A Short Story –
Read Part One Here
You sit in the cafeteria, at a table in the back—alone—sipping stale, over-steeped tea when what you could really use is a strong shot shooting straight through you. Killing your insides—all the rage and frustration and, yeah, the fear—for just a bit.
You’re alone. Again.
It’s wrong, you think. Practically criminal. You’re young. You’re beautiful. You’re assertive and confident. You’re on the Dean’s List and pledge at one of the most prestigious sororities in the country. You’re part of a legacy, the fifth generation of your family to attend this school. You’re practically a poster-child for this college.
Or at least you were. Now your name’s been taken off the Dean’s List, for behavior unbecoming. You’ve been kicked out of your sorority. And your friends and family won’t talk to you.
Now, in the middle of the crowded dinner service, no one will even look at you.
When they do, it’s brief, always laced with a titillated sympathy. A shocked recognition as tabloid stories and pixelated gossip flash through their heads. As images, painfully clear in their digital vibrancy, get superimposed over you. A whip in your hand replaces a purse. A bracelet becomes bonds, tied tight around taut wrists.
The people around you become instantly blinded by the blindfold. Can’t see past the toys and trappings.
You’ve become a pariah. An outcast. A local celebrity in the very worst of ways.
You flinch when something hits you in the back of your head. Turning, you find a crash-landed paper plane nose-dived on the floor at your feet.
You know you shouldn’t pick it up the second you do. The crumpled, badly folded paper feels touched and foreboding against your fingertips. As if creasing hands had lingered against the page, their oils staining the sheet as sharp nails scoured.
You unfold the printed page and blink blindly at it. Wet shame and burning rage war behind dry eyes. Don’t cry. Not here. Not for them.
“You guys are such assholes,” a voice says, low and chastising, when someone sits next to you.
You’d look up, but your eyes can’t stop staring at the page. It’s grainy. A black and white re-printing. Probably done in someone’s dorm room or copied from one of the college’s machines. It’s stark and fuzzy, but your face is clear.
The hard lines of your face look harsh as you straddle the faceless girl beneath you. Your fist is unforgiving in her hair while the other wields a riding crop menacingly. The grin splitting your face looks vicious, black and twisted with violent glee. Even the folds cutting through the sheet look like bars, a creased cage, inescapable and unyielding.
God, is that really me? you wonder while you stare.
You hear that voice, a little gruff and insistent, say your name. Not for the first time, if his tone is a clue.
You look up, blinking back the fog of feelings.
“Are you okay?” a guy you don’t recognize asks you, sympathy smooth in his voice.
Your lips thin and you think about how to answer that question. You decide on the easier nod.
He shoots you an understanding half-smile. “Ignore those guys.” He takes the pulled-apart plane from your hands ans scoots closer to you. “They’re just jerks.”
You mirror his smile, the curve of your lip feeling familiar again. It should never feel this uncommonly good, having someone be kind to you. To have someone talk to you—instead of at you or about you.
But, after weeks of silence, it does. You hate that, but are still so grateful. You blush when his arm curves around your shoulders comfortingly. “Thanks.”
He’s cute. Big. Strong. A jock of some kind, you think. You admire the width of his shoulders and the tanned, toned strength of his arms.
But then you notice his eyes turn to the printed picture as if pulled.
Your stomach begins to pinch when you catch the interest burning in his gaze. Your smile slips as you notice how his hand clenches the piece of paper, before he leans closer—too close—to you, his brand of comfort less consoling than it’d been a second ago.
“You wanna go up to my room?” You can hear the implication, implicit and insulting, in his tone.
For a second, your brain goes blank before trying to track the conversation, trying to figure out where the question had come from. Trying to recall if you’d said or done something in the course of your discourse to lead him to think that was where this was headed.
Your attention drifts to the picture again, a printed spot on your soul, spoiling your image as it spins lies from your truths.
You back away from him, recoiling. You stare, repulsed by the skeezy sheen in his eager eyes. Shaking your head, you’re not confused—not really—but still taken aback. Foolishly. “No.”
He frowns, a sneaky smile still lighting his face. “Why not?” He acts as if this is a game. As if he’s just reciting lines. As if his end is a forgone conclusion. A story already written.
You gape at his gall. “I’m sorry.” You shift in your chair to distance yourself. “Just not interested.”
“It’s cool.” He maneuvers his knees around yours under the table, trapping you between his legs. “I dated a freaky, ex-Catholic school girl once. She was into chicks and all kinds of crazy stuff too.” He smiles, cocky and full. “It was hot.”
You get up to leave, mystified and disillusioned.
He should have read the tabloids more closely.
Your father’s church might have disowned you, but you aren’t an ex anything. Freaky or not, your faith doesn’t have anything to do with your love life; so long as you’re not hurting anyone—really hurting anyone—you don’t see how it’s anyone’s business but your own, not even God’s.
Much less this guy’s.
His tongue licks his ludicrous grin while his one-track, wanting eyes center on your crotch. You shake your head and turn.
He grabs your wrist.
He tugs harder.
You stumble a bit before you find your feet under you.
“Hey, what’s the problem? I heard you were into that kind of thing.” He waves the folded paper like a flag.
You shoot him a disdainful glare. “I don’t know you.” You say it clearly and slowly, so he understands that, no matter what he thinks, he also clearly doesn’t know you.
He shrugs and pulls you closer, despite your feet struggling to stay still. “That’s why we’ll go to my room; get to know each other a little bit.” He smiles at you, his grin knowing and superior, still holding the photo in his hand. You feel each word like a slap to the face as he says with a shit-eating smirk, “Besides, how well did you know her?”
“My turn.” Menace seeps into Lacy’s usually sweet, serving voice. She takes the riding crop you’d just used on her in her hand. “Lie down,” she says in that saccharine voice as sharp as claws, “across my lap like a good girl.”
You do, trepidation and thrill shivering along your spine as you stretch over soft sheets and softer skin. She strokes your shoulders—just a brief brush, the kind you’d give a pet—before the crop clips you, cutting across your ass.
You gasp, your breath stolen from you with that single strike. The sting burns, strong at the site before spreading across your skin.
You hear her laugh, a girlish giggle. “Like that?”
“Yes,” you hiss.
She grabs a fistful of your hair, pulling the pixie-cut strands painfully. “Yes what?”
You pause for a moment, trying to remember her preferred address. “Yes, Miss.”
“That’s right.” She runs the riding crop across your back. “That’s my good, little bitch, aren’t you?” She teases your skin, making your body involuntarily arch into her touch. “Aren’t you?”
She strikes you again, the crop’s bite snapping harsh. A cry escapes your lips. “Say it.”
She wants the words. The ones neither of you would say in the real world. The ones that cut at scars already left by those who’d hurled those words to hurt. “I’m...your good...little...bitch.” Your words punctuate in rhythm to her beats, the crop keeping good time.
“Again.” Her voice sounds ruined behind clenched teeth.
“I—” Your back arches against her thighs, pressing your breasts into the bed as your ass bounces. “Am your. Good. Little. Bitch.” You give her those words. Because here—in this space, with this woman—they are your words. They mean what you want them to mean. Hold the power you give them. Here, the words are your choice. The gift you give her. So, maybe, the next time you hear them, they won’t hurt anymore.
“Fucking right, you are.” She takes the tough, flat head of the crop and touches the wet heat slick between your thighs. She grinds the leather against your clit, making you moan. She laughs at how close you are. How easy you are. “You’re my bitch. My whore. My cunt. You’re whatever I want you to be, aren’t you?”
You come shuddering against the crop. “Yes, Miss.” Whatever you want to be.
You sit in your dorm room, on your Spartan bed, your cell phone in your lap. You stare at numbers you promised you wouldn’t call anymore.
You should delete them from your phone.
Instead, you scroll through your contacts.
The first name’s not talking to you. The second’s not either. Not talking to you. Not talking to you. Haven’t spoken in years. Don’t know very well. Wouldn’t understand. Not talking to you.
Not that you blame them. Any of them. Lacy. Krysta. William.
Past play partners—long-ago lovers—whose pasts were dragged down with yours. Treasured memories tarnished—transformed in an instant—the second those digital depictions appeared.
They have every right to hate you.
You hate yourself.
Sighing, you put down the phone.
Your computer calls to you, tempting you with easy escape and Wi-Fi anonymity. The last refuge for the far-too-visible.
You go onto SyncKink.com, a site you’ve only been to a handful of times while your roommate’s been out. A site you learned about from one of your favorite authors, who regularly posts about kink and SM, and from a podcast you’d begun to listen to about sex and love and play.
Not a member, there are only so many places you can search. You’ve already seen them all at least twice, but there’s something comforting about coming back again and again. Like meeting up with a good friend.
It makes you feel less alone.
You read through Katherina Valdez’s newest post, but stop when you scroll down to see your picture flashing in front of you on the site. Not one of the ones being passed out like dirty, digital leaflets—like a number on the back of a bar’s bathroom stall—but your college photo. A nice, neat head-shot of a smiling girl fresh out of high school, without a worry in the world.
She looks sweet, innocent. The girl-next-door.
We live in a very voyeuristic world, you read beneath the picture. We’ve become our own Big Brothers, policing each other’s private lives, prohibiting each other’s pleasure. Must misery be the mission? Does different always mean depraved? Is happiness a punishable offense? Will our closets remain forever closed?
Your eyes tear when you read her words. When you read about yourself. You see your life through her eyes. Take in her take on your foils and failings. On the unfortunate turn of your world.
You have fond memories of those photos, each one a frozen moment in time you’d longed to keep fresh. You’d kept them hidden, stored, and password-protected, showing them only to a trusted few. Yet somehow they’d been spread—those photos and videos—like lies, stripping them of their context, their stories and truth.
It’s wrong, the blog post continues, to relegate us to trashy novels and bad porn. To assume that we’re all abusers and victims. To force us to fit and adhere to over-simplified, over-generalized definitions that diminish and dismiss. We are real people. With real lives. And we deserve respect.
Such a small word. And yet your eyes can’t look away.
Alone in your room with no one to talk to, with no one to listen, you—somehow—are part of a we.
“When the semester finishes,” your father tells you over the phone, “don’t bother coming home.”
“Daddy.” Even to you, your voice sounds weepy and weak.
“No,” he interrupts. “I gave you everything. Sacrificed everything so you could have the best and this is what you’ve been doing at college?” Even now, you can hear his teeth grind over the connection. “This is how you spend my money while I work to provide for your future.” He huffs out a heavy, weighted breath. “Do you have any idea the things I’ve seen? The pictures being passed around the neighborhood, the congregation? Do you know the things I’ve heard people say?” The deacon’s disgraced daughter. Anointed Assumption’s fallen Jezebel. The most mea culpa cliché. A short, sharp, disgusted sound sputters out through the speaker. “I can’t even repeat it.”
You can hear his irritation, his humiliation. You close your eyes, shameful tears seeping out the corners. “Daddy...”
“I’m not your Daddy.” His words cut like a knife. “You’re not my daughter. You’ve mortified me, made a fool of me, and my daughter—the one I raised right—would never do that.” His gruff sniff dismisses you, scraping at you as if you were something stuck to his shoe. “I don’t know who you are.”
“I told you,” Porter hisses, clutching his bag to his chest and hurriedly striding ahead, “I can’t see you anymore.”
You frown and watch the boy who’d been yours just a month before, his body branded by your hand, his whole form a history of your time together, walking away. You see your connection together vanish, erased by the healing touch of time and the clever cover of clothes.
You breathe hard, your heart breaking as his long legs take him further and further away. You want to grab him. Bind him still. Strip him down. Right there on the street. Under the bright midday sun. In front of everyone.
You want to see your marks on him. Want everyone—want him—to see them, unmistakable and undeniable. You want to trace the shape and color of them, to see and feel the memory you’ve left on the masterpiece of his body.
But you don’t. Instead, you just let him go, feeling helpless while the mob of students flood around you and swallow him up.
With nowhere to go, you go back to your room. You sit down to your computer, mindlessly moving through the now familiar digital portal, entering the site.
You listen to The Deviant Nerd, Pip Jones’s sultry voice streaming through your headphones while you search the site.
“What are we teaching those students in that so-called higher education?” she asks rhetorically into your ear. “That kink is a crime? That a little sexy play should be punished to the fullest extent? That it’s fine for someone—some thief and peeping tom—to steal and spread private pictures? That the real criminal in this case should go free, without so much as a slap on the wrist—without even an investigation to find them—while she gets a scarlet letter stitched into her skin by a media just salivating over the juicier story, even if it ruins an innocent woman’s life?”
You listen absently and flick through the familiar pages, wishing and wondering over full-access.
You should sign-up. Join. Be part of the we.
You could belong there, the one place in the world where you wouldn’t feel different. Wouldn’t be alone.
You bite your lip.
So much of...this has been secret for so long. You’ve kept so much hidden in your head, in your heart, behind locked bedrooms, and on password-protected hard drives. You’d had some of those pictures for years now, captured memories that were never meant to be seen by anyone but you.
But you’d shown them to people. Shared them with those you shouldn’t have trusted.
You should have known better. You should have been more careful. Hidden better.
Suddenly feeling exposed—as if someone could see you—as if eyes are always and already on you—you realize that you should get off this site. You should stop all of this.
So, shutting down your computer—watching the screen blink into black—you do.
You sit Porter down, your heart racing as you take a seat beside him on your bed.
“What is it?” A nervous laugh touches his question.
He thinks you’re going to break up with him.
You wish you were. Wish your problems—yours and, unavoidably, regrettably, his—were that simple.
You tell him, slowly—hesitantly—but clearly. You show him the pictures. The video. The sites. You tell him the whole story.
You’re crying by the end of it, but his eyes are completely dry. Just dazed. Unbelieving while he stares at himself. At the others. At you.
The digital you.
He can’t actually look at the actual you.
“How?” His usually soft, pleasing voice sounds grave and gruff.
You shake your head. “I don’t know.”
“How can you not know?” Anger ratchets his voice louder. “How can you not know how someone got a hold of these pictures? Of the god damned video of us?”
You flinch; you’ve never heard Porter swear before. Never heard him so much as raise his voice.
You don’t know what to say. “I’m so sorry, Porter.”
He shakes his head, disgusted, and just continues to stare.
You rip the taped up photocopied photo off your door with a disgruntled growl.
It’s never going to end, is it?
You stay quiet, lay low, and still they come after you.
You take the judgment and harassment from classmates, roommates, peers, and professors.
You get ignored and snubbed by ex-friends and ex-lovers.
You give up parts of yourself you’d spent so long denying—a harder act to do now that you’ve actually tasted and lived it.
And still it doesn’t end.
You enter the room, throwing yourself face-down on the bed. You bury your head in your pillow and wonder how much more you can take. Turning your head, you stare at your roommate’s empty bed that hasn’t been slept in for over a week now.
You’ve been avoided. Abandoned. Isolated.
Your eye catches the glint of your laptop, lost and lonely beneath textbooks and sheaves of paper.
You’ve been avoiding it too lately. Trying to stay away from temptation. Trying so very hard to be good.
And for what? you wonder as you toss the crumpled picture in your fist. You watch it soar through the air and into the trash.
You get up and settle your laptop on your bed, pulling it close. Without hesitation—not allowing yourself the time to rethink or regret—you log onto the site.
You’re tired of feeling alone. You’re tired of feeling like a freak. You’re just so tired.
So you reach out, hoping against hope that someone reaches back.
You lean back on the blanket, enjoying the sun, your computer hot and humming on your lap.
Forums. Messages. Blogs and posts. You’ve been rummaging through them all day, unearthing gems and friends. You’ve even found a kink-friendly group—CinKY, a College Kinky Youth group for millennial kinksters in your area—that you never even knew existed.
You laugh at a comment someone left on your wall, words of joking encouragement, bolstering your ego and lifting your spirits, along with an invitation to meet up. You write back, something pithy and grateful.
You look up when you hear a loud crash, seeing books and belongings crash to the ground from long, lanky arms. You see Porter’s crestfallen face while he watches his things scatter across the concrete.
He bends to pick them up, his face tipped away from the two large guys looming over him with smirking lips.
They block his way, shoving his shoulders, making him stumble back.
You stand, anger stiffening your spine.
“Bitch!” they yell before a bullet of spit fires at your boy’s face.
And even though he’s told you he needs space, even though he’s abandoned you since your face was splashed across TV screens and left on leaflets papering dorm doors, you go to him.
Because what else can you do. He’s your boy. You’re his.
You walk up to them, your hard face set into harsh lines. “Leave him alone.” Your voice sounds mean as you stand in front of the boy who you’ll always think of as yours.
“Ooo,” one of the guys—some big, bulky jock-strap of a guy—coos at you in mock terror, “watch out; his boyfriend’s about to kick your ass.”
His buddy—practically the same burly bully as his friend—laughs, a cruel yet weak sound tweaked with enough interest to curl your fists. His eyes heat while his gaze touches your body, groping at you in a grossly obvious way. “I’m game to let her try.” He licks his thick lips in a sloppy, starving way. “Let her get a taste of a real man.”
You scoff, shooting a disgusted, dismissive glare their way. They wouldn’t know what a real man was if he lay at their feet. And they, these jerks who ape at being men, never will.
Your hard gaze narrows into a thin, lethal beam that stares them down, forcing their backs to bow and their heads to tip.
You watch in satisfaction when their smiles waver the second nerves—some visceral, animal instinct—hits them while they take you in.
“Leave,” you repeat, your voice unshakable, “him alone.”
Your shoulders stiffen and your chest puffs when you feel more than see your boy stand behind you. Your breath stutters—surprised, but strong—as he slides his hand into yours, your fingers twining strong together.
Against the world.
You grip each other’s hands and squeeze.
LEARNING A NEW WORLD
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