In Which Mackenzie Puts Puddy In Her Place
Saturday morning, I awoke to a shocking sight: Puddy, asleep in our room.
She hadn’t quite made it as far as her bed. That was, of course, assuming it had even been her bed she’d been heading towards. She was sprawled on the floor, a little puddle of drool by her mouth… and a slightly larger puddle of pale honey-colored wine by the bottle next to her hand. If she hadn’t been snoring, I would have been worried that she was hurt.
We’d now been at Magisterius University for just over a week, and in all that time she hadn’t spent a single full night in her assigned room. Instead, she’d been sleeping–or at least, spending the night–with Mariel. Mariel was a sylph, and Puddy’s actual girlfriend… though a lot of people seemed to think I occupied that position. That might have had something to do with the way I’d let Puddy grope and grab at me in public, and it might have had something to do with Puddy herself… but I didn’t know for sure about that.
I’d liked Puddy from the moment I met her, in some ways. In other ways, she’d made me really uneasy. I’d found out early on that she could be cruel when she wanted to, and became violent when drunk. Even sober, she was pushy and aggressive… especially sexually, and she’d got me to admit the truth of my heritage within five minutes of meeting me. Being that we were both residents of Harlowe Hall, the dormitory set aside for non-human students, it had gone without saying that there was something more to me than met the eye… but I had planned on letting it go without saying exactly how much more.
I really don’t like admitting… even to myself, even inside my own head… that my father was a demon. There had been no hiding it back home, but I’d looked at going away to college as my chance to start over with a clean slate. I’d proceeded to blow it, first by caving in and showing my powers to Puddy and then by having a reaction to a holy symbol of Khersis.
It was terrible luck. I have the strongest reactions to Khersian artifacts because of course, he’s the Holy Avenger, the Demonslayer, the Champion of Man… in fact, the only reason I’d signed up for non-human housing was to lessen the chance that I’d end up rooming with a Khersian or running into a bunch of his symbols in the halls… but Amaranth, dear Amaranth, had decided to show her broad-mindedness by pinning a big silver Egg of Khersis to her chest, and that resulted in both her and her sister nymph Barley finding out.
From there, the word had spread.
I couldn’t blame Puddy for that, or Amaranth. I’d been stupid to think I could hide it forever.
I only even mentioned it to show how much influence Puddy’d had over me from the moment we met.
Now she was asleep on the floor, looking very innocent… almost fragile even, or at least child-like. She definitely had some baby fat about her face, and at this particular moment, her cheeks were pretty damn rosy. Her thumb would not have been out of place in her mouth.
I climbed out of bed as quietly as I could, walked gingerly around her sleeping form, and stooped to pick up the bottle. There was still some wine in it… I suppose I must have just meant to keep her from spilling any more. I’d only just touched it when her hand grabbed my other wrist. I gasped, and managed to slosh an impressive amount of the chardonnay out of the bottle, considering the height of the bottle and the low level of the liquid.
“Don’t like people touchin’ my stuff,” she murmured, only half-awake. This didn’t stop her grip from being like a vise. Puddy looked like a short, slightly pudgy human, but she laid claim to distant ancestors that included a dwarf, a giant, and even a dragon. I don’t know if I would have been inclined to believe any of this, if not for the fact that she was somehow much stronger even than me.
See, I might have looked like a skinny, scrawny geek, but I got my strength from my father’s side.
“I… I was just going to put it away for you,” I said. I set the bottle down on the floor, upright, and she let me go.
“Where’m I?” she asked, kind of halfway rolling over onto her side to face me.
“Our room,” I said. “It’s Saturday,” I told her, then added, “morning.”
“We fuck?” she asked me, and I felt my skin crawling.
“No,” I said, shaking my head way too emphatically. I made myself stop.
“Oh,” Puddy said. She sounded disappointed. I wondered again which bed she’d been coming to when she passed out. “Thought maybe we had.”
This was how I knew, in spite of everything that had happened… everything I’d done… in the past week, that I could not be a lesbian. The thought of being sexually intimate with Puddy was just way too disturbing.
I don’t know exactly how that worked now that I was in an avowed, confirmed, and committed sort-of-relationship with the very female Amaranth… but I was still fairly sure I wasn’t a lesbian.
“Does Mariel know you’re here?” I asked.
“Fuckin’ Mariel,” Puddy murmured. Her eyelids were drooping. She hadn’t so much as sat up. “Stupid… skinny…”
Whatever else Mariel might have been, I wasn’t going to find out. Puddy had apparently passed out again. I heaved a sigh, and pulled her upright, supporting her under the arm. I pulled the blanket down and, with a little effort, got her into bed.
“We fuckin’ now?” she muttered as I pulled the blanket over her.
If ever there was a right time to have a heart-to-heart with my volatile roommate, it was while she was exhausted and/or in a stupor.
“Puddy,” I said, taking a deep breath, “we aren’t going to. I’m not… I mean, I can’t let you keep… touching me, like you’ve been.” I braced for an explosion, but I didn’t even get a spark, so I went on. “I mean, I know we both agreed that it isn’t really sex, really, and I still believe that… but…”
I had been about to tell her that I belonged to Amaranth and she had ordered me not to let anybody take advantage of me physically, but… well… that was weird. It made perfect sense to me when I was with her. It made less sense when I was faced with the prospect of explaining it to my semi-conscious roommate. I decided not to try, to back away from the thought before I ran away from it.
“I just can’t,” I finished. Then, added, a little lamely, “I’m sorry.”
“‘S’okay… I broke up with you, ‘member? Threw your ass into the table,” Puddy said into her blanket. “Everybody saw. We laughed about it, after. Mariel an’ me. She laughed… she laughed, an’ I broke her fucking arm. Two of them.”
I held my tongue. Probably, she didn’t even know what she was saying… and it wasn’t like broken bones couldn’t be healed in an instant.
“She laughed at you, Mack. At… you,” Puddy said. Her eyes were mostly closed now. They kept fluttering open, only to fall shut again all the faster. “Not gonna let… anybody… laugh at you. ’cause… I’m your friend. Right? Your friend.”
“That’s right,” I said, forcing a smile that I knew she couldn’t see. I was afraid of Puddy. I could admit it. I was afraid of her, but in that moment she seemed so pathetic, so… so sad, in every sense of the word. I felt my eyes tearing up at the corners, and–knowing full well that it wasn’t true–I made myself say, “you’re my best friend, Puddy.”
She smiled a cherubic smile and settled into sleep and I, filthy and sick with the taste of my lie, backed trembling away and headed for the door.
I was crying before I even made it to the hall. Lying was the worst thing I could do, my grandmother had taught me, because it was the easiest thing I could do… the simplest evil, the most basic, and the most seductive. Dishonesty was both the root of sin, and sin’s greatest protection… and sinfulness was my nature. It was in my blood. Once I started lying, there was no telling what I would do next.
I needed Amaranth.
I needed to tell her what I’d done.
I needed to be punished.