Ancient History - Part 5
Her pale legs were long and shapely, jutting out like alabaster columns from under the classic lines of the black skirt that clung to her hips. Skirts that short needed to be tight least the smallest breeze claim the woman's modesty and this one hugged her from waist to thighs close enough to leave more than a slight hint of a panty line rising against the curve of her ass before plunging down to the front. She had to know the line existed, James told himself as he traced it yet again with a lazy gaze, chin supported by his palm as he leaned heavily onto his desk. The dark ridge under the cloth was thicker on the back side, evidence of perhaps a slight wedging in her crack with the gathering of lose folds showing up more so than taught, flat laying hems like the barely perceivable ones higher towards the obscure elastic waist band. Bikini cut briefs; he was certain of it. She probably didn't even own a thong. A practical girl, choosing comfort over style. Better the slight embarrassment over a thin line no one would dare call attention to than the drama over an exposed ass should an incident occur between hem line and waist. He wished she would take a seat across from him, not for her company but the opportunity to catch in the briefest moment a glance between parted thighs. He was willing to bet a practical girl who didn't even own a thong for just such skirts didn't own black underwear either. Between white thighs would be a shaded white patch of cotton concealing the private folds of a chaste woman. She would not sit, though, and so James contended himself with his own suspicions as the meeting rambled on.
"The celebratory committee wants to set the end of the year dance in mid April."
"They need to allocate a location first. Once they've settled things with the venue then we can work a date into the calendar."
"They need an okay on the funds first. They're just asking that the school dance be given priority in April and no other large budget plans be put into action before or during."
"Dances aren't the primary concern of the student body. This is an academic institute, not a fraternity."
"The alumni association is partnered with the celebratory committee on this one. The Provost would not be happy to hear we're not putting our best efforts into this."
"If the provost has an issue with my priorities then he can kiss my ass."
The woman with the panty line flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder as the vice president and secretary continued to fight it out. She was probably on the committee they were discussing; she looked like the kind of girl who would enjoy planning parties and she certainly wasn't a regular in their office. The unruly wave of gold curls bounced back over her shoulder with the unrelenting nature of a petulant child. James had watched Ashe toss his curls from his eyes many times, always amused at the futility of the action as they inevitably bounced right back. Like Ashe, she seemed to admit defeat rather than stand there perpetually flipping her hair like so many other women seemed to do. Instead she let the sunshine bright pleat of well-groomed hair fall against the swell of her left breast where it splayed slightly to conform to the shape.
Her shirt was much more conservative than her skirt; a casual crew neck in mauve that toned down the formality of the outfit into something that was respectful but not too obvious. James was annoyed that his view of her did not include her shoes. There was so much about a woman that could be discovered by her shoes alone. Guessing by the panty line and t-shirt, he wagered himself a take out for dinner rather than another stop in the cafeteria that she wore either flats or one inch heals that had an unassuming, chameleon like appearance that would suffice for any black look. Ms. Panty Line wasn't concerned about dressing to the nines; a good six or seven out of ten would suit her just fine. She was charming in her simplicity and though there was little to learn from it, he allowed himself to look at her face. With a hint of disappointment he scanned the even complexion powdered into flawless perfection and the simple, unremarkable beauty of a woman near enough his age. Her lips were painted pink, her eyes of clear blue showed a hint of matte purple on her lids and the rose of her cheeks was so slight it seemed more a trick of the light than a blush. Had it not been for the ridge of her underwear showing through her skirt, James would hardly have batted an eye at her at all.
He was staring unabashedly all the same and it was only a matter of time before she noticed. When her eyes met his the pallor of her cheeks warmed over, coloring her a dusty peach under the layer of base. She smiled. Though her lips parted with a shy, uncertain hesitation, James found an unfamiliar warmth in her smile that coated her in the sparkle of diamonds. Genuine was the word that came to mind, the name for the quality that kept his attention after the dissection of her character from his voyeuristic perch behind his desk. He smiled back with the slightest crook of his lips and softening of his gaze. She looked away, at the floor, then back for confirmation. The girls who stood near her, those who had noticed the small exchange, teased her quietly behind the continued petty arguments of the student council members.
Ashe tapped his datapad in agitation, the stylus making only a mildly detectable tick against the screen. James looked at him easily out the corner of his eye; Ashe never stood more than a few feet away as he took notes and saw to James' productivity. He took his cue from Ashe without a word spoken between them.
"Jen," he started, addressing his VP with a practiced smirk, "the Provost's concerns aside, I don't foresee any issues with leaving April open for a dance. The spring semester will still be in session the month before and the month after should anything pop up in the next few weeks that must be seen to. The funds are currently available and ticket sales have historically been enough to regain the funds spent."
Jen's face burned but she nodded her consent. The secretary smiled at the celebration committee over her shoulder.
James held up his hand to show he wasn't done yet. "On that note, however, to try and ensure this sort of bickering stops becoming a seasonal repetition, I suggest the committee use the student council funds as they would a bank loan. Whatever profit they turn after the deduction of the funds to be returned will be left in their hands to use for their own fund raising. With some careful planning they should be able to take complete financial responsibility for all dances and.. whatever else it is they do. Agreed?"
All heads nodded like a chorus of novelty dolls. James rose from his desk and placed a hand against his belly. "Now, I think you'll all agree that it's far past time we close this meeting and see about finding some lunch. Thank you for your time."
The committee members in the back filed out first, Ms. Panty Line looking at the floor while two other girls giggled and looked back at James before rushing out on anxious feet. Standing, he had a clear view of the floor. Simple black heals of one inch. Now the hard part of choosing between oriental and Italian.
James looked over his shoulder as Ashe came to stand closer. He wore a tired expression, chastisement almost pouring out of his eyeballs in less elegant phrasing than Ashe possessed. "Can it wait, Ashe? It's almost two, I'm starving, and I'd still like to have some room later for a nice night out."
"With Nirvana Whitehall?" Jamesí expression made it clear he had no idea who Ashe was referring to. Poking around at his datapad screen, Ashe began to read out loud. "Nirvana Whitehall, age 20. Undergraduate majoring in elementary education with a 3.4 GPA. Expected to graduate this spring after completing her mandatory sit ins."
"You mean the girl in the black skirt?" James smirked all the wider. "Good god, no. Can't you tell passive observation apart from sexual interest?"
"Perhaps if I had ever witnessed the latter."
James rolled his eyes as he packed up his things. "You sound like those stupid propaganda posters from the last election."
"I'm not saying you're gay I'm just pointing out the fact that you've done very little to field suspicion."
James bubbled with agitation. The room was empty, the door shut behind everyone who had filed out. He turned to his friend with narrowed eyed and a voice lowered for secrecy despite their being alone. "You know damn well I have far too many secrets to be flirting carelessly with women. The last thing I need is a paranoid bitch looking through my things for signs of infidelity and following me around when I've got things pertaining to the business to attend to. A girlfriend would be more trouble then I care to deal with and a lover could potentially hurt my reputation with the conservative crowd. I hear enough of that bullshit from my enemies, I don't need my best friend calling me a sodomite to my fucking face."
If Ashe had any reaction to James' tirade he hid it well under his mask of amused detachment. "I know you well enough that there's little reason for you to defend yourself to me. And speaking of 'the business', there are a few new orders that have come in that I have ready for your review. On the subject of Ms. Whitehall, though, I merely suggest you give watchful eyes some evidence of your attraction to the opposite sex. She seemed to react positively to the attention you were giving her. No harm will come of a brief meal together. I would wager your public approval would increase. With graduation in a few months and possible candidacy in the upcoming regional elections, public appeal should be your utmost concern."
A sigh of defeat rushed across his lips as James picked up his books. In the four years he'd know Ashe there was not one instance in which he could recall his advice proving anything but beneficial. "I'll think about it." He said, not willing to admit to Ashe's face that he was, as always, right. Ashe gave a brief nod and took to the door, holding it open for James with one hand while the other kept the datapad within his sight.
Talk in the halls was coded and brief. Ashe handed over his datapad for only an instant so James would look over the forwarded invoice and sign his release on the shipment of weapons headed outwards into the city's rim. Back in his familiar grasp, Ashe took his datapad and walked off alone to see to related issues, knowing well James' destination from the persistent grumble of his stomach.
Too late for lunch but too early for dinner, the cafeteria in Bruce Hall was nearly empty of students or faculty but alive instead with the kitchen staff's hustle and bustle as tables were cleaned and the next meal prepared behind large steel doors. What was left over was moved out into the buffet area on overused beige plates marred with ageless cuts from knives and forks in a lifetime of meal service. A few pieces of cake, some chicken sandwiches on stale bread and a patty of meat that was indistinguishable as either beef or poultry aligned one end while the salad bar offered the more appealing buffet of only slightly wilted lettuce and vegetables pruned by the lights that hung over them. His appetite was unaffected by their appearance and his pallet well adjusted to the blandness of the meals anyway. James took a plated sandwich and loaded to the side some of the lesser wilted veggies before sliding the cake onto his tray with a sidelong glance as though Ashe waited in the shadows to remind him to avoid such heavily sweetened treats. A tall glass of iced tea and another, smaller one of water were added to his tray at the end of the buffet line and James lifted it all without spilling a drop while walking towards an empty booth.
There were a few occupied tables in the room but James found he still classified the room as being empty. A far corner had five or six students around a single table, a study group by the look of their bent necks all aimed at the tabletop. Aside from them there was only two other tables occupied out of a room that could sit over a hundred. As though avoiding the study group, a couple sat at the furthest table from theirs with their laughter cautiously kept to a low hum that blended in with the air conditioners' song. In the only other table in the room sat Ms. Whitehall eating alone with her mobile sitting on the table beside her as means of company. He placed his tray down at her table. She looked up with a brilliant blush across her cheeks that bled down through her neck in splotches.
"You don't mind, do you? I hate to see a lady sitting alone and wouldn't mind the company myself." His lips rolled into one of his more charming smiles as he waited for her approval. Her careful nod and embarrassed retreat into her shoulders reminded him a little of a turtle as he took his seat across from her. "Thank you for the honor. Nirvana, wasn't it?"
Here he delighted at this new chance of observation as he watched the turbulence of thought crease and smooth the lines of her face. He could almost hear her thoughts in his own mind as her eyes searched him and the plates in front of them: how does he know my name? have we met before? did he ask about me? does this mean he likes me? of all the empty tables he chose to sit with me, does that mean something?. Women were easy enough creatures to comprehend, too easy on most occasions to even warrant the slightest interest. This one, the one who wore a panty line like an athlete boasts her bra strap, was different enough to make him wonder at what else might exist inside. The nervous way she avoided his eyes as she gathered her thoughts was almost cute.
"Uh, yes. It is. Uh... I liked the way you handled the argument earlier. Our committee will definitely work to turn a large profit this year."
"You're an education major, aren't you? I find that rather fascinating," He lied, managing with ease to get her back into a nervous fluster of expression. Her eyes darted from him to the cake again. "I take it you enjoy working with children?"
"Oh, I love kids!" She quickly stammered. "I'm majoring in K through 9. I'm doing my sit ins at a school just a few miles off campus; I love it. It's nothing as grand as what you're doing though. It must be a lot of hard work to get a masters in political science."
James smiled and swallowed the bite he had taken while she spoke. "Not so hard, really. All knowledge is built upon in layers and once you have the foundations of a subject, the subsequent layers fall into place more or less. I can think of several undergraduate classes that gave me more anxiety than some of my graduate course work," He smiled and took a sip of tea. "I admit I've enjoyed my internships and work study, though. There's a lot to be said of hands on training."
Nirvana nodded, her nerves no longer bouncing her gaze from his face into the many other surfaces around them. She looked into his eyes with sincere interest, her meal forgotten as he spoke to her. James found the level of trust pouring out through her body language and stare to be fascinating given the briefness of their acquaintance. She smiled at him and again the simple, familiar beauty of her face became alive with an unnamed glow that made her unique.
Hours later, with the moon's shadow casting an even more tangible darkness through the window of the apartment, Ashe sat alone on their couch, face illuminated by the icy glow of his datapad screen. He looked up only out of habit when the lock to the front door disengaged and the metal entrance slid open. James came home alone, looking half asleep on his feet. He tossed his books to the ground unceremoniously then crumbled into a chair as though his muscles had atrophied into nothing. His chin rested against his chest, his eyes closed and mouth open to give birth to a long, satisfied sigh as his kicked his shoes off one at a time.
"It went well?" Ashe inquired, no longer watching his friend but noting to himself where each shoe landed as it would be up to him to locate them both in the morning.
"Surprisingly well," James slipped further down into the chair, slouching into a position that hardly look comfortable. "They were pink."
"What were pink?"
"Those damnable bikini briefs."
Ashe wrinkled his nose. "You did not sleep with her." It was a correction, not a statement hanging in the air to be contradicted.
"I dropped my fork and bent down to retrieve it. Pink; I'm sure of it," James clarified.
"That surprises you, does it?"
The other man shrugged, leaning his head against the back of the chair. "I suppose it shouldn't. It would be odd for her to match her panties and bras but not consider whether or not either were suitable to her clothing, don't you think?"
"Did you see her bra?"
"Perhaps she just likes pink," Ashe stood up, no longer feeling the need to sit up now that his roommate had returned. "You over analyze the smallest things, Mr. Maxwell. Some things are what they are for no greater reason than personal preference."
"After lunch we went for a walk. Then I took her out to dinner. We're going to a movie this weekend."
"Well, that should take care of any lasting rumors," Ashe picked up both discarded shoes and placed them by the door to save himself the trouble in the morning. "Do you like her?"
Ashe felt no reason to ask what he meant by that. He locked the front door once more and made sure a clear path existed for James to crawl to his room once there was no audience to perform for. "Good night, Mr. Maxwell."
James waved dismissively at his friend's turned back, Nirvana's trusting blue eyes still blinking in his memory.