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Bilal had needed a place to stay. An apartment.
His relationship with Amanda had imploded in spectacular fashion. Everything he owned was safely tucked away in his friend’s garage, but Bill and his wife had no room for him to stay there himself. He had asked around to all his friends and even some family at the time if they had room, or knew of anyone who had a room to let. He came up empty, and so turned to the paper to look over the listings.
The ad wasn’t the top listing, but it was the one his eyes fell on first. A room in a shared apartment, parking and utilities included, and while the price was at the high end of what he could do, he knew he was in a hurry to find a place or risk living out of his car. The woman on the other end had sounded young, but polite, and the best part was she had been free that very afternoon to show him the place. After the tour and the negotiations, the agreement was signed within an hour of meeting, and all his belongings were moved from the garage by the end of that week. That had been 8 months ago now.
They got along well right from the start. Lani, her name was. He had never heard that name before, but he liked it, and it seemed to suit her. Lani was small and confident, and very attractive. Dark hair and dark eyes, somewhere in her mid-twenties, she was very witty and quick to laugh at his quips, and generally seemed to be in a good mood all the time. Being around her positivity was good for Bilal, and thoughts of Amanda faded daily. She was a chemist, of sorts, although he didn’t know exactly what she did. He enjoyed pulling out terrible chemistry jokes just to poke at her from time to time.
“Do you have any sodium bromide by chance?” he asked her one day. Confused she blinked at him. “NaBro,” he said back to himself, and she just rolled her eyes and left the room. He considered that a victory.
Bilal was a few years older than Lani. He was quiet and thoughtful, but also had a sharp wit, and from his silences came many unexpected quips. Average height, with brown hair and hazel eyes, Bilal had always considered himself the epitome of average in looks. He knew he had way more to offer the world, but in the age of swipe left or swipe right and instant gratification, few people looked beyond the surface anymore.
Lani was very social, and went out with friends often, or had guests come over too. They were all nice people, respectful of the fact Lani was sharing the space, but Bilal left the common area to them when Lani had visitors. On nights when Lani stayed home with no guests, the two of them would share the TV. They both had a lot to say about the shows they watched, and most of their tastes in programming were very similar. She didn’t even flinch when King Joffrey was poisoned, and Bilal had to respect her for that.
One night, maybe 6 months after he had moved in, Bilal came home with groceries, and Lani had some guests over. One of the grocery bags caught on the doorknob, and one of the visitors – Kevin, he thought – saw him struggling and came over to help. When it was all done Kevin asked Bilal to join in the conversation instead of moving into his room. “Come on,” he said. “We don’t bite.” Bilal looked to Lani for a sign from her on whether he should, but she just gazed at him with no expression. No help at all, really. The apartment belonged to Lani, but it was as much his living space as hers, so he stayed out with the group.
They were not much different from his own friends, and the conversation flowed between them. He could almost give these people different names and knew who they were. Kevin was like his friend Bill. He was open and likable and drew people in, and also liked his stories to be the most interesting. Bilal would have wagered there was more than a little embellishment going on there. Sarah was a little bit like Cathy. Quiet and sweet, but she seemed to miss nothing. Soaking up everything that was said and you could trust her to remember things years from now. All in all, Bilal was able to fit in pretty easily and quickly. He just wished Lani’s gazes at him would carry some sort of message.
“I am telling you it is a biological fact,” Kevin was saying. “Men’s brains are more suited to recalling factoids, and that makes them better at trivia games.” It was clear to Bilal that this line of conversation would be controversial at best. Over the months he had been sharing space with Lani, he knew she was competitive. Very competitive.
“This is easily put to the test, Kevin,” Lani said sweetly. “We arrange a competition, women against the men.” The fire in her dark eyes was flashing, but Kevin didn’t see. He didn’t feel it needed to be proven yet again by him. The researchers had done plenty of testing to come to their conclusions. “You can’t refute science.” was all he would say. Kevin was an accountant.
The next few weeks were different for Bilal and Lani. For one thing, after the group time, they were much more comfortable güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri with each other and seemed to have more to talk about. For another, Kevin seemed to have fired up her competitive spirit, and since he wouldn’t agree to a showdown between the sexes, Lani was forced to compete in other areas. Everything became a wager for the two of them.
They would play board games to see which of them would do all the chores on Saturdays, while the other got to relax. They would play poker to see who would buy the groceries for both of them. Who could juggle the longest? Who could get the ball of paper into the wastebasket first from the couch? Who could balance a ruler on their nose the longest? She even challenged him to an arm wrestle to try and get him to pick up some potato chips. He savored every chip after she came back home from the store all broody. Bilal thought she looked cute when she pouted, though he was wise enough not to say so. One thing was certain though, all of these things were fun.
Then one day it happened, Kevin had relented and agreed to host at his place a night of gaming, men versus women. Lani’s fires were all stoked up for days looking forward to this. Bilal got to hear over and over again how much she was looking forward to winning and proving a point. Bilal was secretly hoping that she didn’t lose because he didn’t know what she would be like after being this fired up.
The night came. “Bilal, we need another male to come for the game night at Kevin’s. John can’t make it. Can you come please?” This was a surprise.
“I am not sure you want me there. You may kick me out after the men beat you.” her eyes glinted. “I actually saw an article the other day about the differences in male and female brains, and Kevin wasn’t making that up.”
“Oh, I know he wasn’t, but that isn’t the point, is it?”
Wasn’t it the point? Bilal wondered…He wasn’t sure what she meant by that. Wasn’t the point to prove that Kevin was wrong? But now here she was agreeing with Kevin yet still wanting to win. Women were strange creatures.
“Don’t tell me you are scared to lose.”
“Of course, I am not,” Bilal stated, “But I won’t go easy on you, and I have seen how stormy you can get when you lose.”
Suddenly she stopped and looked at him a long time. So long he was almost uncomfortable. Her face was unreadable, but when she spoke it was a throaty tone he had never heard from her. “Tell you what, if you come, and the men win the night, I will make it worth your while. But if the women beat you, then you will make it worth my while.”
So it was to be a wager within a wager. This didn’t really surprise him about her, but it was left very vague. The way her eyes held his made him think there was something more behind this wager than fetching ice cream from the store. He felt his face flush, and her face softened with the tiniest smile. He was the first to look away. “And what would make it worth your while?” Bilal asked her.
“Maybe if you men can win I will do some of your chores, and vice versa.”
Bilal didn’t hesitate, “All right I agree,” he said with all the confidence he could muster, and she clapped her hands excitedly. “I could handle you doing all the dishes for the next week,” he added, letting her know just how high he wanted to push the stakes this time.
“A week!?! Fine, I will do your bidding for a whole week, but don’t forget when you lose you will be doing my bidding for a week. A whole week of having all my chores done for me.” It was certain that one of the two would be having a long week ahead of them.
* * *
“I still can’t believe we lost!” Bilal closed the door to their shared apartment a little too hard and took his shoes off in a huff. The men had been winning, and then it had all fallen apart. He was being uncharacteristically smug too, while they were ahead. He even threw Lani a wink and a cocky little kiss from across the room at one point. He figured she would make him pay for that later, even after she lost, but now he would pay in spades. It all unraveled after that taunt, and the girls had won by more than double the points the men had.
Lani was beaming. She took off her shoes and crossed the room towards the couch, her step light and bouncy. “I would like a glass of water please, Bilal. Please fetch one and bring it to me.”
Bilal grumbled and shot her a look, but he went and got the glass for her. He had every intention of honoring the wager, but he didn’t have to like it. She was strangely quiet when he brought her the glass. Head cocked watching him, with the small smirk still pasted on her face, she said nothing, just seemed to study him.
Taking the glass graciously, she made an ostentatious show of savoring that first mouthful, a small moan of pleasure coming from her. Bilal let out a frustrated growl and turned to leave, but Lani made the smallest of signals for him to stay, and he güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri stopped immediately. Why did he stop like that? He didn’t want to stand here watching her gloat, but stop he did.
Finally, she spoke. “So. You can drag your feet and grumble all week if you like,” she started. “But if you pay up your debt willingly it will be way better for us both. I promise you that. Do you believe me?”
“Ok, you are right. You girls won fair and square, and I will do my part.” He knew that if Lani had lost and grumbled all week, he would not have been able to enjoy the win at all. It wouldn’t be right for him to be miserable all week, so he would put on a brave face no matter how much he hated it. Hate it he would. Bilal was competitive and liked to win, and doing all the chores for Lani would be a brutal reminder that his team had lost.
“Good boy,” she said. “Now would you run me a bath? Beating you men at trivia is easy, but doubling your score made me sweat with effort.” He had to smile at that despite himself, but as he had agreed, he went right away without hesitation.
Because he went to run the bath without complaint, Lani thanked him and praised him for it. Strangely it sounded genuine and not in any way condescending. They enjoyed the rest of the evening watching the TV and went to bed without any more tasks being given. “Tomorrow is Saturday,” she announced as she went to bed. “And I expect I will have plenty for you to do, so rest up.” Bilal hoped his smile looked more confident than he felt.
Lani woke shortly after Bilal had finished his breakfast. “Good morning, little servant. I hope you slept.” She looked very tired herself. “I am going to start with you doing some things to help me out, and after that, I have some chores.”
It was easy enough to start with. He was asked to make her some breakfast, brew some coffee, and lay out some clothes while she was having a shower. It took him a while to find all the clothes pieces she told him, and he hoped he didn’t make a mistake. She seemed to pick many small things for him to do, and nothing was hard at all. When he moved to do a task too slowly, she let him know she expected better, and when he was quick or smiled, she praised him gently. It started to feel good getting the approval.
The first chore was running out to the store so she didn’t have to go out. This was a simple thing and something he had done before on a previous wager. What was different about everything that had come before became clear when he got back home. She was all smiles watching him put the food away and seemed to be trying hard not to laugh. It made him nervous. “Now that you are done that, it’s time to move on to the other chores.” He was ready. The sooner he started, the sooner they would all be done with. He was hoping she would let him have some free time away from playing servant.
“Oh no,” Lani stopped him. “Not like that you don’t.” Bilal stopped in his tracks confused. “The rest of the chores need…well, a uniform. I laid out what you need on your bed when you were at the grocery store.” Bilal’s jaw dropped and his eyes squinted with suspicion, but as soon as Lani saw his expression change he could see her become determined, so he held his tongue except to say “Yes, right away.” Lani was clearly pleased.
When he got to his room Lani called out to him, “Wear exactly what is there, and nothing different.” There was a small pile on the bed as she had said, so he started. Boxers, socks, jeans. All in a pile, the shirt must be under the jeans. When he picked up the jeans he saw the shirt, but it didn’t look right. For starters, it wasn’t one of his. It was pinkish, and he thought it was frilly. Once his jeans were on he picked up the shirt slowly, frowning at it. Not a shirt. An apron, and definitely frilly.
“Have you got that all on yet? I can’t wait to see you in your uniform!” He didn’t want to go out there, but he couldn’t see any way not to without forfeiting on his agreement. He was to do what she asked of him.
When Bilal slinked out Lani was waiting for him. “Is there anything more fun than winning?” she asked sweetly. “I absolutely love winning.” His face went a deeper red and he couldn’t even look her in the eye. Her smile widened at his embarrassment. “Do you like the apron I got for you?”
“Absolutely not,” He said tightly. Wondering if he could get away with claiming she had gone too far.
“Good,” she grinned. “That is the whole point. Here is a list of a few things you can do for me. Oh my, you are very pretty when you sulk.” Bilal made a face and stuck out his tongue at her for that.
Bilal was glad he had no real plans, and so he really didn’t feel impatient about doing things around the apartment from Lani’s list. There was nothing at all hard to do. Dishes of course, and sweeping. He cleaned the bathroom and swept the floors, then had him shake the rugs out over the railing of the güvenilir bahis şirketleri balcony. She always seemed to be nearby, watching him. If she were going to just watch everything he did to make sure he was doing things right, then she should just do the work herself, he thought. But come to think of it, she never really seemed all the concerned about how things looked when he was done.
The next day was more of the same, but the evening afterward they both seemed to get into their routine quickly after work. Bilal started in on some things without being asked. He knew some things that would be on the list and didn’t see the need to wait. If he thought he could do the chores without wearing the ridiculous apron, he was disillusioned quickly. He was on his knees grabbing detergent for the dishwasher and he heard Lani come up behind him, and his jeans and the apron were dropped on his head. No words were spoken. She gave Bilal a level look, and he sent her a pleading one back. She waited, and then his eyes dropped and he nodded. Her smile was bad enough, but when she patted his head too it was almost too much.
She did tell the truth when she told him if he did his part willingly it would go better. Lani praised him with a “Good boy” and a bright smile each time he did something without being asked, and a simple thank you when he did something off the list. It was soon clear that she noticed when he did something on his own, and he really felt good when she did. He would never admit it to her, but he liked doing these small things for her. He just could not get comfortable with the outfit, or the way she watched him.
The night after that there was hardly anything she asked of him, and she practically ignored him unless he was doing something for her. When he was in the middle of cleaning something for her, Lani was always near, watching and smiling. When he was not doing something, she ignored him. He found himself looking for more things to do just to see her smile and have her talk to him more.
Even as nice as it was being around her lately, she did find ways to make him feel uncomfortable in that frilly apron. If he went too long without feeling awkward, she found a way to make him blush. Of course, that had nothing at all to do with losing the bet. She just seemed to like it.
Wednesday started out as a quiet night. Some chores in the outfit of course, but also some TV and relax time too. After relaxing on the couch for a while Lani got up to cook some dinner for herself, and Bilal was about to head to his room and she stopped him for a moment.
“Bilal, can you please reach that small mixing bowl down for me?” She asked. He moved closer to help and asked: “Which one did you need?” She was right in front of him, so close and he could smell her hair.
“That blue one there please,” she pointed for him. She didn’t move aside, so he was practically reaching over her. He put one hand on her, half on her shoulder and half griping her neck lightly, lifting the bowl out carefully for her. “There you go,” he said gently, right by her ear. He thought he felt her shiver for a moment, but other than that she was frozen in place. He set the bowl in her hand and she turned only her head to look up at him with those dark eyes, the rest of her not moving at all. Her thank you was barely a whisper. Bilal took his hand from her slowly, then suddenly realized how close he was to her. Her deep eyes held him there longer, then he backed away from her blushing.
“I think I will turn in now,” Bilal said, backing out of the kitchen. Lani nodded slowly, watching him.
“Just…ah…just leave the dishes for me to do in the morning.” He fled those eyes.
When Bilal got home Thursday Lani was already home. She had been in his room, he could see, with a pile of clothes laid there for him to wear for the evening. To be honest it wasn’t much of a pile. A pair of boxers and a pair of jeans is all there was today. The hated apron wasn’t there, but still no shirt. “You forgot the apron,” he called out to her.
“Not today,” she called back. What game was she up to now? He was sure it would be something that made him uncomfortable. He had never met anyone who liked to rub in the fact that she won a bet like Lani. After last night, the close contact in the kitchen, he was worried that things would be different. He needed this apartment, and he hoped Lani knew he was not going to cross a line and make her feel like he would be a problem. He just didn’t know how to talk to her about it.
Bilal came out of the room slowly. He was very glad to not be wearing that foolish apron, but he wished he had on some sort of shirt. He felt even more exposed. She was standing in the living room just waiting for him to creep out of his room. She clapped her hands twice and giggled – giggled! – at him. He knew he was beet red at her enjoyment.
Lani’s black dress was short, the hem stopping halfway down her thigh. It clung to her in a way that he hadn’t seen before with her other clothes, and after a moment he realized she was still watching him check her out.
Bilal went a touch redder in the face. “What chores may I help you with today?”, he asked her. At least his voice wasn’t as shaky as he felt.
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