Chapter 9: “Like a Wave”
A kiss closed the gap between Scott and Jean in the half-awake hour when dreams smolder on the wet ground of waking. The alarm, having roused them at a merciless 5:55 a.m., had been silenced and Scott was fighting the sharp jabs of duty that were prompting him to jump immediately from his bed; but that would mean spoiling the gentle magic in the brush of their lips. It was a teasing, sliding sort of kiss. Scott was too self-conscious about his morning breath to let his tongue become involved, but there was something intoxicating about the soft caressesas if he were growing high on the fumes of a thousand open wine bottles whose contents he was forbidden to actually taste.
A long time ago, a kiss had been the first step in their transition from mere friends and fellow students to the realm of the intimate. Now kisses were just one of many paths to deep communication. From casual touch, to intellectual intercourse, to physical passion, to the otherworldly intimacy of telepathy, they were attuned to each others’ moods and humors in ways Scott had never thought possible with a woman.
He felt Jean’s arousal both through the movement of her body against his and through the little flashes of telepathic flotsam that erupted in his head. Not words and not picturesthey were almost like memories of sensation, but sensation experienced through someone else’s senses. When he received these images of unrestrained pleasure from his lover, he saw the colors that had been denied him since he had been compelled to forever wear ruby-quartz glasses that rendered the world monochrome, infernal.
Her arousal had awoken his own and he further fueled the cycle by stroking her naked back, tickling the flesh at the base of her spine in the way he knew made her open with desire. Her hands in return, ran down the trail of hair from the top of his belly, stopping teasingly short of the erection that was struggling for space between them.
But then Scott heard movement outside their door: Margit on her way to the kitchen. And with this first confirmation of the day’s schedule, the rest of it began forming as spreadsheets before his eyes, pushing out the telepathic splendor of Jean’s arousal. With the spreadsheets came the thousand worries that cut through the fragile threads of their passion. Two weeks ago, the worries were still about curriculum, liability issues, curfews; but this week, everything had gotten much more complicated.
“Dammit, Scott,” she groaned. “Stay with me; we have time!” But he rolled onto his back, his hand still absently stroking her flank.
“Three more mutants dead yesterday, Jean.” he said, more resigned than enraged.
“And two humans,” she responded in tragic echo. They lay in silence a moment, thinking of the high-speed police chase in Tennessee that had ended in a fiery crash and more police denials of wrongdoing. And of the previous day’s retaliation murders in Iowa: two dead policemen, their internal organs melted, their skin turned purple; words crudely scrawled on the wall above them: ‘FOR PASSADEENA!’
“Is this just a blip or are we watching the beginning of a war? And why is this happening just before we start classes?” Scott muttered. “It’s like a bad omen.”
“I don’t believe in omens,” Jean answered grimly. She rolled over and stroked his hair. “And neither do you.”
“Well, obviously... but it just feels like the deck is stacked against us or something. I tell you, I was almost ready to expel Bobby for that stunt of his at the youth group; but now I think he was right to give out the mansion’s phone number. If no one else is going to respond when mutants are targeted, we’re going to have to. Frankly, I’m itching for that first call from a young mutant in trouble. I want to be there when some punk thinks he can take one of us out with impunity.”
Jean kissed his neck and spoke quietly beside his ear. “Most mornings I wake up thinking we’ve bitten off way more than we can chew. I’m at a critical point in my research and I have papers due. We’ll be teaching 12 live-in students, and now it looks like we’ll be taking off to save mutants in trouble in our spare time. I don’t know how you imagine this working, Scott.”
“There’s no choice, Jean; we’ll have to make it work. And we’ll be training the first class really hard so they’ll be ready to help with the fight when they graduate.”
She rolled away from him and spoke to the ceiling. “I thought you were the one who wanted to protect them from all that; wanted them to stay kids.”
Scott felt the surge of anger that always came when he was caught in his own hypocrisy. He didn’t want to debate the point and so abruptly changed the topic. “Have you caught Kitty and Bobby yet?”
Despite herself, Jean smiled. “Once. They were making out in the network room. I excused myself quickly.”
He rolled towards her and propped himself up on his elbows, beginning to plant tiny kisses on her face and neck. “Heh, I knew my man Drake had the moves.”
“I don’t know... Maybe they’re moving too fast.”
“Forget it! Bobby’s a ladies’ man just like me. Don’t they remind you of us?”
She seemed like she wanted to say something but instead sighed contentedly as his kisses moved lower. “As I recall, we danced around each other for months before either of us made a move.”
Her hands wrapped around his muscular back as he spoke almost into her right nipple, “But you were an older, experienced woman. Dangerous territory.”
“And you were a younger man.” Her breath caught as his tongue circled the nipple. “Mmm, though you were pretty experienced for your age, if I remember correctly.” She arched her back like a cat as he climbed on top of her. Teasingly, a little breathless, she murmured, “Don’t we have to get up and start the day, Professor Summers?” The colors were shining in his head again, blinding him to any world but theirs.
His hand moved between her legs. “We have time, Professor Grey. We have some time.
Mike emerged from the guidance counselor’s office at 9:30 a.m. He had been anticipating the meeting with equal measures of gloom and excitement for a week and now it was all over in just 15 pointless minutes. He wondered what he would do for the rest of the day. Time was precious in the last days of vacation.
Without a clear destination in mind, he dawdled in the waiting room, leafing absently through college brochures. Suddenly the door flew open with a bit more force than was called for and in strode the girl from the mall with the singular name: Jubilee.
His mouth dropped open as he took her in. She was even sexier than he remembered, her black hair now permed to a shiny kink and streaked with red. She wore tight black jeans and a canary yellow t-shirt that gapped just above them revealing the slimmest, most maddening sliver of skin. Her lips shone like a river that had forgotten to give back last night’s moonlight. He felt a desperate need to kiss them.
She smiled as if she had caught him at something dirty and said, “It’s you. This day may not suck completely after all.”
With all his years of education, his experience as a leader and his widely acknowledged charm, he managed a choked, “Hi.”
“Hi yourself, Mike,” she returned, satisfied at her effect. “You’re not going anywhere in a hurry are you?”
“No, Jubilee. As a matter of fact,” he said, trying unsuccessfully for cool, “I’m, uh, not.”
“Good. I want you to show me all the places wild kids like us get in trouble around here.” She smiled at her wit, holding his eyes like a crocodile wrestler. “I’ll try to finish with the dork session as quick as I can. Where do we meet?”
He grinned back, unable to hide his gratitude. “Parking lot entrance. Take a right out that door and all the way to the end.”
The guidance counselor opened his office door, holding an overflowing manila folder from which he was teasing details that seemed to worry him. He looked up. “Jubilation Lee?”
“That’s me.” She elbowed Mike playfully as she passed him. “See you soon.”
When Jubilee emerged into the sunlight 30 minutes later, Mike was sitting on a low, tag-spattered concrete wall that made up one end the parking lot. His eyes were closed as the late summer sun warmed his face. He was imagining kissing the Chinese girl’s shining lips. He seemed the picture of smiling serenity when she called his name, but his heart started beating faster.
He reached a hand down and helped her scramble up beside him. She tucked her legs in and sat cross-legged, reaching into her bag to grab a cigarette which she lit and sucked back with exaggerated relief. She gestured at him with the pack but he shook his head. She closed her eyes and smoked, starting to sway to an inner music. They sat in silence and he watched her with the same addictive pleasure she seemed to be taking in her cigarette. “What was your meeting about?” he asked after a minute.
“Just administrative bullshit. My marks from last year were kind of terrifying, so he wanted to know what the school could do to help me ‘make the adjustment’.” She sneered a bit and laughed. “I swear it sounded like a threat.”
“What did you tell him?” Mike asked.
“I said I was fine. If I want to do well at schooland I actually do this yearthen I’ll do well without their ‘help’. Last year was different time, a different statea different state of mind.”
“You were living with your parents in California?”
“Nope. Another aunt and uncle. But I was, um, what’s the word? ‘A handful’. And so they shipped me off to Boston to live with Auntie Bao. Heh, because she supposedly knows how to lay down the law.” She smirked at Mike, as if to say that there was no law in her town but her own.
He decided it was time to be more daring: “Your parents?”
“Dead.” She threw it down like a challenge, watching him carefully, daring him to flinch. “Dead and dead,” she added for emphasis, tossing her half cigarette into the parking lot.
Mike felt something move in his heart but he didn’t back down or apologize. “How long?”
“Almost three years now.” She held the stare and he held it back. She seemed to relax a bit. “And that is all I’m going to tell you now, Mike Whoever.”
“And, Mike Haddad, why were you in the guidance office of abandon-all-hope three days before school starts?”
“I wanted to find out if the school had any plans to offer special support for mutant students.”
She choked on her spit and stared at him like he had just confessed to being a serial killer. Mike felt his confidence slip a bit. Was he fucking things up with her? Was she an anti-mutant bigot? Maybe he could help enlighten her. After he kissed her. He pressed on. “When he said ‘nothing’ I told him they should start. I said it’s the school’s responsibility to make a safe environment for all its students and to support them.”
She seemed to relax a bit and gave one of her hard-slap laughs. “Hah! I bet he started shuffling papers and checking his watch. That’s what he does when he wishes you didn’t exist to complicate his life.”
Mike smiled. “Yeah, he did.”
“Jerk.” Jubilee then gave him a serious appraising look. “I don’t get you. Are you a mutant?”
Mike was somehow surprised at the question. “No,” he told her.
If anything, her eyes grew even harder and more challenging. “Are you a mutant?” she repeated.
“No,” he insisted. “I just think”
And a third time, almost angrily: “Are you a mutant?!”
He caught his breath and released it slowly. “No. No, I’m not, Jubilee. I just know what’s going on and I don’t like it. I want to do something right.”
She folded her hands in her lap and looked down at them. “You should be careful, Mike Haddad. People are fucking assholes and they love finding a reason to shit on someone.”
He heard the pain in the tough girl’s voice. He looked at the unnamable color of her skin; not white, certainly not yellow, not olive like his. He watched the perfect curves of her breasts as they rose and fell with her breath. The desire to kiss her was unbearable.
She turned to him, and he felt like she could hear his thoughts. He blushed. “You have wheels?” she asked.
“No. My dad is coming to get me.” As if he were admitting to wetting his bed nightly.
Dare, Mike, dare. “Do you want to come back to our house? I have Guitar Hero 2.”
A dark smile crossed her lips. “I am the goddess of Guitar Hero, Haddad. You are so going down.”
At four that afternoon, Bobby and Kitty were stretched out on his bed perfecting their technique. Under Kitty’s precise tutelage, Bobby had moved in only three days from ardent amateur to a kisser with something that resembled finesse. Kitty had announced just that morning that she was pleased with her pedagogical success.
As their lips and tongues moved together like well-rehearsed ice dancers, Bobby noted with worry and annoyance that, even as he had learned to control the pressure, moisture and choreography of his mouth, he had felt his interest in the whole process waning.
Just a minute before, he had caught his mind wandering to the empty bed across the room. Which of the new students would fill it Monday? He had never had a roommate before. He and Ronny had always had their own rooms and Bobby was used to having a space of his own to retreat to.
When you had a roommate, how much space did you leave each other? Where did you change? Where did you jack off? Could you even discuss the arrangements without sounding like a
Kitty’s lips abruptly pulled away from his. She stared with frustration into his eyes. “Hello? Are you there, Bobby?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, feeling abruptly guilty. “What kind of a thing is that to ask a guy in the middle of a kiss?”
She disentangled herself from his arms, arranged her clothes and sat up. “That wasn’t a kiss.”
“Sure it was!” he returned, his voice rising a bit. “I did the thing with the sliding lips and the one where I took your lower lip gently in my teeth. It was good!”
“But you weren’t there! No, don’t deny it. You were a million miles away and it’s not the first time. Do you even like kissing me?”
Bobby thought about it. Yes, he did. It was wonderful to have her warm body there beside him. It made him feel alive and loved. And, yes, her soft lips against his were exciting and sweet... But, after a few minutes it did sometimes get a bit boring.
Kitty was staring at him looking hurt, waiting for the response that was taking too long. “You’re not even trying anything. I mean, am I ugly or something?”
Bobby started to panic. The situation was slipping out of control fast. “No! No way, you’re beautiful, Kitty. Of course I like... And what do you mean? You want me to-to grab your breasts or something? I-I respect you! But if you want“
“No! I don’t want you to just grab my tits! I mean, I don’t want you to ask...” she was flustered, furious. “I mean of course you should ask and maybe I won’t let you... but I’m right here and you’re not even going for it!”
She stood up, crossed the floor and dropped heavily into his desk chair, running her hands through her hair.
Bobby pouted. “I don’t know what you want.”
She shot back, “What do you want?” Something caught her eye on the bulletin board above his desk, peeking out from behind a forest of school schedules and prints of him and Scott laughing over a barbecue. “What is that, anyway?” She reached up and uncovered the piece of paper penned in precisely-wrought green words.
“Hey, leave that alone!” Bobby shouted and rose quickly to head her off. But she was already leaning across the desk, reading the words with a furrowed brow. He tried to show he didn’t care as he stood awkwardly beside her, his hands clenching and releasing reflexively at his sides.
“Who’s St. John Allerdyce?” she asked as she finished the poem, letting the papers fall back over it.
“No one,” he stammered. “Just this guy from the youth group.”
“Did I meet him?”
“No, he only came to the first meeting. I don’t even know him!”
“He wrote you a poem!”
“He didn’t write it for me... He just gave it to me. Why are you making a big deal about this?”
“Maybe if I write you a poem, you’ll want to kiss me!”
Bobby’s mouth shut like it was spring-loaded. He stared at her, the furious eyes in his red face a little damp. Kitty got up again and dropped onto the empty bed of the unknown roommate while Bobby sank down to take his turn in the desk chair. It was like they were playing a joyless game of musical chairs. He wished Kitty would just get up and leave.
“Bobby?” she asked quietly behind him. “I’m sorry. I only... want to know if you like me or not.”
He didn’t turn to her. “I like you. You’re my friend.”
“I know but...” she sighed. “God, I broke the cardinal rule! Never suggest any guy-guy thing to a guy. It’s like calling a girl ‘fat’.”
She got up and moved to the door. Bobby turned to her and asked a little desperately. “Kitty where are you going? I’m just sort of distracted! I really like you, we can still”
“Bobby, calm down. I’m tired. I’m sorry. I can’t figure out why the network is ignoring the library node and it’s making me crazy.” Hand against the door, she turned to meet his pleading eyes. “You’re my friend, too, okay? It doesn’t matter if we don’t... whatever. It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me!” he pleaded, but she shot him an exasperated look and phased through the door. The ghostly exit was like an erasure; like she had never even been there. He felt utterly alone.
Looking at his bulletin board, he saw a corner of Pyro’s poem still sticking out. Suddenly angry, he wanted to reach up and tear it to pieces. But his eyes fell on the words, “...if fire had a friend / If fire found another...”
He had to leave the incriminating tract there; his only trace of that evening in May. His only trace of that boy.
Mike slid open the patio door and he and Jubilee staggered out into the garden, blinking at the late-afternoon sunshine, minds rocked out in a Guitar Hero haze. Almost tripping on a loose paving stone, she grabbed his bare arm for support. The touch flowed through him like quicksilver. They sat on the grass and she quizzed him about teachers at the school. Multi-tasking: he could keep up his end of the conversation while watching every move she made. He was especially excited by her highly mobile mouth as it spoke, as it popped gum. He kept licking his own lips unconsciously. He was pretty sure she noticed.
His mother came out of the house in gardening clothes and cut blooms for a bouquet. Clip, clip. Mike and Jubilee lapsed into silence until his mother fished for a compliment on her roses and Jubilee dutifully supplied one. The only sounds were the buzz of bees, the muted roar of a jet overhead and the clip, clip of the pruning shears. Mike and Jubilee were watching each other with increasing intensity.
His mother vanished inside, pointedly ignoring the electric charge in the air. Over Jubilee’s shoulder, Mike could see his father appear briefly at the kitchen window. He stared between the slats of the blinds and then closed them hurriedly. Mike’s eyes returned to Jubilee’s.
The kiss seems to push in like a wave from some neighboring street, increasing in volume and strength as it burst from the tree line and crossed the rolling lawn before it broke and overwhelmed them. They were in each other’s arms, lips and tongues exploring, hands beginning to roam. Mike had never felt this kind of power in his body. He perceived that he was both very alert and close to passing out with excitement. He had her bare upper arms in his hands now and he felt strong, manly.
Her armsit must have been his imaginationseemed to be growing warmer. His skinit must have been his desire prickled as if electricity were dancing across it. They were lost together in the immensity of their passion. And then Mike saw fireworks.
It was 6:30 in evening, a time caught between the promise of a golden afternoon and the bittersweet twilight of late summer, darkness arriving perceptibly earlier than it had just a week ago. Andi was draped across the bed haphazardly, drenched in sweat, her slender legs intertwined with Raheem’s heavy limbs. The air smelled of guilt and amazement to her. Sweat, hair and the unmistakable odors of living, breathing sex. There was a prissy girl inside her loudly screaming that she should jump up and shower; return everything to clean, odorless control. But there was a stronger part that felt deliciously loose, as if the stays of a corset had popped free and it would take more energy than she had left to fasten them again.
Everything about the situation was new to her. Raheem was only the second man she had had sex with and he couldn’t have been more different from Ricky Yamamoto. The son of her father’s colleague at the University, Ricky was almost as short as she was, shy, rather humorless. Their sex was strangely formal, like a meeting over drinks at the student union. They barely looked at each other as they fucked and tried to stop any embarrassing, spontaneous noises issuing forth from their mouths or any other orifice.
Yes, everything was quite different with Raheem. Realizing earlier that they had mutual gaps in their schedules between daytime and evening meetings, they had all but raced back to his apartment where their clothes had not survived a minute before being shed like snake skins. And like snakes, they coiled around each other, their kisses deep and voracious.
Gratefully, she climbed up on him now, merging their cooling sweat. She ran a hand down his muscular flank and he moaned deeply, pulling her slender form down with his powerful arms so they could kiss again.
No, he wasn’t Ricky. Ricky’s pale tentative caress didn’t incite her to rebellion and lust the way Raheem’s dark hand did as it slid down her ass and reached between her legs to once again explore her moist labia. A pang of guilt pricked her: was she allowing herself to be aroused by the myth of the hyper-sexualized black man? Was she exploiting him for his race and thus contributing to his oppression?
“You’re so fucking sexy,” he murmured into her ear and she wondered if he was also getting off on her ethnicity. Was he, in fact, turned on by conquering the stereotypically ‘demure’ Asian woman and making her his sexual slave? Without even intending to, she slid a hand all the way down his belly, through his tight public hairs and grasped his damp, semi-hard penis.
If this is colonization, she concluded, maybe we’ve been giving it a bad rap.
They kissed again and he rolled over on top of her. Were they going to fuck again, she wondered. It wouldn’t be bad thing. But in the next moment’s hesitation, she could tell they were both thinking of upcoming appointments, of getting dinner beforehand. With a sweet ache, she enjoyed the last touches of his soft, thick lips on hers.
“Hey,” he murmured, looking down at her from inches away. She smiled but then she could see something was troubling him.
“What?” she caressed his back to let him know she was there for him.
“I have something to tell you.” He rolled off her and she pulled the sheet up over her legs, feeling a sudden chill in his absence.
“It’s about the mutant youth group,” he began reluctantly and the chill went deeper through her. “The board just told me: they don’t want... they won’t allow the meetings to continue.”
All at once, Andi felt terribly, terribly exposed. She pulled the sheet up to cover her breasts and looked away from the naked man. “What are you...” she began weakly before the anger took root. “When did you find out about this, Raheem?”
“Today. This morning.” He reached out a hand to touch her face and she jerked her head away. “The deaths this week were too much for them. They’ve been looking the other way all summer, but they’re terrified that the Center might get closed down if there’s trouble“
“Why would there be trouble?” she snapped back.
“If... if someone got hurt at a meeting. And when they heard how many mutants showed up on Tuesday”
“You mean ‘how many scared kids,’ Raheem. How many of the Center’s clients!”
“Andi, don’t yell at me! I told them they were making a mistakethat this was part of their responsibility and that”
She fixed him with a lethal look. “How did they know the numbers on Tuesday? Did you tell them? Do you report on us every week?”
“Andi, please!” he reached for her again but she pulled away, climbing out of bed with the sheet wrapped around her. “I have to provide those figures. It was one of the conditions they set when they allowed the meetings in the first place. I have to provide numbers, report any trouble that arises.”
Holding the sheet around her with one hand, Andi gathered her clothes in methodical fury, searching for the missing bits. “So, you’ve been quietly spying all these months. Where the hell are my”
Raheem stood up on the other side of the bed, holding her panties out to her. She reached for them but averted her eyes from his nakedness. Suddenly looking embarrassed himself, he picked up the blanket and it wrapped around his waist.
Holding the pile of clothes against her chest, she turned to him across the expanse of the bed and said quietly. “And you waited to tell me until after we fucked.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “Didn’t want to miss the opportunity.”
“That is not fair! I knew it would ruin your day. Is it wrong that I wanted to spare you as long as possible?”
“You don’t give a shit about my feelings; you just wanted to get off! You have no guts, no honor!” This last she said as the ultimate curse. Her lower lip quivering, her eyes full of contempt, she turned and ran for the bathroom. She slammed the door and then fell back against it as her tears came. She imagined the kids from the meeting, the ones who were so obviously worried and also the ones who put on a tough face like Derek. What would they do now? How would they handle this betrayal?
She jumped at the sound of a large ‘thump’ outsideRaheem punching the wallaccompanied by him shouting, “Fuck!” Despite her anger, she felt sorry for him. She didn’t envy him his job. She thought of him on the other side of the wall and she wanted to go back out; but she couldn’t. It wasn’t fair that he got the full force of her anger now, but she was miserable and he was the only one around. And still, beneath the anger, she could feel her body exulting in the passion it had just experienced. Even with the world falling down around her, with justice smashed liked porcelain doll, she suddenly wanted to kiss him again. She loved kissing him. She could still feel the soreness on her lips where his stubble had scratched. She could still taste his sweat.
Night in the city. The car’s window slid down with a jittering staccato. The man inside was nervous, glancing around for cops, glancing back at the boy to assess his worth.
“How much?” he asked, sweat glistening on his upper lip.
How long has this scene been repeating itself? the boy wondered. “Twenty-five for a handjob,” he said aloud. “Forty for head. Fifty for anal.” Must have been guys pulling up in chariots on the wrong side of town in Ancient Rome.
The sweating man managed a leer, like he wasn’t scared. “Looks like you got a sweet ass, kid.”
Boys in those little skirt things, flipping them up to show off their goods. “Well, buddy, it’s your lucky night; I don’t usually do this.”
“Right,” with a smirk. “You’re not the only boy on the street, kid.”
And the same asshole customers then and now. “Yeah, but I’m the prettiest.”
The man swallowed visibly. “Yeah.”
“So... do you need to hear the menu again?” If you were lucky he was a rich senator who would keep you, dress you in gold; adopt you maybe.
Unlucky, they’d find you floating in the Tiber.
“No, I got it!” Wanting to finish the negotiations, get somewhere safe. “Get in.” Breath sour with fear and whiskey.
“And buddy,” John said as he swung fluidly into the passenger seat, his drop-dead-sexy smile cruel as a knife. “I don’t kiss.”
Comment on this chapter