Elmiryn tore the page out of the dusty tome and giggled. Lethia, with fist in cheek, sighed heavily.
“Having fun?” She asked.
The woman didn’t even look at her. Just tore out another page. “As a matter o’ fact, yes!”
“Sooo…we’re just going to sit here?”
“While you…tear paper.”
Lethia slapped a hand to her armrest. “Elmiryn, come on!”
Elmiryn just shrugged and threw the book across the room. “Nope. Not doin’ it kid!”
“You aren’t going to talk to me at all!?”
“Not after ya went diggin’ where you shouldna been, no.” The warrior went up to one of the stacks of books sitting on the tables and with a lazy flair, she toppled them over. The loud bang they made when they hit the floor made her giggle.
Lethia sat up straighter in her chair. “Stop that!”
Elmiryn quirked an eyebrow at her. “Or you’ll what?” And with this, she pushed another stack.
The teenager huffed at her and crossed her arms. “You’re such a child!”
What Lethia got in response was a loud raspberry and another stack of books toppled over. Then the warrior paused in her playful destruction when her eyes fell on the ink pot sitting next to Nyx’s hand. “Ooooh!”
“What?” Lethia asked nervously, trying to crane her head to see what the woman was looking at. When Elmiryn started for the pot, the enchantress’s voice gained a level of agitation. “Elmiryn, what?”
The redhead plucked up the dark vial with a mischievous grin. Her eyes trailed to Quincy, still stuck at the far wall, muttering to herself. “New game!”
Elmiryn couldn’t contain herself. She half skipped over to the wizard as she undid the cap. “I think Quincy needs a moo-stache, don’chu?”
Lethia rose to her feet, one hand on her mouth. “Oh! Elmiryn, don’t!”
The woman cackled as her finger dipped into the ink. She set the bottle down and leaning in toward the wizard, she traced a long and curly mustache over her lips and onto her cheeks. Just to complete the image, she dabbed a little triangle on Quincy’s chin.
The warrior rolled her eyes and finally turned to the girl. “What? Why ya gettin’ so upset, huh? I mean, is any of this real, Lethia?”
Lethia pursed her lips.
Elmiryn nodded slowly. “Mmm…that’s what I thought.” She gestured at Quincy’s pouch. “So lessay, I try an’ get my drink back. Wouldn’t work, right?”
“You lyin’ t’me?”
Lethia groaned and sat back in her chair. “Forget it. This is a waste of time.”
The redhead wiped the ink from her finger onto her pants. “Great! So let’s cut the shit and wake everyone!”
A sigh. “I can’t.”
Elmiryn scowled and took a step toward the girl. “Why not? I’m not talkin’ to you so what’s the point of this?”
“Has it occurred to you that this isn’t just about you?”
The woman sucked at her teeth.
Lethia shook her head. “You’re so self-involved.”
“Ugh!” The warrior clapped hands over her ears. “Yer startin’ to remind me of my cousin again!”
“Well maybe you need to be reminded of her, then? She sounds like she had some sense!”
“Now who’s soundin’ self-involved?”
Lethia’s fists curled and she spoke quickly. “You act so cocksure. Unapologetic. You err boldly. Like…Like your decisions are just a-a-an extension of yourself! Even when you know the way is wrong, you still forge ahead, because you just have to do it. Like a stupid dare! It’s disgusting!”
“You can look in my head all ya want, Lethia Artaud. You haven’t got the first clue about how I work!” Elmiryn shouted. She started to pace. “Rrragh! I can’t believe yer even doin’ this right now!”
“Why not try pulling one of the book stacks onto you? Maybe it’ll hit you then…”
“Fuck. Y’know, you’ve got a real superiority problem. You think you can just trap people into stupid fucking mind games and get them to play along. If you’re askin’ for help, then ask. But this? It’s called coercion, kid!”
Lethia’s pouted at her knees. “I already told you. I have no choice.”
“So ya remove mine? Oh. Wonderful. Didn’ya ever learn that two wrongs don’t make a right!?” Elmiryn went and kicked at a table leg. “Fuck!”
“Go ahead Elmiryn. Rage. Yell. Scream. You can even hit me if you like. But this doesn’t end until we talk.”
Elmiryn yelled and overturned the nearest table. The books, the lamps, the papers–they crashed to the floor in a chaotic mess. The woman’s head reeled and a dull pain struck her chest. Wincing, she doubled over and tried to catch her breath.
Lethia’s soft voice floated to her. “You should take it easy…if you aren’t careful you might have a real heart attack. Your heart hasn’t recovered yet.”
“Shut up,” the warrior spat.
Another sigh. “Oh Elmiryn…does the lashing out really make you feel better? Did it ever? You’ve always hated when things didn’t go your way, haven’t you?”
Elmiryn glared at the teenager sidelong. “I feel like I should be laying out on a couch right now. Ya wanna talk about my childhood, too?”
“Would it make you feel better?”
“The only time I lay on a couch is when I’ve got a woman on me, so unless you want to fulfill that role…”
Lethia’s eyes narrowed. “It’s like a tic. Saying things like that so casually. It’s almost like you’re trying to remind everyone that you’re available for sex.”
The redhead shrugged. “Well, when it’s true, why falsely advertise?”
“Why advertise at all? Aren’t you happy with Nyx?”
Elmiryn tensed. “Of course I am.”
“So when you habitually hit on Quincy–”
“I don’t hit on her–”
“Oh so the constant innuendos aren’t–?”
“I just like to get under her skin!”
Lethia snorted and shifted to lean all her weight on the other armrest. “And that’s another thing. You feel defined by the conflicts you have. Is that why Quincy is so attractive? Because she challenges you so much?”
Elmiryn bared her teeth. “No. I like her cuz she shits sunlight, kid.” The woman rocked back onto her bottom with a flop and hugged her chest. “Forget this. I already said m’not talkin’ to ya.”
“You know, that might actually be better. I think I’ve learned all I need from you anyway. You’re such an open book.”
The redhead’s glare turned wary.
Lethia crossed her ankles and started to wiggle her feet. “You’re almost like a stereotype. It’s sad. I don’t know why I thought you could help me. I should’ve just put you to sleep.” She looked up, her green eyes fluttering. “Do you want to go to sleep?” Instead of waiting for a reply, Lethia rambled on. She started to tug nervously at her sleeves as she did so. “You’re loud. Obnoxious. And the most frustrating part is that you’re not stupid! You’re very intelligent! But you get caught up in your own schemes, fighting to convince everyone that this is who you really are! …Even yourself.”
“Not true,” Elmiryn breathed.
The girl spared her a glance. “No?”
“So what does your character say next?”
Lethia leaned toward the woman, her eyes going wide. “What…do…you…say…next?”
Elmiryn’s eyes fluttered as she brought her knees to her chest. A cascade of words tumbled through her mind, but none of them felt right. She was angry, so she should say that Lethia was full of it again, right? But wasn’t that redundant? After all, she’d just gotten through telling the enchantress that she wouldn’t play her game. Of course, she couldn’t agree with the girl…so what was left but to argue against her claims point by point? But wasn’t that the same as playing along?
The redhead opened her mouth, but stopped when she realized she had no idea what to say, or even what not to say.
Lethia gazed at her expectantly as she chewed on one corner of her lip. When the woman didn’t speak for several long moments, the youth sat up with a huff. “Marvelous. I knew you forgot your lines.”
Elmiryn blinked as she watched the girl reach for something on the other side of her chair. “M-My lines?”
“Yes.” Lethia stood with a pop and hurried over. Crouching down, she held out what looked like an unusually white unbound book. “Here. Page thirty.”
The warrior raised an eyebrow, but flipped to that page. She squinted her eyes at the words she saw on the paper. They were strange and came from no quill tip she recognized. “I-I don’t–”
Lethia pointed at a line. “There.”
Elmiryn started reading, because she couldn’t think of anything else to do. “‘Lethia, I know what I am. I’m kick ass, I’m incredibly fuckable, and I’m not going to let myself be held back by you, or anyone else!’” The woman’s frown deepened and her grip tightened on the papers. “‘If you’ve been watching me so much, you’d know that not even the gods can stop–’ All right, seriously, what the fuck is this?”
Lethia gave her a funny look. “It’s our script!”
Elmiryn squinted one eye at it. “Well it’s horrible! This isn’t me at all!”
“No? You’re sure?” Lethia looked uncomfortable.
“Yes! This,” she shook the script. “Makes me sound like an asshole! I’m not an asshole!”
The girl puckered her face. “Are you really sure?”
“Kid. I am the first to say I’ve got a healthy love for myself, but this shit sounds intolerable. I’m not that bad!” Elmiryn frowned and flipped through the script’s pages. “I mean…I’m not, right?”
“I don’t know…I thought it was pretty spot on!”
“But this writing is so bad. It doesn’t sound genuine at all! I sound so…so…” the woman’s features slackened. “Fake.”
“Oh,” Lethia sounded dejected. Gently, she took the script from the warrior’s hands and set it aside. “Well. I mean. I didn’t write it, but we could try for a different story. Maybe you’ll feel more at home there?”
Elmiryn looked at her, lost. “Lethia, what trick are you pulling? That script…it had everything we both said up until the point where…”
“You forgot your lines?”
The woman’s face tensed. “Y-Yeah. There.”
Lethia shrugged. “We were doing a scene! You were following along pretty well, but I guess you weren’t feeling it any more.”
Elmiryn gazed at her knees. “I guess not.”
“Hey. We can try for something else, you know.”
She didn’t look up. “Like what?”
Lethia sighed. “Mmm…Well, there was that daytime drama we were doing. Remember?”
Elmiryn gripped her head. She started to tremble. “N-No? I…I don’t think so?”
“You’re so odd!” The girl stood and held out her hand. “Come on. I’ll take you there. I think you’ll like it.”
Elmiryn stared at her hand, then into her eyes. “Where?”
“If you’re going to play dumb, than so am I! Now come on!”
The possibilities didn’t stack right in the woman’s mind, and she could feel her buzz sputtering out, leaving her blood cold and her sense of humor wilted. Her eyes flickered to the others–Quincy and Hakeem–before settling on Nyx. The girl’s back was to her from here. Even with all the ruckus Elmiryn had made, she hadn’t even stirred from her zombified perusing of the book in front of her.
Nyx…are you in there at all?
Reluctantly, the redhead returned her eyes to the enchantress, who gazed at her with a raised eyebrow.
She took Lethia’s hand, and when she stood, the girl was beaming at her. “There!”
Elmiryn’s brows knitted. “There? What do you mean?”
Lethia put her hands on the woman’s shoulders. “I mean your jacket. I told you faux can work!”
The woman looked down at herself. She had on a black leather jacket and a white v-cut shirt. “This is faux?” she asked uncertainly.
The girl laughed and turned her around. Elmiryn found herself staring into a mirror screwed onto a wall, a warm light shining down on her from above. Her dark denim jeans rooted into loosely tied boots. Lethia was dressed in a sky blue summer dress with a tasseled brown vest and simple dark slippers.
“Yes! Oh my god, you never read the tags.”
The woman watched as her reflection wrinkled its nose. “This is faux!?” she exclaimed.
“Looks like someone is stuck on repeat today.”
“Well fuck, I’m sorry, but this is a damn good jacket for something that’s totally fake.”
“Ugh! Your love for leather is so Cruella Deville.” Lethia covered her face with her hand.
Elmiryn brought the sleeve up to her eyes to better read the price tag. She gave a low whistle. “Jesus. For what they’re asking for this damn thing, I’m surprised these assholes didn’t just call the jacket genuine anyway!” With a grimace, she started to peel it off. “Okay. I’m done!”
Lethia shook her head emphatically. “What are you doing?? We’re going out tonight, and so far you’re only fifty percent James Dean! Look we have all these other things to try!” She gestured at the small stack of clothes they had brought in with them.
Elmiryn fixed Lethia with a wry look before she waltzed down the aisle to the store rep at the dressing room entrance. Lethia followed her with a huff. As the woman handed over her jacket, she said to her cousin, “Lethy, I did the whole drag king thing for like, a week, and that was seven years ago! As far as I recall, I could pull off a so-so Zachary Quinto with a fake nose, but never a James Dean. And you know what? I’m okay with that!” She started to leave the clothing store.
Lethia followed her, practically stepping on her heels. “You know I’m not asking you to dress like a guy! I just need you to–”
“Look like a trendy lesbian,” Elmiryn finished with a sardonic smile.
“Elle, you promised you would try and make this work!”
The woman laughed as she shoved out into the open mall’s thoroughfare. “And why would I need to dress like a character off the L Word to make this work?”
“Because I want to get into Psi Alpha Epsilon, and I really need these girls to like me! Their going to be doing initiations soon. I need to make one last good impression, and you’re the coolest person I know! Having you around cancels out my geek factor!”
“Why do you have to get into a sorority? I didn’t when I went to college!” Elmiryn pulled her aviator sunglasses from her back pocket and put them on.
Her cousin struggled to hold back her long hair in the wind, making her harried gait seem even more frazzled. “But you’re you! I’m me! These people could open up a lot of doors for me! With them, I can get on the path to getting my own counseling practice!”
“Lethia this is your first year in college! Can’t you feel things out a bit more before you jump into things? I feel like you’re trying too hard to control this!”
The redhead rounded the corner of the store to the concrete stairs behind. The parking lot was below. She took to the steps with quick feet, one hand barely skimming the hand rail. Her cousin stopped at the top, her voice turning shrill.
“That is your problem, Elle! You never want to control anything!”
Without looking back, the woman waved a hand. “See you at nine baby cousin!”
The drive back home was quick, but it felt like forever the way Elmiryn mulled over the day. Why was Lethia stressing about this so much? She knew it was just nerves, but having her cousin try so hard to change her style had stung. The girl had never cared about such things before. Was Elmiryn really so bad?
The woman lived in a second-rate apartment complex in the area, and as she stepped out of her car to start up the three flights of creaky wooden stairs, her cell phone started to buzz in her pocket. She pulled it out and answered without thinking.
“Oh-ho! So now you answer! You must be preoccupied with something to have forgotten to check the caller ID.” It was her mother, Brianna.
Elmiryn winced and stopped, one boot on the first stair. “Mama. Hey. I’ve been meaning to call.”
“Of course you have, sweetie. I have too. That’s why I’ve left five messages on your phone since last week.”
The woman sighed and rubbed her eyes behind her sunglasses. “Well, y’know. Busy.”
Resigned to the conversation, Elmiryn leaned against the stair railing. “Sooo…how ya been?”
“Fine. I suppose it was luck that I caught you. I’m flying out to Buenos Aires early tomorrow morning.”
“Oh!” The woman took off her sunglasses slowly. “Was that this week?”
Her mother’s reply was weary. “Yes, Elle.”
“When do you fly out? I can stop by before then.”
“No, dear. You can’t. Your father and I are driving back from your granny’s and by the time we get home it’ll be late and we’ll be going straight to sleep.”
“Granny’s?? What are you doing out there? Don’t you have to pack?”
“Well unlike some people, we can actually plan ahead.”
Elmiryn rolled her eyes and started up the stairs. “Zing.”
Her mother laughed. “Sweetie, I love you. But you’re a little too in the moment!”
“Considering most people my age are either stuck with bad roommates or living with their parents, I thought I was doing pretty good on my own!”
“Never mind that you switched majors five times before finally settling on kinesiology.”
Elmiryn pouted. “You don’t know what it’s like in the system! They make everything sound so good!”
Brianna’s voice was filled with irony. “I’m sure you would’ve managed an excellent winery if only you’d stopped drinking the product.”
Her daughter huffed. “Enology is no laughing matter. I needed a little something to destress!”
“Ah, and who could forget the racetrack management–”
“Hey, there’s a lot more to it than you think–!”
“Did I not bake you a cake for your birthday–!?”
“Who doesn’t like zip-lining? I mean, seriously!”
“Elmiryn. I love you. You know that,” The woman tensed as her mother’s voice took on a more serious note. “But I really wanted to talk to you about your plans with Lethia tonight.”
Elmiryn groaned. “Ugh! I should’ve known. Did she call you and whine? She’s getting a wedgie later, you know that, right?”
“Sweetie, this is important to your cousin. I know she can get a little…much, but trust me when I say that it would mean a lot, not just to her but to me as well, if you can support her tonight.”
The woman’s grip on her phone tightened. She took to the second flight of stairs with more energy, leaping up two–sometimes three steps–at a time. “Fine. Tonight I’ll be Lesbian Barbie.”
“Elmiryn, you’re pouting aren’t you? What did I say about that! It’ll give you wrinkles!”
Up the last flight of stairs. Elmiryn spoke through a gritted smile. “Yes. Got it. No pouting. Will support annoying cousin. I’ll even break out my make up–” She added under her breath, “If I can find any of it.”
“Good!” Her mother’s somber tone vanished. “Well, love. I’m off. We took a break at a gas station and your father’s just getting back from the restroom. He always gets cross whenever I’m on the phone in the car. Have fun tonight, okay? And say hello to Izzie for me.”
“I will. Bye mama.”
The woman sighed as the line went dead. As she came up to her apartment door, she pulled out her key and was about to push it into the lock when the door opened suddenly. Startled, the woman took a moment to realize who was in front of her. “Izzie?”
Her girlfriend leaned on the door frame, her gray eyes squinted in mirth. “Hey!”
Izzie was a year older than Elmiryn, but with her baby-face and warm pixie cut hair, one would swear she looked no older than twenty-one. Dressed only in blue cotton short shorts and a green bikini bra, it seemed she had made herself at home for a while now. The redhead had only just given her girlfriend the key to her apartment four days ago and she was still unaccustomed to finding her there all the time. For her, it was the first relationship she’d ever had to reach that stage of commitment.
Elmiryn recovered quickly, her face breaking out into a warm smile as she scooped Izzie up off the floor by the waist. “Hey you! Have you been answering the door like this all day? Do I need to kill any package delivery boys or something?”
Izzie giggled as she squirmed in the woman’s arms. “Ah! What are you doing? Put me down!”
“Not until you answer the question!”
“I’ll never tell!”
“What!? You harlot!” Elmiryn set her girlfriend down but didn’t let her slip away. Instead she started to tickle her bare sides. The brunette started shrieking as she swatted at her. “Now I have to punish you!”
With a playful shove, Izzie got away, and Elmiryn paused only to shut the door behind them before she gave chase.
As their games always led, whether by design or by accident, they ended up in the bedroom, and the redhead tackled her girlfriend to the bed. “Gotcha!”
Izzie laughed beneath her as the woman started laying on her assault of wet kisses. “Elle!” Then her laughter choked out to a soft moan. “Mmm…Elmiryn!”
“Yes?” Elmiryn pulled up the bikini and took a pink nipple into her mouth. Izzie tightened up beneath her, her breath hitching.
“You…you’re boss called…you should…you should really give him your cell phone number.”
Elmiryn pulled back from Izzie’s breast with a small pop. “Marquis can suck my left one. I’m not making myself anymore accessible than I need to be.”
“It could be important.”
Izzie gripped Elmiryn’s head with both hands, forcing her to lift her face. When their eyes met, the brunette struggled to pull her features into a frown. “I’m serious!”
The woman rolled her eyes and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “Fine. I’ll call him back and see what the hell he wants.”
A groan. “Geez, Elmiryn. I didn’t mean you had to deal with it right now.”
“Well all future thinking is a bit booked at the moment. I have to figure out how I can get ready for Lethia’s stupid sorority outing without failing with a big fat P-H.”
“Mmm…I take it the tag popping expedition crashed and burned?”
Elmiryn tried to rub the tension out of her neck and shoulders with both her hands. “I cut it short. Lethia was driving me crazy. I’d never seen her so high-strung before!”
“She just needs your help. You know you’re like the sister she never had, right?”
The woman heard Izzie shift behind her, and before long her girlfriend had taken up the task of giving her a massage. “Don’t be like that. She loves you!”
“Then why can’t she just accept–” Elmiryn broke off and stood. Izzie blinked up at her, her hands still where they’d been a moment before. “Forget it. Look, I’m going to call Marquis now. He probably wants me to come in for something. I’ll catch you later?”
Her girlfriend deflated, her gaze turning to her lap. “Sure.”
The redhead stood there, uncertain if she should say something more. When nothing struck her, she gave Izzie a kiss on the hair, then left.
When she arrived at the college campus a little after nine-o’clock, Elmiryn recalled just how much she hated university parking. After she found a suitable spot for her old Chevy Nova Sudan, she slipped out of the car and tried to follow Lethia’s directions. She got lost, but after asking a few college boys where the Psi Alpha Epsilon house was, she was enthusiastically led to the sorority. She suspected the kids just wanted to piggyback their way into the party, so she shook them off with a firm goodbye and approached the house herself.
The large building wasn’t quite what she imagined–she expected hot red bricks, white greek columns, and a large gold bevelled sign over the door. Instead, the house looked like something found in an upscale suburb with a simple dark green sign on the front lawn that showed the sorority’s greek letters in bold white font.
There were a few girls out front talking with red plastic cups in their hands, and they glanced at her as she approached. The woman fought the urge to tense up and pulled out her cell phone. Calling her cousin, she hovered near the door, unwilling to brave the thick crowd of college-aged girls she spied from the windows.
The girl picked up almost instantly. “Elle!? Where are you?”
Elmiryn grimaced and tugged on her new faux leather jacket. She had picked it up just a little before she arrived. In the end, she had caved, though she still refused the make up. “I’m outside the front door. Where are you?”
“Stay there! I’m coming to get you!”
The call ended and Elmiryn pocketed the phone with a sigh. Along with the leather jacket, she’d also purchased a new scarf and skinny light denim jeans. Dangling from her ears were silver diamond earrings her mother had purchased for her years ago, but she hardly ever wore. After getting back home from work (Marquis had wanted to introduce her to a new client she’d be cardio training in the upcoming weeks) Izzie had left the apartment for her own job. Elmiryn was glad for the chance to be alone, but she hated sitting still, thus leading to her reluctant shopping expedition. She felt ridiculous in these clothes.
As a stream of girls went past her to the front door, Elmiryn spied the blonde head of her cousin struggling to get by. “S’cuse me! Sorry!” Lethia approached, breathless but smiling. “Hey! You came!”
Elmiryn managed a smile. “Sure did!”
Her cousin took her hand and started to pull her toward the door. “Come on! Let me introduce you to my sorority sponsor!”
The smile became harder to keep up when Lethia pulled Elmiryn into the building. Inside, the music was loud, and the crowd was even thicker than it had appeared outside. Most there were girls, but there were a few guys too–likely dates. The redhead tried to keep her patience as they slowly fought their way through to the sorority living room. There, Lethia led them to the bookcases near the fireplace, where two girls were chatting.
Elle was only half-paying attention when the introductions were made. She was never very good with parties like this–too much stimulation. Warner, her father, had suggested it was ADHD. She wouldn’t know. His pamphlet on the subject had spontaneously combusted in her bathtub, along with her book of matches.
Lethia’s voice only just managed to squeak through the commotion around them. “This is my cousin, Elmiryn. Elle, this is Nyx. She’s my sponsor!”
The woman turned her head, finally aware she’d let her attention wander. “Oh! Uh, hello–” She started to hold out her hand, but stopped.
The girl Lethia had gestured at was a petite, dark haired beauty with dark rebellious hair and warm eyes. She had on a straw hat fedora and a lavender t-shirt that read, “History on the run.” Her full lips pulled back into a smile as she raised an eyebrow at Elmiryn’s pause.
“Hi,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you, Elmiryn.”
The woman swallowed her surprise and grinned slowly. She took the girl’s hand and shook slowly. “The pleasure’s all mine.”
Nyx turned to look at the girl next to her. Reluctantly, Elmiryn let go of her soft hand and looked too. Taking in the other’s appearance, she recognized that this woman was a little older than the crowd. She must’ve been wearing contacts or something because her eyes were a clear purple. Like Nyx, she had dark hair, though in neater curls, and she was almost as tall as the redhead. The woman thrust out her hand as Nyx started with her introduction.
“This is Taila. She’s my girlfriend.”
Elmiryn shook Taila’s hand with more vigor than was necessary. “Y-Your girlfriend! Wo-ow! Nice to meet you!” Her smile had turned tight.
Lethia gave her shoulder a squeeze. “Surprise! Psi Alpha Epsilon is an LGBTQQIA sorority! I wanted to make you proud!”
The redhead stared at her cousin. “This sorority is a what?”
“LGBTQQIA,” Nyx said with a chuckle. “It means lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersexed, and ally. We’re, uh…’all-inclusive.’”
Elmiryn blinked, “Um. That’s…great?” The woman held up her hands and added hurriedly. “No really! That’s awesome! I’m just not really abreast on gay rights and…stuff.” Inwardly she kicked herself, then wondered if mental harakiri would be more fitting.
Nyx squinted one eye and tugged on her ear. “I know, I know! I think the acronym is way too long, but people have been blowing a gasket about feeling left out.”
“I think it’s good that the sorority tries,” Taila said with a shrug. She threw an arm around Nyx’s shoulder and Elmiryn took a sudden interest in their shoes. “A lot of houses say their inclusive, but the prejudice is there.”
Elmiryn frowned and let her gaze crawl back up. “It’s hard to ask people to be open minded about everything, especially when they don’t encounter it every day. Prejudice exists in the gay community too, doesn’t it?”
Nyx sighed. “Sadly, yes.”
“I think it isn’t so bad as long as people keep trying to understand. Isn’t that the important thing? I mean…everyone on this planet needs a way to react to something new and mysterious if they wanna keep from getting overwhelmed. That’s just life.”
Taila wagged a finger. “Exactly!”
Lethia nudged Elmiryn. “Hey, you want a drink?”
“Yeah. That’d be cool.”
“Yeah, whatever’s there. I don’t care. Thanks!”
Lethia nodded and left with a small wave. “Be right back! You guys talk.”
“Actually,” Taila pulled away from Nyx and pointed across the room. “I have to head to the bathroom. The line’s killer, and if I wanna get back here before the Second Coming of Christ, I should get a spot while I can!”
Nyx stepped in for a quick kiss before she waved her girlfriend off. “See you in a bit, babe.” Taila winked before vanishing amongst the crowd. The sorority girl turned back to the redhead. “So!”
Elmiryn shrugged her hands with a smile. “So!”
“Lethia is a really nice girl. I think she could be an awesome addition to the sorority.”
“She’s great isn’t she? She’s so…determined.”
Nyx raised her eyebrows. “Oooh…that didn’t sound ironic at all!”
Elmiryn winced and shook her head. “Oh! Fuck! I mean–shit–I’m sorry, I curse. A lot. Uh. No. That’s not how I meant it.” She smirked and scratched her neck delicately. “I mean, I really do think she’s going to take over the world!”
Nyx laughed and leaned back onto the bookcase. “She spoke very highly of you, y’know. You two sound really close.”
“Us? Well, she was like my kid sister when we were growing up. Her mom was my mom’s sister and…y’know. She used to get picked on by other kids. I stuck up for her.”
“Aww! Sounds like you were a knight in shining armor!”
Elmiryn pulled a suffering look. “No way!”
Nyx’s smile shifted to a smirk and she gestured around the room. “Well…what do you think?”
“About your sorority? Uh–” the redhead glanced over her shoulder. “It’s nice. I’m just not used to these things.”
“Wanna know a secret?”
Elmiryn nodded and Nyx gestured for her to come closer. When the woman leaned forward, the younger woman stepped in and whispered, “I hate these parties!”
As she pulled back, the redhead’s ear pulsed with warmth from where Nyx’s breath had tickled her. She said with a grin, “Then why go to these?”
“I have to support my sorority sisters! And anyways, it means a lot to the pledges, like Lethia. It’s our last major function before we decide on initiates.”
“From what Lethia’s told me, Psi Alpha Epsilon is well connected!”
“You can just say Psi Alpha for short. And yes, I suppose we are connected. I mean, what’s a sorority without connections? We’re still younger than most houses on campus, though.”
“So you’re reasons for joining wasn’t some well-calculated move?”
Nyx laughed. “Um. No. I joined because I wanted to belong to something. We really take care of each other, here.”
Elmiryn went to lean on the bookcase next to Nyx, and she felt better with a full view of the room in front of them. “Is it too cliche to want to ask what your major is?”
“Are you kidding? I think life would be easier if we all had it tattooed onto our foreheads!” Elmiryn giggled and Nyx’s smile widened. The redhead felt her breath catch at the sight as the girl continued. “I double major in English and Journalism. Two of the most useless degrees you can get!”
Elmiryn’s smile waned at Nyx’s cynical joke. “Hey, that’s not true! You can do incredible things with those!”
“Sure. I’ll change the world by reporting on the latest Benghazi bombing to apathetic American families in the suburbs.” Just as soon as the words left her mouth, Nyx winced. “I’m sorry. I’ve been busting my back for school all week, and it’s got me a bit bitchier than usual.” She quirked her eyebrows. “What about you? You graduated with a degree, right? Have you had luck with your career?”
“Geez, how much did Lethia say about me?”
“Just enough to get me interested,” Nyx said with a hooked smile.
Elmiryn coughed and tried to fend off her blush. “Okay! Okay. Uh. Yeah. Yes, I do physical training at a health clinic in town. Some of my clients are athletes, but most are patients recovering from serious surgery.”
Nyx’s eyes widened. “Wow! Talk about doing incredible things!”
The woman shrugged and looked away. “It isn’t that big a deal. I’m not even sure I wanna keep doing it, some days.”
“Honestly? I’m not sure. I’ve always had that problem. It’s like I can’t decide on what I want to do. I get…” Elmiryn cycled her hands through the air, her eyes squinted. “I don’t wanna say bored. Stuck, I guess? It’s just, after a while I start to feel restless.”
“I get that.”
Elmiryn glanced at her. “Do you?”
“Sure.” Nyx looked down at her shoes, and her hat brim successfully hid her eyes from sight. “When I hear about what’s going on in our country, I get angry. Sad. It makes me feel trapped. Like I’m not doing enough to help.”
The redhead snapped her fingers excitedly. “There! Yes! That’s how I feel! Like I’m not doing enough!”
Nyx looked up at her again, and her eyes caught Elmiryn’s. The woman wasn’t sure when it had happened, but suddenly her face didn’t seem that far away. Scant inches really. What if she just tipped forward a little…?
The younger woman smiled. “They say life isn’t about the destination. It’s the journey that counts. Sounds like yours will be very rewarding!”
“And what about you?” Elmiryn asked with a tilt of her head. She barely shifted, but when she settled on the bookcase again, she was even closer to Nyx than before. “How’s your journey going? Are you liking the company?”
Nyx’s expression softened, but she didn’t move or look away. “So far my company is everything I could ever ask for.”
“And what about the things you can’t?”
No response. Elmiryn lifted a finger and tilted Nyx’s hat up a small fraction. She was met with no resistance.
What am I doing? She thought as she started to lean in. I don’t talk like this! I don’t act like this!
Elmiryn turned to see Lethia standing with two red cups in her hands. Around them, the party-goers seemed engrossed in their conversations, but the woman caught the eye of a few surreptitious looks. A glance at Nyx confirmed it. Everyone around them had been aware of what had nearly happened except for them.
Lethia thrust her cup at her cousin, and the older woman flinched like it were a knife. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
Elmiryn swallowed. “Uh, sure.” She looked at Nyx. “I’m going to–”
“It’s cool,” Nyx said without meeting her eyes.
Feeling worse and worse by the second, Elmiryn followed Lethia out to the front lawn, away from the others. When they were sufficiently secluded, the girl rounded on her, her eyes burning with fury.
“What the eff, Elle!? You were so about to kiss my sponsor!”
Elmiryn clasped her hands. “Lethia, please. We were just talking!”
“Are we going to have a repeat of the Ting incident? Because I don’t want to have to live through that replay!”
“No! And for the record, Ting seduced me okay!?”
“You still had the option of saying no then, just like you do now! Elle, I like Nyx. I do. But you have to watch out for her!”
Elmiryn blinked in confusion. “I–What? Look out for her?”
Lethia nodded her head earnestly. “Yes! I was hoping Taila had changed her, but now I’m not so sure. So just…be careful, okay? She’s got a history of chewing girls up and spitting them out.”
The redhead stared at her in incredulity. “I’m sorry. Did we see the same thing in there?”
Her cousin frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I was the one who–” almost kissed her, she finished inwardly. She placed a hand on her forehead and stared wide eyed at the ground. But why would I do that? What would possess me to do that? I’ve never been that forward! And I have Izzie! Was I really about to throw our relationship away like that on a first meeting?
Lethia sighed. “Maybe this was a mistake. I can tell them you aren’t feeling well. They won’t mind. They only just met you, after all.”
“No,” Elmiryn said with a strong shake of her head. “It’s fine. I’ll be fine. This is important to you, and I wanna be here!”
The girl’s eyebrows knitted. “Are you sure?”
Lethia bit her lip. Finally she gestured for the woman to follow. “All right…but I’m not leaving you alone anymore! I don’t want to see you getting hurt again!”
Elmiryn threw an arm around her cousin and guided her back to the sorority house. “I won’t. I promise, baby cousin.”
At least, I hope not… she thought with a dark glance up at the building.