72: Twinges

on September 26, 2007 in 03: Virginal

In Which Amaranth Advises Caution In Romance

Professor Goldman began his general thaumatology lecture by announcing that now that we were past the first week, we would be moving out of the introductory stuff and on to things that we couldn’t have picked up by paying attention in high school.

Then he burst out laughing.

I still liked him, for having a sense of humor about his subject and for being perfectly upfront about that kind of thing.

One week into the university experience was enough to tell me that a good deal of the first year would be spent going back over stuff we were supposed to already know, and I suppose to a dedicated educator with a passion for teaching, that really had to be frustrating. I knew I found it irksome whenever I saw somebody drawing a blank in response to something I knew must have come up in their fifth grade naturalism lessons or whatever… but whenever anybody pointed this out, the excuse was always, “well, my school sucked.”

Okay, granted, some schools probably did suck, but it seemed like most people didn’t pay any attention to their education until they had to pay for it themselves, and the rest of us ended up paying for that.

So I’m a bitter little nerdling… sue me.

I had been hoping that Steff would turn up for lunch. If I remembered correctly, she had a free period afterwards, and now so did I… which meant I would have a chance to talk to her about what was bugging her. Otherwise, the first I’d see her would be in elven history, and I didn’t really fancy getting in trouble over another one-way conversation.

She wasn’t at lunch, though… it was just Amaranth, Two, and me. After the incident of the morning, Two seemed to be in a pensive mood. Actually, before the last day or so, I would have said she was just being her usual quiet, unobtrusive self. Now, I hoped she was just being pensive, and wasn’t just reverting to her previous mode of behavior.

Amaranth kept chewing her lip and pulling at odd strands of hair. I’d seen her agitated and upset, but I don’t know if I’d ever seen her worried… not like this. I told her I was sure that Steff would be okay, but the words tasted like fuzzy ashes and I just knew she could tell I wasn’t being sincere. It might have been worth lying if she had felt even a little bit better, but she didn’t.

Thinking that made me realize how quickly I was sliding into the habit of lying, but I pushed that away. My problems could wait.

“I lost Barley,” Amaranth said, when I pressed her on what was bothering her. “I don’t know if I could stand to lose Steff.”

“Steff’s a big girl,” I said. “She’s a sophomore, remember? She probably went through way more drama than we did her first year, and she still came back for more. She’s not going to leave over a little tiff like at breakfast.”

Amaranth giggled, and I had to ask what was so funny.

“You,” she said with a smile. She reached out and touched my face. “Reassuring me. Comforting me. Supporting me.”

I blushed.

“With the strength I got from you,” I said.

She shook her head.

“The strength I found in you,” she said. It was my turn to shake my head, but she didn’t appear to notice. “Anyway, I didn’t mean about the thing with Delia Daella.”

“What, then?” I asked.

“Things have been going so well lately…”

I laughed. Snorted, really.

“I guess now it’s my turn to ask what’s funny,” she said, looking puzzled and maybe a little hurt.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and I meant it, though I was still laughing. “It’s just… when I look back on this past week, I don’t know if ‘going so well’ would be the phrase I’d use for most of it.”

“Well, yeah,” Amaranth conceded. “But… look at the last few days. Everything turned out okay, didn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Better than okay… wonderful, even, and… all’s well that ends well… right?”

“Except, it’s not the end… there’s still the whole school year ahead of us, and more beyond that. A lot could still happen. We could get into a fight again,” she said, wringing her hands. “Or… hypothetically… one of us could find out something about another one of us that makes us look at her… differently… hypothetically.”

She turned her head to the side, looking at me out of the corner of her eye, and I knew there was absolutely nothing hypothetical about this fear.

“If this is about your clothes thing…” I said.

Some people spend years learning how to call down a lightning strike out of a clear blue sky, but I had just stumbled across the magic words to do so by purest accident.

“Don’t you dare bring that up again!” Amaranth thundered, talking somewhere between Steff-speed and Mariel-speed. “That was a one-time thing and you weren’t supposed to see it and I don’t even have that robe any more, so don’t even go there. I’m serious, if you even breathe the tiniest hint of that to anybody, I’ll take away all your clothes, and your speaking privileges for a month.”

“Okay!” I said, shocked once again by the vehemence of her reaction to such a trivial thing. “Sorry! But, if you’re not worried about… I mean, since you’ve got nothing to worry about there, then…”

“Twoey, listen to me,” Amaranth said, heedless of me. “I do not wear clothes. I never wear clothes. If anybody asks you if you’ve heard anything about me trying on any clothing, you tell them that you know for a fact I don’t and they should feel ashamed for suggesting it, okay?”

“Okay,” Two said. I thought I detected a slight eye roll after she parsed and acknowledged the command, rather than before, but I could have been imagining it.

“Anyway,” Amaranth said, taking a deep and pronounced breath before she continued. “I don’t necessarily mean me. I mean, what if you found out something about… somebody else, in our group?”

“Well, I don’t think Two has any secrets,” I said. “Two, are you secretly two shirelings standing on each other’s shoulders, or something?”

“No,” Two said solemnly. “I’m not. I’m also not one shireling standing on another’s shoulders, which is somewhat more physically possible.”

“See?” I said. “And Steff… Amaranth, I don’t know anybody as open and free about themselves as Steff is. That’s probably the thing I like most about her. Okay, it took a little getting used to at first… and sometimes it still does… but she doesn’t feel the need to hide anything about herself, from anybody.”

“I guess… you’re right,” Amaranth said, though she’d grown pale as I spoke. That was just how hard I sucked at reassuring, apparently. “It’s just…”

“Just what?” I asked, now starting to become a little worried.

“Ooh… at first, I didn’t want to tell you because I thought it was adorable that you didn’t know,” Amaranth said, her voice shaking as she said it, as though she were divesting herself of some deep, dark secret that was tormenting her soul. Considering that she could speak quite cheerily and matter-of-factly about her plans to convince her sacred mother it was okay for her to fuck animals, this was kind of disconcerting. “But I thought you’d figure it out… and then you didn’t… and then I was just keeping the joke going… but now I worry that it’s gone on too long… and when you find out…”

I remembered then that there had been something about Steff, which Amaranth had found amusing. She’d acted like it should be obvious, but I’d been totally clueless. Of course, I’d also been a lot more naive and inexperienced… four days ago. Now that I looked back on things… the way Steff acted around me, the things she said, and of course, everything that had gone on over the weekend, it seemed obvious.

“Find out what? That Steff likes me?” I said. “I mean that she… not to go all middle school… likes me-likes me?”

This had been growing increasingly obvious the more that we’d been hanging out together. I would have said that she loved me, but that was out in the open… and I couldn’t say that she was in love with me, because as far as I knew she was in love with Viktor.

But, it all fit…

Except for the part where Amaranth was worried. Okay, so I’d displayed a considerable tendency to freak out over things the others considered trivial, and the whole “polyamory” thing was a little bit outside my experience… but not really any more so than being in love with a woman, or having sexual contact with her underneath a tree, or being spanked, or writing up detailed lists of the boundaries of my kinks…

Really, if I was able to handle all of that with one person, how much worse could two people be?

“Well, she does,” Amaranth said. “But…”

She stopped, biting her lip again. It would have been an incredibly cute expression, if the circumstances weren’t so worrisome.

I almost asked her if she was jealous, but after her reaction to the clothes comment, I decided not to risk it. Amaranth had some pretty strong ideas on what a nymph did or did not do… or in her mind, could and could not do.

“But what?” I prompted. Safer to let her explain, I figured.

“Maybe you should take it slow with Steff,” she said, and the words sounded as unnatural in her mouth as the smile on her face looked. “You know? A little spanking, maybe some more of that verbal play she does… there’s no reason to go any further than that, don’t you think?”

Yep. Jealousy.

Well, that didn’t seem to be much of a problem, actually. I’d set some pretty distinct limits in my black list. Because of Amaranth’s nymphly nature, I could feel comfortable going further with her than I would with another person… even–or perhaps especially–another person I cared for as much as Steff. A nymph’s body was inherently clean. Any feeling of dirtiness I got from touching her was purely in my own head, and I didn’t have to worry about my own cursed body contaminating her.

I liked Steff. I even loved her. Because of that, I couldn’t risk tainting her. So, I had absolutely no problem reassuring Amaranth.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll take it slow with Steff.”

“Thank you,” Amaranth said, and a weight visibly lifted from her body.

I hated to say it, but it was nice to see that love could make her awkward and stupid-crazy about stuff sometimes, too.

Though, I had to wonder how Steff would take it if she picked up on any of this… she hadn’t objected to Amaranth being given more liberties on my list than she was… she hadn’t even seemed surprised. Before that, she’d affirmed that Amaranth was my “true owner”. She seemed completely at ease with the whole arrangement. Would she feel slighted or neglected if it seemed like Amaranth or I was emphasizing her… well, I don’t think “inferiority” would be the right word, but it seemed like it might feel that way to her.

Though, as I thought about that, it occured to me that there was something I could do with Steff… for Steff… that might more than make up for any lack in the physical side of our relationship. I thought it also might trigger Amaranth’s jealousy… but then again, it might not. She did place sex on a pedestal above all other things.

All I could do was ask.

“Um, Amaranth,” I said. “Would it be okay for me to… date Steff?”

She looked at me, bewildered.

“Honey, we’ve been over this,” she said. “I mean, what have we just been talking about?”

“Sex,” I said. “Or at least, sexual stuff. I’m talking about dating, going out. Like me and Ian… did the other night.”

“Oh!” Amaranth said. “I suppose that might be fun… and it’s certainly a cute image… but…”

The corner of her lip curled up. There it was… jealousy.

“Amaranth,” I said. “I love you. I belong to you. No matter what happens with Steff, you’ll be my owner.”

“It isn’t that!” she said quickly. “It really isn’t… I think it’s a wonderful idea. Just, she’ll probably need Viktor’s permission first.”

“To go on a date?” I asked. “She has sex with other people.”

“That’s their understanding with each other,” Amaranth said. “Dating implies a higher level of intimacy.”

Bizarre as it sounds, that made perfect sense to me, so I nodded.

“Okay,” I said. “But… could you maybe… broker that, or whatever, with him? As my owner to her master, or whatever he is to her? That way, I can just… ask her out, without any baggage hanging over it.”

“If that’s what you want, sweetie,” she said, kissing me on the forehead. “Though I don’t think Steff considers it ‘baggage.'”

I didn’t argue. I honestly couldn’t have argued, since I didn’t know. Anyway, I was pleased with myself… I’d found a way to do something special for Steff that would assuage any feelings of jealousy on anybody’s part, and in a way that honored Amaranth’s ownership of me and the growing bond I felt with Steff.

I wasn’t completely out of my depths, apparently.

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4 Responses to “72: Twinges”

  1. pedestrian says:

    People often talk a lot at one another, without ever communicating.

    Current score: 6
  2. MackSffrs says:

    She is completely out of her depth.

    Current score: 5
  3. Downside says:

    I’m really amazed that she hasn’t figured it out from all of the pronoun comments, especially, “This language doesn’t have enough pronouns.”

    Current score: 5
  4. Daniel says:

    The concept is completely foreign to her; she has never heard of what she’d interpret as a boy thinking he’s a girl. Amaranth should have said it; then the freakout could happen in somewhat-predictable circumstances instead of at random. I can only think of one way to find out, other than being told, that would not appear to be caused by Murphy’s Law timing.

    Current score: 2