92: Inviting

on November 5, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Mackenzie Agrees To Anything

We stared at the poster. Steff bumped into us from behind, started to say something, and then noticed what we were staring at.

“They spelled your name wrong,” Two said, sounding seriously affronted by this. “That isn’t how your name is spelled.”

“What garbage,” Steff said, ripping it off the door.

Celia was standing in the doorway of her room as we came into the hallway.

“Did you see this shit?” she asked. She was holding up another poster, which bore the same picture with the legend “DO NOT WANT!” in big, block letters beneath it. I supposed that answered the question of who was responsible… if that had ever been a question. Only Suzi the linguistically-challenged nekoyokai could have come up with something like that, which meant the posters were the handiwork of Sooni and her cat girl posse.

“Yeah,” I said.

“They got you confused with me,” the hairless, snake-eyed girl said, pointing to the forked tongue protruding from between the fangs. “See what happens when you don’t go to the floor meetings? Fuck! Because I spoke for you, they’ve got us mixed up.”

“I… I really don’t think that’s the problem,” I said, trying not to laugh at the volatile nagakin’s obvious distress.

“Maybe it isn’t a problem for you,” Celia said. “You just got a makeover. But what about me?”

“No, I mean, I don’t think that’s why they gave me fangs and a forked tongue,” I said.

“It’s just another way of demonizing Mack,” Steff explained. “Like the horns and flames.”

“She’s already a demon,” Celia protested. “I’m the one being demonized. She’s being nagakinized. Clearly, she’s getting the better end of the deal.”

“They can’t just put these up,” I said, remembering how the senior R.A. had tried to interfere with us putting up posters for bingo night in Harlowe. “They’ve got to be approved by somebody.” I took the flyer from Celia. “Who signed off on these?”

Steff pointed to the tiny signature in the corner. It was nearly illegible, but began with a loopy, overly-stylized “H”.

“Halverson,” we said together.

“Looks like our wonderful dean of non-human students remembers you,” Steff said.

“Or she really doesn’t care what we get up to here in Harlowe,” I said. “As long as we aren’t going around troubling the nor… the fully human students.”

I jumped about a mile when the door behind me opened suddenly. I spun around and found myself face to face with Mariel, the sylph. She started at the sight of me, but said nothing, hurrying towards the bathroom. The look on her face was beyond haggard… it was downright haunted. How could somebody go from the admittedly annoyingly bubbly personality she’d originally shown to this, in under two weeks?

“So, we’re still pretending nothing’s happening there,” Celia said darkly, once the bathroom door had closed behind Mariel. “I mean, just so I’m clear.”

I said nothing. Puddy hadn’t intruded on my life since Saturday morning, and now that she’d semi-officially moved in with Mariel, it seemed like I could be free of her. But, was “free” really the right term? She’d been my friend… maybe she still was. I didn’t know. I honestly didn’t know which I’d prefer… to have her out of my life completely, or in it, but… with more clearly defined boundaries.

For that matter, I didn’t even know for sure that Mariel wasn’t happy with Puddy.

Not really for sure.

I mean, not one hundred percent.

“You can’t help somebody who doesn’t want it,” Steff said. “It just makes things worse.”

“Whatever,” Celia said.

“Um… can we move on, to the lounge?” I asked, suddenly conscious of the fact that we were still standing outside Mariel and Puddy’s room.

“Sure thing, sweetie,” Steff said, with an entirely unnecessary amount of sympathy in her voice. She put her hand on my shoulder, but I pulled away.

She didn’t really know what had gone on between Puddy and me, the first week of school. Nobody did. That was partly because I hadn’t really told anybody all of it… and that was partly because I wasn’t really that sure of it myself.

Puddy had been the first friendly face I’d seen at the university. She’d got overly physical with me… in more ways than one… but she hadn’t really done anything that I hadn’t allowed.

Well, maybe that wasn’t completely true… but I still had a hard time separating out what Puddy had done from what Steff called “play.” What was the difference, really? I enjoyed one but not the other… but it seemed like there had to be more to it than that. Why didn’t I enjoy it when Puddy did things that weren’t really all that different from what I liked to do with Steff and Amaranth?

Supposedly… according to just about everybody else… I was a lesbian. Supposedly, I was a masochist and a submissive… and I couldn’t really argue the submissive part. Supposedly, I was a lot of things… things which suggested to me that I should have enjoyed Puddy’s attention and company a lot more than I did.

It confused the hell out of me, so I tried not to think about it. The encounter with Mariel had been like a slap in the face, though… hard to ignore.

Luckily, there was something else to focus my attention on: me, staring at us from all around the hallway. Sooni and company had plastered copies of the poster with various slogans misspelled to varying degrees all over the place.

“Aren’t there only twenty-four voters on your floor?” Steff asked, shaking her head at the level of overkill.

“Twenty-five,” I said. “Assuming the Leightons get one vote per head instead of per body.”

“Well, you can’t just leave them up all over the place like that,” Celia said. “It’s an insult to both of us. Especially me.”

“It’s probably best if I just ignore them,” I said. “I really don’t think I should be interfering with another candidate’s campaign.”

“So, you won’t have to,” Steff said. “C’mon, Two, hon… what do you say we go on a tear?”

“I… I am unable to do that,” Two said, her lower lip quivering and her body trembling slightly.

“It’s okay,” I told her gently, and she instantly calmed. “It’s against the rules to take down an approved poster, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding.

“I guess I’d probably better not do it, either, then,” Steff said. “In a bigger residence hall, we might be able to claim ignorance of who did it, but with only a couple dozen girls on the floor that’d be a little hard to get away with.”

“Okay, but what the hell are we going to do, then?” Celia asked. “I mean, seriously, Mack… have you done anything about the election at all?”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “I decided to go around and talk to people about it.”

“‘Decided’… ‘talk’,” Celia said derisively. “That’s like the elemental opposite of doing something.”

“Okay, well, the rules can’t just work against us… I mean, look at this thing,” Steff said, taking the paper from me and brandishing it angrily. “There’s got to be a rule against this kind of thing.”

“Amaranth would know,” I said… and then regretted it. We’d left the subject of Amaranth’s omissions behind us for the moment, but Steff stiffened a bit at the name. “Or Two,” I added, turning to her. “Do you know if there’s a rule that would cover this?”

“Yes,” she said. “Postings which defame or slander another student, faculty member, or any intelligent being are prohibited. Public speech which inflames hate against any intelligent race is prohibited. Personal attack ads in student elections are against the student code of conduct.”

“Great,” Celia said. “Well, we’ll just go tell our dean and… oh, wait, no. She already signed off on them.”

“I’m sure we’re worrying over nothing,” Steff said, though she sounded anything but sure. “I mean, look at this thing… it’s ridiculous. Nobody’s going to believe it. Nobody’s going to care.”

“I’m not sure they won’t,” I said. “I’m not the only one on the floor with human blood.”

There were at least three students on the floor who identified themselves as human: the Leighton twins, and Raquel. I wasn’t sure, but I figured Trina and Twyla might, as well. Trina, being a triclops, was half-human. Twyla wasn’t sure what she was, but she appeared to be completely human except for her pair of short, curving horns… just like the ones I had on the picture. I couldn’t guess whether she’d be more likely to vote against Sooni for distributing the picture or me for inspiring it.

Two stopped outside the gnomes’ room and knocked. She had a very small, very precise knock… three quick, quiet taps. Honey opened the door.

“Good evening,” she said. “May I help you?”

“Yes, please,” Two said. “I am looking for my friend Hazel.”

“Miss Hazel is out,” Honey said stiffly.

“Do you know where she is?” Two asked. “I am looking for her. We are supposed to be cooking dinner together.”

“I think she said something about ‘scrounging supplies’,” Honey said. “Frankly, the less I hear about it, the better. Good evening!”

With that, she closed the door with a surprising amount of force.

“That was… interesting,” Steff said. “You okay, hon?” she asked Two, who was very plainly hurt by this reaction.

“I w-would like to have invited her to dinner,” Two said.

“What are you making?” Celia asked.

“Chicken and rice,” Two said. “Would you like to join us?”

Celia made a face.

“I could boil some eggs,” Two offered, a hopeful note in her voice.

“You have eggs?” Celia asked.

“Yes,” Two said.

“Fuck boiling!” Celia said. “I’ll take the fuckers raw. I’ve been trying to talk those assholes in the kitchen into giving me some that way, but they say they can’t.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“You know, that’s another thing,” Celia said. “They keep carting food into Harlowe to try to convince us not to use the cafeteria, but it’s all human food, you know? It’s like they’re trying to pretend it’s for our own good, but they don’t care about our individual needs and interests.”

“That’s actually a good point,” I said.

“Also, why can’t we keep animals in our rooms?” Celia said.

“I wouldn’t mind having a pet,” Steff said. “But I don’t think they’d go for it in a million years… too many hygiene concerns.”

“What pet?” Celia said. “I’m still talking about food. If you guys can have those frigid-izers, I should be able to have rats.”

“I’ll make a point of bringing that up, if I’m elected,” I said neutrally.

Who was I to pass judgment on another person’s eating habits? I needed human blood to survive.

“I… I w… I… wish I knew when my friend Hazel would be back,” Two said, smiling triumphantly as she got the sentence out. “It will take almost an hour for the chicken to cook. I w… was going to do my homework in the lounge while it cooks.”

“Two, why do you have so much homework?” I asked. I’d had hardly any so far, but she seemed to have a lot more.

It struck me that in middle school, the teachers had insisted they had to give loads of homework even during the first week so we’d be ready for high school where there was really a lot of it, and the high school teachers said the same thing but shifted the blame to college teachers… the teachers at college didn’t have anything above them to prepare us for, though, which might be why they were less keen on unnecessary busy work.

“I tried to pick classes that would assign the most,” she said.

“You’re not doing anybody else’s for them, are you?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“That is against the rules,” she said. “Do you think Amaranth will want chicken and rice?”

“I… I don’t think she eats meat,” I said. I couldn’t remember if she’d ever said as much, but it seemed like she and Barley had always stuck to grains and veggies. “She might like some rice, though.” I didn’t add that this was assuming both her physical body and our circle of friendship survived the confrontation which would ensue when she arrived back in the dorms.

“I will ask my friend Dee if she would like to join us but I don’t think she will,” Two said, a certain amount of excitement in her voice despite the pessimism of the statement. “Do you know who I think you should invite?”

“Who?” I asked, somewhat bemused by her behavior… I had never seen Two act like this about anything.

“That boy Ian who you are dating,” she said.

“I don’t know if we’re dating,” I said, though privately I thought that we were. I mean, we’d gone on one date and had another one coming up. That meant we were dating, I figured… but I didn’t necessarily want him coming over to my dorm for dinner with my nearest and dearest. “We might just be friends.”

“If he is your friend then you should invite him,” Two said. “I am inviting all of my friends.”

“You invited me,” Celia said.

“Yes,” Two agreed.

Celia looked like she’d been bitten. I couldn’t tell if it was shock, anger, or happiness. I mean, she looked a little angry, but after knowing her for a week and a half, I wasn’t entirely sure that wasn’t just her face.

“If it’s going to be more than an hour, I’ve got illusions to practice,” Celia said, and headed back to her room without another word.

“I am going to go ask Dee,” Two said. She turned and walked back down the hall, gesturing towards the public pay mirror on the wall next to the vending cupboard. “You go invite Ian.”

“I don’t know…” I said. “I don’t even know what hall he’s in.”

“Oh, that’s what the campus directory is for,” Steff said.


“But, nothing,” Steff said. “Two’s right, you really should. Anyway, I want to meet him… it should be fun.”

“And when Amaranth shows up?” I asked. “Do you want to have it out with her in front of a stranger?”

“Tell him to come over in an hour or so,” Steff said. “She’ll be back long before dinner’s ready… whatever happens between us will be over and done with.”

I really didn’t like the sound of that.

“You’re not going to…” I swallowed, remembering how angry Steff had been. “You’re not going to attack her, are you? Physically?”

“I don’t know,” Steff said. She sighed. “I suppose it depends on how she reacts… I mean, I really can’t promise I won’t slap the shit out of her, but I won’t, I mean… forget what I said before, okay? I was mad. I still am… what she did to us was really stupid… but not like I was before.”

“Steff, I love you,” I said. “I really do… but, I’m in love with her. I meant what I said, about not giving up either of you if I didn’t have to… but… I’d really rather not have to watch you hit her.”

“I’ll try not to,” Steff said. “But… I know myself too well to promise.”

“Well, can you promise not to call her stupid?” I asked. It seemed to me like this would hurt Amaranth far worse than a physical blow… and might also have further-reaching consequences for our mutual relationships.

Steff stiffened.

“I can’t,” she said. “She was stupid, and I need to tell her so… she needs to know.”

“There’s other ways to say it,” I insisted.

“She needs to know she’s not some perfect brilliant brain,” Steff said.

“She’ll know,” I said. “Just… tell her how she made you feel, and how much worse it could have been. She’ll know she fucked up. She’s already afraid that she has.”

“But, don’t you think she deserves to be hurt a little?” Steff asked. “I mean, in a way she won’t enjoy?”

“No!” I said. “Maybe… I don’t know.”

“Well, I do,” Steff said.

“Steff… please,” I begged. “Promise you won’t, and… and I’ll tear up my black list, for you.”

“Are you kidding?” Steff asked.

“No,” I said. “Seriously. Anything goes… anything you want. I won’t… I won’t say my safe word or anything.”

“So… if I wanted to choke you until you passed out and then fuck your unconscious body on a slab in the necro lab?” Steff asked.

“Is that something you’re likely to want to do to me?” I asked, shrinking back away from her.

“Well, not you in particular,” Steff said, with an airy matter-of-factness. “But I don’t think I’m likely to find anybody who’d agree to it… I mean, so far nobody has. So far.”

I took a deep breath. She hadn’t specified where she’d want to fuck me… I had a feeling she meant back rather than front… but I suppose it didn’t really matter as I hated the thought of either one. The one that was less gross was bound to be more painful.

I let out the breath. I could withstand it, I decided. I would put up with a lot worse, to keep Steff in my life, and to keep Amaranth happy.

“Whatever you want,” I said. “Anything you want. Just… don’t call her stupid.”

“Okay,” Steff said. I wondered if it would be absurd to ask her to be gentle. “If it’s that important to you, I won’t say the ‘s-word’… but you keep your list.”

“What?” I asked.

“Keep it,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be a bargaining chip. Anything you put on the gray list, maybe… I mean, if there’s something you think you might want to try but can’t quite bring yourself to do it, a little bargaining or even a gentle threat can do wonders… but you put stuff on the black list for a reason. You don’t have to keep anything on it forever… and I’ll be honest, I really hope you get over the no anal thing really really soon… but you shouldn’t take anything off before you’re ready.”

“You really promise?” I asked.

“I really promise,” Steff said. “As long as you promise not to try a stunt like this again.”

“I promise,” I agreed.

“Though, if, in gratitude, you wanted to… I mean, no,” Steff said, shaking her head. “Never mind.”

I laughed.

“You really do want my ass, don’t you?” I asked. The very strangeness of being wanted was enough to make me momentarily overlook the much less desirable strangeness of the idea of anal sex.

“I want to be first,” she said. “I missed your mouth… I figure popping your chocolate-covered cherry wouldn’t make a bad consolation prize.”


“Gross!” I said, and it was Steff’s turn to laugh.

“Come on,” she said. “If you’re going to ‘flect Ian, we should do it now, before it gets any later.”

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