So I’m still keeping up with NaNonWriMo, despite sickness and work and Thanksgiving. The real challenge will be keeping up on my birthday tomorrow. So here’s another chapter from If Not for Stewart. This is my first and perhaps only female voice in the book. Again, this has not been edited or smoothed out in any way, so please put up with any continuity and grammatical errors you might notice.
Let me tell you about one of the worst nights of my life.
If not for Stewart, it might have been the worst night of my life. In college, I was one of those girls who spent more nights in other people’s bedrooms than her own. Free love didn’t die in the 70s, you know. Since freshman year, I had refined bed-hopping from a sport to a science. The stereotype is that that’s a man’s ideal woman: one who sleeps with him once and doesn’t bother him too much afterward. You’d be surprised how many guys say they’re totally cool with that, then flip out because you sleep with their best friend the next day.
One such man was Kyle Bradley. I didn’t know him too well, but we had a class together sophomore year, and he was cute enough, so I went for it. Convincing a guy like Kyle to have sex with you is like convincing a dog to eat a treat. All I had to do was go to a party at his frat and tell him I thought he was cute. The sex wasn’t very good, because he treated my body like a punching bag, and I’m not into that kind of sex. I could tell that he had a violent streak, so I figured I should avoid him. I would be spending one of my few nights in my own bed.
But I had met his friend Spencer at the party, and he was just as cute as Kyle, so I made sure to ask him for his number when I left that night. I texted him a lot all the next day, and by six, he was ripe for the picking. We ended up doing it off and on all night, and he was way better at it than Kyle, which didn’t take much.
The next morning was when I first met Stewart. I had woken up before Spencer and thrown on one of his shirts before walking to the bathroom. I shut the door quietly behind me and turned around, face to face with a tallish man in a suit. He had startled me, so I let out a short scream.
“I am dreadfully sorry, Miss Sparrow,” the man said. “May I help you with anything?”
Who wore a suit on a Sunday morning? Perhaps more importantly, how did he know my name? “Who are you?”
“I am Stewart, Madam. I am the butler for Alpha Beta Tau.”
I had heard of this guy. Kyle and Spencer had both mentioned him, as well as some friends of mine. He had gained a sort of notoriety at St. Elmo’s. “Well, no thank-you. I’m just going to the bathroom.” For some reason I felt like I had to ask his permission to go, but as soon as I realized that, I walked past him. What authority could he have over me?
“If you’re ever in this house, Miss Sparrow, and you are in need of assistance, never hesitate to ask.”
Kind of creeped out and kind of touched, I continued to the bathroom, but I found it occupied. I waited outside until I heard a flush, and Kyle emerged. “Oh, hey!” he said. “What’re you doing here?”
“I spent the night here,” I explained.
This seemed like a perfectly normal thing to me, but he knit his eyebrows in anger. “With who?”
Seriously? Jealous? He hadn’t even spent an entire night with me. “Not you, I guess.” I tried to budge past him into the bathroom but he blocked my way.
“Seriously. With who?” He took a closer look at my shirt. It was a basketball jersey. Perhaps one of the stinkier choices I could’ve made, but I’d worn worse.
“It’s none of your business.”
“Fine!” He threw his hands in the air and stormed off, looking at my back as he walked away.
What a jerk. Maybe I should have performed background checks on guys before I slept with them, just to make sure they weren’t lunatics. Between Kyle and the creepy butler, I felt genuinely rattled as I peed.
As I washed my hands in the wide sink they had in that bathroom, I decided that I was done with BAT bros for the time being. Spencer had been nice, but not nice enough to risk bumping into Kyle like that again. I spent yet another night in my own room on Sunday, and by the next morning, I was feeling less freaked out, which is why I didn’t immediately say no to Spencer when he texted me inviting me to a registration-eve party at the BAT house. Instead, I asked, “Is Kyle going to be there?”
“No. Meet me in my room at 10.”
So now I can tell you about one of the worst nights of my life. I didn’t go to the BAT house until ten, because I figured Spencer had told me to come then for a reason. Perhaps Kyle was leaving at ten. I decided to be a little late.
When I got there, Stewart met me at the door. “Hello, again, Miss Sparrow.”
“Hey, Stewart,” I said. “Have you seen Spencer around?”
“I’m afraid not, madam. Shall I take a message for him?”
“That’s all right. I’ll just find him upstairs.” If Spencer wanted to skip the partying and get straight to the fucking, I was down with that. A whole night without sex had left me feeling a bit cranky.
When I got to his room, I didn’t even bother to knock, I just opened it. Inside, Kyle was waiting for me, sitting on the bed. Spencer was nowhere to be seen. I screamed again. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Didn’t you get my text?” he said, holding up Spencer’s cell phone. His face was contorted into some sort of cruel cross between a leer and a frown. “I asked you to meet me here.” He stood up and started walking towards me.
For some reason, with our eyes locked, I couldn’t move. My body and my voice shook. “What do you want?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asked. “I want you to stop fucking Spencer.” He stepped even closer. “No chick dumps me and goes out with one of my friends. I do that.”
So many relationships fall apart because the people involved have different expectations for it. If people were only more clear with each other about want they wanted from each other and thought the other wanted from them, there would be way less drama in college. I had always tried to make it clear that I was not looking for anything long term. I prided myself in my liberal, free-thinking lifestyle. I guess Kyle had missed all of that, and with him creeping towards me, brandishing Spencer’s cell phone like a club, I got the feeling that now wasn’t the time to bring him up to speed.
So I ran, slamming the door in his face as I went. He stuck his foot in the doorway before it closed completely, then ran after me. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do to me if he caught up, but, judging by the way he treated sex, he wasn’t about to explain any more about how I had hurt his feelings.
I didn’t know how I was going to get away, but I didn’t have time to plan an elaborate escape, so I headed for the staircase. I took the stairs two at a time until I crashed into the writhing mass of people at the bottom. I must have slipped on the last step, because I fell in a jumble of flesh, clothing, and beer.
Before I could stand myself up, a pair of hands reached down and grabbed me by the shoulders, yanking me out of the morass. Knowing it could only be Kyle, I wrested myself from his grip and spun around, striking at him with one hand. But it wasn’t Kyle had picked me up; it was Stewart, and my open palm smacked him in the face.
He let go of my shoulders. “Come this way, Miss Sparrow,” he said, gesturing to the BAT cave. “We must get you to safety.” He held out his hand. “May I?”
Still a bit discombobulated, I surveyed my surroundings. Above me, I could see Kyl’es feet descending the stairs, across the room, through a clot of partiers, stood the front door, and right next to me, offering his hand, was Stewart, the creepy butler. I could make a break for the door, but there was no saying I would make it before Kyle caught up with me. Even if I did, he would probably chase me into the street, and I doubted I could outrun him.
I took the butler’s hand, and he led me through the crowd, which seemed to part in front of him like Moses and the Red Sea. Behind us, I saw Kyle get caught up in the chaos I had begun at the bottom of the stairs. Soon we turned a corner and Kyle disappeared from view, but Stewart didn’t stop until we had made it to the kitchen.
“I’m frightfully sorry, Miss Sparrow, but you must hide in this broom closet for the moment.” He opened a sliver of a door built into the wall.
To call the thing a closet was a generous exaggeration of its size. It more closely resembled a cupboard. “I’m not going in there!”
“You could perhaps try the back door, Miss Sparrow,” he suggested, “but I cannot guarantee that Master Bentley will not make pursuit, and outside this house, I am no use to you.”
Again, I considered my options. Stewart was right; if I left through the back door and Kyle caught up with me, there was nothing he could do to help me. I had taken a self defense class freshman year, but the instructor had always said running was the best defense, and I hadn’t practiced my combat rolls in a while. If it came to a fight, I was sure that Kyle would win.
I could hear outraged shouts from the BAT cave. No doubt Kyle was bowling people over on his way to me. I would have to trust this butler for the moment. If he had wanted to hand me over to Kyle, he wouldn’t have tried to help me in the first place. I stuffed myself into the closet and shut the door behind me.
“I will return shortly, madam,” came Stewart’s muffled voice through the door.
Then the kitchen door slammed open, and I heard heavy footsteps rush past the closet and out the back door. I was tempted to get out right then, but I stayed put. I had trusted my well-being to the butler, and I was going to see his plan through. So I contented myself with examining in shotty detail my surroundings. You’d think a closet with so many cleaning supplies would be pretty clean. On the contrary, it was really dusty and cobwebby. I was pretty certain that I shared the space with hundreds of insects.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long in that hell-hole before a knock came at the door. “It’s Stewart again, Miss Sparrow. You may come out now.”
I threw open the door and leapt out. “It’s disgusting in there. Someone should really clean that thing.”
“Of course, madam,” he replied. “I shall do so as soon as I am able. For now, you must put these on over your clothes.” He hefted up a briefcase onto the kitchen counter and opened it, revealing a set of men’s clothing.
I lifted out the first item–an extra-large t-shirt with some obnoxious cartoon character on it. “You want me to wear this?”
“I’m afraid that Master Bentley has many of his friends on the lookout for you, Miss Sparrow. You will have to disguise yourself as a man if you wish to avoid scrutiny.”
“Are these your clothes?” I asked.
“Oh, heavens no, madam,” he replied, insulted by the idea. “I have borrowed a few things from one Master Benson’s wardrobe. I don’t believe he’ll miss these.”
“If you say so.” I donned the baggy shirt over my own, then removed my skirt and snatched a pair of jeans from the briefcase.
Stewart turned red and turned around. “I’m dreadfully sorry, madam.”
“Whatever,” I said, pulling the jeans on over my tights. Plenty of guys had seen way more of me without blushing. The last item in the briefcase was a wide baseball cap. I piled my hair on top of my head and put it on with the visor covering my face. “How do I look?”
He turned back around and looked me up and down. “In these conditions, I believe it will do, Miss Sparrow, but I can’t imagine it would fool anyone in broad daylight.”
I made for the back door, but Stewart brought me to a halt with his hand, then gestured toward the window. I looked outside to see a couple of guys in the parking lot smoking. “Those men are under instructions to interrogate anyone leaving the house,” explained Stewart. “We will have better luck with the front door, I believe.”
“Lead the way then,” I said.
“If you would lean on my arm as if you’re drunk Miss Sparrow, that may help with the ruse.”
I did so, and he took me out of the kitchen and through the BAT cave toward the stairs. We were almost to the front door when I heard someone shout at us from behind. “Hey! Stewart!”
I wanted him to ignore the guy, but instead he walked over to him. “Yes, Master Benson?”
I was afraid that that close, this Benson guy would see that I wasn’t actually another dude, but he took one glance at my shirt before saying, “I wanna bone a chick tonight, but I can’t find any that wanna be boned.”
Classy. I couldn’t imagine a woman that would willingly sleep with a guy like that one, but they must exist.
“Boned, sir?” replied Stewart.
“You know. Bang, fuck, doing it, getting laid, screwing–”
Of course making love wouldn’t be on his list, but seriously, could you get any more crass?
I was relieved when Stewart interrupted him. “That’s quite enough, Master Benson. I understand you now. As for your predicament, perhaps you should try that young lady over there.” Stewart pointed to a girl dressed in pink at the other side of the room. Stewart must have had a good eye for these things, because she looked ugly and stupid enough for Benson. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must escort this young gentleman outside.”
With that, he pulled me around to face the front door, and there stood Kyle. We made brief eye contact, and I knew he recognized me, because he lunged for me. I bolted in the only direction I could: back up the stairs.
My baggy jeans got caught under my feet and ran, so I undid the button at my waist and let them drop to the floor. Instead of getting off at the second floor, I continued further. I climbed until I couldn’t anymore, and I stood in a square room with windows on all sides, looking out over campus. I might have enjoyed the view under other circumstances, but as it was, I darted onto the landing at the top of the spiral staircase, which came up into the middle of room. It was surrounded by a railing, except where it met the top floor. To my horror, there was no escape from this room besides through the windows, which would require something heavy to smash.
Kyle reached the top, looking a bit winded from the climb. I was panting as well, not having run so much in a long time. I regretted cutting track. Kyle began circling around the railing. “I’m going to beat into jelly and send a jar to your parents.”
At least he was being clear about his intentions. I continued backing up. Eventually I would run of of room, caught between the railing and certain pummeling. I waited until he had committed himself to coming around to get me, then vaulted myself over the railing and back onto the stairs. As I landed, I kind of twisted my ankle, but I couldn’t give a rest just yet. I dashed down the stairs again, trying to think of somewhere to hide. I didn’t know the building very well, and I didn’t want to go to the first floor again. Evading Kyle in a crowd would be pretty much impossible. That left the second floor as the only one I could find my around on, and there was only one room there I thought my be safe.
I got off the stairs on the second floor and ran straight to the bathroom. To my great relief, there was no one in there. Instead of locking the door behind me, I opened up the vanity underneath the sink and squeezed in between the pipes and the floor. After shutting the vanity doors, I crossed my fingers and held my breath.
Before long, I heard the door open, and through the crack between the doors, I could see the figure of a woman. I averted my gaze as she dropped her pants and took a dump. You’d think that listening to someone poop from the other side of a thin sheet of wood would be pretty gross, but the worse part was listening to her wipe. It makes you realize how disgusting an idea toilet paper actually is. I hear that in China, they wash themselves with water after shitting, but that seems like it would have its own risks.
Just as she was standing up, I heard the door click open, and I saw a man enter the bathroom slowly and silently. What the fuck was going on in this place? Was I about to witness a horrific murder from inside a bathroom vanity?
Before my mind could concoct elaborate scenarios in which I had to testify in front of a jury and explain why I was even in the vanity in the first place, the man hissed, “Anne, we’ve got to go.” If I wasn’t mistaken, the man was British. I made note of that; it would no doubt be of use in the investigation.
“But, Brian–” she said, loudly.
“Sh! You must be quiet, Anne,” he explained. “Now pull up your pants.”
At least it wasn’t going to be that sort of crime. I could hear Anne pull up her pants as directed.
“No, no, no!” exclaimed Brian. “You mustn’t flush.”
“Why not?” she asked. A reasonable question, I thought.
“You have to trust me,” he replied.
With that, the two of them tip-toed out of the bathroom, shutting the door behind them. I hoped for Anne’s sake that Brian was a trustworthy guy. I waited for a couple minutes to make sure all the excitement had died down, then I, as silently as I could, stepped out of the vanity and onto the linoleum floor. As I was crawling out, however, I glanced under the door and I saw two shoes next to the far wall. Somebody was pacing outside. I watched the feet disappear and reappear from view for about a minute before I returned to my place in the vanity.
I’m not sure how long I waited in that bathroom. Moving between the vanity and the door, checking for those feet, which would not stop their vigil outside. After the fifth of sixth time checking, a knock came at the door of the bathroom. I wasn’t about to yell occupied. For all I knew, those were Kyle’s feet outside. Another knock. My heart rate spiked. I fished around on the floor until I found a stray nail, brandishing it in front me like a cross. I would have almost preferred to fight some sort of undead creature at that point.
Eventually, he opened the door and walked inside, then proceeded to scour the entire room, everywhere but under the vanity. I was glad I hadn’t chosen to hide in the shower. At that point, I was pretty damn sure it was Kyle in the bathroom with me. Who else would have a reason to search the place? He must’ve thought I’d come out eventually, and got tired of waiting.
“God fucking damn it!” he shouted.
I cringed inside the vanity, but kept quiet. I could sense that he was about to give up.
That he did, but not before flushing the toilet. He stormed off, cursing to himself. He had left the door open. After I couldn’t hear his swearing any more, I climbed out of that vanity for the last time and made my escape. I walked to the staircase, keeping a lookout for Kyle. He was nowhere to be seen. The jeans I had dropped before were still on the stairs, so I pulled them back on and descended, doing my best to act like a dude. I managed to work my way through the throng in the main hallway all the way to the door. Once outside, I heaved a sigh of relief, but I wasn’t quite out of the danger zone.
I crossed the street in my oversized get-up and walked into the dorm across the street. Some Arab girl was on her way out, and was kind of enough to hold the door open for me. “Rough night?” she asked, clearly aware that I was a woman underneath my clothing.
“You have no idea,” I replied. Once inside, I found a bathroom and changed. I left the shirt and jeans right in the stall, but I kept the baseball cap. Whoever I had taken these clothes from, at least he was a Raiders fan.
I walked home without my skirt, which I had left somewhere in the BAT house. I had no plans on going back for it.