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Title: Jane
Series: unfinished
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3836
Summary: Social insecurity at an all-women college. Not actually autobiographical.
Notes: The part where they originally met Ilse was written but never typed. The part where Ira and Jane met Sophy was typed but it's fucking incoherent. The only real context you need is that Ira and Jane were best friends-since-forever; Ira originally found Sophy hopelessly irritating; Jane thought it was funny; Jane somehow social engineered Sophy and Ira into going to the same university as her and becoming friends. Ilse is a year older and yelled at Jane for doing something bad in a dark room when she was a freshman. Two years later, Ilse faints on Jane in the night. They are reincarnated something-or-others who would eventually have either saved the world or become rock stars. I can't remember which. Also, I was experimenting with dialog so they talk kind of funny. It was worse before.

“It's not that I think they're malicious or anything,” Jane said to Ilse's ceiling. “It's just – I'm the whole reason they're friends, ya know? T'weren't for me, Ira'd still be baring her teeth at the thought of Sophy.”


Ilse watched Jane with equal parts bemusement and affection. They'd know each other for three days, with the grand sum of their acquaintance being the evening Ilse had collapsed on her doorstep, two shared meals, and a confrontation Ilse had no memory of from a year and a half before. She marveled that it had felt entirely naturally to wander back to her room at midnight-thirty to find Jane pouting up at her from her position lounging dramatically against the locked door. When Ilse let her in, her sprawl filled the empty space on the rug rather perfectly. Ilse wondered, with less irony than she would have liked, whether this was what it was like to have a friend.

She snorted and Jane looked back at her, curious. Ilse shook her head and waved a hand.

“Go on,” she said. “S'just somethin' in my head.”

Jane stared for a moment longer and Ilse made a show of settling more comfortably against the side of her bed, crossing her ankles near beside Jane's head, the very image of polite attention.

“They kicked me out of my own damned room, tonight,” Jane said, sulkily, after a staring contest of a moment. “I got back after class and Ira barely let me put my bag down before she was chasing me out.”

“What were they doing?” Ilse asked.

“Dunno.” She rolled onto her stomach, inadvertently nudging Ilse's foot with her head. She sat half-up and looked at Ilse, resting her chin on her fist. “Fucking around with the keyboard. Getting high, maybe. Who knows?”

Jane's hair had fallen back when she laid on the floor and sitting up caused it to tumble forward, onto her forehead, into her eyes. She didn't seem to notice and Ilse was charmed. Smirking faintly, she looked down at her own ragged fingernails.

“They could just be sleeping together, you know. Not telling you for fear you'd want in.”

Jane stared. Ilse looked at her through her fringe, one eyebrow arching. In an instant, they'd dissolved into giggled.

“They might be, though,” Jane said, a while later.

Jane had returned to her sprawl, this time with Ilse at her side, facing the other way, her eyes roughly level with Jane's knees.

“Hm, what?” Ilse asked. “Fucking?”

“Might be,” said Jane.

“Aye, they might. That's why I said. . .” She shifted as her skin began to bunch. “You think they are?”

There was a pause. And then a sigh.

“I don't know, Ilse. Maybe. Though I'd like to think they'd tell me about it. Just and FYI, ya know. To whom it may concern: Persons known as Sophia Loeman and Ira Montenette have become involved in a sexual and/or romantic relationship. Fornication has resulted. Complaints should be filed rectally. Thbbbt.”

Ilse once against dissolved into giggles. Jane punched her leg gently.

“Well, that's how it'd be,” she said. “You know them two, don't give a shit what I think.”

“Not really.” Ilse pressed her fingers over her lips as if to physically stem the tide of mirth coming from down deep within her. She was never like this – was she? Or had she just never really had the chance to find out?

“I just met you guys Sunday. So I don't really know what any of you are like.”

“Huh.” Jane sounded faintly mystified. “Feels like – that's true. Just feels like I've known you forever.”

“Well, Mama always said I just got one'a those faces,” Ilse deadpanned. She fiddled with one of the three rings in her left eyebrow.

“Except – you don't.” Jane propped herself up on one elbow to get a good look at Ilse. “Not at all, really.”

Her hand dropped back to her side. “That would explain why my mother never actually said anything of the sort,” she said.

Jane snorted and held out the free hand nearest Ilse.

“Hand?” she said.

Ilse took it and they pulled up each other up, strength against strength, weight against weight. Balanced. Natural. They found they couldn't meet each other's eyes and spent a moment staring instead off into space, into the corners of the dorm room. Jane had never been there before, but with Ilse at her side it felt almost familiar. Almost like she belonged there. She tried hard to remember that they were only the next thing to strangers but the feeling had slipped away like marbles slick with Canola oil her mother had told her to put the lid back on, a lifetime ago, but had she listened? No, she never listened. She still didn't listen.

It's a curious thing, memory, to bring that back now, when it happened so long ago, so very long ago, back when her mother was still around to shout, when her father still had the will to smile, when she'd had a brother who was interested in speaking with her. Before the accident, before the move. Before she met Ira, and before Ira met Sophy. Before the arguments and the trickery and the strange chain of events and impulses that led to Ira and Sophy and John Crowley University and that night under the Spanish House porch, only three days past, and Ilse being right there, unknown and yet near enough to touch. She was still near enough to touch. But who was she?

Ilse cleared her throat, sudden and awkward, and Jane jumped.

Shouldn't have brought it up, was what Ilse thought.

What she said was, “You staying the night?” She eyed the clock. “Such as it is?”

“Whassa time?” Jane looked as well. “Aw, hell.” It was past three, well on the way to four. “No point in going back, now. If you'll have me?” She looked sideways at her.

“Why not?” Ilse said and climbed to her feet. “You're already taken over the better part of my evening. ” She crossed to the closet and opened it with a sharp tug that startled Jane but was purely necessity. “Don't suppose you've brought anything along and I just haven't noticed?”

“Not a thing,” Jane replied, “but for me and my parka.” She watched in mild bemusement as Ilse pulled down an air mattress and quilt. “And what ever's in my pockets, like. Need to declare them?”

“Nah, that's fine. I just ask that if it's anything dangerous, you take the blame.”

“But of course. What've you got them for?”

“Prospies.” She turned and gestured faintly with her laden arms. “Move, please.”

Jane scrambled to obey, and sat primly on the edge of the bed as Ilse sorted the mattress out. She wondered if she ought to offer help, but by the time she'd finished thinking about it, Ilse was plugging in the air pump.

“Quilt's mine,” she said. “This noise will suck.” The noise did suck, and she talked over it. “Mattress is their's. Gave me it and the room when I agreed to host.” There was a pause filled with furious screechings from the surprisingly efficient pump and then she turned it off.

“No one but the firsties want to, for some reason,” she said, and went to store it. “They're gagging for people with actual majors to help.”

She tossed on the quilt and one of her dozen or so pillows and then flopping down beside Jane.

“S'not hard, really. Most of em' are too terrified to be any trouble.”

Jane looked at her, reclining there with her eyes on the ceiling, lamplight reflecting off her piercings.

“Maybe it's the rings,” she said.

“Hm?” This time her hand went to the hoop in her right eyebrow. “These? Nah, they just think all college students are dead terrifying. That we're all old and sophisticated, with livers of steel and brains the size of planets. They were scared of my freshman roommate, and she was – hell. She was fuckin' adorable. Know Rory Nishsky?”

“Hell,” Jane said, and lay back. Rory was adorable.

“Yeah,” Ilse said. “Scared of everything.” She moved on to touch her earrings, three or four in right, slightly more in left spread out along the cartilage. “These are just a conversation piece.”

“Yeah?” Jane turned on her side and looked at Ilse's profile; soft and pale, undefined cheekbones, full lips, and a thousand dollars worth of metal in her face. None her lip, though, and no nose ring either. Jane decided to ask about it, some time. No need to, now; she was sure they would have time.

When she reached out to touch the red hoop going through her cartilage, Ilse didn't object.

“Why'd you start them?” she asked.

“Bored.” Ilse paused, half-cringed, and backtracked with an irate shrug. “Why does anyone do anything? I had money to burn and spent it on myself.” She didn't touch the fourth piercing in her right lobe. “Still am, too.” She looked at Jane, after a long moment and a sigh, meeting her eyes with her own half-lidded and sleepy.

“Why didn't you?”

Jane didn't have any holes nature hadn't given her.

“I dunno,” she said. “Never seemed important. And I pretty much like my skin the way it is. You got any tattoos?”

“Not yet. How bout Sophy and Ira? They the piercing type?”

Jane shrugged and lay back down, head on her arm, still facing Ilse. Ilse's eyes drifted back to the ceiling.

“Soph's got a rose on her back. Couple of holes in her ears. Industrial. And Ira's got her ears and that's about it. Been makin' noise about gettin' her lip done.”

“Scar like a bitch,” Ilse observed. “And they make bad habits. Can't leave the fuckers alone.” She sighed. “But she should go for it, you know? You're only stupid once.”

Jane laughed, soft like.

“I'll tell her you said so,” she said.

“I'm sure she'll give a shit.”

Take the advice of the crazy bitch who fainted all over her roommate, she didn't say. Jane heard her anyway, smiled, and was disturbed.

“You good for bed, now?” Ilse asked, when time had gone by. It was past four. “Got class in the morning?”

Jane smirked. “You're the host.”

Ilse closed her eyes and smiled back.

“I could sleep,” she said. “Or I could stay up. You need to sleep?”

“Not as a rule.” She closed her eyes.

“You got class?”

“At nine.”

“And do you need to sleep before it?”

Jane considered.

“Need is a strong word.” A giggle came from less than a foot away. “I should,” she said.

Ilse grinned.

“You're good for bed, then.” She bridged the gap between them and nudged. “Move,” she said. “You're down there.”

“Don't wanna,” Jane said, burrowing. “M' comfy here.”

Ilse giggled and pushed her. Jane pushed back. It was nearly five when they got to bed.

And so it was that when they needed a fourth for poker several weeks later, Jane didn't even think before she said, “How bout' Ilse?”

It took Ira a moment to think.

“Crazy fainting girl?” she asked, recalling what Sophy had called her. “With the eyebrows?”

It was late afternoon and they were in their room, sitting on Jane's bed, parallel to the long wall not covered with dressers. Ira was close, one leg folded up, facing Jane, but Jane was looking toward the other wall, and she didn't have to meet Ira's eyes when they talked.

“She's not crazy,” Jane said.

“All right,” Ira said. “She's not crazy. The not crazy fainting girl with the eyebrows.”

“They're called piercings, Ira. You've got a few yourself.”

The new lip ring still had a tenancy to bleed and when Ira licked it it looked obscene. From the way she stared, obscene was just fine with Sophy. Jane thought that maybe she and Ilsa hadn't been wrong – maybe they were sleeping together. She wasn't sure she really wanted to know if that was the case.

“No need to get so defensive, love,” Ira said. “Why would Miss Ilse want to play with us? We've only met her once.”

Jane realized that Ira and Sophy had no idea where she'd gone off to the nights they'd run her out. And so they had no way of knowing how she and Ilse had bonded, hanging out in what had once been her private library time, texting each other movie quotes and stupid trivia, eating eggs and hashbrowns from Waffle House at three AM on two separate occasions. Jane thought of it and wondered it she was losing them and felt a little hollow inside.

“No – er – Not exactly.” She lay a hand against her belly. “I've hung out with her a few times, actually.”

She remembered looking Ilse in the eye and thinking that they had time. She wondered if what she told Ira was a lie.

“Ilse screaming at you to get out of her photo lab doesn't count as hanging out, Janie,” Ira said, and the part of Jane that liked to be right smirked.

“No,” she said. “I've seen her. I stayed over with her while you and Sophy were hanging out.”


Here we go. Jane sighed and closer her eyes. She wished Ilse were with her and wondered why she should comfort her so much, why she should need comfort against her oldest friend's possessiveness.

“Three or four days, you and Sophs have been in here,” she said. “Doing something. You told me to get out. I went and stayed at Ilse's place.”

Ira stared.

“And Ilse let you?” she asked.

“No,” Jane said. “I forced my way in. At knife point.”

Ira giggled a bit, embarrassed, and pressed her fingers to her mouth. Jane found the gesture achingly familiar and wondered how it was that they both did it, how it was she hadn't realized it before. Ira nudged her new lip ring, and cussed, and Jane felt herself smirking.

“Sorry,” Ira said. “I didn't mean – Christ, Janie. You – you could've come back. We were just – ” She looked away. “Just – It doesn't really matter, but we just needed a couple of minutes alone. I didn't mean you had to stay gone.”

Jane shrugged, directing her gaze further away.

“You said 'fuck off',” she replied. “So I did. You never said how long or anything so I just stayed gone. S' not a big deal,” she said, even if it kind of was. “And, anyway, what's it matter? You didn't even notice I was gone.”


“Ira.” Jane turned and looked at her. “You just said you didn't realize I was gone.”

Ira jumped. “Oh! Well.” She frowned. “We ended up back at Sophy's one night, and then – Well, shit, Janie, I don't know. You never said anything.”

“Like what?” Jan shook her head and looked back at the wardrobe. “Hey, Ira, I know I forced ya'll into friendship, and I know the roommate contract said I'll get out if you need it, but how's about we disregard both of those 'cause I'm feeling neglected and being forced to seek solace in the air mattress of crazy eyebrow girl?” Which really made it sound as if she minded seeking solace with crazy eyebrow girl, but what the hell?

Ira stared at her in horror.

“You feel neglected, Janie?”

Jane focused on the bookshelf, uncomfortably aware that she had said too much.

“Well,” she said, “Let's see. Two of my best friends are hanging out. They happen to be in my room hanging out. I walk in on my two friends in my room hanging out and am told by one of them to get the fuck out while the other giggles smugly into her sleeve. Neglected might just be a soft word.”

Ira needed to get that staring thing looked at. Or enter it in a contest.

“Who was giggling smugly?” she asked.

“That was Sophy,” Jane said. “Just the once. But still.”

“Oh.” Ira paused and stared a little more, somewhere around Jane's clavicle. Jane studiously continued to look at everything except Ira. They did have a lot of shit in here, didn't they? And how much of it was Sophy's?

“Well,” Ira said, slipping into her 'in control' voice, the one she only used when she was pretty sure she wasn't. “You should've – ”

Jane was kind of tired of Ira telling her what she should've done.

“Should've what, Ira?” she asked. “How would you have felt?”

And, miracle of miracles, Ira was silent. For all of a moment.

“Probably the same as you,” she said. And then, “Though I might've handled it worse. You want Ilse for our fourth?”

Jane finally looked at her, giggling a little.

“Yes, please,” she said.

Ira nodded sagely.

“I think that can be arranged,” she said. “Feet now?”

Jane looked at her, startled, and was momentarily unable to speak. Ira's mouth began to twitch into her smuggest smile. It was an impressive amount of smugness, maybe the most that had ever been gathered in one place.

“Yes, please,” Jane said.

When Sophy arrived, she was pleased to find them thus: Jane on her back, with Ira rubbing her feet, smiles on both their faces.

“What's all this, then?” Sophy asked, and Ira grinned at her.

“Little Janie's been feeling neglected,” she said. “Thought I'd show her some love to prove she's not.”

Jane, though drifting in bliss, her whole being focused on her instep, was aware enough to snort.

Sophy smiled.

“That's all right, then,” she said, and pulled the cards from a pocket half-way down her pants. “Have we got a fourth?”

“We have,” Ira said. “Recall Ilse? Who is, as Jane has repeatedly assured me, not crazy, but is in possession of very memorable eyebrows?

“Fainting photography girl?” Sophy asked. She hopped up and sat on Ira's bed. “Not crazy, huh? Okay. She's playing?”

“She is. Janie just called her a half hour ago. She should be by soon.”

“Are we playing here, then?”

“We're here already. Why not?”

Sophy shrugged.

“All right,” she said. A slow smile curled about her lips, cool and with a distinct aura of menace. Very Sophy. “And what's ickle Janie feeling neglected about?”

Just as Ira was opening her mouth to a question she could give no answer for – the truth was often just not an option when it came to Sophy and evil moods – salvation came, as it often would, in the form of Ilse.

She didn't bother to knock on the half-ajar door to Jane and Ira's room – just tipped it open with one finger and looked inside.

“Lo',” she said.

Jane shifted and resurfaced at the sound of her voice, but found she was too relaxed to move. Ira assumed, quite rightly, that she'd missed Sophy's final question entirely. Speaking to Sophy was often an inquisition.

“Ilse,” Jane said, happily. “Hey. You remember Ira and Sophy, yeah?”

“Vividly.” It might have been an insult but she smiled while she said it. Ira smiled back.

“Nice to see you again, Ilse,” she said, and shifted around so she wasn't talking over her shoulder. The move also served to settle Jane's feet more securely in her lap and she held them firmly as she spoke. “Janie was just telling me how you guys hit if off before.”

“Was she?” Sophy asked.

“Before you got here, love.” Ira didn't look away from Ilse.

Jane cracked a smile and attempted to hide it by turning her face to the wall. Sophy made no such prudent move, and watched, openly amused.

“Was she now?” Ilse kept her face carefully neutral.

“She was,” Ira said. “I didn't – and Sophy, obviously, still doesn't – realize exactly how much time you had been spending together. Jane evidently did not see fit to tell us – me – until now.”

Sophy, now bemused, looked past Ira to Jane who was making a heroic effort to contain her laughter.

“Not surprising, really,” Ilse said. “I wouldn't splash around hanging out with me, that's for sure.”

She smirked as Jane finally dissolved into giggles and Sophy snorted as Ira's lips finally began to twitch. Ilse shut the door.

“Holy Christ, Monty, why don't you just pee on her and get it over with?” Sophy demanded.

“It would certainly have added a refreshing note of subtlety to that display,” Jane said, still giggling into her pillow.

Ira had the good grace to be embarrassed. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I know. I know. Sorry. Sorry Ilse. Sorry, Jane.”

“You fine, Ira,” Jane said. “Nuts, but fine. Holy hell.”

She met her eyes and they grinned.

Ilse, laughing still laughing softly to herself, had fetched one of the desk chairs – Ira's – and dragged it into the middle of the room.

“I'd just like to state,” she said, dropping into it backwards, “for the record, that I have no intention of spiriting, stealing, or otherwise removing Jane from your custody. As long as you treat her nice, that is.”

Jane laughed.

“Treat me nice?” she asked. “Hell, Ilse, in that case I'll just get my shoes, and you can make with the spiriting.”

She made as if to rise and Ira promptly tackled her.

“Don't listen to her, darlin',” Sophy said, as they watched Ira attempt to control Jane's thrashing. “She's never had it so good.”

“I was rubbing her feet!” Ira agreed, and then collapsed into shrieks as Jane's hands went, with unerring accuracy, to that spot above her hip that no one else could ever seem to locate. Ira aimed a retaliatory attack at Jane's sensitive neck and battle, most enjoyable, was joined.

In these moments when coherency was a sign of weakness, Ilse and Sophy's eyes connected. They did, too. And smiled.


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