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HUGE PLAYERS: Chapter 22


There’s something going on at school. Something strange.

As I walk down the hallway to my first class, I catch someone pointing and whispering. As I settle in for the lecture, I see it again. Twice. I shake my head, telling myself that I’m being paranoid. Maybe it wasn’t me and they were talking about someone behind me. I glance over my shoulder and find a very petite blonde with librarian-style glasses and a twinset with pearls. She looks as though she’s planning to audition for Stepford Wives later on. Definitely not gossip worthy, unless looks really are deceiving.

I get through the lecture, trying to concentrate but struggling. At the end, I go to meet Hannah and Millie for lunch. They’re sitting at our usual table and I wave as I hurry to grab a sandwich and fruit from the counter.

“I am ravenous,” I say, taking a seat on the bench next to Millie.

A look passes between her and Hannah, as though they’re trying to communicate something without words. Behind Hannah is a group of boys who are deep in discussion. Two, who are sitting with their backs to us, suddenly turn around to look at me. I don’t miss the smirks on the faces of the others at the table. There’s even a snicker or two.

“Maisie,” Millie says, taking my hand. “Do you know?”

“Know what?” I stop unwrapping my sandwich and wipe my hands on a napkin.

“They’re talking about you. About what happened last night?”

I frown, looking back to the boys who are obviously still talking about me. “What happened last night?” I ask.

“You…they’re saying you…slept with your stepbrother.”

My heart seems to stop beating, my lungs stop rising and falling, my mind fractures so completely that everything around me dulls to a murmur.

Hannah’s hand takes hold of mine from across the table and the contact jolts me back to reality. She leans in closer. “Is what they’re saying true?” Her voice is barely a whisper but I can see others around us go silent in an attempt to listen to our conversation.

“I can’t be here,” I say, scrambling up from the bench, grabbing my food and stuffing it into my bag. Millie and Hannah do the same and their footsteps ring behind me as I dash from the lunchroom. Outside, where the warmth of the sunshine licks at my cold skin, Hannah grabs my arm to slow me.

“Maisie, wait.”

“I…I…”

“Hey, it’s okay.” Millie puts her hand around my shoulder. “These assholes, they’re all fucking every hole they can find and they want to talk about other people. If you were a boy, this wouldn’t even be mention-worthy.”

“Oh God.” I bury my face in my hands.

“It’s true, then,” Hannah asks.

I don’t want to admit it but these are my friends and I trust them not to share any of the details.

“Yes, but I don’t know how anyone knows. We were discreet.”

“There’s…apparently there’s a video,” Hannah says, her blue eyes filled with concern that makes me want to cry.

“A video.” How is that even possible? The door was closed.

“We haven’t seen it, but…”

“Do you know someone who has?” Millie nods, her blonde curls bouncing. “A girl in our morning lecture. We can call her.”

There’s a part of me that doesn’t want this confirmed. A part that wants to sweep everything that is happening right now under the carpet and not think about it again, ever. I know that’s not going to be possible, but it doesn’t stop my mind rushing through ways to go back in time and change what happened.

Burying the truth, even if it was possible, is never something that works for very long. The truth, like a bubble in a pond, tends to find its way to the surface.

“Can you call her? I need to see it.”

Millie nods and pulls out her cell phone. “Bridgit, it’s Millie. Look, I know you don’t want to forward the video, but can I meet you to see it?” She pauses and I can hear the girl at the other end of the phone talking. “Okay. We’ll come there now.”

“She’s at Coffee Club. She told me she’d meet us around the side in five minutes.”

The walk across campus feels like the longest five minutes of my life. The only word that my head seems to be able to process is “shit,” over and over again. There’s a miniscule glimmer of hope that this might just all be a hoax. Maybe, there’s a video of someone that just looks like me and everyone has gotten confused. Mistaken identity could be an explanation for all of this crazy.

Bridgit is where she said, standing with a takeaway cup of coffee and her phone in her hand. Her face is as grave as my friends’. “I just want you to know that I didn’t ask to be sent this,” she says to me. “I fucking hate this shit…fucking cell phones are such a breach of privacy.”

I nod, appreciative of the fact that she’s not reveling in being the center of the gossip-mill.

She presses the screen of her phone a few times and then hands it to me.

My heart feels like it falls from the top of a skyscraper. It’s me in the video. You can’t see my face, but my auburn long hair is so distinctive and the clothes are the ones I was wearing yesterday. I can hear the TV show that was on in Jameson’s room last night and the sounds we made while I was riding him make my face burn with shame.

“Does my pussy feel like you imagined it would?”

“Better, faster…”

“Maisie.”

“Jameson.”

Our words are all anyone needs to know exactly who it is in the video.

My hand goes to my mouth, and Hannah’s hand rests on my shoulder. I feel as though I’m going to drop to the floor, my knees trembling with shock.

“Who sent you this?” I ask.

“I’ve been sent it three times,” Bridgit says. “It’s doing the rounds.”

“Do you know who recorded it?”

She shakes her head and I want to take the phone and smash it against the bricks behind her until it’s a shattered mess of glass and metal and my knuckles are bloody and raw.

As though she can tell what I’m thinking, she gently takes her phone. “I’m going to delete it now. All three copies. I don’t agree with this shit…not at all.”

“Are you okay?”

I shake my head and swallow, my stomach feeling like it might lurch. There is nothing in my stomach but that won’t matter.

“Is there someone you want us to call? I don’t think you should stay here,” Hannah says. “Not while this is going on.”

Who can I call?

Kyle.

I pull out my phone and find twelve missed calls. I’d set it to silent in my lecture and forgotten to change it.

Sara. Kyle. Kameron. Shit.

I dial Kyle’s number, but before it can ring, there are footsteps behind me. “Maisie.”

I turn to find Jessie with an expression that mirrors exactly how I feel. There is no way that I would have fallen into his arms yesterday. Yesterday he was still my annoying stepbrother who hadn’t moved on from his merciless teasing and looking at me as though I’m more rival than family. Yesterday, I would never have thought that Jessie was capable of being tender with anyone.

But it’s today, and when he takes me in his arms, the hold I had on the tears burning my throat is lost. I sob against his chest and he holds me tightly, his hands stroking my back, his voice shushing me softly. Less than a day ago, I was in his brother’s arms and now Jessie is holding me as though I’m precious. I can’t face what is waiting for me when I leave the safety and shelter of his embrace, but even as I think it, I know I have to push him away.

We’re not alone. There are people milling past us. I can hear their footsteps and I think I hear a snicker too.

If we’re seen like this, word will get around. It’s bad enough that everyone is talking about me and Jameson. If they start to think I’m with Jessie too, it’s only going to fuel the fire.

I put my hand on Jessie’s chest and ease back. I can’t look at him because I know any pity or concern in his eyes will only make me feel worse.

“I need to go home,” I say.

“Okay. Come with me and I’ll take you.”

I leave my friends behind. Who knows what they’ll think of any of this.

It’s a warm day so I don’t have a coat or a hooded sweatshirt with me. I don’t have sunglasses to hide my face or any other way of shielding myself from the mocking gaze of anyone who’s seen the video or heard the gossip on the college grapevine.

“Hold your head up,” Jessie says. “Don’t walk like you’ve committed a cardinal sin. Don’t walk like you’re guilty.”

I take a deep breath and do as he says, walking fast but with my back straight, like I’m not feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. When we’re finally in the lot and away from prying eyes, Jessie grasps the tops of my arms. “How did this happen, Maisie?”

I close my eyes and shake my head, the shame of it all too much to bear.

“I don’t know. I…we…the door was closed. The only person who knew was…Joshua.”

The realization hits me square in the gut. Joshua was in the doorway after we’d fallen asleep. He’d gotten into the room without either me or Jameson realizing. It has to be him who recorded the footage. It has to be him who shared it.

Jessie must see the expression on my face because he shakes his head. “Joshua wouldn’t do this,” he says. “My brother may be many things. An arrogant ass and a show-off, but he’s not a bad person and he wouldn’t want to damage your reputation or Jameson’s.”

“Unless he was jealous.”

Jessie shakes his head. “Maybe he was jealous. I know I would be if I’d walked in on you in Jameson’s bed, but that doesn’t mean he’d want to take revenge. What would he possibly have to gain?”

I shrug my arms, dislodging Jessie’s grasp. His green eyes flash with hurt but I don’t care. He doesn’t know anything. He wasn’t there when Joshua was spouting jealous and hurtful words. Jameson was right. He wanted me for himself and hated that Jameson got there first. Just because Kyle has a thing about sharing, doesn’t mean all his brothers feel the same.

“Just take me home,” I say.

As I climb into the truck beside Jessie, I feel broken. This may not have been my first choice of college and I might not have settled in as much as I would have planned, but I like it here. I’ve made enough friends to feel settled and things were improving between me and Dad. I felt like this could be a happy place to be for the next few years.

Now that’s all ruined.

There’s no way I can go back to school with this video circulating. There’s no way I can face anyone now they know what I’ve done. They heard what we said to each other. They saw me fucking my stepbrother and enjoying it.

The sound of my moans echo in my ears.

The sound of Jameson coming.

It’s just too much.

I sob into my arm that is rested against the window frame.

Jessie reaches across and rests his heavy hand on my shoulder. “It wasn’t Joshua,” he says softly.

“You don’t know that,” I hiss.

“I do know that and you want to know why? Because he didn’t even tell me what he saw and we tell each other everything. At least, I thought we did, but this he kept a secret.”

I wipe the tears from my face and eyes with the back of my hand and look over at Jessie’s profile. I believe what he’s saying about Joshua but even as I know it’s true, I don’t know why it would be. And if it wasn’t Joshua who took the video and shared it, who the hell was it? I thought that everyone invited into our home yesterday was a trusted friend. Who would betray us like this?

A shiver runs across my skin at what must have been going through the perpetrator’s mind. Watching a private moment and relishing the idea of making it public. This is someone sick in the head. Sick or jealous because whatever anyone says about women in the twenty-first century being sexually emancipated, there is still a huge double standard. Jameson’s reputation won’t be ruined by that video. He’ll probably get showered with bro backslaps the next time he’s in the locker room. Girls will probably want him more because they’ve heard him come. It’ll be completely different for me. No man wants to be able to watch his girlfriend fuck another guy. Who knows where this video will end up? I saw a documentary on revenge porn and how much of it is featured on well-known free porn sites. Even when girls file take-down notices, very little is done. Once a video is in the public domain, it’s impossible for it to be ever truly removed.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

“It’s going to be okay,” Jessie says.

“It’s never going to be okay.”

He shakes his head, his hand finding mine even as he keeps his eyes on the road. “It’ll be okay. These things flare up. It’ll be on the tip of everyone’s tongues for a couple of weeks and then it’ll move on to someone else. Gossip is like that. It’s only exciting when people don’t know about it. Once the video has done the rounds, it’ll get forgotten.

“I don’t want it to do the rounds,” I say. “I don’t want strangers to be jacking off at the sight of me—” I stop because I can’t bring myself to describe what I’m doing in that video. Even though I was still wearing my blouse and skirt, you can see me riding Jameson’s cock with a lot of enthusiasm, and the dirty things I said…

“So we’ll try and stop it,” Jessie says.

“And how are you going to do that?”

“You forget I’m pre-law. I’ll get a notice going around that anyone found with the images on their devices will be prosecuted under the new revenge-porn laws.”

“You want to take everyone at college to court?”

Jessie shakes his head. “I want those fuckers to think about what could happen to them if we did.”

I inhale deeply, trying to squash down the nervous sick feeling in my stomach.

“What if Dad and Janice find out?”

Jessie swears under his breath. “Look, I can’t tell you that they won’t. I can’t promise you that this isn’t going to get worse before it gets better, but you have to know that we’re all here to support you, Maisie. You will not be going through this alone.”

Jessie, the boy who used to like throwing chewed up bits of paper in my hair. The man who laughed at my screams when faced with the lizard. The asshole who made me feel totally unwelcome on my arrival. How is this person intent on reassuring me the same person?

He squeezes my hand and turns to look at me quickly, his face a mask of concern. Bright green eyes glisten in the sunlight that is streaming through the open windows of the truck and I’m disorientated.

He’s so much like Jameson. So much like all his brothers. They might be triplets and twins anyway, but it’s like they really have been cut from the same cloth. I remember that they have Scottish ancestry and imagine them being fashioned from their clan tartan. I wonder what the Fraser tartan even looks like.

I’m an only child so I don’t get to look at life in the way they do. Five bearers of the family name. Five bearers of the family’s future.

What will Janice say?

I’m going to lose my dad over this. I know it deep in my heart. She’ll tell him that I’m the one who was responsible. I was on top, for fuck’s sake. Jameson was beneath me, injured while I took advantage of him. That’s what it looks like and Janice will make it as bad for me as she can.

I know that Dad loves me, but not enough to withstand Janice’s onslaught. I’ve seen how persuasive she can be about tiny things. If she sees me as a threat to her boys, then hell will hath no fury like her scorn. I need to be prepared for it. What would I do if Dad kicks me out? Find a part time job to support my own accommodation, maybe. Take out student loans. There has to be a way that I could manage it, especially if I move to a less expensive college in a cheaper area.

It wasn’t my dream to be here. It wasn’t so long ago that I was dreading coming here and disappointed that this was going to be the place where I was going to have to be educated. But now, I have to admit that I like it. My home and my friends. Even my lecturers and the campus. Everything is so much better than I could have imagined, and now it’s all blown to pieces.

By the time we reach home, I feel worn out.

Jessie pulls the truck in front of the house and I jump out, using my keys to open the door and dash through to the back door and beyond to the pool house. I need to be by myself.

My phone is buzzing in my pocket but I can’t pick it up. I just can’t face anyone.

I flop onto my bed with my shoes still on, put my pillow over my head and cry. I cry harder than I ever have before. Harder than when Mom told me that she and Dad were getting a divorce. Harder than when my first boyfriend broke my heart.

The buzzing phone doesn’t stop, though, and eventually it turns to banging at the door. Whoever is out there doesn’t wait for me to get up and answer. They barge in, their feet thudding against the tiled floor until they’re in my room.

“This won’t help anything,” a deep voice says.

I lift the pillow enough to see Joshua standing in my bedroom doorway. He shakes his head and ducks into the bathroom, returning with a box of tissues, which he rests in front of me on the bed. He sits next to the box, waiting while I try to clean my tear stained face and blow my nose.

I’m a mess. A blotchy, sniveling mess.

Joshua inhales deeply, and exhales slowly, resting his elbows on his knees and holding his head in his palms. He appears to be in pain, but I know he isn’t. What has happened doesn’t involve him directly. He can’t feel anything near the distress I am feeling.

“What am I going to do?” I ask him. It’s not that I think that he’ll have the answers to make this go away. It won’t. Not ever. But maybe he’ll have some idea of what I should do next. He must have conferred with Jessie. Have they told Jameson?

Coach trusted me to look out for his player and keep him happy.

What we’ve done will end up doing the exact opposite.

“You’re going to keep this quiet. You can’t tell Jameson. He won’t be able to deal with it. His instinct will be to find out who made the video and shared it. He’ll be up and walking around on that leg and he can’t do that without risking his future. Whatever happens, Jameson needs to be shielded from this.” Joshua swipes his hand through his dark hair, agitatedly.

“I know. I understand what you’re saying and I agree, but he’ll never forgive us. You know that. If we don’t tell him.”

Joshua looks at me and shakes his head. “What were you thinking?”

I narrow my eyes at him, incredulous that he wants to go there now. The past cannot be undone. What is the point of going over it?

“I was thinking that your brother needed someone to keep his spirits up.”

“So you fucked him?”

I take the ball of damp tissues into my palm and slide off the bed. “It wasn’t like that. Not the way you’re making it sound.”

“Well, how was it then?”

I sigh because none of what was going on in my head last night will make any sense if I voice it aloud. Emotions rarely do.

Logic exists in the mind and everything else, all the complicated feeling and passions, are brewed in the heart. The heart cannot explain the whys and wherefores of its nature and its yearnings.

“I…I wanted him to feel better because I care about him.”

“You care about him. You could have told him some jokes or put on a funny movie. You could have baked him a cake. You didn’t have to sit on his cock.”

“Fuck off,” I hiss. “You patronizing piece of shit. You bake him a cake.”

Joshua stands and comes toward me but I take a step back. He’s so tall that he looms above me and just that physical difference puts me at a disadvantage.

“You don’t understand,” Joshua says. “I’m not judging you, Maisie. I’m just worried about you. This is all coming out wrong.”

“You don’t need to worry about me,” I say. “I’m a big girl. A big girl who can choose whose cock she wants to sit on. I can handle this on my own.”

It’s bullshit. Bravado.

Joshua knows it too, but he isn’t smug. Instead he puts his arm around me and tugs me against his chest. I’m rigid and unyielding with anger but his embrace feels good — too good — and the tears that have been burning in my throat since he arrived threaten to spill.

“You don’t have to handle this on your own,” Joshua says.

“There’s nothing you can do.”

Joshua kisses the top of my head tenderly. “Oh there is,” he says. “And we’re doing it right now.”


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