Girl Geek – Chapter 11

To: Heath, Persephone (Katya), FallenOne

From: Mia

Re: A Wild Idea

 

So, on a whim, I wrote a “manifesto.” I’m not even sure at this point what it means or what I’ll do with it. But I’d be honored if you read it and told me what you thought.

Hugs,
Mia
Attachment: Virgin Manifesto.doc

***

I went to my study group.

Jon asked me out. Again.

I had to think of another lame excuse on the fly. Again.

This was getting tedious. I vowed to brainstorm with Alex and Jenna a list in advance of excuses I could have handy in the future. He’d have to figure out eventually that I wasn’t interested…right?

And as for him being “the one” to relieve me of my burden of virginity…I had already decided against it.

Oh, I still wasn’t on board with the auction idea, either. I was still waiting on feedback for that.

When I got back to my studio, the phone was ringing as I stumbled up the stairs. It was the landline—because as always, I was low on minutes (and low on money) and asking people to call the landline instead.

I got to it just as whoever it was hung up without leaving a message.

Damn it.

Guessing it was probably Heath, I waited until I settled in before getting back to him.

First, I checked my email and discovered a reminder for the upcoming MCAT test retake date. Without even hesitating longer than five seconds, I followed the link, logged into the site and moved my test date back three more months. I’d done this two times before (since they allowed me a window of 31 days or more before the test).

This was starting to become a sick little game of Avoid The Test Date—my own private little calendar waltz. No less intense than a fifth-grade game of tag on the playground. With that same tight feeling of anxiety in my chest lessening, I knew—just like I’d known those two other times before—that I’d done the right thing.

Without another thought, I moved down to check and see if there were replies to my manifesto. And indeed, there were emails from both Persephone and FallenOne waiting for me.

 

To: Mia

From: FallenOne

Re: A #%@$& idea

 

What the fuck did I just read???

 

***

 

Ooookay then. Fallen wasn’t on board, apparently. Or he was taking it as a joke.

I had half-jokingly sent it so… that was understandable. I’d get clarification from him later, no doubt.

I scrolled down to Kat’s response.

 

To: Mia

From: Katya Ellison

Re: A kickass idea

 

This was awesome. Are you going to do it? It’s kinda scary but also super exciting and…to be honest, I’m a little jealous I didn’t try to cash in on getting my v-card punched! You’re a smarty.

So… are ya going to do it?

 

***

 

That was more like it… so I had one yay and one nay (probably a joking nay….) And Heath, the wild card…time to find out what he thought.

I picked up the phone and called him.

“Yo, doll,” he said, picking up. He sounded a lot better than he had in the three weeks since Brian had left. He was starting to heal at last…though I made a point to check in with him every single day.

“Hi!” I squeaked. “How are we today?”

“Exhausted…been doing nothing besides pushing through this project deadline. Just posted the last bit of work about an hour ago. Now I’m sitting in front of the TV mindlessly vegetating.”

“Oh ok, so you didn’t just try to call me?”

“No, why?”

“I was coming home from study group and didn’t make it to the phone. No message.”

“You know I always leave a message. Even though I hate doing it.”

“Hmm yeah. So I take it you haven’t checked your email?” I fiddled with my phone cord, suddenly feeling nervous without understanding exactly why.

“Nope. I haven’t done anything but work on that website update. Why, did I miss something?”

“Uh, I sent something out to you, Kat and Fallen for an opinion. The other two got back to me, sorta, and I was just wondering what you thought.”

“Sec, opening up my laptop…” I cleared my throat, suddenly wanting to make an excuse and get off the phone while he read it. Did I really want to hear his real-time reaction?

“I’m gonna—“ I started.

“This is a joke, right?” he cut me off. “A Virginity Manifesto?”

“I just wrote it on a lark…”

“Okay…” he paused and I could only assume he was still reading. I fidgeted in my seat, suddenly self-conscious.

“Interesting treatise, Mia. What’s it for? Are you defending your right to stay a virgin without judgement or somehow trying to say you want to profit from being a virgin?”

I blinked. “I, uh, the latter, actually.”

A long pause. “You lost me. Can you go back to the beginning?”

“A few weeks ago, Fallen and I were on the game together because you were—out and so was Kat…” Best not remind him that he was out on a date with the now-ex BF. “And we worked on that asshole fireworks quest and I was feeling punchy. When we got back into the town, some lady was up on the stage in the town square auctioning herself for cyber.”

He laughed. “Yeah, I’ve seen her around before. She propositioned me one time. Had to let her off easy and tell her that she was barking up the wrong tree. I know some people are into ERP, but I don’t play DE for that!”

“ERP?”

“Erotic Role Play. Go hit a roleplaying server on World of Warcraft sometime. There are some sections where the inns are practically brothels. It’s an issue.”

I chewed on my lip, considering. That was a good idea to investigate for a future blog post.

“Anyway, back to what you were saying. I’m gonna assume she inspired you to blog about her auctioning off cybersex?”

I blinked…he thought this was for the blog. No wonder he didn’t seem very surprised.

“Uh. Not blog about it, no.”

“Surely not put yourself up for auction…”

I hesitated, hoping he’d come to the right conclusion, fearing the trepidation already apparent in his voice.

After an awkward minute of me not replying, he broke the silence with a gruff laugh. “That’s hilarious, Mia. I guess you got me. Scared the shit out of me there for a minute…”

I swallowed. “I, uh, I wasn’t joking around.”

Silence.

More silence.

I couldn’t even hear him breathing on his end. Nothing.

“Of all the hare brained shit I’ve ever heard of—and I’ve heard my fair share, considering who I was just in a relationship with—I’ve never heard something this ridiculous. Please tell me this is a joke.”

I sighed, tempted to just laugh it off. I wasn’t even committed to this idea, right? This was just all…academic. I was just trying it on for size—so I was telling myself. I answered him in a quiet voice despite the fact that something deep inside told me not to give in. “I just said it wasn’t.”

Another long stretch of silence. I snatched up a pen and began doodling on the back of an envelope. Loops and squares, all interconnected. My pen traced the same lines over and over again, etching deep grooves into the paper.

“How would you even carry something like this out? In case you need a reminder, prostitution is illegal in this country.”

“Not everywhere in this country. There are legal and safe brothels in Nevada. I could contact one of them and ask for help.”

He let out a throaty sigh—almost a growl of frustration on the other end of the line. “I can’t even with this bullshit, Mia.”

I blinked, my insides suddenly sinking. Why did Heath’s approval mean so much to me? “I’d love to have your support, but I could proceed without it, if necessary.”

“You want me to help you auction yourself off to some stranger? You do realize this is to have sex with someone, right?”

I rolled my eyes, not dignifying that stupidity with a reply. The circles and squares had transformed into angry x’s now—scratched so deeply into the paper that they were marking the layer underneath as well.

“I can’t force you to help me if you are unwilling …” My voice shook but there was a new feeling of conviction rising inside my chest. Could I do this?

He mumbled something incoherent—probably riddled with lots of bad words—and then said, “I’m exhausted and I can’t think straight and I’m really not processing all of this very well. I want to talk to you about this tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’m here and available whenever you want to talk.”

“Promise me you won’t do anything or proceed in any way until we talk.”

“If we are talking tomorrow, there’s not much I can do between now and then.” I shrugged though I knew he couldn’t see me.

“No contacting people about their brothel or whatever. Just sit on this for twenty-four hours. Please, it’s all I ask.”

“All you ask before you work on changing my mind?”

His sigh was longsuffering. “Just promise me.”

“Okay, I promise.”

We hung up and as just as quickly, I put my face in my hands, rubbing my eyeballs. Though I hadn’t let on to Heath, indecision was still gripping me. I loved the idea of the auction but hated the actual reality of it.

I loved the statement I’d be making while hating that I’d have to commit to at least one night of sex work to accomplish it. This would probably all be academic. It would amount to nothing. I didn’t have the guts to see this through.

Did I?

When in turmoil, I did what I most liked to do—dressed in my shorts and running shoes and then, instead of making my way out the door, booted up the computer instead and logged into the game.

I don’t know why I was expecting Fallen to be on. He was rarely on during the day at all. But the past few times I had logged in—no matter what time of the day or night—he logged on soon after. It was almost as if he’d figured out my pattern for logging in and knew when to look for me.

And I wouldn’t admit to myself outright that I was logging on to find him. Or waiting for him to find me.

After about an hour of running around doing solo stuff, a notification lit up on the dialogue box of my screen. I was only a little disappointed when I saw that it was Katya, not Fallen.

She immediately messaged me.

 

Persephone: Hey babe! Turn on your voice chat!

 

I clicked on my settings menu, since it had been a while since I’d turned on voice chat. Lately, it tended to make my game lag, so I hadn’t been using voice chat as much as before.

“Tell me! Was that Virginity Manifesto for real?”

I fiddled with my headset, readjusting it to settle the speakers over my ears. “Yeah…yeah.” I said, trying to hide the doubt in my own voice.

“Wow, you’re a baller, girlfriend. I’m impressed.”

“Thanks. Glad someone approves.”

“Oh? Did the Heath say something? Guys are so weird about stuff like that.”

“Yeah.” I sighed. “They aren’t taking it well.”

They? Who else? Fallen?”

I fidgeted in my seat, grabbing a Star Wars Happy Meal toy that I’d collected ages ago and fiddling with it. “Yeah he sent a very terse reply. I answered, telling him it was for real and he hasn’t replied to me since.”

“It’s only been a few hours, right? I wouldn’t sweat it. He’s got a weird schedule, remember.”

I tossed my completely inked-over envelope into the trash. “Yeah. I guess.”

“And besides, he’s probably butthurt about it, since he’s got a thing for you.”

I frowned. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“Oh c’mon, don’t play coy. I know you’ve probably suspected it, too.”

“I have not. He doesn’t have a ‘thing’ for me! How could he possibly? We’ve never seen each other in person, never even had a conversation on the phone.”

“Love finds a way…” she said in a sing-songy voice.

I scoffed. “You’re insane.”

Lots of people find love online. And tons of people connect via online games like DE. It’s not impossible, Mia.”

“But in order to ‘find love,’ it has to be reciprocal. And it’s not.”

“Are you sure? I’ve long suspected you might have a little crush too.”

“I think you’re delusional and projecting.”

She heaved a long sigh. “If you say so. Let’s go kill stuff…maybe you’ll have everything figured out after you commit virtual slaughter.”

“It’s always good for loosening the creative mind.” I laughed.

And so we did. Instead of doing quests, we parked ourselves in a populous corner of a dungeon and pulled respawns, killing them over and over again.

Fallen never logged on that night. And I was still no closer to deciding what I was really going to do.

 

***

 

That night was one of those nights where you seem to have dreams every minute and wake up exhausted.

I was at the ranch in Anza, but it was deserted. I was entirely alone. My mom, all the ranch hands, even the horses were gone. It was like I was the last person on earth. I wandered the place, calling out for her with no reply. The wind and my calls echoed back to me without an answer.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting at a desk in a brightly-lit classroom, a blank test in front of me. But I couldn’t read it or understand a thing. The paper was covered with all sorts of meaningless symbols—or perhaps a foreign language that I couldn’t recognize. I had a stack of pencils all lined up perfectly on my desk—all with pristine, sharp points, ready to be used. But as each minute passed and I stared at that paper, it grew harder and harder to comprehend. This was my last chance at the MCAT and I couldn’t understand a thing.

I woke up gasping for air.

And with a new conviction. I hated this feeling of powerlessness. I was going to take control.

Not by finally retaking that goddamn test, though. I wasn’t quite ready for that.

That afternoon, Heath appeared in my doorway, a laptop case slung crosswise across his massive chest and a solemn cast to his handsome features. Without a word, I stepped aside and let him in.

He settled gingerly onto my creaky old couch and I took the beanbag chair on the floor, gazing up at him after offering him a chilled water bottle, of which he uncapped and promptly downed half.

“I really really need to know you aren’t punking me with this BS,” was how he began.

My eyebrows twitched upward and I chewed on my lip. “That would be a cruel joke to pull.”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a joke, but… maybe you aren’t completely committed to it. Please tell me there is room for you to change your mind.” His blond brows knit in an adorable show of concern.

I folded my arms across my chest, pressing them tightly inward, as if hugging myself to give myself the strength to say what I wanted to say. But I remained silent, hoping my gesture spoke for me.

He shook his head, shifting his weight while the couch creaked in protest. “I can’t tell you how much this scares the shit out of me, Mia. This was all harmless discussion back when it was just about you losing your virginity. Now you want to monetize it? And for what reason? If your mother found out what you were doing in order to help her, she would freak.

I leaned forward, shooting fire from my eyes. “She’s not going to find out, now is she?”

Heath grimaced. “Not from me. But…Mia, this is madness. Truly, I have to say it’s madness. Please just think about this and…”

I tapped my foot on the ground agitatedly. “I have been thinking about it. Constantly. So don’t mansplain to me.”

He laughed and rolled his eyes, throwing his head back on the couch in exasperation. “I’m not mansplaining. Jeezus. I just. I want the best for you. I want you to have a better experience for your first time than what you are planning—what you’ve been describing. I mean—some skeezy stranger somewhere in some hotel room or whatever?”

“With a long list of rules and stipulations. It is my body and I control what happens to it.”

Heath went absolutely still and let out a long breath. He straightened his head, looking up to meet my gaze. “So that’s what this is about? Having control over the situation? Because of what Zach did to you in high school?”

I blinked, refolded my hands. “Control is very important to me.”

Heath nodded, his mouth slightly agape as if just coming to a realization. “But not just control over that one night. You want control over everything. How it happens. When it happens. What happens afterward…” His voice drifted off.

I held his gaze and nodded slowly. This all seemed perfectly obvious to me but he was coming to some lightbulb moment realization.

“I think I get it now…the control thing.” He never took his eyes from me.

I took a deep breath and let it go. “No need to psychoanalyze me. You aren’t my shrink.”

“Riiiight,” he nodded. “But if you want my help you have to convince me you are doing this for the right reasons.”

I bit my lip. “And what are the right reasons, Heath? Whatever reasons I have for this should be the right reasons for me.”

His features clouded. “I’m sorry. That sounded arrogant, didn’t it? Like I was in some position to determine what’s best for you. I just—I just don’t want to see you get hurt, Mia!”

I stood up and slid onto the couch beside him—what little room there was beside him and his big laptop bag. “I know you didn’t mean to sound arrogant. But yeah, you know I’m a big girl.”

“Mia,” he shook his head as he leaned forward. “You have to be sure. And you have to be careful. Quite honestly, this scares the shit out of me.”

I smiled, laughing shakily. “It scares the shit out of me, too.” And it was true—my heart was thrumming in my carotid artery, making it hard to swallow. This moment—this blink of an eye where I solidified the resolve to do this—was absolutely terrifying.

And…liberating.

Heath’s eyes closed and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ll help you, then. But only if you let me control it all.”

My eyebrows arched. “Only if that means you don’t call the whole thing off.”

He shook his head. “No. I won’t do that. You’ll ultimately call the shots on whether or not this thing goes through. But…I want a say on the details. How you set this up. How you protect yourself. The legalese.”

I nodded. “I can do that. I can…” My voice faded out, suddenly choked with emotion. “Heath…thank you.”

He leaned forward and pulled me into one of his massive bear hugs. “You know I’d do anything for you. But…I’m going to do everything in my power to protect you.”

“I know. Thank you. But I’m going to do everything in my power to not need that protection.”

“Whatever skeeve out there who wins that auction and goes to bed with you…”

“Let’s not think about it like that.” I spoke into his shoulder. “Maybe there’s a nice person out there who is interested in making sure my first time is a good one.”

“And you think I’m an idealist.”

“Well whoever he is, I’ll think of him as a way of making my future secure and proving my new paradigm.” I nodded but tried to ignore the lump in my throat. “It’ll be okay, Heath,” I said and cut myself off abruptly when my own voice shook. His hold on my tightened but he said nothing. I closed my eyes and rested my head on his shoulder.

I just hoped whoever he was, he’d leave a nondescript and bland mark on my past—enough to not make a lasting impression. It would be one night of my life and nothing else would change but the size of my bank account and my status as a virgin.

Simple as that.

***

“Okay turn the other way and, um, lean up against the rocks.” Heath held the camera out in front of him, peering at the viewfinder on the back while clicking away. A week had passed since our conversation in my apartement

I complied, trying to ignore the curious onlookers who glanced at us as they walked past. I was in a yellow and black polka-dot bikini as the beach wind whipped at my hair. I pushed it out of my face and tilted my hips to the right, feeling simultaneously silly and daring.

And, if I was being honest, out of my depth. Like finally, objectifying myself to this extent—posing sexily in a bikini on the jetty of Corona Del Mar was my limit to this entire illicit scheme of mine.

My throat was tight the entire time and strangely, I felt detached from my surroundings as Heath ordered me to pout for the camera. Were I not operating in this weird fugue state outside my own reality, I would have laughed my ass off at him.

Shit just got real.

Later that same day, Heath sent the pics over to me and they were decent—appropriately cropped for the site without my head and face attached. He’d handle that later when it came time to deal with the bidders directly.

I put the post together, listing, first, the Virgin Manifesto, and then the photos with a link to the auction site on another server and site entirely, just as Heath had set up. I had three weeks to run the auction. And hopefully soon after, the deal would be carried out.

I scheduled the post to go up early the next morning while I was still at work and hoped I’d put enough safeguards in place to protect my anonymity.

Aaaaand I stayed away from social media that day. I went to work, went to study group and didn’t even open my browser when I got home.

I avoided emails, too.

Instead, I logged on to DE and checked my friends list. No one was one. I ran a few minor quests and sure enough, ten minutes later, my notification screen lit up.

 

*Your friend, FallenOne, has logged on.

My screen immediately flashed with a new private message from Fallen.

 

Him: You’re actually going to let some stranger fuck you for cash?

Me: That’s a rather crude way of putting it. It’s about my new paradigm. It’s a feminist statement.

Him: It’s prostitution.

Me: It will all be done in a perfectly legal way.

Him: Who gives a fuck about the legalities. What you are doing is destructive.

Me: It’s my body.

Him: So says every drug addict, every alcoholic, ever anorexic out there.

Me: I’m not going to put up with that insulting shit. Take it elsewhere.

Him: Well don’t let me keep you. I’m sure you want to get on with your auction. May the best creeper win.

*FallenOne has logged off from Dragon Epoch

 

And a weight in my stomach dropped.

Maybe… maybe I’d never see him online again.

And maybe this auction was a mistake. But it was mine to own. And deep down I had that feeling. That everything would be all right.

 

Mia’s story continues in At Any Price….

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