Chloe got breasts at eleven. She thinks of it that way
because in her memory it seems like they just showed
up. She looks down now at the alley between them,
where sweat slides when she runs, and can't remember
them ever being any smaller. Can't remember the look
or feel of skin flat over bone.
She got her period at twelve, at camp in the woods,
and since then it's been a damn nuisance. Her back
knots up the week before and she bleeds a lot and
snaps at Pete. She thinks more about shoving Clark
down, climbing onto his hips, trying to hold his
wrists in the circle of her fingers. She looks at
Lana's slim ankles and lightly muscled stomach and
gets a little sickly mad. Lana thinks of her period as
a natural cycle and refuses to use tampons; Chloe
discovers this when she forgets to bring some to
Lana's house when they're working on a school project,
and asks, very casually, if Lana happens to have any
lying around. Lana gives her a sweet little moue of
distaste and says, "Chloe, toxic shock syndrome is
really scary, don't you think?"
Chloe glares. She doesn't like feeling so open and wet
and messy, so vulnerable to the world. A woman
reporter can't be so obvious; she must be considered
objective, quick, self-possessed. She has to be sort
of asexual. And Chloe doesn't like that very much, but
she's prepared to play by the rules until she can
rewrite them herself.
Chloe is a feminist. She doesn't understand girls her
age who laugh nervously at the word, who claim that
feminism is over and the war has been won. She can
quote current statistics about the pay gap. She knows
about the dispute between feminists and
environmentalists over family planning in less
developed areas. She's read about trafficking in women
and sometimes she would like to verbally flay those
nervous naïve disclaiming girls, to leave them shaking
and terrified in her wake. But really it would make no
difference. Misogyny isn't the kind of thing you can
force someone to understand. Chloe is going to do it a
little bit at a time; a carefully placed editorial
here, a corporate exposé there, a kiss where it will
do the most good.
She can't change Lana's mind, either, not when she
tries to explain what she feels about hormones and
blood. Lana is horrified when she finds out that Chloe
"What is so wrong with that? Do you enjoy feeling like
a blowfish?" Chloe asks, eyebrows skeptical. She's
flopped on her belly on the floor, holding her chin up
with the heels of her hands, gazing up at Lana. The
girl is hard to figure out. Because really they aren't
such good friends, but they are comfortably having
this conversation about the dark mess between Chloe's
legs. Lana is smiling a little, shrugging. She doesn't
look at all embarrassed.
"It's only for a few days." Lana untucks her knees,
stretches her slender legs out on the bed. "I just
don't like taking drugs if they're not necessary."
"Oh, it's necessary," Chloe says. "We're talking some
serious Mr. Hyde symptoms here. Unkempt hair,
homicidal mania, unrestrained darker urges. You've
experienced it, you know."
Lana dips her head a little, gives Chloe this teasing
look, eyelids lowered and lips quirked. "I can't vouch
for the darker urges, but the hair..."
Chloe laughs, shoves herself up to sit cross-legged on
the carpeting. As she moves, she catches a scent of
heat and iron and it makes her smile. She likes her
smell during this week, likes the fact that only she
can really smell it -- a little primal rebellion
against all the outward displays of cleanliness and
order. "Hey, screw you," she says lightly. "I like my
"I do, too," Lana says. Smiles. "It's... pretty."
Like she was going to say something else, maybe. Chloe
finds herself beaming. "And don't forget my homicidal
mania," she says sternly through her smile. "It's not
very fond of insults."
"I'll keep that in mind," Lana says. After a few
moments, she asks, "Do you want a backrub?"
Chloe blinks, says intelligently, "What?"
Lana slides off the bed to the floor, crawls toward
Chloe on her hands and knees before settling to sit on
her folded legs. "That's how I deal with my period. I
make Nell give me backrubs. And I drink tea and eat
lots of cookies."
Chloe unfolds her legs and moves to sit in front of
Lana. "I'm beginning to like the sound of this natural
cycle thing," she says, grinning.
"Isn't it nice?" Lana's voice is pure cane sugar but
her fingers are small and hard and she works Chloe's
muscles harder than Chloe expected. She thinks about
complaining, thinks about it seriously, but the pain
is kind of good. She tries not to wince, closes her
eyes. Lana and unexpected strength. The day is just
full of surprises.
"You've got a knot," Lana says softly, and crunches
something in her back. "Does that hurt?"
"Um, yes," Chloe says, voice more aggrieved than she
Lana's thumbs press hard on the spot and make little
circles. Chloe writhes a bit, feeling vaguely
overheated. She thinks she can smell herself again and
wonders if Lana can. Lana would probably know that
scent; would think it natural and beautiful.
"You shouldn't let yourself get so tense," Lana says,
matter-of-factly, and Chloe wonders if it really is
that easy for her, if it's a decision. Just to be so
good and kind and always accepting.
"It's probably because of the deadline," she offers,
She hears Lana hum behind her. "I thought you had the
copy done in plenty of time last night." Warm palms
rest on her neck, smooth down over her shoulders like
a traveling shiver.
"The copy, yeah," Chloe says, dropping her head back.
"The layout, not so much."
"I could've helped." Lana sounds just slightly put
out. She pushes Chloe's head forward, gets the tendons
along the back of her neck between her fingers and
thumb and slides her hand firmly up and down,
fingertips tangling in Chloe's hair.
Chloe thinks about purring. Instead she says, "I just
sort of had to get it done. It's okay."
"Next time, ask," Lana says. "Or at least let me fix
the knots before they get this bad."
"You've got a deal," Chloe answers dreamily. The skin
of her back and shoulders has taken on a heated glow.
Lana shifts behind her and the warm little hands fall
away from her back. "There," she says, scratching
lightly between Chloe's shoulderblades, "you're done."
And she is. Chloe sits silent for a second. Then
smiles, turning to face Lana, rolling her head around
on the stalk of her neck and rotating her loosened
shoulders. "Thanks," she says, keeping her tone
cheery. "Wow. I'm your willing servant for life. Now,
we should probably work on this crap for a while. What
are we doing again?"
Lana smiles back, pulling her legs to her chest again.
Over breasts sweet and little just like the rest of
her, Chloe thinks, and the thought doesn't surprise
her at all. She knows perfectly well what the project
is about. They're supposed to do a presentation on the
Eve hypothesis: the study of mitochondrial DNA which
suggests that all people originated from one woman who
lived in Africa thousands and thousands of years ago.
Genetic material spread matrilineally. History and
possibility that she and Lana both carry enclosed
within them like a tiny coated pill. Natural woman.
You make me feel like, Chloe thinks. She kind of feels
Lana is talking, smiling at her, tucking strands of
hair behind her ear. Her cheeks are faintly reddened,
a dark concentration of blood under gold skin.
Watching her, Chloe shifts a little. She feels the
heat and heaviness between her thighs, the hollow
ache, the liquid downward rush. And for once, she
doesn't mind it at all.