The Hunchback of Notre Damebyl8bloom©
Thanks to the Right Rev. Rumple Foreskin for very helpful editorial suggestions. Thanks to fcdc for assistance in navigating the Notre Dame campus. Absolutely no disrespect is intended to the University of Notre Dame or its mission, or to persons who suffer from kyphosis.
"...but we only call her that — behind her back!" Todd delivered the predictable snark.
Appalled, Jason watched as his roommate howled with laughter. "Don't you think that's immature?"
"Sure, man, but who cares!"
"Leave me out of it," said Jason. "She's a human being. How would you like it?"
Todd shrugged. Word had spread like wildfire on the Notre Dame campus that one of the new freshmen had the condition commonly known as "dowager's hump." Not surprisingly, the gossip fiends had promptly dubbed her "the hunchback of Notre Dame."
A few buildings away, the young lady in question was feeling some trepidation about the first day of class. Unlike Jason, Josie enjoyed a single room with a private bath to herself. It had not been difficult to convince the administration that the young lady needed privacy due to her condition. Personal hygiene, in particular, was a matter best kept from prying eyes.
Now as she brushed her teeth, she studied her petite reflection in the mirror. Would college be much different from high school? Maybe when people turned nineteen or twenty, they had a bit more in the way of social graces. Or maybe this particular locale, this school, was a nicer place to be. Josie turned sideways, eying her slender figure, studying the curved profile of her back. She very much hoped so.
French class began about as Josie expected. A few of her peers murmured things like "Oh!" at the sight of her. Only one person openly stared, but looked away when Josie looked her in the eye. The freshman took a seat in the last row. At least there, no one would face her spine.
Just as the professor began speaking, someone came skidding through the door and dove for the nearest desk, the one beside her. Jason caught his breath, looked over and said, "Hello." In so doing, he became the first student on campus to offer her that courtesy.
"Hi." The smile Josie spared him was genuine, but brief; her feelings of self-defense held her back from saying more. She made an obvious display of concentrating on the professor's words. She didn't look at her new classmate as the syllabus was passed around.
Had she seen his face, she might have realized the effect she had on him. Jason thought to himself that he would remember that cute smile forever. Her pixie-like features were permanently etched in his mind. A few freckles dashed their way across her cheeks and tiny nose. Her eyes were blue as a summer sky. Her hair was a cap of dark red, the lowest wisps barely grazing the nape of her neck. Jason was utterly captivated.
"We must begin right away," Mme. Alexandre honked like a goose. "Who here does not have the textbook?"
A few kids raised their hands, Jason among them. Most of them blushed at their lack of preparation.
Madame was clearly displeased. "Okay, you, you and you. Share with the person next to you."
Dismayed, Josie opened her book and gave it a half-hearted little push in Jason's direction. Past social experiences had made her wary, and she would rather have kept to herself.
To her relief, the guy next to her seemed to be a gentleman. Or, she mused, maybe even a scholar. At least he must be a serious student, for he actually seemed to be paying attention to the class. Not once did he appear to even notice her back. Josie offered up a silent prayer of thanks for that.
They went through the verbal drills. Madame honked out the lead and directed her charges to follow. By the end of the class, every student had recited a few simple sentences and conjugated the basic verbs.
Jason thanked Josie for sharing her text and packed up his notebook. He noticed that she didn't carry a backpack. He wondered if it was too painful for her to carry one, but didn't dare ask.
He left the class reflecting on how pretty she was, and started thinking up a way to ask her out.
Back in Keenan Hall, Jason dug up as much information as he could about the condition known as dowager's hump. He found out that the clinical term was kyphosis, or if the condition was severe, hyperkyphosis. He studied the various causes. It was silly to think he might somehow help her. She probably knew all of this stuff already, and more. Nonetheless ... maybe there was something he could do. He just didn't know what, yet.
Of course! Jason slapped his forehead. How could he be such an idiot? Josie didn't need clinical help. She needed a friend. He smiled and reached for the phone. His mom would be glad to hear that one of her lessons had sunk in.
The next morning Jason took his place beside Josie in French class. "Brought my own book this time," he showed it to her.
Josie gave him the same small smile, and again, only the briefest of glances. "Congratulations."
He wanted her attention. "I'm Jason." He stuck out his hand, making it impossible for her to ignore him further.
She shook his hand and appeared to take him a bit more seriously. "Josie."
He knew what she saw: a ruddy-cheeked fellow with brown hair, blue eyes a few shades darker than hers. He was rather ordinary-looking. Jason knew this about himself, and built on it. He tried to make himself look as non-threatening as possible. Putting on his best friendly smile, he offered, "Nice to meet you."
To his delight, her eyes twinkled a little bit. "You, too," she replied. Then, with a nod, she turned her attention to the front of the class.
The drills that day were similar, except Madame directed the students to break into pairs to practice conversation. The couple in the back recited the foreign words to one another, along with everyone else. Fifty people speaking out loud at the same time made quite a hubbub. Jason leaned close to hear Josie's soprano.
He complimented her. "Your pronunciation is really good."
"My grandparents were French. My last name is Baptiste."
"So you're Joey the Baptist?" he joked. "That'd be a great name for a mafia hit man."
Josie laughed. "Yeah, I'll play youse a tune on my violin." She mimicked a south side Chicago accent.
Jason took his cue. "Hey, how about studying with me? I could really use the help."
Josie's giggling faded and she hesitated. But then she smiled and said, "Okay."
"Great!" He gave her his number.
Josie thought, I hope he's not making fun of me. But she felt like she had to take a chance, sooner or later, on rubbing elbows with the human race.
He was not making fun of her, and he did not stand her up, as she half-suspected he might. And she did help Jason with his pronunciation. The two fell into a regular pattern of meeting to study on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings.
"Formidable!" she enthused. "You're really getting the hang of it!"
Jason grinned. "I just wish there was something I could help you with." He was thinking about her kyphosis.
"Know anything about calculus? I suck at it." Josie wrinkled her nose.
Jason laughed. "Oh, yeah, that's easy. Where are you stuck?" It turned out that he was three levels ahead of her in the subject. Jason was delighted. More studying meant more Josie.
He developed quite a crush on his fellow freshman. He was pleased to discover she could hold up her end of a conversation. Jason loved unraveling the mysteries of human nature, and it seemed that Josie did, too. In addition, once you got to know her, she had a terrific sense of humour.
He wanted so badly to ask her out, but labored under the impression that she needed time to get to know him better. Who could blame her? Undoubtedly she had put up with a lot of crap because of her deformity. So Jason bided his time, paying attention to French and calculus.
He made it through the third week of September, but finally, it was like having to pee. As they packed up their books, Jason drew a deep breath.
"Josie," he said, and stopped.
"I wonder if you would -- I mean -- are you seeing anyone?"
"Why do you ask?" Her tone was cautious.
"Would you like to go see a movie," he blurted.
"Sure. I thought you'd never ask. Whaddya want to go see?"
Jason laughed. He rubbed a hand over his face. "I don't know," and a big goofy grin spread across his features. "I didn't think of that."
She giggled and squeezed his hand with her small one. Laughing, they went in search of the movie listings.
A lovers' moon shone down as they walked home from the theater. In the dark, the autumn leaves seemed to have a stronger scent. Jason wanted to take Josie by the hand, but after what had happened during the film, he hesitated.
At one point he had settled his arm around her petite shoulders. Josie froze. She leaned forward, turned toward him, and lifted his arm away. She didn't say anything. In the dim light, Jason could not interpret the look on her face, but he got the message. Her response was clearly a negative one.
Now he tried to make small talk about the actors, but the words died on his lips. He was kicking himself for trying to touch her. Obviously this was a sensitive part of her life. Maybe there was physical pain, too. Maybe he should have asked first, or waited longer...
Josie detected his silent funk, and swallowed. "Hey," she touched his sleeve. "Want to have a seat?" She gestured at a nearby bench.
Jason's eyebrows lifted. "Ah, sure."
He sat down, and Josie circled around, placing herself as if they were sitting in an old-fashioned loveseat. She twisted a little to face him.
"I wanted to explain."
He waved a hand of dismissal. "You don't owe me anything, Josie."
She smiled. "I know. That's one of the things I like about you, you don't make me feel pressured. But I would like to..."
Here, she paused, collecting her words. By no means did she intend to tell him everything. But she did like him, and she wanted to -- to --
"I like you," she nodded at him. "Please understand I'm very sensitive about my back."
"I understand. I'd never want to do anything to make you uncomfortable."
"So it's okay, all right? I don't want you to go around worrying, like you did something wrong, or something." She looked at him intently.
Jason looked into her face. He lost all coherent thought. Without thinking, he leaned forward, and kissed her.
Josie met his soft kiss, and after a moment, returned it. Lightly she dipped her tongue into his mouth, inviting him. A thrill coursed through Jason's body. He kissed her with more passion. He wanted to touch her, but wasn't sure how.
Josie took his hands, and guided them to her waist. She pulled back for a moment. "Here," she said as if reading his thoughts, "touch me here."
Carefully, as if handling fine crystal, Jason caressed Josie below her ribs. In his arms she felt so slender and light, so fragile. She surprised him by leaning her body into his; her arms wrapped around him fully. He dared to reach around to the small of her back. There was some kind of softness there, and a quivering. He made his touch very gentle.
He spoke into her delicate ear, telling her how beautiful she was. Her breasts pressed against his chest. He wished they weren't wearing jackets, or even clothes at all. How sweet it would be to feel her diminutive body against his, with nothing between them.
By now Jason had an erection. He was dying to caress her body more extensively but was loathe to push her too far. So he pulled away, kissing the side of her face as he retreated.
"God, Josie. You do know how to make a man crazy."
"I don't mean to." She offered him a smile, eyebrows lifted a bit. "I'd really like to talk to you."
Jason did not get back to his room until well after midnight. Predictably, his roommate was still up, drinking beer and watching porn.
"How was your date with the humpback!" he guffawed. "Did ya hump her?"
Jason fixed him with a cold eye. "Shut up."
Todd staggered up from the computer. "I'll say whatever the hell I want. I'm not the one dating a fucking crip."
Swift as a striking snake, Jason hooked his heel around the back of Todd's knee. Todd crashed to his knees with a look of surprise. "What the fuck—"
Jason pushed the older man's chest to the floor, shoved his arm up between the shoulder blades. He grabbed Todd's nose.
"I swear to God, I'll snap it."
Todd whined. He had underestimated Jason. "Okay!" he gasped. "I'll lay off, man, get off me!"
Jason lifted his knee out of his roommate's back. "Don't you ever talk about her again."
Breathing heavily, he let Todd go.
Without another word, he stalked into the bedroom, stripped to his briefs, and climbed into the top bunk. He forced his anger aside -- his roommate was a jerk, not worth thinking about. Instead he returned, willfully, to his conversation with Josie.
"How did you manage it?" he asked. They were at ease with one another now.
"My parents intervened. I still had to take gym class, but I got the shower to myself."
Jason thought about this for a moment. They had walked down to the grotto, and were sitting side by side on a gentle hill, enjoying the starlight.
"And I've been dying to ask, why did you come to Notre Dame? You must have known what people would say."
"My father is an alum. I've actually been visiting this campus for years. It's a good school, and in the end, I took a leap of faith. I feel like, at a certain level, this community values compassion. It just has to."
The two sat in comfortable silence for a while, listening to the sounds of night. Small creatures spoke their non-human language. A light wind caressed a nearby tree, and the leaves made a sound like rustling linens.
"I'm sorry you had to put up with so much crap."
"It's okay. After a while you learn that there are some people who are just small-minded, and there are others who are real human beings. You're one of the latter, you know," she finished.
"I'm glad. Listen, Josie --"
She waited, listening, while he tried to find a way to speak his feelings.
"I'd like you to -- to see only me. Would that be all right?"
"Yeah," she smiled in the darkness. "I'd like that a lot. Does that go both ways?"
"Yeah," he turned to her and kissed her. It seemed the most natural thing then, to lie down on the breast of the earth. Jason fingered the wisps at the nape of Josie's neck. He could not get over how soft her hair was.
"You're so sweet," he murmured. "I'm sorry there are so many jerks in the world."
Thinking of her now, of her tender kiss, Jason let his hand drift down below his waist. "Josie," he mumbled as he touched himself. "Make love with me, Josie. I want you."
Jason courted Josie as well as he knew how. Though he was only nineteen, he had been raised by loving parents, and his gut instinct was good: treat others with kindness, courtesy and respect. He worked hard to give her the best part of himself.
The young woman responded in kind. It was an unavoidable fact that, due to her deformity, she had witnessed some of the uglier sides of human behavior. So it was that her new boyfriend's humane ways soon won her over. Long ago she had been able to tell when someone was just feeling sorry for her. Jason's authenticity was clear, and attractive.
She soon knew that she wanted to be with him sexually, but she was terribly nervous; terribly afraid. Would he find her to be freakish? After considerable thought, she hit upon a plan: she would sleep with him (presuming he would want to) just before the mid-semester break in October. That way, if he hated the sight of her, they would both be leaving campus for while. The break would give them both some time to cool things down. It would make a kind of chronological safety net.
She took a short weekend home, to see the family doctor.
The second week in October seemed to rush toward Josie, and take forever at the same time. Sometimes after being with Jason, she masturbated, thinking of him. What would he be like in bed? She rather thought he would be the same man she knew: loving and warm. Still, when she considered explicitly what sex with him might feel like, she held her breath. She even prayed. Please, God, don't let him be grossed out by the sight of me. Amen.
At last the fateful evening arrived. Jason had taken her out to dinner, off campus. He had contrived to borrow a friend's car; she was impressed that he had taken the trouble to do so.
At her door, she invited him in. They sat on the futon. She guided his hands to her breasts. With a look in her eye, she helped him pull open her shirt.
"Oh god, Josie," he moaned. Full of wonder, awe and desire, he massaged her feminine flesh. Josie moaned, too. How good it felt! To be touched by a man -- and such a man! His sweetness had swept her off her feet long ago.
Knees around his hips, she arched her back, pressing her breasts into her lover's hands. "Jason..." Her clear blue eyes met his.
His face was flushed a dark pink. His hands coursed down her ribs and his mouth fell to her succulent strawberries. He tended them one at a time, nibbling a little and sucking a lot.
The oral attention made Josie weak in the knees. Her pulse pounded between her legs. A shiver went down her spine.
"I want you. Do you want me?" Her eyes were hopeful and laced with desire.
He almost laughed. "What do you think, Josie?" He pressed her hand to the hardness between his legs. "Jesus, I've wanted you for weeks. Don't you know that?"
She drew in a deep breath. "All right, then..." She wanted to tell him, wanted to explain that she was different from his race, but it didn't seem like words at this point would make a difference.
Josie took her shirt by the collar, and slowly pulled it back.
Jason's mouth fell open.
Her back was not the curve of a dowager's hump. Her back was not, entirely, even made of skin. On her back were -- undeniably --
Jason's eyes went as big as hubcaps as he watched the hawk wings come into view. Their proud and glorious red was the same shade as her hair. He gaped, unable to even utter an expletive.
Josie watched his eyes, watching, oh, so carefully, to see his reaction.
Tears sprang into his eyes. "You're so beautiful," he choked. "My god, Josie, you've hidden this beauty from the world --"
The bird-woman breathed a sigh of relief, and fell into his arms. She spoke into his neck. "You don't think I'm gross."
"God, no! How could anyone? You're incredibly beautiful."*
They both cried, but soon their tears were undone by passionate kisses. They fumbled away their clothes. Jason could not ever lie on top of such a beautiful creature; so like an angel was she to him. She straddled him, slowly impaling herself on his cock, spreading her labia with her hands to ease his entrance.
He gazed up in wonder at the angel who rode him. His hands guided her hips down. In the backlight of her desk lamp, he watched the divine woman settle at his groin. It was all he could do not to cum then and there, so beautiful and erotic was the sight.
Jason traced her breasts, her flat stomach, her arms. He slid his hands down her thighs and up again, looking at her. As if to ask permission, he sent her a question with his eyes, and seeing her glad assent, he burrowed his fingers into her pubic hair. It wasn't like hair, at all. The soft fluffy patch at the base of her belly was like goose down. Her soft plumules whispered and swayed.
Instinctively he thrust upward. Josie moaned at the delightful sensation of his spear invading her core. Jason rested his hands on her fragile shoulders, flexing his hips, seeing her lovely breasts moving in time.
To his amazement, Josie spread her wings as her arousal became more intense. Wider, wider spread the dark red wings. She unfurled her wingspan all the way, until the tips of her feathers nearly met the walls of the tiny dorm room.