She didn’t really want to see him again. She wasn’t unhappy, however, when she got a text message from him just after noon.
“How’re u this morning?”
“It’s not morning,” she replied.
“It is for me. Like to come by tonight?”
The night before he’d seemed a little smug, afterward, and certainly not affectionate. She wanted to set him straight. She replied: “OK. 8 p.m.”
She thought about how she’d put things to him as she worked on posters for her campaign for the student government during the afternoon. As it turned out, she didn’t have to work up to it. He pretty much came right to the point that evening as she stood in the doorway of his dorm room, wearing skinny blue jeans, sneakers and a sweatshirt, a backpack slung over one shoulder.
“Hi!” he said, sitting at his desk, turning from his computer, running his eyes up and down her. “Too bad you’re not wearing that dress you had on last night. You really looked hot.”
“Thanks. You know, I’m not sure you look quite as good as you did last night either.” She smiled and chuckled.
“I guess it was kind of a special night.”
“Yes, very special. I don’t expect it’s going to happen again.”
“Really? That’s too bad. I was hoping we could … well, you know, you could … ” She waited for him to finish the sentence. “Do it again.”
“Yeah, well you know, that’s really why I came by. Just to let you know. I don’t think I will.”
“You seemed so … willing. Last night.”
“That was then. This is now. It was a wild night. I had a few drinks.”
“You looked pretty steady. Check this out.” He turned to his computer and tapped at the keyboard. “Close the door.” She pulled it shut behind her. The computer played a video of them from the night before. She was recognizable as he held her long, straight hair to one side. “I call it ‘Using Her Head,’” he said, smirking.
“I can’t believe you fucking did that.” She let her backpack drop to the floor. “You don’t think you could get in big trouble?”
“I think I can avoid that. Anyway, it’s just between you and me, for now.”
“Well, I hope you’ll be cooperative. Since I’ve got this.”
“You know, supportive of me.”
“You mean submissive.”
“I guess that’s a better word.”
“This is fucked up.” She stared at him. He stared back. “I thought I was gonna be here for a minute. I gotta tell Melanie I’m … held up.” She yanked her mobile device from her backpack, stabbed at it and turned back to him.
“So. I’m supposed to be submissive. Or what, exactly?”
“I guess a couple of people might get ahold of this.”
She parsed the words: “Might … get … ahold?”
“I gotta friend who can make it look like some hacker made it and sent it.”
“Let me get this straight. You want me to give you a blow job, and probably keep giving ‘em to you, and if I don’t someone’s gonna send people that video. Probably people who’ll post it somewhere.”
“Like I said, I could get hacked.”
“And no one’s gonna to be able to tell it was Jake Dollman, the big star, who did it?”
“Yeah, I’m using my head too.” He chortled.
“I guess I’ll have to think about your proposition,” she said, spitting out the last word. “I’ll let you know tomorrow.” She reached behind her to open the door, backed out and slammed it shut, with a rower’s strength.
* * * * *
The next morning she sent him a text telling him to meet her for lunch at the student center, on the patio. He found her sitting at a table there, thumbing her mobile device.
“You eat yet?” he asked.
“Not quite ready to eat,” she replied. She gestured toward one of the other chairs. He sat down.
“I hope you had a good night.”
She glared at him, not sure what to make of this remark. “I had some research to do,” she said. “And some thinking. About how to proceed regarding your proposition. I think I’ve got it worked out.”
“What do you think?”
“It’s more what you think. About this.” She tapped her device. It played a recording of the latter part of their conversation the night before, ending with a slamming door.
There was a moment of silence.
What are you going to do with that?” he asked.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about. The university would be interested in it. So would the police. This would fall under the privacy law New Jersey passed in 2004. Fines up to $30,000. Jail up to five years. You never know how these things are going to work out. For sure you’d be kicked out of school.”
He looked down to the ground, then to the left, and to the right. “I suppose you have copies.”
He forced a smile. “It was just a joke.”
“Ha, ha, ha.” She slapped her thigh. “You know, I like a good joke too.”
“That’s great to hear,” he said, straightening up in his chair.
“I guess this is a joke too.” She held up her device. “But … maybe there’re some things you could do for me.”
“Uh-huh. What’s that?”
“First, I’m going to look through your phone and your computer and make sure there’re no copies of that video. And see whether you sent it anywhere, backed it up on the cloud, or whatever.”
“And I need someone to put up posters for my campaign, all over campus.”
“One other thing. For now.”
“For now?” He frowned.
“I’m helping start a rowing program for disabled people. They need help putting the boats in the water, and taking them out.” She extended both arms toward him. “You’d be perfect!”
“It’s every weekday morning for the next two months, starting tomorrow. Just be down at the boathouse at 5:30.”
David Ludlum is a writer and editor living in Princeton, where he grew up, with a focus on investing. He has written for the new York Times and helped Robert F. Kennedy Jr. write a book on Bush administration environmental policies. He has studied fiction writing at Lauren B. Davis’ Sharpening the Quill workshops.