Since her last encounter with the police, Naomi had been lying low. There were only so many times they could take her in and not ask too many questions. Like the rest of the homeless community in the city, she went by a series of assumed names: and to the police she was Polly. Or Sienna. Or Laurie. It depended.
Sooner or later though, they’d catch on and there was probably only so long that her luck would last, so she’d taken to making sure she slept in the shelters as often as possible, and when that wasn’t possible, she stuck to hidden places where their torches were less likely to reach.
As for keeping herself occupied: well if you knew the right kind of places – or, rather, the wrong kind of places, then you could spend an evening getting pleasantly wasted at no expense to yourself. Naomi rarely over-indulged; the run-in with the truck driver had taught her to be wary of strangers offering gifts. She preferred to drink enough to provide warmth for the night ahead, then make a bathroom break which just happened to become a stealthy break for the door.
At least that was her most common practice.
‘What’s your poison?’
‘Jack, neat, on the rocks’
‘Nice. My kinda gal’
Naomi turned to see this evening’s benefactor. It had been a while since she’d been with a girl – too long, she thought – but this one was gorgeous. Naomi looked at the girl’s long bronze thighs, leading up to a tantalisingly short skirt, gapped slightly in the middle. She imagined slipping her hands into that gap and found herself beginning to get turned on.
‘Well, pleased to meet you Nikki. You on your own?’
Naomi gave a shrug, aiming to be non-committal but falling by the way of deliberately exaggerated.
Asha smiled at her and Naomi felt herself blush, already concerned that she may have embarrassed herself. Asha pointed to a booth in the corner. ‘We’re over there, come join us’.
Naomi looked – maybe there was safety in numbers, and a few drinks with a group couldn’t hurt. She suddenly felt loneliness well up in her in a way it hadn’t for some time; in a way she hadn’t let it. How long had it been since she was in a group of people around her age? Since she was on that damn bus, she realised. And she wasn’t sure how long ago that was anymore.
‘Seb, Mae, Missy, Lou, Jonno – Nikki’
Naomi nervously smiled at her new acquaintances. ‘I’ll never remember all that’.
‘S’alright, you’ll get there in the end.’
Seb spoke, with a Southern Atlantic drawl Naomi thought must surely be exaggerated for effect: ‘So, what brings a nice girl like you to a seedy dive like this, on a Tuesday night no less?’ Naomi watched him looking her up and down, sizing her up, trying to get the measure of her. she could swear he licked his lips a little. Already feeling somewhat heated, Naomi felt her body continue to tingle. Just briefly she considered what he would be like in bed. Rough, she expected. She hoped.
‘Nice girl?’ Naomi downed her shot then reached forward, grabbed Seb’s drink and downed that too. She felt the liquorice burn of Jagermeister and looked at him with a mock withering stare. ‘Jagermeister, really? Isn’t that a bit tame for a hard guy like you?’
Seb stood, agrressively and grabbed the table. For a moment, Naomi felt a flash of fear shoot through her stomach – what if she’d misjudged this?
He stood a foot-length away from her, and she felt herself tremble.
He leaned into her, got his face right up close.
‘What makes you think I’m hard? Come on Ms Nikki, let’s dance.’
He grabbed her waist and brought her to him into a slow dance. Oh yes, he was hard.
He ran his finger under the bottom of her shorts, skimming her thigh over her pantyhose. She wished they weren’t in a club so that he could go higher. She pressed herself against him, breathing in his scent – a mixture of tobacco, liquor and that indefinable smell of a man.
The night passed in a blur of shot-downing, dancing and rock music.
Naomi spent much of the evening dancing with Asha, with Seb and sometimes with both of them. She felt a frisson between the other two and wondered whether they were an item – and, if they were, where she fitted into their plans.
Naomi realised that she would probably be having sex tonight for the first time in several weeks… only she wasn’t entirely sure who with, or who she’d prefer.
The DJ announced the final song of the night.
When Asha grabbed Naomi’s hand and informed her she was coming back with them, she gladly acquiesced. She leaned into Asha and kissed those deep lips fully, running her hands over her new acquaintance’s back and, to her surprise, noting no bra strap. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Seb watching and she hoped it was turning him on.
They bundled into a couple of yellow cabs and drove through streets Naomi didn’t think she’d ever seen before. In the cab, she sat in between Seb and Asha. Asha’s hand sat on her thigh and Naomi thought she would just about die from the heat inside her.
They emerged outside a darkened apartment block, windows boarded up. The confusion must have shown on her face because Seb laughed.
‘You really are too much of a nice girl, aren’t you?’
Realisation hit Naomi at last. ‘You squat?’
Asha grinned and grabbed her hand again ‘of course. Not just us – there are others inside. Plenty of room for all. Come, stay the night. Stay as long as you like. Come on, round the back, that’s where our door is’.
The back door looked just as boarded up as the front, but it was just a façade – Jonno fiddled with a handle buried just under the loose wood panelling, and they were in as easily as they might have entered any other property.
The building was dark and dusty inside, yet there were lights coming from an array of places; signs of life from the other occupants, with the faint sounds of hip-hop, metal and classical music mingling in the air along with the smells of Mexican spices, garlic and weed that didn’t quite dispel the mustiness.
‘Come on, we’re on third’.
The apartment was bigger than Naomi had envisaged – three bedrooms and a lounge. Alec and Missy immediately disappeared into a room and shut the door, Mae and Lou into another and Jonno another still.
Seb looked at Naomi and Asha, and for a moment Naomi caught a flicker that suggested something was up for grabs between all three of them, and that there were a range of possibilities about what might happen next. Her heart raced – was she nervous or excited about that possibility? Asha threw a look at Seb and he said ‘OK ladies, I’ll take the couch tonight, you have the bedroom’. As he padded towards the lounge, he shot back a grin at them, and blew an air kiss. ‘You girls have fun… I’ll see you soon’.
Asha giggled and looked at Naomi, as they fell into a deep kiss that lasted through them entering the bedroom, Asha’s clumsy shutting of the door and their collapse onto the pile of mattresses below.