Part Three: The Suspense

Night Owl

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"Nick, I gotta sneeze..." said Jen breathily. It was the meanest thing she could do to him at work, and she knew it. But she really was going to sneeze; she had one finger laid along the side of her long, beautiful nose in an attempt to stave it off as long as possible. Nick looked over at her, a smirk on his face and an eyebrow raised. They were sitting in one of the back offices, waiting for a manager meeting to begin, a handful of others in there with them. Only Nick heard Jen's tickly pre-sneeze confession, and as he watched, she pinched her nose, trying not to sneeze in the quiet room. Her eyes met his. They were watery, helpless, the eyelids flickering, trying to close and begin the release. Her mouth opened and closed, her own body struggling to expel the foreign body in her nose, but she fought hard. Nick was hard as well, knowing that between her legs was a tickle to rival the one in her nose.

Rumors were flying about them at work, which they each casually brushed off. Some co-workers know that each had left their significant other, and that both had found new places to live. Many suspected they were banging each other but could never imagine the details: Nick's huge pillow irritating Jen's nose, forcing out sneeze after sneeze; pepper assailing Nick's nostrils, making him equally sneezy, always while they ground their bodies together in a passionate embrace.

Jen gave a quick shake of her head, and her eyes gave up and squeezed shut. She sneezed once, an enormous sneeze that rocked her chair, stifled between her fingers. Several "Bless you"s were heard, and she smiled and sniffled loudly. The addition of sneezing to her lovemaking had stimulated her beyond belief, and all she wanted to do following such a torturous build-up was to throw her man on the conference table and mount him. But in strode the president of the Gigantiplex, followed by several other managers and a woman she didn't know, and she could do nothing but rub her wet nose and rub her thighs together in sympathy.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the president began as the room filled and the last few stragglers grabbed seats, "I want to thank all of you for coming today, especially those of you here before or after your shift, or even worse, on your day off." He talked for an hour, about potential changes and additions, profitability issues, and the addition of staff. After fifteen minutes, Jen grabbed Nick's leg under the table and squeezed; he put his hand on hers in response. He knew what was happening, how badly she needed to sneeze again. The room was a little damp, no doubt mildewy, and something was wreaking havoc with her delicate sinuses.

Jen did not want to erupt with her massive sneezes, not in such a serious meeting in such a quiet room. The sneezing would make her horny, of course, but holding them back was even worse. Stuck sneezes made her wild with passion, so wet that Nick sometimes couldn't even feel himself inside of her. The longer she held her breath or pinched her nose, the wetter she got. She was in literal agony, her nose and her pussy torturing her in some sort of sexual tag team. For the middle section of the meeting she sat with her right elbow on the table, facing her boss, her finger pressed firmly under her nose. When the tickle grew and threatened to force out a sneeze, she would pinch her nostrils shut or press a finger on the side of her nose. She switched between the three positions constantly, successfully warding off the urge to sneeze while at the same time becoming hornier than she ever dreamed she could be.

Finally, the president ended the meeting by introducing the woman Jen didn't know, a pretty woman in a dark blue jacket and skirt who would be in charge of the managers of all divisions in an attempt to boost productivity. Jen held her nose closed, as angry as the rest of the managerial staff as the woman addressed them.

"My name is Kathy," she said with a smile, tossing her long, dark hair over her shoulder. "I know a lot, if not all, of you will feel threatened by this, but the way my position was explained to me, I am here to help you all." She smiled at Jen. "You look like you're so mad you can't stand it," she laughed, "or else you really need to sneeze."

Everyone (save for Nick, who was too aroused to find humor here) looked Jen's way and laughed, and the attention caused her to sneeze suddenly, a "Guuurnhg!" stifled as much as possible. Her fingers were now soaked, and she took a tissue from a box on the table. "Sneeze," she muttered, blushing, as she wiped her hands and nose.

"Well, bless you!" Kathy exclaimed before finishing her speech. Jen, her cover blown and her nose on fire, kept the tissue firmly planted under her nostrils for the next ten minutes. Her heart was in her throat, her hands shaking, so strong was her need for release from both her nose and her groin, and as soon as the speech-making ended and the applauding began, she rose and slipped out the back door, stifling four mighty sneezes as she went.

It was straight to the women's boardroom washroom, a warm and dimly lit room, so different from the harsh bathrooms used by the hourly staff.. Jen dropped her skirt and miserably wet panties and sat down, grabbing a handful of toilet paper and sneezing violently, trying to muffle the noise as much as possible. As the fit slowed, she began to wonder of she had the courage to masturbate here. Her pussy was swollen and needy, and she transferred the sodden toilet paper into her left hand and allowed her right hand to part her lips, touching her clit with her middle finger. The resulting shock of pleasure forced out a "HEEESSSFFF!", a noise she tried to muffle near the end. She massaged herself lightly, and a jolt went through her body, another half-muffled "HEESSSSNNF!" released into her hand. Jen pressed down, moving her index and middle fingers in a circular motion, and let a rapidly approaching sneeze build the moisture inside her. Her nose ablaze, she came quickly, but as the orgasm began, the door to the bathroom opened and she heard Kathy telling the president to give her one quick moment. Jen bit back her moan of release and pressed the toilet paper tightly against her nostrils for fear the sneeze would erupt. Her body shook with the joy of release, sliding back and forth in small, quick motions on the toilet seat.

Jen's body was still bucking from her orgasm as she heard Kathy enter the stall to her right, drop her skirt, sigh, sit, and begin to pee. As a final aftershock rode through her, it brought with it that sneeze. Jen's head jerked backwards and she took two hitched, silent breaths, knowing she couldn't stop this one. Her face plunged into the toilet paper as she pulled off what was a first for her: a completely silent sneeze.

But it wasn't the last one. Her body wound up again as Kathy stopped peeing. Jen's mouth and eyes opened wide and her nose wrinkled up as a new sneeze began; one finger under her nose, she knew she looked hysterical. Sweat beaded up on her forehead; the woman in the stall next to her was her new boss, like it or not, and Jen desperately wanted to avoid any conversation with her. A sneeze would lead to a "Bless you", or to some sort of interaction that was not what she wanted right now. As she listened to Kathy rip off toilet paper, her breath sped up in her chest; she feared she would hyperventilate. One finger under her nostrils, her elbow out, mouth open as wide as it could get, nose wrinkled and eyes sliding shut, Jen froze and willed herself not to sneeze. No sneezing allowed. Your nose doesn't really itch, she thought, trying out some zen approach. It doesn't tickle madly, and you haven't begun a sneeze that, come hell or high water, must be finished. The toilet flushed, Kathy fastened her skirt, and her heels clacked loudly as she walked to the sink. Jen listened to it all, literally caught in mid-sneeze, refusing to let the "choo" escape.

That was when a tiny trickle of liquid ran down the inside of her right nostril on its way out of her nose. The battle was lost, and the tiny tremor felt like a shock wave as Jen completed a massive, body shaking "EE-EHHH-AAASHHHHHIT!" that snapped her head forward and sent the tiny, treacherous drop of snot sailing onto the stall door. Her nose gave one final twitch and fell easy, small consolation after that last explosion. Jen sat frozen for a moment, as Kathy washed her hands, a moment where she thought she would escape without a forced conversation.

"Well, bless you!" Kathy exclaimed, shutting off the water and drying her hands. Jen sighed, wiped off both her nose and her crotch, dropped the snot-soaked toilet paper in the bowl, and flushed. "That has to be the woman from the meeting; you have quite a sneeze! Are you sick?"

Jen fastened her skirt and stepped out of the stall. "Allergies, actually." She joined the pretty brunette at the sink and rinsed the sneeze and come from her hands. "Something on that room set me off, I guess."

Kathy waited for Jen to dry her hands and walked out of the restroom with her. "Oh, I have them too, something horrid." They stepped out into the hallway, where Nick stood. "I'm Kathy, which I guess you know. And you are?"

"I'm Jen. This is Nick." Handshakes all around.

"Ah, I've heard a lot about you. You guys run an excellent shift, or so I've been told." She returned her attention to Jen as they walked down the hall. "So, I was watching you during the meeting. You were trying not to sneeze that whole time, weren't you?"


"What was that, an hour? That must have been horrible!"

"It wasn't fun." Jen already hated Kathy's forced joviality.

"I have actually had that happen to me while I've been speaking in front of people. Imagine holding back a sneeze in front of twenty guys in suits while breathing in and out normally and trying to speak in a regular voice. It's hell. Actually, I've never won that battle. When I have to sneeze, I sneeze. No holding it in for an hour like you!"

They reached the door. "Nice meeting you," Nick said, holding the door for her. Kathy gave the pair a sideways look.

"You two aren't...together, are you?"

"No," Nick smiled.

"Good. I discourage that kind of thing. If it doesn't work out, it's more drama than any company needs. Bad for morale all the way around." She smiled. "I'll see you soon."

Soon was the following night. It was a typical weekend evening, crazy beyond belief, and Nick and Jen both handled customer dispute after customer dispute, always under Kathy's cool gaze. Following a nasty incident in which a guest claimed to have lost a twenty dollar bill in a change machine, a claim which was easily proved false to all but that customer, Jen headed to the bar, where Nick stood explaining to Kathy how drunken customers where cut off. Jen slowed her pace as she approached; a woman behind Kathy was holding a cigarette in such a way that the smoke was wafting under Kathy's pert nose, and it was having an effect.

"We try to avoid making a scene or provoking a confrontation, and..." Nick's voice faltered as Kathy's nostrils flared and she blinked rapidly. Jen stood back to watch how he would handle it. He continued again, but his eyes were dropping from her eyes to her nose, which was clearly irritated. Despite herself, Jen wanted to see the woman sneeze as well.

And she did. Kathy sniffled wetly, then held up a finger. "Excuse me," she said to Nick, and her green eyes shimmered in anticipation. She tented her hands over her nose and mouth and stood frozen for a long moment, then dropped one and fluttered the other under her nose. Jen knew a sneeze was incipient; Kathy's nostrils were red and flaring wildly. "Feel a ...hmm...sneeze kinda...a...ah-AH-TISHOO!" Her hands covered her face again and she bent at the waist, sneezing heavily yet femininely. "Ah-TisHOO! Ah-ah-ah....TISHOO!" She rose up, throwing her chestnut hair back, and produced a tissue from her pocket, blowing her nose wetly before replacing it. Jen was jealous; each sneeze was round and wet, perfectly formed and sexy as hell. She could see look on Nick's face, knew how aroused he was. Kathy's nipples poked slightly through her white blouse, aroused by the sneezes, and she leaned to the woman behind her. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I am horribly allergic to cigarette smoke, and yours is somehow getting right inside my nose. Could you hold it a little father that way?" The woman nodded apologetically and smiled, and Kathy turned back to Nick. "I'm sorry."

"No, bless you. Looked like you were going to lose that sneeze for a second there."

"No, if my nose starts up, it won't stop. I must sneeze forty times a day; you'll get so tired of blessing me. They take forever to come out, but they'll come." They both laughed, and Jen resumed her approach.

As she arrived, Nick stopped laughing and looked guilty. His eyes dropped and a mist of sweat broke out on his forehead. "Anyway, as I was saying-"

"Oh, no!" Kathy squeaked. Her gaze grew hazy again and she wavered a little on her feet. Her face contorted into a new fit, her upper lip curled back sexily. Nick shuffled his feet, and Jen, suddenly angry at him, decided not to play fair.

"Oh, do you have to sneeze?" she asked, mock innocently, as if Kathy's scrunched-up face could mean anything else.

Kathy nodded and tried to smile, also trying to open her eyes a crack. "Oh yes,'s the smoke, it...makes my nose just...just..." Kathy lost her battle and her chest began to heave. "I-itch!" Her eyes opened for a flash, and then her nose let loose. "AH-Tishoo! Ahtshooo! Ah-Ah-Hah-Tish-EEEEW!"

Jen could feel Nick standing rigidly beside her, trying to act like nothing was happening while transfixed by the beautiful brunette sneezing a foot away from him. Kathy, coughing now, blew her nose lustily and rolled her eyes. Nick was aware of his girlfriend, standing beside him, and he was equally aware of an erection so hard and strong that it actually hurt. He was wondering if Kathy's sneezes had done anything for Jen, and that just made him hornier.

Kathy shook her head to get her hair out of her face. "Sorry, guys," she said with an apologetic chuckle. "Like I told you, Jenny, once I feel a sneeze brewing, I am just no good at holding them in. I hated unsneezed sneezes; they're so unsatisfying!"

"You, uh..." Jen began, and then her voice trailed off for a minute. Nick stood looking at a basketball game showing on one of the television sets hanging over the bar; he knew what that pause had meant. If Jen sneezes now, he thought, my cock is going to explode.

Jen's sensitive nose had twinged for a minute, but she refused to give Nick the satisfaction of a sneeze. She knew as well that it would look odd if she sneezed so soon after Kathy had. But watching Kathy lose control had started her own nose tickling in sympathy, and then hearing the brunette talk about them had moved Jen into the danger zone. Aware of Kathy's expectant face, as she waited for Jen to finish what she had been saying, the blonde kept her face blank and forced the tickle away savagely.

"You think it's satisfying to sneeze?" she asked, then cursed in her mind. Just saying the word 'sneeze' had made the tickle swim back up and settle high in the bridge of her nose, making her eyes tear slightly.

"Oh, my, yes!" Kathy exclaimed, putting a hand on her chest. Jen's eyes were drawn there briefly, saw the nipples still excited from the fit, and felt excitement stir in her lower belly. The arousal made her nostrils flare out, and she disguised a sudden "Ah!", the first sign of a sneeze, as a yawn.

Almost as if she knew, as if she was trying to torture Jen's already twitchy nose, Kathy continued talking. "You know, you get that tickle, and it just builds so slowly! It's unbearable, like if you're trying to think of a word, and it's on the tip of your tongue? Well, I feel like I'm trying to think of a sneeze, and it's right at the tip of my nose, just itching like crazy, but I can't scratch it away, and it's not quite strong enough to make me sneeze." As Kathy giggled at her own words, Jen began to breathe in deeply. Her face remained impassive; only the heaving of her chest warned of the sneeze coming, but she knew Nick would see it. She also knew he would know just how wet her panties had suddenly become. "So I try to coax it out, you know, look at the light, or breathe deeply through my nose, or wave my hand under my you do that too, Jen?" Kathy asked, demonstrating sexily. Jen nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

"Yeah, I do too, and I don't know why; I seriously doubt I generate enough of a breeze to tickle my nose enough to actually turn the tickle into a sneeze, but it works, so it must be a mental thing. Anyway, the second I feel a tickle, I do everything I can to make it into a sneeze, and then I feel it just build up speed and start rolling down my nose. Then I start breathing heavier, and once that sneeze comes out, why, it's the biggest relief in the world." She turned to Nick, perhaps unnerved by Jenny's blank expression. "If I don't do everything I can, I'll be in this half-sneeze state for, like, a half an hour, and it'll just drive me nuts!"

Turned away from Jen as she was, Kathy missed the stoic battle being waged. The conversation had been too much, and as soon as Kathy's eyes were off of her, Jen's face began to crumble. Her eyebrows raised as her lids dropped heavily, a faraway and helpless look in her eyes. Her nostrils bulged, as if the sneeze trapped within was forcing its way out. She began to pant soundlessly, desperately fighting against the urge. Nick was trying to continue the conversation Kathy had begun with him, about drunk and disorderly guests, but his eyes were drawn to Jenny. He had never seen her pretend like there wasn't a sneeze savagely clawing at the inside of her nose, and he was dumbstruck with arousal. She was the queen of holding them back, especially during sex, but she used them to tease him; pretending like she didn't have to sneeze even though she desperately did was a new source of excitement for him. Jen was now bent slightly at the waist, her face a mask of delicate agony, her hands cupped together at chest level, as if they had already given up on holding the prickly, traitorous sneeze in.

Jen's eyes slipped completely closed, and the sneezes, when they came, were sudden, violent, and wet. It was as if trying to deny them for so long had made them mad, as if her nose just wanted them out as quickly and noisily as possible. In one deft movement sure to cause empathy to anyone who had struggled with a stuck sneeze, Jen's head tilted back and her jaw dropped, and then, with no pre-sneeze intake of air or even with room for a breath in between them, the itches forced themselves out with force.

"ESHHHHH! ESSHHHH! HEEHSSHHHH!" Jen's body shook with each sneeze, her hands held away from her face to catch as much spray as she could. To most people, her face would look ugly; wrinkled and awful, her mouth curled back with each explosion, but to Nick she looked like an angel. A sneezy angel, but an angel nonetheless. Following the first three sneezes, Kathy jumped in surprise and turned around to face Jen, then began punctuating each of Jen's sneezes with a "Oh!" or a "Bless you!".

"ASSHHHH! ASSHHHH! ASSHHHH!" Kathy's attention was making her mad, and Nick's attention was making her horny. Jen tried as hard as she could to manage a breath between the sneezes, but it was no use. Her nipples gave a twinge with each body-shaking sneeze as they rubbed against her bra, and her groin begged for the release her nose was getting.

"ESSHHHHEW! CHA! CHA! CHHHSSHEEWW!" Jen finally managed to suck a deep breath in, filling her lungs, and pinched her nose shut to stifle the next one and try to derail the sneezing fit for a moment or two and make her escape. "GUNT!" She stood, breathing hard, her nose still held tightly closed, her hair disheveled, the portrait of a woman who has just had a major sneezing attack.

Kathy handed her some paper napkins from the bar, which Jen took gratefully and placed over her wet nose. "Oh, my, I hope I didn't cause all of that. Are you okay?"

Jen nodded, then rolled her eyes to her lover. "Nick, you still have that allergy medicine locked up in your office?" she asked stuffily, hoping her would catch on and play along. "I think we should go get it."

Nick nodded, cleared his throat, and talked around his excitement. "Yes, it's in that locked drawer so no one else will get it."

"Let's go." Jen started away, still covering her runny, itchy nose with a stack of napkins.

Kathy began to follow. "Do you want me to come with?"

"No," Jen said against the paper. "Give me a couple of minutes to collect myself. This is not my proudest moment here."

Kathy nodded and stepped back again. She closed one eye as the couple departed, rubbing under her nose with an index finger, and a sudden sneeze surprised her, egged on by Jen's fit. "Ah-Tishoo!" she sneezed strongly but daintily and laughed. "Hey, we just keep making each other sneeze!" she called after them. Jen, still on the move, rolled her eyes up to meet Nick's and stifled another sneeze, one which escaped following Kathy's last tickle.

The duo moved quickly and silently to the back of house area, and Nick waited until no one was around to speak. "You still have to sneeze, don't you." It was a statement, not question, and Jen nodded her head. "Is it bad? Really tickly?" Another nod. "Do you want to fuck me as badly as I want to fuck you?"

"ASSSHHHHHH!" replied Jen, giving in for one moment before holding her breath. Nick fumbled to unlock his office door, then slammed it shut and re-locked it. They were on each other in a flash, the napkins fluttering wildly around them as their lips and tongues met. Spit and snot flew, Jen for once feeling the need to sneeze vanish, replaced by mad desire. "Fuck me, fuck me," she muttered as two pairs of pants hit the floor, followed by two pairs of underwear. She sat on his desk, cold against her ass, and Nick greedily slid into her, her lips wet and eager for him. He basked in the luxury provided by Jen's decision to go on the pill, the way her wet warmth enveloped his cock in a satin embrace. Staring into each other's eyes, hips slamming together, they fucked like people who have not had sex for years, like animals released from cages.

Jen bit down on Nick's shoulder as she came, moaning as quietly as she could. But Nick was not finished yet, and he kept moving inside her, holding himself back mentally whenever he felt his cock begin to let go. They stared at each other, and Nick smiled as he saw the beginnings of a sneeze deep in her eyes before she even felt it in her nose. He pushed her bra up, exposing her small round breasts, kneading the nipples, knowing the small shocks they gave would usually help coax out a lost sneeze.

She nodded, gasping and making small sounds in her throat as she felt the sneeze begin to gain momentum. It felt good to let it grow naturally rather than trying to fight it, feeling Nick inside of her pussy just as she felt the tickle invading her nostrils. She sniffled wetly and swallowed hard. Nick's eyes were glued to her face as it began it's reveal, her eyebrows rising in helpless torment. Her long nose was red, her nostrils wet and flaring in and out, as her whole body seemed to feel alive with the tickles running through her. Her mouth opened slightly, small white teeth exposed as her lips revealed them and she began to let her breathing go, riding the wave of the sneeze. She looked at her man through the tears the sneeze was producing, enjoying one last blurry look before her lids closed tightly and the sneeze burst forth.

"Ahhhh-huh-huh-huh..." the first breath was deep and shuddery, so strongly did she need to sneeze. "Ahhhhhh-AH!" The second breath grew more confident, ending with a girlish shout as she tickle began to slide down her long, sexy nose. "Ah-AAh-AAH-" The last breath grew louder and louder, ending a high note before abating for a moment. Nick began to come, pumping wildly as he lost control, simply unable to take it anymore. Although preoccupied with her nose, Jen felt him filling her as the sneeze came out, wet and messy, released directly in his face as he grunted and swore in pleasure. "EEYYYAAEESSSHHHHHHHH!" As soon as she finished the sneeze, she came in surprise, her pace picking up suddenly as she rubbed her pussy against him as hard as she could, her mouth open in an 'O' as the orgasm snuck up on her and overwhelmed her. "Fuck!" she spat, amazed at the sensations flowing through her.

They held each other on that awkward position for a long moment, sweating and panting and sniffling, totally in love with each other and amused at what they had just been driven to do. So loud was their breathing that they did not hear Kathy's heels click-clacking away as she strode the hallway; they only heard her knock at the office door. Jen and Nick froze, partially naked and up on his desk, looking into each other's eyes.

"Nick?" Knock knock knock. "Jennifer? If you have allergy medicine in there, I could sure use some. My nose is on fire here!"

They were dressing in a flash. "Sure, Kathy, just give me one minute!" Nick said, trying to keep calm. He pointed at the closet, and Jen shook her head and mouthed the word 'No' at him. Nick pulled her close and whispered "She's gonna be suspicious why I'm not letting her in right away, and this room reeks of sex. Plus, we don't have any allergy medicine in here. Just get in there and I'll tell her you took the pills with you and went to clean up and she'll go find you." He opened the closet and grabbed a can of air freshener, spraying it around hurriedly as Jen slid into the closet. The horrible pine scent assailed her nostrils and she pinched her nose shut as Nick closed her in.

Knock knock knock. "Nick? Are you okay? What's going on?" Kathy looked annoyed as the door was yanked open, Nick blocking her entrance to the room with his body.

"Sorry, Kathy," he laughed. "Stubbed my damn toe on the leg of the desk."

She smiled. "I hate that!" she said with a sniffle. "Anyway, is Jenny here?"

"Oh, no, no. She took the pills to the bathroom with her to freshen up."

Kathy barged right past him, into the office. "Do you know which bathroom? My allergies are killing me all of a sudden." She looked at the floor full of napkins. "What happened here?"

Nick dodged her and began to clean them up, suddenly noticing a fresh sweat spot in the shape of Jen's tiny ass on the desk not four feet from Kathy. "Oh, she dropped them all when she sneezed. I was picking them up when I hit my toe." He used the wad to swipe at the ass-print once, subtly, then sat on that spot, hoping his pants would pick up the rest.

"Well, which bathroom?"


"Which bathroom did she go to? There are, like, seventeen of them back here."

"Oh, um...probably the closest one, I guess."

Kathy thought for a minute, then plopped down in a overstuffed chair placed in front of Nick's desk. "I don't know these back halls well enough yet. I'll just wait for her." She rubbed her nose with her index finger and sniffled again.

"Oh, I can show you-"

"No, you don't even know where she went, you just said so."

"But I don't even know if she's coming back here when she's done."

"I'm *sniff* sure she will. You guys are *sniff* joined at the hip. Besides, you said she keeps the pills locked up here." She rubbed her nose harder.

"Yes, but she might lock them in her desk instead."

"Well, I'll give her a couple minutes anyway." Kathy sniffled again and wiped her eyes. "Nick, what is that smell?"


"Yes, it positively reeks in here, like pine trees. It's making my nose itch again." She pinched her nose for a minute, then released it and stuck her hand out. "Give me some of those napkins. I feel a sneeze coming on."

In the closet, Jen had her eyes shut tight, but hands pressed hard over her nose and mouth. Enough air freshener had gotten into her nose to irritate it, and listening to Kathy sniffle was giving her sympathy tickles. If she starts talking about her goddamn fucking itchy nose again, Jen thought, I'm going to sneeze. No way around it.

Kathy shuffled through the napkins from her chair, sniffling with greater frequency. "Some of these are wet."

"Well, she did use some of them, I guess. Sorry."

Kathy handed a bunch of them back to Nick. "It's okay. Throw these away, they're gross." As Nick leaned over and took them, she stopped and held up a finger, staring at the wall behind him.

"What?" he asked, frozen in position, half bent towards her, a stack of damp napkins, wet with snot and sweat, in his hand.

"I thought it was gonna happen there," Kathy sniffled, settling back. "Oh, boy."

"Oh, boy what?"

"You know how Jenny fights not to sneeze? Well, I fight to make myself sneeze when I feel one coming on, and it's there, but it doesn't want to come out. I hate this feeling, and I hate going through it and then never sneezing. Give me a minute, here, my nose is really bad. I'm gonna have to make myself sneeze, and if I talk about it, it usually makes it makes it come out." She half-closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then released it with a shaky laugh. "Oh, boy," she said again. "My nose really tickles."

In the closet, Jen opened her eyes in horror. She could see through the crack between the doors, see Kathy sitting in the chair, the few unsoiled napkins in her hand, her nose red and eyes runny. Jen forced her gaze away and could see motes of dust floating in the dank air of the closet, could smell the prickly pine scent inside of her nose. She felt a sneeze build and realized that she had gotten herself in way too deep.