I Once Loved Jake: He Was Different
Everything was different when I first met Jake. Most of all he was different, or at least I thought he was. Because I came to know him as a gentleman, a gentle, caring person who loved me when no one else would. When no one else could, or so he told me. I believed every word.
I arrived to Avelyon High with my heart in the pit of my stomach. Not only was the school large, much more so than any three buildings in my small hometown, but it overlooked Avelyon itself, sprawling below the hill where the old Tragash hold had been converted into a mixed-race boarding school.
It didn’t help that I’d fought with my parents the morning before I left. Not that us having disagreements was, or is, anything out of the usual; they are so proud to have had a kit capable of using magic that they never really stopped to ask whether that was what I wanted to do with my life. Of course they would be upset when they found out I was planning on majoring in Maths.
Neither did it help that I was, and still am, heavy by stardust fox standards. Most people have never seen a raev whose build doesn’t, in bipedal shape, more resemble a faerie’s than a human’s. Even fewer, probably, have seen a raev with a figure that in a human would politely be described as full-figured. I fancied, as I stood in line to register along with with Uwghlock only knows how many other students, that many of them were looking at me. And not in an appreciative manner. Looking back, I don’t really know if that was the case; I certainly didn’t hear any commentary, but I wasn’t very accustomed to my shape, then, and somewhat self-conscious.
My roommate, that first year, was three-quarters faerie, which didn’t help matters any. True, she looked significantly more faerie than raev, but I still found myself comparing my own body to hers, and felt like I was the one who had been stretched out in a fun house mirror. I wasn’t the only one, either. Ñyli’zohnana, being the kind of girl that seems to always manage to get instantly popular, quite often openly compared herself to me, and the nickname “Heavypaws” didn’t take long to stick with her.
Classes were probably okay, cafeteria food was at least this side of edible even if not by much, and aside from my roommate nobody really bothered me, even if people didn’t notice me, either. Especially not the kind of people I’d have liked to notice me; I might not have been very experienced, but one of the draws of going so far away for school was that I’d be able to, maybe, see someone without Mother figuratively breathing down my neck.
As okay as things were, I was lonely, and probably more than a little bit frustrated. When, as I was choking down what passed for lunch in the cafeteria, a rather handsome-looking human youth carried his tray over and asked if the seat across from mine was free, I was more than willing to take whatever crumbs of kindness he might throw my way.
“I can’t believe I’ve not seen you before,” he said, smiling at me. When Jake wants to be, he can be simply charming, and he was laying it on thick that day. That’s what he does, I’ve since learned.
Whatever I replied, it wasn’t very clear; I was flustered by suddenly having this conventionally-handsome boy paying attention to me. I’m not sure I would’ve really noticed him in a crowd, or at least not in that way, but I could recognize that someone for whom human was more of a norm, he’d probably be quite a catch. And he was paying attention to me?
We ended up talking long past the point where both of us had finished our food, and he managed to get me to relax a little. It was still too good to be true, but I managed to answer in complete sentences, and my tails were wagging on their own accord in response to not so much his words as his attention. When he asked to see me to my next class, I was walking on clouds. When he dropped me off there, kissed the back of my hand and asked if he could treat me to something in one of the cafés in town some time, I was euphoric.
My roommate, once she found out, was jealous. She had every reason to be, at least the first few months, when everything was perfect. Jake was handsome to the point of inspiring quite a bit of envy, something I would later come to realize he was very much aware of, but at the time I drank it right up like a fine wine. For a time, I could pretend not to hear the whispers, when some of the less gracious people who had previously not noticed me suddenly came to realize what a thoroughly undeserving girl Jake had taken for his. I was too busy basking in what I thought was his love.
He was understanding, supporting me when I said I wanted to rework my study plan to include fewer subjects related to magic. Being a raev I couldn’t get out of all of them, of course, but Jake and I spent a few fairly late nights working out how I might be able to squeeze in more maths and statistics at the expense of my further magical training, taking frequent breaks for tender kisses, soft caresses and sweet whispered words. When he suggested that I also drop the self defense class I’d put into my original plans more or less on a whim, I was too blinded by his shining armor to realize he had anything but my best interests in mind.
I wasn’t sure I liked some of the rumors I heard about him – it sounded like he’d partied a bit too much and been a little too undiscriminatory in his choice of partners in his freshman year – but I told myself that people change. After all, I never saw him drunk or high, and I never scented another girl on him. No, so much of our shared free time was spent together, and he pampered me to such a degree, that I got the feeling that I was the center of his universe. I’d been so insecure, that his attention made me feel like a queen.
Our first date was just as picture-perfect as everything else about our relationship those first few months. He brought me into Avelyon, to a small two-story café which probably had at least as much floor space on its balcony as it did inside. And we sat there, by the wrought-iron railing, overlooking the river, sharing a large slice of starflower-and-strawberry cheesecake, most of which I ate by virtue of Jake bringing his fork to my mouth at least as often as to his own. I was a little flustered, but in a nice way. It was just unfamiliar to have someone pay that much attention to me for no apparent reason.
Of course I’d agree to be Jake’s girl after that kind of treatment. Of course I’d wag my tails and lean my cheek against his shoulder as he paraded me around campus, both my hands on his offered arm. I’d been new and insecure and here was someone who swore he loved me, who lavished me with attention and compliments at any chance. Someone who, I thought, truly understood me; I didn’t know then that encouraging my disinclination for magic studies just happened to suit his purposes especially well. I just knew that here was someone who agreed with me, after my parents hadn’t.
No, Jake had snared me by throwing me gilded crumbs. Nothing he did, I realize now, really proved anything but that he knew how to make a girl feel like they were the only one for him. I was too happy about having someone pay attention to me that I didn’t notice the gradual changes in how he complimented me, I just absorbed it like the naïve young vixen I was.
I was, I realize now, many things.
But I don’t think I ever was his partner, and I know that I never had a chance. The trap was simply laid too well; a seasoned hound toying with a yearling kit, letting it think it’s outwitting the hunter.
It wasn’t the first time for him.
It was merely the first time he took the next step.