Sasha stared at her diminutive roommate with her mouth open. Her brain was frozen into stunned silence completely unable to articulate a single word. Her skin was even more pale than usual as all the color had drained from her face and she felt the unsettling twisting of her stomach that made her feel as if she was about to throw up while simultaneously needing a big drink of water. “Uhhh…” is all she managed to get out.
“Oh fuck Sasha, grow a pair.” Iria said rolling her eyes, “Come on you two.” and she turned to saunter down the hall, her silk kimono flowing gracefully behind her.
Jessica, standing behind Sasha, took a deep breath and replied finally, “I’d love some tea thank you.” she said with the brightness of a cheery new day.
Sasha turned to Jessica, her eyes pleading for help. Jessica simply hooked her arm into the limp arm of the redhead and pulled her along down the hallway. Sasha stumbled after her as if she was in a zombie like trance. Looking at the pictures on the wall, the pattern on the tile, the color of the front door, all objects seemed formless and moving as in some trippy dream. She finally snapped out of it when her body realized she hadn’t taken a full breath since Iria confronted them. She gasped and swallowed a bulky chunk of air before turning back to Jessica, “What….what are we doing?” she stammered.
“We’re having tea.” Iria replied from the living room. “Come now roomy; it’s a soothing camomile tea. It’ll calm your nerves.”
Sasha felt herself being lead into the living room and sat down on the couch. Jessica flopped down beside her and Iria gracefully deposited herself in the chair opposite them. Sasha stared down at the steaming tea and quietly retrieved her cup, bringing the lightly flavoured hot liquid to her lips and taking a small tentative sip. The two other women did the same, but Iria’s playful eyes never left the redhead.
Despite Sasha’s fears, Iria wasn’t actually looking at her with judgment. She was merely excited to chomp down a morsel of an intriguing and utterly juicy story. Iria had immediately worked out that more was going on behind the closed door of Sasha’s bedroom than a simple sleep over or gab-fest. Her suspicions were proven correct the moment she saw her roommate’s face in the hallway. So how did this happen? Iria was excited to find out. How did her usually uptight and inhibited roommate make such a bold leap in one night? How did she go from being afraid to meet “Jacob” to being intimate with this leggy brunette sitting next to her. Iria drew another sip from her cup and placed it neatly down on it’s accompanying saucer.
Not one for subtlety Iria smiled at the two women and asked bluntly, “So how was it?”
Answering simultaneously and without thought Jessica blurted, “Amazing.” while Sasha mumbled, “It’s good tea.”
Sasha furrowed her brow and took in an annoyed breath. “Uhh…yes, the tea…..it’s…amazing.” Jessica corrected herself, looking back at Sasha nervously.
Iria chuckled and took another sip, her eyes going from Jessica to Sasha and back again. For such a small woman she was very intimidating. She didn’t say anything, she just looked at them while calmly sipping her tea. She was patiently waiting for the two women to crack and reveling in the awkward silence as they squirmed uncomfortably.
Jessica no longer felt like this was a friendly moment, she felt that she was being interrogated. Her mom had escaped from East Germany before the wall came down and had related to Jessica how intimidating a silent stare from a Stasi officer could be. Jessica finally understood.
“I’m glad you like the tea.” Iria said softly, lowering her gaze to her tea, “but that wasn’t what I was asking about.” She looked into Sasha’s eyes, “and you know that.”
Sasha looked away and shifted in her seat before looking to Jessica, her eyes pleading with the brunette to pull her away from this awkwardness.
Iria placed her teacup back on its saucer and sighed, “Look I’m not stupid.” she began, her eyes darting from woman to woman. “I know you two were,” she paused for a moment trying to find the appropriate words, “investigating alternative lifestyles.” She frowned. It sounded better in her head, but aloud it had the texture of a cold stainless steel autopsy table.
Sasha winced at the question. She felt sick to her stomach. It wasn’t the tea mixing with the wine she had earlier, it was this nervous agony Iria was putting her through. Whatever the reason, Sasha found herself unable to articulate a coherent thought. In a room with two other women she could not have felt more alone. She looked over to Jessica for help. Her eyes pleading for the brunette to extricate Sasha from this crushing awkwardness.
Jessica recognized the look on Sasha’s face. It was the very same look she had on her own face when she admitted both to herself and to her ex-boyfriend about her interest in women. It was the fear of being ostracized. It was the fear of being teased and bullied. It was the sneaking specter of every cruel joke you accidently laughed at. The karma of teasing the girl that was different for no other reason than she was different. All of that silly, childish, taunting that you knew was wrong; it felt like all of it was enveloping you in a cascade of impending misery. Jessica knew this feeling all too well. She looked at Sasha and saw her wallowing in it; alone and afraid. Frightened of the next moment in time.
“So you two hit it off huh?” Iria interjected, cutting through the dense silence.
Jessica looked at Sasha, and the redhead looked back at her. They remained silent.
“What?” Iria continued. “Pussy-cat got your tongue?” she chuckled at her own stupid joke, but her audience was less than receptive.
“Iria, stop.” Sasha sighed.
“Stop?” she turned to look at Sasha, “Why should I stop? Am I offending you?” she scoffed. “Why so sensitive all of the sudden Sash?”
“Just,” Sasha winced and shook her head, “just stop.”
“Oh come on.” Iria retorted with a chuckle, “I’m just curious, that’s all.”
“Do you have to be?”
“Yes.” she nodded, “Yes I think I do.” Iria smirked. “I think I have the right to know how long you’ve been a member of the Muffin Munching gang.” she laughed and sipped her tea.
It didn’t occur to her for one moment how Sasha was feeling. Every joke Iria uttered, and every smirk that crossed her face made Sasha feel under attack. Sasha felt ridiculed. Belittled. “I said stop.” Sasha mumbled her eyes closed.
Jessica sat stunned next to the redhead. Unsure what to say or how to interject. She didn’t know Iria at all, but this didn’t look like playful teasing. It felt mean.
“Oh hush,” Iria continued. “I just want to know how you went from hoping to hop on Jacob’s big boner, to taking a spin in the sheets with this tart.” she gestured over at Jessica. Iria laughed, “Bet you knew it was a chick all alone.” she continued.
Sasha shook her head, “No. No I didn’t.”
Iria laughed, “Sure.” she elongated the word to the point it was saturated with sarcasm. “I totally believe you.” she chuckled again. Iria had become a wrecking ball of teasing inertia. She was completely oblivious to Sasha’s pain. With every jab and taunt she threw at Sasha with light hearted humor, it was caught by her roommate as a razor sharp knife. Iria, in all of her uninhibited glory, could not comprehend Sasha’s interpretation of this moment.
“I–I didn’t,” Sasha stuttered and in a sudden moment of clarity Iria realized this wasn’t a humorous moment at all. “I–I wasn’t going.” she took a big breath. “I–I didn’t want this.” she finally blurted.
“But–” Iria looked at the redhead with concern, “–then?”
“It,” Jessica paused for a moment and took a quick stuttering breath, closing her eyes and slumping her shoulders forward, “it was me.” Jessica opened her eyes and looked over at Sasha. The brunette’s eyes glistened as tears began to collect at the corners of her eyes. “I got her drunk.” she sighed and continued, “I took advantage of her.” Jessica bit her lip and looked over at the redhead. She didn’t want Sasha to go through the same pain she did. She didn’t want Sasha to feel ugly, dirty, or unwanted. Jessica would make her blameless. Jessica would take that choice away from Sasha so she could wash herself of this night and move on with her life.
Iria reeled back in confusion. She was looking forward to a frank and honest conversation with the two younger women, but not for a moment did she think she would be hearing a confession to what appeared to be date rape. She was floored. She sat in stunned silence.
“I’m sorry.” Jessica whispered gently to Sasha, beginning to sniffle. “I took advantage of you.” Jessica shook her head and brought both hands to cover her face quietly sobbing behind them. Her mind was racing. Fears and doubt saturated her mind. Maybe she did take advantage of her. Did she? Sasha seemed like she wanted it, but was that just what Jessica wanted to hear? She sobbed again.
Iria stared at the brunette, then back to the confused redhead. Her initial surprise gave way to seething anger. She jumped up, crossed the table, wound up, and swung her hand down at the shocked brunette’s face. The concussive impact filled the room with the distinct timber of flesh striking flesh. “How could you!” she wailed, swinging successive blows down at Jessica.
“No!” Sasha wailed in Jessica’s defense but her call fell on deaf ears. Sasha watched as Iria, small, demure, and delicate as ever, landed a vicious backhand slap across Jessica’s face.
The brunette tumbled to the floor in surprise. “Wha–?” she managed to mumble out before Iria stood above her poised to strike again.
“How could you!” she squealed angrily. “How could you take advantage of my friend like that!” she brought her hand back down with vigor, swinging mercilessly at the downed woman. She was filled with rage. Her blood was pounding in her chest. Jessica was able to deflect most attacks with her arms and hands but Iria swung down at her relentlessly. “How the fuck could you do this!” she screamed before Sasha tackled her into the couch from behind.
“Stop!” Sasha shouted, “Just stop! STOP!” she had to repeat herself as Iria struggled to get away and continue her attack. “She didn’t take advantage of me.” Sasha yelled at Iria. “She didn’t,” Jessica looked back at the redhead through the defensive shield of her own arms. “I wanted to.” Sasha admitted, “I asked her to.”
Iria was breathing rabid hateful breaths, but stopped struggling against the roommate she was defending. She turned to look at Sasha, “Are you sure?” The anger within her bubbled below the surface.
Sasha looked at her roommate, then at Jessica and simply nodded. “She was just trying to take the blame so I wouldn’t be embarrassed.”
Sasha shook her head, “I was afraid that you’d make fun of me, or that you’d tell everyone what I,” she looked over at Jessica, “What we did.”
Iria stared at the redhead and shook her head, “I would never.” she mumbled.
“Are you sure?” Sasha asked, “I mean, you’re a bit of a loose cannon.” she gestured over at Jessica still crumpled on the floor.
“I–” Iria started but closed her mouth again. She swung her arms around so she could pull Sasha into a hug. “I was only teasing.”
“It didn’t seem like it.” Sasha admitted.
“Seriously I was only kidding around.” Iria looked into Sasha’s eyes and tried to convey as best she could that she was being genuine. “I don’t fucking care if you’re a lesbo or whatever. Hell I think it’s pretty cool!” Iria chuckled.
“But that’s just it Eye.” she placed her hand on the petite woman’s shoulder, “I’m not.”
Iria cocked her head to the side, “Huh? But–”
“I don’t know what I am Iria. I’m just–” she looked over at Jessica and then back to her roommate, “I’m just me. You know? No label. No special parade. No flag or club. I’m just–me.”
“Well whatever you are or aren’t, I love ya.” Iria blubbered and gripped the redhead in a tight bear hug.
Jessica, still on the floor. She stood and watched for a moment, unsure of what she was supposed to do.
Iria caught her eye and immediately let go of Sasha. She stood up quickly and embraced the brunette tightly, “I’m so sorry. I hope I didn’t–”
Jessica shook her head, “No I’m ok. I–” she looked over at Sasha and smiled, “I’m fine.” She rubbed her forearms unconsciously as a warm ache of a new bruise began to grow but still repeated, “I’m fine. I’m ok.”
“Are you sure?” Sasha asked softly.
Jessica nodded and smiled, “I’m ok.” she chuckled and looked over at Iria, “you’re pretty feisty for a little shit aren’t you.” The much taller Jessica wrapped Iria with one arm and kissed her on the top of the head, “Sasha’s lucky to have you as a friend. God help anyone that tried to hurt her because holy fuck you’d kill them. You’re fucking vicious!”
Iria smiled and laughed with the two women. For now she was calm. For now the anger had subsided, “Hey, if you’re small like me, you’ve got to be.” she chuckled. She picked up the tray of tea and cups and walked over to the kitchen taking slow steady breaths as she took each step. On the edge of her mind was a ragged memory of a time where she wasn’t so vicious, or at least, not vicious enough. It was not a memory she wanted to recall, and definitely not a memory she could endure to relive. She looked down at her shaking hands, closed her eyes, and took a few more deep breaths. When she opened her eyes again, the shaking had subsided. Iria turned and smiled like an enthusiastic Walmart greeter and sauntered back into the living room.