The woman, or girl, ignored Jonathan’s obvious embarrassment and held the Tee in front of him. Standing on tiptoe, she titled her head backwards. “Oh, Dallas,” she cooed. “You’re so tall!” She thrust the Tee in his hands and chattered on about how she always had wanted to be taller and how she envied Amsterdam girls and their infinite legs.

He couldn’t concentrate on the words that left her pink-painted lips like the tiniest hailstones in an unexpected summer storm. Every now and again he caught the name Dallas, but that was all. After she shoved a conference folder and a memory stick in the Crumpler, without showing any embarrassment for poking around in someone else’s bag, she took him by the wrist, a cool and small hand, and pulled him back to the Winter Garden.

He followed her, stunned by her determination. As he trailed along, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her body. Ten-centimeter-high heels didn’t even manage to push her up to shoulder height. Her ginger-blond hair was tucked up in an untidy bun. Loose strands of hair accentuated a long, slender neck. The green top had slid down one shoulder and revealed the pale skin. No visible bra lines, but her breasts stayed up like they were a Barbie doll’s. Jonathan cast his eyes down and tried to suppress the arousal, but looking down her pale legs only made things worse. The heat from his cheeks shot down to his groin. He looked up again, to her face and the triumphant look that spread across it. Her pink-lacquered nails clasped around his wrist. Barbie with her new best friend.


Back in the Winter Garden, she led him to a man with a sharp-lined face. His skin was white, too, not the alluring paleness of the woman, but the sickly white of someone ill, someone who never saw the light of day. The man’s crew cut covered his head like a bat’s shadow, spreading out over his cheeks like wings. As they walked up, the close-set gray eyes of the man locked on Jonathan without blinking, killing every trace of arousal Jonathan had felt. The irises were an eerie sort of solid gray. Like the eyes of a puppet, it darted through Jonathan’s mind when he stood face to face with the man. Like eyes made of glass.

The woman didn’t fit in, but the man stood out even more. With his massive shoulders and trained body he was the diametrical opposite of the sagging bodies that populated the hall.

“Dallas, dude,” the man said. His voice was dark and husky, gravely, as if he’d swallowed coarse sand, and even though the man spoke softly, the voice seemed to fill the room. The few people that were still clicking away on their keyboards stopped.

Jonathan wanted to protest again, but the silence and the paralyzing feeling of being looked at by an entire room of people who listened to every word he’d say, kept him from pointing out the obvious. The man wrapped his arm around his shoulder. His fingers dug deep into Jonathan’s upper arm. Jonathan tried to tear himself away, but the man only dug his fingers in deeper.

The woman pulled at the man’s arm and whispered in his ear.

Matt Turing, said the badge dangling on the man’s chest, and the company’s name was Giddyap. The ‘MT’ of the What’s App message. Jonathan sucked in a deep breath, expanding his chest and straightening his shoulders, ready to tell them that they were wrong, that he wasn’t who they thought he was, but something held him back. He glanced at them. They had no eyes for him anymore. Barbie whispered excitedly. Her voice was so low he couldn’t understand a word of what she said, even though he stood not a few feet away from her. He stole a look at the badge that sat squeezed between her breasts. Victoria Walter. And according to the badge she worked for a company called Mathgrlzzz, Inc.

Victoria and Matt. Barbie and Ken.


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