My arm hurt. I mean it really hurt. But I didn’t want to use magic in front of Jenny so I handled it like a man: I whined a lot.
Fortunately, Jenny had a first aid kit. Well, some bandages and a needle and thread. She offered to sew up my cut. You see that sort of thing all the times in movies, where the Navy Seal beautifully cross-stitches a wound closed without even wincing. What better way to show a girl your manliness?
I politely declined her offer. Don’t act like you wouldn’t have done the same, the needle was fucking huge.
When we arrived back at the lake, everyone was standing around a large fish. It was pretty impressive, about the same size as Suri, with bright red scales. However, the mood was far from jubilant. They all watched apprehensively as we approached.
The kid was in his mother’s arms. He pointed at Jenny. “Her. She the one who hurt the idiot.”
“First, I’m fine. It was just a misunderstanding. Second, who taught him to call me the idiot?”
My loyal party members all looked away guiltily.
“Are the others with you?” Claire asked.
“No, it’s just me,” said Jenny. “I wanted to meet your friends. If we can avoid any more fighting, that would be good for everyone.”
There was a great deal of tension in the air, and I was probably as tense as anyone. Nabbo came forward and stood in front of Jenny.
“Hello. I’m Jenny.” She smiled a little nervously.
“Ah,” said Nabbo. “You’ve found a mate at last. See?” He turned to his son. “And you said it was impossible.”
“She’s not my mate, but thanks for the vote of confidence, Pitt.”
Pitt shrugged, sort of apologetically, with a side order of, Well, I ain’t been proved wrong yet.
“Of course she is,” said Nabbo. “You think you can fool me? I know a mating couple when I see one.” He waddled around Jenny, sizing her up. “Mmm, not bad. Skins a bit dry. I don’t know how you people spawn… man, the friction burns must be painful.”
“She’s just a friend,” I insisted. “And we’re wet on the inside. Well, females are.”
“You spawn on the inside?” said Jolie, looking shocked. “How?”
How this turned into a sex ed. class I have no idea. “Well, the male puts his penis in the female’s vagina.”
“What’s a va-gi-na?” asked Suri.
“Claire,” I said, “show him your vagina.”
“Show him yours,” said Claire.
“I would, but I don’t have a vagina,” I said.
“Are you sure?” said Claire.
That’s all I needed in front of my mating partner-to-be, a challenge to my authority. I turned to Maurice. “Maurice, please, control your woman.”
“I wish I could,” said Maurice, and then looked surprised. “Shit! Did I say that out loud?”
It was too late, the fuse had been lit. “Is that what you really want?” said Claire. “To control me?”
“No,” said Maurice.
“Is that why you’re with me?” Temper rising, launch ignition is a go.
“Of course not.”
Fire all thrusters. “Then why the fuck are you with me?”
Maurice leaned back to avoid getting his face melted off. “Because I’m in love with you.”
The timing was perfect. The delivery was beautiful. It smashed through all of Claire’s defences like they were paper and struck her right in the heart, exploding every shard of doubt and insecurity she’d been storing in there since the day she’d been born.
As a student of the dark arts, I’d have to say it was a stunning example of psychological manipulation—or it would have been except the fucker actually meant it.
The fight went out of Claire and she threw her arms around Maurice’s neck and buried her face in his shoulder. She mumbled something. I love you too, You complete me, You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, blah, blah, blah… I don’t know what exactly, I was too busy trying not to throw up.
What is it about sincere emotion that makes people suddenly spout cliches? And for everyone else to act like they’re hearing the greatest poetry ever?
Flossie looked fit to burst with joy and had Dudley’s hand so tightly gripped in hers he looked about ready to tap out.
I turned to Jenny, my last hope for a someone to exchange eye-rolls with, but found her even more out to lunch than the others. Her eyes couldn’t have been more dilated if she’d been tripping on mollie.
“Looks like you and me are the only two sane ones left,” I said to the dead fish.
“I’d like to join your group,” said Jenny. “Please.”
Great. That’s all we needed, another hopeless ditz. “I don’t think—”
“Let her join,” said Claire in a soft, warm voice that really didn’t suit her.
“Yes, ah thinks so, too,” said Flossie.
“Well, good for you, but I don’t recall anyone asking you two loved-up dipsticks for your opinion on the matter.”
“Colin,” said Claire, all sweetness, which was frankly more unnerving than when she was throwing one of her hissy fits, “it’s your choice. We’ll do what you say, but this one time you should listen. She belongs with us. I can’t explain it, but you should let her in.” She looked at the others who all nodded.
“Just let me join for a trial period,” said Jenny. “I won’t let you down, I promise.” The eyes were full hope, the smile was extraordinary. Even her teeth looked like they were out of a toothpaste advert. It was brutal.
There was no way it would turn out well, but the seed had been planted. The seed of hope that this girl I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about since the moment I first saw her might end up being mine. The seed that would grow and grow until it fucking wrecked me. Oh well.
“Fine. She can join. What about Tin and the others?”
“I’ll go speak to them,” said Jenny. “We’re camped in that large group of white trees to the east. If I go now, I can be back before it’s dark.” She turned and took a few steps, then stopped and turned. “I’ll explain everything to them. I’m sure they’ll understand.” She set off again running. No, not running. Skipping!
“Man, your mating rituals are crazy,” said Nabbo. “Can we eat this fish now?”
I know I always treated Jenny’s motivations with suspicion and acted like she meant nothing to me, but in truth I was no less susceptible to a hot chick than any other guy. I handled it by staying away, and now I couldn’t even do that.
Of course I wanted a girl like that to fall for me and have great sex in weird positions. Who doesn’t? But I try not to confuse fantasy with real life, which is especially hard to do when you’ve been transported to a world that’s nothing but fantasy.
Just because Jenny was joining our group didn’t make it any more likely she’d be mine, but it did make it a lot harder to stop thinking about it.
I had the horrible feeling I’d made a terrible mistake. After all this time of doing what had to be done to survive, this obvious opportunity to sabotage myself comes along and I immediately cave. Pitiful.
The best possible outcome would be for Jenny to convince her group to make nice with the frogmen, join our party and reveal she had an inexplicable taste for guys who look like me. What do you think the chances were of things panning out like that?
Mind you, I’m sure somewhere in the universe, there a guy who got transported to a fantasy world whose life ended up just like that. I don’t know what his name is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t Colin. If I had to guess, probably Marco Masterson.
There was a tug on my sleeve and I looked down at Suri. “Va-gi-na?”
Sounded more like an accusation than a question. Can’t say I disagreed with him.
Of course, all these concerns would only have mattered if Jenny returned like she said she would. She didn’t.