TG Universes & Series:
A Switcher Tale...
6. Unicorn on the Bed
by Lulu Martine
I knocked on the door to 217 then rubbed my knuckles. That had hurt, I had to remember not to knock so hard. I glared at my tiny, soft hands. I looked around, but no one seemed to be in sight.
No answer. I used the keycard to use to rap on the door a second time, with my left hand because the knuckles of my right hand still hurt. I sucked on them, feeling pouty — stupid flimsy girly hand.
Still no answer. I turned around to look out over the courtyard, squinting a bit. The apartment doors were on balconies that surrounded the courtyard with stairwells at the corners and in the middle of the long back side. There were at least two elevators, one near the entrance and one next to the stairwell in the back.
Middle of the afternoon, no one in sight except there might be someone on the fourth-floor balcony in the far back corner smoking a cigarette. Maybe not, my eyes weren’t good enough to be sure. I turned back around, tried the keycard in the slot above the door handle, and heard the lock snap open.
The door, a massive oak and metal thing, swung open easily for which I felt grateful. I stepped inside, closing it behind me. “Garth?” I called out. No answer, not a sound, in fact.
The floor just inside the door was some kind of rough tile, marking an entryway. To the left, a narrow door probably opened on a coat closet. To the right, lay a kitchen with smooth-tiled floors and gleaming counters. The sink and stove were a burnt orange color that reminded me that the building had probably gone up in the 1970s. But someone had replaced the refrigerator with a black and silver modern model with through the door ice and water dispensers.
Straight ahead, a carpeted living room remodeled into a miniature gym held all kinds of exercise equipment, including one of those electronic equivalents of an old Nautilus machine. Racks of free weights sat next to a sixty-inch flat-screen television along an inner wall.
The place had the odor of a gym, too; clean, but smelling of old sweat and disinfectant. Windows and a glass door showed the existence of an outer balcony. I walked over and pushed a drape aside for a glimpse of the building next door and some greenery between. All the apartment buildings on this street had basement parking, I remembered.
I let the drape close and turned back. The extension of the kitchen formed a dining alcove, and a hallway opened off that. I headed that way. The first door was a three-quarter bathroom, with a shower large enough for two people to share. I skipped a closer examination and went down to the next door.
Probably originally a bedroom, this was set up as a home video studio, or maybe a cut or two above that — lots of expensive-looking equipment for both still photography and video. A large bed occupied the middle of the room. I backed out of there in a hurry. There were photos pinned to one wall, and I did not want to look at them.
The last room held an even larger bed that was sort of half made-up after use, the bedclothes pushed down, the pillows looking rumpled. A stuffed unicorn almost as big as me stood on all fours in the middle of the bed. A smaller stuffed tiger cub and a goofy looking kitten sheltered under the unicorn.
The whole room seemed to have a perfumed smell but especially near a large dresser with one of those lighted mirrors above it. It had an assortment of jewelry boxes, make-up tools, and potion bottles on its top surface, while a neighboring chest of drawers was covered in the male equivalent. Another door led to a sybaritic bathroom complete with huge spa.
Closets with mirrored doors covered one wall, and another set of glass doors and windows lead to a balcony on the outer wall. I opened the nearest closet door and saw that it contained mostly men’s clothing. There were three more doors.
The second door seemed devoted to shoes, women’s shoes. Some kind of shoe organizer took up half of the space, every cubby, hook, and pocket full of shoes. All of them I could see had heels—even a pair of shower thongs had three-inch heels. “I’ve got a thing about being short,” I said out loud.
The top half of the shoe corral had scarves and purses on hooks and little plastic hangars with a few jackets and tops at one end. Hats and more shoeboxes sat on a shelf above everything else.
The next closet door revealed another closet organizer with two rows of tops and shorts and a few pants. A longer section on one side had dresses, and I pulled one out, just to see. It was a long, golden thing with big blue and rose flowers that would probably hang to Margaret’s ankles. It felt soft and silky on my hands.
I found the label, and after moving into better light, I confirmed what I suspected, a boutique with a Beverly Hills address. I put the dress back, only slightly curious about what it would look like if I wore it. Margaret appeared to have taste. I’d have to psyche myself up to try on a dress, though.
The last closet was full of swimsuits, ski pants and parkas, and other things that didn’t look like they got worn that often. More shoeboxes covered the floor of this section, and a pair of bright red, thigh-high boots stood in the corner, looking like something out of a movie. I rolled my eyes.
But everything in the apartment agreed, the people who lived here were not afraid to spend money, and they knew how to buy the good stuff. Heck, the yogurt in the refrigerator would probably turn out to come from Gelson’s, the grocery chain for the rich. But if you were rich, why live in an apartment next to the UCLA campus?
I had a key to the place, did I live here? I glanced at the unicorn tableau and toward the closet space. Someone about my size lived here.
I heard the snick sound of the front door unlocking.
I went down the hallway far enough to see who came through the front door. The man who entered would have made three or four of me. Six-foot-three or more, probably two hundred and fifty pounds, mostly muscle, he wore his sandy, thinning hair in a brush cut and decorated his upper lip with a cookie duster mustache the same color.
He grinned at me, balancing a paper box from some take-out place in one hand while putting his keycard away with the other. “There’s the little money-maker of this operation,” he said. “I got us sushi and teriyaki to celebrate. Ya wanna grab a couple beers from the fridge?”
He came straight toward the dining table, so I ducked sideways into the kitchen and opened the big silver and black refrigerator. The door held an assortment of IPAs and other craft beers. I picked a Dogfish Light Ale for myself (I’m probably a total wuss beer-wise, I decided) and something a little more robust for him, an Epic IPA.
“You look like you’ve had a hard day, cupcake,” he noted. “Pulling in the big bucks frazzle your nerves?” He started laying out a feast: three bento boxes and a couple of cartons of soup. It smelt heavenly.
But what the heck was he talking about? “I guess,” I hazarded. “I’ve been riding buses all afternoon,” I said. I got a little closer and put the beers down on placemats.
He looked at me and cocked his head sideways. My God, up close, he was huge! His biceps were almost the size of my waist. But he showed real concern in the wrinkles around his watery gray eyes. “Did you think you were being followed?” he asked.
“Uh, huh,” I admitted. “I got real paranoid, like thinking someone was chasing me. I rode a city bus almost to the beach and back.”
He laughed, but not like he was amused, more like he was trying to cheer me up. “You are the oddest mix, baby. Bold as anything when we make plans, and a real chickenshit when you have to face anyone.”
“Hey!” I said. I glared at him. “You said he sent the money? How much?” I had no idea what was going on, but I felt the need to probe a bit.
“All of it,” he said. “One hundred kay, right into the Hermes account. I moved some of it around, sent the boss his cut, and took out five hundred cash. Oh, I put two thousand on your little card.” He separated the food into two servings, pouring soup into bowls, providing chopsticks beside plates.
I tried not to boggle at the money amount, to treat it as if that was only what I had expected. One hundred thousand dollars? And two thousand added to my card? Now I really needed to figure out the PIN. The big man continued getting our meal ready, very nonchalant, even whistling through his teeth, but I needed to sit down.
I guessed that the smaller helping, a quarter as much as the other one, must be for me, and I plopped myself into the chair in front of it. Teriyaki vegetables, a California roll, rice with red beans, the soup, and the beer: I actually wasn’t sure I would be able to eat that much, but I welcomed the distraction.
He leaned over and kissed me right on the mouth before I could even react, then he sat down at the other place he had set. I hadn’t been kissed by a man since my grandfather died when I was eight. I touched my fingers to my lips.
He’s my boyfriend. I’ve got a piercing in my tongue. We share a closet and a bedroom. He called me the money-maker. My stuffed animals are on his bed. We must be involved in something big and probably illegal. I should run away, now.
Panic threatened to bubble up all over again. I took a breath, counting it in and out.
I didn’t want to keep running. I reached for my canned beer and tried to open it, but I couldn’t get the tab to come up. I whimpered and showed him the can.
He laughed. “You never can open these things, you and your flimsy little fingers.” He popped the top and handed it back. The beer can looked tiny in his paw.
I took a sip, a little fruity and sweeter than I expected. “Yeah, well,” I said. “I’ve got other talents, don’t I?” What the hell was I saying!
He already had a slice of tuna rolled around rice and a pepper halfway to his mouth when he laughed even bigger. “That you do,” he said. “Holzmann said when he saw you sitting on the roof of his Mercedes with your feet on the hood, he almost shit bricks.”
I nodded, trying to look smug, exactly as if I knew what he was on about. I nibbled at my California roll. The avocado was so ripe, it was almost as soft as that creme they put inside eclairs. The rice was sticky, sweet and nutty, the fish (it wasn’t crab), totally fresh-tasting with the cucumber bite standing out the way it should. Was there a dab of chipotle mayo?
“This is great,” I said. I moaned as I finished the roll, then I dipped an asparagus spear in sauce and nibbled on that next.
“Toldja I’d bring you something good,” he said. “Japan-I-zation,” the name of the sushi place, “is always good.” I’d eaten there as Tony but always in the fusion restaurant front half—things like tofu enchiladas—but this meal had come from the expensive sushi bar in back.
“Mmm,” I said. It was good, and I’d eaten more than half what he gave me, but I was full. I watched him eat for a bit. He wasn’t just shoveling it down, but he ate with enthusiasm. I took another sip of beer.
He was a huge guy, and he didn’t get any smaller with me sitting there looking at him. Meat and muscle and bone, his clothes kind of stretched onto him. He looked back, too. He had a brow ridge almost as massive as a Neanderthal’s, covered with a forest of dark brown eyebrows.
He stopped chewing, swallowed, and smiled, and his expression reached his eyes too. He had long dark eyelashes that first narrowed his eyes then widened them. I discovered I was smiling back. What was I thinking?
“What are you thinking?” he asked, echoing my own thoughts.
I shook my head. Under the table, his size twelve gym shoes pushed my tiny feet around, trapping them in between. I felt something I had never felt before, my nipples getting hard. I don’t think I’d ever before been aware of any sensation there before.
Well, one girl in college had wanted to suck on them, but I hadn’t liked it. This, this was different. It felt great.
I stood up suddenly and moved away from the table. “Can you put any leftovers away?” I asked. “I want to take a bath. I feel grungy, like maybe I smell bad.” Did I want to take a bath? I’d be naked in the same apartment with this huge guy. A twinge went through my nipples at the thought. I’m only fifteen, I reminded myself.
“I didn’t want to say anything,” he teased. “But, hey, if you get cleaned up, maybe you could wear that red dress, and we could go somewhere to celebrate.”
“Finish my beer?” I said, heading for the hallway to the bedroom and the huge bath there. Where could he take a fifteen-year-old to celebrate?
“‘Course,” he said. “You never drink all of your beer. Damn fruity, soda pop beers,” he complained. “Hey, did you ever get over to see the doctor?” he called down the hallway after me.
I paused at the bedroom door, looking back at him. “Huh?” I said intelligently.
“You know,” he said. “About you throwing up every damn morning for the last week. If it’s what I think it might be, you’ll have to get that taken care of.”
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