29: Whatever You Want

on July 12, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which Puddy Neither Cares, Nor Appears

After dinner, Amaranth and Steff had excused themselves… I’m not sure if they were off to find some boy folk, or were just going off with each other. I didn’t really care to guess. As she’d done before, Amaranth had offered to take me along… but that wasn’t something I was interested in.

I did want to meet boys, but not that way.

Left to my own devices, I ended up reading ahead in my logic textbook for hours while my Mecknights fought each other at the edge of my bed before I finally turned in. I was tired enough that I chanced sleeping in my own bed, in my t-shirt and a pair of old shorts that I wouldn’t have minded losing, but without any covers.

My dreams were… confused, and mostly revolved around Amaranth, standing over me and promising me dire punishments that were neither specified nor ever actually administered.

I think I would have called it a nightmare anyway, except for the fact that when I woke up, my hand was where it shouldn’t have been.

My first thought, absurdly, was that somebody had seen me. My second, more sensible one, was that I needed soap and water. I’m sorry to say I tripped over Hazel, or maybe Honey… definitely one of the burrow gnomes, though… on my way to the bathroom. I shouted some sort of apology as I ran.

Amaranth and Barley had talked so blithely about masturbating the first morning we’d all had breakfast together, but it was different for nymphs. They were pure, and somehow innocent despite all the sex. For regular girls, though…

I don’t want to sound like I had something against my own sex, or that I completely loathed my body… but then, I wouldn’t exactly have called what I was thinking a radical thought, either. It’s a dirty place. It’s a dirty thing. You do dirty things with it.

Everybody knew that.

Washing my hands turned into a hot shower, and then kind of air drying since I hadn’t brought a towel. Horned Twyla came in and started to head back towards the showers while I was just kind of standing there, naked and dripping, then turned around and left. I can’t blame her. I must have looked like a freak, just hanging out by the showers like that. When the door opened again, I just hastily pulled on my clothes wet before registering it was Feejee the mermaid, who probably didn’t even notice nudity in others.

When I left the bathrooms, Mariel was outside my room, tapping on the door.

“Oh!” she said as I approached, a little too loudly. Her eyes were wide and bright, and she was speaking a bit faster than even was normal for her. “Hi! I thought maybe you were still in bed, or gone to class.”

“Oh, hey… I guess you’ve come to do my make-up, huh?” I said resignedly, unlocking and opening the door.

“No, um… actually, I just came to get a box of Puddy’s pops,” she said, pointing at the fridge with one of her hands and shrugging with two of the others. “Puddy says… well, she says she doesn’t really care if you wear make-up or not.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s… good.” I didn’t like wearing make-up, and I hadn’t relished the prospect of being manhandled by Mariel’s four arms on a daily basis… but why had Puddy suddenly changed her mind?

Didn’t she even care how I looked?

“Yeah,” Mariel said. She chuckled uncertainly. “I guess it is, for you. Um… I’ll just get them, then.”

She went past me to the back of the room and got out a bright yellow box of pudding pops.

“So, you have a good time last night, out on the town?” I asked, feeling more awkward than usual. Mariel seemed to want to get away from me quickly. She’d reacted badly to finding out about my parentage… but then she’d seemed to get over it… but then after that had come the moment when Puddy dumped her off her lap and grabbed me instead. There were really any number of reasons why the sylph might not want to be in a room with me.

“Oh, yeah!” Mariel said, a bit more brightly. “Puddy bought me a bunch of new stuff, and a set of magic combs and scissors like the professionals use, you know, to start up my business? Then she took me out to dinner to make up for… well, um, it was a really fancy place. I don’t think they were going to let us in until Puddy gave the guy some gold… some thing about my dress bothered him, I guess. I didn’t really understand it.”

Maybe she couldn’t understand it, but I figured I could. I’d come to the conclusion that sylphs only believed in clothing in theory… Mariel’s dresses were all cut way too low and wide at her chest and came up way too high on her thighs to consistently conceal anything, and she never wore anything beneath them.

“Anyway,” she continued, “we ended up staying out way late and missed the last coach, so Puddy got us a really nice inn room… I don’t know how much it all cost, but apparently she’s got like, all this money or something.”

“It sounds nice,” I said. “Hey… if you’ve got magic scissors now, maybe you could cut my hair sometime, like you wanted to?” I’d been less than thrilled with the idea when she first pitched it, even leaving aside the issue of implements that would work on my messed-up body and its hair… but, she seemed so nervous being there talking to me, and this was a way of reaching out.

“Yeah, well, um, I should probably get back to Puddy with these,” Mariel said, holding up the pudding pops.

“You guys… uh, you guys going over for breakfast?” I asked. It was actually pretty late for breakfast. I knew they’d almost be done serving, I’d wasted so much time in the shower and then trying to dry off.

“Um, I don’t think so,” she said.

“Because I’m out of punches, but I could probably scrounge up half a silver to get in this morning,” I said. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. Yeah, I had the money, but I needed it for other things… like actual sustenance that I actually needed. “And then I could go over to the catering office during my lunch break and change my…”

“Oh, it’s okay!” Mariel said hurriedly. “Puddy says she doesn’t care about that. You can do whatever you want.”

“I can?” I asked.

It should have been great to hear this, but I felt numb, and hollow inside. Ever since I’d arrived… which had only been the Friday before, even though it seemed like forever ago… Puddy had taken an interest in me and in everything I did. I’d never had a real friend before, and certainly nobody outside my family had seemed to care if I lived or died, much less if I took care of my appearance or how often I went out in public.

I hadn’t thought I’d enjoyed it… but why else would I feel something close to panic rising up inside at the thought that it was over?

“Well, I really should get back,” Mariel said. She giggled nervously. “Don’t want to keep Puddy waiting…”

She turned and started to go, but there had been something in that giggle that turned my blood to ice. Had it been a little bit too nervous… maybe even… fearful? Puddy had sometimes got really pushy in dealing with me, but… I was pretty sure… only because she knew she couldn’t really hurt me. Mariel, on the other hand, looked downright fragile. Had Puddy got rough with her? Was that what she’d meant about Puddy taking her out to “make up for” something?

It was none of my business.

It really was none of my business.

It certainly wasn’t my fault.

Anyway, hadn’t I thought something like “better her than me” when Puddy went off with her every night? How could I complain now, even if Mariel was getting the same kind of treatment I had…

Aw, fuck. That did kind of make it seem like my fault, didn’t it?

“Mariel, wait,” I said. I closed my eyes and forced the words into the right order, inside my head, then pushed them out my mouth. It was a little like spitting out quicksand. “If Puddy’s… hurt you, or is making you do things you…”

“Wow,” Mariel said, cutting me off. “You know, that’s really sad.”

“Huh?”

“I really wouldn’t have minded sharing, Mack,” Mariel said. “But you can’t stand the idea that Puddy likes me more, so you’ve got to try to break us apart.”

“What?” I asked, aback.

“Has she taken you out to dinner in town?” Mariel asked. “Bought you presents? Put you up in the honeymoon suite? You had your shot and you blew it. I’m the favorite now, not you, and you need to get used to it.”

“I don’t… I’m happy it’s you!” I said, which was very true. I really had been thrilled that Puddy had Mariel to occupy her attention. I had thought it would make us better friends. I didn’t understand why I was getting the cold shoulder. When I’d last seen her the morning before, she’d made it seem like she expected us to take our relationship… our friendship, that is… to another level, eventually.

“I don’t know what you heard or who you heard it from, but what Puddy does… what we do is our business,” Mariel said, and she flounced away, leaving me standing there, stunned.

I was still standing there, more than a minute later, when Mariel returned.

“Puddy says we are going to breakfast after all,” she announced matter-of-factly. “She says you can come to, if you’re sure it’s what you really want.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, feeling just as confused but also relieved. “I’ll just change in…”

“We’re going now,” Mariel said flatly

“Okay,” I said, and so I went with her. What else was I supposed to do? I went, in the damp and grubby t-shirt and shorts I’d slept in, with my hair wet and uncombed and no make-up (how could I feel weird without it, when I’d never worn it before a few days ago?)… but Puddy smiled her biggest, goofiest smile when I showed up at Mariel’s room, and she laughed and poked at me, in a teasing kind of way, all the way over to the dining hall, where I sat quietly on Puddy’s lap while Mariel ate enough for all three of us.

Puddy did care about me. We were still friends.

That was what mattered.


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10 Responses to “29: Whatever You Want”

  1. BMeph says:

    Puddy-abuse makes me a sad panda.

    …If I were a panda.

    Current score: 2
  2. Nezumi says:

    wow! Fantastic characterization of an abuser! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done so realistically and skillfully.

    Current score: 2
  3. Zukira Phaera says:

    I always thought about now that Mariel was purchasing a river in Egypt about now.

    Current score: 0
  4. Stumbleweeds says:

    I have to say, her relationship with Puddy is really starting to feel like a firsthand account of Stockholm Syndrome. Compliments to the author.

    Current score: 3
    • Psi-Ko says:

      I was just thinking the same thing! I noticed it a few chapters ago, but it’s really coming out now.

      Current score: 0
  5. pedestrian says:

    Having known people in similar traps, I am feeling a familiar twinge of despair.

    Current score: 1
  6. Robin says:

    ditto 🙁 sad panda:(

    Current score: 1
  7. Sengachi says:

    Wow. The level of skill that Puddy’s abuse is written with is amazing. Kudos.

    Current score: 1
  8. keyonte0 says:

    In a dom/sub relationship, the cold shoulder is how a dom REALLY punishes a sub. The only problem is that Puddy doesn’t seem to know that Mack isn’t really playing along, but is completely confused as to what the fuck is going on. Or maybe she knows it, in which case it’s kind of rapey in a forced roleplaying kind of way. They really need a safety word.

    Current score: 0
  9. Leishycat says:

    I’ve been there. I’ve felt that.

    Reading these parts was always uncomfortable, before I was where Mackenzie is now. Now it *hurts*.

    Current score: 2