Ashley squirms in her chair, clacking manicured nails against the desk. Bare pink toes are pressed tightly against the edge where the rug meets the wooden floor, her right leg quivering and pumping in a spastic interpretation of the beat flowing from the little white buds tucked into her ears. Her head bobbles and swivels while she clenches and wiggles her jaw, as if she's just discovering it's function. Swollen pupils have risen above the ring of coral ocean, and dart around the glare of her computer screen as she hits the refresh button again and again and again and again and again.
This Emily girl's profile is private, so she can't find out about her or see what Sean has written to her. She looks intimidatingly pretty in her picture, but then again, everyone's putting their best foot forward there, right? Ashley had sifted through hundreds of photos while putting off a paper before choosing her own, going with one from a summer cookout where her skirt was flowing and her hair was full of body and she looked engaged in the moment, barely aware of the camera's existence but too caught up to give it any thought. This Emily is holding a beer in a clear plastic cup, sweaty and on a dance floor, laughing manically yet still looking fantastic. Like it was taken last week, and chosen on whim. She's seen her dress in a store somewhere before, but can't place where, envying not having the sense to pick it up, wherever it had been. Her post on Sean's wall is innocuous enough, but there are too many LOL's and exclamation points for it not to be a missile of flirtation, evidence of something that's budding or sustaining. Clicking out of Facebook, her whole body twists in a sharp slither, a seemingly involuntary twitch brought on by a sudden pang of guilt and shame at her perversion. Snap out of it, Ash. It's Friday.
She'd only taken Adderall a few times, and never without it serving as a precursor to heightened performance in long put off academic assignments. A lot of the girls in her hall had. They'd said it keeps you going longer, helps you stay a little bit more alert after the second Long Island. Curbs hunger, too. Without the frantic stress of looming deadlines, or the intent focus on a task at hand, she suddenly finds herself much more aware of its effects. She notices the terseness and tenseness of her breathing pattern, and attempts to corral it back to normal, which only results in a frantic yet calibrated in-and-out thrust from her nose, her teeth clenched as her body feels torn between jittery discomfort and fierce, needy desire.
She will fuck Sean tonight, for the same reasons that she popped the pill on a Friday night with no sign of a test or paper- a simultaneous desire to both fit in and be someone that she is not.
Unplugging her headphones and turning up her speakers, she dances towards her dresser with a goofiness and precision that she wouldn't dare display in public. She fishes through the top drawer and pulls out the pair of aqua underwear with lace and a little frilly ring at the center she had purchased last weekend during the trip to the mall with a few girls from her floor. She had held them up and squealed, poking her tongue through her teeth while the others cooed and made vague references to a lucky boy. In her head, at the time, that boy was Sean, though she thought herself the lucky girl. Plucking the matching bra from the drawer, she tosses them onto the bed and begins sifting through the closet.
Flicking through hangers, she imagines flirting with Sean, dancing with Sean, having sex with Sean, Sean having sex with Emily, Sean sleeping with Emily, taking Emily to breakfast. Fuck, Ash, why did you take that pill?
She glances at herself in the thin bookstore mirror that hangs on the wall. She gives it her best pose, trying to imagine herself in something more elegant than soccer shorts and a t-shirt, but can't see the beauty she strives to be assured of. Sure, her hair looks nice, and she knows she has a set of legs, but so do half the girls going out tonight. She's smart (3.7 GPA) and listens to thoughtful music (Death Cab, Modest Mouse, etc.) and can hold her own in most conversations, but more often than not she seems lost -- she doesn't know a lot of the things that seem to be common knowledge around these parts. For one, she's still not sure if she sucks dick well. They've seemed satisfied, of course, but it would take something catastrophic for them not to, right? She's heard the bar gossip about who's a firecracker and who's a fish, she's heard her friends cavalierly and knowingly recount blowjobs. Where does she measure up? How can she compete with that?
She looks in the mirror and all she can see is a scared kid.
Tonight will be different. A new beginning. A confident Ashley. She's going to break out of her shell. She's going to be somebody different. She's going to take the bull by the horns. She's going to prove her worth. Her dance moves get more sharp and flamboyant as she tells herself this. She slinks around like girls on television do, never for a second believing or feeling that's she's sexy, but working at formulating an act convincing enough to dupe others.
She's not aware of the fact that she's going to bed with someone tonight, whether or not it's Sean. By breakfast, she will be a woman who has had sex with more than just one man.
Picking out a dress that she purchased with the woman she wants to be in mind, she heads off towards the bathroom to apply her warpaint before slipping into the chosen armor and heading into battle.