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The Drop-in


Zwee

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So, this is new for me. I don't usually write original, I never write in first person, and I hardly ever post F stories, but I was listening to an audiobook recently and suddenly this just sort of... happened.

I'm SO sorry it takes so long to get to the sneezing, I got really into setting up the story. It's mild F/F, all flirtation and tension, but I kind of want to explore these characters more, so who knows what will happen.

Anyway, hope everyone likes it!!

__________

 

I’m pacing. I hadn’t realized it until I got to the kitchen for the third time when there was no good reason to be in there. And that’s as good an excuse as any to pour myself a glass of wine.

I glance at the clock as the Sauvignon Blanc splashes into the glass, hoping I’m not too far outside the guideline of 5:00, although I know it won’t stop me now that I’ve already started pouring. I’m surprised to see it is nearly half-five. I accidentally overfill the glass and toast to my new singledom, gulping down nearly half before immediately refilling it.

Perfect. At this rate, I’ll be able to add being an alcoholic to my list of failings.

I force myself away from the now half-empty wine bottle in the kitchen and into the sitting room, tucking my knees into my oversized sweater so I am unable to take back up the pacing. I’m beginning to regret calling out sick from work. I’ve done nothing but torture myself all day with thoughts of Ben and the person from Chicago that he slept with.

He didn’t explicitly tell me that he had cheated on me, but hidden behind the all euphemisms and passive, twisting language, I know what the real message is. I’ve known him for six years, I am intimately familiar with the way he separates himself from his actions with passivity to preserve the image of himself as a Good Guy.

And of course I didn’t ask. I was so caught off guard by it all, my priorities lied in having a healthy, cleansing discussion of our relationship, as if self-preservation would give me more closure than laying into him for being a cheating asshole.

The wine is making me weepy again and I take a deep breath, steeling myself. I wish I had gone into work. It was Ezra’s idea to call out sick, after I had called them in tears, wondering how I was supposed to sit at my desk and answer phone calls all day, let alone explain to my boss that I wouldn’t be needing those five days off to visit Ben in Chicago after all.

“Why don’t you call in sick?” Ezra had suggested. “They won’t miss you for a day, and besides, you need time to process.”

It had sounded like a good idea at the time, heartbroken, three drinks deep and facing a monster hangover the next day. And even then, all I could think about was not wanting to appear a mess in front of Ruby. The thought of her seeing me a hungover, heartbroken garbage creature while she always looks nothing short of radiant had made my stomach knot up, and I found myself agreeing with Ezra all too easily. And a fat lot of good that had done me.

Now I am practically fizzing with unrest; cooping myself up in the house all day had only served to drive me crazy. If I had gone to work, maybe seeing Ruby would have driven thoughts of Ben out of my mind.

And now I am thinking about her again. It had been clumsy of me to admit my crush on Ruby to my coworkers, and I feel sure she must know by now—a thought that makes my heart pound and my face grow hot with awkward embarrassment. At the time, though, it had been innocent enough. I had been with Ben, what was a casual crush in the face of a three-year relationship? The fact that I am single now changes nothing. At least, that’s what I tell myself, so I can force my thoughts away from Ruby and Ben and my awkward, sad mess of a personal life.

I am being overly dramatic and I need to distract myself from my wine-fueled thoughts before I start to cry again, so I switch on the television and try to pay attention to whatever evening sitcom is playing out on the screen.

It is fully dark outside and I am on my third glass of wine when a knock at the door pulls me sharply back into the present. Who could be knocking at—I check my phone—8 o’clock at night? Ezra always calls before they drop by, and none of my other friends know about the break up yet… It can’t be Ben. It can’t be. He’s in Chicago, and won’t be back to pick up his things for another week.

I pad cautiously into the hallway and pull the door open just a fraction, despising myself for hoping it will be him.

But it isn’t Ben.

It’s her.

“It’s you.” I croak out, dazedly taking in the figure before me as my brain goes into overdrive with confusion.

“Hi, Lou.” She looks perfect, dark waves pouring over her shoulders in ripples, the light from my hallway setting her olive cheeks aglow with gold. The red of her lipstick is a contrast to the muted tones she wears in the office, and it suits her. My heart pounds nervously as I suddenly become conscious of the fact that I am wearing an enormous, pill-covered sweater and no pants. I am unwashed, half-dressed, and the only makeup I have on is the vestiges of the mascara I put on this morning—the rest of which having dripped down my cheeks as I cried. I am a mess.

“Wh-what are—how do you know where I live?”

“You called in sick. Everyone at work says you never call in sick. I got worried.” She is scanning me up and down and I realize I still have a glass of wine in my hand, and I am supposed to be so sick I have called out for the first time in nearly three years at the company. She spares the glass a glance before turning her dark eyes back to me. “Can I come in?”

I nod, flustered, and step back to allow her entrance to my hallway.

I spare my reflection in the large hall mirror a withering glance as Ruby finds her way into the sitting room just beyond. My blonde curls are frizzy and I stuff them quickly into a messy bun so I don’t feel like a heap of garbage next to her. Then I remember I am supposed to be feeling like a heap of garbage.

Shit. Playing hooky is technically a fireable offense. And here is my superior, checking on me, a coworker who called out on a Friday and who is very obviously not sick. Unless you count being heartsick. I roll my eyes at that thought.

My eyes pass over the sitting room critically and am surprised to see that, if my plan was to appear ill, the setting would not blow my cover. Piles of tissues fill the wastebasket I have dragged next to the couch, which is draped with a nest of pillows and blankets. The television is muted but is still on, playing some mindless sitcom, and the heater has made the room cozy, bordering on stuffy now that adrenaline pumps through me.

The only thing wrong with the picture is me and my lack of symptoms.

The sound of her voice pulls me from my thoughts. “I didn’t think wine was particularly good for a cold.” Her judgemental words are softened by the teasing smile playing at the corner of her mouth.

“No, not really. Feels good on my throat though,” I answer pathetically, then fake a few coughs. It is a feeble effort, and I know if she stays more than a few minutes, she will be on to me.

It is then that I realize she’s not completely sober herself. There’s an ease with which she talks, playful and much more relaxed than the tone I am used to from work. And her eyes are a little too bright, even more catlike than her usual stare.

“Would… Would you like some?” I don’t know why I ask, but she nods easily and purrs out a “please,” that makes my heart skip a beat.

As I get a second glass from the bar in the kitchen, my fingers shaking, an idea strikes me. My eyes skim over the dusty glasses on the high shelf of the hutch. Maybe if I appear sicker she’ll fear catching it, and leave me to rest. Without thinking, I stand on my tiptoes and take a deep breath through my nose, then another.

Dust motes swirl toward me and I immediately feel my eyes and throat begin to itch. I am always amazed at just how quickly my mild dust allergy begins to function when I am in this close of proximity.

I give one last wave of my hand to stir up the dust, one last breath, then step down and begin to fill her glass.

Already I can feel my breath hitching and my heart sinks when I realize the effect my frantic actions are going to have. In my desperation to have her leave, I didn’t consider the fact that I would have to sneeze in front of Ruby. And, if my previous allergic episodes are anything to go by, it won’t just be once.

I finish pouring the wine just in time for my nose to give a powerful tickle, sending me into a trio of itchy sneezes I manage to direct into my sleeve. “Hehhihh… Hih’KSCHhiew! Hih… Hih’KSCHhiew! Ahh… Hahh’TSCHhiew!

“Bless you!” Her voice echoes into the hallway, and I give a silent prayer that those will be enough to clear the tickle for the next few minutes, though I know it is fruitless.

“Thank you! I promise I didn’t sneeze in your wine!” I call back, attempting levity.

I pad back into the sitting room and hand her the wine, still sniffling.

I realize then that she never answered my original question “So, h-how did you find out where I lihh-live?”

“I asked Theresa to pull your record after she told me you’ve never taken a sick day. She’s very worried about you!”

I try to answer, but another sneeze threatens, and my breath is too uneven to speak. “Ahh-ahh… Hihh… Hehh’EISHhoo! Hah’AASHhiew! Ehh-excuse me!” I reach for the tissue box next to the couch and attempt to clear my nose of the allergen in as ladylike a way as I can muster.

“For good reason, I suppose; bless you! You’re obviously not feeling well.”

“I’m actually much b-better than I was this-hih!-morning—Hihh… Hihh’KSCHhiew! Ugh, I’m sorry! This is so unattractive.”

This was such an idiotic idea. I am now a sneezy mess in front of Ruby, the last person in the world in front of whom I want to be any kind of mess. And the more I think about it, it’s for no good reason. It’s not as though she could fire me. While she is technically my superior, she is not my boss, and if she told my boss what she found out, she would have to explain what she was doing at my house, tipsy, at 8 pm on a Friday. So really, my frantic efforts to save face are serving the exact opposite purpose and my nose itches so much.

“Please, don’t apologize. It’s hardly your fault. Besides, you’re sort of cute when you sneeze. Your sneezes are small, but they take you completely by control. You’re desperately at the mercy of your itchy nose. It’s almost endearing.” Her eyes crinkle up in a smile as my brain goes completely blank. I have no idea what to say, so my allergy-ridden nose decides for me.

Ihh… Ihh’TSCHhiew!

Bless you!” She says it with vehemence and a hint of affection.

I blush furiously and scrub at my nose with a tissue, trying to keep my sneezes under control for the next ten minutes. “Thank you for trying to make me feel less disgusting,” I murmur stuffily. “Even if I know you’re lying.”

Except, I don’t know that she’s lying. There’s a strange energy in the air, and I can’t get over the absurdity of her being in my apartment for no real reason. I take another sip of wine even though my head is already buzzing. Between the stuffiness, the tipsiness, and the adrenaline of Ruby being only a few feet from me, my head is beginning to spin. My attraction for her has only grown in the past few minutes, and I know I have to get her moving along before I do something really unwise.

The prickly urge to sneeze is still teasing at my breath. “Did I miss anything important today?”

Ruby shrugs easily, laughter rippling from her. “Not unless you count Geoff breaking the coffee pot—”    

“What, again?” I cut in, giggles bubbling from my throat before I can stop them. “Is that the third time?”

“And Ranjit did, in fact bring in a headset from home.”

I nod, eyes wide. “Riveting stuff. I’m sorry to have missed it.”

“Oh! And we’ve decided—”

She stops talking when she sees that my eyes have become unfocused and my eyebrows steeple desperately as the itch culminates once again into a sneeze. “Hihh… IHH’tschiew! Hihh’ITSCHhiew! Ihh… Hahh-ahh…? Ugh, sorry!” I sigh an apology after the second sneeze fades teasingly from reach.

“Good lord, bless you! Do you always sneeze this much when you have a cold?” There’s something flirtatious about the way she says it, and, even though there’s absolutely nothing sexy about the sentence she has just said, I find my face prickling with a blush. Actually, everything she has said tonight has felt flirtatious, though we’ve only talked about work.

“N-not usually. This is just a hell of a cold, I guess.” My heart pounds at the lie, and I hope she hasn’t noticed my cheeks flush.

“Your boyfriend hasn’t come to check on you?” She pouts at me and my heart pounds even faster at the way her lips pinch together in a frown.

“N-no, he’s in Chicago. And he’s not my—uh, we… We ended things. Last night.”

“Oh. Oh! Lou, I’m sorry!” She squeezes my shoulder and for some reason the mention of Ben isn’t a stab to my chest because it’s fluttering with the contact of her hand against my arm. “Are you alright? It was pretty serious, wasn’t it? Oh, I’m sorry, you probably don’t want to talk about it.”

I sniffle, grab another tissue to give myself some time in constructing a response. “I’m doing okay, actually. It’s nice to have a bit of a distraction.” And it is nice, even though this whole encounter with her has turned me into a ball of nervous energy. Even though I’m embarrassing myself by sneezing every 20 seconds—“Hih! Aah’ISHhiew!

Bless you.” She says again, gives my shoulder one more squeeze before dropping her hand back down.

“Sorry, I know I’m a mess. Look, I really don’t want you to catch this. Not that it hasn’t been a nice surprise to see you, of course.” I surprise myself with how genuine the last bit is.

“It’s been really nice to see you too. We all really missed you at work today.” The tension in the air is back, and there’s something unspoken glimmering in her eyes as she looks at me. Then, she breaks it. “Well, I’ll let you rest. Sorry for dropping in unannounced. I hope you feel better soon, Lou.”

And she’s standing, striding to the doorway, and I’m stumbling clumsily after her so I can lock up behind her. She waits patiently at the front door, and just as I’m about to say goodbye, she pulls me into a quick, soft hug.

As she pulls away, she gives me a quick, chaste kiss on the cheek. “Bye, Lou.”

“Bye,” I murmur, stunned. My cheek tingles as the door closes behind her.

Well, that was… Unexpected. Wonderful. Confusing. My head spins as I realize I’m going to need to unpack that, as well as everything else with Ben.

Hihh… Hih’KSCHhiew!”

But first, some much-needed antihistamines.

Fin

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😍 You've really captured the feeling of having an awkward crush on a work-type person…and the feeling that arises when inevitably, sooner or later, you end up being vulnerable around them. This is great! (Also, I love the subterfuge. 😄)

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I admit that I am very much here for the sneezing, but reading through your setting up the story was so worth it! Your writing of tangled up emotions is wonderfully evocative and while I'll go pretty far with suspension of disbelief for a sneeze fics, the characters and scenario were completely believable. And the allergy self-inducing… Looooove it! Well done! And you certainly know how to pique your reader's interest about a couple characters and what might happen next between them… Thank you for sharing your gift!

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This is a very beautiful story...! The setup is just perfect, the images are so vivid, I can see the whole scene clearly. And the tension between the characters comes across subtle yet very powerfully. Just beautiful.

On ‎9‎/‎16‎/‎2018 at 2:28 AM, Zwee said:

I’m pacing. I hadn’t realized it until I got to the kitchen for the third time when there was no good reason to be in there. And that’s as good an excuse as any to pour myself a glass of wine.

So relatable it's almost sad. :lol: 

On ‎9‎/‎16‎/‎2018 at 2:28 AM, Zwee said:

Already I can feel my breath hitching and my heart sinks when I realize the effect my frantic actions are going to have. In my desperation to have her leave, I didn’t consider the fact that I would have to sneeze in front of Ruby. And, if my previous allergic episodes are anything to go by, it won’t just be once.

Oooh, instant regret. I can almost feel how much she regrets it. Aww! 

On ‎9‎/‎16‎/‎2018 at 2:28 AM, Zwee said:

“Please, don’t apologize. It’s hardly your fault. Besides, you’re sort of cute when you sneeze. Your sneezes are small, but they take you completely by control. You’re desperately at the mercy of your itchy nose. It’s almost endearing.” Her eyes crinkle up in a smile as my brain goes completely blank. I have no idea what to say, so my allergy-ridden nose decides for me.

:naughty: Oh but if I'm not mistaken, Ruby QUITE likes the situation, as do I... :whistle:

On ‎9‎/‎16‎/‎2018 at 2:28 AM, Zwee said:

“Sorry, I know I’m a mess. Look, I really don’t want you to catch this. Not that it hasn’t been a nice surprise to see you, of course.” I surprise myself with how genuine the last bit is.

“It’s been really nice to see you too. We all really missed you at work today.” The tension in the air is back, and there’s something unspoken glimmering in her eyes as she looks at me. Then, she breaks it. “Well, I’ll let you rest. Sorry for dropping in unannounced. I hope you feel better soon, Lou.”

And she’s standing, striding to the doorway, and I’m stumbling clumsily after her so I can lock up behind her. She waits patiently at the front door, and just as I’m about to say goodbye, she pulls me into a quick, soft hug.

As she pulls away, she gives me a quick, chaste kiss on the cheek. “Bye, Lou.”

This was really sweet!! :wub: And the sneeze spellings were lovely too!

Oh, and

On ‎9‎/‎16‎/‎2018 at 2:28 AM, Zwee said:

I asked Theresa

put a smile on my face. Or, more of a smirk, maybe. :whistle: 

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WOW I love this so so so much!! Loved the setup, loved the sneezes, loved the chemistry, loved it ALL! Please explore more! 

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This story idea was phenomenal! I loved the concept behind it! Curious of whether or not it will continue, but if it doesn’t, I’m satisfied either way!

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On 9/15/2018 at 6:32 PM, aderyn said:

😍 You've really captured the feeling of having an awkward crush on a work-type person…and the feeling that arises when inevitably, sooner or later, you end up being vulnerable around them. This is great! (Also, I love the subterfuge. 😄)

Thank you!! I'm so glad that feeling came across, that's definitely what I was going for. Happy you enjoyed it!

On 9/15/2018 at 10:08 PM, Candy said:

This is completely adorable, and I'd love to read more of these two!

Thanks so much!! I loved writing them, so you might see more from them in the future...

On 9/16/2018 at 3:21 AM, M214186 said:

Really enjoyed this story

I'm happy to hear it!!

On 9/17/2018 at 8:20 AM, JaeChaeGi said:

I admit that I am very much here for the sneezing, but reading through your setting up the story was so worth it! Your writing of tangled up emotions is wonderfully evocative and while I'll go pretty far with suspension of disbelief for a sneeze fics, the characters and scenario were completely believable. And the allergy self-inducing… Looooove it! Well done! And you certainly know how to pique your reader's interest about a couple characters and what might happen next between them… Thank you for sharing your gift!

Haha, I think many of us are mostly here for the sneezing, so I'm really gratified the set up didn't turn you off and you actually stayed for it!! This is such lovely feedback; I'm so flattered! Thank you so so much for your kind words!!

 

On 9/17/2018 at 9:44 AM, Chanel_no5 said:

This is a very beautiful story...! The setup is just perfect, the images are so vivid, I can see the whole scene clearly. And the tension between the characters comes across subtle yet very powerfully. Just beautiful.

On 9/15/2018 at 5:28 PM, Zwee said:

I’m pacing. I hadn’t realized it until I got to the kitchen for the third time when there was no good reason to be in there. And that’s as good an excuse as any to pour myself a glass of wine.

So relatable it's almost sad. :lol: 

On 9/15/2018 at 5:28 PM, Zwee said:

Already I can feel my breath hitching and my heart sinks when I realize the effect my frantic actions are going to have. In my desperation to have her leave, I didn’t consider the fact that I would have to sneeze in front of Ruby. And, if my previous allergic episodes are anything to go by, it won’t just be once.

Oooh, instant regret. I can almost feel how much she regrets it. Aww! 

On 9/15/2018 at 5:28 PM, Zwee said:

“Please, don’t apologize. It’s hardly your fault. Besides, you’re sort of cute when you sneeze. Your sneezes are small, but they take you completely by control. You’re desperately at the mercy of your itchy nose. It’s almost endearing.” Her eyes crinkle up in a smile as my brain goes completely blank. I have no idea what to say, so my allergy-ridden nose decides for me.

:naughty: Oh but if I'm not mistaken, Ruby QUITE likes the situation, as do I... :whistle:

On 9/15/2018 at 5:28 PM, Zwee said:

“Sorry, I know I’m a mess. Look, I really don’t want you to catch this. Not that it hasn’t been a nice surprise to see you, of course.” I surprise myself with how genuine the last bit is.

“It’s been really nice to see you too. We all really missed you at work today.” The tension in the air is back, and there’s something unspoken glimmering in her eyes as she looks at me. Then, she breaks it. “Well, I’ll let you rest. Sorry for dropping in unannounced. I hope you feel better soon, Lou.”

And she’s standing, striding to the doorway, and I’m stumbling clumsily after her so I can lock up behind her. She waits patiently at the front door, and just as I’m about to say goodbye, she pulls me into a quick, soft hug.

As she pulls away, she gives me a quick, chaste kiss on the cheek. “Bye, Lou.”

This was really sweet!! :wub: And the sneeze spellings were lovely too!

Oh, and

On 9/15/2018 at 5:28 PM, Zwee said:

I asked Theresa

put a smile on my face. Or, more of a smirk, maybe. :whistle: 

Wow, thank you so much!! Ruby definitely enjoyed the situation, I haven't quite decided just how much... I'm glad it was so vivid for you, I have such a clear picture in my head when I'm writing and it feels good to know it came across! Also, I completely didn't notice 'Theresa' until you pointed it out! Theresa on the brain, I guess! 😉

On 9/20/2018 at 2:16 PM, Glimmer said:

WOW I love this so so so much!! Loved the setup, loved the sneezes, loved the chemistry, loved it ALL! Please explore more! 

WOW thank you!!!! I'm so glad you liked it! I'm definitely still interested in exploring these characters, you'll most likely see more from them!

On 9/21/2018 at 4:37 PM, Sneezingnonstop said:

This story idea was phenomenal! I loved the concept behind it! Curious of whether or not it will continue, but if it doesn’t, I’m satisfied either way!

Thank you so much! I originally wrote it as a oneshot, but I'll probably use these characters again, I really enjoyed writing them. I'm glad you liked them too!

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