In Which Menstruation Is Referred To, Obliquely
“Well, I don’t got anything planned today,” Celia said in response to Amaranth’s suggestion. “Why not?”
“Let’s Mack and I take a walk,” the nymph clarified, putting her glasses back on and standing up.
I rose, too, but said, “I think I just want to go back to my room.”
I started to leave, but she reached out and grabbed my wrist. I stopped in my tracks, giving her a cold look.
“Are you going to start slapping me around, too?” I asked. It sounded snippy, and she didn’t deserve it, especially since there was no way in hell she could know what I was talking about.
“I just want to talk,” she said. “About a lot of things… but we can start with who’s hitting you already.”
“Bet it’s that big ogre warrior,” Celia said. “I heard her talking in the showers about you… she’s either got the hots for you, or she wants to kill you. I’m not sure.”
“I don’t even know Belinda, okay?” I said. “Anyway, it’s really not worth getting into…”
“If somebody’s hurting you, we are getting into it,” Amaranth said. She held my hand a little tighter.
“I’m not somebody that can be harmed just by a couple of slaps,” I reminded her.
“You might not be injured but you can still be hurt by them,” Amaranth said.
“Well, maybe I’m not such a big pussy that I can’t handle a little pain,” I said angrily.
“No, see, you totally are,” Celia said. “Why else would you be rolling over for somebody whose head you could probably just rip off the…”
Amaranth hissed at Celia. I mean, she actually hissed. Celia jumped, and blinked thin filmy membranes over her eyes for a second before turning and stomping off, muttering something about “taking that tone with me.”
“Come,” Amaranth said imperiously, pulling me by the wrist towards the side doors, out and across the patio seating area, and through the grounds. She ignored my protests and my half-formed questions. If I’d pulled hard, I could have jerked my wrist away from her. She wasn’t that strong. But it was another case where it was easier to go along with her than do anything else. She was my friend.
She pretty much dragged me all the way back to where we’d had our conversation the previous day, by the big tree. When she finally stopped there and let go of me, I saw an unfamiliar, strangely resolute look on her face. It scared me a little bit.
“Let me guess,” I said. “This is the part where you’re going to tell me who’s in charge in our relationship, isn’t it?”
“Oh, you just bet your bitable little butt it is,” she said fiercely. She put her hands on my shoulders and gave me a hard shove backwards. When you’re a skinny little shrimp, it doesn’t matter how much strength you’ve got in your arms and legs… if somebody pushes you, you are going to move.
I ended up sprawling on my back on the grass.
Amaranth stood over me.
So far, I’d had her chest in front of my face an awful lot… mostly because I’m shorter than her and I don’t always like making eye contact… and honestly, a nymph’s breasts are pretty big, and surprisingly well-supported considering there’s nothing holding them up… but from my vantage point on the ground, it was something else entirely that had my attention.
Up until that point in my life, it had never really occurred to me to look at another girl’s cooch before. Shocking, huh? I’m sure, at some point in the dusty past, when I was too young to care, I must have seen another girl naked… and of course, I’d showered with other girls in high school, but I’d kept my eyes resolutely to myself. I’d already been the school freak. I hadn’t needed to give anybody another reason to fear me.
And, of course, I had gazed images of guys on the ethernet, because I was curious about what they looked like… but, I mean, if I ever forgot what a girl’s no-no bits looked like, I could just take off my pants and sit down.
Although, to be honest, I’d never spent a lot of time looking at or thinking about what I had down there.
I mean… it’s dirty and gross.
That’s what I’d always been taught, and I really saw no evidence to the contrary. So maybe, like the nymphs, I had one less nasty thing my body had to do… as a natural consequence of not really eating or drinking… but I couldn’t look at that as a good thing, as it was just one more reminder of my freakish heritage. Plus, there was still plenty of other grossness to be considered, like the other thing I did once a month, besides feeding.
Yeah. That one.
I got no free pass in that area.
That’s why I never really understood girls masturbating… or honestly believed that it happened, outside of maybe a few command performances for a male audience. What kind of pleasure would be worth getting your hands that dirty? It wasn’t the kind of dirt that you could see, of course, but I was sure that I would feel it all the same, no matter how much I washed…
Did I mention my grandmother had a lot to say on the subject?
Anyway, there was nothing gross or dirty about Amaranth… just a couple neat folds in a mound of flesh, between a statue-perfect pair of thighs. Above it, a tiny patch of amber hair, neat and trim. It was the only body hair she had, anywhere. Did nymphs shave? I wondered. It seemed odd that they wouldn’t go “natural”, but… I couldn’t picture a hairy nymph. I wouldn’t want to.
I stared, okay? I just flat out stared. You would, too. She was an ideal given form. I don’t care how straight you are… or gay, if you’re a guy… you would have stared, too.
You might have even wanted to reach up and touch it, a little.
I realized that Amaranth was talking and I wasn’t hearing a word of it, about the same time she did. I turned my gaze up at her face… which was positively livid… just as she yelled, “You aren’t even listening!”
…and sat down, straddling my chest.
“You are in charge of you!” she said, pointing her finger in my face… her fingernail uncomfortably close to my eye. “Nobody else! Just you!”
“Okay, okay!” I shouted, though honestly, I was trying to remember what we’d even been talking about before she’d shoved me to the ground.
“I don’t care if you like being told what to do sometimes,” she continued. “I think it’s cute… but you will not use it as an excuse to shut down and hide inside yourself!”
“I don’t…” I started to protest… wondering where she got the idea that I liked being told what to do… but she was still on a tear.
“I like you, Mack, I like you a lot, and I want to help you,” she said, sounding a lot angrier than I think most people do when they tell somebody they like them, “and if I have to slap you around, and beat you down to do it… if that’s what it takes to get through to you…”
I braced for it… whatever it was. Emotionally or physically, she was about to let me have it. I probably deserved it, too. What had I been staring at her for?
“…then… then you’re on your own,” she said, sadly. She leaned forward, putting her hands on the ground above my shoulders to push herself up. I tried to turn my head to the side, but that just made my lips brush against one of her breasts.
Not a lesbian, I thought. I’ve got have at least one normal thing about me. Please. One normal thing. That’s not asking so much. My eyes were tearing up. I don’t know who exactly I was praying to, if that’s what I was doing.
She stood up, and turned so that she wasn’t hanging over me… which also made her face away from me. I kind of crab-walked back into a sitting position. Maybe it was just the angle, but I’d never really realized that you could still see a woman’s pussy from behind, when she stands with her legs slightly spread. That seemed weird to me. The things that go through your head when you’re ogling your friend’s genitalia.
Yeah, I was still staring.
“I won’t make you talk about who hit you,” she said. She was hugging herself, as though she were cold. It was a bright morning in what still felt more like summer than fall, but she was shivering. “Or why you’re so convinced that you’re evil, or anything else that you don’t want to talk about… though I will ask you to think about talking about these things. I don’t think they’ll bother you as much as they do now, if you can get them out of your head… but it’s your decision to make. I won’t force you to do anything, Mack… even things I know you want.”
If she knew what I wanted, she was one up on me.
She turned suddenly, and the fierce look was back on her face.
“But if somebody hits you again… if anybody hurts you, physically… you will tell me,” she said. “Me or Puddy. You’ve got friends, Mack. You need to trust us.”
“I do,” I said, getting to my feet and brushing grass off the back of my jeans. The mention of Puddy had thrown me enough for me to tear my gaze off… well, anyway. I was coming back to my senses.
She’s a nymph, I reminded myself. It’s probably some kind of magic.
“I’m serious,” she said. “Promise me that if anybody is hitting you, you will tell me or Puddy.”
My insides twisted into a knot. Even if I was any good at lying, I wouldn’t want to lie to her… but… the idea of telling her about Puddy felt like betraying a confidence. I was fairly sure it was over, but if I was guessing wrong and Puddy had another drunken outburst, I’d be obligated to tell… and that wouldn’t really be fair.
Amaranth stared at me, implacably.
“If anybody hits me, you or Puddy will know about it,” I said finally. This, I could live with. If anybody else gave me any problems, I could tell both of them about it… but it’d still be technically true if Puddy had a relapse. “I promise.”
“Well… okay,” Amaranth said. For a moment, I thought she was going to say something else. I guess my seeming agreement had taken her off guard. Great. Now I felt like a liar again. “That’s fine, then.”
“Can we talk about something else?” I asked.
“Yeah, okay,” she said. “Like what? Um… how about, what classes are you taking this semester?”
“I kind of had something specific in mind,” I said. “It’s about Sooni.”
“Oh, that eastern girl with the fox ears?” Amaranth said. “I like her clothes… and her fox ears are just adorable, with all that hair braided up in buns between them. Oh, and her accent…”
“Yeah, she’s a treasure,” I said. “But, do you remember at the meeting on Friday, how when it was the nekoyokais’ turn, she kind of… spoke for them?”
“She sort of introduced them, if that’s what you mean,” Amaranth said uncertainly.
“I don’t think that’s how she saw it,” I said. “Friday night, she kicked one–Kai–out of her room and made her sleep with the other two. Then, yesterday, she got angry with Kai and chased her out of her room again, only this time she was hitting and clawing at her, and Kai’s hands were all bandaged… and then she and other nekos took her into their room and…” I faltered. I’d been wanting to tell somebody about this, but now that I came to the point, I wasn’t sure I could.
“…and?” Amaranth prompted gently.
“I think they were beating her,” I said quietly. “Over, and over again…”
“Oh,” Amaranth said.
“That’s it?” I asked. “‘Oh?’”
“Um… please don’t take this the wrong way?” Amaranth said.
“You’re… well, you’re a little sheltered,” she said.
“You mean, you think it’s something like your pain fetish,” I said.
“Yes, or like yours for being dominated,” she said. I didn’t bother to argue. There was something more important going on.
“She treats her like property!” I said. I told her of the conversation with Kiersta, in which Sooni had almost called Kai “her neko” instead of her friend, and of what I’d witnessed this morning, including Sooni’s boast about how much Kai’s family had been paid for her.
“Well, there are laws about slavery,” Amaranth said carefully. “I’m sure Sooni’s country has its own customs there, too. It’s possible that she’s not doing anything illegal.”
“That doesn’t make it right!” I said. My fervor seemed to take her aback.
“I know that, Mack,” she said. “And I’m not saying that it is right… but there are moral rights, and there are legal rights, and being morally right won’t protect you if you interfere with somebody else’s legal rights.”
“You don’t think we need to do anything about Kai?” I asked.
“I think we need to look into it, carefully,” she said. “You don’t want to make things worse for her.” She looked at me thoughtfully. “Sooni’s not the one… she didn’t hit you?”
“No,” I said. “She called me some names and said I should drop out. She told me Kai would be safer if I left and gave her my room… which, honestly, is probably true. If I had any place else to go, I’d probably consider it.”
“Oh, don’t say that!” Amaranth said. “It’s okay to have a hero complex, but not if you sacrifice yourself over it.”
“Hero complex?” I said, staring at her in disbelief. “What do you mean? I don’t have a hero complex.”
“You’ve been here two days… you have two helpless victims on your to-save list,” she said. Her voice was lightly teasing. “What’s it going to be Monday? Rescuing an elven princess?”
“I told you, I don’t like seeing people..”
“I know!” Amaranth said. “And honestly, Mack, that’s what I think I love the most about you.”
“You… love everybody,” I mumbled, dazed. Why was I dazed? I was too dazed to really think why.
“I love everybody… and… I love you,” she said.
It was like the world moved, but she stayed still… and then our faces were inches apart… and then we were… we were… then, one of us was kissing the other.
I had a lot of reasons to feel the shiver of excitement that ran up my body, from my toes to my head and then not quite all the way back down.
It didn’t mean anything.
It was my first kiss. and it was with a semi-divine anthropomorphic ideal of sex. You’d have felt something, too, I promise. It was just a kiss.
Just a kiss!
Then, one of my hands was on one of her breasts, which was being squeezed between us, and the other… the other was on her thigh. Between her thighs. We were still kissing. Her arms behind me, one pulling my head in… one on my ass, almost lifting me off the ground. Swept off my feet, I thought. She turned us around so that my back hit the tree trunk, and pressed herself against me. I hit my head. I could feel the bark through the back of my shirt, and against the seat of my jeans.
My mind staggered.
My mind reeled.
My mind may have giggled just a tiny little bit.
Trying new things… that’s what college is.
It’s normal to try new things.