The light blinded her again, but she couldn’t afford to be disoriented, because she was late for class. Again. As usual. She’d spent too much time at basecamp, copying Reischlach’s proof on ascending real numbers, which was so filled with gobbledygook—Reishlach had his own system of notation, some say designed specifically at odds with the rest of the civilized world—that she’d likely stump and impress fellow math majors. It centered her, and she found that the more time she spent copying obscure math into her notebook, the more she felt at peace. But it took forever, and she was late, again.
The blur in front of her chirped, “Monica!” It was Lita. She’d returned to normal, and they’d hung out a couple times that week, talking about graduation and professors and the weather. “Let’s get a some food, I’m starving!”
Lita was dressed in a duck suit, with bells on her head and an eight-foot long alligator tail stuck to her butt. Finally Monica focused, and reality wasn’t quite so interesting. She had her hair up in a bun, her eyes obscured by those half-shaded sunglasses that made her look like a Spanish princess.
“I can’t, I’m already late for class!” Monica said, and started walking by her. “I’ll give you a call when I get out, okay?”
The course, a study of the cultural import of Eastern thought in Enlightenment art, covered Monica’s requirements to take something about art, and history… and cultural studies. She’d done an excellent job of avoiding her general ed requirements throughout college, and it was only because Dr. Monroe, the department head, liked her so much that she could count one class for three different slots.
Like any class that was taken purely for its utilitarian benefit, she hated it. The students were a mix of freshmen from every major, having only their naivete and lack of education in common. She spoke rarely, even less than she did in other classes, and when it happened, she always regretted it.
“See, it’s like television shows, and how they used to try so hard to have diversity, but it lost its weight, because it was contrived. The introduction of Japanese method in Western art,” she said, just to keep herself from falling asleep, again, from the heat, “is important, even if it had only happened once. It wasn’t contrived, they didn’t do it because they were forced, they did it because they thought it had value.”
She regretted it for two reasons. The first made her sigh and stare down at her notebook immediately after speaking. That wasn’t what she wanted to say. What the hell did that have to do with TV, anyway? And she’d forgotten the other examples, and she didn’t want to just repeat what the teacher had said about Manet and his second-floor legs. But that was nothing compared to the onrushing reason number two.
“That’s so true,” blonde freshman boy with the hipster style said, and Monica knew he was still staring at her when he was talking, “I remember watching, like, Saved by the Bell and thinking…” he paused.
He’d gone for speed and hoped that he’d figure out something to say while he held the floor. Monica had once devised a labeling system for the various ways that boys tried to impress her or flatter her or strut for her. This was method three, Francisco variant. It was followed by baseball-boy’s talking about UPN and young Republican trying to tie in HBO.
Monica looked up, just a little, and saw Ben, sitting across the room, smiling right at her. She scrunched her face in silent recrimination, at him and his kind. His smile only grew. He hadn’t stopped the mess that her comment started, he only grinned. Normally he’d jump in, bring the class back to some semblance of educational respectability, but not this time.
It lasted three more minutes—three minutes and thirty-eight seconds, by Monica’s unofficial count—when professor Elias said, “Can we please stop talking about television and get back to talking about something more 18th century?” He was only a lecturer but the freshmen didn’t realize it, and the room grew heavy with silence.
Like one of his comic book heroes, Ben, who’d gone from grinning at Monica to staring down at his notebook, slowly raised his head. If he’d had glasses or a costume under his shirt, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The Ben in public discourse more resembled his father, the preacher, and when he spoke—his voice deep, rich, joyous—it established him as the center of discussion.
“Monica is right, of course,” he started, and she almost got up and ran to the bathroom.
He kept going, but all she heard was the throbbing tone that seemed to echo off the walls. Ben had asked her once why all the freshmen girls didn’t treat him like the freshmen boys in the class treated her. This is why, she thought, because when I talk, I sound like a kid, and when you talk, you sound like the dean. Freshman boys think they know how to handle kids, freshmen girls are scared of the dean.
“I hate you.” She said it as soon as they made it out of the building. “I hate how nobody takes what I say seriously and you can say whatever you want and everybody thinks you’re wise.”
Ben hit her. On the shoulder, more of a shove than anything. Still. He was the only person who touched her, the only person that didn’t treat her like a doll. It was one of his less endearing traits, and she’d learned not to make a case for her personal space, because it resulted in more abuse.
“Hey!” She yelled.
“Don’t hey me, you jerk.” His eyes were sparkling, “I only repeated what you’d said.”
“Yeah,” Monica looked straight ahead, “But when you said it…”
“I know,” he laughed, “Isn’t it great. Hey, you made me take this class. I could’ve been taking Sex and Sexuality. With Janice.”
“Doesn’t she tutor you for that class, anyway?”
“Janice? Nope.” His smile momentarily shrank to a smirk, it looked like he was considering something, “You want to get something to eat?”
Monica remembered Lita and considered inviting Ben, but realized it would just be a mess of unrequited affection, the tension of which might drive them all crazy. “Sorry, I’ve got plans.”
“With your boyfriend?” Ben’s playful voice sounded the same as his condescending voice.
“You sure, because I could’ve sworn I just saw him head down to the caf.” He pointed, as if for emphasis, in the direction of the main building.
Monica’s head snapped over, “What? He’s not here on Wednesdays.”
Ben continued with the voice, emphasizing the words and increasing in annoyance, “Really? How strange, then, that you’ve got plans and he just happens to be here.”
“Shut up!” She felt herself smiling, beaming, and wanted to punch Ben, for emphasis, “Stop that, I’m never telling you anything, again!”
“Get out of here,” his normal voice had returned, “I’ve got things to do.”
She smiled, and turned dramatically, toward the cafeteria. She was floating, she hadn’t seen her professor in three days, and that was in class and didn’t count anymore. Her braid bounced as she bounded up the steps and into the dining hall. He wasn’t there. She looked around, wondering if Ben had tricked her. She’d kill him. No, death was too good…
The apple muffled voice pulled her out of thoughts of maiming, “I was hoping to run into you.”
She whipped around, the feeling came back and she felt so happy to struggle with her smile and her desire to hug her gangly true love. “You’re not supposed to be here.” She cocked her head suspiciously.
“I had conferences,” Dr. James Weston responded, perfectly calm, “And now I’m done and I was thinking of consuming some coffee.”
His demeanor was a challenge, and she matched it, becoming pleasantly studious. “Well, I was just leaving, I’m done for the day.”
They turned and walked out, two feet apart. He spoke of the papers he’d been grading, she listened dutifully. She talked about her imbecilic classmates, avoiding mention of Ben, who Monica saved for those times when she wanted to make her dear professor jealous. They reached his car, and when the doors closed and they were safely isolated from the rest of the world, the tone changed.
“I missed you,” James said, “And you owe me three E-mails.”
“You don’t want me to write them simply out of expectation,” Monica replied as the car backed out of its too-tight space.
“There was a time when that was important,” he chuckled, “That was about three E-mails ago. I don’t care anymore if they’re perfunctory, I just want to hear from you. You can send me spam!” He grew unnecessarily serious, “I’m just kidding, of course, I don’t want you to feel like you owe me anything, you don’t. You know that, right?”
She wanted to confirm his doubts, make sure he knew that she knew that theirs was not a relationship, it was a relationship in waiting. They’d agreed, not until she’d graduated. She wanted to let him know that everything was going according to schedule, that he’d keep teaching here and she’d go to school right down the street, so there’d be no conflict of interest. She wanted to say, again, that she’d waited a long time, and that three more months wasn’t going to be a problem. She wanted to. But all Monica could do was cry.
She was smiling at him, a painful, shamed smile, as the tears rolled down her cheeks. Then, he said something, asked if she was alright, or something, and that’s when Monica lost control. It hurt, to cry as hard as she did, and it only slowed when she gasped for air. She collapsed over the console of James’ Volvo, crashing into his lap, and she heard a terrible sound, making her wonder, for a second, if she’d caused him to veer off the road, until she realized the half-moan, half-scream was coming from her.
“Oh my God,” James kept repeating, interspersed with, “Are you okay?” and “What is it, Monica?” He kept driving, forever it seemed like, and when he finally stopped he lifted her up and clumsily draped Monica’s thin frame onto her seat.
She tried to stop crying, and gave up, and just started talking, confessing, through the sobs. She told him everything—the pictures, the dressing room, her father—and when she was done, still crying but softly, she begged him to forgive her.
“Forgive you,” James whispered, “Oh, sweetie, no. No, no, no.” He reached over, and took her hand, “There’s nothing to forgive, do you understand? Lita did this, not you.”
“But I let her.” She looked up at him, her braid had unraveled, and there was hair everywhere. “I let her, and I was waiting for you, and I let her ruin it, ruin me.”
James chuckled, “You’re a little messy, but you’re not ruined.” He grew more serious, “I think, though, that someone should talk to her…”
Monica’s eyes widened, “No! It’s over. There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing else, I just wanted to tell you. I only want you to know,” her crying stopped and her voice was very low, “Because I love you.”
“Okay.” James put laid her hand on her knee, “But I don’t think I should be the only one who knows. You can’t bottle this up. But… I’ll let you decide when and if and how.” He smiled at her, very deliberately, “Now, what you need more than anything, is some rest.”
Monica only stared at him in response, with a look that was painfully transparant to her 36-year old target. He smiled at her and started the car. They drove back to campus in silence, Monica putting her hair in a loose bun.
James stopped and Monica whispered, “Thank you,” before getting out.
The next three hours—sneaking to her car, the interminable drive home and avoiding her mother on the way to the bath—left her exhausted. Still, when she finally laid down on her bed, she felt wide awake. As much as she’d been fantasizing about sleep the entire afternoon, suddenly she couldn’t. She just lay there. And then the phone rang.
She listened to the first three rings before she considered the possibility that her mother wasn’t going to answer. On the fourth, she scrambled to her feet and ran into the hallway. She grabbed the phone, heard a jumble of sound as recorded father and machine shut-off and person talking melded into one. Then, a pause, as the machine and the other voice and her recorded father and she all seemed to wait, politely, to let the other speak.
“Hello?” Monica said, tentatively.
“Is Monica there?” It was Lita, cheerful and polite.
“Oh, hi Lita,” Monica replied, “Sorry about that, I didn’t realize, I mean, I was trying to—”
“We have to talk.” Lita’s voice was suddenly icy. “We have to talk right now.”
Monica was silent, confused, “Okay. What’s up?”
More silence. And then, slowly, as if each syllable had to be painfully drawn out of Lita’s throat, “Not on the phone.”
“But, what’s wrong, Lita?” She said, filled with non-specific worry.
“Are your parents home?” Was Lita’s only response.
“Yes.” Monica said quickly. Her mind raced, “Lita, what is it?”
Lita ignored her question, “You have to come over here, then.” And then her voice cracked with emotion and pain. “And if you don’t, then I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Monica didn’t say anything. She wondered what Lita meant, if she was going to hurt herself, wondered what happened, if it was Monica or something else. She thought, idly, that before all this, she wouldn’t have wasted any time, she would have just jumped in the car, to help her friend. She felt a sudden guilt.
“Okay, Lita. I’m right out the door, I’ll see you in half an hour.” Monica walked back to her room and picked up her cell phone off the dresser—8 missed calls. “Lita? My phone was off, well, my ringer, but I’m turning it back on, in case you need to get ahold of me. Lita?”
There was only silence.
“I’m leaving, Lita, I’ll see you in a bit, don’t worry.” She finally said and hung up the phone.
She left through the kitchen, avoiding her mother, and she got back in her car, only this time when she looked in the mirror she looked like a human being and not a wreck. Everything would be easier to explain over the phone, later. It was twenty minutes before the cell-phone finally buzzed, and when she picked it up, she was surprised to hear her mother’s voice.
“Monica.” She said each syllable in a distinct and exotic manner, “Your father and I won’t be home tonight.”
“Oh.” Was her only response. She tried to think of something else to say but failed, until finally her mother filled the empty space.
“Yes, we’re down at your uncle’s house, and we’ll be here until very late.” And then silence. A long, long silence. And finally, just before Monica screamed in frustration, her mother said, “What is wrong with you, child, don’t you want to know why?”
The big green sign said her exit was two miles ahead. “Of course I want to know. Is everything alright?” Monica had never been good at feigning interest.
“Satva is getting married!” Her mother said with explosiveness. “To a software engineer! In six months, we have so little time!”
Satva was Monica’s cousin. That was the only thing they had in common. They’d never got along. That anyone would want to marry that fat sow was, “Wonderful! Great! Wow.”
“I know you don’t like her,” her mother responded, “But you will have to help out. Now, there is plenty of food in the kitchen, or you can come down here.” Her tone confirmed that the last half of the invitation was only theoretically possible—Satva felt the same way about Monica.
“Do you mind if I go to Lita’s?” Monica asked tentatively.
Her mother sounded suddenly suspicious, “Yes. Going to see Lita is fine. Is that all you’re going to do?”
She pulled into the exit lane, “Yes, momma. I promise.”
It was one of those stucco apartment buildings that dotted the city. They were all ugly and unimaginative, but this one was particularly so, with its brown paint and purple window treatments. Monica had been here before, though never inside, and when she pressed 4, Lita’s number, she heard a garbled voice and a buzz.
The interior was just as bad—old ugly carpet and a staircase on its eighth coat of off-white paint. It smelled funny, almost bad, but not yet, in a way that made Monica think she wouldn’t be surprised if it was utterly offensive the next time she came here. There were four flights of stairs, but it only took one to get to Lita’s door.
She knocked and it opened immediately, and Lita stood there, her hair up, her eyes swollen, shaking. She was barefoot, in sweats—stylish and tight. She stared at Monica, her mouth open slightly, lips shaking slightly, like the rest of her body.
“What is it?” Monica asked, loud and scared.
Lita gave a half-hearted laugh and walked, dazedly, to the door. She closed it, and turned to Monica, and mouthed a few soundless words. She rubbed her forehead and when she tried to talk, her chest just shuddered a little. Monica reached over and touched her shoulder.
“Where,” Lita finally said, slowly, “Are your parents?”
Monica looked at he, confused, “What do you mean?”
At that, Lita grabbed her neck, and threw her into the mountains and cranes of a Japanese screen. Monica shrieked and sprawled out, breaking the center panel of the screen and landing in a heap.
“WHERE,” Lita yelled, each word individual and slow, “ARE, YOUR, PARENTS?!”
Monica looked back at her, she couldn’t talk, couldn’t move. She felt, vaguely, a dull pain on her rump, felt the pieces of screen and hanger that she sat on. When she said nothing, Lita came at her. She leapt on Monica, small hands grabbing her throat.
“Where!?” Lita kept yelling, “Where?! WHERE?! WHERE!? Where!?”
The words became unreal with repetition, and the room was spinning, and then it was shrinking, when she finally tried to talk. “Satva.” She said quietly, barely able to make a sound, and then Lita let go of her and she continued, in a hoarse voice, “They went to San Jose, with,” she coughed, “my cousin.”
Then Lita slapped her, hard, and got up, and started crying. She walked away from Monica, and said slowly, “So they weren’t there, and you lied to me.”
Monica stood up, there was a warm, sweet taste in her mouth, “No. I mean, I didn’t—”
“SHUT UP!” Lita yelled, and threw a glass at her. It shattered on the wall, behind Monica. “Stop lying to me! You cunt! You little whore! I hate you!”
“I’m leaving,” Monica said without emotion. She was scared, “I’m sorry, Lita, but I have to go.”
Lita was crying and whatever she said in response was drowned out by the sobs. Then, when it was obvious that Monica hadn’t heard or hadn’t cared, she repeated herself, with deliberation and venom, “You think you can go back to him, you bitch? And tell him about crazy Lita and how she felt you up!”
Monica turned around, eyes and mouth wide. She started shaking her head, “No, no, no, no, no, he didn’t talk to you.”
“Oh yeah he did,” Lita licked her lips, “Told me all about how I raped you. Raped you! Like you weren’t there, begging me to do it!” She waited, and when Monica said nothing, she kept going, “Go ahead, get the fuck out of here. I can’t wait to tell everyone who you’re fucking!”
“We’re not!” Monica said, and she started crying, “We haven’t!”
Lita’s eyes lit up, “And then I can tell them how we’ve been doing it, and you told your little professor, and he came onto me!” Her smile grew as she thought out her scenario, “And how I told him I wouldn’t fuck him, because I only like girls, and how he called me a fucking dyke and felt me up! Let’s see him keep his job after that.”
“You can’t do that.” Monica finally said.
“Get out.” Lita responded. “Get the fuck out, I’ve got to make a call to the school.”
“Please,” Monica cried, “Please, don’t.”
Lita was breathing so hard that her chest was heaving, and she swaggered up to Monica, and roughly began loosening her belt. Monica said nothing, and then her pants fell down around her ankles, and she felt Lita’s hot palms on her hips. She pulled her shirt off, and ran her hands over Monica’s chest and thighs.
“Take off your shoes,” Lita said as she walked over to a bag next to the bed, “And your underwear.”
Monica did as she was told, panties and bra joining the little pile at her feet. Lita walked up to her and emptied out the bag. There was lube and a long, dark red strap-on. Monica was ready to see them, assumed it would be something like that, but there was something else. A hat. A light green Monterey Aquarium hat, exactly like the one James wore.
“Turn around,” Lita whispered, “Put your hands on the wall. You love him so much,” She put on the hat, then the strap-on, “More than me. Well, now you get to fuck him.”
And Monica felt the stiff, cool plastic run between her legs, to be buried deep inside her. She screamed in pain, and even though it was slick, it hurt. She felt the leather slap against her butt, and Lita grabbed her hair and pulled it back, hard. Her other hand ran under Monica’s hip, and pulled her protesting bottom toward Lita’s crotch.
“You like that?” Lita shrieked it in between hyperventilating breaths, “You like being fucked! Is it everything you want?!”
Monica could barely concentrate, “Please,” she finally said, “It hurts, slow down, not, not so hard. Please.”
“It hurts?!” Lita howled as she rammed the fake cock even harder into Monica. “You hurt me! Now, I’m hurting you! If you were sweet to me, I’d be sweet to you!”
Then she pulled Monica’s head and hips sharply to the left and they both fell, Lita still on top of Monica. Lita dug her nails into Monica’s back, pushing her down into the mottled carpet, until finally Monica’s elbow slipped out from under her and her face and chest crashed into the ground.
She felt a hard slap on her butt and Lita yelled filth at her, over and over. There was no theme or direction to the vulgarities she heard about her twat, or how much of a slut she was, or how she loved it, and did she love it, and did she know how tight her cunt was and look at how hot she was.
Monica gave up begging Lita to stop, and her crying was only punctuated by little shrieks of pain. She tried to avoid making any sound though, because each time it seemed to spur Lita on to even lower depths of abuse, verbal and painfully physical. Lita stopped, but before Monica could think it was over, she found herself on her back, her legs pushed up against her shoulders.
She looked into those beautiful eyes, now half-closed in pleasure. Lita’s stomach, gorgeous and toned, undulating as it thrust too much into Monica. She barely noticed the feeling of the dildo beyond the pain, a slight tingle, which might have been pleasure, but just the possibility made her hate it more. She saw Lita’s lips moving, realized she was saying something, something she didn’t want to hear.
“Tell me how you want it,” She was repeating over and over, along with, “Call me James.”
She ground her pelvis into Monica’s. With each movement, Lita let out a little gasp, her nipples hard and tight. Somehow, on her back, it hurt even more, and Monica felt as if she was being torn in half. Then she noticed that she was saying something, repeating it without stop, in rhythm with Lita’s attack on her purity. The words had come from Lita, that much she knew, she’d told her to say just that, and she did what she was told.
“Fuck me, James,” her voice was ragged from crying, “fuck me harder!”