Anar, Urim 08, 03262
Honest Impulses 17: Aftermaths
Shandy climbed the stairs slowly, her body aching, especially in places it never had before, her stomach sick, her jaw aching from all the tears she'd held back all night long. She reached the third landing of the stairwell and stopped, sat. She hesitated taking off her boots. It felt as if they were part of what was left of her, part of what was still holding herself together. But the boots thumped on the wooden floor and she didn't want to wake anyone up at this hour. She unlaced them, held them in one hand. As she made her way down the hallway, she saw that the door across from hers was open, and a warm light spilled out of it. Shandy shuffled toward it. She knocked gently on the jamb. "Trianna?"
"Shandy?" Trianna looked up from where she sat on the floor in a nest of hovering displays. "Shandy!" She banished the displays with a swipe and rose, hurried to Shandy. "Oh, fah, what happened to you? Are you okay?"
Shandy shook her head, her chest heaving with oncoming sobs. Her cheeks were wet with recent tears. "Can I... Can I come in?"
"Yes, yes, come in." Trianna moved out of the way. Shandy hadn't been in Trianna's room since she'd helped her make the bed on the first day. Trianna had put up a picture frame on the wall, and at the moment it held a picture of Trianna with a mel Mephit, one of those Pendorian skunk-like creatures. He wore a black kilt and a weird chest harness of buckles and straps, and Trianna wore only a fine, blue see-through skirt that only reached two-thirds of the way to the ground, ringed with a gold hem. Trianna's chest was bare, her breasts hidden only by her fur. Many gold bracelets decorated her wrists. They were on a beach with a fire behind them. Trianna's forepaws were in the air, her tail a blur. The whole scene suggested dancing and joy. It gave Shandy a smile she felt even through her own misery. "Sit down. On the bed." Shandy sat.
Trianna settled to the floor. "Shandy? Can you tell me what's wrong?"
She closed her eyes briefly, then raised them and looked at Trianna. "I let a boy have his way with me tonight," she said, so softly she hoped Trianna hadn't heard. The tears returned, dripping down her cheeks again, falling onto her knees and the floor.
"Oh, fah," Trianna said. "I mean, it wasn't... he didn't attack you or anything like that, did he?"
Shandy shook her head. "No, 'twas no like that. 'Twas just a boy I knew. From my class. Who liked girls. Because, because, because..." She began to cry, and now it came out in a wail, one hand on her face, hoping beyond hope that she could hold what was left of herself inside. She cried, and it felt like it would never stop, and then she ran out of the strength to cry more, and finally it died away and she let herself sit there, weeping gently.
"Tell me what happened."
"I thought I wanted to go home. To Abi." Trianna looked at her. "'Tis no place for me here. So I went to the kitchen, to tell Linia that my class list was struck and I could no stay. I waited until the end. I could no abandon her with just one hour warning!" Trianna nodded. "When I told her, she said she was sad because, because she wanted to know if she could... we would... be..." Shandy took a deeper breath. "Lovers."
Trianna didn't say anything. She just motioned for Shandy to go on. Shandy's voice grew quicker. "She said she'd discussed it with her partner, who was good with it." She clutched at her sweatshirt, bunching it in her fist. "I so wanted it all autumn long, but I knew 'twas no possible means. Then she said there was, and I felt so strange. She... she bent to kiss me, and I leaned, and I felt it, and I ran away." Trianna nodded, her eyes kind. "I went back into town, back to the cafe where my friends wait. And Cal was there, and I asked him if he wanted company."
"Cal? The tall one with the beautiful hair? I've seen him in the engineering bay."
Shandy nodded. "I told him that I no did want to leave Hiroshi without a kind of happy memory. I was trying to be truthful, but 'twas a lie. I wanted no happy memory. I wanted to know if I could be good for a man. 'Tis what the Church said we are good for: men for women, and women for men. He said he understood. We went to his dorm, and we talked a little bit before he leaned in and kissed me, like Linia did.
"I wanted it. I let him." Shandy shuddered with the memory. She remembered his hands pawing at her. Each touch had felt terrifying, a stab in the gut. She held her chest. "I let him. Because I, I had to." She wept quietly for a moment. "And we went all the way. All the way to... to... "
Shandy felt Trianna's hand on hers, and the touch shocked her almost as much as Cal's last words to her. "And then, he was done. I was looking up at nothing, and he said, he said, 'That was good. You should go.'"
"Was he mean about it?"
"Nae," Shandy said, but her voice had a note of uncertainty. "I mean, he did no yell or look angry. But no happy. Like he did enjoy me no. Like he just used me like, like..." Her eyes flickered on the trash bin.
Trianna said, "It's okay, Shandy. I understand. I do. I'm sorry, but it happens. And it's not your fault."
"But it is! I wanted it!"
"No, you wanted something different, but nobody taught you how to ask for it. And you're young. I remember when I was your age, and I went to someone the way you went to Cal. I had different reasons, though. I was terrified and horny and desirous all the same. It was different, because he was the kind of guy who was, well, a little famous in his field, and I didn't know I could say 'no' to him."
Shandy looked up. "What happened?"
"He was different from Cal. He didn't want me if I didn't have the skills. Not the bedroom skills, but the skill to know what I wanted and how to ask for it. Those are two very different skills, and lots of people don't have either. He said he was the wrong person to teach them to me, so he introduced me to Kathy." Trianna reached up momentarily and touched the lock dangling on the chain around her neck, her eyes distant with memory. Shandy saw a smile on her muzzle. "I loved her so much. Which is odd, because I'm mostly androphile. But my first real, physical and emotional love was a woman, and she taught me how to ask for what I wanted. Not just in bed, either, but everywhere. In my life. She taught me how to be grown up." She shook her head. "Those years were so crazy, and so strange, and so wonderful. Your years, these years, should have their own wonderful strangeness. I'm sorry you had to start with someone as empty inside as Cal. I didn't know, but it doesn't surprise me. I'll keep that in mind the next time if he ever tries to come onto me."
They were quiet together for a while. Shandy fought off waves of memory of what Cal had felt like, the heaviness of his body, the way it had felt when he'd entered her with his fingers and... later. The way it had all been over so quickly. She wept.
"Shandy," Trianna said softly after a while. "What would be so wrong about being with Linia?"
"I no ken," Shandy said, and the truth roared out of her as she said it. "When I came to Hiroshi I thought robots were mean and controlling and strange and... I did no ken anything. Landing says that love between two women, or two men, is no as rich in God's eyes, is no so worthy of heaven. 'Tis why I went to Cal. A human. And a man." Trianna nodded.
"But how I feel, 'tis no the fault of Linia. 'Tis the ordinary people. You said I would no meet any robots, and now I have two I know, and one is a friend, and... we made them. Humans. People. We made them to be better than us, did we no? To see in their eyes how they always want so much for every day to leave us better than before."
Trianna nodded. "People can do that too, Shandy. My first crush, the man I loved who introduced me to Kathy, said there are two kinds of people in bed. The good kind make the effort to leave the other person better off than when they started. The others, at best, don't care." Shandy nodded. "I'm sorry your first experience had to be with someone who didn't care."
Shandy nodded. "Like Wynneau."
Shandy shook her head. "Someone else. A long time ago."
"I did no ever understand what decency was before now," Shandy said. "In Landing, they talk about being decent, but they no ken what it really means. 'Tis just an act to them."
"Maybe, maybe not. Don't judge them too harshly, Shandy. They're your parents and your community, and they were doing their best. They learned from their forebears, and maybe somewhere along the line their attempts at decency fossilized into rote and ritual, but that's not their fault."
"You hurt. I know." Trianna looked up at her. "Every community fails someone. Usually someone vulnerable."
Shandy stared at her. "You do so here. To robots. No by saying they can no leave. By making them so they no want to, even when to do in everyone's best interests." Her eyes widened. "'Tis what happened to Saia."
"Probably," Trianna said.
"I need to talk to Linia," Shandy said, rising sharply.
"Wait," Trianna said, slipping her hand down around Shandy's wrist. "Take a shower first. Change your clothes. Wash Cal off you before you do. It's important." She rose to stand next to Shandy.
Shandy nodded. "Aye. 'Tis a good idea. I'll do that." She moved to hug Trianna, hesitated until Trianna nodded, and then embraced her. "Thank you."
Trianna nodded. "Linia will be good to you. Remember. You can come and ask me, too. Both of us will try. Without wanting to get into your pants, either."
Shandy nodded, although she felt a bit of disappointment. It was nice to be wanted. It was nice to be wanted by people who knew themselves and had grown into their skin completely. She wanted to be one of them. "I will remember, Trianna."