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Wisteria

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“Never have I ever gone down on a girl,” Dan says.

Renee watches with surprise as both Katelyn and Allison slam back their shots. Katelyn Renee could have predicted. She still remembers the awful break up with the girl Katelyn had been dating before she and Aaron got together, but Renee had always assumed Allison was straight. Dan doesn’t look particularly surprised. Renee wonders how she’d missed this crucial piece of information. Renee looks down at her own untouched shot.

The rules are a shot every two fingers and a story every five fingers. So far Renee has taken precisely one shot and she’s still two fingers away from a story. It’s the kind of arbitrary rule system that gets complicated with alcohol and devolves into copious drinking, but that’s the Foxes for you. Luckily for Renee none of the statements have been ‘never have I assisted in a robbery’, or ‘never have I ever driven a get away vehicle’ or ‘never have I ever put three men in the hospital’. When the questions stick mostly to dating and sexual acts Renee gets off almost scot free. Actually the one shot she did take had been a false positive. She’d already downed her drink for “Never have I ever kissed a girl” before Dan had asked for clarification, saying “Okay, but do you mean with romantic intent or does platonic count, because I’ve kissed most of my sisters.” Dan’s an only child but they all know her well enough to immediately know she’s referring to the other women she worked with at the strip club. The girl who’d posed the statement, one of Katelyn’s Vixen friends had said, “Okay, never have I ever kissed a girl on the lips with intent.” Renee had sighed and put her finger back down. She’s kissed a girl, with intent even, but never on the lips. In fact the entire time Renee has been in college she hasn’t kissed anyone.

Allison toys with her empty shot glass before saying, “Never have I ever had unprotected sex.” It’s a cheap shot because immediately Dan puts up a finger. Allison snickers, “Can’t find a condom big enough for your boy?” she asks. Dan shrugs one shoulder.

“You haven’t given me enough fingers for a story yet so you’ll never know.”

One of the freshmen Foxes, Ayako, a striker who’s almost as short as Andrew also takes a shot. She’s at five fingers, so she tells them all about her high school boyfriend. They’re trying to make a go of it long distance for college. It hasn’t been working out too well according to the Foxhole rumor mill, but she still talks about him with a fond smile and obvious affection. Renee’s up next. She should have been thinking of what she would say. Now Dan is turning to smile at her and all Renee can think about is a list of things she has done. Like her brain is automatically presenting her the inverse of her request.

She looks down at her untouched shot, a dyed-teal section of her hair comes loose from behind her ears to hang in her face as she considers. She’s not really helping the too-good-for-this-earth impression the baby Foxes seem to have been roped into viewing her with.

Renee settles on, “Never have I ever dealt heroin”. Nobody takes a shot or raises a finger. There, something they all have in common. Dan raises an eyebrow, aware enough of the methodology of the game to hear the ‘have done’ over the more general ‘dealt drugs’. For all her time spent with the Foxes, Renee hasn’t spoken about her past with anyone but Neil and Andrew. It hasn’t been pertinent. That’s not who she wants to be, it’s part of who she is because there’s no changing who she’s been, but Renee likes to think she’s different now than she was. She executes her calculations on the Exy court and that’s enough of an adrenaline high. Thinking of the truth of her past shared with Andrew and Neil, Renee thinks up her next ‘never have I ever’. ‘Never have I ever been afraid of Andrew Minyard’, she’ll have to remember that one.

The Fox and Vixen girls night winds down not too long after that. Katelyn’s two Vixen friends have gotten pretty smashed, but she’s sober enough to navigate them back to their rooms. Renee doesn’t have to move since she, Dan, and Allison are sharing a triple as the three senior girls. Really, it’s Allison and Renee’s room because Matt has a single which means Dan only stores her stuff in their dorm room. Though she does come back to study, or hang out, or for girls night. Dan sprawls over the couch and ruffles a hand through Renee’s hair.

“We gotta be more creative to get you out don’t we?” she says.

“More like think along a different trajectory.”

“Sex is way more fun than murder,” Allison objects.

Renee shakes her head, “Never have I ever murdered anyone.” Allison mimes knocking back a drink.

Dan frowns. “No! Seth doesn’t count.”

“I agree, you had nothing to do with his death.”

Allison shrugs one shoulder agreeably. Renee is fairly certain she’ll never be fully convinced but they’ve all pushed Allison enough on this.

“So how do you think boys night is going?” Renee asks.

“It’s Andrew and Columbia, if no one’s dead in the morning we’ll all be grateful,” Allison scoffs, tone still edging to bitter.

“Neil’s there too.” Dan shakes her head, “Last time Matt said it was just everyone dancing. Sure one of the babies got wasted, but that’s a first night out thing. They’ve cut down on cracker use.”

“Nice to have an inside source.” Allison grins, “any word if I’m getting my money off of the ‘Neil and Andrew in the back of the club’ bet?”

“He hasn’t texted, but you still have the rest of the year.”

Renee does not bring up that she’s bet against Allison. Handsy for Neil and Andrew is the shoulder-to-shoulder brick wall thing they do to intimidate the freshmen, public sex is not something she expects out of the two of them.

“What time does Matt get back?” Allison asks.

“Probably tomorrow.”

Renee nods, Andrew is actually pretty predictable if you know him. “We just won a game, no way they’re calling an early enough night to drive home, and Nicky won’t let anyone drive intoxicated.”

“Unless Matt wants to drive all the freshmen home at ass o’clock I’m sure they’ll crash down there.”

“Recovering addicts. God’s appointed designated drivers.” Allison shakes her head, “What’s your excuse, Renee?”

Renee lifts her shoulder. She’s been the designated driver for the three of them almost every time they’ve gone out bar hopping together. “I’m not really into the lack of control, and alcohol doesn’t taste good enough to make that worth it.”

Allison sloshes the remaining dregs of the bottle they’d been pouring from for the game. “Your loss.” She takes a swig and passes it to Dan. “You guys wanna play another round. Finish it off?”

“Sure, why not.” Dan takes the bottle. “Never have I ever spent the night in jail.” Renee holds out her hand for the bottle and takes a small sip.

“Never have I ever been given flowers by a date,” Renee says and passes the bottle first to Dan who hands it to Allison.

“Never have I ever shanked somebody.”

Renee could ask for clarification ‘define shank’, but she doesn’t. Instead she reaches for the bottle. She’s surprised when Dan holds out her hand as well.

“Dude tried to follow me from the club. I used a pocket knife because I somehow couldn’t find the mace in my purse.”

Renee notes that neither Dan or Allison are pressing her for a story.

“Never have I ever been out of the country,” Dan says and Allison drinks.

“Never have I ever been to a bar mitzvah,” Allison says and Dan drinks.

“Never have I…” Renee sighs, “I still can’t come up with any of these.”

“We could do the reverse, say things we have done,” Allison suggests. “Too bad it’s only the three of us, we could always switch to spin the bottle.”

“I’m not kissing you,” Dan pre-empts. Allison raises her eyebrows suggestively at Renee. Renee is thankful she’s not prone to blushing. Spin the bottle hasn’t come up at girls night despite apparently half the room being interested, or also interested in women, probably because kissing either of the baby Foxes is just out of line. One of them isn’t even 18 yet, and Dan always puts her foot down.

“I don’t think that’s a good party game if you’re just kissing me,” Renee points out. “Where’s the sport in that?”

“Truth or Dare?” Allison asks.

“Did you not hear the story about my getting locked out of my best friend’s house, naked at two in the morning and having someone call the cops?” Dan asks. “I am scarred for life.”

“Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise to Repeat, Firehouse, Frosting, Cream, Oz,” Allison sing-songs.

“I don’t even know half of those things. What even is Oz?” Dan whines. She rolls forward on the couch, head bumping against Renee’s shoulder.

“I can’t remember,” Allison admits. “I think firehouse is who would you save from a burning building. Frosting is definitely who you’d lick it off of, though how that’s different from cream…” Allison turns to Renee. “If you had to lick frosting off one member of the team who would it be?” Renee thinks about it for a moment. She has an answer but it’s not one she could share in this room so she goes with the more diplomatic and safe response.

“Andrew.”

Allison scoffs. “You are both predictable and insane.”

“If I warned him ahead of time and told him it was for a dare there’d be a 50% chance he wouldn’t punch me in the face. Particularly if it was off something like his forearm, or if I asked Neil to ask Andrew for me and conveyed the importance of the dare.”

“That’s just cheating,” Allison gripes.

“No that’s strategic.”

“I pick Matt,” Dan contributes.

“Unoriginal, the two of you. Well,” Allison puts a finger to her lips, “okay, I pick Renee.” Renee is blindsided enough she doesn’t prevent the squeak of air that catches in her throat.

“What?”

Allison ticks the points off on her fingers. “You’re not likely to punch me, you’re not taken so your boyfriend or girlfriend is unlikely to punch me, and you’re cute. See strategic.”

“Well, I might leave you ladies to it,” Dan says, pawing her cellphone out of her pants. It continues vibrating in her hand. “I am going to go have phone sex with my boyfriend and I’m pretty sure you don’t want me in the room for that.” She waves the phone expansively. Renee ducks. Dan totters to her feet. She gives them a half salute and closes the door with a thoughtfully quiet click.

Renee looks at Allison. Allison might be tipsy but it’s hard to tell. Renee wasn’t keeping track of how much her roommates drank. Instead kept an eye on the baby Foxes making sure none of them were going to need an escort, or someone to check on them later. Happily, so far most of the freshmen are actually responsible drinkers. They have different flaws and traumas.

“You’ve really never dated someone at Palmetto State?” Allison asks.

“Who would I have dated?”

“I dunno, some of the seniors our sophomore year were pretty hot. That would have been a long enough time for you to get to know them.”

“I guess none of them wound up being my type.”

For all the things Renee and Allison have talked about: Allison’s interest in becoming a social worker, Renee’s passion for cupcakes, Allison’s ever expanding nail polish collection, the semester they shared a comparative literature course, Seth, the boys Allison hooked up with when she and Seth were in an ‘off again’ phase, Exy, the things Renee can share about her friendship with Andrew, her relationship with her mother, Allison’s non-relationship with her parents, the fact that Renee doesn’t seem to crush on anyone till she knows them, Renee’s rock collection, their shared love of Indian food and K-pop dramas, Allison’s love of fancy cars, Renee’s sadness that she has forgotten almost all the Korean her grandmother taught her when she was little, and Allison’s many failures to make decent guacamole (how is it that hard); they have never talked about Renee’s sexuality, and Renee never knew Allison also liked girls. Renee thinks maybe people see her, her cute dresses and boots, her small but obvious gold cross, and they conflate ‘Christian’ with ‘straight’. Renee’s mom was never that kind of Christian and Renee isn’t either. When Stephanie Walker gave her another chance, it wasn’t just an escape from bad decisions and crime, it was an opportunity to be truly loved for all of who Renee is.

“How do you know your type if you don’t know you like someone until you get to know them?” Allison asks. “I thought like, that meant you didn’t have a type.”

“All the seniors on the team our sophomore year were guys,” Renee says, which is really the most salient point. Allison grins.

“Shit, how did I not know that? I owe Aaron forty bucks.”

Renee scoots up on to the couch, “That’s probably why you didn’t know. Also it hasn’t really been pertinent.” Renee bites her lip choking on the thoughtless words. Allison hops up onto the couch, keen enough to have caught the nuance.

“Is it pertinent now?”

“This isn’t really how I saw this conversation going,” Renee admits.

“But you’ve imagined this conversation,” Allison pushes. “Just to be clear, I’ve definitely imagined this conversation, if it’s the conversation I think you think we’re having a conversation about.”

“Well previously it was more of a confession than a conversation, when I imagined it. You’ve really gone down on another girl?”

“Do you want to check out my references.”

“I thought you were straight, so double checking is important. You didn’t tell that story, maybe you were experimenting, I don’t know, there could be some reason-“

“I was definitely into it, also I’ve had three girlfriends, two of them were before college.”

“You’ve dated a girl while I’ve known you?”

“It was freshman year, before Seth and I got together, you never met her.”

“Okay.” Renee nods.

“You haven’t actually asked me anything yet,” Allison points out.

Renee swallows, toying with her cross. “Would you want to go on a date?”

“If it means I can kiss you now, then hell yes.” Allison says vehemently. She leans forward, eyes on Renee’s lips before stopping herself. “And if you don’t want to kiss me right now, I’d still want to go out with you,” she amends.

Renee shakes her head, “No, a kiss would be-“ Allison’s lips cut her off. Which is how Renee winds up making out with Allison on the couch when Dan stumbles back into the room saying “Sorry I forg-” She cuts off mid word when she sees them and pumps a fist into the air with a whoop. “I am getting all the money off this.” She flashes them a thumbs up. “Sorry! I’ll come back later. You two just.” She circles a wrist at them ineloquently. “Tomorrow.” she finishes and quietly clicks the door shut. Renee’s laughter is muffled against Allison’s lips, but soon she’s giggling too hard, her head curling to Allison’s shoulder.

“I should have put money on us,” Allison grouses.

“No bets on yourself, you couldn’t anyway.” Renee gulps catching her breath and sitting up a bit so Allison is less on top of her. The action shifts her hips against Allison’s legs and she shudders at the friction. Allison grins and grinds back intentionally. “Fuck.” Renee blurts, collapsing back against the couch.

“Not on the first date,” Allison says, shifting away. “but maybe the second, if we can count this as a first date? I want to take you out to eat first at least.”

“Yeah,” Renee agrees, taking a few deep breaths and sitting up to run her fingers through her hair.

“College cafeteria food doesn’t count?” Allison asks.

“Definitely not.”

“And you have no plans tomorrow night?”

Renee bites her lip. Just a moment before she probably would have said yes but, “I don’t have any plans but-”

Allison holds up both her hands, part halting Renee’s nervous words, part surrender. “If I get to make out with you on this couch that is an A+ ending to any date.”

“Okay,” Renee agrees. Allison smiles.

“Great. We should go to bed now though, so tomorrow can be sooner. Besides it’s like,” she prods her phone awake “four in the morning.”

“Yeah.” Renee stands up. Allison holds up her hand and Renee grips it, pulling her up off the couch. The pull turns into a tug that brings Allison to her, their hands releasing so Allison can wrap both arms around Renee’s shoulders. Renee hasn’t had much experience with kissing but Allison definitely knows what she’s doing. When Allison pulls back, Renee drifts after her. Instead Allison pulls her in tight, the kind of long grounding hug that settles Renee’s racing heartbeat. She closes her eyes, breathing deep the smell of Allison’s hair, floral shampoo and something a little like burnt sugar and smoke which is just the smell of Allison woven through her hair. Renee has a sudden thought of turning over in the morning when Allison has left for her first class and being able catch that smell on her pillow. She doesn’t say anything about it, but squeezes Allison tighter before stepping back and letting go.

They’re both in bed with the lights out when Allison asks from across the room, “What are your favorite flowers?” Renee grins up at the dark ceiling.

“Wisteria, but that’s not something you can bring me in a bouquet.” Allison snorts from across the room.

“You’re not going to make wooing you easy are you?”

“Wooing?”

“Just wait and see,” Allison declares. Renee rolls over and buries her smile in her pillow.