In 2021, President Warren passed what became known as ‘The Weinstein Act’. Any man who laid a hand upon a woman he was not married to, except in cases of emergency, would be jailed for up to three months, and repeat offenders threatened with chemical castration.
Valerie Holden had not been touched by any man since the passing of that bill.
Her subway train into the office was mostly women these days. Men worked from home now where they could. Being in mixed spaces led to unnecessary complications. There were only two men in the subway carriage this morning – both with their wedding rings clearly displayed, both huddled in to the protection of their wives. Valerie drank in the sight of their broad hands, the backs flecked with dark hairs, and the soft pale skin of their wrists disappearing into their sleeves, promising much. She imagined those hands sliding up her legs and around her back, pulling her in close, the fingers dancing up her spine and tangling in her hair. Would they be warm or cold? Rough or smooth? The possibilities chased around her mind and broke her skin out in goosebumps. One of the men made eye contact with her for a moment, and looked away quickly, fear in his eyes.
She picked up a discarded newspaper off the seat next to her, to distract her. The main story was a string of fresh allegations against male Brooklyn cops, abusing their positions of trust to touch women. The week before, a young man barely on the force a year had started a house fire so he could leap in and rescue the woman living inside, picking her up bodily and carrying her out of her house like a groom carrying his bride across the threshold. He’d been caught on CCTV starting the blaze and pleaded guilty to both endangerment of life and violation of personal female boundaries.
“We can no longer call these isolated cases – how long will it take us to address the gender imbalance that still exists in our emergency services, for the safety of all?” the report concluded. Not long, Valerie thought. The hospitals had already changed up. It would be the police force next, and the fire department not long after that. Then she wouldn’t even be able to start a fire somewhere in the hopes of feeling a man’s arms around her.
The train pulled into her stop and she threw the paper back down again, joining the press of bodies off the train and up to the surface. Ahead, two students walked hand in hand, their schoolbags slung over their shoulders. Valerie watched as one of them traced a blue polished nail in a circle over her partner’s wrist, and the other ducked her head in to graze her chin affectionately. Valerie hated them, hated their easy closeness. They giggled to each other and shared a quick kiss, and it felt to Valerie like they were laughing at her, flaunting their intimacy deliberately to make her feel her lacking more. She pushed past them, her shoulders clenching in tight to keep her from snapping something angry and poorly thought-out. She was a liberal, for goodness sakes – this was what she had voted for.
Jamie was there to greet her at the door to her office with a smile and her schedule for the day. He was wearing a new suit, and the cut brought out all the best features of his muscular, athletic body.
“Good morning, Ms Holden,” he said, effortlessly making sure their hands didn’t graze as he handed her papers over. “Ms Blanche called to say she won’t be able to make your meeting this morning.”
“Thanks Jamie,” she said, turning at her office door once more to appraise him. “Lookin’ good, by the way.”
Jamie laughed easily and gave her a wink. “I always make the effort for you, Ms Holden,” he said, with a smile straight out of a toothpaste commercial. “I’ll get you your coffee.”
God, that boy was wasted in this office. He could be a movie star. And he wasn’t like the others. He hadn’t lost his head when the bill was passed, hadn’t retreated or let the fear settle on to him like some of them. He’d just carried on as he always had done, the same easy, charming Jamie. He was a keeper.
Valerie slid into her seat and sorted through her notes for the day. With Ms Blanche cancelled, she had an hour or two to herself. A chance to sift through the mountain of emails that managed to pile up every day despite her best efforts. She fired up her laptop and opened her inbox. There were a handful of promising looking CVs from some young women just graduated from a nearby business school, and she flagged them to read later.
There was a knock at the door and Jamie came in with a mug of steaming coffee. Black, no sugar, just how she liked it. And he’d brought her an almond croissant too. So thoughtful. He was probably great in bed.
“Here you go,” he said, placing the croissant and coffee down on her desk. “Don’t work too hard now,” he said with a smile, turning to leave.
“Jamie,” Valerie said suddenly. He stopped. She ran her eyes over his broad shoulders, his muscular arms, his pert ass.
“Can I talk with you a moment?” she said. “Shut the door.”
He did, and returned to the desk. “Is everything alright?” he asked. His usual smile was gone – now his face was concerned and earnest. It made her want him even more.
“Take a seat,” she said, gesturing to the chair opposite her. Once he was settled, she drew her mug of coffee toward her. It was too hot to drink, so she cradled it in her hands.
“You’re not married, are you?” She tried to make it sound like an offhand remark. Like something that had just occurred to her.
“No, ma’am.” He smiled a little, a polite smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“Man, that’s crazy,” she said, resting her chin on her hands and shaking her head. “How has someone like you not been snapped up yet?”
Jamie laughed, his eyes lowered modestly. “Well…I guess I just haven’t found the right woman.”
Valerie nodded, her gaze taking in the strong line of his jaw, the bob of his Adam’s apple. “Must have been a tough few years for you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You and me, we’re in the same boat,” she said. “We’re hard-working, eligible professionals at the top of our game – and we haven’t had sex since 2021.”
Jamie laughed again, and shifted a little in his chair, embarrassed. “That’s uh… That’s probably not something we should be discussing at the office,” he said, glancing at the door.
“Hey, it’s ok, it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she said, getting to her feet and making her way around the desk.
Keep that smile up. We’re just talking. It’s just a bit of fun between friends.
“It’s certainly not anything you’re doing wrong,” she said, coming and leaning against the desk next to him. “If I was the marrying type, I’d probably get down on one knee right now and ask you.”
Her leg was inches from his. Her hand, splayed on the desk, could reach out and slip into his easily where it rested on his thigh. Her body ached for him, and thrummed with the tension of trying to look casual and nonchalant.
He looked up at her, his expression guarded, professionally neutral. “So you’re not the marrying type then?” he asked.
That was as good as an invitation. The silence hung between them, unbearable, and then she reached in towards him, ready to embrace, to press, to kiss.
She saw the panic in his eyes and he leapt out of the chair, arching his body away from her so as to not touch her. “Woah!” he cried, and then laughed nervously, his eyes wide and wary as he backed away. “Are you ok?”
She looked him in the face. He wasn’t that naive. He knew what she had been going for. What she wanted. He was giving her an easy out. All she needed to do was claim dizziness, fainting, a momentary loss of balance, and her behaviour was an excusable lapse. Everyone could go back to their lives. No one would get hurt.
But Valerie didn’t want an out. She wanted this to happen, and now that she had been so close and denied it, she wanted it to happen now.
The little tease.
“Look, you can drop the act,” she said irritably. “We both know why you’re here.”
He didn’t reply, but didn’t move for the door, either. That was a good sign.
“How long has it been?” she asked, levelling her gaze with his. “Two years? More? If it’s anything less than that, it certainly wasn’t legal.”
He held her gaze, non-responsive, but his cheeks coloured. Valerie smiled.
“Ooh. Naughty boy.” She moved away from the desk, towards him. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. It’ll be our little secret.”
She reached out a hand to slide it up his leg and he started back. “Don’t…” he said weakly, looking once more to the closed office door.
“If I go and tell people you made a pass at me, they’ll believe it,” she said matter-of-factly. “It’ll be my word against yours.” She traced her fingertip across the back of his hand and heard him gasp. “Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb,” she said, the warmth of his skin filling her and making her head spin.
“Please…” he said, trembling under her fingertips, his pupils dilating as she traced them up to the cuffs of his shirt. Valerie was no longer certain whether he was asking her to stop or continue.
“It’s very simple,” she breathed, loosening his tie and gently working his top button loose. “You touch me – or I’ll tell them you did.”
Thank you for reading! This mini-fiction is for Day 4 of Writers HQ‘s #WritingAdvent. Today’s prompt was to write about something FORBIDDEN! Took a lot of jumping around to settle on this world and these characters, but it was great fun to write.
Let me know what you think below, and if you’re writing your own mini-fiction over December, link me to it in the comments and I’ll go have a look!