Taking what you get
Author notes: Girl Interrupted, around the time that Susanna and Lisa run away. Susanna's POV.
I remember it somewhat oddly, in a contrast of vivid clarity and foggy shadow. Some of the fog may have been in the van, some from my mixture of excitement and less-than-sober mindset, but most is, I suspect, my mind's subconscious blurring, a way of making things in my memory seem as visually indistinct and fantastical as they did to me emotionally. And yet I remember it all in such detail, in both event and feeling, even if it does sometimes seem distant and unreal.
We were in a van together, the first time I kissed her. A group of kids around our age had seen us walking, and a yell from Lisa as she stuck out her thumb had been enough to stop them. As they pulled up beside us, she flashed them one of her characteristic reckless yet enticing grins, jerking her chin up slightly in acknowledgment.
"Thanks…where are you headed?"
"Out," answered the guy driving, making the guy next to him snicker, and Lisa shrugged, raising an eyebrow.
"Out's where we want to be…come on, Susie-Q."
Taking me by the upper arm, she helped pull me after her into the vain. The middle seat was unoccupied, other than one girl, and she made room for us, scooting over to the window. As I sat close to Lisa, a little timid as I glanced around at the others in the car, I nevertheless couldn't stop smiling, couldn't keep from continually looking back into her eyes. She smiled back, pale eyes gleaming, and something in their surface struck me as a challenge. Was she challenging me- was she trying to goad me into even further impulses than I had already displayed tonight?
Of course she was. Lisa was all about impulse, about the thrill and gratification of the moment. It amazed me sometimes that she was the slightest bit interested in me, that she would actually seek out my company. I was quieter, more hesitant, often riddled with self-doubt and fear, even in the face of my sudden angry feelings in times of confrontation. What came so naturally for Lisa was a struggle for me, an often carefully plotted decision on my part to carry out.
But tonight had been different- tonight I had allowed myself to let go of my fears, to let desire and impulse take over my hesitations. Tonight I was more like Lisa, and I was free, in more than the literal sense. Claymoore was behind us, and our escape seemed long ago, almost another life.
The three girls in the back had smiled at us when we go inside; not bothering to ask our names or give their own, they simply continued to pass the joint they had been sharing among each other, before offering it to me and Lisa. As I took a hit off it, I glanced again at Lisa, still smiling, and held it away from her playfully as a sudden daring thought struck me.
"Up for shotgun?" I asked, my eyes glinting in a manner that probably rivaled her own expression of amused anticipation and pleasure.
Lisa's eyebrows raised in surprise, and she smiled, lips twitching.
"Well usually I like to drive, but anything for you, Susie-Q…"
She leaned towards me, and after I inhaled again, I covered her lips slightly with mine, exhaling the smoke into her mouth. Our lips lingered for longer than was strictly necessary, and my stomach fluttered, my heart lurching with an excitement I didn't try to understand. Her lips were chapped, her lower lip larger than mine in a manner that made transmission of the smoke awkward, but no less enjoyable for me. I wondered if she could see this in my eyes… and yes, there was a knowing in them, an understanding that I myself never had around her.
"Thanks, Susie-Q," Lisa said, her voice slightly husky, and she was still close to me, almost close enough for me to feel her breath against me. "Some good stuff there…"
Her voice was heavy with insinuation, and I could still see the daring in her gaze as her eyes locked on mine. She had already led me so far tonight, pulled me into actions and behaviors I would never have done on my own. How much further could it go? Did I want to know- did I want to find out? Even as a part of me shrank away, uneasy at this changing on my part, a larger part of me by far was thrilled by it, exhilarated at the total unpredictability of my fate now…
I was not quite sober in my mind, between the toke I had just taken and the adrenaline now rushing through me left over from the escape we had just succeeded in undergoing and the move I had just made on her- a move Lisa had hardly rejected or seemed at all irritated or unhappy with. I found myself feeling bolder than ever and much less afraid of the possible consequences of my actions. Looking at Lisa then, I could forget everything in her I feared, every instance of cruelty or unabashed manipulation I had witnessed from her… I could even forget that she had called me Jamie, when my own name was Susanna. I could forget it all, simply looking into her eyes, and find her to be intensely beautiful, if dangerous… and intensely desirable.
Leaning towards Lisa again with no further thought, only abrupt action, I kissed her, my body leaning into hers with an instinct that somehow did not surprise me. Although I did not use tongue, finding myself nervous at the last moment, my lips on hers were slow, gentle, thorough in a way I would never until that point in time have been able to manage. Lisa did not kiss me back, but she certainly didn't pull away either.
When I pulled away from her, blushing and smiling as I ducked my head, I could see in my quick glances at her that she was smiling slowly, eyebrows arched, even as her eyes continued to sparkle noticeably. When I finally dared to look over at her again, I realized that she was eyeing me steadily, though neither of us spoke. When she smiled again, features relaxed, if still amused, I too smiled.
She didn't mind… neither, it seemed, did the others in the car, who acted as if the scene between us was nothing unusual. Something, whether premonition or simply hope, told me that it would be repeated at a much more intense level before the night was over…
We ended up at one of the girl's in the car's place, which was that night the scene of a rather raucous and unexclusive party. Lisa had decided that she wanted to stay there, at least for the party tonight.
"Little detour, Susie-Q," she had said unconcernedly, giving my shoulder a friendly push as she smirked at me. "But don't worry… Mickey and Minnie will still be around the corner, they don't go anywhere for all the good little girls like you."
I am hardly against partying in principle, but usually it leaves me feeling awkward and unsure of myself, almost painfully conspicuous, if I can't find someone to flirt with or talk to. This instance was no exception, as I had no one I knew there except Lisa, and Lisa was hardly standing by my side. If anything, she seemed deliberately to be separating herself from me.
I watched as she smoked and drank, as she easily initiated laughing conversations, and with much touching and aggression managed to one by one catch the attention of every male present. They were vying to dance with her, to banter with her and get her drinks… as I stood slightly apart from the others present, I tried to ignore her, to pretend I didn't notice and certainly wasn't bothered. But I was…
I watched them caress Lisa's body with rough hands, watched her twist and laugh in response, her every word and look and gesture giving encouragement, making clear to them what a good time she was having. I watched, and whatever I tried to tell myself, I was jealous. She had brought ME with her… she had chosen ME. So why was she leaving me now for these people who meant nothing to her, who cared nothing for her? What was she trying to prove?
Telling myself that this was just Lisa's way did nothing to lessen my anger and resentment. Only I knew her ways… and only I should be able to garner that sort of attention from her. What was it she wanted from me? Did she want anything at all, or was this just another game?
Several minutes passed before Lisa even glanced in my direction; when she did, I saw the knowing look in her eyes, almost a sense of triumph. As she detached herself casually from the man she had been almost grinding her body against, making her way to me, I saw the way her eyes flickered, inscrutable, yet satisfied.
I had become slightly drunk by this time, and all felt fuzzy, vague, but when Lisa came up behind me, slipping her arms around me and pressing her breasts into my back, her crotch against my backside, everything was suddenly sharply in focus once more.
"Wallflower, Susanna… can't have that… come dance with me."
Detaching herself from me briefly, but not without ruffling my hair and grinning at me, like I was a dog or small child, Lisa hooked an arm tight around my waist to lead me out into the center of the bar. As she once more wrapped her arms tight around me, pulling me back into her chest, I was aware heavily of the both of us, our physical entities and space. The pounding of our hearts in rhythm with the loud music… her breasts flattening against my back, her head bent towards mine, her breath tickling my ear… she was taller than me, and her bony form did not naturally meld into mine. Her limbs were all elbow and sinew, her hip bones sharp, and the long, bony fingers against my hips, stroking up and down my side, were cold, almost like claws. Her long hair was tangled, dry, and tickled my back and shoulders whenever it fell forward.
Still, I was not uncomfortable… in her arms, with her attention focused on me, I felt only more of the adrenalized eagerness I had when I kissed her in the car.
We had sex on the bed of a stranger, not even bothering to first close the door all the way. I remember looking at it as I gasped, wanting to go and shut it, but Lisa had covered my lips with a rough kiss, forcing me to automatically close my eyes.
"Let them see," she said hoarsely, and all I could focus on was her words, her touch… "if anyone comes up here and sees the door closed, they'll be picturing it all anyway… why not give them a visual they'll never forget?"
Normally this sort of logic would have horrified me, and I would have refused, probably stood up and left right there. But this was Lisa, and with Lisa, all of what had made me Susanna Kaysen seemed to twist and shift about, until I was no longer quite able to even see her anymore.
We did things I had never considered before, would never have thought I could want… but with Susanna I did them willingly, and I enjoyed it, even with the guilt and unease that came over me afterward. After, as we lay together, Lisa draped a casual arm around me, giving a lopsided smile as she lifted an eyebrow.
"Not bad for Snow White… not so innocent after all, are you, Susie Q?"
I just smiled, basking in all the feelings running through me now… it didn't matter the way she was with others, how volatile, even scary, she could be. It didn't matter that she had been flirting with those men heavily. It didn't matter that she had called me Jamie, that she had not said my name one time while we were in bed… all that mattered was that she had her arm around me now, she was smiling at me, relaxed, affectionate. All that mattered-
But then she was pulling away, sitting up abruptly as she quickly put on her clothes, standing with a changed expression to face me as I stared, frowning in confusion.
"Come on, Susie-Q, get up- didn't think we'd lay there all night, did you? We've got Florida waiting, let's go."
As she walked out into the hallway, leaving the door open wider than it had been to start with without so much as a second glance at me, I felt my face stiffen, my stomach drop with disappointment. But really, what had I expected? She was right, we did need to go… and I knew Lisa never slept, what made me think today would be different?
It was better like this, I told myself as I dressed, without the sentimentality it's completely honest, which makes you free. It's like Lisa…and with Lisa you take what you get.
Still, even as I started after her, I found myself wondering…was this how she had been with Jamie?