Emi opened her eyes and saw that Ben was sleeping peacefully. She loved his buzz cut and lightly ran her fingers across it, trying to not wake him. His afternoon shadow came quickly, she noted. Glancing down, she saw his feet dangling off the end of the bed and his blanket tenting at his crotch, causing her to smile.
Rolling onto her back, she felt a sexy dread as she remembered something. Reaching under the blanket, she confirmed what she already knew, that she was bare. It was smooth all over, her last remaining cover, that hid just a small but important patch of skin, now gone, leaving it exposed to the world. She felt truly naked now. It was a strange sensation as her hand gravitated further down. The guys were going to make a big deal of this. There was no avoiding that, she thought as she cupped her sex, covering herself protectively. They were going to make comments, and look, she thought as her hand refused to stay still. Likely the entire building was going to see, she reasoned as she rubbed and pressed. How on earth could anyone deal with something like that, she thought as her mouth opened to get more air. She needed more air.
“Good morning,” he said, startling her.
She froze her hand, looking at him suddenly, trying to calm down. It’s not like he could know what she was doing under the blanket. She had barely been moving. “Ahh… good morning!” she said, blushing.
His warm eyes seemed to smile. “What time is it?”
“Time to go shopping,” she said, still wondering if he had noticed anything.
“Ugh…” he pulled the pillow over his eyes.
Emi sat up. “We only have pillows, sheets, a blanket, a single roll of toilet paper, and a face cloth,” she said, still buzzing, wishing she could have finished.
“And some shaving stuff,” he added, causing his mouth to reshape into a grin.
Emi slammed him with her pillow.
“Ouch!” he laughed.
After taking a long shower together, followed by awkwardly trying to dry two bodies with just a single face cloth, Emi put on the grungy t-shirt again and he pulled on his pants. His bare chest looked masculine and fit as he slid into his shirt. Opening the window, she saw it was a nice day and down below Cloud Nine was waiting for them.
“Can I take your order?” Jill asked.
Emi looked around, wondering where the big guy in the bandana was. Her hands instinctively clenched the hem of her shirt, making sure it was long enough.
“He takes a nap around now, as he’s up early baking every morning,” Jill explained, glancing down at Emi’s legs and chest.
Realizing that it was attracting attention, Emi let go of her hem.“I’ll have one of those cheese/bacon delights and a coffee,” Emi said, using her watch to tap and pay as Jill had everything typed in before she had even finished speaking.
“The breakfast special?” she asked, looking at Ben.
He nodded, paying with his phone. “I just have to grab something on the next block, I’ll be right back,” he said, pausing to await her response
Emi grabbed the cups. “Yeah, sure… what’s up?” she asked, looking at him.
“Indeed…” he said, as left the cafe, running down the sidewalk.
“Indeed?” Emi said to herself, trying to imagine what could be so important as to interrupt their time together. Watching him jog off down the street, she took a sip of coffee and then clicked her phone to call Liz.
“Hi Emi!” Liz said, her cheerful voice filling the morning air.
“Still wanna go shopping? I promise it won’t be fun…”
“Count me in!” Liz said, excitedly.
“Are you sure? We’re talking toilet paper and stuff.”
“Haha, sure. I have nothing better to do today.”
“Okay… meet us at Cloud Nine? In an hour?”
“I’ll be there!” she said, ending the call.
Emi was on her second cup when Ben returned. Looking a bit winded, he slid into the seat across from her.
Emi smiled. She was curious, but Ben looked as if he needed a moment.
“Look, Emi,” he said, wrinkling his brow. “Monday…”
“Monday?” she replied. “I’d rather not. It’s Sunday. We’re in a café. It’s sunny. I’m here with you. Let me enjoy Sunday … all day.”
Studying Ben, Emi could see that she’d throw him for a loop. Suddenly he didn’t know how to proceed. She’d obviously derailed his train of thought. “Okay, now you are worrying me. Pretend that I didn’t say that. You were going to tell me something.”
“I do. I mean, I was. I just can’t figure out how to bring it up without mentioning…”
“It’s okay. I understand. So, please. What’s on your mind?”
“Umm. I care about you, and it’s been distressing … watching all that’s been happening. Without mentioning the day of the week that comes after Sunday… I just don’t know how you’re going to be able to handle it. Running to work naked every day. That’s just not right.”
Emi looked down. Why was he reminding her of this?
“I was thinking about that conversation… that we were having… when I was… you know…” he said, glancing all around.
Emi blushed, also looking around, praying he would not say it out loud.
“You were worried about when your job is up. About leaving the island.”
Emi’s breath caught in her throat. From Monday to that day far in the distant future, the day she might have to leave Ben behind. The two things she least wanted to think about.
“Please, Ben. I’ll have Jill get you a hot coffee. I’m sure yours is cold.”
“Listen, Emi. I’m not good with this stuff. But it’s important. I want you to know that you’re important … to me. That I’m firmly in your corner. That’s what I’m trying to say.”
Emi looked up, locking eyes with Ben. He looked serious, completely serious. “My corner?” she asked, prompting him to explain.
“Yes…” he said, suddenly glancing to the side as if he were losing his nerve. “I’m ahh…”
Emi sat up, watching him closely. He was struggling with whatever it was that he wanted to say, but then it hit her. Ben was trying to tell her how he felt. That was something she understood. She also wasn’t good when it came to expressing her feelings. It had been forever since she’d had a boyfriend, and that hadn’t gone well. In fact, it had been a disaster.
Ben took a deep breath, looking up… “I…”
His antics were starting to be amusing but Emi was sensing romantic vibes.
“Spit it out, Ben. You’re making me nervous.”
“I don’t want you to be nervous,” he said, placing a small box on the table and quickly pulling his hand away.
Emi looked at it. It looked like a jewelry box. She was surprised and didn’t know how to react.
“May I?” she said, reaching for it tentatively. It was a nice surprise.
“To make your Sunday happy,” Ben said. “It’s all about Sunday. Forget I said Mon… the M-word.”
Opening the box, Emi saw a glint, a flash of light. Turning it in the sunlight, she saw a pair of diamond bud earrings. “Ben… oh… this is too much.” She wasn’t much of a jewelry person, but his gesture warmed her heart. Diamonds were everlasting. What did his gift mean?
“Ben, I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.”
She returned her eyes to the earrings. Did this mean that Ben was serious about their relationship? That it wasn’t just a fling for him? But they’d just started going out. Wasn’t it a bit early? Emi’s mind was full of thoughts, but thankfully it wasn’t a ring. That would definitely be too much.
“Thank you, Ben,” she said. Closing the box, she enveloped it in her hands, holding it to her chest.
She saw Ben smile. As she reached a finger up to dab an eye, Jill came over to top up their coffee.
“Don’t mind me,” she said, her sparkling smile hinting that she knew that something special was going down. A second later she was gone, dancing away to the next table.
With the jewelry box still clutched to her chest, Emi reached one hand across the table. Placing her hand atop one of Ben’s hands, she gave it a squeeze. Again their eyes met, but this time, no words were spoken. They weren’t necessary.
A minute later, she and Ben were again eating, talking, and enjoying the fragrant morning air. The box was on the table. Even though Emi was no longer holding it, she certainly hadn’t forgotten it. This moment would stay with her for a long time.
Later, when it was almost time for Liz to arrive Emi again picked up the box. “Will you keep this for me? I can’t wear them right now.” She turned her head showing her earlobes. “I need to get my ears pierced first. But I will. For these earrings, I will.”
He nodded, slipping it into his back pocket.
“Nicest present anyone has ever given me,” she whispered into his ear. She kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you for getting my Sunday off to a beautiful start.” But then a chuckle escaped her lips. How had he not seen that her ears weren’t pierced?
“What’s so funny?” he asked, turning toward her, his lips barely an inch from hers.
“Oh, nothing,” she replied. She really couldn’t expect him to notice something so small, especially considering that her ears were above her neck. Maybe if she wasn’t almost always nude.
Just then, looking down the street, Emi saw Liz approaching.
Liz was walking energetically, wearing a short green skirt, almost like a school skirt, and white knee-highs. It made her look like a teen as her little black ponytail bounced behind her. “Hey Emi, ready to shop?”
Emi nodded. “Yeah, I have to buy a lot of boring things today, starting with a new t-shirt. It’s too bad because this could be my last day to do this. I wanted to have some fun.”
Ben put down his coffee. “I’ll take care of the apartment shopping, you guys go have fun,” he said.
“No… you don’t have to…”
“If you don’t mind my selection of dishes, silverware, and pots and pans?” He asked.
“I absolutely trust your sense, Ben. And I’ll pay you back,” Emi said, remembering that his place seemed to have a decent selection of dishes and cutlery, among other things.
“Call them housewarming gifts.”
“Take her away, Liz,” Ben said, smiling.
“Let’s go Emi…” she said, dragging Emi away.
Reluctantly Emi gave in, allowing herself to be pulled. “I’m paying you back!” she yelled. He had already bought her expensive earrings. It wasn’t right for him to buy her apartment stuff. As a specialist contractor, she likely made at least twice as much money as he did. She would pay him back and then some.
Glancing back, she saw him smiling happily.
Three blocks down, and four shops later, Emi hit the t-shirt jackpot. She grabbed the first t-shirt she could find and went to the changing room. Liz followed her in.
“Ahh… I’m okay, Liz…”
“Are you kidding me? I see you naked all day at work.”
Emi saw her point, pulling off the dog whisperer t-shirt, leaving it beside her as she pulled on the t-shirt with a big fuzzy bear on the front.
“I see you shaved,” Liz said bluntly.
Emi pulled the t-shirt firmly down, ignoring the comment.
“So suddenly you are shaving? What brought this on?”
“What? Oh yeah, just you know. Ahem… keeping it all cleaned up,” Emi said, awkwardly, wishing Liz would change the subject.
“Oh my God, you’re blushing,” Liz said, looking into Emi’s face uncomfortably close. “Hey… it’s okay. I know you are going through a lot right now. I’m here for you. Okay?”
Emi nodded. Her tone was friendly, making it sound as if she meant it.
Liz picked up the dog whisperer t-shirt. “I think it’s safe to say that we both would like to never see this again,” she said, opening the door.
Liz stopped… looking at her. When Emi said nothing, Liz took a few steps and tossed it into the waste bin by the viewing mirror. “I’ll grab a few more t-shirts,” she said, leaving the changing room area.
Emi didn’t particularly like the idea of Liz tossing her only piece of clothing before she’d had the chance to replace it.
“Didn’t you give that to Ben?”
“No, it was a loaner.”
Emi shrugged. It wasn’t like she was going to wear it again. It did look kind of dumb. Feeling the hem of the bear t-shirt, Emi noticed it was a little short, too short for comfort, so Emi left the changing room to go help Liz find something, gripping the hem down.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, you can’t leave the changing area with merchandise on,” the clerk said.
“Right of course,” Emi said, wondering if Liz was up to something. She looked around and then into the waste bin. The dog whisperer was still there. If she needed to, she could always pull it out.
Liz came back with a stack of t-shirts. “Try these on.”
“Ahh… okay… you know I can’t leave here with this on, right?”
“Yes,” she laughed. “But don’t worry, I’ll buy the one you like for you and bring it back to you.”
Emi looked at her with squinty eyes.
Liz shook her head. “I know… I know… perfect opportunity to mess with you, right? Well… I had a nightmare last night where I was forced to be a mailgirl and well… I didn’t like it at all.”
“Oh… poor girl. That must have been terrible…” Emi said sarcastically.
“It was,” Liz said, leaning in and hugging Emi. “I hate Ho and Brandy, and Ruth and Sarah and Su-Ning.”
“Wait… Su-Ning shouldn’t be on that list, and I’m not sure about Ruth… yet. What do you think about Sarah?”
“Are you kidding me? Ruth’s going to be the new Ho. What does great power do? It corrupts greatly.”
“I don’t think that’s how the saying goes,” Emi said, closing the door. She pulled off her t-shirt and tried another one. It didn’t fit so well, and she didn’t like the color. She should be out there picking her own selections or this could take forever. She started taking off the t-shirt and Liz grabbed part of Emi’s t-shirt and stood upon the bench, allowing her to reach higher, helping her pull it off.
Emi didn’t think that she needed help, but Liz passed her another shirt to try on. Soon they had tried over a dozen t-shirts and Emi’s mind started to wander. She was thinking ahead to the mailgirl app – about how to hit the ground running with development.
Liz gestured for Emi to raise her arms and then dragged a t-shirt down her body. Pulling the last bit over her pussy and making sure Emi’s ass crack was fully covered.
Emi continued to think: Data models starting with Runs and Demerits. Run’s were obvious, origin, destination, and time estimate. But how to automate the time estimates? A lookup table or something based upon… steps taken? But what about running vs walking?
“Arms… up,” Liz said, for the umpteenth time. Liz pulled off the t-shirt and replaced it with a new one.
Emi felt Liz tugging the garment down over her breasts and on down her body. She could feel Liz’s knuckles touching her sometimes as she continued to think. The constant drag of material had woken up her nipples. Demerits, who can assign them, when, and associated with only the current run? Can someone not associated with a run give them?
“Nope, not that one.”
Emi raised her arms automatically.
Liz slipped on a new one. “Oh… nice. Let’s look in the mirror,” she said, opening the door and dragging Emi out.
Emi didn’t see anyone by the mirror except one employee watching the shoppers. What about punishments for demerits, is that within the system or not? Removing demerits after they completed the punishment, ie: working an extra hour?
“It looks not bad. I’ll put that one aside and we can try a few more,” Liz said, dragging Emi back into the room and again stripping her naked.
Demerits cost per punishment as in 10 for say working 1 extra hour? Do we need to track that or is it just a simple removal of X demerits depending upon who’s in charge?
“Oh I should probably shut the door,” Liz said, pulling another t-shirt down over Emi’s bare body.
But do these demerits work well with the cosplay angle? Maybe just keep Demerits simple for now. Add and remove X amount from a specified person who is part of the system. If they aren’t part of the system, then screw ’em.
“Not so good,” Liz said, pulling up the t-shirt, baring Emi’s shaved pussy and tits to a grim-faced young lady in charge of the changing rooms. The woman shut the door.
That broke Emi from her thoughts. “Don’t leave the door open, Liz,” she said, feeling annoyed for not even noticing it. She lifted her arms.
Liz pulled another t-shirt down.
What the UI would look like. She had some ideas but needed to talk with Hannah.
“Oh, let’s check out this one,” Liz said, pulling Emi out of the changing room towards the mirror, walking past a bench with a middle-aged man sitting on it, holding a woman’s purse on his lap.
Emi felt his eyes follow her as she approached the mirror, seeing that the t-shirt did in fact look cute, except that it was SEE-THROUGH. She could see her nipples clear as day.
“Oh crap, we can see your nipples,” Liz said, a little too loud.
Emi quickly folded her arms, covering them.
“And it’s a bit too short as well… is that your…”
Emi pulled down the hem and without looking at the guy, feeling heat on her face, she hurried to the changing room. She shut the door and pulled the garment off.
Liz entered the room, giving the guy a brief glance at Emi’s nude side profile before she shut the door.
Emi gritted her teeth, realizing that her hard nipples had likely stolen the show. Had Liz done that on purpose?
“I’ll take that one we set aside,” Emi said, pulling it on quickly and checking the length. It was good. She needed to get out of here before Liz’s antics got her in trouble.
Liz opened the door and returned all the other clothes to the used clothing desk, and piled it on top. She returned, closing the door behind her. “I’ll go pay for it. Give it to me,” she said.
Emi had no choice. She painfully grinned, pulling the shirt off, covering her pussy and breasts, while standing away from the door.
Liz left, closing the door behind her.
Crammed against the wall, Emi avoided being seen. She was naked and alone. There was no clothing in the changing room and a man just outside. Leaning a shoulder to the wall, she thought about the life choices that she had been making recently.
Liz returned, opening and shutting the door.
Emi was still to the side, as far as she could go, to avoid further embarrassment. She quickly pulled on the purchased faded pink t-shirt with the town name, ‘Basci’ printed on it, and they left, walking past the smiling man. Outside she thought about calling Sam to ask for some help with data models. Sam was great with data modeling and architecting the backend and Emi needed the answer to some questions, and while Brandy would make the final call, she preferred to first explore all the technical options. Plus Sam was, after all, the big-guns, regarding data structures. Emi called Sam, explaining what she needed.
“I’m just down the street in Goth Cafe,” Sam said, her voice coming from Emi’s watch. “And you better not be naked,” she said, laughing.
Of course she was at a place like that, Emi thought. The Goth Cafe – exactly where Emi wanted to hang out, she thought sarcastically. With a little anxiety, Emi walked down the street in her new t-shirt, Liz following quickly behind her. She hoped the Goth girl that stole her permit wasn’t there.
Vast swaths of black and purple dominated the cafe, but it was the music that caught Emi’s attention. It was house techno dance, but it seemed as if someone had messed with the original track, producing a slower base-y hypnotic variant. The grunge-like interior was as expected, featuring half-finished construction everywhere as if it was that way on purpose. There were large speakers here and there, filling the space with a thick bass that wasn’t too loud so as to not impede conversation. The lighting was barely enough but in a good way. Despite no interest in goth, Emi liked the place, it had a hypnotic atmosphere.
There were only a few people, in two booths, none of them were dressed in Goth, making Emi feel a little better. Up ahead was a goth-dressed serving girl leaning against the bar, trying to act cool. The place felt more like a pub than a cafe. A kitchen ordering window was just past the bar, a few more empty booths, and finally a pool table near the far wall. Sam was there, playing pool by herself.
“Figures Sam would be here. I’ve seen her here before,” Liz said.
“You know this place?” Emi asked.
“Well… yeah, I live on this island, remember?”
As Emi approached, she saw Sam’s laptop leaning against the wall on a small table with some tall, skinny stools around it. Emi would never mistake that laptop. ‘Las Tres Amigas’, was boldly written on the back (the three friends) – meaning Becca, Sam, and Hannah. They were just three before Emi joined the team. Still, recently, it surely felt like that they were once again, just the three of them.
Sam was in her classic black tank top and punk-like oversized red shorts. As she lined up her shot, Emi could see her shoulder tattoo – a computer chip. She smacked the white ball, hard, sinking her target in a far corner pocket. She stood up and turned around. “Em… grab a stick,” she said cheerfully, rubbing her brush cut. Being half Chinese, Sam’s hair wasn’t perfectly black.
Emi hesitated. “Oh… yeah no, I don’t think…”
“That much is obvious,” Sam said, seeing Liz grab a pool cue. “Nuh nahh… grab a seat Mini Mart, it’s Sam and Emi time now.”
“What? I want to play too!” Liz complained.
“Sorry Munchkin. No can do,” Sam said, gesturing to the sign that said adults only in this area.
Liz slumped, handing the pool cue to Emi.
“She’s just messing with you,” Emi said. “We can all play.” She handed the cue back to Liz and grabbed one for herself from the wall as Sam racked up the balls. Unsure about where to start, Emi decided to focus on breaking as Sam was eagerly waiting. Emi slid the stick back and forth awkwardly on her fingers. Pulling back and gave it her all with the hardest hit she could muster. She glanced off the white ball, causing her shot to hit the center pack pathetically slow, barely moving them.
“Oh my God, that was bad,” Sam laughed. “Hold on…” she said, racking the balls up again.
“Sorry, it has been a while. Highschool actually, with Evan…” Emi explained awkwardly as she tried again. This time she broke properly. Nothing went in, but at least it wasn’t embarrassing again.
Sam took a shot, sinking a ball. “Solids. I’ll take you two on,” she said, sinking one more as Liz approached the table. Sam finally missed.
Liz struggled to reach her ball but still managed to sink it.
Sam snorted. “Lucky shot, shorty.”
“I’m just an inch shorter than you!” Liz challenged, glaring at Sam indignantly.
Sam ignored her, watching Emi lining up her shot, getting ready to shoot. “Speaking of Evan, I finally read your mailgirl story.”
Emi fumbled her shot, looking at Sam accusingly.
Sam put up her hands. “What? I was sick and tired of being left out of the conversation with Becca and Hannah. That’s some pretty interesting shit your buddy gets off on,” she said, missing a difficult shot.
Liz had an easy shot lined up, right in front of her.
Sam mockingly offered the bridge-stick, since it was obviously unneeded. It was another jab at Liz’s height.
Liz ignored the taunt. “You don’t know the half of it,” Liz said, failing to sink her ball. “Ask Emi what she wants help with.”
Emi was lining up her shot.
“Normalcy? Clothing? Her girly bits flapping in the wind?” Sam blurted with perfect timing.
Emi missed, again staring at Sam impassively. She might have missed that shot anyway, but it was convenient to blame Sam.
Sam sank her shot, and then another, before missing.
“I can hardly wait to see Sam help,” Liz said, grinning but missing her shot.
Thinking about the primary purpose of the app, Emi described the first two things that she had been trying to encapsulate with data models.
Sam scratched her head. “Runs and demerits? You want to improve performance with beach deliveries?”
Liz put her cue down. “No, this isn’t for the resort. It’s something new,” she grinned.
“Something with the marketing devs?” Sam asked.
The goth server walked up to them carrying a small pizza.
“We’ll take that at the end booth there,” Sam instructed, laying down her stick. “We’ll just say I won.”
Sam shared her pizza with them as Emi awkwardly tried to explain the meeting with Su-Ning and Brandy. Leaving out all the Ho stuff, and anything related to her community service.
Sam didn’t believe it at first, but after Emi blasted her with details about the app and showed her the mailgirl website, Sam got pissed.
“What the fuck, Emi! Why would you let them do that to you? I mean seriously! Are you whack?”
Emi sputtered some lame excuses. This wasn’t going well.
Liz looked uncomfortable.
“You actually signed a contract without Becca? You’re fucked girl. You have no idea. Becca was already freaked out about you. This could be the last straw.”
Liz put her pizza down. “Leave her alone, Sam! You don’t know what’s going on. Emi didn’t have a choice!”
Emi glared at Liz. It was a choice, and Liz was slipping up, revealing her other problems.
Liz shifted uncomfortably. “What? I said nothing, and you didn’t say it was a secret!”
Emi was upset. It was obviously a secret, and Liz knew it.
“Secrets too? Like I said, you’re fucked Emi,” Sam said, getting up to leave.
“Wait… Sam,” Emi said, gripping her arm, hanging her head low. She didn’t want it to end like this.
Sam looked her straight in the eye, showing some conflicted anguish in her eyes.
“I… alright…” Emi said, feeling she had no choice. “I’ll tell you everything.”
A half-hour later, Sam was rolling on the floor in laughter. She looked like she was trying to make snow angels on the floor of the goth cafe.
Emi hadn’t expected this reaction.
Still on her back, on the floor, Sam turned her head towards Emi. “So you really don’t like being naked?”
Emi shook her head.
Sam began laughing again. “So back up… let me get this straight… Evan… your buddy… gives you these stories, and that leads to Becca doing mailgirl antics, and becoming an RA, which leads you to Lookout Point and then becoming an RA and then you become roped into becoming a mailgirl?”
Emi hesitated. “It… not really a mailgirl. It’s just testing a mailgirl app… mostly.”
“Nope… she’s definitely a mailgirl,” Liz blurted, laughing. “She even shaved herself bald!”
“Look baldie, that’s some best friend you have there!” Sam choked, and after more laughter and another snow angel, Sam finally rejoined them in the booth with a never-ending smile.
Liz patted Emi on the shoulder. “It wasn’t Evan’s fault. And best friends are rarely perfect,” she added.
Emi was embarrassed about the whole thing. She knew it sounded ridiculous.
Sam walked up to Emi, patting her other shoulder. “Look, I’m sorry about what you had to go through. Now that I know that it wasn’t ALL your own fault, I feel a bit bad. Still, I’m going to razz you when I can, because well… that’s what I do. Are we good?”
Emi nodded. It was unusual to see Sam being so straight and serious like this. They locked eyes for a moment, and Emi realized that their friendship was back on the mend.
Sam grabbed her cue. “Now that we got all that ugliness behind us, let’s play pool… Nine, rack ’em up!”
Emi didn’t like being called that, but she was glad that Sam seemed to be on her side again.
After a cider and a couple of games later, Liz, Sam and Emi were getting into the game. It was going great until Emi leaned over to take a shot and Liz lifted the back of her t-shirt up with her stick, exposing her entire ass, causing a wolf whistle from one of the booths.
Emi spun around, shoving her hem way down, which emphasized her pointies, which had suddenly made an appearance. She was blushing. “Liz! People could see everything!,” Emi said, exasperatedly, trying to keep her voice down.
Liz looked down. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist… you were leaning over so provocatively. I meant only to take a peek at your butt. You shouldn’t play pool in just a t-shirt!”
Sam laughed. “Wow, Liz, that’s pretty ballsy,” she said, and they high-fived.
Emi glanced at the booth with two young men looking her way. A girl was with them, but facing the other direction. She turned her head to see what was going on. Emi tried to ignore the booth, watching Sam closely, hoping that she wasn’t going to become another Liz.
Just when they were about to continue playing, Emi and Sam’s watches beeped. It was a message from Becca. “Team fucking meeting right the goddam fucking now!”
Sam winced. “Oh shit… there were two fucks in there. I’ve never seen her double-fuck before. She probably just found out about the deal.”
Emi brought her hands to her mouth in alarm. “I was hoping to break it to her first.”
Sam shook her head morbidly at Emi. “You’re in biiiiggg trouble…. I would HATE to be you right now,” she said looking at her watch. “I think she’s in the marketing building.”
“Server Room,” Becca added in another text.
Sam and Emi bid Liz goodbye as they left to meet Hannah and Becca. When they arrived at the Server Room, Hannah was there alone, leaning against the counter with her arms folded. Emi thought she looked good. The blue-eyed blonde had her hair up as usual in a French braid with wisps of hair hanging down. Her flowery summer dress matched her pale complexion perfectly.
“What did you do now, Sam?” Hannah asked, with a touch of French accent, reminding Emi that stress sometimes caused her accent to come out.
“This time it ain’t me,” Sam grinned. “It’s haircut-girl that you have to worry about.”
Hannah looked at Emi. “Oh… you got a haircut? It doesn’t look different. I got one yesterday. A French braid with a twist…”
Sam cut her off. “I’m not talking about her head.”
Hannah’s eyes grew enormous. “Emi… welcome to the club! This will make the mailgirl in you much more authentic!”
“Don’t you know it…” Sam said. Her pasted-on smile was annoying.
Hannah walked up to Emi and lifted her t-shirt before she could stop her. “Wonderful!”
Sam laughed. “It looks more pornographic without the pubes.”
Emi slammed down the front of her t-shirt.
Hannah ignored Emi’s indignant expression. “Now we are matching – proper women. Civilized. Unlikes the bushmaster over there,” she gestured in Sam’s direction.
Sam was observing her watch. “Becca will be here any second.”
“Don’t call her carrot-top or anything stupid, Sam. I think this is serious. What did you do Emi?”
Emi opened her mouth, uncertain about where to start.
The door banged open. Becca stormed in, looking pissed. Sam and Hannah slowly backed away from Emi. Becca was dressed in business clothes, and breathing like a red dragon.
“Guess what I just found out, Emi?” Becca snarled.
Emi looked around and saw that Sam and Hannah were still slowly moving back, away from her, as if Becca’s wrath might make for some collateral damage, shrapnel.
“So you signed a deal. A deal for our team, I assume. All on your lonesome. I read what they proposed and I read what you settled on. So let me ask you this…”
Emi braced herself.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?! What were you thinking?”
Emi was unable to speak. She knew that she should have expected this, but now she realized with horror that she had made a big mistake.
“Who’s job is it to handle the deals and the money?”
“That’s right. I let you run this outfit because you are the most qualified, but the deal-making and money stuff is my domain, got it?”
“So please take a chair. Let’s all sit down. Have a little powwow, while you go into detail about how you came to this decision. And this had better be a damned good story because make no mistake, your job is on the line here.”
This was it. Emi knew there could be no more secrets. Glancing over, she saw Hannah looking like someone had just slapped her. Sam looked like she was going to implode in glee.
Taking a deep breath, Emi explained how she’d had no choice. They’d summoned her to the meeting, and Su-Ning wanted this deal to be signed. She didn’t know why Becca hadn’t been part of the meeting.
“Because they knew damn well that I wouldn’t have let you sign that deal. That’s exactly why I wasn’t there. You know Emi, I’m feeling like this could be the last straw.”
Emi shrank. The world was falling in on itself. She wanted to cry.
Sam leaned forward. “Just hear her out, Becca.”
“What you knew?!” Becca yelled, facing Sam.
“I literally JUST found out! Just relax for a moment and listen to what she says. I swear, it’s going to blowww your minnnnds,” she said, nodding vigorously.
“What? There’s more to it than the deal?” Becca asked, incredulously.
“Oh, yeah… a LOT more,” Sam said, gesturing a nuclear mushroom cloud with her fingers, and adding an explosion sound effect with her voice.
“Okay… alright Emi… I’m listening,” Becca said, folding her arms.
Emi explained how it all started back when Becca was an RA. That she was experimenting with nudity out at Lookout Point. Then she explained about the shrine, the arrest, prison, and finally the community sentence. She was careful to add that she, herself, chose to be an RA rather than pick up garbage around the island. Becca inspired her in that regard.
“What? Me? I inspired you to be an RA?”
Becca looked confused. “What? When did this happen?”
“I was pretending to stay at Su-Ning’s place for a couple days.”
“A couple days? All this happened in a couple of days?”
“Yes, they move fast around here. Especially when an official like Wang has been slighted.”
Becca was barely keeping up, looking annoyed. A flurry of emotion was crossing her face. “Keep talking…” she prompted.
Emi then described the blowout with Ho at the fire-pit. And how the dev ban trapped her in the marketing building – naked.
“So why the fuck didn’t you tell me any of this?”
“Look Becca, never in my life had I been a Director of Software… in charge of so much. I was proud of my accomplishment. But when I got charged, I was so deeply ashamed, I just wanted to keep it to myself. I thought I could make up for it by helping the resort, as an RA, like you. I thought we would be safe on the resort grounds. Together as RA’s. I’ve never even had a parking ticket before. I just couldn’t… I couldn’t tell anyone… I was so ashamed. What would everyone think? That I was forced to be naked by the courts? How would that inspire the staff to go topless? If everyone knew, they would think I was a low-life criminal. They would spit on me… you would have to let me go…” Emi said, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
“I swear you are bone stupid sometimes. I would have supported you. You could have told me,” Becca said, gently.
“No… you were the last person I could tell. You seemed to respect me. I didn’t want to lose that,” Emi said, trying to not cry. Her face felt wet. She wiped her nose again.
Sam was comforting Hannah, who was quietly sniffling. Sam lifted part of Hannah’s dress, offering the cloth so that she could blow her nose on it. She glanced at Sam with wet-faced annoyance and pushed her dress back down.
Becca looked stunned. “Alright… okay… don’t worry about any of that. It’s fine. We are still good… but why did you let Ho screw with you like that?”
“She just has to say the word and she can double my sentence,” Emi explained. “She can add another 12 months.”
Becca made a pair of fists. She looked angry, seething.
“I’m sorry about the deal. They put me on the spot and Su-Ning wanted it. They said it was for the good of the resort and the entire island. Please forgive me, Becca,” Emi begged, wiping her eyes.
Becca took a deep breath. “Jesus Emi, you call this a deal? You let them walk all over you. You are the worst dealmaker ever,” she said, giving Emi a hug, surprising everyone in the room.
Emi tried to stop her shoulders from shaking as she basked in Becca’s warm hug.
“You know what Emi? I’m so fucking relieved,” Becca said.
Emi didn’t understand. “Relieved? What?”
“With you being naked outside the resort… I thought you had gone nuts, off the deep end, crackers. I really did. I thought I had lost you, for good.”
“Hold up, I wouldn’t give her a ‘total pass’,” Sam said, laughing.
Hannah punched Sam’s arm.
“Don’t you ever do anything like this ever again? Do you hear me?”
Sam coughed. “Like what? Streak Wang’s property? Go to prison? Sign mailgirl deals? You need to be more specific,” she laughed.
Everyone smiled at that last comment.
“But there’s more… Emi, tell them about Ho’s RA rule changes,” Sam said grimly.
Emi nodded, explaining that she has to be naked outside everywhere. That rule means commuting to work naked every day. She will probably have to avoid going out in the daylight from now on. No more enjoying the sunshine. She went into details about the new rules and how Ho was trying to make it permanent because they had to redefine her RA job description for the courts in order to get a naked travel permit. But it was Ho’s fault in the first place she had to travel naked outside!
Becca’s face darkened. “Look, we can end all this now by going to the local US consulate Emi. I believe one of the towns on this island has one. They can help get you off the island. This place is fucking crazy.”
Emi thought about it for a moment. “No… I don’t want to do that. It would end our contract here in disgrace. Tarnish our reputation. And I made a deal. I’m not going back on it. I knew what I was doing.”
Becca shook her head in horror. “You don’t owe anyone anything. The scandal wasn’t your fault.”
Emi knew what she was saying, but didn’t feel she deserved that much of a reprieve. This was all her own doing. She had made her bed. “I don’t care. Look… I’ll consider the consulate route if things go seriously south, but right now I want to see if I can ride this out. Becca, I don’t go back on my word. I negotiated in good faith and want to pay for my crime and be done with it. I don’t want this hanging over me for the rest of my life.”
Becca shook her head in wonderment.
“You didn’t tell her about your clothes,” Sam said, grimly.
Emi looked down at her feet. “Ho tricked me into donating all of my clothing to charity,” she said, shamefully.
Becca’s face went dark again. “Explain.”
Emi explained about not being allowed to even touch clothing. And that the package had said ‘lost and found’ on it. She went into details about what happened.
Becca nodded, taking it all in. “Wait here, I have to make a call. Sam, come with me.”
A few minutes later Sam and Becca returned to gather the others, and they all left.
“Where are we going?” Emi asked, nervously.
“To see Ho,” Becca said.
Sam giggled. “Ho is in sooo much troooouble…”
The four of them took a taxi to the front entrance of the resort. They all got out while Becca paid the driver. “Wait here please. We will need a return ride,” she instructed the driver.
Becca turned to Hannah. “Stay right here in the parking lot. If you see anything unusual, report it to the front desk.”
Hannah nodded, looking scared.
Emi also felt trepidation as she followed Sam and Becca.
Sam seemed like she was having the time of her life as they entered the building. Emi thought it felt weird to be wearing a t-shirt inside the resort, but it was still the weekend. So maybe it was okay.
Becca led them straight to Ho’s office, opening the door without a knock, surprising Ho as they entered.
“Emi, why are you dressed,” Ho barked.
“I think a better question is, where is Emi’s clothing?” Becca started.
“Emi… look, she donated them by accident. It was all a misunderstanding,” Ho said awkwardly. “Bo was supposed to deliver them. We tried to surprise Emi…”
“Well… I certainly hope that you didn’t break any laws by touching Emi’s clothing Ho,” Becca said looking at her fingernails.
Ho’s intercom buzzed. She answered it. “Don’t interrupt me right now…“
“Ma’am… a police car outside with its lights flashing. Is everything okay?” said the voice on the intercom.
“Everything is fine, Lucy,” Ho said, hanging up. She looked stressed.
“Get Bo in here,” Becca said.
Ho used her intercom to have Bo sent to her office. He arrived shortly and explained everything that happened. Just as Emi had remembered it. He was looking around. “Is something going on?”
“Yes, Bo… that package contained every piece of clothing that Emi owns on the island. What exactly did you do with the package,” Becca asked.
Bo spun around to face Emi. “Oh shit… I had no idea. I swear Emi… I would never do that to you!”
Emi nodded. She believed him.
“I ahh… well… I hope I don’t get fired for this… but… well, when Ho told me this was a package of lost and found clothing for Emi. First of all, it didn’t make any sense. We haven’t been open long enough to have this much clothing if any. But anyway, I was thinking that if Ho had found stuff that would fit Emi, I thought it would fit my sister… and well… it would be a shame to…”
“Where is it!” Becca yelled.
“At my place. I haven’t opened it yet… I swear Emi. If I had opened it and seen your clothing I would have returned it to you immediately,” he said, looking panicked.
“Get that fucking package right now. Bring it to my desk in the office. And make sure nobody takes it. Guard it with your fucking life if you have to,” Becca said, loudly. She was obviously upset.
Emi burst into tears, her clothing! It wasn’t gone!
“You dodged a fucking bullet, Ho. Bo saved your ass,” Becca said.
Ho said nothing, but she looked unhappy about the entire situation.
“Now back to you, Ho, about Emi being naked outside of the resort. Who do you think you are!” She screamed, slamming her hands on her desk.
Ho seemed un-rattled at the outburst.
“Su-Ning wouldn’t agree to that. You are overstepping your bounds Ho. Do you really think Emi can concentrate on doing a good job for the resort if she’s freaked out about being naked outside in public? You know as well as I do, that is psychological torture.”
Ho looked uncomfortable.
“You’ve had your fun. Time for you and Wang to quit messing with Emi. You are just endangering the ACE deal, hurting your resort, and betraying Su-Ning’s trust. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wang was paying you to harass Emi. Regardless, it would be unwise to push Emi so hard that she has a breakdown and speaks with the US consulate. Am I right?”
Ho looked furious but didn’t move a muscle. “What do you want,” she sputtered.
“Revert Emi’s naked rule.”
“Not going to happen. You don’t hold all the cards, Becca.”
“True, but I have a stronger hand than you do… Sam?”
Everyone watched Sam as she stepped forward, dramatically wiggling her fingers, before finally showing a single pinky and bringing it gently down upon her smartwatch. She tapped a button with it.”
Suddenly everyone’s watch beeped, even Ho’s. A message came in. “Maintenance Mode: Sorry for the inconvenience, we will be back up as soon as possible.”
Ho looked up from her watch, livid.
“How’s it going with that maintenance, Sam?” Becca asked.
“Yeah… fuck… we have a major problem. I’m not sure when we can have it resolved. It could take weeks,” Sam said, making a show of it.
Becca turned to face Sam. “That’s terrible, Sam. So it’s not just customer service and drinks to the beach? Is the main website and guest admitting also down? What about online reservations?”
“Yeah, it’s the whole goddam thing. It’s a real mess, unfortunately,” Sam said, laying it on thick.
Emi was shocked. She couldn’t imagine Becca going this far, risking so much.
“I think we are done here girls,” Becca said. “Take your time Ho…” The three of them left an angry, sputtering Ho in the office, closing the door on her.
Outside in the parking lot, Becca ran over to the young police officer standing beside his patrol car. The lights were still flashing. Becca gave him a big kiss. He then got back into his car, turned off the lights, and drove away.
Emi remembered him, officer Daniels. He was also there when she got arrested on the beach. He must have kept his word about not saying anything to Becca about the arrest that day.
They got in the taxi. Becca in the front, Emi sat with the others in the back. Sam was beside Hannah, filling her in on what had happened in Ho’s office.
Hannah put her hands on her mouth, her eyes went wide. “Oh my god,” she said, looking over at Emi. “Your clothes!”
They drove back up Main Street looking for someplace to hang out, ending up at Cloud Nine.
Sitting outside at a table, they dug into some delicious food, while Becca hammered Emi with questions. Was this the secret you couldn’t tell me before? So, you’re really not into nudity? On and on the questions came. And Emi told them everything. She even pointed out her new apartment up above and told them she was now dating Ben. Hannah mentioned her shaving. Emi breathed a sigh of relief, she was no longer harboring any secrets from her team. It felt refreshing, much better than she might have expected.
An hour later they got a message from Ho.
“I’ll admit things went a little far. I hope Emi has no hard feelings. After talking with Wang this is the best I can do. Believe me, she won’t budge anymore. I tried my best. If Emi hadn’t desecrated her daughter’s grave, none of this would be happening. Please don’t force me to double Emi’s sentence and report that she’s threatening to go to the US consulate to bypass her punishment. Putting Emi in prison and destroying your team’s reputation helps none of us. Let’s just put all of this behind us and please accept my apologies. Sincerely Ho.”
Clothing Amendment: When the RA is outside of the resort, and not on the clock as a mailgirl, the RA can wear a semi-transparent silk t-shirt. This will soften the blow to those (at a distance) that are not comfortable with nudity, while also allowing the RA to express the values of the nudist resort to those (close up) that carefully scrutinize the RA’s attire. This is the best of both worlds and the final compromise. Naturally, the RA’s existing protocol remains. The RA must not try to cover up, but rather, project pride in naturist values. Also note, this is the only garment and will be sufficient for indoor establishments as well.
Becca stood up and slammed a fist down on the table, bouncing all the plates, spilling some of Sam’s drink. “This is outrageous!”
“Don’t worry, I got it!” Sam said, quickly slurping the spilled drink on the table before it dripped off onto the ground.
Emi grabbed Becca’s arm. “No… Becca, this is fine. I am so happy now. This is great! Please don’t do anything.” she pleaded.
“No Emi, this is unacceptable.”
“It’s a million times better than before. Except for 90 min a day, I can be fully clothed! Training the guys, eating food, shopping, going to work, working out. It’s definitely a great win,” she insisted, downplaying her fear of the transparency part. She didn’t want Becca to escalate things again.
Becca shook her head. “This wasn’t what I wanted. I’m sorry Emi… I slipped up by mentioning the consulate to Ho.”
“That’s fine. I can’t do the consulate thing… too risky. I’m glad that you used it for leverage. Maybe it will help keep them in check. This was more than I was hoping for Becca, I have my clothes back and now I don’t have to be naked outside,” she added.
“From a distance,” Sam corrected. “Naked from a distance. Up close you will obviously be Nine, the Resort Ambassador.”
“I don’t care. This is a huge win. I don’t want to hurt our team, the resort, or the island. Let’s just chill. We will work on this stupid app until I’ve paid my debt to society, and then we will be free of all this.”
Becca folded her arms. She didn’t look convinced.
“Look Becca, it’s all good. I’m happy now. You saved me. Now I can do this. I’m still scared, but this is something I can finally imagine being able to handle. I can become stronger with my fear of nudity. I’ll be unstoppable after defeating this challenge, I swear!”
“I think I believe her, Becca,” Hannah said, looking at Emi with pride.
Becca looked to Sam.
“What? Sure whatever, she wants to be Nine, let her be Nine. Who are we to tell her what to do?” Sam said, shoving a piece of pastry into her mouth.
“Plus, she has already shaved and everything,” Hannah added, smiling.
“What about Monday, the mailgirl training?”
“It’s… ahh… fine,” Emi said, looking around at the three of them. She wasn’t feeling as confident as she was trying to appear, wondering if they could see that.
“I want to meet this ‘Brandy’,” Becca said, with an annoyed look.
“She’s strong, Becca, and she has Ruth behind her. Just be careful, okay?” Emi said.
Becca picked up her drink. “Well, they are no match for the four of us. Just say the word and we blow this popsicle stand, okay?”
Emi nodded, but she didn’t think it would be that easy. The island was militaristic and quite serious about law enforcement. Escape might be possible, but it would more likely get her tossed in prison. It wasn’t worth the risk.
Sam started licking her next pastry like a dog.
Emi looked around at her teammates, liking how things had turned out. It was horrible for the last few weeks when her team was alienated by her nudity. It felt wonderful having her team united again.
Becca pulled out the contract and shook her head in wonderment. “You really did a number on yourself here, kiddo. There is no getting out of this one.”
“Oh my God, Emi… you are going to be a real mailgirl,” Hannah said.
Emi couldn’t tell if Hannah was entertained or horrified for her. “Just 90 minutes a day. At least I got some clothing.”
Sam popped open Hannah’s purse and pulled out a marker. She started scribbling on the back of her laptop. “It’s see-through clothing and for 90 minutes a day, if they so choose, that might also include outside.”
Oh shit, Emi thought. She hadn’t realized that. Panicking for a moment before she pushed those fears aside, as everyone was watching her closely. She smiled, trying to throw them off.
Becca grabbed Emi’s hand, squeezing it. “I feel for you Emi, I really do. This is unfair punishment for taking on the negotiator role alone. I hope, for your sake, that you never, ever, do such a thing again. We are a team, and we all have our parts to play.”
Emi nodded, sullenly. “Yes, I’ve learned my lesson.”
Becca smiled grimly. “No… not yet, you haven’t. That’s going to be a tough 90 minute spanking that you are going to take every workday until the new year or longer.”
“Spanking?’ Emi asked.
“I didn’t mean literally.”
”Ahh… Becca?” Hannah asked.
Becca laughed.“I don’t think that was actually part of the story,” she said, thinking for a moment.
Emi wondered what that was all about.
“Look at it this way, Kiddo. You wanted to get over your nudity hangup. You seemed to envy my bravery. Well… soon I’ll be admiring you, big time. And Hannah will be living vicariously through your trials and tribulations, no doubt.”
“What me? How about YOU Becca! You were the first one to want to roleplay being a mailgirl.”
“It doesn’t matter who,” Becca said, causing Sam to laugh. “The point is that Emi needs to man-up and take the bull by the balls. Otherwise, this is going to be a nightmare for her.”
It’s already a nightmare, Emi thought.
“Don’t you mean ‘take the bull by the horns?’” Hannah asked.
“Absolutely not, this is certainly a full magnitude above that. She needs to take the bull by the balls and twist! Meaning be strong, be fucking proud, be a real mailgirl Emi.”
Emi felt a lot of sympathy coming from her team, but she was also getting an excited vibe from Hannah and Becca. As if they were kind of looking forward to this, despite really hating that it had to happen. Like the fear and excitement before a bungee jump. She couldn’t blame them. They were huge mailgirl fans, after all. They probably never imagined that they would see one in real life. And it was going to be herself, of all people. Despite all her fear, Emi was grateful for the support. She felt stronger now and even started feeling some pre-bungee jump excitement. Her heart was beating, and slowly a painful smile formed on her face, as she let it sink in that this – was actually going to happen.
Sam leaned forward, looking deeply into her spoon as if she was trying to hypnotize herself.
Becca waved her hand in front of Sam’s face. “Sam, is everything fully back up now?” Becca asked.
Sam pulled out her laptop and Emi noticed the writing on the back had changed. The 3 Amigos. The 3 was crossed out and changed to a 4.
“Yep, everything’s all good again,” Sam said.
Emi walked across the street, messaging Ben to let her inside. She climbed the steps and opened the door to her apartment.
Ben walked over and swept her up into a grand hug, spinning in a circle.
Music was playing, and the air smelled of delicious food. Looking over, she saw he was cooking something up on the stove. On the table were two empty plates with a candle between them, and suddenly Emi felt overcome with emotion. Today was such a good day.
“So how was shopping with Liz?”
Emi nodded, thinking about everything that had happened. She was almost crying.
“That good, huh?
She nodded again, unable to speak.
Ben chuckled, hugging her tighter. “Yeah, Liz is a real firecracker.”