Stroked long, p.16
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       STROKED LONG, p.16

           Meghan Quinn
 

  Goal-driven doesn’t seem like the right word to describe me. More like obsessive compulsive.

  I need to swim.

  I need to win.

  I need to feel the thick ribbon of a medal wrapped around my neck.

  Without those in my life, I would feel more than empty. I would feel absolutely worthless. The least I can do for my family is paint them in their deserved shining light with my athletic abilities.

  The cool rush of water floats down my throat as I sip from my water bottle, trying to stay as relaxed and hydrated as possible. Pre-race rituals, I’m damn good at them because they’re rituals. I fucking rock at doing the same thing over and over again. It’s why I excel at swimming. Muscle memory has become my best friend, one of the factors keeping me sane all these years.

  Still . . . despite checking everything off my list of pre-race to-dos, I can’t pinpoint why I feel off. Why I feel like I’m missing something.

  Then, Ruby sends me a text.

  My heart rate starts to pick up, my breathing hitches, and just from the sight of her name on my phone, I feel at ease.

  Ruby: Taco or burrito?

  A smile crosses my face. Typical Ruby text. It’s rare I get a “Hey, how are you?” from her anymore. She’s always asking questions, giving me scenarios to answer, trying to put me on the spot.

  I fucking love it.

  Bodi: Tacos.

  Ruby: Reasoning? And don’t say something perverted that refers to a lady’s vagina. I will disown you.

  A sharp laugh pops out of me as I relax in my bed some more.

  Bodi: Didn’t even cross my mind.

  Ruby: Liar. Did you know National Taco Day is October 4th? I make sure to eat a taco every year.

  Bodi: I bet you do.

  Ruby: Are you being crude? I should be able to talk about tacos without someone bringing up female labia lips.

  Bodi: You were the one who brought it up, Rubes.

  Ruby: I can tell you were thinking it.

  Bodi: You can read minds now? Impressive. Okay, what am I thinking right now?

  This should be interesting.

  Ruby: Easy. You’re thinking about how much you wish you could be lounging on the back of a camel while sipping chai tea and indulging in a strawberry-frosted doughnut while said camel walks across the Sahara, giving you a personal tour of the arid and barren desert.

  The water I’m drinking dribbles out of my mouth as I snort from her answer. What a fucking ridiculous text. Where the fuck does she come up with this stuff?

  Bodi: Shit, you’re good.

  Ruby: Point, Rubes.

  ***

  Ruby: What does it feel like when thousands of people cheer you on as you step out of your little jumpsuit and down to your skivvies only to stand on a block for everyone to stare at you?

  Bodi: I’m assuming you caught the trials tonight?

  Ruby: Pretty sure I would bow and curtsy for days if I got that kind of welcoming.

  Bodi: It comes with the territory.

  Ruby: Boo, such a boring, diplomatic response. Give it to me straight. You pop a little chub when girls scream your name.

  Bodi: Not in the slightest.

  Ruby: Maybe a little weenie poke?

  Bodi: Nope.

  Ruby: Not even a little howdy from your sea monster?

  Bodi: Sea monster?

  Ruby: Sea monster = penis, the thing dangling between your legs.

  Bodi: Is that what that is? And here I thought it was a third arm.

  Ruby: Tsk, tsk. I thought you were so much better than that.

  Bodi: I might be an introvert, but I’m still a man. Dude has to have pride in his cock.

  Ruby: . . . you said cock. *fans face*

  ***

  Ruby: I can’t sleep. Are you awake?

  Bodi: I shouldn’t be. I have a final tomorrow.

  Ruby: But you’re awake . . .

  Bodi: Nope, I sleep-text.

  Ruby: Wow, really? You’re so accurate. If I sleep-text you wouldn’t be able to decipher what I was trying to say.

  Bodi: agaks akjaksfjs aksd

  Ruby: What’s that?

  Bodi: shaownf akwifna wpfen

  Ruby: Are you trying to say something, Bodi? Is it Jimmy? Is he stuck in the well?

  Bodi: woeooe wben, riemf

  Ruby: Tell him I will be right there and to take his hand out of his pants. No one wants to rescue an ass picker.

  ***

  Ruby: GAHHHH!!!!! You’re going to Rio! One race down, just a few more to go. You rock my pink polka-dot socks, Bodi Banks.

  Bodi: Thanks, Rubes.

  Ruby: That’s it? No happy dance? No celebratory fist pump?

  Bodi: I’m fist pumping right now just for you.

  Ruby: Oh you’re so kinky!

  Bodi: Fist pumping the AIR. Damn, you’re always thinking of my dick.

  Shit. Shit. I can’t believe I text that again. She fanned herself last time, which did great things for my ego. But it’s because it’s Ruby. She was right. I am a smart-ass when I text. But, only with her. Only with my Rubes. Weird.

  Ruby: Am not.

  Bodi: You kind of are.

  Ruby: Am not!

  Bodi: Just ask me.

  Ruby: Ask you for what?

  Bodi: The dick pic you’re just salivating to get.

  Ruby: Last time I congratulate you.

  Bodi: Ah, so you can dish it, but you can’t take it Rubes?

  Ruby: Precisely. Glad we cleared that up.

  ***

  Ruby: Have you laid out your penis on the locker room bench yet? I bet it would feel so good after you let it out of the tight confines of your NYLON/LYCRA jammer.

  Bodi: Told you, you are obsessed with my penis.

  Ruby: I hate you.

  ***

  Ruby: Would you rather eat a piece of German chocolate cake, or do another one of those inspirational Olympic interviews they are always showing in between races?

  Bodi: Cake. ALL. FUCKING. DAY.

  Ruby: And this coming from Mr. Shrubbery Eater himself.

  Bodi: Spotlights are a fucking nightmare.

  Ruby: It doesn’t show. Maybe that’s why you’ve captured America’s heart.

  Bodi: It’s all about perception.

  Ruby: I feel lucky then.

  Bodi: Why’s that?

  Ruby: Because I’m one of few who gets to see the real you.

  I don’t think she really understands the significance of that, but she is. One of a very small list of people I trust. Even more so than Coach to some extent. Ruby has seen some of my strange, inescapable idiosyncrasies, and she hasn’t run. In fact, she seems to want to stay. My friend. My Rubes.

  Bodi: One of three . . .

  ***

  Bodi: Did you really just send me a picture of a package of Double Stuf Oreos?

  Ruby: You talked about them too much. You’re to blame, you made me crave them.

  Bodi: How can you eat those knowing they’re my favorite?

  Ruby: Easily, with a quick twist and a scrape of my teeth against the cookie to get the filling.

  Bodi: You scrape the filling off? Do you even eat the cookie?

  Ruby: I’m not a barbarian! Of course I eat the cookie part, after I lick it clean.

  Bodi: *gagging*

  Ruby: Judger! You are a judger! Shame on you.

  Bodi: By the time you’re done licking, is it soggy?

  Ruby: Are we talking about Oreos or something else . . .

  Bodi: Classic Rubes, mind always in the gutter. And here I thought you were a lady.

  Ruby: Ladies know about flaccid penises after an oral orgasm. We’re not prudes you know.

  Bodi: Flaccid penis and oral orgasm should never be in the same sentence.

  Ruby: Sensitive topic for you?

  Bodi: Fucking sass is going to get you in trouble.

  Ruby: Ooo, one can only hope.

  ***

  Ruby: Have you ever wondered why Madonna went the pointy boob
route for so long?

  Bodi: Can’t say that I have.

  Ruby: Death by boob, could you imagine?

  Bodi: Could be worse.

  Ruby: I guess so. Like death by ravenous centaur.

  Bodi: Centaur?

  Ruby: Yeah, half man, half horse. How do you even compete? You can get donkey kicked to death or punctured by a horse man’s bow and arrow.

  Bodi: What a conundrum.

  Ruby: Good thing we are going to leave this earth from death by boob.

  Bodi: Good thing, now if only we can guarantee Madonna stabs us with her breasts.

  Ruby: Hold that thought. I have connections . . .

  ***

  Ruby: You come home tomorrow!! Should I expect a heavy chlorine smell and pruney skin when I see you?

  Bodi: Yes, and goggles and swim cap permanently glued on my head.

  Ruby: Ugh, they make every swimmer look like a penis with glasses.

  Bodi: If that’s the case, it must be fun watching a bunch of penises flopping around in the water.

  Ruby: I always cheer for the crooked ones, they have to get love from somewhere.

  Bodi: Some might say a crooked penis is the best penis.

  Ruby: Bodi . . . do you have something you want to tell me?

  Bodi: Rubes, are you obsessing over my cock again?

  Ruby: *sigh* you said cock

  Bodi: What is with you and that word?

  Ruby: Penis = elementary, dick = juvenile, cock = throbbing man meat

  Bodi: Once again, why do I even ask?

  Ruby: You should know better by now. So do I get to see you tomorrow?

  Bodi: Do you want to see me tomorrow?

  Ruby: Pretty sure you owe me a celebratory Double Stuf Oreo party.

  Bodi: Ah, that’s right, you’re going to make me eat sweets.

  Ruby: You can bet your Nylon/Lycra covered ass I am. Get ready, Bodi Banks, non-organic food is coming your way.

  Bodi: I don’t eat all organic.

  Ruby: pfft. Nice try, I saw your shopping list on your fridge.

  Bodi: So you enjoy trolling around people’s places. Noted.

  Ruby: It’s sad you’re just figuring this out.

  ***

  Why am I so fucking nervous? I feel like turning back around, getting in my car, and fleeing to the safe confines of my condo. I’ve texted Ruby all week from trials. We talked about random crap no one cares about, and I let my sarcastic side show. She is moving up the scale of people who are closest to me. Hell, she’s up there with Lauren and Eva right about now. Kind of surpassing Coach Ed because, fuck, I would never talk to him about “benching my cock.” Shit, the man would slap me across the head and ask me what the hell was wrong with me.

  But Ruby does that to me, she plucks me out of my shell every chance she can get.

  Fuck if I don’t like it.

  That’s why I’m standing in front of her apartment door, fresh off the plane from Omaha, and tired as fuck from a long week of trials. I should be home, resting, unpacking, getting my life figured out, but instead I’m standing in front of Ruby’s door, gaining the courage to knock so I can see her beautiful face.

  A week.

  I’ve only been gone a week, and even though we talked every day, I’ve fucking missed her. I missed her quirky way of asking questions, of celebrating with her fingers pointed as if you just made her day, and the genuine look of interest in her eyes when you talk to her. I missed her crazy color combinations, the way her bangs fall just above her eyes, framing those bright blue eyes perfectly, and I even missed the way she loops her hand through my arm.

  Her touch.

  Her smile.

  Her fucking everything.

  Shit. I just missed her.

  Just the thought of not seeing that smile for another day has my hand rising to the wood of the door and knocking. Quickly I stuff my hands in my pockets and look at the floor, the bill of my hat shielding me from everything around me.

  The telltale sound of locks echo against the wood of the door, easing my heart from knowing she’s being safe. Lifting my head slightly, I catch the look on Ruby’s face when she sees me standing at her door.

  “Oh my God, Bodi!” Without a stutter in her step, she throws her arms around me, and I do the same to her, bringing her close to my chest for a hug. Her head rests against me and I catch a whiff of her shampoo. It’s sweet and clean, a scent I can easily get used to.

  Lifting her head to look up at me, she smiles and says, “You’re back. I thought you wouldn’t be back until later tonight.”

  I wink. “I can be deceiving if I want to.”

  “This is the perfect surprise.” Once again, she rests her head on my chest and grips me around my waist.

  She’s so fucking warm. Everything about her is warm: her smile, the look in her eyes when she saw me, the grip she has on my shirt, as if she doesn’t ever want to let go.

  For the first time since I left for trials, I feel full.

  “I’m so glad you came to visit. Come on in.” Pulling away, leaving a spot of emptiness, she replaces it by linking her hand through my arm and guiding me into her apartment.

  “Well, I thought I owed you a celebration.”

  “You do.” She perks up even more. “Good thing I went to the store yesterday.” Like a little pixie, she prances into the small kitchen area, opens a cupboard, and pulls down a package of Double Stuf Oreos with a bow secured around all the edges and tied at the top. I raise a questioning eyebrow at her and watch as her creamy white cheeks turn into an adorable blush. “I had to put the bow on there so I didn’t eat them myself. Believe me, it’s been a difficult twenty-four hours.”

  “Didn’t you have some the other night?” I ask, remembering our conversation about her licking the filling off the cookie. And right now, I shouldn’t think about that. Not after what I did after reading that text that night. I had been so hard, and it hadn’t taken long to beat off to that vision. Shit. Down, boy.

  “Are you judging me?” Her hands on her hips, Oreos resting on them as well.

  “No.” I raise my hands in defense.

  “Good.” Her chin sticks in the air as she says, “Andrea and I might have eaten a whole package the other night, watching your trials.”

  “Andrea?”

  “My friend. She was in town and came over to watch phallic-shaped men flop around in the water.”

  “Flop around? Almost positive we did more than that.”

  Rolling her eyes in a sweet way, she says, “Oh yeah, you stroked your way to victory. Does that sound better?”

  “It does.” I smirk. If only she knew what other way I stroked myself to victory that night. “So are you going to hand over the Oreos or continue to hold them hostage?”

  “Depends. Are you going to share?”

  “Doesn’t seem like I have a choice.”

  “You really don’t,” she says matter-of-factly. “Would you like a drink?”

  “Water is fine.”

  “How did I know you were going to say that? One water for the health nut and a beautiful chemical-filled soda for this girl.” With drinks and Oreos in one arm, she links the other with mine and sits on the couch next to her.

  Turning, she lays one leg across the couch while the other dangles to the ground. That’s when I notice what she’s wearing: a pair of pink plaid pajama pants and a lime-green tank top. My eyes should be offended by the color bouncing off her, but instead they’ve become accustomed to her outrageous color combinations. It’s almost . . . soothing now.

  How fucking weird is that?

  Placing the drinks on the coffee table, she practically bounces in her seat when she says, “So tell me, how excited are you about going to your third Olympics?”

  “Yeah, it’s cool.” I nod my head.

  Tilting her head to the side, she studies me with those gorgeous inquisitive eyes of hers. In a monotone voice, she replies, “Wow, calm yourself, Bodi. You don’t want to lose control with excitem
ent.”

  Chuckling, I snag the package from her hands and undo the ribbon. “I’m not much of a celebrator.”

  “That’s kind of obvious.”

  “But I’m making an exception tonight.” Holding out an Oreo to her, I hold up one for myself in my other hand. She takes it, her head slightly tilted to the side and a smile caressing her endearing face. “To Rio.”

  Bumping my cookie with hers, we cheers, and then both twist the Oreo in half. She watches in anticipation as I bring one half up to my mouth and pop it in. She squeals and bounces in her seated position with glee.

  “You ate a cookie. I regular old cookie.”

  Quirking my lip to the side, I reply, “It’s a Double Stuf Oreo, Rubes; of course I ate it.”

  Shaking her head in mirth, she starts licking the filling from the cookie. Don’t watch, Banks. Do not watch Ruby lick that filling . . . Fuck. “If only I knew the first night I came to your place. I would have brought Double Stuf Oreos instead.”

  Still probably wouldn’t have eaten it. I don’t tell her that, better to keep her hopes up about me indulging in treats, but in reality those indulgences are few and far between.

  Scanning her space, I notice her computer propped open on the coffee table, a job website on the screen, and a notepad next to the computer with notes. Her TV screen is paused, and all I can see are two brunette women in a diner. Even though I’m curious about what she’s watching, I’m more concerned why it looks like she’s looking for a job.

  Splitting apart another Oreo, I nod at the computer and ask, “Are you looking to leave the club?”

  “What?” Her eyes focus on where I nodded and instantly her face flushes. “Uh, no.” Before I can ask another question, she slams the computer screen shut and hides the notepad she was scribbling on.

  “Oh really?” I press because she’s pressed me before and I figured it’s my turn. “Kind of seemed like you were, and by the way you not so nonchalantly hid your notepad I’m going to assume I’m right about this.”

  Sighing, she scrunches down on the couch and leans her head against the back of the cushion. “I’m looking for some part-time work right now. I love working with the kids at the club, but I also like to eat and live under a roof, so I need a little extra cash flow.” She covers her face with her hands. “This is so embarrassing to talk to you about.”

 
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