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There she was. She was everything that I remembered- long blonde hair bound in a bouncy ponytail, tight, probably near perfect body (I’d never seen her naked, so I couldn’t tell for sure) encased in ass-hugging yoga pants. Her best feature, however, was her diamond shaped face and two brilliant crystalline blue eyes.
“You’re so brave, Riley. Eve told me everything. Don’t worry, we’re going to be really good friends.”
Eve smiled, “Jessica’s going to watch you during the day. Isn’t that exciting, Riley? You can stay with her while Mrs. Feinstein goes on vacation.”
I should have been overjoyed at the fact that I was saved from the day camp, but having Jessica here, in all her fitness model incredibly fuckable splendour- it was a constant reminder of what I had lost, and what I never had. She was supposed to have been a new direction, one that could have led me toward a new Hannah, toward something better.
I nodded, knowing that I was going to have to play Riley around Jessica. Still, it was better than day camp.
Jessica grinned, “We’re going to have so much fun! We can do crafts. I’ve got a really fun idea for how we can make our own milk jug animals. And even better, I’ll show you how to make your own friendship bracelets. There’s a neat project we can do with egg cartons too. You’ll love it!”
I stared at Jessica dumbfounded, thinking that the day camp might actually be a better option now.
Eve said, “Maybe just start slow with her, Jessica. You know she’s been through a lot. She hasn’t had a regular childhood, considering she grew up in an orphanage and then…well you know what happened in the studio.”
Jessica nodded, looking momentarily disappointed, however; she quickly perked up, “I just figured that I should treat her like a regular kid. Then maybe she won’t think about what happened to her as much. I just can’t believe that someone would do that. I mean I wouldn’t want to grow up in an orphanage, but you say that they made her work twelve and sometimes fourteen hour days? I’m glad they caught the person that masterminded the whole thing.”
Eve shook her head, “Tracy wasn’t the one who planned it. The ones who did are- missing. Tracy actually helped Riley escape.”
Jessica smiled, “Oh right. Sorry, I just can’t believe it. It’s like all this time, you had the cutest little girl here. Oh my god look at her, even when she’s frowning like that, she’s adorable. So how come you took so long to tell me? I mean I thought you were mad at me. Well actually, I was pretty sure you were trying to keep me away from Ryan. But I also thought you were mad at me because I was bugging you about seeing him.” Jessica gently furrowed her brow.
If I could have, at that moment, I would have driven rusty nails in my ears to puncture my ear drums. As it was, I had to act like the conversation didn’t bother me.
Eve replied, “It’s complicated with Ryan. And you know how he is. He showed up here completely unannounced then three days later he was gone. Just said he had to get back to filming.”
Jessica frowned, “I’m surprised he didn’t call or text me if he was in town.”
Eve sighed, “You know he’s probably checking out all the Canadian girls in Vancouver. Just forget about him. He’s probably forgotten about you.”
Jessica shrugged her shoulders, “I can’t get him out of my head though.”
Eve replied, “You’re like this with every guy you don’t get closure with. Remember Trevor and Peter? You turned into little miss stalker.”
Jessica shook her head and smirked, “At least I wasn’t writing Greg’s name in my nursing textbooks like some 8th grader who isn’t sure a guy like likes her.”
Eve laughed and then Jessica joined her. I rolled my eyes so far back into my head, I was momentarily concerned that the balls would tumble out of my skull. Fuck girl talk was lame.
Jessica asked, “Seriously though. Why did you wait so long to tell me about Riley? I mean I could have helped from the beginning.”
Eve replied, “We weren’t really sure how to handle it. I mean we thought about going to the police, but Riley told us that the police took Tracy, and she didn’t do anything. Like I said, she tried to save them. So we weren’t sure who we could trust. We just wanted to keep her here until we could figure out what to do.”
Jessica shook her head, “Yeah, but leaving her alone is pretty dangerous, Eve. I would never, ever leave my niece alone like that. You should have let me know sooner. I could have watched her. And now you say a social worker is involved? What are you going to do about that? Especially when they find out you aren’t her mother.”
Eve said, “We’re considering trying to adopt her. I mean she’s an orphan.”
Jessica looked at me with a half smile, “I can’t believe no one adopted her before! She’s so pretty! Who wouldn’t want her as a daughter? And you say she’s super smart too? Like she can read and everything? My niece is still reading picture books.”
Eve nodded, “Yeah. She’s very special. Thanks so much for agreeing to this. I’m sure you and Riley will get along really well. I wouldn’t go crazy with the crafts though. Just let her play the Xbox if she wants. Or watch movies. She’s pretty low-key for a little girl.”
Jessica replied, “But that doesn’t sound like much fun at all. The Xbox? Let me guess, she sits there with the headset on and plays Call of Duty like my brother?”
Eve shrugged, “She- she saw Greg playing it- so we got her a controller.”
Jessica blinked, “Wait, you are serious? And you actually let her play online? I’m not really sure it’s a good idea to have a six year old playing a game like that. She could be talking to perverts.” She walked over to the TV and quickly scanned the games, “I’m not sure any of these are appropriate for her.”
Eve said, “Jess, it is seriously fine. We monitor it. Yeah, there are perverts, but I mean do you remember dating teenage guys? You know that species that thought girls were 100% boob? Like I said, she’s not really your every day normal six year old girl. And she’s good at it. Since the news story broke, she can’t leave the apartment, so she needs to do something.”
Jessica frowned, “Well then get her some toys. I don’t see any toys around here at all. How can she not have any toys? My younger brother is addicted to those games. He’s seriously twisted. Like completely obsessed with guns and shooting guns. He keeps bugging my dad to take him to a shooting range.”
Eve replied, “This is who she is. Yeah it’s a bit strange that she doesn’t play with dolls or anything, but keep in mind, she hasn’t had a normal upbringing. I’m not saying let her do whatever she wants, but you know- don’t try and change her overnight. Because…you won’t like the result.”
Jessica nodded, “OK, Eve. I’ll do my best. I just really want to help you out. Her story is so sad.”
Eve smiled, “Thanks, Jess. I know Riley’s going to love spending time with you.”
The yoga pants clung to her like a second skin. Her muscular ass, perfectly firm yet enticingly round, sat high, teasing as it thrust forward and backward, practically begging for a pair of hands to gently squeeze it. Her long blonde hair unbound dipped gracefully over one shoulder. She grasped her left foot, slowly bringing it back, until it was parallel with her head. For anyone else, the pose and fitness wear would have revealed a litany of flaws, a drooping ass, and low-hanging belly combined with love handles, mottled thighs, but with her, it only screamed her perfection.
I watched, or rather stared, at Jessica as she went through a series of yoga stretches. Before my change, it would have been enough to have me practically begging her for sex. It wasn’t something that I did- ever, but for her I would have made an exception. She turned onto her side and lifted herself into a side plank. As she did this, she was forced to flex her ass, which caused her yoga pants to go from gym appropriate to indecent in seconds. The pants were virtually non-existent near her ass, looking like they were, instead, masterful tattoos.
As I watched, however, I felt nothing. My libido was still MIA, but worse, as I stared at Jessica, at how her body stretched and bent, at her incredible grace and flexibility- I wanted to be just like her.
I marvelled as the woman, who had once been the star of a male fantasy involving Megan Fox, myself and a king-sized bed, reached forward, her entire body moving fluidly as she effortlessly touched her toes from a standing position.
Jessica turned to look at me on the couch. She smiled, “Riley, if you want to join in you can. Some movements will be too hard for you, but I’ll start you off with an easy pose. We can even make it fun. Like if you name an animal, I’ll show you the pose for it. Then you can try! Does that sound like fun?”
I wasn’t a complete beginner when it came to yoga, but I didn’t attend the classes in order to improve my core and flexibility or to strengthen my back muscles. I went for the yoga pants. I wasn’t ashamed to admit it, but the pants were almost like the equivalent to bikinis, their entire purpose was to allow the wearers to show off. Women who didn’t want guys watching wore one piece bathing suits. Now, however, the pants were just ‘pretty’. They demonstrated Jessica’s incredible flexibility but nothing else.
I shook my head vigourously, but Jessica smiled. She said, “You’d be surprised how flexible you are, Riley. I promise that it’ll be fun. What’s your favourite animal?”
I replied, “I don’t have one.”
Jessica frowned, “Really? I loved horses at your age. Still do. During the summer, I’d sometimes go horseback riding at my cottage. You must like horses.”
I shook my head, but Jessica, ever persistent, said, “Cats. Dogs. Bunnies. Have you ever been to the zoo?”
I said, “I lived in an orphanage until the lady from the studio took me to be on the Hermie show. What do you think?”
Jessica smirked, “Six going on sixteen, hmm?” Her face hardened, “Sorry, Riley. Of course you haven’t been to the zoo. I guess you probably haven’t seen any animals either. You just remind me so much of my niece. I forget who I’m talking to sometimes.”
My shoulders sagged, and in that moment, I wanted the couch underneath me to swallow me whole. “W-What about me makes you think I’m like her?” I said the words with extreme trepidation.
Jessica nodded, “You both have pretty hair and pretty blue eyes. You look a lot alike. But you definitely act different!”
I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that Jessica had abated my fears regarding the comparison to her niece. No, I was too caught up in her comments, the effects of which had started to seep into my brain like a designer drug. Pretty eyes. Pretty hair. Pretty dress. Pretty girl.
Eve’s comments, the woman in the elevator and now Jessica’s, all of them combined began to play with my self-image. Allied with this mindset were my own thoughts on the matter, how all of those factors created the perfect girl. Images of the trim waist of the Elsa figure skating doll, her gorgeous pearly white smile and her long, luxurious hair filtered into my mind. This merged with Jessica in her yoga pants, slender form, fierce, powerful yet feminine.
These images represented perfection. A haze descended on my mind, muddying my thoughts. While I inhabited this body, breathed, felt a heart beat within it, I had never actually pictured myself as Kaylee. I still thought of myself as Ryan, and I pictured myself that way too. Since the dream, which placed Eve as my mother and me squarely as Kaylee, however, reasserting my proper- my true self-image had proven difficult.
Moments after the compliment, it became impossible.
I saw myself growing up, looking like Jessica, Elsa- and even though the latter was a fictional character, her image- her form was burned into my mind.
Pretty eyes. Pretty hair. Pretty dress. Pretty girl.
Jessica looked at me worriedly, “Are you OK, Riley? You kind of checked out on me there.”
I nodded slowly, “Uh. Yeah. I’m OK.”
Jessica smiled, “Good. I was thinking, would you like to go to the zoo? I’m almost done my work for today. There’s one not too far from here.”
I replied, “I can’t leave the apartment, remember? Someone might recognize me.”
Jessica frowned, “Right. Sorry, I got a bit caught up in the fact you haven’t really been anywhere.”
I said, “It doesn’t bother me. I know I’m safer here. I like Greg and Eve, and I trust them. Plus, if I get bored I can just watch movies or play video games.”
Jessica said, “But girls your age shouldn’t just be doing that. Do you like to paint or colour? I could bring some colouring books over tomorrow! You must have some crayons. Or we could make friendship bracelets. And how come you never play with any toys?”
I shook my head vigourously, “No, I don’t want to do any of those things. And I don’t like toys.”
Jessica furrowed her brow, causing her face to gain an unattractive almost Cro-Magnon look. Her brow lurched forward, but as they did, they were forced closer together. OK. Maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but she was starting to piss me off with all the questions.
“H-How can you not like toys? Like any toys? I don’t know how that is even possible. You must like at least some toys. Didn’t you have toys in the studio?”
I said, “No. None. Mrs. Daniels put us on a shelf at night and then took us down in the morning. We shot for 14 straight hours and then it was back to bed.”
Jessica raised a brow, “Well I’m going to show you what you are missing out on, Riley. You know games and movies, they fill in the story for you. Don’t you think it would be fun to make up your own stories? What if I told you that you could make up stories that are better than anything you play in a game or in a movie?”
I glared at the young woman, now somewhat glad I never slept with her. She probably would have critiqued my positions, staying power, providing it all in a handy list at the end of the night. Eve mentioned that she was the type who was always trying to improve herself, a person who was tremendously driven. Could I have even handled her? “Look, Eve and Greg just want you look after me when they aren’t here. That’s it. You don’t need to do anything else except make sure I haven’t mysteriously died.”
Jessica closely scrutinized me after my little speech. She took nearly half a minute to actually break the pause in our conversation. She addressed me with a smile, “I get that you’ve had a really hard time, Riley. None of what has happened to you is fair. But what I’m trying to say is that you’ve missed out. You don’t know what you are missing because you’ve never experienced it, never felt how amazing it feels to create something.”
I replied, “I was an actor on a show. Of course I know what that feels like.”
Jessica said softly, “You probably didn’t say your own lines though. You didn’t get to choose what you got to do. It wasn’t your story. It was someone else’s. I have so many fun crafts we could do. Or you could paint or draw. It’s good to use your imagination, Riley. My niece, her eyes just light up every time I say I have a new craft for her to do. She loves it. I’ll bring some supplies tomorrow. I just know you’ll love it once you get started.”
I sighed heavily and jumped onto my phone/phablet, quickly texting Eve:
Me: thx 4 leaving me w mrs fucking cut n paste
Eve: sorry she gets into a kid mode i really wasnt sure what else to do no other choice
Me: I guess how do I get her out of that she says shes bringing stuff 2morrow
Eve: ill talk to her
Eve: u could tell her the truth
Eve: you know about you
Me: no fucking way humiliating I dont want her to know who i am
Eve: y do u care so much
Me: fuck off eve
Thankfully, the next day, Eve was home, so I was saved from a potential craft activity day with Jessica. I wasn’t sure what painting or colouring would do, but considering the difficulty I was having controlling my self-image- the very fabric of who I was, it was probably not a good idea. Unbridled imagination was definitely something to avoid, even if it meant stifling my creativity. My gangster depression era story turned Frozen fanfiction was proof enough of the result of that. Still, if she put a fucking paintbrush in my hand, would I really have the sudden urge to draw magical glitter fairies, pink horses or dancing dresses?
“Maybe we should tell her. It would be a lot safer for you, Ryan. What happens if she comes here tomorrow, an armful of art supplies, glitter, glue and construction paper and you just lose it? A literal art attack. I only told her as much as I thought she needed to hear at the time, but I forgot how opinionated Jessica is. I don’t think she’s going to drop it. She called me yesterday to tell me that she wasn’t sure that Greg and I are doing a good job with the video games and the movies.”
I sat across from Eve munching on a bowl of Lucky Charms. Greg tended to buy sugared cereals, and while I wasn’t used to eating breakfast, I found that I was actually hungry. Apparently, it made a difference waking up at 8 AM versus 12 PM. I loved the taste of the marshmallows, and since I couldn’t drink a cup of coffee, it was a good alternative. It wasn’t like I had convinced Greg to buy me the kid’s elephant cereal that turned the milk pink.
“She actually told you that you are doing a shitty job?”
Eve replied, “She’s not as direct as you. She basically said she wanted to encourage you to try some normal age-appropriate activities. She said she wouldn’t push you, but I doubt she’ll have to push you much.”
I remarked, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Eve sighed, “Do I have to remind you about the doll? From what you explained, you only had to touch it and you were off to the magical land of Arrendelle with a vengeance. What do you think is going to happen if Jessica puts a paintbrush in your hand or a crayon?”
I sneered, “That happened one time. And I was just feeling shitty about kind of losing it playing that stupid board game. If she puts a paintbrush in my hand, I’ll just tell her to fuck off, that I don’t want to do it. You said it yourself. She’s not going to push me.”
Eve shook her head, “You don’t have a good record with these kinds of things. When you were freaking out about not finding girls hot, you ran into some girls and played with them. Right, Cecily? You said it happened when you played with Sophia and Emma too, right? Well with the social worker-“
“What the fuck is happening with that anyway? Is she going to piss off now?”
Eve said calmly, “I’m not sure yet.”
I said, “What do you mean you’re not sure? You talked to her the day after, told her Jessica was staying with me. What’s the fucking problem?”
Eve replied, “It’s a little more complicated than that because of this medical condition.”
I angrily gobbled up the rest of my cereal, downing the milk in a big gulp. “I don’t have a medical condition or any bullshit like that.”
Eve frowned and turned away from me. I stabbed the end of my spoon into the table, adding another groove into it. “You don’t fucking believe her do you? So I get nervous sometimes. I think I can get a pass on that considering I was part of something that belongs in some shitty science fiction story.”
Eve said, “Anyway, Ms. McDavid didn’t say she was dropping the investigation yet. But I think I can convince her. We just have to make sure next time she visits that someone is staying with you. Jessica’s agreed to come over anytime we need her. I still think you should consider telling her. We can definitely trust her. But we can’t stop her from being herself.”
“She’s going to treat you like her niece until you tell her. What’s the problem with telling her anyway? I mean beyond it being embarrassing at first.”
I snapped, “I just don’t want to tell her, OK? Why do you need to know the reason? I think we’ve already told her enough.”
A little smile crept onto Eve’s face, “You still have feelings for her, don’t you? All that stretching she does for her web show actually fuelling a fire down there? Or is this legit?”
I said, “Look, it’s like- let’s say we tell her and then I get turned back. I’d never be able to fuck her. It would just be weird.”
The smile never left Eve’s face, “I call bullshit on that one, Ryan. You’ve been on exactly one date with this girl. And it sucked- for her. She agrees to another one for some reason. You stand her up for reasons that now make perfect sense. I get the aspect of humiliation- the whole oh my god I’m a little girl in front of her part. I get it. But I don’t think this is a macho head game thing. With a girl like Monique maybe. Yeah, you’d probably never be able to have sex with her again. But with Jessica? It’s something else.”
I replied quickly, “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t even like her. And fuck if she’s not really goddamn annoying treating me like her niece. How the hell can you think that I actually like her still?”
Eve smirked, “Because we’re still having this conversation. If you didn’t like her, you would have told me to fuck off. You are that direct with stuff like this. You remember that friend of mine who liked you? Carmella? You told me straight up that she wasn’t your type. Actually, you said she was a grenade. Which was, by the way, wonderful to hear.”
“You know you are putting yourself at risk if we don’t tell her. But you’re scared how she’s going to react, that she’ll think you are a freak or something?”
I grumbled, but with my high-pitched voice, it was hardly gravelly; instead, it was more like a whining wheeze. It reeked of little girl not getting her way, the beginning of an epic tantrum. Without thinking, my arms crossed underneath my chest and jaw protruded in a slight pout. “Okay, fine. I’m as surprised as you. I really thought I was completely broken down there.”
Eve replied, “Well maybe you can’t feel anything for her sexually, but you can like her as a person. That’s not a bad thing, Ryan.”
I sighed, “Yeah. Well she’s just different from so many other girls I dated. She kind of reminds me of Hannah. She challenges me. She’s funny and smart. Anyway, what happened to not dating your friends?”
Eve said, “Well here’s the thing. Even if I told her that you were the worst thing since Hitler, Jessica wouldn’t listen to me. Believe me, I’ve tried. And I know that she’s the kind of girl who won’t put up with your bullshit. I also know she’s a very caring girl too. She’s not going to make fun of you. It might be hard to get her to understand at first. But Greg and I can help.”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I’m just worried that all she’s going to see is Riley after I’ve turned back. Like we’ll never be able to move past it. I might never get another chance with her.”
Eve replied, “Well Riley is all she sees now. And if you aren’t careful, it really will be all she ever sees.”
It was like Christmas. From a shopping bag marked ‘Dollar Mart’, tumbled a Frozen bingo game, multiple colouring books featuring various Disney princesses, a water colour paint set, several boxes of crayons, tubes of glue, felt, pipe cleaners and three what had to be empty egg cartons.
The items slid over each other, fighting for real estate on the kitchen table. Jessica stood over the pile with a satisfied grin. Her eyes darted toward mine, likely hoping for the equivalent of raw jubilation. I knew that this was going to happen. Three days ago, Eve had warned me that Jessica was planning this, and considering how persistent she was, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Each item, harmless and even a wonderful gift to most, would peck away at my brain matter, fulfilling the final aim of the serum- a little girl unrecognizable from Ryan Sullivan. Why did I even care what Jessica thought of me? And how could I have feelings for someone who was treating me this way? It didn’t make any sense.
Jessica was the closest thing to Hannah that I had experienced. Every other girl that I dated, fucked or even talked to- no one else was even close. Monique was hot and an amazing fuck, but she was, in truth, an uncompassionate bitch. Other girls I dated were similar, and because I tended to choose the girls who were vulnerable (they were easier lays), I really had no chance to meet someone like Hannah. Until Jessica came along.
She was everything that Hannah had been, and I knew that from one date. I realized that I actually did want a challenge, desperately. Not in the sense of getting her in bed (not that I would say no), but more along the lines of seeing if I could get out of my pattern.
What met Jessica’s eyes was fear.
“Riley, are you OK? It’s really hot in here, isn’t it? I bet I can convince Eve and Greg to buy an air conditioner. Actually, I’m doing OK with the YouTube show. Maybe I’ll just get one as a surprise. I never got them anything for their new apartment.”
She was doing well. Unsurprisingly, a leggy, incredibly hot blond, who knew what she was talking about, sounded sexy, and looked even better, was an internet hit. There were so many like her out there, but she stood out because of her personality. She was genuinely funny, but the hotness helped too. She had men and women checking out her page in the hundreds, then thousands. While I was learning how to piss sitting down, Jessica was becoming a very successful YouTuber. With the way the site monetized their videos, a person like Jessica, who released a video every two days, could actually make a living at it.
She wasn’t there yet, but she could obviously afford an 80$ air conditioner.
“If it wasn’t so hot out, and you know, we could actually go outside, I’d take you to the beach. Teach you how to water ski with my dad’s boat. Or we could go horseback riding or for a hike. There’s some really pretty flowers on the trail behind my apartment.”
If I hadn’t been in love with the idea of dating Jessica before, her previous words would have solidified it. She was a girl after my own heart. Sure, I played games and watched movies, but I also loved camping, hunting- just being outside. Eve and Greg were both kind of chained to the apartment, neither going out much after their respective shifts. Maybe it had something to do with the long hours they worked.
I knew that we couldn’t leave the apartment, and my initial joy at hearing that Jessica was nearly a carbon copy of Hannah soon faded into a deep frown. It went beyond a simple feeling of sadness however. A golf ball-sized lump formed in my throat, while my stomach tied itself in knots. It tightened and my breathing was soon punctuated by a pathetic girlish wheeze.
For fuck’s sake. I was going to cry…because I couldn’t go outside.
The reality dawned on me. I hadn’t been outside since the ill-fated shopping trip, and I wouldn’t be leaving the apartment for the foreseeable future. I knew now what Eve was talking about. It wasn’t only creativity in acting, sex, video games and a love of movies that made Ryan Sullivan. It was just being outside, fresh air, and being active. Yes, I had wanted to skip with Emma and Sophia, but I wanted to be outside even more. With the breaking of the story on the studio, it was a simple freedom that I had lost.
Jessica’s mouth opened gently, while her brows furrowed. Her eyes softened. She looked at me the same way she might if I had scraped my knee, and I was in the middle of deciding whether the injury warranted waterworks. “Oh, Riley! I’m so, sorry! I didn’t realize that you loved being outside so much. When Eve told me about the movies and games, I just figured you didn’t like it, and I would have had to drag you out if we got a chance.”
A tiny tear dribbled down my cheek, which caused me to rapidly shut my eyes. I turned away from Jessica and ran into the bedroom, shutting the door behind me.
I could never tell Jessica the truth now. Not after she had seen me cry. Hannah had never seen me cry. I had seen Greg cry before, especially when he and Eve have had a heated argument, but I wasn’t like him. I had control over my emotions, and I certainly wasn’t some fucking leaky faucet.
Moments later, I heard a light knock on the door. “Riley, I’m so sorry. Please come out. I promise we can still have a lot of fun out here. And if you don’t want to do any of the things I suggest, we can just watch a movie. Anything you like.”
I squeaked, “Any movie?”
After a short pause, Jessica replied, “Y-Yeah. Anything you like. I promise.”
I sniffled lightly, wiping my eyes with an arm. “Okay, I’ll come out.”
I half expected Jessica to try and convince me to make an egg shell alligator or something, but she kept her promise. By the time I returned to the couch, the bright red Netflix screen was already displayed on the TV.
Netflix offered an unending selection of movies, television shows and documentaries. I had grown up first with VHS tapes, and my family joined the DVD revolution about three years after it started. By then, we had amassed two bookshelves of VHS tapes, but it still paled in comparison to what Netflix offered. Still, I had fond memories of the old tapes, especially the Godfather boxset, which I watched with my dad probably a thousand times.
Jessica frowned as she began flicking through the selections. “Weird. Greg and Eve don’t like horror movies. But it’s like they just watched a marathon. “Piranhas in Space”, “Nazi Zombies from Hell”, and…”Lovely Ladies of Deviant Desire” You didn’t watch these did you, Riley?
Jessica looked at me sternly, “I know Eve said to let you watch anything you wanted, but these don’t seem appropriate at all. Wait, this isn’t your account is it?”
I shrugged my shoulders as Jessica rapidly flicked to the top of the screen. She must have been so surprised by the recently watched list that she initially failed to see “TOP PICKS FOR RYAN”. I had stupidly left my account signed in.
Jessica looked at me with a mixture of disappointment and anger. I immediately looked away, but her eyes quickly sought my own and zeroed in with such ease that she might as well have been using a laser-assisted sniper rifle. She had me dead-to-rights.
“Riley, has there been a guy named Ryan around here recently?” The second my eyes veered away, Jessica met them, forcing their return to dead centre. Did she still have feelings for me? Was that why she looked so hurt before?
I answered, “N-No. I don’t think s-so.” I had all the confidence of someone trying to learn to drive stick on a peppy clutch, and my stutter perfectly matched the motion of the many, many stalls that would occur.
Jessica frowned, again looking hurt. She turned away from me momentarily and sighed, “It’s not nice to lie, Riley.”
I quickly added, “Um. Greg said that this Ryan guy might be using his password and stuff.”
Jessica said softly, “Figures. He’s probably still in Vancouver. I’m sorry I accused you, Riley. That wasn’t very nice.” She brightened, and incredibly, so did the entire room. The sudden pall that had descended on us, the accusations and bitterness, was washed away in an instant. “So, how about that movie?”
Jessica deposited the remote in my hands and said, “Choose anything you want, Riley.”
As I flicked through the choices, when I would hover over a horror movie or something that was rated ‘R’, Jessica would gently grumble. It was wordless disapproval of any potential choices.
“I’m kind of surprised they haven’t set up a kids account for you, Riley. You have to know that a lot of these movies could really scare you. I know my niece was really scared of vampire movie that she ‘accidentally’ watched on Netflix. We don’t want you to have nightmares.”
I said firmly, “I’m not scared of anything.”
Jessica grinned, “Well OK. But I am. I don’t like horror movies much. But you’re really brave, I bet you can handle this. It’s one of my favourites.” She hovered over ‘Avengers’ and clicked play. I smiled contentedly, both because I really liked the movie and due to the fact that Jessica apparently loved superhero movies. They were my second favourite genre.
Fuck. Jessica was the perfect girl for me. We had similar taste in movies, loved being outside, and she was ridiculously hot. I thought about this as we watched the movie together, turning at times to see her reaction to various parts. She wasn’t wooden, like Monique- she showed genuine concern when the heroes were in danger, and she actually got into the action scenes like I did, even pumping her fists at times. Would she have shown me this side of her personality, the one that wasn’t trying so hard to impress me with her knowledge of kinetics or whatever?
I wasn’t sure how long into the movie we were, but my eyes gradually started to feel heavy. With the heaviness of my eyes, came the drooping of my head and a quickly offered pillow across Jessica’s lap.
I lay my head down on the pillow without thinking as my eyes slowly drooped shut. Just as quickly as they closed, however, they flew open as I regained my temporal awareness. Sleep continued to descend on me as remaining awake became a losing battle.
It wasn’t really how I pictured our second date ending, but then, it was better than egg shell alligators or Frozen bingo. Eventually, I found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open, each eyelid feeling like it had a ten pound weight attached to it. It couldn’t have been later than 7:30 or 8, but I was exhausted.
I wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but eventually, I felt my head being slowly shifted off of Jessica’s lap and onto the couch.
A sweet voice said, “Good night, Riley.”
NoobKillaz567: Killer_Six, where ya been?
SnipezYA_1234: Did you get grounded? Or were you too busy playing with your dolls?
The insult needled my brain, just as laughter filled my headset. I had shown these assholes that I could play on the same level as them, but they still treated me like a little girl. In death matches, I had a better record than both of them combined, and I had reached elite level with fewer deaths. I knew it was trash talking, and lame trash talking at that, but it…it hurt. It hurt way more than it should have.
It made me think of how I treated girl gamers, especially the ones that were good. Trash talking was part of the game, but now that I was on the other end- well it sucked. They weren’t little kids either. Most of them were probably teenagers or about my age. It didn’t matter though. As a guy, you never wanted to get beat by a girl, especially in a video game. You’d never live it down.
That’s why I took every opportunity to get the very best girls off their game. It was an art really, and while I trash talked everyone, I saved the most vile insults for the girls racking up kill counts. It didn’t take long for most of them. A double-barreled assault on their weight and their lack of boyfriend, playing off their insecurities, was usually enough to take them off their game. I was constantly in their ear, reminding them that they were losers- nothings. It’s what I did to those I couldn’t beat fairly. My victims were not only female, but when a girl killed me twice in a row, and especially when she tea bagged me, it was on. The ones who proclaimed they had loving boyfriends, were supermodel gorgeous were called cum-drizzling whores or opportunistic gold diggers (with a wealthy boyfriend). Eventually, I would find something that would rile my female opponents. In the lower tiers, language and treatment like that wasn’t tolerated, but in the elite division, where the very best could play in tournaments and make real money in e-Sports, it was often vicious. I was never good enough for upper elite ranking, but I was no slouch either.
The comments coming from my teammates were actually really tame in comparison. It was clear that I was just more of a pussy. I took a deep breath and replied.
Me: My fucking idiot brother broke the 360, so we had to wait for it to get fixed.
NoobKillaz567: How’d he break it?
Me: He was nailing this chick against the wall, and well...
Laughter crackled in my headset, and as it did, my heart leapt.
NoobKillaz567: I will never get over you talking like that. Your parents seriously never get mad at you for talking like that? I’m 24 and my mom would smack the stupid out of me.
Me: Fuck, no. Can we play now, or are you guys just sitting around jerking off? Just warn me if you are going to be one handing it, so I know I have to carry your asses. More than fucking usual.
SnipezYA_1234: You really sound like your brother.
Me: I’ll take that as a compliment.
NoobKillaz567: Don’t you get in trouble at school?
Me: Guys. I’m here to fucking game. Just quit with this shit. We’re on the same team, and you’re pissing me off.
Silence. Nothing crackled in my headset as we waited for the multiplayer team death match to fill up. Unlike capture the flag, team death matches were a complete free-for-all. They didn’t require nearly as many tactics except being quick on the trigger and deadly accurate. We entered the arena, and armed with my new controller, I quickly started racking up sniper kills. It was a rinse and repeat tactic, but I knew the maps so well that I could always avoid being flanked, and as soon as I got a few shots off, I would sprint to the next eagle’s nest. Most of my hapless victims actually had to watch the kill-cam to learn how they had died.
I went on such a massive kill streak, one of the four teams actually dropped out of the game completely, choosing to forfeit and take the hit to their team ranking rather than mess with their kill-death ratio. If the number of deaths a player has eclipses their total server-wide kills, they get bumped off the elite server.
NoobKillaz567: Hey, sorry about before. I know we’re just here to play. I’ll stop with the questions.
SnipezYA_1234: You’re just a little more sensitive than your brother. It’s hard for us to know how to talk to you. Especially when you sound like him half the time.
We won the match easily, and I managed to get more kills than anyone on either team. A new team joined for the next multiplayer match, but it didn’t matter- I was in a zone. My streak continued into the next game, as I got three kills within the first thirty seconds. Either they had lowered the standards for elite class, or I was getting better- way better.
I zeroed in on my next target, a clueless Spartan attempting to reach my sniper’s nest from the front with no suppressing fire. The player might as well have just stood in the open waving his arms with a massive neon bullseye painted across his chest. It was a rookie mistake.
I set the target in my sights and moved to pull the trigger on the laser rifle. Just as I was pushing down the button, however, my screen flashed red, indicating I was receiving damage. A second later, the kill-cam revealed that I had been shot in the back. I had been killed by a player that I had decimated in the previous game.
My headset crackled.
Spartan4Lyfe: Fucked you up. I got your ass for the rest of this game. I know you, you’re the kid, right? The one they’ve been talking about in the forums? Are you really a six year old kid?
While I felt slightly deflated to have my kill streak end, I had owned the trash talker in the previous game, and I figured he was just lucky. I had been cocky and let my guard down, essentially staying in the same place too long.
Me: Yeah. And I’m also a girl. A girl that fucking raped you in the last game.
I actually felt proud. Kind of. In a world where I looked up at 95% of the population, where I was viewed as a weakling, an object to be fawned over by cheek-pinching grandmothers and childless aging women, it was refreshing to gain the advantage. I had used my looks, my cuteness factor at the beach to manipulate that future roid rager, and while it was successful, it was also part of the issue of being an adorable six-year old girl. I was first seen as cute, as pretty, as anything but a person. Most adults, save Mrs. Feinstein, spoke to me the same way they would a dog.
Was this why Ashley wanted so desperately to be a real actress? Why she fought so hard against being typecast as the action hero’s girlfriend? Nearly everyone I met treated me that way, like I was some kind of fucking…talking doll.
I always figured that girls like Ashley had it pretty easy. Free drinks, free rides. She could have married some rich guy and waited for him to die. But it all came with a price- and that was feeling like a lesser person. Like pretty skin over pretty bones, but nothing in between.
So, it was obvious why I would feel proud. It wasn’t that I was a girl doing it- no, it had more to do with actually being treated equally. My teammates trash talked me, but I gave as good as I got, and usually more. While it was just a video game, here I was a threat, and the people talking to me weren’t complimenting my hair or telling me how cute I looked in a dress. No, they were congratulating me on a kill or bitching out my existence as they watched the kill-cam footage while they waited for a respawn.
I planned my revenge- a tea bagging right in front of his team respawn point, a shared kill-cam video that would bring online disgrace. It would be incredibly humiliating especially because I was a- well not really a girl. I didn’t identify as one, but it would bring the humiliation to rage quit levels. As I mentally set the route to the enemy respawn point, my own respawn timer counted down from five to one, until finally, my avatar popped into existence.
My screen turned red.
Spartan4Lyfe: Told you I had your ass, kid.
NoobKillaz567: Hey Killer_Six, you need help? Me and Snipez are getting pounded by a fucking Wraith.
Me: Just a fucking spawn camper. It’s the last time he’ll get me.
Five seconds later, I was back, though this time spawning in a different location. While respawn points were static, players killed in one spawn location rarely rematerialized in the same spot. This was to avoid rewarding spawn campers with easy kills.
My screen turned red again.
Me: Fuck! How the hell did he get there so fast?
I realized, however, that I hadn’t been killed by the same player, but I had been spawn camped again. I gripped my controller tightly as I waited to respawn. My positive kill-death ratio was quickly being erased, and while I had dominated in the previous game, it wouldn’t mean much if I continued dying. OK. Fair enough, I had completely decimated Spartan’s team in the previous game. They were understandably pissed, and they clearly knew I was six and a girl on top of that. Still, I knew exactly where they had hit me from, so if they stayed in the same place (i.e. camped), I would have my kills back in less than a minute.
There were four respawn points on the map, but only three players per team. It would be impossible for Spartan’s team to continually spawn camp me as I would eventually respawn in a safe location. So, as I watched the respawn counter, I again planned my revenge. I would commandeer the Wraith and then rain plasma mortar death over the spawn campers. Three-two-one.
(S)hocker1999 killed Killer_Six
The controller nearly fell from my hands as I stared at the screen in astonishment. Both teams were now spawn camping me. My kill-death ratio was now in the negative, but worse than that, it was becoming clear that unless I disconnected from the session, I might lose elite status altogether.
The constant diversion but sparing of my teammates made it obvious that the two teams were working together to force the six year old girl to rage quit. This was confirmed moments later when I spawned in a completely different location, only to be killed immediately.
I threw the controller on the floor and balled my little hands into fists. Sitting cross-legged on the couch, I closed my eyes, feeling my whole body shake. Normally, my biceps would have pulsated as I flexed, but my skinny arms simply quivered, lacking any discernible muscle tone.
Again, and again I was killed as my negative kill-death ratio entered double digits.
While I was beyond angry, a sort of pathetic arm waving spitting rage, I began to feel something else. A memory flashed. I was eight years old and starting at a new school. I recalled the six graders that let me hang out with them if I ate grass. As I chewed clumps of thinly bladed grass into a greenish paste, the older kids laughed. At the time, I lacked the understanding that the laughter was aimed directly at me, and they let me play with them, so it didn’t matter, but once I found out the truth- that they weren’t my feel friends…
It was like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I remembered never wanting to go back to that school, especially after they called me grass eater and butt man (only after I ate the cigarette butt).
I was really hurt. Just like now.
My anger quickly dissipated as tears formed in my eyes. Shocked by my behaviour but completely slave to my emotions, I struggled to understand what was happening to me as the screen continued to flash red.
NoobKillaz567: Shit, she’s crying. Fuck, what do we do?
SnipezYA_1234: Hell if I know, her brother was never beat like this.
NoobKillaz567: Her brother never got fucking triple teamed like that either.
I was crying? I hadn’t even noticed, but my cheeks were wet and there was an unpleasant lump in my throat that was growing.
Spartan4Lyfe: OK, little girl, we’ll stop, but you need to hit the glowing green button on the front of the big white box. Think you can do that?
My voice was a strangled cry, one borne of a returning anger mixed with the supreme sense of sadness.
Me: W-Why…Why are you being so mean to me? Y-You’re not playing fair!
While I had played dirty in many online multiplayer matches, especially in taunting and verbally dismantling my opponents, I never really had a problem with it, nor was I ever targeted in a way that so clearly broke the rules. Rules. I had an expectation that the other team would play fair and follow the rules. How else were we supposed to have fun?
Laughter crackled in my headset.
Spartan4Lyfe: Are you fucking kidding me? You’re on elite, kid. Our team is trying to get a sponsor. You really think we are just playing for fun? You really are fucking six aren’t you?
More laughter crackled in my headset. My teammates, the cowards, stayed silent.
What was happening to me wasn’t fair, but Spartan was right, it wasn’t a question of fairness. The game was about domination, and while some played it for fun, there were probably just as many playing it because they couldn’t get laid, sucked in school, for them it was more than a game, especially when money- lots of money- might be involved.
I knew this, but I just couldn’t get over how unfair I was being treated. I just wanted to have fun and play with my friends…and for that to happen everyone needed to follow the rules.
I took a deep breath, desperately trying to regain some semblance of adult thought. If some six year old kid dared kill me twice, I would have had her crying to her parents- had her quit the game permanently. As I tried to see the logic in my decimation, I looked down at the coffee table to see my phone nearly vibrating off the edge. Moments later, the apartment door opened and in stepped Jessica, trailed by a little blond-haired girl.
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