Excerpts from “The Study Room”:
“You wouldn’t recognize me,” Heather said when I asked her what it was like when she had sex with a woman.
I didn’t know she meant. We’d been in law school together for almost two years, study partners for half of that and lovers for several months when I asked the question. Heather was always very open about sex. I knew about her past and her relationships with women. I knew about her childhood, which had been full of horrible, frightening stuff. I knew Heather as well as I’d known any woman in my life,and I was deeply in love with her. But I couldn’t figure out what she meant by, “You wouldn’t recognize me.”
I found out three weeks later, on the night we met Ana in a study room at UCLA.
Heather was a fascinating combination of fear and confidence. She had been terribly mistreated as a child, told over and over by her parents that she was incompetent, even stupid. Self-doubt and worthlessness had been pounded into her. When she became a teenager something, or someone, helped her find her confidence. It was strong and she used it to build up all the other areas of her life. But that confidence was fully, solely rooted in her sexuality. Now, as an adult, she was at conflict within herself. It was an internal fight between the fearful, self-loathing little girl and the fiercely confident sexual young woman. I had learned over the course of the few months we’d been together that, in the end, the fiercely confident woman always won out.
I crossed the large garden in front of the building to an area away from the other students. I sat down on a single wooden bench, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. There was a strong fragrance from the dense honeysuckle vines surrounding me.
"You're girlfriend is beautiful."
There was a slight Spanish accent to the woman’s voice, although I couldn’t place it at first. I opened my eyes to find Ana standing in front of me.
"She's not my girlfriend," I replied.
"You're joking, aren't you?"
"No. We're in law school together. We're just study partners."
"I don’t think so.”
"Why do you say that?"
Ana dropped down onto the far end of the bench. "I watched the two of you come in. I saw the way she looked at you, the way she moved around you. It was also in her body language after you left, the way she put her feet up on your seat like she wanted to hold onto a part of you. And mark her territory. She was letting everyone there know you belonged to her."
We suddenly realized the splashing had stopped. Heather wrapped her arm around my waste, pulled me tight and stroked her leg against mine.
We watched Ana slowly make her way back to the cottage. She picked up her clothes when she reached the patio, tiptoed quietly to the glass door and peeked through.
"Can I come in?"
"Sure," Heather said. "Let me get you a towel. How was your swim?"
"It was great. How was your..." Ana's voice trailed off.
Heather laughed. "We were just about to join you. We weren't doing anything," she said and turned toward the hallway. As she passed me, she added, just loud enough for me to hear, "We were waiting for you."
[Heather] gazed up at me and grinned, then turned toward Ana. There was a tiny pause, not more than a couple of seconds, when everything was perfectly still. Heather let out a nervous giggle which caused Ana and me to laugh. Heather turned beet red from her forehead to the top of her shoulders. She leered at Ana. “Hey, what are you lookin’ at?” she asked, snapping the words out. Playful and nasty.
Ana snapped right back. “A cute blonde giving her boyfriend head, that’s what I’m lookin’ at.”
Heather jumped up, grabbed Ana’s arm and yanked her to her feet. “He’s not my boyfriend,” she said as she wrapped her arms around Ana’s shoulders and kissed her.