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Delilah tries to scream. She can barely manage a protesting mewl. Marybeth settles into Delilah's fingertips and thighs and mouth; Delilah isn't Delilah but a puppet made of flesh and blood and bone. Marybeth slides through Delilah's mind, cooing maternal comfort as she picks through thoughts and memories and feelings, taking apart everything that makes Delilah Delilah.
Marybeth pauses over a memory as bright and sharp as broken glass. She takes it between her fingertips and turns it over and over: sunlight streams through the classroom's open window, a slanted rectangle of light that catches Stokely in its center. From her own seat--two back, one across--Delilah can see the line of Stokely's jaw, the curve of her ear, the play of hair across the nape of her neck as she stirs slightly.
Delilah's legs move restlessly beneath her desk. She thinks that she can hear the rasp of her stocking-clad thighs as they rub together, loud, so loud that she wonders that her classmates don't turn towards her and murmur and laugh behind their cupped hands. Her fingertips beat against her open notebook. Stokely lifts her shoulders, brings them back and down, stretches her neck and rolls her head. Delilah thinks about rising from her seat, thinks about crossing to Stokely and pressing her mouth into the curve of Stokely's neck and shoulder.
Delilah reminds herself that Stokely is Stokely: strange and sullen and anything but normal. Delilah reminds herself that she hates Stokely with all the righteousness which beauty and popularity grants her. She thinks that she should not need to remind herself of this quite so often, and still, it takes a conscious effort for Delilah to close her eyes against the sight of Stokely.
Marybeth breathes, delighted with sudden understanding. Her honey sick sweet voice fills Delilah's mind: happy, so happy, delilah. you'll be able to touch her, you want to touch her, don't you, delilah? want to crawl between her legs and open your mouth wide, wide
"No," Delilah thinks. Delilah says. Delilah screams. "It isn't true, you alien cunt."
hush, hush, listen, Marybeth soothes, Marybeth croons. i can give you everything, everything you've ever dreamed of. this could be real. this can be real. this is what you want, isn't it, delilah?
Marybeth shows her everything, gives her everything. It's too much, too much and--
Delilah comes awake. Her mind is her own again, empty but for her own thoughts. It is dark, and Delilah is lying on her side. Her legs are drawn in towards her chest, and her elbows are tucked tightly against her side. Pavement is rough beneath her cheek. Her eyes sting, and her lashes are wet. Delilah draws deep breaths: alive, alive and she is herself.
Delilah scrapes her palms against the ground as she struggles to her knees. She braces her hands on either side of her legs and leans forward, mouth wide open. Her stomach churns, and bile builds in the back of her throat. Delilah's shoulders shake, and her body heaves as she empties her stomach. She wills herself not to cry because she is strong, because she is better than tears. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and stands.
The school is still and quiet. Delilah has never been afraid of the dark before. Delilah runs her nails across the palms of her hands. She will sink her nails into flesh or eyes if anyone comes upon her. She will scratch and pull and tear and--Delilah gasps as Casey rounds the corner, emerging from behind a bank of lockers. He is dirty and bloodied, but his shoulders are set proudly. He smiles at Delilah, weary and pleased, and she lets him take her arm.
"It's over, Delilah," Casey says. "It's over."
Later, after the police and the doctors and the endless questions, Delilah goes home. Her room is full of familiar things: her overflowing bookcase, papers stacked neatly on her desk, her computer, bare weeks away from being brand new. Delilah licks the inside of her mouth, tastes mint, and crawls into bed. She leaves the light on, a dull yellow glow against the dark grey of the receding night. Her comforter brushes the underside of her chin, drawn high and close.
She closes her eyes (i can give you everything, everything you've ever dreamed of) and sleeps.
The cheap fluorescent lights in the school's bathroom make Stokely look pallid, almost grotesque beneath her thick coating of black mascara. Her eyes are narrow, and her jaw is tense--she is furious, furious. Stokely's hands shift restlessly against her thighs, fingers curling into claws. She looks as if she wants to dig her nails into Delilah's skin, hook ragged nails beneath skin and tear.
"You bitch," Stokely says, her voice rising and breaking with fury. "You goddamned bitch."
Stokely surges forward, colliding with Delilah and forcing her back against the wall, holding her still with the weight of her body. Delilah's lipstick clatters to the floor, rolls away. There is a waxy line smeared across her cheek, thick at the corner of her lips. Stokely's hands work against Delilah's hips, hard enough to hurt, wanting to hurt, and her kiss is raw and clumsy. Stokely growls low in her throat when Delilah bites down--only slightly sharper than intended--and pulls back, sneering.
"Get your hands off me, dyke," Delilah says scornfully, and moves to wipe her cheek, her lips.
The next kiss is harder, sharper. The rough edges of Stokely's teeth drag across Delilah's lower lip, pulling and sucking. Delilah gasps--yes, yes, yes--and presses her hand to the back of Stokely's neck. Stokely's hands are drawing curses against Delilah's skin as they move beneath the hem of her shirt. Stokely's hands betray a confusion of lust and anger, aimlessly wandering Delilah's belly, the curve of her ribs, the small of her back, until they finally ball into fists and stay there, pressing against either side of her spine.
Delilah is never simple, never easy, and she isn't about to let Stokely win this newest round in their old conflict. She pushes and twists, taking Stokely by surprise. Delilah doesn't slip away, doesn't want to escape, so she slams Stokely up against the grimy bathroom tiles and presses her leg hard between the other girl's thighs.
Stokely's eyes are wide: still angry, but almost frightened now as Delilah leans in and presses her face into the curve of Stokely's shoulder. "Delilah," Stokely starts to say. She breaks off sharply as Delilah closes lips and teeth around flesh. "Delilah!"
Delilah wakes with a start, her mouth parted in a choked-off cry. She is curled beneath her covers, thighs pressed tightly together, and her face slick with perspiration. Her bedside lamp is still on, and sunlight is edging around the drawn shade. Delilah slowly eases her legs out and rolls to her back, throwing a trembling arm over her eyes--it isn't true, Delilah thinks, it can't be true, but.
She wants Stokely--Stokely, with all of her sullen defensiveness, a face too unique to be pretty and eyes like twin bruises, smeared darkly with makeup. Over the years, Delilah had noted and pointedly--venomously--commented upon every action and every word that Stokely had made that gave even the slightest credence to her being the dyke the school rumour mill insisted she was. Stokely hasn't looked at Delilah, though, and she is horrified to think that that was precisely what she has been waiting for.
Experiencing what she has--surviving what she has--ought to mean something, ought to have opened Delilah's eyes to the important things in life and set her on the path towards becoming a better person. Delilah isn't nice, though. She was never the kind of girl who dreamt of riding into the sunset only to live a happy, settled and no doubt boring life. Craving something different doesn't mean that she is willing to accept this particular revelation. She can't want Stokely. She won't let herself want Stokely because that isn't who she is.
Except. Even the briefest of verbal battles with Stokely makes Delilah feel hot and fierce and vital in a way nothing else does. She is alive with Stokely as she never was with Stan, who always met her with heartfelt compliments and confident, proud touches. It is intolerable to think that she is living a cliche: hatred and denial and lust weaving together, marking the entirety of her history with Stokely.
Thoughts and memories and dreams haunt Delilah for days. She grows sharp and angry, and it is all that she can do not to strike out when school reopens a week later.
Stokely's face is still touched by faint bruises, but her eyes have been stripped of their familiar shield of black makeup. Stokely is wearing an outfit that looks as if it had been bought out of a _Sears_ catalogue--a pale, printed pink skirt and matching sweater that drape against her like borrowed clothes. Worse yet, Stan's arm is riding Stokely's shoulders as she smiles up at him, face flushed with pleasure.
Delilah's lips twist, and she looks away so that others may not see. She seeks out Casey instead--loyal, puppyish Casey--and contemplates turning her glossy smile upon him. She might let him hold her hand at school and place his hands upon her hips in the dubious privacy of a classroom emptied by the lunch hour. She could, Delilah thinks, and looks up to find Stokely watching her.
Delilah has never believed in fairy-tale endings and their easy promises of happy-ever-after. People could not possibly bear the weight of such imaginings made real. Delilah smiles to see that Stokely's eyes are dark as she looks at Delilah. Her smile turns sharper as Stokely turns her face into Stan's shoulder the moment Delilah meets her gaze. She is suddenly certain that she knows what Marybeth had whispered to Stokely.
Right now, Stokely is happy--more or less--with Stan. It won't last, Delilah thinks. She and Stokely are alike in this: they both are unwilling to be anything other than what they are. Stokely will grow bored with a jock who can't be more for all that he tries, and she'll remember how real she feels when confronting Delilah. It can't happen any other way because waiting and wanting without hope is unbearable, but this. . . this is anticipation, this is opportunity, and time enough for Delilah to relearn the feel of her own desire.
Delilah's head lifts, high and proud. From here, she can look to the future and find everything she might want.
Written as a Yuletide gift for Caroline Crane.
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