Okay, so here it is. The thing you’ve all been waiting for. (Or not.) The final chapter of the hot mess that is Fifty Shades of Neigh. I’m afraid there’s still no porn, but fuck it – if you’ve got a Kindle I’m pretty sure you know where to look for porn, right?
Ready? Here we go.
Last night Jesús shaved his pubes.
At first I persuaded him to trim them, but as soon as he realised that a trim made his dick look bigger he wanted to go for the full Brazilian. He came out of the shower with a silky smooth undercarriage and a boner nearly up to his fucking nose. He said he felt like a porn star, so I made him act like one until Hanna banged on the bedroom wall and screamed that we were perverts.
Jesús is currently sleeping it off, while Hanna is doing some serious passive-aggressive clattering in the kitchen. I’ve cut her a lot of slack lately on account of what happened to her car, but when it comes to emotional blackmail Hanna’s the disproportionate response kind. Actually I think she’s forgotten about the car and is now more pissed at me for mentioning that it’s about fifty different kinds of effed to carry on boning a guy who can’t even remember your name. If I didn’t have my reasons for suspecting that My Little Brony is faking it bigstyle then I’d probably call the police, but like I say – I have my reasons.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It’s graduation day, and the dingus in the kitchen is actually going to go ahead with it – I think she honest-to-Christ believes that she’s the genuine class valedictorian and not some moron whose mega-rich boyfriend bought her way to the top of the class. Hanna makes me think the pharmaceutical industry are missing a trick; I have a theory that there is some unknown neurochemical coursing through her weird little veins, some magical substance that bestows unfounded confidence in the face of totally contradictory reality. If you could sell it you’d make a fortune – it’d be like ketamine but without the screaming.
She’s drinking a typical Hanna-breakfast of Twinings tea and air, which – if not exactly the breakfast of champions – is a great breakfast if you’re a self-obsessed shithead who likes to imagine herself the heroine of a nineteenth century novel. It holds grand possibilities – possibilities of fainting, swooning and other neurasthenic antics.
“I didn’t sleep so well,” she says, the moment I catch her eye.
“I know,” I say. “That’s because I was having really noisy sex with Jesús.” It’s best to deal with Hanna this way – just come right out and say what she’s needling at, otherwise you’ll be there for weeks while she attempts to convey meaning via blinks, sniffles, sighs and simply looking sad. Once I got so sick of her shit that I told her to cut to the chase and take up interpretive dance, but she just sat there and looked confused and I couldn’t be completely sure she wasn’t doing it on purpose.
“How’s the man who never was?” I ask her.
“You know,” I say. “Whatsisname. Tabula Rasa. Your amnesiac amour.”
Hanna sighs into her tea. “Complicated.”
“Spare me the details,” I say, filling the coffee machine. The only thing I hate more than complicated men is assholes who describe their relationships as ‘complicated’ and think it makes them deep or interesting. Having shitty relationships does not make you Sartre and Simone – it just means you have shitty relationships and lack the nads to end them.
Phrases like ‘spare me the details’, ‘don’t care’ and ‘shut the fuck up’ tend to wash over Hanna, so it’s no surprise when she does a little more blinking and says “I had the most intense revelation last night.”
Oh God. “Hanna, if this is a G-spot story I don’t want to hear this…”
She frowns. “Um, no. It’s not that. Unlike yours, our relationship is based on more than just sex.”
“Okay, that’s true,” I say, since her relationship is also based on self-deception, bribery, corruption, co-dependency, emotional manipulation, alleged amnesia and possible grounds for a federal prosecution.
“I think…” says Hanna, gazing into the middle distance in a way that she thinks makes her look thoughtful but makes everyone else worry that she’s having some kind of brain event. “I think that I finally understand what it is that I want out of a relationship.”
“A yacht? Because I gotta tell you, I’m with Jesús on this one – you should definitely hold out for a yacht before you break it off.”
She glares at me. “Nobody has ever really loved him, you know,” she says. “His mother’s a harridan and his birth mother gave him up as a baby. And I’m so scared to try and love him. What if I disappoint him like every other woman who has abandoned him?”
I don’t say anything. What can you say to this kind of soggy, pop-psych fuckery, even when it’s not coming from the lips of a woman so creepy that she thinks amnesia is an attractive trait in a man?
“I just had this moment of blinding clarity,” says Hanna. “It’s like, I want his love. I need his love. It’s like I have this deep, fundamental need to be loved for myself. I never realised that about myself before.”
Holy shit. That’s her revelation? Will it blow her mind if I tell her that she has thumbs? “Yeah,” I say, slowly. “That’s not just you.”
“But you see, he’s damaged,” says Hanna, all breathy and big eyed. “What if he can’t love me the way I need to be loved? Because of his mommy issues? What if it doesn’t work out?”
I squint at her and listen to the coffee drip behind me. I like Hanna’s mom, but something went fundamentally fucking wrong here. Is this what happens when you praise your child’s every bowel movement?
“Hanna,” I say. “That happens to everyone. Everyone wants to be loved for themselves. Everyone feels apprehensive when they’re starting out in a relationship – that’s part of the whole roller-coaster ride. The only reason you think this is the greatest inner revelation since Sigmund Freud first wheeled out the couch is because if your head was any further up your own self-obsessed ass you’d be wearing your pancreas as a fucking hat.”
She gets up from the breakfast bar. “I know what this is about,” she says, with the serene, knowing air of one who is scarily clueless about more or less everything.
“Really? Do you?”
“Oh yes,” says Hanna. “It’s okay. I get it, Kate. I know you’re prettier than me, and blonde. And I know you think you should be the one who gets the billionaire…”
“…what the fuck?” I’m not mad anymore. I don’t have the energy. I always try not to get mad at her because there’s no point – most of the time she’s just too fucking stupid to understand that she’s being a terrible person.
“…but he chose me. Go figure.”
“There’s not much to figure out,” I say. “He’s a weird pervert who’s scared of normal women and you’re not a normal woman.”
Hanna peers down her nose at me. “Right. By normal I guess you mean blonde Barbie girls who date him for his money and look pretty hanging off his arm…”
“…and have enough self-esteem and experience to recognise that he’s fundamentally broken. Barbie girls? Will you listen to yourself? Do you honestly believe that every other woman in the world is a slut?”
“No,” she says, although she totally does.
She dumps her teacup in the sink and heads for her bedroom door. “Look,” she says. “I’m sorry that your boyfriend doesn’t have a helicopter, but there’s no reason to take it out on me.”
I laugh. I do that a lot whenever she forces me to think about Crispian Neigh in a boyfriend context; I read somewhere that smiling suppresses your gag reflex. “Oh honey,” I say, pouring out two cups of coffee for me and Jesús. “My boyfriend doesn’t need a helicopter to take me to heaven and back.”
I take the coffee into the bedroom, where Jesús is sitting naked on the bed, rolling up a doobie. “I’m guessing from the yelling that she going through with it?” he says.
“Yep. She is.”
“Then I’m not going,” says Jesús. “I’ll puke if I have to watch her make a valedictorian speech. She has no right to. She didn’t even graduate.”
“I know.” He’d have a lot more moral authority if we hadn’t stolen a bunch of shit from the Heathman, but then everyone steals shit from hotels. That’s why they hang notes on the bathrobes saying ‘Please Don’t Steal Me’. It’s like an invitation. Or reverse psychology.
My phone bloops – a text message from Teresa. “Hanna’s mom,” I say, holding it up.
“She must be so proud.”
“She’s pretty pissed, actually. She hates flying – says it upsets her chi or some such bullshit. She wasn’t even going to come but it turns out she’s an old friend of Professor Jarrett…”
Jesús perks up. “You’re kidding?”
“Nope. I think they went through That Phase together in college – well, Hanna’s mom did. Professor Jarrett was just born fabulous, but you know what I mean.”
“No,” says Jesús. “I don’t. Why is she texting you?”
“Because she doesn’t like Hanna’s boyfriend,” I say, confiscating the joint. “And she wants to see him suffer.”
“Then she should let him carry on dating her daughter.”
I laugh. “Get dressed, shitlord. We’re going to this graduation and it’s going to be fun. You’ll see.”
The hall is packed. We’re all dressed up in our doofy caps and gowns, waiting for the speeches and for the guest of honour to hand us our sheepskins.
Said guest of honour is sitting at the side of the stage, minus his fedora and dressed in a dull grey suit with a even duller grey tie. Hanna’s choice, probably. I almost feel sorry for him but then I see his gaze dart nervously to the corner of the hall.
I knew he was faking. Seriously – has there ever been a case of amnesia that didn’t turn out not to be amnesia after all?
Hanna gets to speak first, but I can’t see her lasting up there. For a start I snuck a couple of drops of laxative into her mid-morning Earl Grey and she’s bound to flip her shit (Maybe literally.) when she sees who Teresa’s brought along as her plus one.
Neigh looks satisfyingly antsy, still trying very hard not to look at the guys in the corner. They’re big guys, solid, but that’s not the most nerve-wracking thing about them. Their jackets are bulky in a way that makes you think they’re packing, and the chill in their eyes removes all doubt that they are – or maybe we shouldn’t have smoked up so close to the festivities; Jesús’ new sticky weed makes me paranoid as hell.
I slip backstage, only to find that Hanna is coasting pleasantly on her own brand of naturally occurring, scream-free pet tranquiliser. There are roses everywhere and tied to the back of a chair are several helium balloons that say things like Congratulations! and Happy Graduation! in pink, swirly letters. No ponies – a significant symptom of Neigh’s ‘amnesia’.
“Do you think this gown makes me look fat?” she asks.
“Yes.” There’s no way not to look fat in a graduation gown. We’re each wearing enough fabric to constitute a small yurt each. A modest Mongol horde could shelter and graze their horses in the shade afforded by our asses right now.
I don’t rationalise this to Hanna, hoping it will dent her confidence, but she just mutters something about her hair frizzing, adjusts her cap and looks patiently up toward the lectern where the Dean is still talking.
Worried, I head further back into the wings where Jesús is sulking next to the fire exit. “Okay, I think she’s really going to do it,” I say. “She’s amazingly chilled out. I thought she’d be bouncing off the walls by now.”
“So much for that fun you promised me,” says Jesús, tossing his cigarette outside and closing the door.
“I know. She hasn’t even shit her pants. Sorry about that.”
He sighs and takes my hand. “It’s okay,” he says. “I like it that you owe me some fun – gives me something to look forward to.”
The thought of having fun with Jesús takes my mind to interesting places. Mainly my lingerie drawer. I get so distracted by how hot he’d get in stockings and garter belt that I barely notice when his hand slips out of mine and he goes striding off towards Hanna, his graduation gown billowing dramatically as he walks.
He says something to Hanna and she visibly crumples, like a deflated whoopee cushion. She slides off her chair onto the floor, greenish white and already gasping. Ah, this is more like it – a good old Victorian case of the vapours, brought on by a breakfast rich in only fancy tea and self-regard.
I hurry to her chair, where Jesús, unnoticed, is removing one of the balloons. “Hanna, what’s wrong?” I ask. “Are you okay?”
The Dean is winding up his speech and Hanna knows it. Her huge eyes look like they’re about to pop clean out of her head and she gasps convulsively. I give her water to sip but she waves it away, panicking.
“Here,” says Jesús, handing her a large brown paper bag. “Breathe in, breathe out. That’s it – nice and steady…”
She takes a few slowing breaths and gets her panic attack under control. “Okay?” says Jesús.
Hanna nods as the Dean draws to a close. She starts to speak but no sound comes out, so she takes a gulp of my water before the Dean welcomes her on stage.
There’s scattered and grudging applause as she steps up to the lectern – nobody likes a cheater, after all. “What the hell did you say to her?” I ask Jesús.
“I told her I’d seen Professor Jarrett,” he said.
“Oh. You knew?”
“That Professor Jarrett was here?”
“She’s here? For real?” asks Jesús. “I was just lying to freak Hanna out.”
“No dude, she’s really here. With Teresa.” And judging by the look on Hanna’s face I think Hanna has spotted the Professor right about now.
“Fuck,” says Hanna, which was not the first word on her notes. Her voice sounds squeakier than usual and there’s a ripple of laughter from the crowd.
“Excuse me,” says Hanna, in the same Alvin and the Chipmunks voice as before.
Jesús opens the brown paper bag and shows me the inside. I see the crumpled silver foil of the helium balloon and suddenly Hanna’s squeakings make sense. “You evil piece of shit,” I say, impressed.
“Stop it!” Hanna is yelling. “Stop laughing!” As she gets madder she gets even higher, until her voice is close to a pitch that only dogs can hear. The ripple of laughter is now a roar.
As she runs offstage in tears I see Crispian Neigh checking out the exits. My first instinct is to stop him, physically if necessary, and that’s how I find myself standing behind the lectern.
Shit. Definitely shouldn’t have smoked that earlier.
The good news is that Hanna’s freaky boyfriend hasn’t run off stage after her and the big guys in the bulky jackets are still watching him like heavily armed hawks. The bad news is that I’ve just run on stage and the crowd are beginning to stop laughing.
And they’re looking at me.
“Er…hi,” I say. It seems like a good start. Oh God. My mind’s gone blank. I look down at Teresa, who is sitting in the front row next to Professor Jarrett. ‘Go on’, she mouths.
Somehow I make words come out of my mouth. I think I might have peed a little. Did I say that? Please say I didn’t say that.
“Um…so, our class valedictorian has some issues,” I say.
“No shit!” someone shouts.
I swallow and wonder if my tongue will ever feel wet again. “It’s crazy,” I say. “Being here. Isn’t it? Seems like only yesterday we were sitting our finals…”
“…it was like last week or something,” someone else says.
Huh. So it was. Weird.
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” I say. It didn’t mean to say it aloud but I obviously do because someone shouts back “Bad writing!”
“Yeah, okay,” I say. “Settle down.” For real – the last thing I fucking need right now is meta-hecklers.
“So…” I continue. “I guess I should just fill in for Hanna and introduce our next speaker and benefactor here – Mr. Crispian Neigh.”
He starts to rise from his seat but I wave him back down.
“Whoa there, Cloppy,” I say. It just slips out but I can see by the look on his face that he’s pissed. And here he’s supposed to be an innocent amnesiac, with no knowledge of his former life or his weird hobby. I glance at the bulky guys and realise that it might be helpful if I jogged his memory.
“I’m sure you’re all familiar with our special guest,” I say. “I’m sure you’ve all heard about his fortune, his talent and his sudden, tragic, inexplicable memory loss. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the inspiring story of how, despite hundreds of thousands in seed capital and a very expensive education, Crispian Neigh built his online empire from almost nothing. Sure, you might think him just another one per center who got lucky – and I admit, I thought the same thing. I did.”
I glance at him but he doesn’t react. “But that was before I got to know him,” I continue. “As a person. As a brony.”
Crispian Neigh’s right eyebrow does some kind of amateur dramatic move, something between ‘I have no idea what you are talking about’ and ‘proceed with caution.’ I don’t think he’s going to be bothering the Academy Award judges any time soon.
“Naturally I was heartbroken when I got that phone call,” I say. “Saying that he’d beaned himself on a bidet and couldn’t remember even one of his numerous addresses – not the ski-lodge in Aspen, the apartment in New York, the sleazy sex pad in Seattle. His mind – his brilliant, unique, innovative mind – was a total blank, which was a blessing for his attorneys should he have to answer for anything he’d done before the bump on the noggin, but for us, his friends…it was a tragedy.”
Hanna’s pale, pointy little face peers out from the wings. She’s never going to forgive me for what I’m about to do next.
I am so fucking okay with that.
“We miss the Crispian that we knew,” I say. “We miss his boundless enthusiasm for his stupid hobby, his unending obsession with My Little Pony. It didn’t matter to him if your eyes had glazed over five hours ago, or even if you’d given into boredom and straight up hanged yourself right in front of him – nothing was going to stop him from pontificating about the failures of the plot arc in the season two finale. That was how much he loved My Little Pony.”
I look over at Neigh and he already looks like he’s about to explode. This must be his personal idea of hell – not being allowed to talk about My Little Pony.
The big guys at the back are looking antsier than ever, so I take a gulp of water and get ready to deal the coup de grace. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with bronies,” I say. “That’s what they call themselves – bronies, adult male fans of My Little Pony. If you are familiar with them them you’ll know that they are some of the most committed people on earth. Some of the most loyal too.
“It doesn’t matter to them that their precious show is a shitty little Flash-style animation that anyone with a laptop could put together in five minutes – they love it all the same.”
His nostrils flare. Oh yeah. That’s the stuff.
“They don’t give a dancing pink shit that the scripts are juvenile, the characterisation is shoddy and the voice acting is annoying…”
He’s getting properly fucking pissed now. Come on, you big manbaby – you just gonna sit there and sulk while I talk shit about your favourite TV show?
“…they don’t even care that the pony characters are shallow, shrill and dumber than a sack of backwards rocks. They love it unconditionally. And that’s a beautiful thing, especially when you consider that Fluttershy is a passive-aggressive asshole, Twilight Sparkle is a stuck-up nerd, Applejack is probably the product of incest…”
Oh fuck yeah. He’s nearly there. This is almost better than sex.
“…and Pinkie Pie is a slut.”
Crispian Neigh’s chair clatters off the edge of the stage. The next thing I see is a couple of hundred pounds of enraged neckbeard diving in my general direction. The audience are on their feet just as I’m knocked off mine.
“You take that back,” yells Crispian Neigh. “You skanky little lying whore!”
He has hold of my gown, so I slide out of it and get away, just as one of the bulky guys takes hold of Crispian Neigh from behind.
“Naylor?” shrieks Hanna.
Crispian Neigh is cuffed and jerked upright. “Agent Naylor, ma’am,” says the big guy, and I recognise him as Neigh’s chauffeur and dogsbody. “And I wouldn’t advise trying to skip out on us, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
I don’t think Hanna understands what’s going on or the implications of what he’s saying, but quite frankly nobody – perhaps not even Hanna herself – knows what goes on in that girl’s strange, triangular mind.
“Pinkie Pie is a LADY!” screams Crispian Neigh, pony-pink in the face. “SHE’S A FUCKING LADY, OKAY?”
Hanna stares at him with a weird mix of disgust and belligerence. You can say one thing for Hanna – while she’s misguided in almost every single way ever, she’s not a quitter. “She’s a fucking cartoon horse, Crispian,” she says, with a sigh. “I thought we were over this.”
Jesús reaches down and helps Teresa and Professor Jarrett up onto the stage. “Kate, what the fuck is going on?”
The hall is filled with shouting, cheers, jeers and catcalls, but we can still hear Hanna’s molars grinding. “I’ll tell you what’s going on,” she says, hands on her hips. “Someone was faking amnesia so I’d think he’d given up his pony porn habit.”
“…no, look at me, Cris – isn’t this what it’s all about? You knew I didn’t like it. You knew I’d never like it, so wasn’t it convenient that you happened to lose your memory?”
Agent Naylor sighs. “I know I shouldn’t say this,” he says. “But you two are both as bad as each other. Eesh.” He leads Neigh towards the door.
“Wait!” squeaks Hanna, and goes to follow, but just like that there’s a bulky guy behind her too. It’s weird how they move as silent as clouds, even though even the smallest one is built like a brick shithouse.
She’s all eyes and mouth as they put the cuffs on her. By the time she realises she’s being arrested she looks like she’s trying to impersonate The Scream. “Mooommy!…” she wails.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” calls Teresa. “It’s just for questioning. I’ve called my attorney…”
She frowns as the crowd closes behind her daughter. “Oh shit. I’d better go after her. Excuse me, guys.”
“No, no problem,” says Professor Jarrett. “Go and see to her.”
“Okay, does someone want to explain to me what just happened?” asks Jesús.
“It was very simple,” says Professor Jarrett. “He was faking it, but not to hide his pony porn habit from Hanna. He was faking it because he knew the government was onto him.”
Jesús gawps. “For what?”
“Piracy,” I say. “That torrent site of his has been infringing copyright for years. Media companies have been consistently lobbying to have something done about him but you saw how the last round of attempted copyright legislation went down.”
“A clusterfuck,” agrees Professor Jarrett. “The law’s so full of loopholes that trying to pin down Crispian Neigh was like trying to nail jelly to a wall. Fortunately he got a little bit careless when he was trying to get me deported, and bribed an official whose staff were slightly more honest than the average civil servant. The bribery charge gave them something to hang the case on.”
Jesús stares at her. “And he knew about this?”
“He knew enough,” says Professor Jarrett. “Enough to worry when Teresa raised the subject and enough to know he could get some mileage out of memory loss.”
I nod. “Except everyone sensible knows that amnesia is not a thing that happens outside of soap opera plots.”
“Or marvellously cheesy novels with Fabio on the cover,” says Professor Jarrett.
Jesús raises his eyebrow at her and she turns slightly pink. “What?” she says, defensive. “You didn’t think I read nothing but nineteenth century novels, did you?”
“What’s going to happen to Hanna?” he asks. “Is she going to be okay?”
“I think so,” says Professor Jarrett. “I don’t think she’s done anything illegal – at least, not knowingly, and Teresa has an excellent attorney.”
“Actually she’s probably enjoying herself,” I say. “She’s the centre of attention and she’ll get to suffer and pine while he’s in the pokey. You know, it’s funny – I can kind of picture her as one of those weird women who end up writing love letters to Death Row prisoners and shit.”
Professor Jarrett nods. “I think you might be right there. I daresay she’ll be as happy as a clam providing they don’t let him watch My Little Pony.” She runs her hands through her hair and sighs. “Right, I must leave you kids. This has been an interesting afternoon but I must get home and surprise the wife.”
“She doesn’t know you’re back in the country?” asks Jesús.
“No. Although strictly speaking I never left it – the diplomatic corps recruits rather heavily from Oxford, so luckily I knew people who could get me to an Embassy while the mess was sorted out.”
“Ha,” says Jesús. “And they said a degree in Literature was useless.”
“It has its uses,” says Professor Jarrett. “If you’ll excuse me.”
She gets halfway into wings before turning back to us. “Oh, and congratulations! I keep forgetting it’s a graduation!” She laughs and carries on walking.
“Certainly a memorable day,” I say.
“I’m not likely to forget it either,” says Jesús. “It’s not often you see a grown man go crazy because someone called a cartoon pony a slut.”
“Yeah. On reflection I was a little harsh on Pinkie Pie. She likes to party but she’s not trashy about it.”
He laughs but not that convincingly. We look out over the hall, at the caps that got discarded and the chairs that were overturned in the crush when everyone went outside to rubberneck at Crispian Neigh’s arrest. It looks like the aftermath of a disaster, or a party – a really wild party that went on for four whole years while we pretended we didn’t care what would happen when it was over.
There just aren’t enough billionaires to go around in this economy.
Jesús takes my hand. “What’s the matter? You look sad.”
“No. Not really. A little. Maybe.” I sigh. “We’re going to have to get jobs, Jesús. Be grown ups.”
“Only as much as we need to. Anyway, I have a bone to pick with you.”
“Dude, I’ll pick your bone any time – you know that.”
He laughs and puts his arms around my waist. “Did you call me your boyfriend? I heard you – when you were talking to Hanna this morning.”
Oops. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I have a lousy degree because I spent senior year sitting around on my ass thinking that if I did enough drugs I’d turn into Hunter S. Thompson. Obviously I didn’t – I just got the munchies, gained ten pounds and Jesús started making remarks about ‘junk in the trunk’, which might explain why we’re here right now.
I have no idea how to turn that degree into a real job – I might have to move across the country while Jesús sits around in Seattle figuring out what to do with his degree – which will probably involve flipping burgers and dreaming of becoming the next Junot Diaz.
This could not have come at a worse time in my life. On the other hand, every time he smiles it’s like my heart does the lambada and every time I touch him I turn into a raging horny beast who wants to do him in every way humanly possible. And then some.
“Yeah,” I say. “I kinda did.”
No, really. It’s the end.
Well, for now.
We hear there’s money in this dirty book thing.