The Sweet Spot

Readers’ noteKathy is an Infernal. The entity she refers to as Kathleen below is her Dark Power, a trickster whom Kathy believes to be her future, more actualized self.

Our campaign is Stopping by Woods, set in Timber Falls, New Jersey in 1996. Jersey Devil country in the Age of Grunge.

Her fellow monsterhearts are Clay the ghoulCraig the mortal, and Zora the witch.

Here's a link to Part OnePart Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Meta-Note: Kathy is in Darkest Self throughout this session of the game. Our play style tends to mitigate DS a bit, so she's not constantly raging/jonesing for danger and rebellion.

***

So, we’re hanging out in this trailer in the woods, right? It’s fucking cold because it’s snowing outside and there’s no electricity, but we have a bunch of candles lit. The place is filled with little mystical icons and the smell of incense. Zora looks amazing in the light. This is her element.

Craig is still claiming a dog bit his arm, but we’re both skeptical. His story keeps changing.

I have to tell Zora how I feel before my heart bursts through my chest and does a dance on her ritual table.

Instead, I say, “What happened at school after I got dragged away? What did you guys think?”

“It was awesome,” says Zora, but I can tell she has a reservation of some kind. Craig seems positive, too.

“I got suspended,” I tell them. “Can’t go back to school until Monday.”

“They suspended you just for kissing?” Craig asks.

“Well,” I say, “it was more WHO I was kissing and the flipping everyone off and the chanting slogans as they dragged us away. Like, four dress code violations. I think the official list is like seven things.” I’m grinning.

They nod, not agreeing with the school, but in understanding that the suspension is bullshit.

“So, have either of you ever kissed someone, y’know, of the same sex or whatever?” I try not to bite my lip, but this is what I was heading toward from the start.

My eyes are on Zora. I know Craig is going to lie before the quiet “No” comes mumbling out from him.

She also says, “No,” but she seems kinda sad about it. “Is it different?” she asks.

“Very,” I reply. “Boys are kinda fuzzy and rough. Girls are soft and…” I’m having trouble getting the words out as I meet Zora’s eyes. Her lips are beautiful and full. “… pillowy. Nice.” I finish weakly.

I am so very ready to be Zora’s girl, but I get nervous. Remembering Craig’s messed up arm, I bust out a few supplies from my pack and get him cleaned up, carefully. He’s still a total babe, but it doesn’t make me nervous to touch him like I’d think. I take the time to bandage him up as best I can. I can feel Zora’s eyes on me. Kathleen said she was into me, but if she’s wrong...

There’s a knock on the door and Clay’s voice. “Hey, let me in. It’s me.”

Craig shoots up out of his seat to get the door. So cute, those two.

They stand there a moment talking awkwardly. Zora and I both yell for Clay to come in and shut the damn door. It’s freezing and the broken windows are bad enough.

Clay is practically frozen. His clothes and hair are all wet, but because of the cold it’s all turned to ice. The weird thing? He’s not even shivering. It’s like he barely notices.

Zora wraps him in a grungy blanket, making disclaimers about what kinds of critters might be living in it, but Clay seems thankful anyway.

There’s some chatter, but neither of the guys seem to be saying much, really. Craig claimed that he hadn’t seen Clay since school, but their behavior says otherwise. Clay looks… guilty(?) when he sees Craig’s arm. Weird.

It comes out that some shit went down at the store parking lot earlier and they seem eager to hear our story, rather than come clean with theirs.

So we tell them about Brandon and Amanda and how I stood up to that asshole and saved the girl. I’m super proud. But when we get to the part where Zora’s spell goes wrong and the car backs over Brandon, she gets really upset.

That’s not gonna work. “You’re awesome, Z,” I say. “He got what he deserved.” It hurts to see her so sad, doubting herself. Not even thinking, I put my hand on hers.

A wolf howls somewhere outside. It sounds kinda close.

It freaks Clay out a bit, and he looks around for a weapon. He asks Craig, “Sure you weren’t attacked by a wolf?”

“Maybe,” Craig answers weakly; the ever-changing story.

“Relax,” I say to Clay. “It’s not the fucking dark ages. Any wolves left around here stay as far away from humans as possible.  And they sure as hell don’t attack people in buildings.”

I don’t mean to be as harsh with him as I sound, but I’m not as interested in the wolf as I am in Zora’s hand, which is still resting in mine.

I almost can’t believe it when she slides over and hugs me, hiding her face in my shoulder. I hold her tight. She smells so nice. I always feel so comfortable around Zora. It’s beyond satisfying to hold her like this.

In the back of my mind, I know I should be waging war on the patriarchy, but it’s so nice to be here with Zora and my friends, Craig and Clay.

Kathleen has her own ideas, though. She whispers to me, huskily, “Redefine love, Kathy. You have an audience. Show the boys how it’s done.”

I can feel Zora’s heart beating as she snuggles me. It’s already intimate. It’s not a friendly hug, it’s a desperate, needy, sexy hug. I hold her tight.

Craig and Clay are still there, already a little uncomfortable. They need to fucking unwind and be themselves. The tension there is palpable.

As for my own tension, I don’t need any further encouragement. I caress the side of Zora’s beautiful face and when she looks up at me, I kiss her, like I’ve been wanting to for days.

I’m not disappointed. Her kisses are urgent and lovely. Soon we are wrapped around each other and I don’t even fucking care that the boys are still in the room. I want them to see there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s beautiful.

I want to blow Zora’s mind. I want her to need me. She’s never kissed a girl? Well I’m gonna call that and raise it. I slip my right hand down and lift her shirt, caressing her belly. Breaking from the kiss I look at her, questioning. She smiles, so mischievously, and nods just a little bit.

Consent given, I explore further and find her sweet spot. It’s on. God, I love her.

At some point, the boys bail. Too bad. They could have gone down on each other in the trailer and we would barely have noticed.

Later, we can hear the boys talking quietly outside. I peek out and see them embracing. Good.

Snuggling back into Zora’s arms, I can’t recall ever feeling so good. We have our shirts off, but there’s a dusty-smelling blanket wrapped around us.

“I don’t want this to end,” I say to her. “I don’t mean just tonight.”

Zora’s voice is so sexy, and her words make my heart leap. “I think you’re rad, Kathy. I’ve always thought so. Wish it had been me you were kissing in the cafeteria earlier.”

I realize I wish that same thing, and I blurt out, “Louie is so… hard. I don’t know what’s with her, but she was such a bitch afterwards. She made me feel like a freak. That’s over. I don’t want her.”

I don’t need to tell Zora who I really want. But I say, “This can’t be all there is between us. Please tell me it won’t be over tomorrow.”

“It won’t,” she says, adding emphasis with her eyes and her soft, plaintive lips.

I could stay with her forever, but suddenly the boys are fumbling with the door of the trailer. I can vaguely hear growling from outside.  What the fuck?

Clay comes bursting in but the door slams behind him on squeaky springs. The growling is louder. I jump up and grab the first shirt I find, Zora’s cute top with a coffee cup on it.

“There’s a wolf out there,” cries Clay. We both look at the closed door and he realizes…. “Fuck, where’s Craig?”

We all swarm outside to find Craig being pulled away by a white wolf with its jaws around his leg! I shout at it to no avail and hear Kathleen in my mind, “The wolf is dangerous, Kathy. You need to get out of here.”

No way I’m running into the woods while it’s dark and snowing so I jet back into the trailer like a chickenshit, but I listen and watch through the busted window.

It all happens fast, but Zora seems to be talking more calmly to the wolf, but I can’t hear her over Craig’s panicked cries and the wind. Zora turns and shouts, “We’re getting out of here!”

For an instant I appreciate how cute she looks in my What Would Joan Jett Do? t-shirt. Then I grab her bag and mine and get the fuck out.

It’s weird, but the wolf leaves us alone, just growling and backing into the woods as we leave. Extra weird: I feel like it’s growling at me.

“Where can we go?” Asks Clay.

I really want to get back to snuggling with Zora and maybe give the boys a place to be together, so I offer up the house. “My dad’s at work until super late. We can go to my place.” We start walking.

Clay’s been helping Craig walk, but he hands Craig off to me so he can talk with Zora. OK with me, as I have a few things I want to say to Craig while he’s a captive audience. It’s dark and freaking cold out, but Craig is warm. I don’t feel embarrassed by what happened in the trailer, but I feel like the message wasn’t very clear.

“You know, Craig, there’s nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian, right? The problem is with other people who feel the need to control how everyone else lives.”

“I know,” he says quietly. “But people are such assholes. It’s different for boys, too. Girls kissing is sexy, at least for a while, but boys? That just grosses people out.”

“It doesn’t gross me out.” I grin. “You can’t live your life for other people, Craig. It’ll kill you. You gotta be you.”

I think I was louder and more lecturing than I’m recalling it, but that’s the idea. Finally, Craig admits it. Finally!

“I do like Clay,” he says. “I just wish it wasn’t so complicated.”

I don’t want to pester him anymore. I can tell this is hard for him. I say, “I will always, ALWAYS, have your back. Hear?”

Not sure why I care so much that Clay and Craig get together. Maybe I don’t want to be in the only gay couple at Timber Falls High. Or maybe I just can’t stand to see hate trample love. Either way, I want them to find a way to be together so much I can barely stand it.

Zora and Clay have been talking quietly to each other for a while, falling a bit behind. We’re almost to my house when, out of nowhere it seems to me, Zora says, “I have to go home. There’s something I need to do.”

My heart sinks. Craig’s ok to stand, if not walk, so I go back to Zora, concerned.

“You okay?”

She kinda looks furtively at Clay and says, “I’m fine, I just forgot something important.”

I’m afraid, so afraid. Louis turned her back on me so quickly today. Is Zora going to do that now? I hug her.

“Call me later?” I ask.

“Definitely,” she says, and offers me a kind smile.

I watch her go, my excitement fading. I feel so deflated.

“I can’t even keep a girlfriend for a whole day,” I complain. Not sure that Zora’s done with me, but it feels like it right then. I don’t want to cry, but it happens, just a little. I lean my head on Clay’s cold, hard chest and he comforts me.

But I pull it together pretty quick. “Let’s go inside. Fucking freezing out here.” I really don’t want them to leave. Maybe they sense that. They come in. It’s nice to have company.

It’s so warm inside the house, but my heart aches for Zora to be here with me.

“We can watch some MTV,” I say, “But let me show you my room first.” I really want Craig to see all my drawings. In my room, my self consciousness fades. My walls are covered in band posters and skate punks… and my sharpie graffiti drawings. Maybe it’s a bit creepy that most of the space is covered with drawings, but I don’t care.

I show them the drawing I made earlier, because I kinda want to let them know about Kathleen. You can tell from the drawing that it’s Zora and Craig kissing. The thought of them having a date still makes me feel jealous. I blurt out some shit about seeing things in my drawings, like I knew Craig wasn’t into me. I even mention the voice that talks to me, my future self, beaming back instructions from the future?

Craig asks, “Are you a witch, too? Are all girls witches?”

What a dork. I laugh at him and say, “No, silly. Zora is for real, I just hear voices from the future.”

Pretty sure Craig still thinks I’m a witch. Clay was too preoccupied with his own problems to notice. We head back downstairs. Before we get too comfy on the couch, the phone rings.

I rush to get it, thinking it’s Dad calling to check on me. But it’s not. It’s Zora!

I don’t even try to restrain my enthusiasm or concern.

“Are you all right?” I ask.

“I’m fine, Kathy, I just needed to get home. And Kathy….”

“Yeah?”

“Be careful around Clay, okay? He’s dangerous.”

“Really? How do you know?” Clay is like the coolest, most rock solid dude ever. Love him. Feel safe with him.

“He told me,” she says carefully, “he’s the one who bit Craig’s arm. He killed someone earlier.”

I’m a bit dumbstruck, really. I don’t doubt Zora, but I’m confused.

“Okay,” I say finally, “I’ll be careful. I know where my dad keeps his gun.” I can’t bring myself to be afraid of Clay, but I want to say something to make Zora feel better.

I continue. “I can’t go to school tomorrow. Will you come visit me after? Maybe you could pick up my homework, so it’s like, a legit visit? I’m grounded, too.” I can’t believe I have to tell her that.

She’s so cool to me, though. “Sure,” she says. “Maybe we could do what we did earlier again?”

Oh. My. God. The uncertainty and desire in her voice are just everything. I want to hold her again and kiss her so bad.

“Totally,” is about all I can say.

“I can’t wait,” she says, and I can hear it in her voice.

“Me either,” I whisper to her. “Good night, Z.”

“Good night, K.”

I hear her hang up and I hold the receiver to my chest, sliding down the wall, eyes closed. My heart is aching so much for her I feel like I’m gonna burst.

Is this love? I bet it is. Sigh.

But I have guests. I get up off the floor and go back out to the living room. Craig is just chilling on my couch like he’s not covered in snow and blood.

“There’s a first aid kit and a shower in the downstairs bathroom.” I point it out to him and he shuffles off. Clay is watching the tube, but sitting very stiff. I’m not afraid of him. I can… feel that he is really hurting inside. Kinda jealous that Zora got to talk with him and apparently got him to actually share things. He’s always been so pent up when we’ve talked.

I flop down beside him and snuggle up against his arm. It’s not sexy, but it is warmer and comfy and I want him to know I’m his friend.

“So, what’s up?” I ask.

And boy does he unload.

He tells me that David and Tommy (assholes from school) were pissed that he kicked Tommy’s ass last week. So they caught him and threw him in the river with bricks tied to him. He didn’t escape. He died. He saw a creepy mermaid with sharp teeth by the waterfall and she granted him a wish, to come back, to live.

But this shit always has a price. So I ask about that and then things go from Twilight Zone to Tales from the Crypt.

“I’ve been eating people,” he says. “Bad people. Mobbed up assholes. Tommy. I attacked Craig and almost killed him.”

There’s like immediately a pull in my body in two directions. First I stand up, practically leap away from him. It’ just… I don’t know, a reaction, an instinct. But I get control. It’ so clear in his face, his handsome eyes, that he is hurting really bad.

I reach out and steady myself on his shoulder. He’s cold still, I realize. He’s more alone than I am. I sit back down and snuggle against him again, purposefully fighting that flight response that’s still fluttering in my stomach.

“I don’t have to eat just people,” he says. “The mermaid said I could try animals.”

“We’ll figure something out,” I try to soothe him, but I can tell there’s more coming.

“After it happened,” he says quietly, “I threw myself off the bridge, tried to end it, but I saw the mermaid again and she said I can’t change anything for a year and a day. I’m stuck like this.”

I can’t even take it anymore. When I was thirteen, my best friend hung himself. He was gay and couldn’t take this fucking world anymore. I start crying and I hold Clay so tight. He’s hard and cold, but he hugs me back and I feel his cold tears hit my forehead.

“Promise me,” I whisper through my sobs, “Promise me you won’t do that again. We’ll figure something out. But don’t leave me, Clay. You’re my rock, my friend. I need you. Please don’t leave me.” I don’t want to make it about me, but I can’t say it any other way. It just comes out.

But he understands, nodding. “I promise,” he says simply. But I know he means it. I love him more than ever. He’s like the big bro I never had. The world is better with Clay in it. I’m sure of that.

Craig kinda clears his throat to let us know he’s there. He must have come in while I was sobbing. But I’m not that embarrassed. Clay is too important.

“I’ll grab us some drinks,” I say and rush off to the kitchen.

Clay and Craig stay for a while and for that moment, we’re just some teenagers watching MTV and drinking sodas and being friends. I’ll never forget it.

But eventually, they have to go home, too, leaving me to my thoughts and my loneliness.

“You’re not just going to stay home tomorrow are you, Kathy?” says Kathleen in my head. “You’ve got work to do, Rebel Girl.”

That’s right. I do have work to do. And I have an idea.

I take a hot shower and think about Zora.

Then I grab a few fine tip sharpies and head back into the bathroom. Time for some body art.

***

The next morning, I want to sleep in, but I’m so used to waking up for school that I’m lying there awake and I hear my dad in his room playing guitar. He’s really good. He gets home at like 1 or 2 AM, and spends the night smoking pot and playing music.

So, I put on some jammies to cover the body art I did last night. They make me look 3 years younger and more like the little girl I know my dad wishes I still was.

This kinda happens a lot, so it’s no surprise to him when I quietly open the door and crawl up on the bed to listen to him play. I want so bad to be in a band. He’s tried to teach me before, but I was so busy rebelling that I pushed him away.  Ugh. But here’s another chance, right?

When he’s done, I say, “I think I’m ready to learn guitar.”

He looks at me skeptically. Dad has not lived an easy life. His face has deep lines. I know people think he looks like a thug, but he’s a sweetheart, an artist who’s only failing was loving too much and trying to make family and rock and roll both part of his life.

We talk. He’s not buying it at first, but he goes over the basics with me. It’s nice to be close to him, to forget a while about the nastiness yesterday. It kinda makes me feel like that little girl again.

“Can I take it to my room to practice while you’re sleeping?” He sleeps during the day, night shift and all.

“Sure, kiddo, but remember you are grounded.”

My sweet and innocent act has been working so far, so I just nod my head as if I truly repent.

He goes out to shovel the walk before hitting the sack and I take the guitar, case, and stand into my room. A real guitar. It’s an acoustic, but I know enough to know that if I learn to play on this, electric won’t be any trouble.

Now for the real trick.

I say to Kathleen, looking in the mirror, “Okay, bitch. You’re so awesome, then show me how to play.”

To my delight she replies, “Easy.”

And it fucking happens. In minutes, I’m playing a Ramones song from memory. A-maz-ing. I can put a band together. I can rock the patriarchy like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney and Joan-fucking-Jett.

“But there’s a price,” she finally adds. “You need to destroy that guitar. Don’t worry, I’ll get you a new one.”

I’m a little stunned. That would break my dad’s heart in the worst way. He loves this guitar. I look at it in my hands. Wood and plastic and steel, a beautiful instrument.

It’s snowing hard outside and I bet school is off the table for everyone. But people will still be around.

“You need to get out there and get on that list, Rebel Girl.” Kathleen presses me on it.

A plan begins to form in my mind. It just might work. Then the phone rings, snapping me from my thoughts.