4: Take
by Wax Jism

She's got Stan, good but stupid; he always gives her a glance before he kisses her, asks before he touches her breast. He makes love to her with quiet concentration.

He's perfect for her.

Zeke Tyler bounces into her in the hall. She elbows him and hisses, "Stay in the toilet with the rest of the druggies, why doncha?", and he gives her a look. Two looks.

"You know, you're not bad-looking when you're angry," he says. He's taller than Stan, even broader over the shoulders, too, but thin. He'd make a good football player if he spent some time on the field, she thinks.

"Sorry, I don't have time to chitchat," she says, "so if you'd excuse me."

He doesn't step aside. A small, infuriating smile flickers over his mouth. His eyes crinkle. "I'll call your agent and book an appointment then."

"You do that," she says, a little lamely, but what can you do. Zeke's hard to get off balance.


"I need to talk to you," Stan says as soon as he sees her, but she can't listen to him bitch about Coach Willis right now, she has things to do. Casey seems to have become even more invisible lately - if that's somehow possible - and she needed the shots of last year's Homecoming King and Queen (Stan and herself, of course) ready yesterday.

"Not now. Hey! Casey!" There he is, scuttling along the wall like a scared mouse, probably on his way to the science classroom. He stops in his tracks and turns slowly.

"It was kind of important," Stan says. She ignores him.

"Casey, the pictures?" He meets her eyes for a fracture of a second and then bows his head. She rolls her eyes, but he answers before she can think of something scathing to say.

"They're in the darkroom. I was just gonna--"

"I needed them yesterday, you moron."

He lifts his head with sudden defiance. "I was busy." It's gone, and he looks away again. "Sorry."

When he's gone with his tail between his legs, she sighs and turns back to Stan. "What was it you wanted?"

He rubs his face as if just looking at her makes him tired. That's a new thing, but it feels familiar somehow. Maybe he's been doing it and she hasn't paid attention. "I've been thinking--" he starts, but the bell interrupts him. "Okay, after class."

He doesn't try to kiss her, doesn't even reach for her hand. Apparently some big hissyfit coming up. She resists the urge to roll her eyes again.


The worst part is that it takes him so fucking long to spit it out. She has to listen to a longwinded and confusing speech about searching for a place in life and emotional compatibility and, quite possibly, sexual identity before it dawns on her that he's breaking up with her.

"--so, I just think we need to...ease up a little, and--" he mumbles.

"Stan," she says. He lifts his eyes and meets hers. He looks like shit. Must have been agonising over this for days. Jesus Christ. "Goodbye."


"I'm easing up. Goodbye."


"I'm busy."

He does leave, then, and when he practically runs out the door, she sees Casey in the hall outside. He probably heard everything.

It doesn't matter. Casey's the safest person in the world. People with no friends tell no secrets. "Hey," she says. He looks around, almost guiltily. "C'mere."

"I can't," he says quickly. He's already backing off. "I gotta go."

"Tell your shrink hi," she says and he glares at her with impotent frustration. She loves it when they can't think of a comeback. She smiles at him and he runs off.

Alone, she remembers that she's now boyfriend-less, and that is just not how it's supposed to be. Fucking Stan. She thinks about spreading some rumours. She thinks about hitting something, but her nails are perfect today.

She only has English class left and Miss Burke would never dare report her, so she walks down to her car and just leaves.


She hates all her clothes. This morning, she stood in her closet and loved them. The colour choices, the fabrics, the textures. Knowing that she looked good in them and that no one else in town has a pret-a-porter silk suit from Milan.

Now she looks at the rows of neatly hung shirts and skirts and tops and pants and thinks, they're not what I want.

Her mother is cooped up in her bedroom and no help at all. The house is slowly turning into a crypt - it'd be covered in filth if they didn't have Marisa, who comes twice a week and always shakes her head and clicks her tongue at the mess. She doesn't like Delilah: always a cold glare from the sharp, dark eyes.

Delilah cleans her own room, but the rest of the house isn't hers and she's not going to pick up after a grown woman like some sort of maid.

She only had Stan over on the days right after Marisa had cleaned. Now she wishes she'd never let him sleep in her bed. She takes down the photo she's dutifully kept on her dresser and puts it in a drawer in her bedside table.

She dresses in a white silk shirt and brown skirt. Camouflage colours. She takes off her earrings and the Dior necklace Stan gave her for her birthday and drops them in her drawer. "I'm going out," she says to the empty hall when she leaves.


Zeke's leaning against her car when she comes out of Claire's.

"I think I can live without your ass print on my hood," she says. He's smoking and not even looking at her.

"Shopping day?" he asks.

"Stalking day?" she snaps back and digs for her keys. There was something in his voice... He turns to her and meets her eyes, and she knows he knows. She freezes and he comes around the car; he moves quickly, and she wonders again why he never did any sports. Too busy peddling drugs and flipping off the system, probably.

He reaches for her and she can't help but flinch. He doesn't grab her, but instead snakes his hand into her coat pocket and fishes out the scarf and the earrings.

He holds them up. She snatches them back, and now he does grab her wrist. "So, is this a new hobby?"

"I bought them," she says, automatically, stupidly.

He smiles a slightly crooked smile and lets her go. Fishes a rumpled pack of Camels out of his jeans pocket. "Smoke?"

She glares at him. "My mother always told me not to accept things from junkies in the street," she says.

He holds up a hand. He's still smiling, unruffled. "Just being polite." He lights up and leans back against the car like he's got all day to stand here and annoy her.

He's fucking with her, he's so fucking with her. She entertains a little fantasy about digging her nails into his eye sockets. It was hot in Claire's, like they'd never heard about A/C. The dumpy girl at the register didn't even look at her when she walked out. Now the sun is beating down and her hair is sticking to the back of her neck.

She thinks, what is the dumbest thing I could possibly do today?

She waves her hand at the packet of smokes, and he raises an eyebrow but hands it over. She takes one and lights it. He drags on his, lets smoke run over his lips. He's standing too close. He's not making sense to her - his signals are twisted. If he's trying to pick her up, he's not sticking to the script, that's for sure.

She smokes and rubs her wrist. Zeke grabbed her pretty hard. Careless. Stan had a habit of stroking the skin on her chest - from her collar bone down between her breasts - with light fingertips, like she was made of something soft and tender, and he might leave marks. Worshipful. He got cranky if she bit his lip when they kissed.

She looks at Zeke's mouth. She's probably hallucinating already, but she imagines there's a little mark on it, like a fading bite mark. She imagines him biting his own lip. She imagines herself biting his lip.

The dumbest thing she could do. The very dumbest.

"You can buy me a cup of coffee," she says. He drops his cigarette and grinds it out.

"I'll do you one better - I'll make you coffee."

The very, very dumbest.

"Where's your car?"


He lets her bite his lip; he bites hers. When she lifts her arms, he pins them over her head. She bites his neck and he lets her go. She scratches his back.

She's left a mark on his neck, but there's another one there already - not entirely fresh. She runs her nail over it. "What's that?"

He touches it, smiles. "My mouse bit me."

"Yeah, right," she says, but he's bowing his head over her breast and the conversation is over.


"I'm gonna put on coffee," he says; he's got this post-sex nonchalance thing down pat. Stan was never good at that. He wanted to cuddle. Talk about his emotions. Delilah very rarely feels like talking about her emotions.

He gets up and pulls on a pair of jeans, and she lies back and watches his ass when he walks out. She's not exactly weak-kneed with awe, but pleasantly warm everywhere and her body feels used, but in a comfortable way. She expected to feel more...something - shame, maybe - about screwing someone like Zeke.

She slips out of bed and finds her skirt on the floor, her shirt thrown over a chair, her bra tangled in the sheet. Her panties are nowhere to be found, but she puts on the skirt anyway and goes exploring.

Zeke's house is bigger than she thought, almost as big as her mother's. The furniture is dated, but was probably top of the line when they bought it. She finds a bar cabinet with crystal carafes and rows of exquisitely wrought glasses. There's no booze there.

The master bedroom is wrapped in sheets, abandoned and untouched. Zeke's room was bare and Spartan; only the bed looked lived in, the bedsheets rumpled and soft with use.

The living room is a vast desert of tasteful beige and soft greens; no sign of life, and the remote control for the TV is dusty and forgotten on top of the speakers.

"Doesn't watch TV," she mutters to the CD shelf - The Beatles, The Doors, Sinatra, Goodman, Duke Ellington, Edith Piaf. Nothing recorded after 1970.

There's nothing interesting in the bathroom. Just a single toothbrush and a tube of Tom of Maine's toothpaste. The mirror cupboard is empty.

Does this guy even live here? Does anyone? She's almost convinced herself that he's really a homicidal squatter and she'll find the owners of the house stuffed in plastic bags in the next closet when she opens the basement door.

Here's the TV he uses, here's the stereo system with a CD tower and actual music actual people listen to; here's a big, ugly sofa and a coffee table covered with--

She looks and freezes.

"Fuck," she says, breathlessly, because this is the scoop, here's a secret you can fly high on. Photos, dozens of them; large, monochrome, tasteful matte. All of them of Zeke. She touches one gingerly: a close-up of his face twisted into an angry frown. They're good, but that's not what she's thinking about - even though there is something familiar about them, the way they're contrasted, the choice of angles. They're porn, most of them. Zeke standing in front of a mirror, gilded with light from an open door, naked and turned to the camera with a lazy smile on his face, his hand reached out and beckoning. Zeke lying on the bed she just left, his legs tangled in the sheet. Zeke looking into the camera, his hand curled around his cock.

She hears his footsteps on the stairs and jumps guiltily. The photos are lying on the fucking coffee table, though, and she's Delilah Profitt and she doesn't apologise.

"Quite a little vanity gallery you have here," she says when he's stopped in the door.

"They're not really mine," he says. He's still shirtless, carrying two cups of coffee.

"Yeah? But you posed for them." She runs her hand over the pictures and new ones show up. They're explicit, but too good to be really filthy.

"Everyone needs a hobby." He's grinning at her now, shameless.

"Yeah," she says, "like snowboarding or collecting stamps--"

"--shoplifting..." He hands her a cup. "That would be boring."

"Who took--" she starts, but he bends over her and sweeps the pictures aside, and she sees smaller ones under the pile, small colour ones, taken with a cheap compact camera, no doubt. A little blurry, some of them, sometimes overexposed.

"Oh my God." She never says that; but she's staring at Casey Connor. Casey fucking Connor curled up naked on a bed - on Zeke's bed, she realises, the one she just fucked on - naked and hugging himself. There are livid bruises on his arms and he's looking down, turning his face away. She knows it's him, though. She sees him every fucking day.

"He's more comfortable behind the camera," Zeke says in her ear, too close for comfort. He's still leaning over her. There's a picture of Casey standing by the same mirror as Zeke in the first picture she saw, but he's pressed against the glass, his hands awkward by his sides, his shoulders hunched. He looks two breaths from falling to his knees and begging to be let out.

"How--" she says, but it's pretty obvious. Pretty fucking obvious.

"Those are mine," he says. "I'm not much of a talent with the camera, though. Maybe he'll give me some pointers one day."

"But--" She can't seem to finish a sentence. The one-syllable words are pretty much what's there right now. There's a flare of heat in her stomach. She can't stop looking. Casey's scrawny and still almost childlike. Zeke's sleek and graceful and cocky. There are a few shots of Zeke that aren't smut; laughing, drinking coffee, watching TV. The pictures of Casey are like internet porn; cheap and tawdry and humiliating. She runs her fingers over the slick surface of one - narrow shoulders, small hands, skinny ass.

Zeke's breathing on her neck. "Your mouse," she says slowly. The heat's growing into a furnace. He's pressing lightly against her, his crotch barely touching her ass. She stares at the pictures. Her hands are braced on the table now, she's bent over and hot, and Casey and Zeke stare up at her with misery and smug satisfaction.

"My mouse," he says and his hand slides over her leg, pushes up her skirt. Yeah, she thinks. Right, this is right. Naked Casey under her hand, smudged with her fingerprints. Zeke's hand between her legs and she pushes back and gasps. She bows her head; her hair flutters over the pictures, covering legs and arms and cocks; dividing the bodies into parts. Casey has scratches on his chest, and she leans closer to look. His mouth is swollen and his lip split. Casey's always looked wounded to her, but she's never thought it was hot. Not that it is. Zeke twists his fingers deliciously and she thinks she whimpers. It is hot. She wants to press her hands against the bruises on Casey's arms.

When Zeke lines up and slides into her, she falls forward and leans her face against the photographs. They're cool against her flushed cheek, her blood-filled face.

The coffee cup, forgotten by her side, rattles and splashes scorching heat over her hand, all over the table. Zeke mutters something, but he doesn't stop.


He drives her back to her car. After he's gone, she sits in her car for ten minutes, staring at the pictures she's spread out on the passenger seat. She forgot to look for her panties, and she's sticky and fucking up her skirt. She can't believe she fucked Zeke Tyler, but here she is and here are the pictures. She had them under her shirt when she left the house; snatched them off the table when he wasn't looking. She got good ones, too: Zeke naked, touching himself, staring into the camera. She likes the angle: it's taken slightly from below. She can imagine Casey kneeling to take it. Casey naked, curled up and turning away. That one is even harder to believe.


She wakes from a dream starring Casey hanging upside down from a tree and Zeke naked and wild and dancing in a dark room. She never dreams, and she likes it that way.

She spends two hours in the bathroom perfecting her hair and makeup and decides to never think about it again.

The first thing she sees when she turns into the school parking lot is Zeke's dust-black GTO parked in her usual spot.

"Fucker," she says and parks next to it, blocking the driver's side door.


She breaks her own resolution immediately after lunch, because she sees Casey in the hall, trying to look inconspicuous. He's got his camera around his neck, and Delilah feels a flash of heat zip through her. She can't be blushing, no way, but she's hot and there's a dull ache spreading between her legs.

She thinks about going to the art supply room and stabbing herself in the eye with a pencil. Or stabbing Casey. With a pair of scissors. Slapping him at least, hard enough to bang his stupid head against the wall. Give him a pretty black eye and a fat lip.


She busies herself in her locker, pretends to look for something - she could have sworn she left her Estee Lauder lipliner in here - and curses her hot face and tightly twisting stomach.

She has the photo in her bag. Madness. It's stuck in a side compartment, next to the damn lipliner. She can't help seeing it.

She looks up and there's Zeke, throwing a casual glance in her direction. Casey's still where he was. People mill here and there, people say hi to her, ask her things.

There's a little bubble of peace around Zeke. No one bothers him. Casey has no bubble; he gets pushed and nudged, even though he's already pressed against the wall. She imagines their bags and careless fingers hitting his bruises and scratches. She imagines doing that herself, grabbing his upper arm and watching him wince.

Zeke's watching Casey. Casey's staring at the floor, but Delilah is pretty sure he's sneaking furtive glances. She's just not sure who he's looking at.

She turns away resolutely. She almost wishes she had Stan back so she could find him and rip him a new asshole as a distraction. He always forgave her for things like that. She only had to suggest PMS and he'd be meek as a lamb.

It's time to bow out of this mess. She knows she's being played. She's just not entirely sure by whom.


Then Casey's in the darkroom after class, bent over some prints, and she can't stop herself. She studiously thought about other things during class, busied herself with her real life, her real problems and her real friends, rather than those losers she'd never have anything in common with.

She wouldn't have thought they'd have anything in common, either.

Casey doesn't notice her, and she stands in the door for a while. He's always been around. She remembers him from the first day of school, a tiny little kid who cried when his mom left him at the gate, and that was it for him. She's never found out a single interesting thing about him before. Clearly, she's not been looking in the right places.

"You know what I like?" she says before she's even really decided to say anything. He jumps and drops a couple rolls of film on the floor. They skitter and roll over the tiles and disappear under the desk.

When the clatter has died down, Casey's staring at her with a strangely level gaze; an expression she doesn't entirely like. There's a twist to his mouth that's almost contemptuous.

She must be projecting. This is Casey, for fuck's sake. Hidden depths, sure, but there's a limit to how much a person can hide.

"Bossing people around?" he ventures, and maybe she isn't projecting, after all. When did he grow a backbone?

The thought follows: what did Zeke do to him?

"You know me too well," she says and takes the two steps that separate them. Her heels click loudly on the floor, and he shuffles a step backwards and hits the wall. She leans in a little and now his expression is that familiar deer-in-headlights wide-eyed stare. "I like knowing things," she says, keeping her voice soft. "About people."

She leans closer. She can't hear him breathing, so he must have stopped. "I know something about you."

He smells different - she ignores the fact that she somehow knows what he usually smells like - different, yet familiar. Zeke, she thinks, he's wearing the same cologne. The thought gives her a zing of cold shivers that make her back tingle. She slips her hand in her purse and fishes out one of the photos. She can already tell the difference by touch alone: the one of Casey is printed on thinner, glossier paper, not the expensive and heavy matte paper of the monochrome shots.

She takes his hand - it's tiny and cold, almost a child's hand and that gives her another thrill - and puts the photograph in it.

"What is it?" he asks, a little out of breath.

"Look at it," she whispers. A smile's grown on her face and won't leave. It's probably not a very pleasant one. Casey looks down and Delilah waits.

He's completely still, so still it's like he's frozen from the inside. Then he starts shaking; she can see it start in his hands and travel up his arms and down his sides.

"Wh--" he says, swallows with a wince and tries again. "Where did you get this?"

She's never thought he was interesting before, never. It's a whole new world in here. It's almost as if he's suddenly become transparent and she can see some sort of alien life inside him. Things she didn't know about. She takes his hand again and the photo drops to the floor. "Does it matter?" she says. "I have it."

She puts his hand on her leg, pushes it up over her thighs. His fingers curl around the lower line of her panties, probably a reflex. He's breathing faster already, small hitched breaths. How long has he been following her around like an eager little puppy? How can he be her puppy and Zeke's mouse at the same time? She moves against his hand and he closes his eyes. His hand slides between her thighs and she knows he can feel that she's wet. She leans closer and whispers right in his ear, "Give my love to Zeke."

She's always known how to make the perfect exit.