Genesis- Ch1 (TW and CW: rape, partying, self harm)
“Gemma!” She snapped into consciousness, only partly. Her head was pounding and her fingers felt swollen.
“What time is it?” she murmured. Her eyelids remained heavy still, but they opened wide enough to notice the thin rays of light streaming through the dorm room’s blinds. Gemma shifted her body to face Alex. He looked almost as groggy as she did, propped up on his arm next to her.
“It’s almost noon. Do you remember what happened last night?” he inquired. No, she didn’t. Well, she could piece together bits and pieces that seemed to come to her in snapshots. The first night at university. Old friends amongst strangers. Party lights and free-flowing liquor. And now this, her very first hangover.
“Fuck,” she groaned, “kind of. We didn’t...you know...did we?”
Alex flushed and looked down at his bare feet.
“No, no we didn’t,” he laughed uneasily. She stifled a reply of “Oh, thank God.” Gemma had known Alex since high school, and from the moment they met, it was obvious that Alex’s intentions were at least somewhat romantically inclined. Unfortunately for him, those feelings remained unrequited. Alex wasn’t particularly attractive, but he wasn’t necessarily unattractive either. Tall, messy brown hair, dark eyes, and feet that were just a bit too big for his body. No, he was simply average, but Gemma suspected that he might have seemed above average last night, behind alcohol’s distorting lenses.
Her head spun as she swung her legs over the loft bed and placed her feet gingerly on the faux-wood floor.
“Got any aspirin?” Alex chuckled in response.
“If I did, do you think I’d still look like this?” Gemma smiled. No, she supposed not.
“Alright,” she sighed, “That was some party. We never had those back at Oakland.” She slid out of bed and chose her clothes carefully before heading to the shared bathroom. Through the door, Alex’s voice:
“Guess we’re finally part of the party scene now, huh?” With the way I’m feeling today, we won’t be for long, she thought. Verbally, she only offered a grunt in response.
Gemma eyed herself in the mirror as she slid on her favorite denim shorts. Besides a serious case of bedhead and sleep-rimmed eyes that could have belonged to a corpse, she’d never looked better. Always a bit chubby in high school, she had set her mind on shedding those few extra pounds over that summer to prepare for all of the new eyes at college. And now, who wouldn’t want to pass a lingering glance over her wide hips, full breasts, and satisfactorily flat stomach?
She offered a half-smile at her reflection. Yes, Half-Smile. And Willing Hands. These were two of many skills Gemma’s therapist had shown her to manage her nagging depression. Supposedly, by grinning at yourself and opening your palms toward the sky, your mood would increase immediately. As to whether or not it worked for her, that was another question.
“DBT,” they called it. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Mood swings had plagued her since middle school, only developing into full-blown depression in high school. She knew her parents suspected more than simple depression- Schizophrenia? No, perhaps not quite that. Never had she been troubled by hallucinations. Delusions, maybe. But she had never seen people who weren’t really there, or heard ten different voices talking at her within her own mind. Bipolar? It wasn’t impossible, but it still didn’t quite fit her symptoms. Gemma herself had a strong suspicion of what it may be. Her great aunt Delphine had often related her own similar experiences to Gemma- her battle with constant depression, trouble socializing, and an itch for self-destruction. That didn’t sound too far off. What was it called? Multiple Personality Disorder? No, no-
Borderline. Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD.
The three little letters that tormented her. Letters that fucked up her life.
Still analyzing her reflection, Gemma sat on the bathroom floor with a makeup mirror before her. Her short-shorts exposed part of her bare ass to the chilly gray tiles that lined the bathroom, sending a shiver up her spine. Staring into her own bloodshot eyes with her head swimming, a lyric came to her.
Never, never, I never want it anymore
Gotta get away from this stone cold floor
Stone cold crazy. That was her.
A knock came at the door along with a lilting voice calling her name. She had almost forgotten Alex in the other room. Gemma lifted herself with effort and quickly brushed her tangled hair. She drew the door open and clicked the bathroom lights off, stepping out with her makeup still undone. She didn’t quite possess the patience to create intricate eyeliner wings today.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming.”
“Orientation is gonna really suck ass today, isn’t it?” Alex asked with mock cheeriness. They walked side-by-side out the dorm door.
“You got that right,” she said, hooking the door closed behind them.
Gemma’s ass ached from sitting in lecture hall chairs for 6 hours. The fourth-years had talked hers and Alex’s ears off all day, “Welcome to Boulder University” this, and “No smoking in the dorm rooms” that. Fuck that, after this long-ass day, they were gonna toke up big-time. What’s college for, anyway? Gemma-gone-wild, that’s what.
“Why d’you think everyone’s coming this way?” Alex asked, his head turning from side to side to observe the small crowd of people surrounding them.
“Dunno, but I need a break from all these people. What do you say we pick up some of that good kush and head back to mine?” Gemma proposed jokingly, knowing that Alex had never actually smoked before. But, God, she could sure go for some grass. And so they did, Alex trailing reluctantly at her heels all the way back to the dorms.
Gemma knew that her next-door-neighbors were heavy smokers- she had smelled it all day yesterday from her dorm’s small balcony. It was a start. So, she and Alex came to the door of room 218 and knocked shortly after arriving. The red-eyed, hippie-smelling redhead from 218 cracked open the door with a small greeting of
“What’s up?” The redhead’s eyes flicked back and forth between the two visitors. There was a short pause, as Gemma wracked up the nerve to say something.
“Yeah, uh, I’m from next door. I heard you guys on the balcony yesterday and uh, thought you might be able to...help us out,” Gemma offered. The redhead widened the crack in the doorway, and gave the two of them a small smile.
“Sure, come on in. I’m Sami. What do you guys need help with?” Gemma entered first, tugging on Alex’s sleeve.
“Come on,” she whispered. Hesitantly, he followed her in and shut the door behind them. Meanwhile, Gemma introduced herself and Alex. There was another pause, longer, as Alex joined the two girls.
“We were wondering if you’ve got any...stuff,” Alex began, “You know.” Gemma snickered next to him. She took over.
“Sorry about him, he’s never done this before. Have you got any-”
“Weed!” Alex interrupted, blushing furiously. Sami broke out laughing, as well as Gemma. Alex giggled, unsure of himself.
“Yeah,” Sami chuckled, “I can help you out.” And so, the transaction was made quickly and as they turned to leave, the dealer called out,
“Hey, just so you guys know, we’re having a little get together tonight to welcome the first-years. Maybe your little friend here wants to learn how to get wasted, too,” she said, gesturing at Alex, who was blushing again. Gemma thought for a moment. Did she really want to be squished together in a dorm room with drunken strangers for the second night in a row? And it was only her second night at university…
But you have to, don’t you? No, it’s irresponsible. Don’t you crave the chaos you were a part of last night? She didn’t even like the taste of liquor. Yes, you do. You like what it does to you. It makes you lose control and you like that. You like not being responsible, you crazy, irresponsible piece of-
“Yeah. Sounds good,” she said with a half-smile (there it is again). Gemma looked to Alex, who was nodding enthusiastically. Sami smiled in return.
“Great. See you at 10, then.” The door clicked shut behind them.
That evening, Gemma showed Alex how to use a bong, and at every 30-second interval, Alex asked if he was high yet, over and over, until his eyes finally glazed over. They laughed and spoke of old times, from that one time Alex had the shits in gym class, to the time Mr. Roberts walked by the girls in Gemma’s class with a huge boner. Good times then, good times now.
Before they knew it, it was 10:30, and they had begun to hear glasses clinking from the next balcony over. They had nearly forgotten the party. Gemma hurriedly reentered her own room, and to her surprise, one of her roommates was there. She had barely seen her dorm-buddy since they had moved in together yesterday morning. Candace, or Candy, as she requested to be called, had long, corn-colored hair that fell to her hips and small, but soulful, green-blue eyes. Gemma thought she had the brightest smile she’d ever seen. She knew very little about her roommate, and had only exchanged niceties with her the day before, nothing more. So she was caught off guard when Candy flashed that big, friendly smile at her- a smile you’d only give someone who you’ve known for years.
“Hi! Gemma! And…” Candy paused, turning her head to look at Alex, at a loss for his name.
“Alex,” he said, offering his hand to shake. Candy, of course, went in for a hug, while Alex’s arm still extended behind her roommate’s back.
“Nice to meet you, Alex,” she replied warmly. “Where are you two off to?”
“They’re having a get together for first-years next door. Are you coming?” Gemma asked, realizing she had just invited someone without the host’s permission. Oh well, she thought, what’s one more sweaty body amidst 30 others?
“I wish I could, but I’ve got a video call planned with my folks at 11. BUT,” she flourished her hand dramatically, “There is no way I’m letting you go over there...without a makeover.” Candy drew a small box between them while Alex groaned irritably behind them. Gemma giggled.
“Alright, I suppose I could spare a minute or two to look beautiful,” she said with a grin. Candy looked pleased at this. Gemma could tell that Candy would most definitely become the “mom-friend” of their group, not that she minded. The girls sat down on the rug Gemma had brought, and Alex informed them that he would be outside, trying to figure out how to use the bong on his own.
After a half-hour of brushing and poking and plucking, Candy finally seemed satisfied with her work.
“There,” she said softly, “take a look.” Alex, who had given up trying to smoke by himself, padded into the room.
“Whoa,” he commented, his jaw comedically slack at the sight of her.
“What…” Gemma began, picking up Candy’s makeup mirror.
She looked four years older, maybe even five. Her eyes were adorned with a soft, fading grey, and her lashes glistened the darkest black, still wet with mascara. Her cheekbones popped above a carefully contoured jawline, and her lips nearly dripped with gloss. I look like a whore, she thought at first. Gemma knew she looked ten times better than she did only minutes ago, and felt more adult than she ever had before. Yet still, behind the layers of powder and sultry eye makeup, she noticed the skeletal exhaustion of her own face. Her eyes looked nearly sunken, and face seemed thinner than usual. Yes, she looked quite fine, but she also seemed as though she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. In a way, maybe she did.
“Girl, you are a hot piece of ass! Now you’re ready to go catch you a man!” Candy exclaimed, ripping Gemma from her thoughts. Both were grinning ear to ear now. Alex attempted a smile, but Gemma knew he was secretly thinking about all the men she was going to “catch” that weren’t him. She felt a pang of guilt. Alex must have seen the shadow that crossed her face momentarily for he supported Candy’s statement with a more genuine smile.
“You really do look great,” he told her. Candy placed one hand on each of their shoulders.
“Well, I suppose it’s time for you two to go out and have a little fun. Go on, now, I need some privacy for my video chat. Shoo!” she said in good humor. Alex returned Candy’s overflowing positivity with a big, goofy grin, only partly because of the drugs in his system, and headed for the door. Gemma began to follow suit, but not before Candy seized her hand. A look of sincerity stood in her roommate’s eyes.
“Be careful, Gemma, ok? I want you to have fun, but remember that alcohol can make scumbags out of even the sweetest men,” she advised, her eyes flicking briefly toward Alex in the doorway. Gemma frowned. Alex would never hurt her. He couldn’t...could he?
Gemma nodded slowly. “Okay.” And with that, the two were out the door and into the next. She never saw Candy again.
GIVE. G-I-V-E. This is how she was supposed to socialize. She must be Gentle (don’t push your friendship on people, Gemma), but still Interested (why can’t you care about anyone except yourself, Gemma?). She must Validate their stories and experiences (some people have it worse, you know, Gemma) and have an Easy manner (sometimes you can be kind of annoying, Gemma…). G is for Gentle. G is for Gemma.
The dorm next door was heavy with smoke and alcohol-infused sweat. She was still enjoying a mild high (Sami had decent product). I’m part of the mild-high club, she thought, giggling to herself. Alex gave her a quick look of confusion, but he relaxed just as quickly. Sami had pushed to the front of the steadily growing crowd.
“Hey guys! I was starting to think you wouldn’t show!” Sami offered Alex the stub of a joint between her fingers, which he took eagerly.
“If I’d have known there would be free weed,” he choked out between coughs, “maybe I wouldn’t have spent my last twenty bucks.” The three of them laughed together.
“Come on in guys. Hey, have a drink, or some chips, we’ve got plenty.” Gemma followed her deeper into the mass of grinding bodies, and Alex passed the dwindling joint to another first year who had clearly already had more than a few drinks. Gemma poured her own. Strawberry vodka watered down with fruit punch, a drink that seemed to go down easily enough the night before.
“Naw!” Sami exclaimed, “None of that weak shit tonight. Here,” Sami replaced her Solo cup with a shot glass of straight tequila. Gemma screwed up her face in response. She wasn’t particularly a fan. Tipsy, soon-to-be frat boys pushed past her to the drinks table.
“I actually don’t really like-”
“Shots! Shots! Shots!” the frat boys began to shout, and Gemma couldn’t help but crack a smile. Sami looked at her intently, and Alex offered his empty glass to the sloppily-pouring boys behind them, joining their chant.
“Well, might as well...Bottoms up!” she cheered, and downed the tequila in an instant. Gemma’s face contorted once more, and she revelled at the bitter taste. She thought of her grandfather’s stories from his trip to Mexico. That’s where you find REAL tequila, he had said. She recalled him saying that at the bottom of the finest bottles, they placed a dead worm. Why on Earth would someone do that? Is it even sanitary? She immediately shooed the thoughts from her mind, but she still imagined the worm wriggling its way down her throat and poisoning her innards.
The rush was like a fire in her gut. Gemma saw that Alex had already downed three more glasses and was pumping his fist in the air. The frat boys cheered around him. Oh God, she thought, please don’t become one of them. All the same, Gemma joined him at the drink table after receiving a gleeful pat on the back from Sami.
“How’s it going over here?” she strained, fighting to be heard over the pounding bass of some trap remix. Alex whirled around to face her, a half-full bottle of the strawberry vodka in his left hand.
“Heyyyy,” he greeted loosely, “look who it is!” She smirked at him, knowing he was still getting used to the novelty of drinking.
“Why don’t you save some for me, buddy?” she said, taking the vodka bottle gently from his hand. She hadn’t intended to drink it, but now that it was in her hands, it seemed perfectly normal to take a swig from the bottle. And a generous swig, at that. She coughed.
“Woo!” she yelled, thrusting the bottle triumphantly into the air. Suddenly, Alex grabbed her hand and dragged her into the mass of gyrating bodies. It wasn’t long before the two of them really embraced the spirit of the party. They danced to songs they’d never heard of, and a fat blunt was now making its way around the dance floor. The liquor flowed, and red plastic cups were passed between Gemma and a plethora of strange new people. Ordinarily, she would never have taken a drink from a stranger, but the people here were all invited by Sami, and she seemed nice enough.
The music thumped inside her head, as if the bass itself was rooted deep within her brain, bouncing around in the walls of her skull. Her eyes were heavily lidded she swayed, but she was not the least bit tired. Alex had moved behind her at this point, finally getting the handle of smoking without coughing. She hadn’t seen him take another drink since they had been at the drinks table, but he was laughing and enjoying himself all the same. Gemma watched him fondly, giggling at his clumsy excuses for dance moves.
They had been through a lot together. Actually, that was an understatement. He was her closest friend. Her only friend. He had been with her through thick and thin in high school, remaining by her side even as the depression worked its way into her life. He skipped class to bring her soup on those weary days when she just couldn’t draw herself out of bed. He made her laugh through her tears at dumb dick jokes. He whispered to her during her fits of screaming. He was there when she almost ended her life.
When she had been rushed to the hospital, Alex had held her blood-drenched hands until the moment they took her away from him to sew up the sliced meat which used to be her forearms. She went in and out of a dreamless sleep for three days, incapacitated by the morphine drip in her vein. Recovery had truly been a bitch, but even in rehab, he had visited her every Saturday and Sunday when visitors were allowed. Alex was her rock, and she knew, in a strange sort of way, that she was his.
Her scattered and slow-coming thoughts crowded her intoxicated brain and she turned to Alex with a bittersweet smile. Without thinking, and much to Alex’s surprise, Gemma planted a sloppy kiss on Alex’s mouth. Perhaps he was handsome, even with that baffled, O-mouthed look on his face. She couldn’t help but burst into fits of laughter at his response.
“Gemma, what-” he stuttered. She placed a finger over his mouth.
“Shh, I can’t hear the music Alex. I can’t hear the fucking music!” Losing her balance, she caught Alex’s arm before tumbling to the ground. She couldn’t even be embarrassed, she was too giddy to notice just how drunk she was.
“Whoa, there,” Alex chuckled, immediately sobered by his best friend’s inebriated state. “Let’s get you back home.”
The next few minutes were a whirl of pushing and shoving and dragging, and Gemma’s sudden urge to vomit arose out of nowhere. She didn’t remember actually throwing up, but somehow there was a puddle of what used to be cafeteria food in front of her. Right on the carpet, she thought, Guess I won’t be seeing my neighbors very much after this. Sami rushed toward the two of them, clearly not sober herself.
“You guys better go,” she slurred, “Is she gonna make it back alright?”
“Yeah, we don’t have too far to go. Help me with her other side,” Alex responded as Sami hitched Gemma’s arm over her shoulder. Sami showed them out as courteously as she could, clearly irritated by the mess Gemma had just made.
“Have a good night,” Alex called after her, right as the door shut behind them. He propped open the door as quietly as he could, knowing that Candace must be asleep by now. The lights were out. Gemma could feel herself being dragged into the bathroom and she stifled a giggle, which ended up coming out as a burp. Exhausted, Alex lowered her to the floor that she remembered from this morning. It was blissfully cool.
(What a stone-cold crazy night)
They let out a simultaneous groan. What a night indeed. Alex checked his watch. It was nearing 3:00 in the morning, and he could hear Candy snoring loudly from the other room, even with the bathroom door shut. He figured he should help his wasted friend into bed before finally collapsing in his own, which lay about 50 yards from her dorm. Not too far at all. Sighing, he stood himself up.
Gemma was barely conscious. Clearly, she couldn’t walk on her own, and she desperately needed a glass of water.
“Waaadder…” she droned.
“Water. Right,” Alex nodded, and fetched her a glass. Gently, he sat her up against him and tilted the glass between her lips. She snorted and let the water dribble all over her shirt. Alex gulped as he noticed that she was not wearing a bra. The wet blouse allowed his imagination to wander as he gazed at the nipple which arose beneath the thin fabric. She had kissed him earlier. After four and a half years of wanting, she had finally kissed him. Alex shook the thought from his mind. She needed a new shirt before bed. Her current one was dripping wet. He licked his lips nervously and went to root through her night clothes, picking out a plain orange tee. This will do, he thought. He hurried back to where she lay and noticed that her droopy eyelids had opened a bit. Gemma eyed the shirt.
“You don’t haff to…” she started, but her lids had begun to sag once more. Alex soothed her.
“It’s ok, we’re gonna get you nice and dry and then you can go to sleep.” She seemed to nod, or perhaps her head was just lolling to the side. Alex shifted his position, and began to pull her wet blouse over her head.
“You kissed me earlier,” he whispered, mostly to himself. His hand brushed her newly exposed breast, and something stirred in him.
“I waited years for you to make a move because I was too scared.” He dropped the soiled shirt on the tile next to them and paused a moment. She looked peaceful and pure in her nakedness. He saw things he had imagined time and again for the past four years. Perhaps he’d better change her shorts as well. Breathing heavily, he undid her bottoms and slid them over her long, sleek legs. How could they be so smooth? So hairless? He wondered if that was the case for her whole body, and he gave into his temptation to check. Slowly, he slid her panties down over her feet. Heat built up in his cheeks. It seemed he was right about that. She groaned.
“What are you...what…” He soothed her once more, brushing his hands through her hair, inhaling that sweet coconut scent of her shampoo. The smell of alcohol lingered there too.
“I wanted to...for so long…” His hunger was growing, among other things. She groaned again.
“I always suspected you wanted me, too.” Another moan. He positioned himself above her, lightly kissing her on the mouth.
“I never thought you’d give me a chance.” And with that, Gemma’s vision faded to black completely. Give him a chance, Gemma. G-I-V-E. Give.