We played that game for hours, until the batteries on our tablets died. That snapped us back to reality, and the day had aged well into the afternoon. We were all starving, so we let our tablets sit on their chargers while we went to the dining hall for lunch.
After eating, we came back to the dorm and each went to our separate rooms. This was the day before school started, so I lay belly-down in bed with my tablet and skimmed through the study materials on the school’s network. It was standard stuff. History, math, science, lots and lots of English, and studies on a few other languages. Maybe I should take French for my elective this year. Lorelei could help me study, and we could have secret conversations.
“Mmmph.” I pressed my face into the pillow. I tried not to think about her, but I couldn’t help myself.
Lorelei. That girl had unhealthy power over my thoughts. Long black hair. Intelligent dark eyes. Pretty face, long legs, cool attitude at first but kindness soon after. Everything about her made my insides feel sweet and sour.
I closed my eyes, remembering when she hugged me this morning. Her arms around me, the weight and warmth of her body, the smell of her hair....
“Mmmph!” I squealed into the pillow, beating my feet on the bed. I wanted to see her again, but we had just eaten lunch with Cheryl and Bianca, no more than an hour ago.
“Yeah,” I said, pulling my face up from the pillow. “I’m not going to be all needy. Focus. Be professional. Let’s read some more school stuff.”
That kept me going for another fifteen minutes, then I was making noises and beating on my bed again.
“This is embarrassing.” I hopped up from the bed, started pacing back and forth across the room. “I’m not a grade schooler anymore. Stuff doesn’t upset me like this.”
So I told myself, but this wasn’t a grade school problem. Girls in grade school worry about hair clips and school assignments, about playground politics and what’s for dessert with the school lunch today. Never before had I obsessed over a girl because she was pretty, soft and smelled good.
I want to hug her. I want to kiss her.
Letting out a frustrated grunt, I plopped down on the side of the bed, my head hanging.
“This is stupid. I should just go knock on her door. If she doesn’t want me there, then fine.”
What a masterful plan. With renewed purpose, I stood up, strode to the door and pulled it open.
There stood Lorelei, her fist raised as if about to knock. She stared at me, shocked.
“Oh,” I said, stopping myself from walking into her. “You, uh.”
Lorelei lowered her hand. For the first time, she didn’t look cold and collected. Her face was pained, she was breathing heavily and her hair was a bit messy. She had been stressing out too.
“Can we talk?” she said.
“Yeah. Of course.” I stepped aside. “Come in.”
I felt guilty having Lorelei in my room, after the dirty things I had been thinking about her. To hide my shame from the world, I pulled the window blinds shut and locked the door.
“So we can have some privacy,” is what I told her, but she didn’t care. It was late afternoon, but covering the window darkened the room like it was nighttime.
Lorelei sat on the side of the bed, wringing her hands in her lap. I sat beside her, keeping a bit of space between us.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” I said.
She didn’t answer at once, just sat staring at her hands in her lap. Her breathing was slow and deliberate, as if trying to keep herself calm. I wondered if her heart was beating as hard as mine.
“You said earlier,” she said, her voice low and soft. “Been on my mind.”
“Uh oh,” I said. “What did I do wrong?”
“Not wrong.” She clamped her eyes shut tight. “You said you liked me.”
“Oh. Yeah, I did. I meant it.”
Lorelei reached out and grabbed my right hand, grasping it in both her own. She stared into me with those dark eyes of hers, earnest and intense.
“Mean it how?”
I leaned back from her. “I, uh. I don’t know.”
“Friend?” she said. “Or... more?”
I wanted to say, Oh god, more. A lot more. But is that the answer you want?
She wouldn’t give me the advantage of knowing what she wanted to hear. I had to be brave, say what I felt and face the consequences.
“More,” I said. “But if you don’t feel the same way about me, that’s fine. We can just be friends, and I won’t let it get weird—”
Lorelei then did something that quieted me, and surprised me so badly that I felt lightheaded. She pulled my hand up to her mouth, and kissed it. Her lips were soft, moist and warm, pressing on my middle and ring fingers. The feel of it stole my breath. Otherwise I would have been screaming myself hoarse, rolling around on the floor and yanking my hair out.
She just she just she just kissed my hand oh my god.
Lorelei looked up. “More, like that?”
I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. If I didn’t get control of myself, I would pass out before we got any further. Lorelei put my hand down between us, but didn’t let go.
“Girlfriends?” she said.
“I’d like that a lot,” I said, trying to catch my breath.
“You don’t know me well.”
I gave a weak shrug. “I want to try. I know it might not work out. But for you, I really, really want to try.”
“You should see.” She let go of my hand and sat up straight. “You might not want me, but I’ll understand.”
“What?” I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me not want her. What would even make her think that? Maybe she had some deformity usually hidden by her clothes, a birth defect or a big cancerous growth or something. I wouldn’t let it bother me. No matter what she showed me, I would try my hardest to be with her.
Lorelei stood up and faced me, but put a hand on my shoulder to keep me sitting. Starting at her neck, she began unbuttoning her blouse.
“Whoa, wait.” I held a hand over my eyes. “I’m not ready to get naked yet.”
I peeked out between my fingers, and saw she had turned her back to me. She kept unbuttoning her blouse, then shrugged it off and dropped it on the floor. She pulled her hair over her shoulder, so her bare back was exposed to me, covered with nothing but her bra strap.
“Oh my god,” I said, and I felt no disgust at what Lorelei showed me. I felt only pity, overwhelming sympathy. Her back was crisscrossed with scars. Some were long, others short. Some were deep, others just welts. All of them were old, gnarled and ugly, marring her beautiful skin.
I reached out a hand in awe, but didn’t quite touch her back. I didn’t want to hurt her.
“What... what happened to you?” I said.
“Father,” she said, her voice thick. She sniffled. “In prison now.”
My eyes welled up. Tears went rolling down my cheeks. “I am so sorry. I can’t even imagine why someone would....” I wiped a hand over my face. “Do they hurt if they’re touched?”
“No.” She sniffled again.
“Good. Because you were wrong.” I reached my arms around her hips and locked her into a hug, bringing her scarred back to my face.
“What?” she said.
I put my lips to her back, trying to be as gentle and sweet as she had been, and kissed one of those scars. She gasped with the feel of it. Her body tensed in my arms, but I didn’t let go. I put my lips to a different spot and kissed another scar, and kept going. Slowly, one at a time, I kissed each of them, from her shoulders to the small of her back. My mouth made a soft smick sound each time. The rough, rubbery flesh of those scars felt nasty on my lips, but I didn’t care. She had shown me something real, that even the perfect Lorelei suffered from the grim pains of life. I tried to repay her by soothing those pains, giving some tenderness where there had been agony.
We were both crying by the time I was done. I hugged her and rested my head against her back, feeling her breathe, feeling her heartbeat.
“Lorelei,” I said. “I love you.”
That did her in. She was already trembling and weeping freely, and now her legs became weak. She fell to her knees, hitting the floor with a thump. I couldn’t keep my hold around her hips without supporting her weight, so I let her go. I slid off the bed myself, kneeling on the floor beside her and hugged her again. Her head rest against my shoulder as she cried quietly, tears dripping off her face, wetting my arms and making dark spots on her skirt.
I understood now why Lorelei spoke so little. She had been abused as a little girl, likely beaten by her father at the slightest provocation. She could only cope by keeping quiet, avoiding notice, hoping the big boogeyman would leave before he hurt her.
I kissed Lorelei on the temple, ran my fingers through her hair. I wanted to make the pains of her past go away, show her so much love that it erased all her hurts. But I knew that healing her was beyond my power, and knowing that broke my heart. Every little girl loves her father, and it was a tragedy for that love to be betrayed by an abusive monster who whips scars into his daughter’s back. I couldn’t overcome that trauma with a hug and a kiss. Lorelei would need years, maybe an entire lifetime, to recover.
Maybe I could do no more than offer comfort, but I would at least do that much. I would do it with such passion and zeal that Lorelei knew someone cared about her.
We sat on the floor long while, until our tears dried. I knew this wouldn’t be the first or last time Lorelei would cry about this, but the edge of her pain was dulled for now. I leaned my forehead against hers.
“I can guess what you went through,” I whispered. “Though I can’t imagine how bad it hurt you.”
She said nothing, just sniffled as I held her.
“But I want you to know,” I said, “even though you couldn’t say much around your dad, you’re away from him now. You’re in a private school dorm, and there’s a girl who’s stupidly in love just next door. I want you to talk to me, anything at any time.”
She was silent, just nodded her head against me. That was disappointing. I wanted her to talk, but it would take time.
After holding her for a few more minutes, she whispered something and wiggled out of my arms.
“Hold on,” she said. “Tissues.”
“Oh,” I let her go, giving a nervous laugh. “Yeah, go ahead.”
She stood up and padded off to the bathroom, then returned with a box of facial tissue. She sat down beside me, and we both wiped our faces and blew our noses. We threw the tissues away in the wastebasket by the writing desk.
It goes to show how perverted I am. As she walked to the bathroom and came back, I couldn’t help gawking at the pretty girl wearing only a bra from the waist up. Her slim arms, smooth shoulders and bare belly. I loved looking at her back, since it represented a secret she shared with me.
Once we were done with the tissues, I was worried Lorelei might put her blouse back on. I wanted to punch myself for thinking that, but the worry was unfounded. She sat on her knees, leaning toward me, and made no move to reach for her shirt. She put one hand on my shoulder, the other on the back of my neck, and brought her face close to mine.
“Maggie,” she said. “I love you too.”
She kissed me. It happened so fast that her mouth was on mine before I realized it. She used no tongue, instead just used her lips to open mine, applying gentle pressure. The kiss only lasted for a second or two. Then our foreheads were together, and we were staring into each other’s eyes. The sound of my own pounding heart boomed in my ears.
“That was my first kiss,” I said.
“Mine too,” said Lorelei. “Again?”
She kissed me again, and we both went at it. We didn’t know what we were doing, so it was awkward and fumbling. Our tongues missed each other and our teeth clicked, but we didn’t care. Our love was the important thing. My arms went around her back, and I savored the feel of her scars. She had both her hands near my head, keeping my face in place so she could kiss me. I fell back on the floor with her on top of me. My thighs were clamped on her hips, and her bra pressed into the fabric of my shirt.
“Mmph!” I moaned against her face, then put my hands on her shoulders and pushed her back. “Wait! Wait. This is going a bit fast.”
Lorelei stopped, but didn’t let me go. Her face was right in mine. I could see her bright red cheeks and feel her breath.
“Should we stop?” she said.
“No, but, uh....” I tried to think about anything but her eyes, so deep and pretty. “We, uh. School starts tomorrow.”
She looked at me as if to say, Yeah, so?
“If this goes where I think it’s going,” I went on, “we’ll be pretty tired for our first day of class.”
She stroked her thumb on my temple. “Where would it go?”
Oh god. It wasn’t fair to ask me that.
“I don’t know,” I said. “As far as you wanted it to, I guess.”
Lorelei moved her arms down, hugging around my back and shoulders. She let her body relax on mine, rested her head on the crook of my neck.
She held me and said, “I want this.”
This was too much. My head spun and my senses buzzed. It would be smartest to send Lorelei away, tell her we should spend the night apart, but I couldn’t do it. I liked the feel of her holding me too much. I wanted her never to let go.
“Maybe you should spend the night in my room,” I said.
Lorelei nodded, and her hair brushed against my face.
Some things are more important than being well-rested on your first day of school.
After seeing the scars on Lorelei’s back, after crying with her, it would be too cruel to kick her out. More than that, I needed her. The human race was dying around us, and our whole lives would be wasted if Homewrecker’s wasn’t cured. Knowing that, I had to cling to whatever affection I could get.
I let Lorelei go so we could both get into our pajamas. She went back to her room, giving me just enough time to change before she returned, wearing her own PJs and holding a pillow to her chest. As she put her pillow on the bed, I stepped up behind and clawed my fingers down her hair.
“You have such pretty hair,” I said. “Can I comb it for you?”
She looked back, and her expression nearly melted me. She smiled, grateful, warm and happy. Though she said nothing, the look on her face was all the answer I needed. She sat on the side of the bed, and I grabbed a comb from the bathroom. I climbed onto the bed and sat behind her, and began working through her hair. I grinned like a giddy fool. Never before had I been so happy.
We spent the evening that way. I combed her hair, then she combed mine. We spent some time reading together, then simply held each other while whispering back and forth.
Sleep came over us. Arms around each other, legs tangled together, we drifted off in the contentment of our new love.
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