by Usagi Anami (兎あなみ)
Odd noises were coming from the supply closet. Hannah could have expected to hear the clinking of test tubes, the moving the clunky microscopes, or Mr. Stevens muttering to himself a bit too loudly when he thought all the students had left. A decidedly feminine moan that made Hannah’s throat tighten was not normal or appropriate.
Hannah had arrived early to study for her Honors Chemistry exam later that morning. She had studied the night before, of course, and many nights before that like every good student should, but it never hurt to touch on everything one last time. She could have studied at home, in the library, or the school’s vacant cafeteria, but today she had decided to be surrounded by her subject.
But apparently someone had showed up earlier than she. Hannah had just sat down and was pulling out her notes when she heard it, barely muffled by the heavy metal door. She told herself it was nothing; the pre-test jitters were playing tricks on her mind.
While she knew her mind was not easily tricked and she had a confidence that bordered on arrogant certainty that she would ace the exam, the rationalization held out until she heard another louder moan thirty seconds later. Hannah’s face flushed and the notebook she was pulling out dropped back into her backpack. Someone-a girl making very distracting noises-was in the supply closet.
She should leave. She should cough loudly. She should gently knock on the door to let the person know someone else was there. After all, she didn’t want Mr. Stevens walking in and getting whomever was in there expelled. The offender may have been disrupting the educational environment, but Hannah wasn’t vindictive.
The decision was made for her before she could make up her mind. The door opened and a raven-haired girl stepped out in a purple knee-length skirt and a white dress shirt, two buttons short of decency. Her straight hair was pulled into a short ponytail with a rubber band. Each ear held two silver studs. Through thin fabric of the girl’s shirt Hannah spotted a black bra. Hannah’s pulse throbbed like a living thing against her neck.
The girl wasn’t embarrassed when she saw Hannah looking at her. If she was surprised at all by the presence of another human being, she didn’t show it. Instead she raised her hand in greeting as if she had meet Hannah in the hallway.
“Hi.” The girl smiled. Her jaw was working something.
“I-I…I just got here,” Hannah stammered, pulling out her chemistry textbook with too much urgency and cracking it open to a random page.
The other girl laughed. “It’s cool. Sorry if we were bothering you.” Her hands went to her shirt and began fumbling with the buttons to cover the exposed triangle of skin.
“I just got here. Really.” Hannah tried to keep her eyes on her textbook, but somehow her vision kept drifting back to the girl’s brown eyes.
“I believe you.” She finished buttoning up her shirt and pulled the collar down. “Really.”
A boy appeared behind the girl, tomato-faced and practically running out of the classroom. The door slammed shut and they were alone.
More than one person had shown up earlier than Hannah. The warmth in her face melted and her gut twisted into a painful knot.
“What were you doing?” she blurted out, wishing she could suck the words back into her mouth as soon as she did.
Still smiling, the girl got so close to Hannah she could smell the peppermint on her breath. Hannah braced herself for the inevitable slap, or worse, the scathing remark.
“It’s called sex. It’s fun.” The girl poked Hannah’s nose. “You should try it sometime.”
The girl left. Half an hour later the bell rang for first period. Hannah didn’t study and got a 105 out of 100 on the test.
Hannah saw the girl again, at school or around town when she ran errands or on her way to the library. She was always with a boy, and always with a different boy. Hannah’s stomach felt like it was stuffed with snakes when she saw her in exchanging saliva with some boy or sitting in one’s lap. She hated it and she hated hating it. In the fifteen years she’d been alive she couldn’t remember feeling anything this irrational or intense.
She couldn’t remember being told that sex was evil. Her father had lectured her about the importance of chastity, although he was the first to admit she probably didn’t need it.
“I know you wouldn’t compromise your studies for such things. I’m just trying to do my job as your Dad.”
Even her parents knew she was too much of a geek to have a love life. Great.
She could remember thinking that sex was irresponsible for someone her age. It must be a stupid, impotent resentment of her peer’s stupidity. It was just being transferred onto this uninhibited butterfly. While no other public displays of affection roused her ire, the explanation seemed to hold out.
She bumped into the girl at the library a few days after the incident in the chemistry lab.
“Hey, it’s you.”
Hannah practically dropped the book she was holding. It was only with quick reflexes and luck that she caught it before it fell to the floor. She turned around in her chair to see the girl looking down at her. She looked like she was trying not to laugh.
“Yeah.” Hannah swallowed and put the book back on the table. “It’s me.”
Jessica held out her hand. Her fingernails were painted lavender. Hannah stared at it for a few seconds giving it a weak shake. Jessica smirked after another twenty seconds of silence slid between them.
“This is the part where you tell me what your name is.”
“Oh.” Hannah flushed. “Hannah.”
“There’s going to a party at my house this Saturday. Wanna come?”
Jessica shrugged. “Some other time, maybe?”
A hand gripped her shoulder. She struggled to keep herself from tearing away from the touch.
“I’m going to this new café after school. Wanna come?”
“Can’t.” Hannah waved her hand feebly. “You know, homework.”
The bell rang and Hannah fled to class before anything else could be said.
Jessica sat down across from Hannah in the cafeteria.
“Are you free this Saturday?”
She nodded. Jessica sighed.
“Well, want some gum?” Jessica held out a piece wrapped in silver.
She nodded again. After Jessica gave it to her Hannah turned it over it in her hand and stared at it as if was an exotic insect.
“This is the part where you put it in your mouth. After you take the foil off.”
Hannah spent her free time as a volunteer at the tutoring center. Her mother had suggested it.
“It’s a nice thing to do. Besides, it will look on your college application.”
So she taught people the parts of speech, earth science, and what century the Civil War happened in. It never hurt to stay in touch with the basics.
The process of acquiring a tutor was informal. Someone that needed help walked in and said what subject they needed help in. If the one of the tutors there felt they knew the subject well enough, they helped. Sometimes a tutor that could help them was there, sometimes they weren’t.
The “center” was really an unused classroom cleared of desks and replaced by round tables and hard plastic chairs. The tables were scarred with chicken scratch and graffiti. The posters plastered on the walls were the same as the ones in every other classroom, except they nearly covered the walls: they praised effort, determination, and goal building with bold texts and pictures of mountain climbers.
A few weeks ago a new poster appeared on the wall. It was an athlete sitting on a bench, clutching his head in his hands. Below him the word “Failure” loomed in green and all caps, and beneath that in smaller text, “When your best just isn’t good enough.” So far none of the students or teachers had commented on it. Hannah suspected no one else had even noticed it.
One Saturday after helping a freshman with a particularly tangled English essay, she got a new person to tutor.
“It’s you.” Hannah blinked, but she was still there.
“It’s me.” Jessica sat down, crossed her legs, and pulled out her algebra book.
Most people that knew Hannah knew her because she was Isaac’s younger sister. Isaac had graduated valedictorian in two years and was currently attending a prestigious out-of-state school on a full-ride scholarship.
Isaac digested even the most complicated information the way regular people digested food. Hannah would joke (while trying to keep the bitter edge out of her voice) that he absorbed the contents of textbook through his fingertips.
Hannah was smart enough to know she was smart. But she also was smart enough to know she didn’t learn by osmosis and never would. It was only through force of will and an ascetic devotion to academics that she matched her brother’s grade point average.
Her teeth ground together when she thought that when her brother her age, he was nearly finished with high school and overwhelmed with university offers.
When Isaac left for school, Hannah appropriated his room for studying and schoolwork. She kept it spotless and only touched things to clean them, with the exception of his chair and desk. She prayed that some of her brother’s brand of genius had lingered there and might instill itself in her. So far none of it had touched her, but she continued to study there out of habit and hope.
On Friday nights when other people were planning parties or going on dates, Hannah would call her brother after she finished up whatever homework was due on Monday.
“Hi, Eyes.” Hannah said. She used the first part of his name as his nickname, a stupid pun, and only spoke it when they were alone.
“Hi, Hands.” Isaac had decided it wouldn’t do for her to be unbranded by a nickname as well.
Isaac had time for friends and girlfriends and sports, so he would talk about that. Hannah talked about school. She made sympathetic sounds when he complained he didn’t know what he was going to major in and kept any sarcastic snips about the difficulties of being a prodigy to herself.
Somewhere between Isaac gossiping about his friend’s love life and Hannah digressing about her history homework, they arrived at the topic of Jessica.
“There’s this girl I’m tutoring and…” The phone cord twisted in her hand, “she…I…she makes me angry.”
“Angry? Like she isn’t trying to learn?”
“She has a bunch of boyfriends or…” Hannah bit her lip at the memory. She let go of the phone cord when she saw she had it wound around her hand like a bandage. “I don’t know what they are. Guys she makes out with. Whenever I see her kissing on some guy, I get angry. It’s stupid-”
“Oh. I see. You’re jealous.”
Hannah’s face burned.
“It’s not like that-” she protested, but he cut her off.
“You’re jealous of all the attention she gets from guys.”
She sighed and smacked her forehead.
“Yeah, Eyes. You’re right. As usual.”
Jessica and Hannah ended up talking about more than fractions during study sessions. Jessica did most of the talking, but Hannah was more than happy to listen.
She learned about Jessica’s bratty brothers, her hit-and-miss relationships, and her interest in collecting toy frogs. Jessica stopped being just a beautiful girl that make Hannah’s insides quiver. She became a human being, and the closest thing Hannah had to a friend besides Isaac.
“Look, I’m not a whore or anything,” Jessica declared in the middle of one session. Her elbows rested on the table and she was chewing on the end of pencil. “It’s not peer pressure. Everything I do is because I want to. And I always take precautions.”
Hannah looked around. The other students and student-tutors were too engrossed in their work to notice Jessica’s confessional. Hannah leaned over the table and said in a low voice, “Why are you telling me this?”
“I don’t want you to think I’m some bimbo.”
Jessica was looking at her textbook, busily scratching out the next problem.
They started to have informal sessions at Jessica’s house. Jessica upstairs room didn’t have a writing desk. They did their work on the floor, lying on their stomachs and writing on the backs of whatever hard surface they could get their hands on. Jessica’s parents were taking her brothers to a kiddy movie, so they had the house to themselves.
“Hey, do you wanna get a pizza or something? Dad said it’s okay.”
“It’s getting late.” Hannah glanced at the clock. “That, and we haven’t made much headway yet.” She tapped Jessica’s homework with a pencil for emphasis.
“Oh, c’mon. It’ll be here in, like, 40 minutes. We can study while we’re waiting.”
“Okay, okay, fine.” Hannah shooed her downstairs.
While she was gone Hannah spotted a stray paper on the floor, next to Jessica’s backpack. It was Jessica’s report card. Eager to see how Jessica had improved from her help, she quickly glanced over it. Her face paled. When Jessica returned her smile melted when she meet Hannah’s eyes.
“What’s wrong is that your G.P.A is three points lower than mine,” Hannah gestured to the paper dismissively and snorted. “And you aren’t even taking algebra. You’re taking trig.” She stood up and grabbed her backpack.
Jessica looked at the ground and said nothing.
“Why did you lie to me? Why did you pretend to need help?”
“You’re the one that assumed I was stupid.” Jessica shot back, balling up her hands.
“You never thought to question me needing your help. You’re the one that assumed I didn’t know this stuff.”
“Or maybe I assume people won’t lie to me when they come in for help. Did you lie to me to prove I’m a jerk? To show that even if I’m head of my class I can still be tricked?”
“No.” Jessica grabbed Hannah’s arm. “That wasn’t it at all. I wanted to be your friend.”
Hannah pulled back and her backpack thudded against the floor. “Then why didn’t you just say so?”
“Do you even remember all those times I asked you hang out with me? That’s how people become friends, Hannah. You were always too busy with school. This was the only way I could get time any time with you.
“But I guess I should have just let you study your life away. If being a college recruiter’s wet dream is so important to you that you can’t even be my friend, then I should never have wasted my time on you. You’re nothing but a goddamn drone.”
Jessica laughed. It an ugly, bitter sound.
“I bet you’ve never done an impulsive thing in your life-”
Hannah kissed her.
At first it was an act of rage, more of an attack than a kiss. But after a few moments of their lips connecting, the anger drained out of her as if Jessica was sucking it out with her mouth. And Jessica was kissing her back. Jessica tasted of peppermint and cheery lip gloss and when her tongue touched Hannah’s she thought she would die.
She tried to think all of the boys Jessica had done this with. She couldn’t summon to mind anything but nameless, faceless males. And without faces, how any of them could have mouths? There was her mouth and Jessica’s mouth, and it seemed absurd now to ponder anything else being possible. When Jessica pulled back, her eyes were wide and her face tinged pink. Hannah had never seen her blush before.
“No ones ever kissed me like that.” Jessica pressed her fingers into her lips, as if attempting to understand it through touch.
“Like what?” It was Hannah’s first kiss. Of course it was going to be clumsy and awkward and horrible. Hannah’s heart tightened like a hand was roughly squeezing it.
Jessica’s blush deepened. “Like they meant it.”
Hannah looked away, her face reddening to match Jessica’s. The memory of Jessica’s mouth was still tingling on hers like an imprint.
“But I like boys.” Jessica sounded like she speaking more to herself than to Hannah.
“Yeah, I noticed.” Hannah fingers twitched and she wished Jessica would slap her.
“I’m sorry.” Hannah eyes stung. She dropped to her knees and began tossing together her things, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ll get out of here now.” She didn’t know if she was sorrier for the kiss or the remark.
She disregarded order and tidiness in her haste to flee. She shoved notes in textbooks and books into binders. She reached over to unzip her backpack and cram the mess inside when a hand enclosed over hers.
“But maybe I like you too,” Jessica breathed into her ear. Her other hand pressed down on Hannah’s thigh. Her breasts pressed into Hannah’s back. Jessica gave Hannah’s hand a gentle squeeze to steady it when it starting shaking.
Jessica kissed the back of her neck and that tender spot of skin where neck and shoulder meet. Her free hand slipped under Hannah’s shirt and under her bra. Hannah whimpered when her fingers closed down on her nipple and tugged.
Fingers still tweaking her nipple, Jessica turned her around and gently pushed her to the floor. Jessica’s mouth pressed down on hers, her knee grinding against her sex through her pants. Her hand made quick work of her zipper. Hannah became a brainless jumble of nerves when Jessica’s fingers entered her.
They curled and twisted inside her, making her cry out and shudder. Jessica was pushing up against something inside her and whatever it was she didn’t want her to stop touching it. Warmth washed over her and suddenly she was clamping down on her fingers, gripping them like it a hand. Hannah head fell to the floor, and her entire body felt light and hollow.
Jessica was smiling above her and Hannah weakly smiled back. She had no clue if she was capable of returning the favor in full, but she was certainly going to try. Her exhaustion vanished and a renewed vigor filled her. Hannah untangled herself from Jessica and pinned her to floor.
It didn’t take long to discover why Jessica’s favorite activity was her favorite. Just kissing was making Jessica wet, and Hannah caught the scent of her arousal long before she saw or touched it. When she finally lifted up Jessica’s skirt it looked like her insides had turned to water and gushed out of her.
Just brushing her hand down Jessica’s arm or leg the right way could make her twitch, and dragging her tongue across her throat made her convulse. It was as if her whole body was an erogenous zone. With her kind of sensitivity even the most inept fondling could have made her feel good.
And Hannah far from inept, even if it was only by the virtue of her sex. Her fingers explored Jessica’s sex, paying special attention to that sweet spot she was certain had been overlooked by others. When her fingers brushed that hard nub she was startled by Jessica’s barely restrained screams. Her back arched so much her temple nearly touched the floor. Her fingernails dug into her palm and drew blood.
The sounds Jessica had made in closet that day were a weak echo of what she was capable of. Hannah had heard once that the most satisfying sound anyone would ever hear was their name said with dignity. Whoever had said that had never had their name gasped half-intelligibly by a thrashing lover.
Afterwards Jessica rested her head on Hannah’s shoulder, occasionally gracing it with little kisses.
“What was that?” Jessica wrapped her arms around Hannah and shuddered. “That felt so…different.”
“I think it’s called making love. It’s wonderful,” Hannah smirked, “We should try it more often.”
Jessica poked Hannah’s side. “I still like boys, though.” Hannah rolled her eyes.
“Like all the boys you want. Just do this with me, okay?”
Jessica giggled. “It would be kinda hard to do some of this with boys.” She cupped Hannah’s breast.
Hannah batted her hand away. “I’m serious.”
“This.” Hannah touched Jessica’s arm. “Us.”
Jessica rolled on her stomach and propped herself up on her elbows.
She leaned in and whispered into Hannah’s ear, “This is the part where you ask me to be your girlfriend and I say yes.”
“Hi, Hands. How are things getting on with your friend?”
“A lot better. I told her how I felt, and she was okay with it.”
“Really? She wasn’t upset?”
“Surprised a bit, but not upset.”
“Don’t you feel better now that you’re being honest?”
“Don’t you worry about finding a man, okay? And you had better let me know when you do. He’s got to know what your big brother will do to him if he hurts you.”
Hannah smiled and promised him she would.