Hi everyone! And so it continues… Here’s Chapter 2 of my sci-fi tale Lacunae. I hope you enjoy it, feedback is most welcome!
A special mention to Sue from Space, Time and Raspberries who has volunteered herself to be my beta reader – she has her hands full hammering out the passive voice tendencies I have! But she has already been an enormous help, so thanks Sue 🙂 Go check out her site to read the first chapters of her book, Enhanced and also catch up with the regular adventures of Elliot.
If you missed Lacunae: Chapter 1, you can go back and read it HERE.
Cooper had taken the walk to Jenna’s many times before. He had no need to pay attention to the world around him as he travelled down tree-lined streets, past the small park and over the brook to the new development on the east side of town. It wasn’t that he was an unsocial person, just that the townsfolk of Verdura Falls were a close-knit bunch who always looked out for one another: loosely translated as ‘bloody nosey’.
Earphones were his defence, an invisible shield against unwanted chatter. It meant most people ignored him and those who tried to get his attention soon realised he couldn’t hear them and went on their way with a wave. The merciful drum beats drowned out the unoriginal enquiries of ‘How’s things?’, ‘You got yourself a lady yet?’, ‘Isn’t it time you found a proper job?’ and most annoyingly ‘So why didn’t you try again?’
The ‘try again’ referred to college. Verdura Falls was a market town steeped in tradition, spawning mainly from the all boys’ college, Calvert House, that stood on the edge of town. Renowned for producing world famous scientists, politicians and literary maestros, it was a highly sought after place across the country.
The faculty gave special dispensation to boys born in the town of Verdura – averaging a score over ninety-eight percent in all regular exams automatically allowed them to enter a scholarship round. These entrants then sat a further six hour examination, testing logic, reasoning and empathic skills, alongside traditional subjects. Simply scoring over the baseline guaranteed a candidate entry to Calvert House, plus a scholarship if he achieved the highest mark.
Cooper was naturally intelligent, a gift that his father, a Calvert House alumni and ex- professor, constantly challenged with weekly IQ tests, coaching him through curriculums far beyond his years. So when he sat the Calvert exam early, in his sixteenth year, nobody even dreamed he would fail. However, that year, the test was particularly grueling, with some ‘unfair elements that would leave even the greatest minds baffled.’ At least, that was his father’s opinion.
Cooper missed the baseline by two points, which his father contested in a long, ugly row over bias and inequality. Professor Bradford chose to leave the establishment soon after and forged a career overseas, leaving the family for long periods and his son with no desire to pursue his education in any way. That was six years ago.
Along with the traditional shops and family businesses, Verdura Falls, named for its lush vegetation fed by the mineral rich soils of Mount Ludlow, had seen an increase in chain stores, bars and eateries in recent years. Cooper earned his living in one of these bars, working shifts for a minimum wage. He was never quite sure whether the ‘proper job’ referred to the nature of the tasks or just his workplace that many older residents felt ‘lowered the tone’ and was not in keeping with Verdura’s historic standing. Cooper didn’t care much what others thought. He realised he was a let-down for his father, who distanced himself from his son after the Calvert showdown, but the job gave him enough to have a social life and pay board to his mother. More importantly, it didn’t require him to think about logic or analyse data. It was fun.
Entering a garden full of lilies, he jogged up the few steps to a panelled front door and stopped the music. The pressed doorbell could be heard chiming in the back of the house. Looking up as he removed his earphones, Cooper smiled as a flurry of blonde curls flew out the entrance.
“Cooper One Kenooby, you’re my only hope!” Jenna grabbed him before he could respond, dragging him along the hallway by the arm. Cooper laughed and turned her around.
“Whoa, slow down! What’s the panic? And don’t reference films you’ve never watched!”
“Aww, and I’ve been working on that all morning.” Jenna’s green eyes stared unblinkingly as she sashayed closer, her mouth forming a wounded pout. That mouth…
She traced her finger around the side of his face, lightly scratching along his jaw with her perfect nails, before bringing her finger to rest on his lips. Cooper tried to bite it and missed as she danced backwards out of reach.
“I was sure it would win me some Brownie points.” Jenna licked her lips in that nonchalant way she had. “And you are my only hope.”
“OK, it was pretty good. But it’s Obi WAN Kenobi. Not noobie!”
“Yeah, whatever, it’s not like I need to know exactly. Come.” She dismissed the conversation with a flick of her hand, skipping up the staircase, expecting Cooper to follow.
He didn’t need much encouragement. Holding back a moment until she was several steps in front and at just the right angle to appreciate her incredibly short dress, Cooper swiftly caught up, taking two at a time. He lifted her up the remaining stairs, pulling her into him, kissing her neck.
“Off! I need you to do something first.” Jenna wriggled free and stepped into her bathroom.
It was immaculate, mirroring the style of the whole house – white and minimalist. Jenna had never worked a day in her life, yet owned the most beautiful house of anyone he knew. Courtesy of daddy and his wallet. Her father was CEO of an international food distributor and his only child wanted for nothing. This, coupled with her social status around town, meant she barely ever had to part with cash.
And of course she had Cooper. They had dated briefly in school, more a convenience on her part, flirting her way into being tutored through finals. He’d been besotted, a girl in her league didn’t normally breathe the same air as his crowd.
Unfortunately, he soon realised Jenna was never going to be permanently attached to one guy for long, not when the queue of potentials grew daily. So the relationship fizzled out. Yet she could still wrap Cooper around every one of her fingers and dangled the carrot tantalisingly close, allowing frequent nibbles that kept him fairly sated – and at her beck and call.
Cooper had never fully moved on, and why would he when she put out readily enough and didn’t care what else he did in his life? No ties, but enough comfort and satisfaction to keep him ticking over. Casual had many benefits – he always found the skills of that mouth to be very beneficial! But deep down, Cooper knew he wanted more, and further hidden was his acknowledgement that ‘more’ would never happen. So this was the way it was.
“Darling, it’s an absolute tragedy! I’ve lost my ring.” A lover of melodrama, Jenna thrust her right hand towards Cooper, her face twisted into feigned anxiety.
“Jen, you have hundreds of rings, it’s not that big a deal!” He tried to grab her hand, but Jenna pulled back, hand to chest in shocked anger.
“But Darling, you don’t understand! It’s my grandmother’s ring. Daddy gave it to me when she…” Jenna paused for effect, another of her standard actions. “…left us.”
Slowly, she lifted her emerald eyes up to meet his. “I can’t possibly tell Daddy or ask him to bring in one of his boys. So you really are my only hope. I think I may just have to die or leave if you can’t find it.” She slumped onto the edge of the bath, looking distraught despite a lack of tears, an achievement Cooper didn’t think was possible.
Maybe it was an heirloom, maybe she was scared to tell her father, but regardless of the truth, Cooper knew he would do his utmost to retrieve it. Besides, knights in shining armour were always handsomely rewarded…
“So where did you last have it? I’m assuming the worst and you’ve washed it off somehow?” Cooper questioned as he scanned the floor.
“Clever Coop!” She had a tendency to patronise that he’d become used to over the years. “Yes, last night I was towelling my hair after a shower and I heard a sudden ‘plink’.” Jenna was bent over the drain of the wet room, looking back over her shoulder at the impromptu treasure hunter. This girl knew exactly how to use her body to keep every eye trained on her.
“I looked for, well, forever and… nothing! It’s too big to fit down this drain though and I’ve checked the whole floor. You’ll be able to find it, won’t you?” She asked hopefully.
“I’m not sure,” admitted Cooper. “But I’ll do my best. Can’t have you stressing about Daddy finding out. Maybe it flew off into the sink, I’ll check that first.”
He set to work, unscrewing pipe work and scooping out debris . Jenna stayed watching from the edge of the bath, occasionally giving encouraging strokes to his head – it really did seem he was her little lap dog. Cooper looked up with perfect timing as, absentmindedly, she lifted one knee under her chin, revealing more thigh and her delicate underwear. His head tilted to one side as he became lost in lace.
“Naughty!” She chastised, yet merely parted her legs further, sliding her hand down her inner leg. “No payment without services complete.”
Cooper responded with a frustrated growl and continued. After half an hour of searching and flushing out tubes, he finally saw something glinting in the muck. Payment would be his!
Jenna was suitably ecstatic. “Cooper, you gem of a man! How, exactly, can I repay you?” With a raise of her eyebrow the gallant knight saw her switch straight back into seductive mode.
“I’ve never had an issue with your methods of payment in the past. I’ll be more than happy for you to settle the invoice in the usual manner.”
Cooper’s tone was teasing, but he could feel himself becoming increasingly aroused. He was filthy from the search, and he had a desire to share the grime with Jenna’s naked body. Hard work, dirt, bathrooms and sex. In his head they all added up to a great finish. He stepped towards her, lifting her dress.
“Eew, Cooper!” Jenna pushed him away, shoving a towel at him. He reluctantly began wiping at his hands as she ushered him out the door and towards the stairs.
“Don’t think I’m coming anywhere near you like that! What time does your shift end?” Jenna was already at the front door by the time she turned for an answer. Cooper, looking confused, came down to meet her.
“Erm, around 6pm I reckon. But I don’t start for almost an hour. You could clean me up to your liking back upstairs. I know you like filth really…” One last shot, he tried to take her by the waist. Jenna moved fast and somehow turned them both so his back was now facing the open doorway.
“In that case, why don’t you stop by this evening and I’ll have something ready to settle the bill.” Ignoring his last suggestion, she lightly pushed him outside, along with his things, and shut the door. For several minutes Cooper just stared at wood. Then, as the face of his disapproving sister entered his head, he turned back down the path.
“Cooper,” he thought,” You’re such a….”
Credits: All words copyright of Aloada Bobbins. Image credit 6sqft.com