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Bad Influence

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"My, my, my, if it isn't Olive Penderghast," Marianne says slowly, like they're in some kind of dramatic reenactment of the political dispute that led to somebody's death.

"I'm shocked you recognize me without a scarlet letter on my chest."

"Well, you haven't changed a hair."

"I like to think I have changed a hair, actually," Olive retorts. "More than a hair, even. I like to think I've changed for the better."

Marianne frowns, and then puts a hand over her mouth to cover up a gasp. "Are you saying you have finally accepted Jesus into your heart?"

Olive snorts. "No," she says. "No, in no way have I said that. But changing, you know? It's definitely a thing I do." She smiles, sweetly fake. "You should try it."

"I think I'll pass," Marianne spits out, smiling in a way that looks remarkably like a grimace.

They have a class together.

That's the funny thing: they have a class together. If Olive ranked everyone she knew in high school by the likelihood of Olive encountering them again in college, Marianne wouldn't even crack the top two hundred. Sharing a class is like, the universe collapsing into itself and melting into strands of silver-gray nothingness that then would ravel into a maze.

It gets worse. The day their professor starts assigning group projects, Olive's usual partner in crime is MIA, sleeping off a hangover, and Marianne's starting late, so she ends up teaming up with her.

It would be fine, except it's a Women's Studies class, the project they are assigned is on LGBTQ civil rights, and Marianne refuses to go with Olive's non-close-minded approach or use their differing views to write up a compare-and-contrast essay.

The first time it happens, they're fighting about the project. It's not even late at night. They're not riding on hours of exhaustion or finals stress. It's actually early October, there's a fresh breeze coming in through Olive's dorm room window, and this is the first project Olive's gotten further than an outline on this semester.

She's perfectly fine. It's Marianne who isn't.

"Okay, just because you don't care about failing this class doesn't mean others—"

"Whoa, whoa, wait there," Olive says, "I care about passing this class. I love this class. I took this class because that professor right there? She's the best professor ever. This is going to be a damn awesome essay."

"It is?"

"It is," Olive says. She's pretty sure of it. "As long as you don't make it into a Christian pamphlet."

"I'm not making it into anything, you annoying, little—ugh!" Marianne steps towards her, just to point a finger right in her face.

Olive raises her eyebrows, grabs Marianne's wrist and pulls it out of her face. "What?"

Marianne sputters out some sounds, eyes scanning Olive's face.

And then she's kissing Olive, what— "—the fuck?" Olive snaps, pulling away.

"Oh my god," Marianne says.

"Blasphemy," Olive points out, "that's nice."

"Oh my god," Marianne repeats. "That's what your stupid arguments are doing to me. Don't you see what you're doing to me? We need to show that class how wrong they are—"

"Wait," Olive says, "wait, come here."

Marianne shuts up and warily walks in closer.

Olive kisses her.


It works. It actually works. Not only does Marianne shut up when her mouth is occupied with better pursuits, but afterwards Olive totally has leverage to blackmail Marianne into letting her do the project her way.

Olive's plans are well-intentioned, anyway. She's letting Marianne's voice be heard. She just doesn't want it to get mixed up with her own voice.

"Just so you know," Marianne says haughtily as she does up her shirt, "this is never happening again."

Olive shrugs at her. "Suit yourself."


It happens again.

Honestly, it's pretty hilarious and terrifying that it's Olive who can go the longest without pouncing on Marianne. Hilarious because, hello, Marianne basically crucified Olive for maybe possibly having had sex, and terrifying because Olive keeps going with it, holy crap, it's like she's lost her mind or something. She's getting conservative cooties in her private places.

"I can't believe you would say that to me," Marianne snarls when Olive mentions this. They talk about it. In fact, they always end up sleeping together when they talk about it.

"Isn't that what you thought of me in high school?"

"I didn't—there was no cootie sharing between us in high school," Marianne says. "Besides, that's not the point. It was high school. And you shouldn't worry anyway, because I don't want to get your private places on my cooties anymore any—" She trails off.

She trails off because Olive just pulled her shirt over her head. And she wasn't wearing a bra.

Okay, maybe Olive kind of starts these things, too.

"One last time," Marianne says, and Olive's pretty sure her hands touch Olive's boobs before they even start kissing.

It's totally not the last time, but it's okay.