“Shit,” I whispered to myself as I re-read the comments on my term paper. I was sitting on the steps outside my dorm, smoking. It was late October and the leaves had changed; they burned red and orange against a sky the color of my cigarette ashes. I looked up, but didn’t see them.
Christian, my American Lit. professor, had handed the term paper back to me just an hour before. He’d stood blocking the door at the end of class, waving the big stack of essays in one bony hand as we all crowded in to grab ours and go. “Let me just remind you all that these grades are FINAL,” he’d announced. “No amount of begging, whining, or excuses will help you now.” He’d smiled at me as I took my essay. It made me want to shower.
“SHIT!” I yelled, and whipped the paper across the courtyard. He’d failed me. That prick gave me a 48, the lowest grade I’d ever gotten on anything. Ever. I crushed my cigarette out on the steps and got up, walked over to the bushes my paper had landed in. Thankfully, everybody else was still in class, or out to an early dinner – no one was around to witness my temper tantrum or the tears that followed. I rubbed them away hard with the heels of my hands, rubbed until my cheeks stung.
I grabbed my essay and ran into the dorm, up two flights of stairs and down the hall to my door. I jabbed my key at the lock over and over, my vision blurring with fresh tears. Finally I got inside my room, slammed the door and collapsed on the floor beside my bed, sobbing. That bastard. That dirty fucking bastard.
I don’t know how long I was down there crying before Lottie came back from class. When I heard her key in the lock, I sat up and tried to compose myself. I must not have done a very good job, because the second she saw me she dropped her books and ran over.
“Cara? Sweetie? What’s the matter?” She knelt down beside me and stroked my hair. Lottie was my best friend; we’d been roommates since freshman year. “Are you sick, sweetie?” she asked. I shook my head no, my lips pressed together tight. I couldn’t trust myself to speak without blubbering. Lottie looked down and saw the essay clenched in my hand. She looked back at my face with a raised eyebrow. I nodded and handed it to her. She read the comments silently, eyes getting bigger and bigger until she reached the end.
“Oh my God, Cara. That sucks!” She considered the paper for a few more moments, then gasped. “You could lose your scholarship because of this!” She reached out and hugged me tight. I held her for a moment, letting her warmth soothe me, and then gently pulled back.
“Oh, but that’s not the best part,” I said, trying to stretch my trembling lips into a smile. “Christian has offered me a chance to pull my grade up. He wants to give me extra credit.”
I’d run up to his tiny office as soon as I’d read the grade and comments on my paper. I had nearly gone into a panic reading through the list of my essay’s many failings, but seized on the last few lines: “Given your previous excellent grades in this and your other classes, I wonder if perhaps I may have misread this paper. If you would care to come to my office after class and discuss it, it might be possible for me to see fit to raise your grade.” Maybe there was still hope. Maybe I still had a chance to pass this class.
“Miss Donnelly?” Christian stood up from his desk and offered a hand. “I was hoping you’d come by. Please sit.” I shook his hand and sat in the chair he gestured toward. I was scared but hopeful.
“Thank you, um, Christian.” I was always thrown by how he addressed his students by their last names, especially since he insisted on us using his first. He was only 29, anyway – just 8 years older than me. It all seemed so pompous. “I really appreciate you giving me a chance to explain my paper. I think-“
“Shh.” He held a long finger to his lips. “Just let me get the door. You seem to have left it ajar.” He stood up and strode past me to the door. Christian had a body that made you think in vocabulary terms: “Wraithlike,” “Cadaverous.” I heard the door shut behind me, and then a tiny click. Was that a lock?
“Oh. Sorry. Um, well, like I was saying,” I continued as he walked back to his desk. “I think if I can just answer these questions you’ve writ-“
“Cara,” he said, cutting me off. I think it was the first time I’d ever heard him use my first name. “I don’t want to talk about your silly paper.” Something in his voice had changed. He sounded even more smug than usual, like a bad James Bond villain. He smiled, thin lips stretching back to show his bone colored teeth.
“Oh no,” he said, still smiling. “I want to talk about fucking.”
“Wh-what?” I felt cold sweat break out on the back of my neck.
Christian laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, sweet Cara. I’ve no intention of fucking you myself. I merely wish to watch you fuck someone else.”
My mouth hung open. I stared at him. He stared back.
“I,” I said, and stopped. My God, had he really said that? I was cold all over. My tongue was dry.
“I’ll let you choose the lucky gentleman,” he said. “Or lady, if that’s your preference.”
Jesus, he was serious! “I have to go now,” I said. I stood up and rushed for the door, nearly overturning my chair. I grabbed the knob.
“I’ll fail you if you don’t Cara,” he said. I turned and he was standing behind the desk, his smile gone. “English papers aren’t like math tests – there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, just whatever I decide is right or wrong. And if I decide all your ideas are wrong, you’ll lose your scholarship and be sent back home.”
“You can’t do that,” I said. It came out a mousy little squeak. I cleared my throat and tried again. “I’m going to report you. You’re going to get fired.”
Christian shook his head sadly, as if he sympathized. “No, I won’t.”
“WHAT?!” Lottie yelled. We were out at Pancho’s, a run down taqueria an hour from campus. I hadn’t been able to make myself tell Lottie what Christian had said while she and I were in our room – I kept choking up each time. She decided that this, like most problems in life, was a dilemma best solved by tequila. Hence Pancho’s, home of 50 cent tequila shots after 11pm every weeknight.
“That is BULLSHIT!” she yelled, and the few other people in the restaurant looked over at her. I must have done 5 shots by then, and Lottie even more. I touched her hand and she quieted. A little. “No way, Cara. That’s total bullshit. Of course he’ll get fired!” She shook her head and knocked back another shot. “Look, tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will walk you down to the dean’s office myself, and once he hears about this, Christian is fucking history.”
“It’ll be my word against his. I’ve got no proof.” I said, swirling a warm swallow of tequila in my shot glass. “He’s a respected teacher. I’m a failing student desperate to hang on to my scholarship long enough to graduate. ‘You’d say anything to pass, Cara. That’s how they’ll see it.’ That’s what Christian said, and he’s right.” I drained my shot and set the glass back on the table with a thud.
“Oh, come on! Cara, you’re an honor student, you’ve never had any disciplinary problems…” Lottie threw her hands up. “Who would ever think you’d make up a story like this?”
“If I tell the dean about this, they’ll launch an investigation,” I said quietly. “If they launch an investigation, they’re going to dig into my past for as much dirt as they can find. The school would much rather have one of its students turn out to be a liar than one of its professors be a sexual predator.”
“So? Let ’em dig! What have you got to hide?”
“You know what, Lottie.”
“Cara, sweetie, that was years ago. It was a party, you can say you were trashed.”
“Hell, HE was trashed! It was just the one time. Nobody knows about it, except me, and you know I’d never tell.”
I sighed. “If word got out, both our lives would be ruined. Can you guarantee that no one saw us together at that party? Or heard us? That no one would remember me and-” I stopped. Even here, in the middle of the night, surrounded by drunk strangers, I didn’t dare to say his name. “Me and him going up into that room together? I can’t risk it. I won’t.”
“No,” I said. I stood up, wobbly. “End of discussion. Call Mike to take us home.”
“Ok, sweetie,” Lottie said. She came to my side of the table and slipped an arm around my waist. “Come on, let’s go wait outside.” We walked out to the parking lot where the air was cool and smelled of smoke and coming rain.
“God,” I said. “Where am I even going to find somebody to sleep with on such short notice?” Lottie giggled, and then I did too. That part was kind of funny.
I leaned against the building with my eyes closed as Lottie called her boyfriend to come pick us up. Mike had been kind enough not only to give us a ride, but to study at a nearby coffeehouse while we drank and talked about “girl stuff” (as Lottie had told him). He was there to pick us up in 10 minutes flat.
I kept my head out the window as we drove home, partly for the wonderfully fresh air and partly to give Mike and Lottie a little privacy as we drove home. I glanced over at them and saw Lottie running her tongue along the ridges of Mike’s ear. He took a hand off the wheel and placed it on her upper thigh, under her skirt. She reached over to his lap, her hand slipping out of my view. The car swerved slightly and then righted. I looked away.
I wasn’t sure how serious they were about each other, but Lottie and Mike were a gorgeous couple. They looked as though they’d walked out of a 1940’s glamour magazine – Mike with his strong chin and big broad shoulders, Lottie with her perfect hourglass curves and dark smoky eyes. I could tell by the way things were progressing in the front seat that Lottie was going to ask if he could stay the night. Considering how I’d unloaded on her tonight, I didn’t have the heart to say no.
We got back to the dorms around midnight. As we all got out of the car, I saw Mike and Lottie give each other a look. “It’s fine, you two,” I said, and smiled. “I’m gonna be asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, so knock yourselves out.”
Lottie pulled me into a bear hug. “You’re the best, sweetie,” she whispered in my ear. I couldn’t help noticing, even through all the layers of clothing between us, how hard her nipples were.
“Come on,” I said. “Time for bed.”
But I didn’t sleep.
I laid still on my back in the darkness, breathing softly, willing myself to think of anything besides the noises coming from Lottie’s bed. They were trying to be quiet, but a dorm room is a small place. I heard Mike’s jacket come off, then a short, metallic rasp – that must have been the zipper of his jeans. They hit the floor with a soft thud (Mike always carried a lot of crap in his pockets). Then I heard Mike ease himself onto the bed. A moment later, I heard Lottie join him. I wondered if she still had her clothes on, or had I just not heard her take them off since they were so much lighter than his. Maybe she just took her panties off, and now she was straddling him, his hands sliding under her skirt to pull her closer, pull himself in deeper. Maybe that’s how they liked it, with that little bit of clothing between them, that silken bit of mystery hiding how his cock looked pushing into her.
Jesus, what was I thinking?
My face burned as I quietly turned toward the wall. Stupid tequila, and stupid me for drinking so much of it. If I hadn’t gotten so drunk, I’d have been asleep already, not thinking perverted thoughts about my poor roommate. I closed my eyes tighter.
Sleep came for me gradually. It was not a deep slumber but thin, exhausted dozing; I could still hear Lottie and Mike on the other side of the room. He moaned, low and sharp, and suddenly I was dreaming of another man moaning like that. I could feel his cheek pressed against my head, his hot breath on my ear. But it wasn’t a dream, really. It was a memory.
I was 18 and sick of being a virgin. He was older, maybe married; I wasn’t sure, didn’t care. I was eager but hopelessly naive. Everything I knew about sex came from letters to Penthouse and the covers of paperback romances. When I closed my eyes I pictured the two of us on a cliff silhouetted against a sunset, his flowing white shirt ripped open, his hands gripping my shoulders as my chest heaved. I thought about him whenever I masturbated, and I thought about masturbating whenever I saw him. He was the first man I’d ever felt that way about.
Lottie and I were at a Christmas party at someone’s house. Whose? I don’t remember. I only went because I’d heard he’d be there. It was a beautiful house, with rich wood floors and Persian carpets resting under buttery leather furniture. Grad students I recognized from campus weaved around the little groups of partygoers, offering wine and cheese. I sipped from a glass of tepid water and looked around the room. Besides Lottie, who was flirting with a grinning man by the fireplace, I saw nobody I knew. We’d gotten to the party at least two hours ago, and he still hadn’t shown up. I thought about leaving, if only to spare myself another minute of this awful waiting. I looked down at my shoes. I’d worn my best ones, but they were only cheap sandals, not suited to December weather. Then I looked back up and there he was.
* In my sleep I heard Lottie gasp and it was like a soundtrack to my thoughts*
He shook snowflakes off his coat and hung it up on the rack by the door, and from this small motion I could tell he was already drunk. I knew he liked to drink, but still I was surprised and then surprised further by my own reaction: “Good. That’ll probably make my part easier.” I wanted to be ashamed of myself for thinking that, but I wasn’t.
He spotted me right away. “Cara!” he said too loudly, and barreled towards me. His tie was loose and he hadn’t shaved. He gathered me up in a hug that took my breath away. My head was on his shoulder and I could smell him – scotch and smoke.
“I didn’t expect to see you here! Having fun?” he said. He pulled back and waved at some men across the room. “Hey Tom! Zach! I finally made it!” He laughed and started walking over to his friends. I saw my chance slipping away.
I grabbed his wrist. He turned and looked at me, still smiling. I reached into my purse and pulled out a small tin with a bow on it. I held it out to him.
“What’s this?” he said and twisted the top off. He bent his head and inhaled deeply. “Latakia. My favorite. How did you know?”
“I recognized the smell. From your pipe, I mean” I said. My heart was racing. “My father’s a tobacconist.” I hesitated, then pecked him on the cheek. “Merry Christmas!” I said, and ran off before he could react.
I ran off, but not away. I lurked on the outskirts of the party, watching him. People began to leave, but he stayed, drinking wine and laughing with his friends. I was wearing my most nondescript clothes so as not to attract attention; I looked like a big gray moth. Lottie came up to me once or twice, but I barely registered her presence. She wasn’t offended; she knew why I was here. I was waiting for my chance. Finally, it came.
He went upstairs, probably to call someone in private. I waited just until he was out of sight and then went up after him. I hoped nobody noticed me, but not enough to wait any longer.
I heard him in the third room on the left, right next to the bathroom. The door was closed, but he was shouting.
“FINE! I’ll just take a fucking taxi!” I heard, then a pause, then “Oh, fuck you, honey. Fuck you!” and the sound of a phone slammed down. I took a deep breath, then opened the door and went inside.
It was dim inside, the only light coming from a table lamp on a large mahogany desk. There was a chair at the desk and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on the opposite wall. He was bent over at the desk, his hand still on the phone, when I came in.
He squinted a little before he recognized me. “Who is that? Oh, it’s you. Hi,” he said. He shook his head a little, as if he were trying to clear it. “Did you need to use the phone? I’m sorry, I’ll get out and let you have it.” He took his hand off the phone and straightened, swaying. I didn’t move.
“Cara? What’s wrong?” he asked. I didn’t answer him. I reached behind me and turned the doorknob lock with shaking fingers. This might be my only shot and I didn’t want anything to screw it up. I took a deep breath and walked slowly towards him.
“Cara?” he said again and again I didn’t answer. I didn’t trust myself to speak, afraid that whatever I said would be the wrong thing. He took an unsteady step forward. Now we were just inches apart. His shirt was a few buttons unbuttoned. His tie was gone.
I leaned forward and laid my head on his shoulder, the way I had when he’d hugged me hello earlier. Cautiously he brought his arms up around my shoulders. “Did something happen downstairs?” he asked. “Are you ok?” I placed my palms against his back and held him closer. He began to stroke my hair and make little shushing noises – he must have thought I was crying. Then I turned my head slightly and kissed his neck.
He jerked, but kept his arms around me. I kissed him again, my mouth open and wet. He breathed in deeply. I moved my hands slowly up and down his back. “Stop,” he said, but I didn’t. I ran my tongue down his neck to the hollow of his throat. His head tipped back slightly and I kissed his throat again, higher. I felt his Adam’s apple move as he swallowed.
“We can’t,” he said, but he didn’t move. I kissed higher and higher along his throat until I reached his chin. He tipped his head forward. I moved my mouth to his.
* As the sounds from Lottie’s bed moved faster, so did my memory *
I sucked his tongue into my mouth, tasted tobacco and wine. He swayed against me. His hips pressed into mine; I could feel he was hard. I moved my hands to his chest and unbuttoned the rest of his shirt. I pulled it out from his pants and then began fumbling with his belt buckle.
“Stop!” he said, and pulled away. I reached for him and he grabbed me by my wrists. “Stop it!” I struggled against him and he staggered. I pulled him close again. He regained his footing and spun me around, pinning my hands to the desk.
“Stop,” he whispered. His mouth was at my ear. He was panting. We were bent over, his body over mine leaning on me for support. “We cannot do this.” My palms were slick against the cool wood of the desk. My heart hammered in my chest.
“Please,” I exhaled, without meaning to. I pressed my ass harder against his crotch. He exhaled sharply in my ear. “Please,” I said again. I threaded my fingers through his and squeezed them. I held my breath.
He stood up and took his hands away. I started to stand, too, but he put a palm against my back. “No,” he said. “Stay like that.” His voice was ragged. I felt his hands on the backs of my thighs, hiking my skirt up. He sighed as I felt the cool air against my bare skin – I hadn’t worn any panties. He ran his shaking hands over my ass. They felt hot and rough, calloused. He moved his left hand to my stomach. He moved his right hand lower. I closed my eyes.
* Mike groaned softly as their rhythm continued to build *
“God,” he muttered when he pressed his hand against my pussy. My faced was flushed from both arousal and embarrassment – I didn’t know if it was normal for a girl to get as wet as I was. My breath caught as he pushed his fingers between my lips. They were so much bigger than my own. I looked down, wanting to see his fingers there, but I could only see a shape under my skirt. He kissed the back of my neck and I shivered.
All of a sudden, his left hand was gone. His right hand stayed. I rocked my hips against it gently. I heard the click of metal and realized he was undoing his belt. I felt him shifting his body as he stepped out of his pants and underwear. Then I felt it, hard and so hot. He hesitated, pressing it against my ass. He brought his left hand back to my stomach. My body tensed in anticipation. “Yes,” I said, and he pushed his cock into me.
It didn’t hurt. I felt filled, stretched tight, but no pain. He held me still. “Relax,” he whispered into my ear. “Take a deep breath.” He must have realized.
I took a breath. “Good,” he said, and kissed my neck again. He moved his left hand up under my sweater. He laughed a little to find I wasn’t wearing a bra either – that’s what I had worn a baggy sweater to hide. “You come prepared,” he said, and cupped my breast, gently squeezing the nipple between two fingers. I tilted my head back and kissed his scratchy cheek.
He began to move slowly in and out of me, his right hand still on my pussy. “Is this ok?” he breathed in my ear, and I nodded. His thrusts made my pussy slide under his fingers. I strained toward them, wanting more. He pressed his cheek against my neck. I could feel the sweat on his forehead. He began to thrust harder. I moved my hands to the edge of the desk to better brace myself. It was so erotic, seeing my hands like that, my fingernails white from pressure as I gripped the desk. It was like watching yourself get fucked and feeling it at the same time. Like a dream.
* “Oh God,” Lottie cried out, and I heard the wet slapping sounds of Mike fucking her *
“Oh God,” he said through gritted teeth. I pushed back into his thrusts. The hand on my breast squeezed harder. His cock seemed to swell inside me. I bit my lip. He twisted his head and bit me through my sweater. My knees went weak as he moaned against my shoulder. I tightened my pussy around his cock. “Fuck!” he shouted and shoved into me so hard I nearly lost my balance. He moved both hands to my waist and held me close. I could feel his cock throbbing inside me. I suddenly realized he was coming. The thought made my knees weaker.
We stayed like that until his breathing slowed. My arms were beginning to tremble from the effort of holding us up against the desk. He brought his right hand back to my pussy. This time he slid his entire hand between my lips. His palm rested on my clit, his fingers just above where his cock was still inside me. He moved his hand in slow, even circles. My legs spread wider. “Faster,” I whispered. He moved faster. My legs began to shake. “Faster,” I said. I could feel thin trails of sweat running down between my breasts. His grip around my waist tightened. “Faster!” I said. My legs buckled. He pulled me against him. I covered his hand with one of my own, pushed it hard against my pussy as I came.
We collapsed together, panting. He laid back, arms and legs splayed. Come trickled down the side of his cock – was that from before, or had he come again? I didn’t know how to tell. It probably didn’t matter anyway. I shut my eyes and pressed my burning face to the cold wood floor.
I woke feeling hung-over and guilty. Hung-over because of the tequila. Guilty because of the dream that followed it. How could I be outraged by Christian’s blackmail when I had done something so similar, forced myself on an unwilling participant? True, he hadn’t stayed unwilling for long. Maybe I had just been lucky to secretly want someone who’d secretly wanted me.
“I’m no better than he is,” I said. I wasn’t sure I really believed it, but I was in a shitty mood.
“You’d better not be talking about who I think you’re talking about.” I sat up. Lottie was coming out of the bathroom in an oversized tee-shirt, her hair wrapped up in a towel. Soap-scented steam surrounded her. “You’d better not be talking about Professor Perv. I’d kick anybody’s ass who said you were no better than that prick, yours included.”
“You must be psychic.”
“You just now noticed?” She came over and sat on my bed. “Actually, though, I was just thinking about it, and I do have an idea. Are you still determined to go through with this.”
“I don’t think I have a choice.”
“And you still have no one in mind to have sex with?”
“Well, I can at least solve that problem for you.”
I had a sudden premonition that she was going to suggest herself. And what would I say if she did? I swallowed nervously. “Who?” I asked.
Lottie leaned forward and whispered “You ever think about fucking my boyfriend?”