“But you don’t understand,” Jane said.
“Fine.” Melinda sat down on the side of her friend’s bed. “Explain it to me. Tell me why you can’t leave Kevin this time.”
Jane reached up to her left eye, dropped her hand to her lap. Her dorm room was a mess of clothing and schoolbooks, laundry fighting procrastination for space. The first year of university had been harder than she could have imagined, even without a boyfriend to complicate her life. Everything had gone so well that she’d trusted him with secrets she’d never shared with anyone else. Not even her best friend, and definitely not her family.
“I can’t,” she whispered.
“He hit you. You confronted him about cheating on you and he hit you,” Melinda said flatly.
“He has before.” That slipped out.
“Cheated on me. With – with Rick, in ... I told him it didn’t count, if it was with another guy, if he used protection.” Jane looked down at her hands, absently wondering when the last time she’d had a manicure was. “It was a joke.”
“Until it wasn’t.” Melinda didn’t reach out for Jane’s face, didn’t offer to get ice. She was ice, a hardness in her eyes that Jane had never seen before. “And Kevin slept with Esta and you found out.”
“You told me what to ask. To look for.”
“So this is my fault?” Melinda asked, sitting back.
“No! God, no. I’d rather know that, than – he’s friends with my family and friends on facebook, Melinda. On twitter. On steam. Places.”
“I told him things I’d never told anyone,” Jane whispered. “He could tell them.”
“Tell them what?”
“About my FetLife account.” Jane licked her lips. “It’s a website, for people with – with fetishes.”
Melinda stood. “And he knows about yours?” Jane just nodded, hands forming into fists half-against her will. “And you think he’ll tell people?”
“He could. He – he doesn’t have an account. If he had any, he never told ...” Jane trailed off. “No one is vanilla. I should have pushed him, but I’m into – into – I don’t want me family to know. People won’t look at me the same again.”
“And you think he’s going to blackmail you?”
“He could. I don’t know how to stop – even if I delete things, and deny every truth he utters. I don’t know,” Jane repeated, feeling as lost as she sounded.
The knock on the bedroom door drew their eyes; the kid who entered was that hazy age between ten and twelve. A little pale, with dark glasses and a white cane. “Hi!”
“Jane,” Melinda said, in a terribly calm voice.
“This isn’t any kind of fetish I have,” Jane said, too shocked by the arrival to even be angry.
“Oh, good. So Kevin sent you?” Melinda asked.
“Huh?” The boy looked confused, like kids often do. “Nope! My name is Jay and I was all kinds of bored, so I decided to visit other stories. Like this one.” And he grinned, and the grin caused Melinda’s breath to catch in her throat. Jane stood, forgetting her eye entirely.
“What kind of story are you in?” Jane said, recovering first.
“A really good one cuz Honcho and I are looking for a friend named Charlie and we’re all kinds of busy but having a break, so I decided to wander a little and say hello. This is me saying hi,” he explained, “which is like hello a lot!”
“We are kind of busy,” said Melinda in a daze.
“Uh-huh. You’re trying to fix some bindings and I’m all kinds of good with those.”
“We are discussing sex,” she said.
“Oh! I don’t know much about that, but! I’ve been told most humans don’t as well,” the kid said.
“Humans?” Jane said.
“Well, like you? Unless you’re hiding really well, your bindings feel all human.”
“And you’re saying you aren’t human?”
“I’m Jay. But I bet I could be Jaysome and human all at once, but it would be kinda hard to do. And if I tried right now I might not be able to get back to Honcho and he could get all kinds of worried. Also, wait, nope. There’s no also at all: that’s all I had to say.”
“Right.” Melinda pulled her her phone. “I don’t know who you are, kid, or what kind of joke this is, but you’re leaving or I’m calling campus security.”
“But if I leace, we won’t be friends,” he said, and pouted.
“Melinda, wait,” Jane said.
“You’re not serious.”
“Look,” Jane said. “We are busy, and talking about someone who is an ass –.”
“Not nice,” Jane continued into the innocent face that stared up toward her own. “So we’d like to do that on our own, if that’s okay?”
“Oh.” The boy let out a huge sigh. “I guess,” and he left the room, closing the door on the second try.
They both heard it lock from their side. Melinda looked at the door, then at Jane. “You locked it when we came in.”
“I did. I thought I did. I have no idea what just happened.”
Jane’s computer beeped as it turned itself on. They both turned slowly, trying not to think they were in a horror film, as her email opened up, a new email icon flashing and then opening itself.
Jane stood, walked over, and stared at her screen. “It’s not something about seven days and a girl in a well.”
“Not funny,” Melinda said.
“It’s – a list of websites Kevin is on. And usernames, passwords. And ends with ‘I totally fixed the bindings like a boss’ and at least six exclamation marks.”
The computer beeped again. “Also, another email asking what those sites are even about, because, and I quote, ‘the Internet didn’t want to talk about it, but I bet I can ask Val,’ followed by three smiley faces. “I’m not sure I want to know who – or what – Val is.”
“What the hell?” Melinda said, as she walked over and read both emails. “What the absolute hell just happened?”
“I have no idea. I think I’m definitely sending an email back asking that kid to come visit.”
“Probably the safest bet. Pizza?”
“Pizza,” Jane said firmly.
“And while we eat, I can quiz you and find out all those fetishes.”
Jane narrowed her eyes at her friends slow, wicked grin. “One of them might involve stuffing you with pizza.”
And Melinda just laughed at that, and didn’t press about anything else.