36: Survivor Counseling

on July 23, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which Amaranth Disrobes

Morning came, the way it does, no matter whether you want it to or not. I hadn’t slept, but I hadn’t exactly been awake, either. I needed to talk to Amaranth… there was just no way I could face the day without confiding in her first.

I knew her room was 413, because she’d made a sign for herself with gold glitter letters. The door wasn’t quite latched. I knew she was inside because I could hear her singing softly to herself. The sound both made me nervous and gave me courage. I lifted my hand to knock, then froze. What was I doing there?

What was I going to tell her?

What did I expect her to do?

I almost turned and went back to my own room, but I realized if I did that, I’d probably end up locking myself inside it all day. I had to talk to somebody.

I took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

Amaranth was standing in the middle of the room, her back to me. She was swaying to the sound of her own singing as she read from a large textbook. Her amber hair was wrapped up in a towel, and her body was covered from ankles to shoulders in a big fluffy bath robe fastened with a sash around her waist. She turned at the sound of the door. Her eyes grew huge when she saw me, and she screamed, throwing the book at me.

“Don’t you knock?” she yelled, scrabbling to undo the knot in the sash. It wasn’t a very tight knot, but her franticness was making it difficult. “Turn around!” she screamed as I stared, her face turning a vivid purple.

“What’s…”

Turn around!” she repeated. “And close that door!”

I obeyed, still very confused.

“Why would you just barge in like that?” she asked. “Didn’t you stop and think?”

“About what?” I asked. “You don’t even wear clothes.”

“I know!” she shrieked. “Okay,” she said. I heard her taking a deep, calming breath. “You can look now.”

I turned back around, still wondering what the big deal was. Amaranth was tucking the bathrobe under the mattress of her bed.

“You’re not supposed to see me like that,” she said. She was blushing madly… and pretty much all over. “If anybody even knew I owned something like… like that, I’d just die.”

“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “It’s just a bathrobe.”

“Don’t say it!” Amaranth whispered fiercely. “Delia Daella is right next door!” She pointed emphatically towards the wall. “She can hear everything we say!”

That gave me pause, but not because I had any idea why Amaranth cared if Delia Daella heard us. If the dark elf was in the room Amaranth indicated, and had as good hearing as she was indicating, that might explain her comments about Puddy. I made a mental note to warn Puddy to be careful about that, if I could figure out a way to do it that wouldn’t sound like an accusation.

“You can’t tell anybody, Mack,” Amaranth said desperately. “If anybody found out…”

“Found out what?” I asked.

“That you saw me… dressed,” she said, wincing at the sound of the last word. She still looked completely mortified.

“It’s just a robe,” I said.

“You don’t understand.” Truer words were never spoken. “Covering up my goddess-granted beauty like that… it’s… it’s just about the worst thing a nymph could do.”

Those words punched me in the gut; the thing with the robe had been a weird diversion, but now I remembered why I was there.

“What?” Amaranth asked. “Mack, honey, what’s wrong?”

“I need to talk to you,” I said. “About Barley.”

“Oh, I so don’t want to hear about Barley right now,” she said. “Do you know what she did last night? She bailed on me… she left me working all on my own. There was no way I could handle all the demand by myself… I actually had to turn guys away. I turned them away, Mack!” She stopped and took a deep breath. “Of course, I do love Barley… I really do. Like… I love the way she’s so unpredictable,” she said, punctuating the word “love” by digging her long fingernails into the soft flesh of her thighs, “and I love the way she’s able to feel so damned relaxed about the important responsibilities we carry,” she went on, clawing at her leg so hard that she drew blood, “and I just adore the fact that she gave me an opportunity to really stretch myself to the limit, and… and… oh, what did you want to talk about?”

“You know, it’s really nothing,” I said. I started to head for the door. “I really need to get ready for class…”

“No, honey,” Amaranth said, grabbing my arm and putting bloody smears on it. “What is it? Do you know where Barley was?”

“She… she was with me,” I said.

“With? She was… oh, Mack… you had sex with another woman?” Amaranth asked. “With Barley? That’s… that’s awesome!” She wrapped me up in a hug. I went stiff at her touch. She noticed, and drew back. “Don’t worry, I’m not jealous… we don’t get jealous, remember? I’m glad. I didn’t think you’d be ready to do anything else like that for a long time.”

“I wasn’t,” I said. My voice quavered a little.

“Well, then, at least you tried…”

“I didn’t!” I said. “Barley… she…”

I knew the word I wanted to say. I knew what Barley had been trying to do. I couldn’t get the word out.

“She tried to… to make me,” I said. It was the best I could manage.

“What do you mean, she… oh,” Amaranth said. Her face was absolutely stricken. She stood there, seemingly stunned into silence by the news. I waited for her to speak.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” I asked.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I want to say something, but… everything that wants to come out of my mouth is something I’ve read that you’re never supposed to say to a rape victim.”

“Please, Amaranth,” I said. “I really need to talk to somebody about this…”.

“Well… um,” she said, appearing to wrestle with indecision for a moment, then blurted out, “Are you sure you understood the situation? Oh… I didn’t mean that! Mack, honey, I just don’t know if I’m the person to talk to about this.”

“Who else am I going to talk to?” I asked.

“It’s just… it’s not that I don’t believe you, because I totally do, but Barley is like a sister to me, and I think maybe my idea of consent is diferent from yours,” she said.

“What’s your idea of consent?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said.

“Yes, what?”

“Yes, I consent,” she said. “To anything. I couldn’t imagine not wanting to… oh! That’s probably what happened! I’ll bet Barley didn’t realize you didn’t want to…”

“She made it pretty clear that she did,” I said sourly.

“No, because, see, if she thought that you… or maybe if you did something that made it seem… if… if…” she said, then suddenly burst into tears, wailing, “Nymphs don’t rape!

“I know what she did!” I said. I wasn’t aware that I had started to cry, too, or when… only that I was.

“It isn’t possible! ” Amaranth sobbed. “She couldn’t! She couldn’t… she…” She trailed off, and appeared to stop and think for a moment. “You said she tried… did she stop herself?”

“Puddy came in and pulled her off me,” I said. “Otherwise, she would have…”

“No, she wouldn’t!” Amaranth said firmly, stomping her foot. “I know she couldn’t have… it’s still horrible that she tried, but… she would’ve stopped even if Puddy hadn’t come in,” Amaranth said, now quite calmly, shaking her head and daubing at her tears. “I know she would have.”

“I.. I don’t think she would have stopped,” I said, sitting down heavily on her roommate’s bed. I don’t know what I’d expected from Amaranth, but it hadn’t been this. “I don’t think she could have.”

“No, Mack, you don’t know her,” Amaranth said, sitting down across from me, on her own bed. “Not like I do.”

“I don’t know if you do know her,” I said. “She had a few things to say about you… I think she… hates you.”

“Well, you’re wrong,” Amaranth said. “Nymphs love everybody.”

“Is that really true, or just… like an ideal?” I asked. “Or a religious commandment?”

“It’s… well, it’s kind of all of the above, I guess,” Amaranth said, and I got the feeling she’d never really thought about it. “But, I’ve known Barley my whole life. We’re like sisters… most of the Paradise Valley nymphs were brought about years or decades apart from each other, but my field was planted less than a year after hers. We’ve been inseparable ever since.”

I thought about that, trying to put myself into Barley’s… well, she didn’t have shoes.

“So, when they get a new nymph-field, is it kind of a big deal?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s totally a big deal,” Amaranth said. “The whole valley comes together to celebrate, and then the new nymph… well, everybody really makes her feel welcome. That’s what was so nice about me coming up so soon after Barley… we got to share a lot of attention, since we were both kind of the ‘hot new thing’ at the same time.”

“I don’t think Barley saw it that way,” I said.

“Mack, before I came here, Barley was my world,” she said. “I never even left my field except to visit hers before she decided to go to school.”

I took a deep breath. The next part would be almost as hard to say as telling her that Barley had tried to rape me had been.

“Don’t you think… that maybe… you might be letting your love for her blind you a little to her faults?” I asked. I was actually pretty sure this was the case, as I knew Amaranth did it for other people. Like me. That was one reason I didn’t want her to look at it too closely.

“When you love somebody, you have to trust that they’ll do the right thing,” Amaranth said.

“But… you love everybody,” I said.

“And so I trust everybody to do the right thing,” she said. “Honey, I just can’t live any other way than that. I wouldn’t want to. I know you want me to comfort you, but… I only really know one way to do that, and I don’t think you’d appreciate it. Maybe you should try talking to somebody else?”

“I don’t have anybody else,” I said.

“There are professionals available through the healing center,” she said. “And you should probably talk to Steff… another rape survivor would have a better perspective on this than I do.”

That was something I hadn’t known about the half-elf. I wondered briefly if that had anything to do with her preference for ultra-violent sex… if anything, I would have thought being raped would turn somebody off of that sort of thing for good.

“I’m not a rape survivor,” I said. “She didn’t get to finish.”

“Oh, Mack, I can’t pretend to understand what you’re going through, but… the feeling’s got to be the same,” she said. “You were violated against your will. I just hope you realize that, even if I can’t help you much, I still love you, and I’m here for you, however I can be.”

“What do I do when I see her again?” I asked. “What if she tries it again?”

“Oh, Mack, you don’t want to know what I think about that,” Amaranth said, looking away.

“No, I do!” I said.

“Well…” she said. “I think you should let her.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s just… I think no matter what she does to you, you’ll survive… but if you try to stop her and she gets hurt, it just might kill you.”

“Of course, that’s all assuming you don’t pursue official action,” Amaranth said. “I can’t tell you what to do…”

She looked at me, pleadingly.

“Don’t worry, I’m not reporting it,” I said. I’d already long since made up my mind about that. Accuse a nymph of sexual assault? If I was lucky, I’d only be laughed at. Also, Amaranth might have had a hard time believing nymphs were capable of rape, but I’d never considered that women in general might be rapists. It was too surreal. I’d prefer to keep it that way, rather than making it concrete. “Not if she doesn’t do it again.”

“Oh, thank you!” Amaranth said, flinging herself across the gap between the beds and knocking me over with her enthusiastic embrace. This time, I didn’t freeze up completely, but let her kiss me–on the lips, this time!–again and again, and felt myself thawing bit by bit.

That was when Trina, Amaranth’s tricloptic roommate, chose to come back from the showers.

“If you’re going to start bringing them over here,” she said, looking resolutely away with her two human eyes while the third strayed back over to us, “please keep it on your own bed.”


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4 Responses to “36: Survivor Counseling”

  1. beappleby says:

    Tiny typo, but potentially confusing:

    “It’s just… I think no matter what she does to you, you’ll survive… but if you try to stop her and she gets hurt, it just might kill you.”

    “Of course, that’s all assuming you don’t pursue official action,” Amaranth said. “I can’t tell you what to do…”

    (There shouldn’t be an end quote on the first section of dialogue.)

    Current score: 0
  2. Zukira Phaera says:

    tiny typo

    I think maybe my idea of consent is diferent from yours

    different – just a missing f

    Current score: 0
  3. Shrikethrush says:

    Oh my god. This chapter.

    Makes me shudder.

    Current score: 3
  4. Jesp says:

    Tiny typo, missing closing punctuation:
    nymphs, sad to say”

    Thanks for the chapter! ^_^

    Current score: 0