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PART 1 – Economy
“Can I help you with anything, Sir?”
Bob looked up with surprise from the shirt he was inspecting, probably the drabbest and most sack-shaped in the store. Wearing his close-work glasses, he was easy to sneak up to because everything beyond arm-length was a dim blur.
Like a ship from a fog bank, the shop assistant drifted into his field of vision and coalesced as a solid shape. Bob sighed inwardly. Pretty! Story of my life. It seemed a cruel irony that pretty girls so often approached him – to ask him the time, or for directions, or any number of other things that to a normal person might be conversation starters – and Bob froze like a hunted animal. Guys he could handle. Older women he could handle … usually … unless he found them attractive … which was actually pretty often. But young women … pretty women … young, pretty women like this one for instance? Forget it. His jaw would drop open, he would feel a tightness clamping down over his chest and he would forget to breathe. All he could think about was how beautiful they were; how they could snap their fingers and have any guy at their command; how they must loathe talking to a dork like him, their skin crawling with the need to be away from him and return to the beautiful people with whom they belong.
With these thoughts flashing through his mind, Bob opened his mouth to say “No, thanks” when he stopped, his jaw hanging open as was usual in these situations; but although he was thinking about all of his caligynephobic reactions to pretty girls, he wasn’t feeling any of them. Caligynephobic? How is that even a real thing? Fear of beautiful women … madness!
He had been pretty mellow and zoned out since he got off the plane at Coffs Harbour airport. In what was probably going to remain the single most extraordinary experience of his life (it’s all downhill from here, Bob; and you’re only 19!), Bob had lost his virginity and joined the Mile-High Club in a twenty minute whirlwind of panic and passion with Vicky, a slim and beautiful flight attendant on the shuttle from Sydney.
Rather than dismissing the pretty shop assistant, Bob quickly grabbed at what was probably a temporary surge of confidence and asked for help.
“Actually I think you probably can help,” he said, smiling as he absently brushed at a lock of black hair that always seemed to fall behind his glasses but never between the barber’s scissors. “I’ve just flown in and my suitcase must have gone to Melbourne. I need some clothes for tonight; I’m going out.”
It was only a white lie. His suitcase was safely beside the bed at his grandmother’s house, filled with baggy shorts and t-shirts that were completely appropriate for bumming round the house and beach, which was all that he had planned to do until Vicky tipped his life upside down. Not that things would be any better with access to his wardrobe at home; there was a very good reason why Bob didn’t own clothes suitable for going out at night: he’d never done it before.
“Oh, that sucks,” she sympathised.
Bob had a brief surge of panic when he thought she was sympathizing with the long-suffering citizens of Coffs Harbour having to share their evening with a nerd like Bob. He quickly recovered when he realized she had bought his lost-luggage story.
“Where are you going?” she asked, smiling as she warily eyed the plain jeans and t-shirt that Bob was still wearing from when he arrived. “What sort of clothes will you need?”
As he had left the plane, the other flight attendant named Celeste – who had orchestrated Bob and Vicky’s adventure in the airplane bathroom – had hinted to Bob where she and Vicky could be found that night. Bob had played it back in his head a hundred times trying to understand why two beautiful girls would want to see him again. He would normally cross the street to avoid them, but this post-coital mellow vibe was driving all sorts of odd behaviour and now he was just going with the flow. He didn’t honestly expect anything on the scale of this afternoon’s adventure, but maybe he would cough up the courage to ask for Vicky’s phone number. Heck, maybe he would cough up the courage to actually use it when they both got back to Sydney.
“Um, I’m not sure what I should wear,” he began. “I heard about this place called The Beachcomber. Do you know it?”
“Of course,” she said with a musical laugh. “Coffs isn’t that big. The BC is pretty cool; good crowd, surf theme, lots of craft beers on tap and live music if you go back on Saturday night. It’s fun; you’ll have a great time.” She stepped close enough for Bob to smell her perfume and he felt an imaginary electric charge as she touched his fingers, taking back the ugly shirt he was holding.
“Well you won’t be needing this,” she said frowning at it distastefully. “Unless you’re planning to kick on after the BC to a mediaeval theme restaurant,” she briskly tucked the hideous ankara duşta veren escortlar shirt back into the rack and un-self-consciously took his hand, leading him to another part of the store where the clothes had colours and patterns and shape. “It’s a pretty casual pub,” she explained as they walked. “I go in after work just wearing this.” She pinched the figure hugging cotton spandex mini-dress away from her slim waist; Bob heard it whisper across the fabric of her bra, drawing his eyes fleetingly to that place where he took mental snapshot of her firm, round breasts; the outline of her nipples just barely visible under the stretchy fabric.
Bob stood back as she flipped through a rack of shirts. He was sneaking a glance at her bottom – firm and round with the cleft clearly visible like a seam down the tight mini – when she turned back around and caught him red handed. He looked up quickly with a blush as she handed him a casual shirt utterly unlike anything he owned.
“Here, try this on,” she said, a smile rising to her lips as she pretended to ignore his embarrassment. “And …,” she continued, reaching into a rack of three-quarter length shorts. “Try these as well.” She held the shorts up to Bob’s hips, her fingertips improbably touching bare skin around his kidneys even though his untucked t-shirt fell well below the waist of his jeans. She stood back, regarding the clothes … and his groin … with a critical eye; Bob could feel the warmth of her fingers on his skin and realised with horror that his cock was hardening behind the veil of the shorts that she held over that region.
With a lunge he grabbed at the clothes, holding both layers in front of the growing bulge in his jeans. The shop assistant directed him to the change rooms and with more than a little relief Bob retreated behind the louvered door and drew a shuddering breath. As he slowly changed, pausing to rearrange his uncomfortable erection, she stood just outside the door firing questions over the top. What’s your name? Bob. Where are you from? Sydney. How long are you in Coffs? Couple of weeks. Where are you staying? With family (not “at Gran’s”!). What do you do? Going to uni in March. What are you studying? Physics and maths. And a dozen more.
She introduced herself as Amy and answered her own questions with the adroitness of a good conversationalist working with an extremely poor one. She was 20, grew up in Coffs, still lived with her folks but was saving up to move out; she was working in retail but wanted to get in to hospitality because that’s where the money was in a coastal holiday town.
She managed to break down Bob’s defences and he relaxed a bit, relieved beyond measure when his erection slowly subsided while answering her barrage of questions. As he buttoned up the shirt and inspected himself in the mirror, Amy caught him off guard by asking if he was going to The Beachcomber with anyone. Without thinking, he responded that he was hoping to meet a girl … and then closed his mouth with a snap as he realised he was laying himself wide open to ridicule, thinking she must be giggling behind her hand trying to imagine what sort of desperate girl would want to meet a dork like him.
“Oh,” she said quietly, following it with a long pause. “Your girlfriend?” Amy’s voice sounded a little less confident.
No, nothing like that, he assured her. He explained awkwardly that they had just met today and she probably wouldn’t turn up anyway and he’d probably just grab a beer or two and then head home. Maybe not even bother going himself. No sweat, no fuss, who said anything about a girl?
Throughout this exchange, Bob had been inspecting the clothes in the mirror and was amazed. Not only did they fit him perfectly, but the man looking back at him in the mirror looked … normal; like anyone you’d see on the street who didn’t have antisocial tendencies, an unhealthy obsession with geeky pastimes or a soul crushing insecurity talking to women. Huh! He wondered why he had never asked for help picking clothes before.
He opened the door and caught a confused and disappointed look on Amy’s face before she lit up with a smile.
“Hello Handsome!” she purred, studying the fall of the shirt off his shoulders; touching him, smoothing the fabric over his pectoral muscles and admiring his trim boyish shape. Amy span him around so that he was side on and ran a hand over his stomach and the small of his back, holding them there and sending flutters of excitement through his body as she explained that the tapered cut at the waist worked perfectly with his shape. She spent more time than seemed strictly necessary making sure that the shorts were comfortable, slipping her fingers under the waistband, smoothing them over his backside, and kneeling with her face a few inches from his groin, making sure that the legs were the same length, tweaking at the ends while she closed her palms over the tops of is calves.
“I ankara fetiş yapan escortlar think you’re ready to party,” she smiled, jumping to her feet with a bounce that echoed for a moment through her full breasts. She helped Bob select a pair of shoes that looked good without socks and the image was complete: Coastal Casual.
Amy rang up his purchases at the register, probing Bob gently with more small talk. She offered him a discount on more clothes if his suitcase didn’t turn up, and to Bob shocked surprise he heard himself tell her that he might just take her up on that. As he walked out of the store, he reflected that the entire process seemed indistinguishable from flirting scenes that he had seen in movies. Honestly, how do people ever hook up when beautiful girls like Amy seemed like they were flirting even when they were serving dorks like him.
PART 2 – Business
“Quiet night?” Bob asked the bartender as he drew Bob’s first beer.
“Oh, early days yet, mate. We don’t pick up until a bit later, but mark my words, the first group of girls arrive from the beach around seven-thirty and the crowds aren’t far behind them, if you take my meaning.” He raised a speculative eyebrow at Bob as if to suggest that he could work fast and get the drop on the competition.
Bob had already been back to his grandmother’s house, showered, shaved, changed into his new clothes, walked fifteen minutes to The Beachcomber and it was still only 6pm. Mental note, Bob: a night out doesn’t start until the sun goes down. That’s probably one you could have figured out for yourself.
Looking around, he could see that most of the other patrons were older couples eating an early dinner in the booths, plus a couple of men drinking alone at the bar. He was probably 25 years younger than anyone else in the place, but pattern analysis was his strong suit so he took his beer to an empty bar stool near the television and settled in for a long wait. As luck would have it, the TV was tuned in to the cricket; one of the very few sports that he found not just tolerable but enjoyable. There seemed no end to the numerical analyses that could be applied to cricket; bowling and batting averages, aggregates and records by player, team, series, calendar year, opponent, ground and countless others … it was a mathematician’s wet dream.
He lost track of time watching the game, but at one point he found his beer glass empty and it was almost magically replaced with the slightest of nods to the underworked bartender. The bar wasn’t getting any fuller, but most of the older folk seemed to now be replaced by younger people like himself. Bob felt a surreal moment of disorientation as he looked about and considered that this is exactly how aliens would stage a covert invasion: snatch people away and replace them with alien stooges so that nobody would notice the change.
A young man with shaggy, sun-bleached hair dropped on the bar stool next to Bob, trailing a wake of eau-du-surf: salt, sand and something sweet and organic that could have been beeswax. A moment’s eye contact with the bartender and a gesture at the Pale-Ale beer tap and then seconds later he was sipping the foam off his beer with a satisfied sigh as the bartender made change.
“How’re we going?” he asked, gesturing at the TV with a nod.
“Three-f’r,” Bob responded, as a cricket lover he was secretly overjoyed to be able to use one of vanishingly few forms of slang with which he was fluent. “The openers went cheaply, but the middle order’s putting up a bit more resistance.”
The other man nodded knowingly. “Much in the pitch?” he asked.
“A bit. All three wickets were caught behind. If we can get two-fifty then our blokes will have something to bowl at later.”
They watched in companionable silence until the end of the over and then the man turned to Bob and held out his hand. “Spike,” he introduced himself. “How’re y’doing?”
“Bob,” Bob replied taking the proffered hand. Spike shook it in a complicated series of grip changes that looked like something from an American movie, but he did it naturally without making Bob feel awkward.
Spike led out with a volley of skilful small talk; he was engaging without being nosey or creepy. It was his first day in Coffs after driving in from Port Macquarie. He was on a twelve-month surf-safari around Australia and planned to stay maybe a week before moving on to Byron Bay for a longer stop, maybe work in a surf shop to top up his funds.
“So you’re here on your own, too?” he asked after extracting Bob’s short story: finished school, going to uni next semester, flew in this afternoon and staying a couple of weeks.
Bob nodded and drained his glass. Spike shot the barman the universal signal for “two-beers.” “You can get the next one,” he nodded to Bob as he paid for both.
“So,” Spike went on. “We’re both in need of a wingman.”
“A what?” Bob ankara iranlı escort looked confused.
“A wingman. A bro. A partner in crime,” he explained unhelpfully. “Look, I’ll take seconds. I mean, you’re a decent looking bloke, so your seconds are probably a lot better than I could do on my own.”
A light switched on in Bob’s head; he was talking about picking up girls! Bob almost laughed out loud at Spike’s tragic misfortune to attach himself to the one person in the bar most able to repel a woman, any woman, attractive or otherwise. The idea of two men working together to meet girls struck him as simultaneously absurd and eminently sensible at the same time. Just the sheer number of things that could go wrong: how do you decide who gets which girl? What if you both want the same girl? What if they both want the same guy? What if two hit it off and the other two don’t? Or – and this was so horribly perfect that Bob understood it would almost certainly happen: what if you started out with one pairing and then everybody wanted to switch? It was utter madness. But was it really? What was the alternative? Work alone? Girls don’t go out alone – at least Bob didn’t think they did; how could one guy pick up a girl who was out with her friend? No girl would leave her friend alone? It could only work by targeting one girl from a group of three or more? What sort of guy had the confidence to do that?
Until today, Bob had never given any of these questions a moment’s consideration. Until earlier today, Bob had also been a virgin who had never had a conversation with a girl.
“Wingman!” Bob said, smiling and feigning relief. “Sorry, I thought you said wig-man. I was about to tell you ‘No, mine’s all natural’,” he laughed; holding a handful of his own tousled locks.
Spike laughed along with him for moment and then flashed his eyes at Bob. “Whoa, batter up. Six o’clock … coming towards us.” Bob started to look around. “No!” Spike hissed, “Wait ’til she goes past. Oh, man, she’s gorgeous … be cool.”
From the corner of his eye, Bob saw a red shape approach in the bar mirror and then pass behind him.
“Hi Bob. Love the shirt.”
Spike’s eyes almost popped. Bob was fumbling frantically on the bar for his glasses but the owner of the voice didn’t stop in his close-range blind spot; she continued on towards the ladies bathroom, looking over her shoulder and waving. As she moved away, she came into focus for Bob: her flawless bottom flexing and swaying gently from side to side in time with the glossy blonde-brown curls that hung perfectly framed in the deeply cut back of her slinky cotton-spandex mini dress.
“Oh! Uh, hi Amy,” he raised his own hand in recognition, holding the glasses now rendered useless by distance. It was lucky she didn’t stop; he might have fumbled with them for ages trying to get them on to see who it was.
Amy disappeared around the corner into the bathroom and Spike turned back around to face Bob with eyes wide and jaw open. “Bullshit!” he grinned.
“What?” Bob laughed at the surprise and amusement on his new friend’s face. “I met her today in town.”
“Please tell me she’s here with a friend,” Spike implored with mock seriousness.
“Who? Amy? How should I know,” Bob said with a wave of his hand. “She’s probably here with her boyfriend.”
“Oh my God!” Spike leaned forward and put a hand on Bob’s shoulder. “Are you waiting for a written invitation? Dude, she doesn’t have a boyfriend; she’s into you! Big time!”
Bob didn’t get an opportunity to explain how ridiculous Spike was behaving because a change in the glare from the setting sun outside drew his eye and suddenly the doorway was framing a shapely silhouette – the delightfully familiar silhouette of Vicky the flight attendant.
Wearing a sleeveless white sundress that shone like a halo, Bob could see the slim curves of her hips, waist and breasts as a gorgeous shadow before of the setting sun. Vicky walked slowly through the door, looking around but not seeing him; and Bob felt a physical pang of loss when the sundress lost its translucence as she moved into the artificial light of the barroom.
Celeste emerged from behind Vicky, stunning in a tailored white tunic, black short-shorts and open-toed sling-backs; her radiant red hair spilled in cascades of glinting curls over one shoulder and formed an open parenthesis around the full curve of her right breast. She took Vicky’s hand and guided her to a booth, expertly signalling an order to the barman before they sat down. Bob hadn’t noticed any table-service in the time he had been at the bar, but watching the speed with which the barman brought around two glasses of champagne, he doubted that sort of thing mattered for the likes of Celeste. She rewarded the man with a big smile and a compliment that Bob couldn’t hear, but the barman grinned like a schoolboy and colour rose to his cheeks, so Bob guessed it was the sort of thing people liked to hear from a beautiful woman.
Bob kept watching Vicky and Celeste from the other side of the room. They were seated directly behind Spike and Vicky was turned side on to them and slightly away, so even though she was scanning about the bar, she didn’t make eye contact with Bob.
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