroner."
After whistling through her teeth from hearing the amount, Maybritt turned around and pointed at a plastic tray on the floor of the hallway. "You can put your wet boots on the tray there while I tend to the sauce," she continued, referring to the ubiquitous winter accessory that already carried a pair of fur-lined boots that stood in a small puddle.
"Maybritt, please listen. I-" Tanja tried, but Maybritt had already gone into the kitchen and was thus out of earshot. Groaning, Tanja rubbed her burning cheeks. The apartments were all identical so she didn't need directions; the jacket and the boots needed to come off first, though, so she removed the items one by one. The jacket was put on a bright-purple hanger, and the boots were put on the tray next to the smaller pair.
She winced when she recognized the difference in size. Whenever she had been teased or bullied during her gangly formative years, her large feet had been used against her - that and the fact her breasts didn't meet the Hollywood standard. The girls had used the size of her feet against her; the boys had focused on the meager size of her chest like it marked the sole representative of a woman's worth.
"Were you trying to tell me something?" Maybritt said, popping her head around the doorjamb to the kitchen.
"Yes, actually…" Tanja said and shuffled into the kitchen on socked feet. "I don't wanna intrude on your dinner… but I've locked myself out of my apartment. I forgot to transfer my keys when I changed my pants earlier today, so… uh… do you remember where you put my spare set?"
"Oh, no… really? That blows," Maybritt said, stirring the small pot that held the home-made tomato sauce. The water in the larger pot that held the pasta was boiling at full speed, and the stopwatch on the kitchen table confirmed there were only two minutes eleven seconds left before she could take the pot of pasta off the stove.
Knocking a few droplets of tomato sauce off a plastic spoon, Maybritt put it in a holder before she scrunched up her face into a mask of deep thought. "Hmmm… yeah, I do. At least, I think I do. I'm positive they're in the top drawer of the dresser in my bedroom. Feel free to-"
"Oh, no," Tanja said in a decisive voice while she put up her hands in the age-old 'stop' gesture to underscore her words. "That's one of the golden rules. Never enter another woman's bedroom on your own. That's breaking the comfort barrier."
The chuckle that came out of Maybritt was just as saucy as the steaming hot, deep-red liquid in the smaller pot. "Well, I'll bet you won't find any items in that drawer that you're not already quite… or maybe even intimately… familiar with." Turning around, she threw a cheeky wink at the taller brunette before she grabbed the spoon again and gave the tomato sauce a few good stirs.
Another blush fell over Tanja's cheeks as she parsed the deeper meaning of Maybritt's words. "Uh… okay," she said, fiddling with an earlobe. She felt out of place standing in the cozy kitchen in her stuffy driver's uniform, but there wasn't much she could do about it at that moment in time - Maybritt's cheeky comments didn't help on her state of befuddlement.
When the stopwatch finished counting down to zero, it sent out a sequence of electronic beeps that made Maybritt turn off the stove and grab the large pot holding the pasta. Using a mismatched pair of potholders, she poured the water from the fusilli and added a glob of butter so the pasta wouldn't stick. She had time to grin at Tanja - who was almost drooling at the sight of the pasta - before she scooted over to the smaller pot that held the home-made sauce. The deep-red liquid only needed a few twists of pepper from a shaker and a pinch or two of extra basil before it was done, and a lid was soon put on it.
"Hey, Tanja," the expert chef said, moving a stray lock of blond hair behind her right ear, "can't I persuade you to stay for dinner? I have fresh focaccia bread, plenty of fusilli al dente, my home-made sauce, a new block of parmesan cheese… and a bottle of genuine Piedmontian Barolo that simply needs to be emptied tonight."
"Oh-mi-Gawwwwwd," Tanja croaked, once more clapping a hand over her eyes at the unfortunate fact that her stomach had chosen that moment to voice its dissatisfaction with the lack of proper food.
"That's a yes!" Maybritt said and broke out in a cheeky grin. "Okay, grab a soup plate from the cabinet there… cutlery from that drawer… and a wine glass from the cabinet over there in the corner," she continued, pointing out the three locations for Tanja before she went to work transferring the pasta onto her own plate.
Tanja opened her mouth to object, but the sight of the pasta fusilli that Maybritt poured out of the large pot convinced her to keep quiet and just roll with the free meal. Shaking her head at the improbability of it all, she took off her cardigan and went back to the hallway to put it over her jacket so she wouldn't forget that, too.
Although the basic dimensions of Maybritt's living room were identical to those up in Tanja's own apartment, she was astounded at how much cozier the room appeared to be. She came to the conclusion that it was all down to the far classier furniture, the well-cared-for plants, and the way Maybritt had managed to create a strong synergy between the smaller accessories and the larger objects.
Similar to Tanja's own apartment, the large window overlooking Sallingvej set the tone for the living room, but unlike the deathly dull, fake-metal Venetian blinds that Tanja used, Maybritt had put up an antique-looking curtain rod that carried a double set of simple, but colorful, curtains that transformed the entire section of the wall into something far more pleasing for the eye.
The view of the busy six-way intersection beyond the window was something even the nicest curtains in the world couldn't combat, but the panes were solid and near-soundproof so very little of the typical hustle and bustle of the busy streets filtered through to the living room. On the opposite side of the four-lane Sallingvej, the neon signs above the Thai restaurant and the animal clinic in the building adjacent to it shone bright through the heavy flurries that continued to fall from the sky.
Like everywhere else on the streets of Copenhagen, the light cast down from the many LED lamps gained a creepy, greenish hue when it reflected off the snow. It was an unfortunate side-effect of the LED technology, and one that none of the countless experts and professors working on the green-tech project had been able to predict, or even do anything about.
Remembering why she had entered the living room in the first place, Tanja strode over to a beechwood dinner table and put down the place mat, the soup plate, the wine glass and the cutlery she had been grappling to hold.
An uplight lamp stood in each corner of the living room, casting golden light onto the white walls that were adorned by various posters and original paintings. The dinner table - that had room for four but had only been set for one so far - stood in front of a pair of tall book cases that each carried a mix of DVDs, books and framed photos. One of the latter was a wedding photo, but Tanja didn't recognize the happy pair who were giving each other a joyful squeeze.
The other side of the living room saw a sandy microfiber couch, a low coffee table made of beechwood, a matching sideboard that carried a TV, and finally a beechwood chair that was equipped with red cushions.
Maybritt came hot on Tanja's heels and put down the first bowl of steaming hot pasta at her guest's spot. "Change of plans! Here you go… and I'll just snatch this one," she said, taking the soup plate Tanja had just put on the table. "Oh, and pour me some wine, will you?"
Tanja stared wide-eyed at the huge portion of pasta and home-made tomato sauce, but she wasn't about to complain. Taking the wine bottle, she studied the label for a moment - it was all in a foreign language that she couldn't read - before she poured the ruby red liquid into Maybritt's glass.
It didn't take long for the hostess to zip back into the living room with her own soup plate. Taking the block of parmesan cheese and the metal grater, she made a flurry of her own that was distributed onto the tomato sauce in an even pattern. "Parmesan?" she asked, holding up the block of cheese and the grater.
"Oh, yes please. You're an expert at that thing… I don't think I could get it to work as nice as that, to be honest," Tanja said with a grin. At once, Maybritt got up from her chair and gave the cheese a good workout on the grater.
All done, she sat down and wiped her fingers on her napkin. The moment called for a toast, so she took her glass of Barolo and held it high. "Cheers! And thank you for providing some company on what would have been a boring-as-hell Valentine's Day evening!" she said before she took a healthy swig and began to dig into her pasta fusilli.
"Cheers… and you're welcome," Tanja said with a chuckle before she took a sip of the wine. The richness and strength of the quality product made her pop open her eyes and let out a grunt as the sip trickled past her tastebuds. Because of the nature of her job, she wasn't used to drinking beverages containing alcohol save for the occasional beer, so she needed a moment to recover from the strong wine.
"Oh! I can see you need some water to go with it," Maybritt said and zipped back into the kitchen. A moment later, she returned with a tumbler and a pitcher of chilled water from the refrigerator. "I keep forgetting that not everybody can chug down red wine like I can… here you go," she continued as she poured plenty of water into Tanja's tumbler.
"Thanks… I almost never drink wine," Tanja said and took a fair-sized swig from the tumbler to dilute the wine that had already gone down into her stomach. The pasta, the tomato sauce and the focaccia bread were next, and she dug in with great gusto. Like she had expected from the aromas that swirled around Maybritt's kitchen, the home-made sauce tasted far better than the mass-produced two-fer offers she usually bought at the discount supermarkets. The pasta fusilli was just right as well, and all in all, she wasn't too displeased that she had forgotten her keys in her other pair of uniform pants.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, but Maybritt soon cast her guest a warm glance over the rim of her wine glass. "I hope you don't mind I haven't put meat in it? Ham or mini-sausages, or spiced meatballs or anything like that…? I'm a vegetarian."
"Oh, nah… I don't mind at all," Tanja said, balancing two pieces of pasta on her fork. The delicious tomato sauce dripped off it and back down onto the plate like it didn't want to get eaten. "Yeah, I remember you telling me that back at Christmas," she continued before she put the fork into her mouth to chew on the fusilli. When the bite was devoured, she broke off another chunk of the delightful focaccia bread and savored its rich taste.
"People always give me funny looks when I buy food for the holidays," Maybritt said with a chuckle as she continued to dig in. "Everybody else buys cart-loads of pork roasts or whole ducks or any of the other traditional Christmas dishes… and I buy stuff to make salads."
They chuckled at that before they went back to concentrating on the food. The pasta on Tanja's plate disappeared faster than she had imagined it possible, so she forced herself to slow down so she wouldn't get a stomach ache later on from the hardcore eating. "How come you eat dinner so late?" she said, stabbing a fusilli.
"Oh, well," Maybritt said and picked up her wine glass once more. "My working day at the store didn't end until six. I'm typically home at a quarter past seven or so when the weather holds up, but I had to wait and wait and wait for a damn bus to show up today. When it finally did, it moved so slow I thought I was going to blow my lid. Missed my connecting bus, too… but I guess the weather is to blame."
"Yeah… it was damn awful in the city, so I can only imagine what it's been like out in the satellite 'burbs."
"I can tell ya… it's been shitty!" Maybritt said and broke out in a snicker.
"Man, that was fantastic," Tanja said and used the last chunk of her focaccia bread to sweep up the last few drops of the home-made tomato sauce.
"Glad to hear it. I thought it had turned out pretty good myself," Maybritt said and took another swig from another glass of wine.
Once the last bite was safely into Tanja's mouth and in the process of being chewed on, she grabbed her napkin and dabbed her lips for all she was worth. As always after eating tomato sauce, there was plenty of red residue at the corners of her mouth, but she made doubly sure to remove it all so she wouldn't appear like a bumpkin in front of Maybritt. "Oh, and thanks for allowing me to steal half your food…"
Maybritt let out a warm chuckle as she pushed her own, empty plate away. "Aw, you're most welcome. Like I said before, thanks for saving me from a boring evening."
Crumbling up the napkin, Tanja put it in the soup plate so the beechwood table wouldn't get any red stains on it. "Honestly… I was so sure you had a date for Valentine's Day that I had already made up my mind not to bother you. You should have seen the circus act I performed out on the staircase… I stuck my ear to your door to listen for girly voices…"
"Girly voices, huh?" Maybritt said and let out a chuckle that seemed to turn bitter at the end. "Nah… not this year. Not after all that relationship crap I lived through last summer." Falling quiet, Maybritt turned introspective. She chewed on her cheek as she let her eyes roam over the colorful DVD spines in one of her book cases.
Tanja grimaced at the sudden change of mood; she was no stranger to break-ups of the crappy kind, but it nagged her that she had brought back a few bad memories for her cute hostess. "Maybritt… I'm sorry for bringing it up. I had just expected a long line of eligible women waiting at your door, 's all."
The humor worked as Maybritt came back to the real world from the dark place she had visited. "Heh… nah. To tell you the truth, sometimes I wonder if you and I aren't the only sane lesbians left in our part of the world."
"Aw, it's not quite that bad… yet," Tanja said and let out a brief chuckle.
Maybritt grinned at the silly notion before she pushed her chair back and began to collect the things they had used for their Valentine's Day dinner. "I had planned to watch some teevee or a movie now, and then make myself a quick cup of coffee later on. Are you itching to get back up to your own place, or… could I tempt you to stay here for that?" she said, wearing an expression that was neutral with a slight slant to the hopeful side of the fence.
The seconds ticked by while Tanja collected enough thoughts to provide her hostess with an intelligent answer. For some reason, the innocent suggestion had kicked her love motor into gear; that wasn't what the suggestion had been about, so she needed to shove all that aside before doing or saying anything inappropriate that would embarrass them both.
"Well… hmmm," she said, but knew at once that it wasn't the blinding brainflash of unlimited awesomeness she had been hoping for. On the other hand, the stalling tactic kept Maybritt waiting, so it hadn't been all bad. "Well," she tried again, getting up from the beechwood dining table. "First of all, I need a shower… and slip into something more comfortable-"
"Mmmmh!" Maybritt said, and the cheeky sparkle returned to her eyes.
Tanja let out an embarrassed chuckle at her choice of words. "Uh, yeah. And then I'd like to come back down for some coffee and a movie. Would that work for you?" A steady beat pounded in her eardrums, and it took her a few moments to figure out that it was her blood that thumped around in her veins in the hope of a positive answer.
"Absolutely!" Maybritt said while flashing her guest a broad grin. "How about giving me a hand with the dishes first? Then we can look for your spare keys."
"Deal," Tanja said and scooped up the remaining items that Maybritt hadn't been able to hold on her first pass of the dinner table. After Maybritt had left for the kitchen, she let out the breath she hadn't even realized she had been holding - her evening was looking up, at long last.
The density of the steam that swirled around in fog-like patches inside Tanja's bathroom a little while later proved that she was in the middle of an extra-extra-extra-thorough scrubbing to get every last strain of work-related sweat off her body. She had even cracked open the expensive body shampoo her mother had given her at Christmas, and that alone offered a strong hint that the importance of being fresh and inviting - or even enticing - was at the forefront of her mind.
She had never tried to take a shower at half past nine in the evening before, and she was glad the dinner hadn't taken another twenty minutes. One of the house rules that she and the other residents had signed as a solemn declaration banned excessive use of water from ten in the evening to five thirty in the morning to maintain the peace at night, and it acted as an effective ban against late-night showers. Just the thought of going back downstairs in a funky state made her grimace and give herself an extra scrubbing where it mattered the most.
Warbling out Lady Gaga's latest hit, she leaned her head back to allow the steaming hot water that cascaded from the shower nozzle to do its job washing the shampoo out of her mousy-brown hair. Gaga didn't need to worry about the competition, but the well-meaning, though quite mangled, harmonies had sped up the process so she could get back downstairs faster.
The water that sprayed out of the nozzle above her was reduced to a steady trickle, then a few, scattered droplets, then nothing at all as she turned off the water and stepped out of the shower stall. The wall of steam in the bathroom was so dense that she knew she would never be able to get her hair and body dry, even with her huge, terrycloth bath towel, so she wrapped it around herself instead and opened the door to the hallway.
Padding barefoot into the bedroom, she released the towel to allow some cool air to grace her freshly scrubbed cheeks. While she dried herself off, one of Stine Bramsen's old hits was a constant companion. She couldn't remember all the lyrics, but a combination of humming, whistling and singing did the trick.
Her hair was next, and as she gave her scalp and her shortish, mousy-brown locks a strong scrub-down with the large towel, she thanked her lucky stars that she had gone through with the project of trimming it to above her ears only a few days earlier - getting it dry wouldn't even take half the time it would have done had she still worn it to her collar. The heavy scrubbing left her looking like a demented chipmunk, and she couldn't hold back a grin as she observed herself in the full-sized mirror on the front of her wardrobe's left wing.
With the hair over and done with for the time being, she hopped into a brand new pair of high-quality underpants that she had saved for a special occasion. She had already resigned herself to the depressing fact that the 'special occasion' could end up being the thirtieth anniversary of the last time she had spent quality time with a woman who actually existed outside of her steamy fantasies, but she was hopeful things would be different for her this time around.
Moving over to her meager wardrobe, she began searching through every last bit of clothing she had to find something that would fall into the category labeled comfortable. "Hmmm… nah. Nope. Nuh-uh. Nah. Nuh-uh. Nope. Oh, why not," she said as she went through - and discarded - most of her clothes; in the end, she settled for the sweatsuit that occupied the top shelf.
It didn't take her long to sweep the pale gray, super-soft fleece pants up her legs, and the sweatshirt in a similar color soon followed up at the other end - the dark-gray arrows that adorned the sleeves were soon arranged so they followed the arms instead of snaking down the side like the tracks of a drunken lizard. "Eh… not super-duper… but not bad… and definitely comfortable," she said as she cast a quick peek at herself in the full-sized mirror.
After running a comb through her hair, brushing her teeth, donning a pair of black socks, sticking her feet into a pair of butt-ugly, sensible slippers that she would dump within a split second of arriving in Maybritt's hallway, and finally combing her hair all over again to make it sit better in a more casual style that she hoped would be tousled by a pair of probing fingers, she shuffled - it was the only way to walk in the sensible slippers - into her living room and picked up her telephone.
Nobody had tried to call or text her while she and Maybritt had been eating so she didn't have any replies to make, but there was something else she needed to do - namely call a florist.
Going online was far easier than it had been in the old days, so she soon found the number for a twenty-four-hour florist delivery service that she knew had a physical base not too far from their apartment building. The webshop had an automated process for ordering flowers, but since she wanted to get something special, she went for the old-fashioned telephone number instead.
Her idea to buy Maybritt a bouquet of roses to mark Valentine's Day turned sour before it had even had time to grow roots in her mind: when the connection was established with the florist service, all she got out of it was a pre-recorded message in her ear that told her that all deliveries had been suspended for the evening and into the night on grounds of the poor weather and the official decree issued by the city police that banned all non-essential driving until seven o'clock the following morning.
"Yeah, okay… whatever. Typical," she said and turned off her telephone again. Grunting, she looked around her spartan living room to find an amusing little hostess gift for Maybritt instead. It didn't need to be flashy or extravagant, just a little thing to show how much she appreciated what the cute blonde had done for her. She let out another grunt when she came to the depressing conclusion that she didn't have anything whatsoever that could be of any value to her in such an event.
The dull Venetian blinds mocked her with their utilitarian nature, so she looked past those and moved over to the simple chair that stood next to a simple table where she used to eat her simple, nuked dinners while watching the late news or one of her favorite Xena episodes on her cheap, no-name TV set. The only things she had more than one of were those she had received as promotional material from Skoda or her cab company - however, she had an inkling that Maybritt Bentzon wouldn't be too bowled over if the hostess gift turned out to be a mass-produced, aluminum ashtray carrying the logo of a well-known spark plug manufacturer.
"Oh, what the hell do you give a woman who works in a hardware store, anyway?" Tanja mumbled as she shuffled into her kitchen to look for something, anything to use as a gift. "And who's such a great cook, too. A bag of freeze-dried soup? A can of ready-to-heat goulash? Hell, I couldn't even give her that 'cos she's a vegetarian," she continued as she peeked through her many half-empty cabinets and cupboards.
Standing up straight, she broke out in a resigned shrug before she shuffled back into the living room. It hadn't taken her long to find her own keys in the pocket of her original pair of uniform pants when she had returned to her apartment, and she had put them on the simple dinner table so she wouldn't forget them all over again. The spare set had been put next to the other one, and she picked that up and wrapped it around her pinkie before she stuffed her own set down the pocket of her sweatpants. She shook her head as she went through the complex task, but a clueless fool like herself hadn't deserved any better.
The high-life downstairs beckoned, so she shuffled into the hallway and clicked off the light. After a final glance inside - and a final pat on her pocket to make sure she had remembered her keys this time - she shut and locked the door behind her before she moved down the stairs with an entire aviary of butterflies flapping in her gut.
It didn't take long after the doorbell had finished its melodic ding-donging before Maybritt came to the door and opened it. "Hi, again, Tanja… oh yeah, that's a much better combo!" she said as she eyed the pale gray sweatsuit.
"It's much nicer to wear, that's a fact," Tanja said and once again stepped inside Maybritt's apartment that still carried the wonderful scent of the home-made tomato sauce they had feasted on. Like she had planned to do, she dumped the butt-ugly, but sensible, slippers in the hallway and walked into the living room on her socked feet.
Maybritt chuckled as she followed her guest inside. "Yeah. It's pretty nice from this angle too, I must say," she said, shooting Tanja a wink after checking her out from the reverse angle as well. "Whenever you're wearing your driver's uniform, I always feel like… well, like you're a prison guard who's here to frisk me down before I'm sent to the slammer."
"Ohhh… I always make sure to ask before I frisk anyone. Not that I've had much opportunity to do so for… uh… for… uh… a while."
"Well, that is a crying shame," Maybritt said and leaned her shapely, jeans-clad hip against the doorjamb to the living room. She crossed her legs to enter a pose that had several potential interpretations - none of which spelled 'disinterest.'
"Uh… yeah," Tanja said as the palms of her hands grew clammy all of a sudden. The moisture seemed to have come from her mouth since that part of her body went dry at much the same time. It called for licking her lips to produce some moisture, so she did. "Uh… were we supposed to have coffee, or something?" she said to break the tension that had blossomed since she had arrived.
"Yep! Coffee and a movie… not sure about the movie, though. I don't really feel like watching any of my old stuff tonight," Maybritt said and moved out of the pose. Pushing herself away from the doorjamb by giving herself a shove with her hip, she shuffled into the living room and held up her open fist so she could use her fingers to count off. "With regards to the coffee, I've got regular, regular with cream and sugar, decaf, decaf with cream and sugar, instant, instant with cream and sugar… uh… and if none of that is to your liking, I can whip up a mean cappuccino as well… with cream and sugar."
"Yikes, are you a barista on top of working in a hardware store?" Tanja said and let out a chuckle that sounded more nervous than she had expected it to. She had moved over to the window to look outside at the snow storm - it was still going strong - but the magnetic pull of the other woman proved to be too strong, so she shuffled back to get closer to Maybritt.
"Nah, of course not. Mom gave me a gift voucher for a sample box of different coffees for Christmas. I don't drink coffee every day, so it's taken me a while to get through it all."
"Oh… in that case, I'll just have… a regular with cream and sugar."
Maybritt briefly stuck out her tongue. "We're a match made in heaven! That's what I'm gonna have too!" she said before she spun around on her socked heel and exited for the kitchen.
"Uh… yeah… I wish," Tanja mumbled; the last two words in particular were delivered at such low volume they were barely more than a whisper.
Once the steaming hot coffee had been poured into two mugs, and the dark-brown, bitter liquid had been turned tan by the cream and sweet by the sugar, Maybritt and Tanja sat down on the microfiber couch to enjoy their coffee and the company. As their behinds got comfortable on the cushions, they ended up so close their hips and thighs were touching.
Smirking over the unexpected contact, Tanja shuffled ten centimeters to the right so it wouldn't look as if she was trying to cop a feel already. Much to her consternation, Maybritt followed her to the right without speaking a word. At once, they ended up touching again. A blush spread over Tanja's cheeks as she realized something could be in the air that she hadn't counted on being there earlier in the day. She had room to move another ten centimeters to the right if she wanted to, but it would look ridiculous - and Maybritt would just follow her there - so she settled down and took her mug instead.
Though she and Maybritt remained silent, Tanja had to admit the touch felt good. In fact, it felt more than just good, it felt right. She allowed a shy smile to grace her features; a smile that deepened when she cast a glance at her hostess and saw a similar smile play on the other woman's lips.
"You want a cookie or something to go with the coffee?" Maybritt said, not even bothering to hide the fanciful smile that made her eyes sparkle.
"No, thank you."
Grunting, Maybritt reached for the remote for her TV. "So… wanna zap around a little instead of watching a movie?"
"Sure. I'll bet you fifty ører that we'll see breaking news about the snow within the first three stations we go past."
"Ha! No deal," Maybritt said and clicked on the little button. The TV took a moment to come to life, but when it did, it was on the twenty-four hour news station TV2News that had kept a running update of the poor weather from the moment the first snowflake had touched the ground many hours earlier. "Told ya," she said, nudging Tanja's shoulder with her own.
The two news hosts that graced the flatscreen TV wore neutral expressions as they relayed the latest weather updates, but the newscast came to life when they threw to a roving reporter who was knee-deep in a drift of snow at a deserted intersection somewhere in Copenhagen's northern suburbs. Moments later, the unfortunate reporter was pelted by a gust of ice needles - that appeared to come in horizontally - which made it difficult for her to do her piece.
"Hey, that's not too far from here… it's up at Tuborgvej near the Bispebjerg Hospital!" Tanja said, pointing at the TV with her free hand. "Look, there's the store that sells genuine Persian rugs… and the bagel shop… and you can just make out the hospital's parking garage in the background. I was just there earlier today… man, I'm glad I'm not out there now."
"Yeah… me too. That looks all kinds of shitty. I wonder if I can even get to work tomorrow morning…" Maybritt said, taking a sip from her coffee.
As the news station began playing a highlights-reel of the day's most impressive images, Maybritt and Tanja learned that not only had the Great Belt Bridge been closed for traffic since noon because of the high winds, the Øresund Bridge that spanned the Sound to Sweden was on the brink of being closed as well as a precautionary measure.
According to the meteorologists, the temperature was going up but it would cause the weather-situation to deteriorate further before it would improve - it was two below zero at the moment throughout most of the greater Copenhagen area, but the temperature would climb to above freezing just after midnight. The flurries would continue to fall past that hour which would lead to enormous piles of heavy, wet snow in no time.
"Shit," Tanja said, taking a healthy swig from her mug. "Unless the city's road services get off their fat asses and clean the streets in a hurry, I'm gonna have to take another day off tomorrow. Damn. I can't afford too many of those."
"Don't you take days off regularly?"
"No. This is the first evening I haven't worked this year."
"Wow, really?" Maybritt said and leaned in towards the owner-operator. "So you drive seven days a week, what… eight-nine hours a day?"
"Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes more if it's a good day."
"Don't you get lonely?"
The silence that followed the question answered it all by itself. Tanja let out a dark chuckle and took another sip of her coffee. "All the damn time," she mumbled, staring at the fascinating pictures on the TV.
Another few seconds went by in silence before she realized that Maybritt's lips were within easy reach if she wanted to pursue such an endeavor. It was tempting, very tempting, but she didn't want to push her luck. She and the cute blonde were sitting so close their thighs were touching, and that alone was a marked improvement over her dreary, dull, single-girl existence.
"Uh… yeah?" Tanja said, realizing she had been staring at Maybritt's lips for a little while without blinking even once.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Maybritt said and licked her lips. "But if I felt a little lonely… and I had a girl sitting this close to me… a girl whose eyes said that a little adventure would be just what the doctor ordered… I think I'd act on that."
"Oh boy… I can see I need to show you the way, huh?" Maybritt husked, moving in to close the distance between herself and Tanja. The first kiss was a simple 'hello, how are ya?' and as such, nothing compared to the second, gnawing pass that appeared closer to what happened at the zoo when the grizzly bears came out to feed.
All Tanja could do during the sweet wrestling match with Maybritt's mouth was to writhe about on the microfiber couch. Detonations went off everywhere in her body, and the prolonged period of time since her last proper kiss with a proper woman only made her reactions stronger.
Every last square centimeter of her flushed skin turned into an erogenous zone that was tested to the limit by the skilled hands that flew around her body, caressing, clawing, probing everything they found. Soon, one of those hands roamed up under the pale gray sweatshirt to cup a breast. The contact made her senses explode; shrapnel spread out in a deep-purple starburst and landed in places that had been neglected for so long she had almost forgotten she had them.
She didn't even know if she was still holding onto the mug, but she hoped she wasn't since it would have meant that the coffee would have been distributed all over the couch, the carpet and the table when she reciprocated the actions by clawing and stroking the jeans-clad thighs and butt belonging to the woman next to her.
The gnawing kiss only grew deeper and stronger. Golden spots invaded her vision through her closed eyelids, but she couldn't imagine a sweeter death. From one moment to the next, the heated contact was broken. It didn't take her more than another second after that to moan for more, but Maybritt's forehead resting against her own made her open her eyes instead.
They were both panting like crazy. Tanja and Maybritt stared wide-eyed at each other for a few moments before they broke down in identical snickers. They never separated during the cool-down phase, but both knew they would be back at it before long so there was no need to waste precious energy by moving.
"Wow…" Maybritt croaked, licking her lips that had been dishing out plenty of sweet loving. "I shoulda done that months ago… damn, girl, you're a great kisser."
"Thanks… you too," Tanja answered in a matching croak. "This is where I wake up, right? 'Cos, frankly… this sort of thing just doesn't happen in real life. Not my life, anyway…"
"It happened. And it'll happen again," Maybritt husked, having found enough breath to get closer for another attempt at cracking the world record for extended necking. Half a heartbeat before their lips would have established contact once more, Maybritt changed direction and ended up with her mouth near Tanja's earlobe and pulse point.
The husky chuckle that emanated from the blonde was muffled by the flushed skin that her tongue was busy caressing. The strong, pink muscle moved around in little circles that each drew a longer moan from the woman whose skin was being tended to in a unique, and certainly pleasing way.
"Oh… Gawd… Maybritt…" Tanja croaked, once more writhing on the couch. Closing her eyes, she parted her lips and let out a sequence of sighs and moans that dipped into the deepest register she could reach. Her body was humming with energy just from feeling Maybritt's tongue on her throat and neck, so she was almost afraid to think of what would happen if they went any further.
But think she did, and the glorious pictures in her mind led to longing; then to an impulse for urgent action. Reaching around the smaller body next to her, she moved Maybritt into position and put her down gently on the couch so the tables were turned when it came to dishing out the sweet torture. Diving down at once, she ravaged Maybritt's open, eager mouth and every other centimeter of skin she could find that wasn't covered by the red sweatshirt. Her reward came at once in the shape of a long, husky moan.
Panting from the lack of air, she pulled off Maybritt and leaned back on her thighs. She couldn't exist without having some form of contact, so she ran her hands up and down the pantlegs of the blue jeans. The women were both flushed and glowing, and Maybritt wore a shit-eating grin that reached from one ear and all the way over to the other.
"How come we haven't done this a long time ago?" Maybritt husked, running her hands over her chest in a casual fashion. When Tanja had ceased writhing, it had been transferred to her body, and her hips were creeping left and right like she wanted to distribute the heat.
"I don't know," Tanja whispered, sweeping aside a few strands of mousy-brown hair that had fallen into her eyes. "Maybe because we've been afraid our friendship would end if we weren't good together…?"
While Tanja had spoken, Maybritt's fingers had worked the button of her blue jeans. Once the first obstacle was out of the way, she moved the zipper down to half-mast to allow a peek at her black underpants. "I'd say we're pretty fuckin' amazing together," she said in a breathless whisper.
"Yeah…" Tanja replied in a croak, never taking her eyes off the treasure that she knew awaited her underneath the black fabric. It was only when Maybritt moved her hands up to slip out of her red sweatshirt that she snapped out of her haze and helped ease the undressing.
The twin mounds that came into view when the sweatshirt fell to the floor were glorious, and it took all her willpower not to dive down at once and let her tongue do the talking. "Gawd, you're gorgeous," she husked, running a few fingers across Maybritt's smooth, heated skin. The nipples hardened as a response, and just watching it made Tanja's breath hitch.
"Thank you," Maybritt said in a hoarse whisper. "Someone here is overdressed… c'mon…"
Though Tanja'd had many a hang-up over the years concerning her body when it came to nudity and the act of love, she never hesitated and whipped the pale gray sweatshirt off at once. When the cooler air hit her flushed skin, the reaction was so strong that she thought for a brief second she had already come, but it was only her muscles clenching from the shock.
Black socks flew left and right; the sweatpants followed at once, revealing the underpants she had saved for a special occasion - that the occasion would be quite so special was a boon she hadn't counted on even when she had made her way back down to Maybritt's apartment. Another unwanted echo of her old hang-ups fell over her when she watched Maybritt's eyes roam over what she considered her meager body, but her fears were allayed at once.
"I want you… Gawd, I want you now," Maybritt husked, pulling Tanja down towards her. When their breasts touched, it sent a burst of electric energy through Tanja that made her reach down and almost yank the blue jeans off Maybritt's legs.
The blonde let out a loud, throaty chuckle at her lover-to-be's eagerness, but did nothing to quell it - in fact, she added gasoline to the fire by attaching her lips to Tanja's mouth and continue where they had left off earlier, and with the same intensity.
Roaming hands caressed, clawed and stroked the heated flesh wherever it was found; wet kisses were laid down, then removed through clever application of tongue. Mounds were kneaded and rigid nubs were manipulated with all the tenderness in the world. More kisses were exchanged on peaks, planes and hollows - and lips.
Just when Tanja thought she was but one heated kiss away from exploding into a thousand, sparkly fragments, she pulled back from Maybritt's mouth to look the blonde in the eye. The raw, unbridled lust that roared back and forth between them made verbal communication irrelevant; it also provided the confirmation that it was okay for them to continue onto the biggest step yet.
Though it was hard for Tanja to fathom what was about to happen since it had been so long, she helped Maybritt slide the black underwear off her hips. Her own pair of underpants soon followed. She let out a brief chuckle at the fact they hadn't even made it to the bedroom but were poised to do it on the couch like a couple of horny teenagers.
"Whatcha grinning about?" Maybritt husked.
"Nothing," Tanja replied in a matching tone. She licked her lips in anticipation as she slid her fingers below Maybritt's navel and into the upper part of the trimmed patch of golden hair - then she noticed the TV was still on in the background, showing the two, somber news hosts from TV2News. "Uh… no, wait a minute," she said, grappling for the remote.
Maybritt furrowed her brow at the unexpected delay. "What? Is something wrong?"
"No," Tanja said and turned off the TV at once before she threw the remote back onto the table next to the two mugs. "Just not interested in an audience…"
"They can't see us, silly!" Maybritt said and broke out in a snicker. Her skilled hands took a strong hold of Tanja's back and pulled her down towards her own parted lips and eager tongue.
Tanja had other plans, however, and slipped out of the grasp to zero in on her lover-to-be's thighs. Between kissing, nibbling and licking the silky smooth skin on the inside going up, she looked Maybritt in the eye to offer her a little wink. "You never know… you never know, gorgeous…"
"Ugnhhh… will ya just make love to me!"
Chuckling, Tanja resumed her duties down below and was soon headed for the sweetest spot at the juncture of her new lover's legs. From now on, she would allow nothing in the world to get in the way of applying all her - admittedly rusty - skills to please Maybritt Bentzon.
When the snow had started falling earlier in the afternoon, she had dreaded the wild ride that would no doubt come out of it - but now, as the clock approached midnight on Valentine's Day, her longing heart and lusting body hoped it would turn into the wildest ride she had ever experienced…