Having crossed the length of her college campus with a sedated sorority girl draped over her shoulder, Regina felt her strength and compassion waning. Julie’s posture resembled that of a fifty-kilo sack of sand, making the trip to this dormitory and up its staircases an exceptional challenge. Somehow she persevered and knocked on the door she sought.
A gangly man answered, looking exactly like the picture she’d seen in the school’s database. He even wore the same arrogant sneer.
“Are you Gerard Young?” she asked.
Through bulky glasses, the twenty-year-old boy who had been violated by puberty glared at the woman who’d been dearly caressed by it. With surprising nonchalance, he replied, “What do you want?”
“I seek your assistance.”
“What?” he asked. “Why?”
“According to the records I reviewed this evening–utilizing means of questionable legality, I confess–you’re the most capable pre-med student on campus.”
“True.” Self-satisfaction inflated his voice as he held the door open. “Set her down on the lower bunk. I’ll see what I can do.”
Regina smiled. “Thank you.”
“What do you know about her condition?”
She passed the prescription bottle to him. “My family never had much use for medicine, so I don’t understand what this is.”
He shook his head again. “Lucky you. This is Rohypnol.”
“That word had no meaning to me.”
“Roofies?” he clarified.
She still didn’t understand.
“It’s a date-rape drug.”
“Are you telling me that a pharmaceutical company manufactures a medicine for the purpose of violating someone?”
“That’s not its only purpose,” he told her. “It was originally invented as a sort-of tranquilizer for the treatment of severe insomnia. It’s illegal in the US, probably because of the rape thing, but the frat rats always seem to get it from somewhere.”
“Is there an antidote?”
“A good night’s sleep,” he replied. “And a lot of aspirin.”
She closed her eyes and sat beside Julie, exhausted. “Was this subterfuge necessary?”
“All those guys ever think about is getting laid.”
She deduced quickly that getting laid was one of many euphemisms for engaging in intercourse. “Why could they not just ask?”
“Beats me.” He shrugged. “I guess they think they get anything they want anyway, so they shouldn’t have to ask.”
“Are women in this society merely warm objects?”
“Don’t you watch TV?” he snorted.
“No,” she replied.
“If anyone ever did something like that to my sister, I’d…” His shoulders fell. “I wouldn’t do anything. I’m kind of pathetic. She’d end them, though. Don’t tell her I said so, but she’s kind of awesome.”
Regina asked, “Has no one ever advised them that equality only enhances the experience?”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never done it.”
“You should,” she told him. “It’s delightful.”
He let loose a shrill guffaw. “You are weird!”
Judging by what she had seen so far of what passed for normal, she found this to be complimentary. “Thank you.”
“So,” Gerard asked after an awkward pause, “she your roommate?”
“Then why did you help her if you don’t know her?”
“Well,” she replied, “you don’t know me, and yet you helped.”
“You asked for help. I gave it. That’s what people are supposed to do.”
“You answered your own question.”
He grinned. “I guess I did.”
Relieved to see humanity in the soul of at least one person, she hoisted Julie onto her shoulder.
Gerard scrambled to his feet to give her a hand. This wasn’t particularly useful, as Regina’s physical condition was more pristine than his. “What are you going to do?” he panted.
“I’m going to return her to her dorm room, and then I am going to my own bed to sleep for eight hours.”
She shook her head. “I require no assistance to sleep.”
“I meant with her.”
She considered this. “That won’t be necessary. I thank you for the offer, but I feel you’ve done enough.”
After he opened the door and she stumbled out, he blurted out, “I don’t even know your name.”
“Regina De Costa.”
“Can I call you Gina?”
She smiled with unexpected affection. “I’ll allow it.”
After Regina awoke the next morning, she showered, cleaned her teeth, brushed her hair, dressed, and proceeded to the student union for a protein-rich breakfast to increase her alertness. The presentation of her meal left much to be desired. The fragrance left even more.
The sudden guffaw that punctured her disgust was easily recognizable, so she followed it and made out three distinct voices. The first belonged to Gerard Young. “I swear to you, it’s true!”
“Nobody’s that weird!” said the second voice.
The third said, “Maybe she’s from another planet!”
“Not this one, for sure!” Gerard laughed, but he stopped as soon as he realized that all three of his friends were staring directly behind him with terror.
“Good morning, Gerard,” Regina said when he turned around. “I trust you slept well.”
He recoiled. “What are you doing here?”
“Is it not customary to dine while engaging in light conversation?”
“Fine.” He pointed to one of the empty chairs beside him.
“Who the hell is this?” asked the owner of the first voice.
Regina replied, “Someone who doesn’t appreciate being referred to in the third person.”
“Fellas,” Gerard announced, “this is Regina De Costa. She prefers Gina.”
“I assure you, I do not.”
Gerard pointed to one of the silent ones and said, “Alex.” Then he pointed to the young man beside him. “This is his roommate, Alex.” Finally, he indicated the rude one. “And this is my roommate, Glen.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you all,” Regina said.
Glen snickered. “You talk like an elf.”
“Glen…” Gerard warned.
“That is the most absurd thing I have heard lately,” Regina replied. “Even if an elf were inclined to speak aloud, it wouldn’t deign to speak English. They find it far too vulgar.”
Glen snorted. “Shows what you know.”
Gerard’s tone became more of a growl. “Glen…”
After taking a huge bite of food, Glen continued to talk while chewing, “Have you ever played the game Swords of Sorcery?”
“I’m not familiar with it,” she replied.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t talk about something you don’t know anything about.”
“Don’t be an ass, Glen,” murmured Gerard.
Regina asked, “Have you ever met an elf?”
Glen swallowed. “No?”
“Then perhaps you should not profess knowledge of subjects of which you know little.”
Glen stammered, “There’s no such thing as elves!”
Regina was surprised by this admission. “If this is your belief, how can you proclaim your expertise?”
Glen didn’t respond. He just shoveled more food into his mouth.
Alex and Alex looked at each other, impressed.
Gerard laughed too hard to say anything.
Regina took a dainty bite of her meal.
Gerard stopped laughing when his eyes focused on something behind her. “Don’t you have other friends to sit with?” he asked.
Regina turned to the person to whom he spoke with such impatience. She shared the height and build of Gerard, as well his facial features and the dark shade of his skin. There were several differences, gender being the most obvious. Her own lankiness could be attributed more to athleticism than malnourishment. As a result of this, her posture was straighter, while being more relaxed and self-assured.
She tossed a half-full tray of food into the empty space on the table next to Regina and swung herself into the seat. She told her brother, “Yeah, but I’m more interested in the fact that a supermodel is sitting with you.”
Glen cupped his palms around his mouth and stage-whispered, “She hates it when you talk about her in the third person.”
The new visitor held out her hand. “You are?”
When Regina shook it, she was startled by the most masculine of grips. She said, “Regina.”
The young woman smirked. “Susan.”
And that’s how Gina met her best friend.