/> Harper shot from bed and headed downstairs. At the sink, she drank a full glass of water, wiped the sweat from her forehead and sucked on an ice cube before returning to bed.
In the light, Harper could see Grace’s outline under the sheets as she approached, her curvaceous hips, her hair feathered on the sheets. Harper flashed on fantasies she’d had, her hand under the covers, Grace coming to her in the night, rocking Harper awake. In her dreams, Grace whispering, “I can’t sleep.” Then Grace holding out her hand and leading Harper from the sorority sleeping porch to her room. Grace locking the door, sliding her nightgown off, it falling to the ground.
This wasn’t a fantasy.
Instead, a pivotal moment of truth.
Back in bed, Grace started scratching again, softer, slower. Harper tried helplessly to concentrate on other things—the new semester, the highlights of summer, the following week’s sorority rush, anything but what was going on.
Harper imagined herself leaving the room. Barefooted, she ran out of the lobby and down the uneven cobbled streets. When she got to a payphone, there wasn’t a receiver, just a dangling chord with jagged metal spewing from its mouth.
Harper didn’t see it coming. Grace slid her hand under the back of Harper’s silk nightgown. With nothing between them, Grace’s fingertips sent a frosty chill up and down Harper’s spine; Grace hadn’t gone under before, only over the pajamas. Harper didn’t move, wholly focused on the burning incense, hoping to survive.
When the walls around them ignited, Harper refocused on the glowing speck across the room as Grace scratched careful circles. She lay still, pretending to sleep—it had worked in the past, when Grace’s touch made her nervous. Harper tried to calm her body and fool Grace again; she closed her eyes and feigned sleeping noises.
But it didn’t work. When Harper felt Grace’s hot breath on her neck, she realized the only fool was her—climbing up the high dive stairs—unsure if she really could jump.
Dampness again beaded Harper’s hairline, and she shivered. In her mind, or maybe out loud,