"Tom, what's the status of the UK macroeconomic forecast?" the Chairman of the Board asked. He was an older gentleman with a kindly demeanor, the grandson of the bank's founder.
"Um, it's nearly complete," Tom managed to stammer as he returned to reality. "It should be available to the executive committee by the end of next week at the latest."
"I had expected we would have it for today's board meeting," Tom's boss, the CEO, said with disappointment registering in his voice. "But I guess that will have to do."
The final orders of business were discussed, and the meeting was adjourned. Tom looked at his phone and saw an alert that he had an Instagram message. He stood to walk out and was surprised to hear the CEO speak.
"Tom, can we have a word?"
"Uh, sure Jim," Tom said, trying not to telegraph his impatience as the rest of the participants filed out. He was desperate to check the message.
"Is everything okay with you, Tom? You seem distracted. The first couple months after you arrived you were a whirlwind of activity and a real breath of fresh air. Frankly, I was a little worried you were after my job," the CEO, Jim Ravenwood, said with a comradely laughed. "But the past month has been different. I really did expect that report in time for the board meeting."
"I'm sorry, Jim," Tom said, then lied, "the truth is there have been some issues at home and, you know, it really has been a distraction. This is a good wake-up call. I appreciate you bringing it up. From here on, I'll make sure it doesn't affect my work."
"Thanks, Tom. See to it," Jim stated with a military bearing. "I'll see you in my office shortly to debrief on the meeting."
As soon as the CEO walked out, Tom looked at his phone and began the short journey back to his office.
S: you're coming to our away game today
S: 4:30 at mudville high school
S: it's like an hour away so plan to leave early
He checked his calendar. He had a 3:30 meeting, the one the CEO just referenced.
T: Sorry, I'm at the office and have an important meeting.
She responded almost immediately.
S: none of our parents will be there
S: and their fans are kinda hostile
S: we need a cheering section
S: plus you're our mascot!
S: and my good luck charm ;-)
T: I really can't.
S: just tell your boss you got a last minute doctor appointment
S: besides doesn't my little thumper miss me?
Tom registered that their messages were becoming less and less disguised. But he had stopped caring.
S: have you been a good boy today?
T: Yes, Miss.
S: I have something for you
S: another video
S: this time it won't disappear
T: PLEASE DON'T!!!
S: haha I promise you'll like this one better
S: well maybe not
S: but you'll feel less guilty about it
It was a video of her long feet in white ankle socks, positioned sole to sole. In between her arches was a small mass covered in dark fabric sliding slowly through the middle. It was a short video of him in his jogging shorts, pumping between Sophie's feet from a couple weeks ago. No faces were visible. Her laptop must have a rear-facing camera, he thought, he didn't even know they came with that option. Then he realized he was holding his breath and tried to exhale steadily, but it came out trembling. His cock bounced in his lap.
T: Please don't post that.
S: duh I won't silly!
He breathed a sigh of relief, despite being aware she could ruin his life with ease.
S: but I will send you the whole video
S: if you're a good boy and come tonight
S: you should see the look on your face when the rabbit gets caught in the trap [wink emoji]
S: anyway I'm sure you'll come!
S: gotta go to my next class
S: ok buh bye [kissy face emoji]
Tom immediately ran to the men's room. He locked himself in a stall, unzipped his suit pants and began pumping his cock. He needed to cum so badly. He brought up the video and aimed for the toilet bowl, ready to make a mess. Precum dripped off the tip.
Then he remembered he had not asked Sophie for permission. He considered sending her another message. Inexplicably, his cock began to soften.
He began to worry. Was it because he had just accidentally finished when the precum dribbled out? Or was he experiencing some sort of conditioned response from not having Sophie's approval? Would she consider precum an ejaculation?
He picked up his phone and re-read her words:
...if you're a good boy and come tonight...I'm sure you'll come!
She was telling him he would ejaculate tonight! He had no idea how she would make it happen at a volleyball game. But he had to find out.
Then he reproached himself for nearly failing to grasp her insinuation. He really had to pay closer attention to her words, written and spoken. They almost always held hidden meanings; double entendres, sometimes triple entendres, if that's even a thing. She seemed to delight in confusing and misleading him, secretly foreshadowing future plans. But he was a sharp guy, he should be able to read between her lines, if only he could remember to focus. He lamented deleting their earliest Instagram chats. Undoubtedly, there were lost messages to him, buried below the surface of her words.
He zipped up his pants and emailed the CEO to reschedule their recap of the board meeting. Then he returned to his office and collected his suit coat to leave.
Tom pulled up at Mudville High School a few minutes before game time. Being new to the area, it was his first visit to the town and he observed the differences from his own posh suburban enclave. The houses were mostly small bungalows, packed tightly together, many in need of repair. It seemed to be a factory town for blue collar workers, except the factory appeared to have long since closed. The parking lot was mostly full of pick-up trucks, many rusted and dented. He felt conspicuous in his Tesla Model X and found a space around the back side of the athletic building, out of view from the main parking lot. Besides not wanting to draw attention, he figured he could also avoid unwanted dents from people who didn't seem to care about appearances.
He got out of the car and walked around the building to the gym door. A girl behind a table took the money for his ticket and gave him a funny look. As he walked past, other people gave him odd looks. It was only when he stepped onto the court that he realized he was the only person wearing a suit and tie. Most of the crowd were local parents wearing jeans, t-shirts and flannels. Some had on uniforms from working class jobs. Many men had thick beards and were heavily overweight, making Tom look exceedingly clean-cut and relatively trim in comparison. Despite not thinking of himself as a snob, he had an odd feeling of superiority. The entire scene made him incredibly uncomfortable.
He found an empty row halfway up the bleachers and sat alone, trying to disappear but knowing he stood out like a sore thumb. Both volleyball teams were on the floor finishing warm-ups.
"Hey, it's Thumper!" he heard one of the girls cry out, followed by a number of shouts and hoots.
He looked down and the entire Oak Heights team was calling and waving to him, their one-man cheering section. He brightened when he saw Sophie waving and smiling at him. Without thinking, he got up and walked down to the sideline. The girls lined up to give him high fives as he shouted words of encouragement. He gave Lauren a fist bump. Sophie was the last to jog by him. She quickly grabbed his hand and pulled him into a bro hug, patting his back hard with a clenched fist. She leaned down so his head was next to hers.
"Cheer till your head hurts!" she said exuberantly, then added with a whisper, "I can't wait to show you something. It's gonna blow your mind."
She quickly released the casual embrace and he scampered back up into the stands. He felt like all 40 or so attendees were looking at him. He didn't want anyone to see the raging boner that suddenly poked out of his thin wool trousers. Fortunately, the sides of his open suit coat made a good shield.
"What could she possibly be hinting at?" he whispered to himself. The anticipation made his head spin.
The game started and it was competitive from the get-go. Mudville had a tall blonde, similar in stature to Sophie, who clearly knew her way around a volleyball court. The two stars traded several spikes. As they keyed in on each other, Sophie blocked a spike. On the next volley the other girl did the same to her. She raised a fist to the bleachers and the parents hooted with delight.
Tom could see Sophie getting agitated. He needed to play the role she asked of him. He stood up and began shouting.
"You got this, Sophie! Come on Oak Heights! Big defense! Let's get the serve back!"
Mudville parents began looking his way, but he didn't care. He could see Sophie flex her chest with renewed confidence. He felt warm inside knowing he was helping.
"Well ain't she a peach!" a voice called out to his right with a hint of drawl. "I got half a mind to pluck that fruit right of the tree! Lookin' a bit soft on the court though. At least in the right places!"
Sophie looked up into the stands with a scowl. Tom turned to see a tall man about twenty feet to his right laughing and slapping his knee. He looked to be fairly well-built and wore the light blue striped shirt often donned by mechanics. He was unshaven and appeared to be missing several teeth.
"Don't pay attention to him team! He's just trying to get under your skin," Tom yelled out.
"More like in your shorts!" the heckler continued. "Whoo-ee, they sure do know how to breed 'em up in Oak Heights! Never had me a rich girl like that!"
Mudville aced the next serve. Sophie was visibly frustrated. One of her teammates, Elle, walked near the net, seemingly on a path to console Sophie. The tall blonde opponent stuck out a hand and poked Elle in the stomach, causing her to double over in surprise. Sophie came running up to the net and got in the girl's face. The referee quickly intervened, separating the two giants.
"Let those spoiled brats have it!" the jerk yelled out. "Show 'em what it means to work for a livin'. Yeah that's it, turn 'em into working girls. I hear they're tighter than a bull's ass in fly season!"
He doubled over in laughter, pleased with himself. Oak Heights managed to regain the serve as Mudville miffed a bump. Sophie was up.
"Oooh look at that one right there," screamed the asshole. "Damn if those teats wouldn't poke your eyes out!"
Sophie jumped and slammed her serve right into the net. He was getting to her. Tom couldn't take any more.
"Sir, would you mind quieting down and just let the girls play?" Tom called out in a calm voice. He was proud of himself for keeping his cool.
"Sir?" he responded sarcastically. "Do I look like a sir, Mr. Three Piece Suit? I'll say whatever the hell I want. It's a free country."
Tom turned and watched Sophie nail an ace with the guy distracted. A couple of the other dads were trying to get him to sit down, to no avail. As she began to serve again, the distractions continued.
"Hey missy, when this is all done, why don't we go out back and I'll show you how a man serves up them balls. Not like that little pencil dick over there you got defendin' yer ass." As he said the last words, he looked at Tom and spat toward him on the bleachers.
"That's enough!" Tom yelled and took two steps toward the guy. "You shouldn't be talking to a woman like that, you piece of shit!"
"Oooh, those are big words comin' from Mr. Wall Street over there," he crowed. "Them be fightin' words. You want a piece of me? Come and get it. There'll be plenty left for your big whore down there."
Tom flew into a rage when the man called Sophie a whore. Without a second thought, he ran fast at the man, not sure of his plan but intending to hit him as hard as he could. He arrived at his target and the next thing he knew he was lying on his back on a bleacher seat staring up at the lights. He had no idea how he got there, but for some reason he remembered seeing the name "Brad" embroidered in cursive on the mechanic shirt.
His head was spinning and for a moment he couldn't feel anything. Then his senses began to awaken, and a splitting pain shot through his temple. In the haze, he felt hands lifting him up and he prayed it wasn't his adversary. With a sigh of relief, he noticed the other guy tangled up with one of the big, bearded men.
"Both you fools need to get the hell out of here," a voice behind Tom said, probably the guy holding him.
He felt himself dragged down the bleachers and down the gym floor to the end of the stands. Despite the pain in his head, he felt good enough to walk.
"You can let go of me, I'm leaving," Tom said to his escort.
"Suit yourself," the same voice said, and he was suddenly dropped.
Tom almost fell to the floor but managed to grab a guardrail at the edge of the bleachers. He turned and saw a bear of a man walking back to the stands. Then he looked toward the court. Lauren stood on the sideline staring at him with concern. His face flushed with embarrassment.
"Uh, I'm ok, hun," he called to her. "Sorry, um, I have to leave now but text me after the game."
He walked out of the gym and through the exit to the parking lot. The chilly fall air was immediately refreshing and the spinning feeling subsided. A loud noise broke his temporary respite. Tires screeched and an engine revved as a car blew past. He looked up and saw the tail end of a red Dodge Charger as it turned and spun out of the parking lot. He surmised it must be the asshole.
He walked around the corner to his Tesla, got in and leaned back against the seat. He felt for his computer bag on the rear floor and located a bottle of ibuprofen tucked in the side. He quickly swallowed some tablets and took a deep breath.
He had never really been in a fight before, besides minor boyhood skirmishes with friends. And all that had amounted to was wrestling on the playground at recess and punching each other's arms till they bruised. He probed the wound on his temple. It had grown into a raised welt. He looked at his hand and, to his relief, there was no blood.
He thought to himself. Did I just lose a fight defending Sophie's honor? Or was I defending my own? Or did I literally just take one for the team?
Regardless of the injury, he felt he had done the right thing. The guy was completely out of line and now he wasn't there threatening Sophie, or Lauren for that matter. He was proud of the action he took, even if he looked like a wimp doing it.
As he re-ran the situation over and over in his head, he began to weary. Without realizing it, he drifted off to sleep.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Tom awoke with a start, suddenly fearful for his life as he remembered the fight. He looked out the window and Lauren stood there in the dusky evening light with a look of both concern and relief. He opened the door.
"Dad, I tried texting between sets and you didn't answer! I came right out as soon as the match ended. Luckily, I found you back here. What the heck happened? Ugh, that's a mean bruise!" she spoke quickly, releasing her pent-up worries.
"That jerk was heckling you guys, so I confronted him," Tom explained, somewhat woozily. "It didn't work out so well for me, but I guess I got him kicked out," he tried to laugh but his head pounded. "Did you guys win?"
"No, that tall bitch on the other team totally cheated at the end and the ref didn't see - or didn't want to see. It went all the way to a tie at the end of the fifth set. Sophie's fucking pissed," Lauren reported, presenting a tough front as her dad raised his eyebrows. She continued speaking a mile a minute, "Sorry for the language Dad, but I'm pretty worked up right now. This school is full of a bunch of assholes. I'm just glad to get out of here. Come out under the streetlight so I can look at your face."
Tom was grateful for his daughter's concern and understanding. He had worried she would be mad at him or at least disappointed in his behavior. His anxiety began to lift as he stepped out of the car and stood, then he quickly leaned back on the door as a dizzy spell hit him.
"Ooh, Dad, don't move too fast," Lauren said, grabbing his arm and holding him up against the car.
She leaned her body into him, pinning him to the car so wouldn't slide down. Then she took hold of his head and turned it to the side to look at the bruise. A mix of emotions washed over Tom. He was uncomfortable with her so close. While he wasn't turned on, he felt deeply guilty about his errant thoughts the past few days. She also made him feel safer being there with him, holding him up. Yet the sense of dependence made him feel weak and reawakened his sense of inferiority.
"Aww, that's a big bump," she said, babying him as she felt the raised bruise on his temple. "At least he didn't get that close to your eye, I don't think you'll have a shiner."
As she said it, tires screeched nearby. A red Dodge Charger screamed around the corner of the building and squealed to a halt. The man from the fight jumped out and slammed the door.
"Well, looky what we have here," Brad sneered, mimicking Biff from Back to the Future. "I'm not interruptin' nothin' little daddy-o, am I?" he laughed caustically, showing a grotesque mouth of decayed and missing teeth. "Seems to me I need to finish what I started. And maybe I can get me a little piece of tail to go along with it."
"Fuck you, you disgusting asshole," Lauren spat out. "Go back to the fucking hole you crawled out of and leave me and my dad the fuck alone!"
Tom was dumbfounded by his daughter's sudden toughness. He felt proud that he had raised such a spirited daughter. And envious that she could be so brave in the face of danger. But all of his emotions quickly gave way to terror as it settled in that the foul man meant to do them serious harm. He judged him to be at least 6'1". His large biceps strained the sleeves of the work shirt. Tom looked around and realized they were completely concealed from view behind the building.
"Ooh, she's gonna squirm real good when I take her out to the field where no one can hear that sassy little voice," he howled sadistically and broke out into a fit of hoarse laughter.
Tom felt helpless and his shoulders visibly drooped in unconscious submission. He felt responsible for protecting his daughter, yet he was already certain he would fail. He loathed himself for his physical shortcomings. Instinctively, he grabbed Lauren's hand and tried to coax her to run away with him. But she wouldn't budge. Instead, she stared down Brad, intent to show him she wasn't intimidated. With stinging clarity, he realized she felt she had to protect her hapless father.
"I can see who wears the pants in this family," Brad taunted. "But they'll come off the same as any other pants."
Tom suddenly noticed movement in the shadows behind Brad. Sophie had quietly walked around the corner. She was wearing a varsity jacket over a grey hoodie sweatshirt. The hood covered her hair and a shadow from the streetlight concealed half her face. She looked mysterious. And dangerous. He watched as she patiently cracked her knuckles then began unbuttoning the jacket. She set it on the trunk of the Charger alongside her gym bag and took a step forward.