It’s very quiet over here, like I’m home alone. But I’m not…
The cameras whirr very gently as they move, so quietly it would be easy to miss it. I try to ignore them. Try not to catch sight of them in the corner of my eye.
Nervous energy courses through me, subduing my ability to create the correct headspace. I pace and check the clock again. Sit on the bed, central in the virtually bare room. Stand and smooth the pristine white sheet.
Check the ear pieces in my pocket. Check my phone.
It rings as I stare at it and I jump. It’s turned into alien tech and I press half a dozen buttons before I actually manage to answer the damn thing. I press it to my ear as though I could touch him through it.
No greeting. No cheerful questions about how my day has gone so far. He is as excited by this as I thought I would be.
“Check in, petal.”
I nearly reply automatically, but stop myself and really think about it. Today is the same, but different. The motor breaks the silence.
“It’s just me and you, petal.”
The breath I didn’t realise I was holding escapes with a sigh, but the words are still stuck in my throat.
“It only has to be me and you, if that’s what you want.”
“I’m scared.” I say, but don’t follow through. Scared I’ll let him down. Scared of being judged. I want to be… I don’t know… worthy?
“I’ll cancel. No-one will mind.”
“No!” I surprise myself a little with the rush of disappointment. “I’ll mind. Just need a few seconds.”
His headset mutes automatically and I really wish I could hear him breathing instead of the void down the line. “I’m putting in the ear pieces.” I tell him, as though he can’t see everything, and I make the technical switch to hands-free. Take off my robe and hang it on the back of the door.
I hear his gasped intake of breath as though he was standing right beside me, and feel a flash of reassurance. The midnight blue slip I’m wearing is not something I’d told him about in advance, but I am guessing he approves.
“You look beautiful.” He pauses, “Check in, petal.”
“Ready, Sir.” Now I’ve removed my robe, the silky fabric moves across my body and drags my skin into awareness that snakes through me as a shiver. I wrap my arms across my chest, a gesture half protective, half reflexive to the shiver.
“Once more for the crowd?”
I’d forgotten. Communication tonight is to be explicitly clear.
“Green, Sir.” I exhale and feel my nerves dissipate.
He whispers in my ear and I can almost feel his breath. “Do you remember the first time we did this? The connection so jumpy. I was typing left handed to give you instructions, because we didn’t have enough bandwidth for two-way video.” He is here but not here, something we have become used to over the length of our relationship. From dodgy Skyping and expensive video calls to our current web accessible camera streams.
I remember, and the memory is hazy and intimate, filtered through the light of nostalgia of 16 years.
I stroke my fingers down my arms and let my hands fall relaxed at my side.
“Our friends are joining us, love.”
Closing my eyes, I imagine their ghostly presence at the periphery of the room. In reality the cameras will be their eyes, peering at me myopically from the walls.
“Settle yourself on the bed. Let me cover you with that soft blanket, not too much. It’s a warm summer’s night, so it rides low and leaves your feet and legs bare.”
My hands become his, and I feel his soothing touch as the fleecy blanket drapes over my middle, just a flirt of my silky slip showing above and below.
“Check in for our friends, petal.”
…I get the feeling I might continue this one later…