She still had her key, but after living away from home for two years, Lisa felt weird about barging in. The house looked smaller than she remembered, and shabbier. Not that her apartment was any suite at the Four Seasons.
The place hadn't changed; she had. If she needed more proof of it, she got it when she knocked and Mom opened the door.
Mom's welcome died on her lips as her eyes widened. She scanned Lisa from the top of her cropped, spiked, and scarlet-dyed hair to the toes of her black engineer boots. Along the way, her gaze passed over triple-pierced ears, a shredded denim jacket over a too-snug tee shirt, and baggy cargo pants covered in pockets.
"Hi, Mom," Lisa said. She self-consciously touched the red spikes of her hair. "It's my new look."
"Lisa! Come in, come in, you didn't have to knock. This is still your home, you know."
Except, as she stepped inside and looked around, Lisa knew that it wasn't. The house in which she'd grown up felt cramped and unfamiliar to her. It smelled of old wallpaper and the spice-scented candles that Mom vainly hoped would mask the smell of Dad's cigars. The familiar odors of her apartment building – frying food, cat pee, clove cigarettes, and the occasional whiff of some other smoke – were gone. She didn't have to be told that Mom's kitchen cupboards would not contain a single packet of ramen noodles, and there'd never be more than one pizza box waiting to go out with the week's trash.
A cardboard cutout of a turkey was taped to the wall, and a banner of foil letters spelled out Happy Thanksgiving over the dining room table.
"We've missed you," Mom said. "The letters are nice, but I need to see you in person once in a while. Two years is too long."
"Well, you know." She flushed a little.
Going away to college had been a blissful escape. She'd had freedom for the first time. No kid sisters ready to tattle the very second they saw her smoking, or drinking a beer, or making out with one of her boyfriends on the rec room couch. She hadn't been in any hurry to visit the old homestead.
"I guess I do know," Mom sighed. "My baby's all grown up."
"I'm not a baby any more, Mom."
"We wondered if maybe you were bringing anyone home with you for the holiday," Mom said, in far too off-hand a tone.
Lisa said nothing. She couldn't very well mention Vic. They were broken up, and besides, she had never exactly gotten around to telling her parents they were sharing an apartment anyway. Somehow, that news wouldn't have gone down well.
Damn, but she did miss him. Part of him, at least. He had some shitty habits, like spending the rent money on beer and CDs, and being an absolute slob, but was he ever hung! And had he ever known how to use it! She had to give him credit for that much. He put her previous boyfriends to shame.
No way she was going to say any of that to her mother. Mom probably thought that her 'baby' was still a virgin.
"Where am I sleeping?" Lisa asked.
"In your old room," Mom said. "Sarah's sharing with Emily. The bunk beds are still in there."
Lisa's lips quirked. "Bet she's thrilled all to death about that. She couldn't wait for me to move out so she could have my room."
"I remember." Mom rolled her eyes. "But we convinced her that it was only for the weekend. And it is Thanksgiving. If you decide to come home for Christmas break, that might be another story."
They went down the hall, Lisa carrying her backpack and suitcase. Home for Christmas? She hadn't even planned on being here now, thank you very much. If she and Vic hadn't broken up, and she hadn't been feeling so goddamn miserable and depressed, she wouldn't have come at all.
"Sarah did insist on redecorating," Mom said as she opened the door to the bedroom at the end of the hall.
"Oh, jeez," Lisa groaned.
The room was a pink and white girly haven that a Barbie doll would have loved. The bookshelf held more glass and ceramic horsies than books, the wallpaper was decorated with posters of the Flirty Boys, and the bed was a nightmare of white canopy, ruffles, pillows, and flounces.
Except … there was one thing of hers that remained. Perched amid the pillows, gazing back at her with sleepy, half-lidded eyes.
"She cleaned it up for you," Mom said. "And she even found your old rabbit. You haven't forgotten Mister Fluffykins, have you?"
"How could I?" Lisa muttered. "I tried to throw him out."
"Oh, Lisa!" Mom laughed. "You loved that rabbit. When you were a little girl, it was like you wouldn't go anywhere without him."
"I put him through the wash. He was up in the attic, a dusty mess, but here he is as good as new. I even found time to sew his ear back on. It was hanging by a thread, almost literally."
"Mister Fluffykins," Lisa said.
The rabbit just sat there, gazing at her with its strange, sleepy eyes. It was the expression of the thing that had finally started to bug her. Those eyes. Half-closed like that, and shifted to the left. Like the eyes of the dirty old men who sat at the park and watched the college girls go by in shorts on warm days. The way the rabbit's tongue poked out, too. A soft pink flap, to the side of his big white vinyl buck teeth.
His fur was fuzzy and blue, yellow inside his long ears and on his fat little tummy. A white puffball, kind of ivory now despite a trip through the wash, made a tail. The pads on his paws and the bottoms of his feet were the same white vinyl as his teeth.
In one of his paws, Mister Fluffykins held a stuffed carrot. Also vinyl, but of an orange color. The tufts of its leaves were green felt.
A shiver twisted up Lisa's spine. She had to look away from those sleepy, but somehow both lewd and accusing, plastic eyes.
"You unpack and get settled," Mom said. "I've got to go pick up the girls at school. If your father gets home before I do, ask him to get the good dishes down from the high shelf."
Mom left, and Lisa stood in the middle of the room that had once been hers but no longer felt familiar at all. The pink and white, the frou-frou and girly stuff … and here she was, in black and shredded denim, her red hair screaming off her skull. She caught her reflection in Sarah's mirror and winced. She looked like a dead roach on a birthday cake.
And there, behind her in the mirror, Mister Fluffykins. The angle of his head and the shift of his eyes made it look like he was checking out her ass.
That rabbit. That damn, creepy rabbit.
She had been crazy about Mister Fluffykins when she was little. She didn't need to page through the family photo album to know that.
Now, here he was again. His colors faded, maybe, and if she looked close she could see the stitches where Mom had sewn him up.
Mister Fluffykins. Mister Goddamn Fluffykins.
"What are you looking at?" she asked. "Don't give me that look. What was I going to do, take my widdle bunny wabbit to college with me? Give me a break!"
Still, the accusing look. And like an echo from the past, she seemed to hear herself. I love you, Mister Fluffykins. I'll never leave you, never, I promise.
"Give me a break," she said again. "I was ten."
His plastic eyes gazed fixedly at her, but not her face. He was staring at her tits. Since her pants were so baggy and her tee shirt so tight, the viewing was probably better than when he'd been checking out her ass.
"Get a grip, for God's sake," Lisa told herself.
She went to the bed and dropped her beat-up backpack and thrift store suitcase into the middle of the pristine white ruffled spread. The mattress dipped under the weight, and Mister Fluffykins toppled over onto his face. His faded-ivory puff of a tail stuck up in the air.
Sarah had shoved her wardrobe to one side of the closet and cleaned out one drawer, so Lisa had space to stow the few clothes she'd brought. Her shoulder bumped the mattress as she was down on hands and knees shoving her suitcase as far under the bed as she could. When the mattress shook, something soft and floppy tumbled over the edge and landed on Lisa's back. A long blue and yellow ear slapped limply over her shoulder.
Lisa jerked and recoiled. Mister Fluffykins rolled to the floor and lay there, legs and ears splayed to compass points, paws holding that carrot. The tip of it was angled up toward his buck teeth, the leafy end braced against his low belly.
"Looks like a big orange dick." Lisa surprised herself by saying the words aloud.
No wonder she'd started thinking there was something creepy about the stuffed animal. Some part of her mind had recognized the lecher's leer, the protruding tongue and the suggestive carrot, long before any conscious part of her realized it.
The bunny's expression, now that she really took a good hard look, was almost identical to the one Vic wore when he was about to come.
She snorted a laugh and bent over to pick Mister Fluffykins up by the ears. His fur was cool and soft in her hand, and she thought of how she used to cuddle her face against him and inhale the smell of the fabric softener Mom added to the wash.
He dangled from her grip, feet swinging, that vaguely disturbing carrot swaying.
When she'd turned thirteen or so, and deemed herself too old for toys, she had relinquished most of her dolls and stuffed animals to the fate of hand-me-downs. Sarah and Emily had worn them to tatters over the years. But, even then, she hadn't been willing to part with her beloved Mister Fluffykins. He had been relegated to a spot on the shelf rather than the pillow, along with the few other cherished possessions she had refused to turn over to her bratty little sisters.
It wasn't until she had packed for college, the summer after high school graduation, that she'd decided it was time for Fluffykins to go. She'd been stressed, anxious, having trouble sleeping. Thoughts of moving hundreds of miles away, where she didn't know anyone, had worked on her mind in the small hours of the night. What if she couldn't cut it as a college student? What if she flunked out and had to come home and go to work in the Wal-Mart? What if she didn't make any friends?
Those nights, she had resorted to childhood comforts and taken Fluffykins down from the shelf and cuddled with him. But it hadn't helped.
If anything, shame over being unable to let go of her stuffed bunny even at the age of eighteen had contributed to some truly awful nightmares. In them, she'd be standing naked in the center of a cavernous lecture hall. The seats would be full of people, all of them staring at her, pointing, laughing at the girl whose then-brown hair was in pigtails and who clutched a blue fluffy rabbit to try and hide her nudity.
On the morning after just such a dream, she'd had enough. The remaining trappings of childhood went into a box. She had resolutely set the box out by the trash, but Mom had rescued it and told her that she shouldn't make too clean a break with her old life. Best, Mom said, to save back a few mementos. Besides, wouldn't Lisa want to give Mister Fluffykins to her own kids someday?
"I don't think so," Lisa said, raising the rabbit to eye level so he had to look her in the face.
That knowing gaze. As if he knew exactly what she looked like with nothing on.
Which, of course, he did. She had changed clothes in front of Fluffykins thousands of times. He had seen her naked more often than all her boyfriends combined. Aside from Dad, he was the only constant male presence in her life.
"Not tonight, you don't," Lisa said.
She took Mister Fluffykins to the closet and made room for him on the top shelf. She put him in so that he faced the wall, and all she could see of him was his blue back and his cotton-puff of a tail.
Dinner was an inquisition. How was school? What was she studying? How were her grades? Did she get enough to eat? She looked too thin. Had it hurt to get that done to her ears? Was she seeing anyone? What ever happened to that nice boy Pete, the one she was going steady with her senior year?
Pete. Her first clumsy, fumbling, guilt-ridden lover. Neither of them had known enough about what they were doing for it to be any good, and the possibility that Pete's mother might come home early from her shift at the diner and catch them on her living room carpet had been a constant terror.
Right now, though, she'd welcome even that. It sucked to be without a guy. She had to get over Vic. It didn't make sense to be so hung up on him when she was the one who'd broken up. It wasn't like he'd dumped her. She had taken a whack with the clue bat and understood that a being good lay wasn't necessarily justification for his other drawbacks.
But he had been such a good lay! He'd even enjoyed going down on her. Sometimes, that was all he wanted to do. He'd bury his head between her legs and lick her until she begged him to fuck her. It was some sort of pride thing for him, that he could turn her into a panting, writhing sex-beast. So what if it was? At least she got to be a panting, writhing sex-beast! That was more than some of her friends could say.
She showered before bed, torn between masturbating while she was in the warm steamy spray or slamming the lever over toward cold to shock the horniness right out of her. The indecision lasted so long that the next thing she knew, Sarah was hammering on the door and shouting irritably that if Lisa was going to hog all the hot water, she should have stayed at a hotel.
"Okay, okay," she called back.
Her wet hair was a pasted-down red cap. She combed it straight back from her forehead, dried off, and wrapped herself in a big towel. Sarah banged on the door again while Lisa was brushing her teeth.
"Okay, I said."
"It's bad enough I have to give up my bedroom," Sarah said as Lisa finally opened the door. "We've all got to use this bathroom, you know."
Lisa resisted the urge to snap her sister with the damp towel. She went to the bedroom instead.
It had been a long trip and a tiring evening. Lisa was glad to go into her room even with the pink and white creampuff décor and Flirty Boys on the walls. She was just too exhausted to care. Her body was a mess of mixed emotions.
She had no idea what blue balls were like for a guy. Never mind Pete's assertion that the condition was so excruciating as to make him wish he was dead if he didn't get some release. What she did know was that when she was horny and had no prospects, she'd eventually end up with a headache and feeling sick to her stomach.
She took off the towel, hung it on the back of the door, and opened the closet for a flannel sleepshirt.
Mister Fluffykins stared up at her from the closet floor. He was on his back, head right at her feet. His half-lidded eyes appeared to be looking straight up at her long legs that stretched up to the dark nest of her pubic hair. Above that, he'd have an inverted view of her belly and the lower slopes of her tits, the nipples stiff from the cool air.
Lisa gasped, then felt like an idiot. She had wedged him on the shelf, and he'd fallen. That was all. She worked a toe under the stuffed animal and flipped Mister Fluffykins over so he was face-down on top of Sarah's shoes.
She slipped into the long-sleeved flannel shirt she liked to sleep in, and went over to the bed. Too many pillows. Most of them got pushed onto the carpet. She turned back the ruffled coverlet, revealing white eyelet sheets, and climbed in. The canopy billowed over her like a cloud. It was still visible, a ghostly shape, even when she turned out the light.
The noises of the house were familiar. Emily and Sarah bickered in the bedroom down the hall. The television was on in the den, laugh tracks as Dad probably snored in his armchair. The clink and clatter of Mom puttering in the kitchen, washing dust off the good china.
Lisa closed her eyes. She didn't want to think about Vic, about sex, but she couldn't help it. She'd gotten used to having a guy around, damn it. She missed going out in the evenings, wearing something hot and maybe with no underwear, driving Vic crazy by flashing him when nobody else was looking.
She thought of the time they'd done it in the library, up on the third floor. He had boosted her onto one of those study desks, the kind with the walls on the sides, and stood in front of her while she freed him from his pants. A quickie, and they'd had to be quiet – hey, it was a library! – but she came so hard she thought her head was going to explode.
"Quit it," she murmured into the dark. "Quit thinking about it."
But she couldn't. She rolled restlessly onto her side, then stomach, then flipped onto her back again. The crisp sheets rustled.
At last, knowing she was never going to get to sleep otherwise, she hiked her flannel shirt to her waist and slid a hand down. Her knees rose to allow her fingers better access, and she stifled a throaty sigh as she began rubbing her slick flesh in a slow, circular motion.
A guilty voice in her head tried to tell her that she ought to be ashamed, doing this in her parents' house, in her sister's bed. She silenced it and called up a mental image of Vic. Vic, naked, his tanned skin and sculpted abs, his gorgeous ass.
With her other hand, she unbuttoned her shirt and let it drape to either side of her in flannel crumples. She rolled her thumb gently over one nipple, then the other, remembering the way Vic would do that with his tongue, not touching her anywhere else, until she seized his hand and thrust it against her crotch.
Oh, damn, she missed him. It wasn't fair.
Her fingers rubbed in those slow circles. A delicious, melting warmth spread up through her, making her feel tense and wonderfully relaxed at the same time.
The sheets and covers rustled again. A low, sneaky sound. She felt a draft on her leg but barely noticed, her mind filled with memories of Vic poised over her, his hardness a hot bar against her belly, whispering huskily for her to tell him what she wanted him to do.
Something soft and furry brushed the underside of her partially-raised knee.
When did they get a cat? Her Dad didn't even like cats. Sarah or Emily must have really turned on the charm to sweet-talk him into –
Something cool, and feeling like vinyl pads fringed in fur, pressed against her inner thigh.
Her moving hand stopped, cupped defensively over herself.
What the hell?
Softness. Fur. Touching her.
It was kind of like the nightmares she'd had, of holding Mister Fluffykins against her nakedness. That was how he felt. Furry, and silky-soft, caressing her skin.
Lisa's breath caught. She knew she should rip the sheets back and snap on the light and see what the hell was going on. But it was crazy. Too crazy. There was no way what she was thinking was real. It had to be a dream. She'd fallen asleep, and now she was dreaming.
And, besides, the soft fur brushing the tender skin of her thigh felt really good.
She kept her eyes shut. That fringed vinyl pad touched her hand, still cupped, and applied a gentle but persuasive pressure. As if it wanted her to move her hand out of the way.
Crazy. This was crazy. And what was crazier was that she was doing it. She shifted her hand aside, resting it beside her hip, knees still up and legs still open.
The paw – she knew it had to be, Mister Fluffykins' paw – replaced her stroking fingers and mimicked the slow rubbing. The light, furry weight of the rabbit settled onto her stomach. Mister Fluffykins stretched up his long soft ears until they found her tits. She moved her other hand away. The tips of the rabbit's ears covered her nipples.
The paw between her legs moved in a faster and firmer rubbing. Lisa bit back a low moan, at once unable to believe what she was doing and overcome by how good it felt. Molested by her childhood toy, how freaky was that? And enjoying it?