Hallo, Aro: Abrasive – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Spending Midsummer night with a pretty man shouldn’t be a problem for Suki … except for everybody else’s romantic expectations.

Contains: An allo-aro woman forced to navigate both her sexual partners’ and her mother’s assumptions of her romantic availability.

Content Advisory: This piece describes the amatonormativity common to allo-aros where casual sexual experiences are presumed to lead to or develop into romantic relationships–an assumption often reinforced by people outside the relationship. Please expect sex references, arousal references, depictions of physical intimacy and depictions of sexual attraction, along with sex-negative (slut-shaming) comments made by the character’s mother.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 999 words / 4 PDF pages.

Note: This is a hero’s origin story for Suki, a character from longer pieces in development. I wanted to explore why she’s developed her manner in dealings with other people, since the “angry” and “aggressive” allo-aro is becoming an antagonism-based stereotype. How better to reframe and contextualise this than though the sympathy we accord a narrating protagonist?

Their self-righteous want makes terrible cruelty of her, but what other weapon has she?

On the longest day of the year, her judgement dulled by festivity and beer, Suki answers yes. Why not? Joeri looks at her with sable eyes framed by long lashes, his slender body still smelling of grass and clean hay. His politeness, somewhat displaced by the night’s drunk-flushed confidence, has long appealed him to her, and her body thrums to desire’s bright, heady giddiness. He’s pretty. Why can’t she?

“I want you,” she says above tapping heels and quick fiddle, guiding his hand to her hip, “but only tonight, only for Midsummer. Casual sex, not courting.”

Even Mama Lewis may awaken tomorrow morning to find a bottle and the snores of a partner not Mama Polly at hand … although Suki grants it unlikely.

Joeri leans in, leaving an enticing handspan between his lips and hers. “Midsummer. Please.”

“Do you understand what I mean? Do you agree?”

He entwines the laces of her blouse in his fingers. “Yes! Suki!”

Want sweeps away doubt. She cups his groin in her hand, giggling at his stiffening body. “I know a place. Come on.”

Stories neglect the hazards of sharp burrs when lovers tryst in a hayshed, but a blanket helps and Suki cares only for finding her skin deep inside his. The sun sits high the next morning when she leaves Joeri for the house: unbuttoned blouse, chaff-dusted hair, morning stubble, contented smile.

Mama Lewis, ever the guard dog, watches Suki approach from her chair on the porch. “Why so late?”

“It’s Midsummer, Mama!”

“Another man?” Mama Lewis’s thin-lipped bark pushes question into accusation. “Why can’t you stick with one?”

Suki’s good mood evaporates like drizzle on a bonfire. “Again, I don’t want to.”

“What about Roddick? You liked him!”

She did, until he mistook their casual bedding as justification to court. Suki sighs, shakes her skirts free of seeds and opens the fly door for the kitchen’s sweltering safety. Mama Polly, up to the elbows in flour, offers a more satisfactory greeting before asking about the town festivities. Suki doesn’t understand Mama Polly’s contentment in partnered life any more than she does Suki’s lack of interest in the same, but Mama Polly doesn’t criticise. She just listens, kneading the dough, while Suki describes Joeri’s kissing. “Sometimes shyness means they don’t push,” she says, scrubbing clean the rolling pin, “but I wish—”

“Suki!” Mama Lewis’s cheerful voice rings out from the porch. “You have a gentleman caller!”

Her stomach, queasy after last night’s beer, sinks to her worn boots. Not again!

“I’m so glad you came.” Mama Lewis smiles as Suki, wiping her hands on her flour-dusted apron, lets the fly door slam shut behind her. “Isn’t he sweet? Says he wants to know if you returned home safely. Now that’s a man you—”

Safe? She can see their hayshed from the porch!

“I’m safely baking bread,” she mutters, scowling. “You shouldn’t have. Literally.”

Joeri, his clean hair dripping onto a fresh shirt, frowns up at Suki from the bottommost step. One extended hand offers a bunch of ribbon-tied herbs. “I know you bake, cook. I thought you’d like these. Uh … Father says I can have the gig, tomorrow afternoon. Do you want to go out driving?”

Why can’t she have sex without her partners getting ideas about romantic relationships? While the other village het girls complain about men who sleep around without committing to intimacy, Suki finds men who consider their sexual interludes tantamount to her promising to court. She can only conclude that their propensity for casual bedding fades when they land upon a desirable-enough partner, casualness less about philosophy than their selfish, arrogant convenience.

Bold, crass, quiet or stubborn; few men want to accept Suki by her word.

“Of course she does! I’ll make sure she’s free of chores.” Mama Lewis, her cheeks scarlet and eyes bright, turns to Suki. “Isn’t Joeri such a good driver?”

Does he realise that her mother sits on the porch to aid interested men like Roddick and Joeri? Mama Lewis prefers her needle’s unsociable silence, but hope of seeing her daughter partnered overwhelms her dislike of chatting with passersby.

Happiness, to Mama, means one thing: a home shared with her devoted wife.

Remaining under her mothers’ roof worsens the problem, but nothing Suki cooks or bakes will soon let her afford her own cottage. How does an unpartnered woman manage in a world crafted around an assumption of relationships and families, with two or more wed adults sharing property, possessions and finances?

“Thank you, sir. May I come by at two?”

Is she only an object to these people, a puppet to be jerked about against their idealistic backdrop? “No, you may not!” Suki pairs her folded arms with her best glower. “Mama doesn’t speak for me. Anyway, I told that I’d bed you, not court you.”

Joeri shrinks backwards, cringing like a slapped puppy. “Last night was so good, I thought…”

Yes, she enjoyed bedding him. So what? Sex shouldn’t require their courting! “Because we had fun, I’d forget what we agreed to?” She snickers, shaking her head. “Your bits aren’t that magical, Joeri!”

Suki!” Mama Lewis’s gaping lips and wide eyes remind Suki of a startled frog. “I apologise for my daughter’s appalling rudeness—”

“Mama! How many times must I tell you? I’ll bed men when I wish, but I’ll live unpartnered and die happy. Stop this! I’m not courting Joeri or Roddick or anyone. I don’t want to!” She claps her hands at Joeri. “Go away! Now!”

Joeri stares in a frozen moment of bewilderment before jerking his chin high, tossing the beribboned herbs onto the dusty road and stalking towards the village.

Suki waits, sighing, for Mama’s crying fit.

“How did I raise you to be so abrasive?” Mama Lewis buries her face beneath shaking hands. “So … heartless? Why, Suki?”

Why?

Suki slumps against the door, laughing, gasping, aching.

Their self-righteous want makes terrible cruelty of her, but what other weapon has she?

K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, genderless, autistic, queer adult who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and novels about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. Ze can be found online at Queer Without Gender and @aroworlds.

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