Copyright 2012, B.K. Price
What follows is the consolidated first chapter from a short story I am writing called Hook Ups (it was previously released in two parts). This is based on a post I read on WordPress by a blogger named Mike Smith. He related a dream he had and it spawned this idea for a horror story about a new reality show called Hook Ups that is more than what it seems. The idea percolated in my brain and I had to start writing it. I’ve been having a blast. This is a first draft, and it doesn’t get into the horror aspect yet, but there will be blood, believe you me. Since I hope to send this in for publishing whenever I finish it, I can’t put the whole story here, but I can put a few excerpts to see if you folks enjoy it. And be sure to stop by Mike’s blog, MikesFilmTalk, to see the excellent articles he has written, including the one that inspired this story: The Dating House. All of the story’s excerpts can be found in the Fictional Follies section of my blog. I will update them as I revise the draft, so check back again if you are interested in following the updates.
Kimberly Czerwinski drummed her fingers against the luxurious leather armrest. Her seat was comfortable – more comfortable than any car seat she had ever been on. She could feel the gentle vibration of the limousine’s motor through the lush carpeting beneath her feet. It should have been an exciting moment for her, escorted in a swanky limo like a V.I.P., but she couldn’t help but feel nervous and a little vulnerable. The figure-hugging blue dress she wore made her feel almost naked. Her legs were crossed vice-tight and she kept pulling at the hem of her mini-dress.
The champagne bottle stood unopened in its tub of ice, and the long-stemmed glasses rattled in their lacquered wooden slots. Normally she would have popped the cork already and had more than her share of the bubbly. But instead she sat board still with her tiny black purse clutched closely in her lap. The windows were too darkened to see much of the world outside, and the black panel that separated her compartment from the driver’s section made her uneasy for some reason. She wished her girlfriends were there.
She was not alone, however. Off to her right, sitting on the sideways seats, was the woman who had approached her in the night club. Concentrate as she might, Kimberly couldn’t remember the woman’s name. She appeared to be Asian, and she wore a high-necked sleeveless white blouse and tight shorts covered with glittering white sequins. Together they looked like two party girls out for a night on the town.
“We’re getting close to the studio,” the woman said without a hint of an accent. Kimberly stared intently at her elegant features. “We need to make sure everything’s ready.”
The woman eyed her up and down, paying close attention to Kimberly’s smooth white legs. There seemed to be something beneath that stare, something carnal. Kimberly scooted more squarely into her seat and pulled at the all-too-high hem of her dress uncomfortably, darting an anxious glance at the tinted window. She remembered the woman out on the dance floor, always hovering near her like a sparkling ghost, hips gyrating to the music. This was San Francisco, after all.
“That dress will do for now,” she stated flatly. “We can work on wardrobe after the auditions are finished.” She was one to talk, dressed like she was. “About the name, though – how do you pronounce it?”
“No, no, the last name,” the woman said.
“Oh,” said Kimberly. “Cher-vin-skee.” Kimberly pronounced it slowly.
The Asian woman frowned. “Really?”
“It’s Polish,” Kimberly explained.
“Yeah,” said the woman, “I don’t think so. Too ethnic.”
“But it’s my name,” Kimberly retorted.
The woman furrowed her brow in thought for a moment and then achieved a wide-eyed idea, raising her pen in the air. “Simmons,” she said. “That’s a much better name.” She scribbled in her notebook.
“But my name is…” Kimberly began.
The woman patted Kimberly’s knee. “Trust me. The audience will respond better to a name like Simmons. Cherwhatsit is just too hard to relate to, and it looks like a mess on the screen.” She leaned back. “Don’t worry. We’ll put the right name on your check.”
My check, thought Kimberly. She’d be on television and getting paid! It was all like a dream. One minute she was out in the night club partying with her friends, the next she was being driven to an audition for a new reality television show in style. A smile slid across her face. She could get used to this.
“Besides, actors use false names all the time. You don’t think Tom Cruise was really born with that name, do you?” Kimberly couldn’t argue with that. He had probably been born Maynard Dalrymple or something hideous like that.
“The accent I’m not so in love with,” the woman confessed.
“What accent?” Kimberly was getting a little defensive.
“That whole Kansas bumpkin thing.”
“Arkansas,” Kimberly corrected.
The woman rolled her eyes. “Whatever. You know, maybe it actually could work. You could be the Mary-Ann of the show. You know, the cute country girl. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s not like there’s time for a voice coach anyway.”
Kimberly felt the excitement rise. “Where is this show going to be? Your country?”
“Yeah,” said Kimberly. “Japan.”
The woman smiled and shook her head. “Oh no, honey, I’m not Japanese. I’m Korean.”
Kimberly let out a heavy breath, relieved. “Oh, thank God! I totally forgot your name, Corinne. I was too embarrassed to say anything.”
The woman’s face contorted in confusion. “What? I, uh, no, that’s not my na… You know, forget it. We’re not going to be in Japan. We’ll be in Paris.”
“Paris, Arkansas?” said Kimberly, incredulous.
“Um, no – wait, there’s a place called Paris in Arkansas?”
“Yeah,” said Kimberly. “It’s about fifty miles away from my hometown. Their cheerleading team beat ours in the Logan County Varsity Championships my senior year.” Under her breath she muttered, “Stupid Eagles!”
The woman huffed in amusement. “Well, as much fun as it would be to hold the show in Paris, Arkansas, I’m afraid we’ll have to settle for Paris, France.”
Kimberly had pulled out a compact and was pursing her lips while she checked her makeup in its tiny mirror. “I’ve never been to that state.”
The Asian woman didn’t even look up from her notebook as she said, “Well I’m sure you’ll love it.” Smiling, she shook her head slowly, “You’re going to fit right in.”
* * * *
I was nursing a half of Scotch when she walked in – tight sequined red dress, stiletto heels, legs that went on forever. Her straight black hair came down to her shoulders, framing strikingly beautiful Korean features. Intrigued, I leaned back against the bar, trying to drown out the blaring sounds of the hip-hop music and the inane chattering of the berks dancing on the floor, if you could call it dancing. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but it looked more like a grand mal seizure set to music.
The Korean woman had spotted me, and I could tell that she was just as intrigued. She began sauntering towards the bar, and fortunately nobody was beside me. Her steps were supermodel suave, hips churning gracefully. I braved a short peek at her cleavage. It shivered invitingly with each movement. She didn’t sit down on the stool as much as she poured herself into her seat, smooth as water flowing, giving me the perfect view of that trim and shapely backside of hers. God, I was torturing myself!
Her smile hadn’t fully committed itself to her face yet, but her eyes provided the full story, roaming from my face downward. It was sly, that look, an expression of curiosity mixed with come-hither seduction. I looked down at my tired old clothes. Surely she was pickled looking at me like that. Or a prostitute.
She turned her face away from me, arms resting on the bar, pouty lips held still as if in anticipation of what might come out of them. “Drinks here any good?” she asked in a silky-smooth intonation that wasn’t even slightly inflected with an Asian accent. If anything it sounded a bit Canadian.
I took my cue from her and looked forward as well. “Decent,” I said. I held up my glass and shook it back and forth as I turned my head just enough to spy her out of the corner of my eye. “Scotch is, at least.”
She swung her stool around until one elbow was resting on the bar and she was facing me. I swung around to face her in synchronized harmony. Her brown eyes fixed onto mine. “Pleasure,” she said, extending her hand.
The way she said it had me wondering whether the pleasure was in our meeting or a promise of things to come. Something deep down hoped for the latter. She’s at least half your age, warned the sensible part of my brain. I took a drink in an attempt to kill it.
I grabbed the proffered hand and with one pump we were chums. “Steven,” I said in a terse introduction. My mouth felt dry. My heart beat heavily in my chest. “Ah, gyuh…” I stammered. Get it together, you old coot! I took another swig of my Scotch. “Y…you, uh, remind me a little of Gaemi Halkki.” That’s it, old boy, pay her a compliment.
Her face took a sudden turn from warm and inviting to cold and lethal. Her hand snapped back to her side. “What did you just call me?” she asked through her teeth.
I leaned backward, sputtering and grasping for words. I couldn’t understand what had just happened. “I’m…I’m sorry,” I finally apologized. “I didn’t know you dislike her so much.”
The woman’s brows furrowed. “Dislike who?”
“G…Gaemi Halkki,” I said. “The Korean pop singer.”
The woman’s eyes fluttered. A look of relief softened her face and turned up the corners of her mouth. “Oh, God!” she exclaimed as she started to laugh. “I thought you were saying I looked like an aardvark.”
I laughed with her, although I didn’t know why. “What?”
She put a hand on my arm and spent a moment trying to stop laughing. “Gaemihalkki. It means aardvark in Korean.”
I now knew what we were laughing about. “Oh, bloody hell!” I said. “I can’t believe I said that.” Taking hold of her hand once more, I shook it again and said, “Let me re-introduce myself. My name’s Steven, and I’m a right idiot.”
The woman giggled and enthusiastically returned my handshake. “Well, Steven Idiot, I am…” She paused suddenly, looking skyward as if trying to remember her name. Finally, she said, “…Corinne.” Her lips twisted in amusement at the mention of her name. If there was a joke in that, I didn’t understand it. “I’m surprised you knew my ethnicity. Most people think I’m Japanese.”
“Well, I’m not a complete idiot. It’s more like seventy-five percent idiot, thirty percent excellent mathematician.”
Corinne laughed again. “Don’t forget to squeeze comedian in there.” My eyes traveled down her dress and lingered at the shadowed line where her smooth white legs emerged. God, did I ever want to squeeze something in there! Get it out of your mind, came that damned sensible voice again. I downed some more Scotch. Why wouldn’t the voice die already?
Pulling my brain away from the lewd paths it was following, I said, “Between me and my daughter, we’ve been exposed to enough Japanese and Korean entertainment to know the difference by now.”
Corinne frowned and looked down at my lap. I felt a little uncomfortable. Like most men, I don’t like women frowning when they look at my crotch. “Your daughter?” Corinne repeated. “I…well, I thought you…” She made a gesture toward my crotch. Only it wasn’t my crotch.
I held up my hand, finally understanding. “Oh, no, I’m not married,” I said, wiggling my fingers just to emphasize the absence of a wedding band. “Twice divorced, however.” That suggested she wasn’t a prostitute out to turn a trick. A hooker probably wouldn’t care if I was married. Of course, she could have just been playing me for a fool.
“How is your daughter coping with your divorces?” Corinne asked. I sensed genuine concern in her voice.
“Well,” I said. “She’s twenty-two, and they happened quite a long time ago.”
Corinne looked me over with a sly smile. “Twenty-two? You’re too young to have a twenty-two year old daughter.”
Too young? I was fifty-four, and I looked it. This Corinne was either plumb off her rocker or drunk off her sweet young arse – or a lying street-whore trying to crack on to me so she could bugger off with a few quid. She’s dodgy, mate, said the sensible voice, and for once I was willing to listen to it.
“What’s your angle?” I asked.
“I beg your pardon?” Corinne responded.
“The flattery. What’s your motive, hun? You out for a shag and a blag?”
“A what?” she asked.
“You know, take the gullible sod back to your flat, get him rat-arsed, and then have a few thrusts under the covers before you make off with his valuables.”
Corinne surged up from her stool. “Why I never! Are you calling me a hooker?”
I stood up as well, the alcohol raging in my system. “Well, I sure as Hell don’t look too young to have a twenty-two year old daughter. You have to be running some sort of scam to lie to my face like that.”
Corinne’s mouth was open, but nothing was coming out. She just huffed while her eyes shot venom at me. She grabbed her purse from the bar and spun around, storming toward the door. Before she got there, she turned, her eyes streaming with tears. “I wasn’t trying to trick you,” she said, her tone subdued. “I just wanted to get to know you.” Then she turned around again and went through the door.
I downed the remainder of my Scotch and slammed the glass down on the bar. The nutters out prancing on the dance floor remained oblivious to everything except their ridiculous gyrating. I looked towards the door once again. God I was a fool! No wonder I was still single after all this time.
Out on the pavement I looked to the sky. Smelt like rain. I didn’t want to linger too long. A couple of metres away a limousine was ticking over. Limousines weren’t a common sight in this part of Ipswich. I couldn’t see through the tinted windows, so I didn’t know who was inside, but I didn’t really care, either. Probably just some middle-class bloke larging it in a rented limo for the day. I just needed to get back to my flat and sleep the Scotch off before I made even more of a mess of things.
It was while I was sleeping off that Scotch that I was awakened by a knock on my door. My trousers were on the floor, but I didn’t bother putting them on before I answered it. Whoever it was would just have to live with it. I whipped the door open, intent on exclaiming, “Do you have any idea what time it is?” except I didn’t even know what time it was. But when I saw who it was beyond the door all words escaped me except one. “Corinne!”
There was no time for further words when she came at me, lips locking onto mine. From that point on we were all hands and lips, driven only by the need we had for each other. Her dress was off, then we spun onto the bed and fell into urgent lovemaking until we lay sweaty and knackered with the bedding all askew.
I was just starting to doze off when Corinne started up with some pillow talk. “So tell me more about your daughter,” she said, swirling a finger around my chest.
I blinked my eyes, forcing them wide open to drive off the haze of sleep. “She’s…well, she’s great. Smart, successful. She works for a company called Quantic Dream. She lives in Paris now.”
That bemused smile slid across Corinne’s face again. “You’re talking about the one in France, right?”
I felt like I was hearing a joke that I wasn’t in on. “Uh, yes. Is there another one?”
Corinne patted my chest. “I just wanted to be sure you weren’t talking about Arkansas or something.” She snuggled against me, then said, “Do you get to see her much?”
I shook my head. “Only when she’s on holiday. Why?”
Corinne raised herself up and looked at me with her soft brown eyes. “Because I think I know of a way you can see a lot of her.”