Shelly Part 4 Celebration

(Part 1 from 3)

Megan gunned the accelerator and whipped the car around to the opposite side of the road. She was upset, but I didn’t know if she wanted to talk about it. I couldn’t think about what I had said without a terrible weight of loss pressing against my chest. But what else could I have done? “I’m sorry,” I ventured, and touched her arm.

“Don’t be,” she said quickly, shrugging off my fingers. “I understand.”

I sat back and turned to watch the house lights flicker past. “I think I’m a little confused.”

Her laugh lacked any real humor. “You really want to talk about this?”

“No, I guess not,” I replied, knowing that I would probably make a fool out of myself, whatever I tried to say.

Megan stabbed the radio to a hip-hop station and pushed the volume up to a level that would make further conversation impossible. I couldn’t tell if she was angry or just disappointed, but she seemed to have pulled herself together somewhat by the time we got back to campus. I returned her “good night,” and stood by the curb to watch her drive away. I tried to make sense of it all as I walked up to my dorm room, but finally gave it up.

The next two days dragged on and on. I was dreading my next meeting with Megan. What would we say to each other? Thinking back on it, I realized that I was flattered by the attention, unwanted though it may have been. I really cared about her, and I was afraid of discovering that we couldn’t be friends anymore. Friday afternoon I went to the library to work on my physics homework. Time and again, I found myself staring off into space, thinking of that kiss. What I had felt in that moment was not the discomfort it should have been, but a profound sense of fear. Why did it scare me so much? What was I so afraid of?

Saturday finally came, and I was sick with worry almost from the moment I woke up, worrying about seeing Megan again. In the middle of the day, I got a surprise visit from Casey and Darren. As I invited them in, the thought suddenly occurred to me that I had never seen just one or the other of them. I wondered if they were ever apart for any length of time. “I wanted your opinion,” Casey said, holding out a box.

I glanced at the label and nodded. “It’s a DVD player.” 

“It was his idea,” she said self-consciously, tilting her head in Darren’s direction. “Do you think she’ll like it?”

“Oh, she will, definitely,” I answered. Rachel lived alone in a tiny apartment off campus. She had a TV but couldn’t afford cable.

“So what did you get her?” Casey asked eagerly.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I said. I was suddenly a lot less sure about my gift. I wondered if it might be too gaudy. I decided to change the subject. “Have you guys seen Megan?”

Darren answered. “Yeah, she came over and watched a, uh, watched a movie with us yesterday.” I realized that his face had suddenly turned a rosy shade of pink.

I leaned close to Casey and whispered accusingly, “You didn’t.” 

“Sadly, no,” she answered, “but I thought that it was worth a try. Mr. Right over there can sit through triple-‘X’ without batting an eyelash or breaking a sweat.”

“Hey, I’m still in the room,” Darren mock-whispered, cupping his hand around his mouth as if he were much further away. He was still rather pink.

“Should have seen the bulge in his pants, though,” Casey said, much louder this time. “Looked like Mount St. Helens about to erupt.”

Darren cleared his throat loudly. “Still here.”

“Oh, good, then you can hold this,” she said, and shoved the DVD player into his hands.

“What was Megan doing there?” I asked.

Casey shrugged. “Oh, she showed up toward the end, well, after I gave up on the iceman. Saw what we had on and invited herself in. Then proceeded to make fun of the porn stars for the last half hour. It was pretty funny, actually.”

“Did she seem alright?”

“Yeah, fine.” Casey cocked her head. “Something wrong?”

“No, no. Just wondering.”

“Oh, okay. Well, see you tonight, then.” She waved as she skipped through the door.

“See ya, Shelly,” Darren mumbled as he walked past.

I passed most of the afternoon reading, and when I could stand in one place no longer, I wandered around on the beach. I felt trapped. I couldn’t miss Rachel’s party, but I didn’t want to face Megan again, not until I could figure out what to do about the situation.

I got back to my room later than I had expected and suddenly found myself having to rush to get ready. I named off each item that I would need and either placed it on the edge of my bed or stuffed it into my purse. When I picked up my cell phone, I saw that the voice message indicator was on. I had left it on my desk while I was down at the beach. I sat, half-dressed, on the edge of my bed and pressed the voicemail button. “Shelly, this is your mom. I need you to call me immediately.” I erased the message and another followed it. “Shelly, call me right away. It’s very important.”

I put down the phone, resolving to call my mother back as soon as I was finished getting ready. Stripping off my clothes, I paused to regard an unwelcome mess. “Perfect timing,” I groaned as I surveyed the damage. I tossed the soiled underclothes into my laundry basket, knowing as I did so that I was ensuring the stain would set.

Glancing at the clock once more, I picked up a pen and looked at my calendar. Sure enough, I was four days early. I remembered something that another girl had mentioned in the hall a few weeks back. She said we’d all be on the same cycle before the end of the year, something about pheromones. I had thought it was a joke at the time.

I jumped at the knock on my door. “Who is it?” I asked, rifling through a drawer for the remnants of a box of pads.

“It’s me.” I was surprised to hear Megan’s voice.

“God,” I said under my breath. “Hold on, I’m not dressed.” I cleaned myself up and slipped into panties and a bra, feeling the same panic I had felt in high school when I woke up late. I stood behind the door when I opened it and closed it again as soon as Megan was inside.

“What happened?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

“You don’t want to know,” I said, snatching a dress from the closet. I wiggled into it. “Can you give me a hand?”

Megan slid the zipper up in the back while I held my hair out of the way. She didn’t comment any further on my situation, but helped me dress and gather my things. She waited in the doorway as I collected my purse and the gift-wrapped necklace and did a bit of last minute primping in the mirror. “Don’t worry, you look great,” she said. “Come on, we’re running late and we’ve gotta get Laura too.”

“You guys are okay now?” I asked as I followed her out. I only vaguely remembered Megan getting mad at Laura, the memory fuzzy from the effect of the Rohypnol. Rachel had explained it to me afterward.

“Yeah, we’re cool. Truth is, I was just looking for someone to blame. Laura’s not your babysitter.”

“How did Rachel like the dress?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation light.

“Oh, she likes it just fine. The hard part was convincing her to wear it tonight. She wanted to go casual and tried to convince me that everyone else should do the same.”

“Wassuuup?” Laura called upon seeing us, mimicking a recent beer ad. She was already standing down by Megan’s Taurus. Behind her, Sachiko leaned against the door, legs crossed in a languid pose. “Mind if my chickey comes along?”

Megan sniffed her when she got close. “You guys been smoking the weed?”

“Just a trifle,” Sachiko answered, putting her thumb and forefinger close together.

“At the rate you two are going, you’ll have forgotten college by the time you graduate.”

“At least I’ll have a diploma,” Laura pointed out.

“Hey, genius girl!” Sachiko exclaimed, noticing me. “You okay, love?”

“Sure,” I said, smiling at the odd-sounding sentiment. “I spent the night in the hospital, but I’m fine now.”

Laura took the front passenger seat, leaving me with a backseat next to Sachiko. “Raura wants me to get to know you all better,” she said, holding out her hand.

I shook it. “You speak English very well,” I told her, knowing that this would be taken as a compliment if she really were native Japanese.

“Thank you,” she replied with a slight bow of her head, confirming my thoughts. “Though I must admit, I find the accent very difficult to master. This is my second year here. I could have gone to UCLA, but I love the ocean.”

“I do, too,” I said, smiling.

Laura turned partway around in her seat. “You wanna know how we met? Sachi put a personal ad in the paper. Let me see. If I remember right, it said, ‘Sexy young Asian woman, 19, seeking sexy young woman for sex and love.’” She laughed. “I think what got me was the sex.”

I glanced at the rearview mirror. Megan’s eyes were focused on the road ahead with an impassive expression. I leaned forward. “Hey, Laura, can I ask you a personal question?”

“You can ask. Can’t guarantee I’ll answer.”

I frowned, trying to figure out how I wanted to word my question. “When did you know that you were…that you were attracted to women?”

She rubbed her chin. “Well, you have to understand a bit about my high school. I grew up in Lompoc, about an hour north of here. At my high school, well it sounds really weird, but it was kind of the norm. Girls experimented a lot with other girls, and it was basically accepted. Me, I’m just about as attracted to either choice, men or women. I had one long-term boyfriend, another short-term, and one long-term girlfriend. I still talk to her now and then, but she’s recently decided she’s pure hetero. I guess I could see that. It was a pretty weird environment.”

Sachiko spoke up suddenly. “Same-sex relationships are not flaunted in my country. In America, gays talk openly about who they are and what they do, and there is a great deal of people here who have hatred towards us. In Japan, it is accepted to some degree, but only if it is kept hidden. There is shame in making it known. I met my first lover in a chat room. It was something I had always wondered about, something I felt I needed to explore. Her name was Kumiko and she made love with the artistry of a poet. We only saw each other for a few months before I left to come here, always in secret. She’s the one thing I miss most about Osaka.”

“Hi, I’m chopped liver,” Laura said wryly. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yes, but I love you anyway,” Sachiko giggled. “How about you, Megan?”

Megan took a deep breath and began her story. “All the way up into high school, there was a boy named Jamie Walsh that I had a huge crush on. My junior year, I finally got him to ask me out. I’d had other boyfriends before, but he was the first one I ever slept with. The thing was, I wasn’t all that crazy about the sex. He would just do his thing and it would be over. Well, after about five or six times of doing that, he finally decided to go down on me. It wasn’t too bad, but I wasn’t really getting anywhere. Then the strangest thought came into my head. I remembered this girl from fifth grade, Katie Royer. She was my best friend and we did everything together. We hugged and kissed a lot, and sometimes we crossed this kind of invisible barrier that was both scary and exciting for both of us. I can’t say it was truly sexual, but close.”

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