Chapter 1: Friday
“It was a dark and stormy night,” Sera said to herself, pushing open the door of the bookshop and stepping into the rain. The local weather reporter wasn’t known for his accuracy. True to course, he had predicted a sunny day with high clouds and warm temperatures. Instead, it had been 65 and windy with low and increasingly dark clouds. Now that the sun was gone, it had crossed over into the “very chilly” category and was pouring rain. Not quite stormy, but close enough with a cold and steady downpour more appropriate for November than for early September. By the time she finished closing and locking the door behind her she was soaked through and freezing. Even for someone who generally loved the rain (even when she was out in it), this was a bit much. Head down, she wrapped her arms around herself as best she could with a canvas messenger bag slung over her shoulder and began pushing through the deluge toward home, a mostly converted carriage house just at the edge of town, a ten-minute-at-best walk away. She sometimes drove to the shop, but - thank you again, Mr. Weather Man - had been under the mistaken impression that it was a good day to leave her car at home. Walking was her only option unless she wanted to call Tanya, her landlord’s wife, to come pick her up. She briefly considered it, but quickly decided not to; Tee worked long, hard hours at the farm and greenhouse and shouldn’t have to slog out into this mess at 8:30 at night, especially because Sera knew she would.
Four minutes later, she was getting cranky. At five she was so irritable and bitchy-feeling that she wanted to cry. It wasn’t just the rain, though there was that. The drops were heavy, close together, and relentless; water ran in sheets down the storefronts; where there were awnings, frigid waterfalls splashed onto the sidewalk. No, it was that, added to the rain, there were periodic bouts of very determined wind that lasted just long enough to freeze her bones before tapering off and giving her a brief respite, if you could call it that. And, third strike for the weather man, she wasn’t remotely dressed for it. She was soaked to the bone, her favorite ankle boots were probably being ruined, and the long wrap skirt she’d grabbed because it was easy was slapping like ice against her ankles and calves. She might have worn the same top, she mused, a long sleeved dobby woven wonder that she’d found in a shop in Boston and spent too much money on. The meandering vertical lines of white that were worked in like vines accentuated her height, while the loop buttons up the front drew attention to her long neck and hinted at the soft cleavage below. Loose sleeves, ruffled cuffs, it was just tailored enough to be a bit dressy if she needed it to be. She loved it, but it ended at her waist and let the very cold wind bite at her skin.
When she got to the next corner she paused and flipped her hair back out of her face. She could keep going - she wasn’t going to get any colder or wetter - and be home in time for the news, or she could take a huge chance and be inside with towels and a robe five minutes from now. She made it a point to stay far away from Ally’s on Friday nights. She knew Gabe was there periodically, and she’d been avoiding him for the years she’d been back here. Their last meeting hadn’t been easy or pleasant for either of them, and now she didn’t know what she’d even say to him. She peered through the rain ahead of her, and then shielded her eyes to look left up Bennett Street until it dwindled into nothing. Nothing. She sighed. She knew very well that, at this hour in Brookfield, the only thing open was Ally’s take on a pub. Like it or not, it was her only option. That or keep walking. Another blast of wind came up, and the decision was made.
She turned right, heading for the blessed spot of light moving a little closer with every step. Her usual lunch spot, Ally’s was a good sized bar and restaurant (e.g. pub) known for its rustic-industrial atmosphere and amazing food. Frequented by locals, people from the university, people driving through, and tourists, Friday nights were dubbed “Freaky Friday” and involved live music and a different theme each week. This week, if Sera remembered it right, was costume night. From the outside, Ally’s was inviting in an unassuming but quirky way. The building was a century-old warehouse, brick fronted and with large windows, three stories high. The old door had been replaced and widened during the updates when Ally bought the place a few years ago and was now a rich wooden double door with iron fittings and handles. They were gorgeous, but not the lightest, Sera thought as she pulled one open.
“Oh, lord,” she said, stepping through the doorway. The place was packed. The lights were just slightly lower than they normally were, but she was coming in from the dark and could see just fine. She shook her head with a rueful smile as she took in the bear seated at a table just to her left, a very long straw leading from his beer to his mouth. His snout. His whatever it was. Next to the bear was a flapper, all fringe and sparkles. Across the table was Einstein wearing a model of an atom on his head, attached with pipe cleaners. Still smiling but definitely nervous, she slid her eyes along the perimeter of the room. She saw doctors and cowboys, burlesque dancers and Bill Gates, quite a few business executives, and “French maids” in their little ruffled aprons and not much else. Two of the maids were men and several construction workers were women, and one man was walking around with a nearly naked angel on a leash. The angel kept her head lowered so all Sera could see was long silky blonde hair falling over the woman’s face and breasts almost to her waist. They were standing by the table with the flapper and Einstein, the man and Einstein seemingly deep in conversation. Then the man glanced over at Sera, and she froze. It was Seth Bennet of Bennett Street fame, former college (and now professional) athlete. She didn’t avoid Seth, exactly, but he didn’t live here anymore and she never saw him. She hadn’t seen him since grad school and hadn’t thought she’d ever see him again. She hoped he didn’t remember her, but the slow narrowing of his eyes quickly dashed that thought. He tugged on the leash, pulling the angel closer, and turned briefly back to Einstein before he swiveled to face Sera, pulling the angel with him and then jerking her suddenly forward to stand in front of him, her back against his chest. Never moving his eyes from Sera’s, Seth slid the hand holding the leash up into the angel’s hair. He wound his fingers through it and pulled, gently enough that it didn’t seem to hurt but firmly enough that it tugged the woman’s head back. Sera saw her, and the woman saw Sera and gasped, blushing a hot red, and threw her glance back at the floor. It was Madison Riley, last year’s head cheerleader. She came into the bookstore a lot, cheerful and friendly. She read a lot of poetry, and art books. Occasional erotica. Just as the thought registered, Seth moved his other hand to Madison breast, covered only by white stretch lace, and grabbed her nipple firmly between his thumb and index finger, slowly tightening them while Sera watched, humiliated and transfixed.
There was a soft cry, and Sera looked up. Madison was still flushed, but now her lips were parted and her eyes were wide. Seth’s fingers kept squeezing; he lowered his head and whispered something, and Madison flinched and shifted her eyes quickly back to Sera’s. Seth smiled slyly, his eyes also on Sera, and wrenched hard, pulling and twisting Maddie’s nipple while she bit her lip and whimpered, her knees threatening to buckle. Then Seth winked and let go, his other hand relaxing to stroke Madison’s hair.
Sera ran. Or what counted as running in a crowded bar. Pushing her way through the crowd, she moved as quickly as she could through the cowboys and pixies and strippers both male and female. Her heart was pounding and her breath was coming in gasps, and she realize with horror that her pussy was twitching and throbbing. She came even with the bar and glanced to her right, trying to catch the bartender’s eye. The bartender was also Sera’s grad school roommate and the owner of the place, Ally.
“Come on, Al,” she thought, “look at me.” She didn’t want to stop, but she had to make sure. Was he here? Her eyes moved to the center of the room, where she saw clowns, more cowboys, an assortment of fairies, and several firemen. There were people scattered throughout who weren’t in costume, too, but no one cared. She scanned the room in a spiral out from the center and then again along an imaginary grid back and forth, back and forth. She didn’t see him. Letting out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, she finally reached the bar.
“Ally!” Sera called. She was in the middle of tapping a keg, but when she saw Sera at the end of the bar Ally stood up quickly and looked around, then grabbed a towel and moved toward her. Sera noticed her expression – a sort of cringy panic – just as someone grabbed her soaking hair and jerked her head back.
“I think it’s time we talked,” Gabe growled in her ear, and she was yanked firmly around and pushed toward the kitchen before she could even call out again. It didn’t matter, though. She had her answer and, despite the knot of fear in her stomach, her pussy was now dripping along with the rest of her.
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