“Maybe we should start with some introductions?” The perky blonde started, shifting on her chair in this reserve study room in the Chapman University Leatherby Libraries. “I’m Alicia Smiley, majoring in Organic Chem. No jokes about the name, please and thank you. I do smile a lot.” And she punctuated that statement with perfect matching dimples on each cheek.
The small group laughed at her little joke. We’d used a university forum to match up, based on the approximate date we’d be taking the MCAT test. Most of them were a year behind me in school and I was planning on keeping mum about my previous failure.
Next to introduce himself was a guy with straggly dark hair plastered to his forehead and a terribly ugly sweater. He quietly introduced himself as Clark. I mentally reframed him as wearing glasses and styled him as Clark Kent. The next image came to my mind unbidden as I pictured him ripping off that atrocious sweater to reveal a blue body suit with a giant S on his chest. I had to bite my lip to stifle the giggles.
A few others introduced themselves. Then it was my turn. “I’m Mia Strong. Bio major. And, um, yeah I just want to do really well on this test!” No need to tell them all that I’d already bombed it horribly and was desperately trying to play catch up. That weight in my stomach twisted again, like it did every time I contemplated my failure and what it might mean if I didn’t get off my ass and retake this damn test ASAP.
Lastly a really young looking guy with curly blond hair and boy-next-door good looks leaned forward. “I’m Jon. Kinesiology major. I’m a recent transfer from Penn—as in the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, not Penn State. And I will cut a person who confuses the two. JK of course.” Nervous laughter all around.
Anyone from the west coast had little idea what the difference was between those two schools—besides the fact that one was Ivy League and the other one had a famous football team. Nor did we much care. Harvard or Stanford, we understood. The Penns? Not so much.
I laughed along with the rest of them and when Jon’s gaze landed on me, a cocky smile appeared. I smiled back and something in his eyes changed—intensifying. Like headlights being switched onto high beam. I drew back. Uh oh. I recognized the look and immediately looked away and made a point to ignore Jon the entire rest of the study group. We passed around a sheet, sharing phone numbers and email addresses. Then we set up another meeting. Smiley McDimples, as I was now mentally calling her, would send us a study agenda based on the specs of the test sometime in the next few days and we’d come back to the group, prepared to pair off and quiz each other.
I could do this. I got this. I chanted these phrases to myself as I rushed out of the room the minute we were done. And, as a protective measure, I pressed my cell phone to my head, pretending to talk on it lest anyone think they could approach me afterward.
I’d learned a lot of tricks like that to keep myself protected. And they worked really well. Some would say too well.
“When are you going to start dating, anyway?” Heath asked me once.
“The 12th of Never in the Year of our Lord, Hypothetically Speaking.”
Heath sighed and rolled his eyes. “Stubborn girl.”
“Determined girl. My life is not going to depend on the whims of some man.”
Heath grinned. “Believe me, the whims of some man can be very pleasurable, when you find the right man.”
“And have you found him, Heath?” When the smile dropped abruptly from his face, I knew I’d said the wrong thing. Oh shit. I was always saying the wrong thing. “I mean, as long as he makes you happy, right?”
After an awkward pause, the subject was changed and I made a mental note to handle that much more smoothly in the future. Although prickly responses like that served me well in that they taught Heath to avoid the subject with me in the future. His approaches toward me about it came fewer and farther between, which was a relief! But it came at the risk of turning me into a bitch in my best friend’s eyes.
My days consisted of classes, study and homework for aforementioned classes, extra study for the study group and MCAT, research at the lab for (and sometimes with) my advising professor, blogging and gaming. Sleeping and eating got sandwiched somewhere in the cracks. Rinse and repeat.
Soon I’d have to add an outside job to the mix. The nearby hospital, St. Joseph’s was always looking for nursing assistants and I’d be approaching them this summer for a job.
But until then, I had more time for my new love, Dragon Epoch.
FallenOne: I’ve been thinking about that secret quest thingy you were talking about the other night. It’s a cool idea.
Eloisa: They could be already working on something like that. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Him: Neither would I.
Me: Yeah when these geeky dudes aren’t totally obsessing about women’s bodies, they are pretty smart.
Him: So you think all us geeky types just obsess over women?
Me: Am I wrong?
Him: How is that different than any other guy, though?
Me: Good point. Probably not different, unless you’re Heath.
It only took two more study sessions for Jon to ask me out. It was just to coffee afterward and it was just to “get some extra study time in.” Also, it had been after we’d been randomly (or so I’d hoped) paired up during the second session to quiz each other and he’d deliberately sat next to me in the third.
But, sigh, I hated having to shoot someone down. Especially someone as nice as Jon. And deep down I asked myself, was he really so bad and would it really be so unpleasant if I did go out to coffee with him?
But coffee would lead eventually to drinks and drinks might lead to going out to a club or dancing or whatever normal people my age did and then that might lead to “swing by my place afterward” and then…and then. That was the part that always stopped me up.
“I’m sorry. I’m super busy. Meeting a friend in an hour.”
“Okay…” he drew that out, expecting me, perhaps, to fill in the knowledge gap. When I wasn’t forthcoming, he shifted his stance. “Oh. I guess I should have asked if you had a boyfriend.”
“I don’t…” His expression visibly brightened. Maybe I should have lied instead? “But, I’m super serious about being here at college. I’m on a scholarship and I’m required to keep my grades perfect. I don’t date or do much of anything social.”
His eyebrows rose. “Oh. Are you religious?” It was a fair question, after all. Chapman University was a church-related school, after all, and there were quite a few people who attended it based on that affiliation. But not me. I attended based on the nice fat full-ride scholarship they’d offered me when I’d finished high school.
Again, I could have lied about that, but chose not to. “Not particularly, no. It’s just a personal choice.”
He blinked, confused and I gathered my things, ready to shake him off. He followed as I rushed out the door of the library as if I had places to go, things to do, people to see. I did, if you counted the virtual world.
I guess ‘personal choice’ was not as acceptable a put-off because Jon made a good-natured remark about “wearing me down.” I, just as good-naturedly, joked that there were several very eligible members of our group—Smiley McDimples, for one—who had seemed interested in Jon.
Jon was not dissuaded, if the determined look in his eyes was any indication.
Nevertheless, I was able to shake him off for that night and continue about my day. Unfortunately my day would, in a sense, prove to be more of the same.
This time, while camping for FallenOne’s epic weapon quest, the Staff of Mighty Power, we needed a very special feather. The Surperfluous Flamingo spawned in the Lost Lagoon. But we had to hack through hordes of hostile hippos, rabid gators, and aggro ostriches by the thousands, killing place holders over and over again in order to get it to spawn. It took hours.
Long, boring hours. To the point where we were starting to break out the caffeinated drinks and get a little punchy, making jokes and laughing at every single little thing.
Fallen had long since offered to give up, but we wouldn’t allow it. We were the stubbornest bunch of ornery mofos on the server and we weren’t going to give in.
We were going to get that rare feather off that fucking flamingo if it was the last thing we did!
“So while we sit here waiting for the named to spawn, let’s play truth or dare,” said Persephone on hour three of Superfluous Flamingo Watch ™.
“What the hell are you going to dare us to do? Streak through the swamp with no armor on? Can I get a ‘hell no’?” Heath replied.
“Ah c’mon.” Kat whined. “I’ll go first. What’s the craziest place you’ve had sex? Truth, you have to answer. Dare, you have to fight the next mob solo with no weapon while we all stand back and laugh at you.”
“That’s an easy one,” Heath replied. “Under the bleachers at my high school during a basketball game.”
“What?” I gasped. “Heath? Not even.”
He laughed. “It is, indeed, true.”
I scoffed. “With who?”
“Ah, ah, ah! No cheating,” Kat admonished. “It’s not your turn to truth or dare. Fallen, how do you choose? Answer the question or do you drop your nunchakus and solo the mob with your fists?”
As usual, Fallen responded in text only. But since he typed so fast, it was easy for him to keep up with us, as he could hear everything we said.
FallenOne: Oh, hell. Why not? Truth. Mine is from high school, too. I worked at my uncle’s office and got propositioned by this chick who also worked there. We did it on the conference table after hours when no one else was around.
“Oh dayum!” Heath roared, laughing. “Yours is better than mine.”
FallenOne: Hell no, there wasn’t a crowd around for mine.
“No, but I bet that made the next conference meeting…interesting. Especially with your uncle sitting there.”
FallenOne: Nope I just moved boxes around and took care of mail at that job. I never had to sit at in at conference meetings. *She* had to, though, so I assume it was awkward for her. LOL
“Huh. Well I’m sure there was a lot of poking and prodding during those special conference meetings,” Kat said. “And squirming.”
FallenOne: Just that one time there, anyway. We got more conventional later on.
Once our teasing died down, Katya spoke again. “Okay, Mia. Spill or are you soloing with no magic?”
“No magic?! Wait!” I panicked, suddenly having to rearrange my plan, which had been to choose “dare” and burn the mob down with my biggest one-thumper of a nuke spell. I’d been saving it, in fact, because the refresh time on it was duly long and thus made it a single-shot. “You said no weapon. I won’t use my wand.”
“Magic is your weapon. So given these mobs spawning on us, I’m going to say that squishy little you will last 1 or maybe 2 hits before you go down.”
“Just spill the goods, Mia,” Heath said.
*Fragged tells you, “It’s not like you really have a lot to tell, anyway, right?
*You tell Fragged, I’m flipping you the middle finger from my house right now.
And I spoke. I didn’t have anything to be ashamed of, after all! “Fine, then. Truth. I don’t have a weird place.”
“So you’ve only ever done it in a bed?” Kat asked, disbelief in her voice.
“I’ve never done it at all,” I replied, folding my arms over my chest defensively though I knew they couldn’t see me.
FallenOne: Wait, what?
“No way,” Kat said. “I don’t believe you.”
“Heath can verify. I don’t date. I don’t hook up…”
“Are you religious?” Kat asked. Wow…second time today that question had been asked to me.
“Nope. Just haven’t had the desire.” That wasn’t exactly true. I’d just had some bad experiences…ones I had no desire to talk about. So, I let that stand.
“I can verify,” Heath interjected. “She’s a virgin…as far as I know. I mean, we’ve been friends since we were thirteen and all. But again, she had no idea about my escapade at the basketball game—which I think she even attended. So take my verification for what it’s worth. Though I will verify that she doesn’t date.”
FallenOne: And yet you make fun of all the nerd game designers who you say can’t get any?
“There’s a difference between wanting it and not getting it and not wanting it in the first place. But mostly, that’s all joking on my part. It’s just me being grouchy about all the female skin they think it’s necessary to show.”
Kat asked, “Are you a prude, Mia? Or are you just saving yourself for marriage?”
“Neither. And prude is kind of rude word to use. If you don’t have sex, you get labeled a prude. If you do and especially if you like it, you’re a slut. Why do there always have to be labels? Why not just personal choices, know what I mean?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Kat agreed. “Prude is as bad as slut for labels. But maybe you can reclaim it and make it yours. Like…I know I’m a slut and I’m not ashamed of it.”
“Maybe but prude has such a negative connotation. Like if you don’t have sex you must not like it. How do I know if I like it or not? I’ve never had it!”
FallenOne: Good point.
“So maybe I’ll pick a new label for myself. I’m cheerfully celibate.”
“There’s a lot to be said for choosing not to get wrapped up in all the baggage that sex can bring.” Kat said, her voice much more serious now. “I was way too young when I started.”
“Me, too,” Heath concurred.
I shook my head. “Seriously, when was all this happening? I had no idea.”
“When you’re a gay teen you get to be an expert at keeping secrets—at least until you come out of the closet.” Heath said. “Then you’re ready to trumpet it to the world!”
“And march naked in gay pride parades?” asked Kat.
“Or just sit by the sidelines and thoroughly enjoy them!” Heath laughed.
“Well, now you all know my sordid secret,” I said.
FallenOne: Nothing sordid or shameful about it. Actually, it’s pretty awesome. Good for you, Mia.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Not a “you don’t know what you’re missing” mentioned at all, like I’d been expecting. Well good.
So I was still a virgin, so what? Maybe I’d die an old lady virgin or maybe I’d try it out once to see what all the fuss was about. But whatever I decided, the decision was mine and the reasons would be good ones, whatever they were.
[To Be Continued….]
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