Kissing Frogs

“We had a dope time at the party, and we had sex. But afterwards she seemed really mad about something, and now she’s avoiding me.”

Two acting majors were standing at the front of the black box theater. The one who had just spoken had curly, blonde-bordering-on-brown hair, the other had darker hair and was several inches taller. I couldn’t help but wonder, perhaps unfairly, whether they had volunteered to perform these skits or if they’d been forced to make up for flunking one of their acting classes.

“Well, did you get consent?”

“I don’t know, it was the heat of the moment, man,” the first, the one with light curly hair, said. I cringed inwardly at the dialogue – it had quite clearly been written by an older adult trying to mimic a more youthful vernacular, which as ever backfired.

I glanced surreptitiously behind me to see how the group of soon-to-be frat boys sitting in the back row were reacting to this. Sure enough, they were snickering and whispering innuendos to each other. I rolled my eyes and turned my attention back to the stage – unfortunately we only had to be physically present, not provide proof of emotional maturity.

“Yeah, but didn’t you see how short her skirt was?” the first actor was saying. “She was practically begging for it.”

The taller actor shook his head. “You know, just because someone’s wearing clothing that’s revealing doesn’t mean that you can have sex with them without consent. Sex without consent is rape.”

There was a brief pause which I initially mistook for someone forgetting their line, but then the actors turned to the audience abruptly and bowed, signaling the end. Scattered, unenthusiastic applause followed, soon overtaken by the sound of chairs scraping as people stood up to leave.

I followed the crowd of people out into the bright July sunlight, which shone from between the tall neo-gothic campus buildings. On the tour earlier in the day we’d been told what all of the buildings were, but now all I could really remember was the library and theater.

“Hey, listen up.” One of the orientation leaders had climbed up on a low stone wall to try and get everyone’s attention. “It’s just past five now, so we’re gonna head back to the dorms. Feel free to relax for a little while, or hang out in the common rooms, and dinner will start at around six-thirty in your dorm’s cafeteria.”

When I entered the plain, cinder block-walled room I’d been assigned, I was surprised to see a pretty girl with dyed blonde hair transferring clothing from a small suitcase to our dresser. I hadn’t bothered to unpack; it seemed pointless for the thirty-six hours that I’d be staying there. But my roommate seemed to have embraced her temporary accommodation more fully than I had.

“Hey,” she said, her voice all chipper excitement. “You must be Paige.”

“Yeah,” I said, wondering if there was some sort of roommate information packet that I’d missed. “Sorry, you’re…”

“Caitlin,” she said. “My flight was delayed, so I got here super late. I feel like I’m behind, and college doesn’t even start for a month.”

“You didn’t miss much,” I assured her truthfully. “All we did was a tour, some ice-breakers, and this play.”


“Or, presentation,” I corrected myself. “Don’t do drugs, don’t bully people, get consent, that kind of thing?”

“Oh,” she said blandly, tossing the few remaining items of clothing from her luggage into a drawer and then turning to me. “So are you from around here?”

“No, Colorado,” I said. I didn’t think I’d ever been asked where I was from so many times in one day before. “Are you?”

She shook her head. “Nope, even farther away. LA.”

Once again taking in the polished glow of her hair and makeup, I couldn’t say I was entirely surprised. “I haven’t been to LA in a long time,” I said. “But if I go back I really want to do one of those historic movie location tours, where they go to, like, Griffith Observatory and talk about Rebel Without A Cause, and The Ambassador Hotel from The Graduate, and things like that.”

“I guess,” Caitlin said, giving me a funny look. “They also have celebrity home tours, and you get to see where the Kardashians live and stuff.”

“Oh God, I hate–” I started to say, then realized that she had meant it genuinely. “Are you ready to go to dinner?” I asked instead, hoping that the change in venue would help make up for our lack of shared interests.

We took the elevator down to the ground floor. As we passed through the lobby on the way to the cafeteria, there were several tables set up with information about clubs and services available to students on campus. The one for IT was handing out free laptop stickers, while the health center table next to them was giving out condoms.

A middle-aged nurse offered them to us with a smile, and Caitlin took one, but I shook my head, feeling my cheeks reddening.

“I think they’re free,” Caitlin said, giving me a confused smile.

“I already got some earlier,” I said, and moved away.

I stopped to briefly look at the campus orchestra (Want to make music and meet amazing friends? 3 performance opportunities each year!), then went past the displays for club sports (From soccer to badminton, we have something for you!). One of their outreach representatives tried to convince me that I had the perfect build for volleyball, but considering I’d spent most PE classes in high school desperately avoiding anything involving hand eye coordination, I politely disagreed.

Farther down there was an eye-catching table covered in rainbow fabric with a banner that said LGBTQ+ alliance in bubble letters.

My gaze lingered a second longer than I’d meant it to, and the guy behind the table saw me looking and smiled. “Hi, how’re you doing?”

Caitlin had followed me and was staring with a surprised expression. I froze, my eyes darting back and forth between her and the guy who’d just spoken to me.

Fine, thanks,” I managed finally.

“Are you interested in getting involved? We’ll be having lots of socials in the fall…” He must have sensed my discomfort, because he lowered his voice before speaking again. “We also have pamphlets with information if you’d like one.”

“Sure,” I mumbled, taking it and immediately crumpling it into my pocket.

I felt Caitlin’s eyes on me as we walked onwards towards the cafeteria. “So you’re…”

“What?” I asked, hoping to avoid the question that I knew was coming.

“You know…gay?” Her voice had risen unnaturally in pitch despite the smile plastered onto her face in a slightly forced show of support.

“Oh, no, I uh—”

“It’s fine if you are, I didn’t mean it like, you know, in a bad way or anything.”

“No,” I said more firmly, “I know. But I’m not.”

“Lots of people experiment in college,” she carried on obliviously, “I mean, I’d personally find it kind of gross, no offense, but my best friend’s older sister dated a girl in college for a while–”

“Did I tell you there’s a party later tonight?” I interrupted.

“What?” My tactic seemed to have worked; Caitlin now looked somewhat confused but had at least been distracted from the previous topic.

“A party,” I repeated. “One of the girls in my orientation group rented an Airbnb off campus instead of staying in the dorm, so she’s having some people over. I’m sure you’d be welcome to come too.”

“Really?” Caitlin’s face lit up as if I’d just told her that she was going to be America’s Next Top Model or something. “That’d be amazing!”

“Great,” I said, grabbing a tray from the stack at the entrance to the cafeteria. I was relieved not to be going alone, but part of me – maybe the smarter part – couldn’t help but wonder if I would have been better off.


As I’d somewhat expected, the party wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the college parties in movies always seem to be – the house was small, with low ceilings and oatmeal-colored carpeting, and the two-dozen or so people who were there were standing around in clumps talking instead of dancing or playing drinking games. Still, Caitlin seemed enamored with it, especially when she saw the array of alcohol on the kitchen counter.

“They have margaritas!” she said, grinning. “Do you want one too?”

I nodded. “Sure, sounds good.”

As we came out of the kitchen with our drinks, Caitlin stopped suddenly. “Oh my god.”

I stopped as well, looking around for whatever had startled her. But when I followed her gaze, all I saw was a couple of guys sitting on a worn couch and drinking beer.

“Do you know him?” she asked hopefully, indicating the one wearing a dark green t-shirt over an obviously gym-honed physique.

I shook my head, wondering how many people she thought I possibly could have met over the course of a single day. “No, he wasn’t in my group.”

Apparently undeterred, Caitlin started to make a beeline for the couch. I tried to ignore the small tug of anxiety I felt as I followed her.

“Mind if we sit here?” she asked the two guys, flashing a too-white smile.

“Yeah, go ahead,” the guy in the green shirt said. “Here for orientation?”

Caitlin nodded as we sat down. “Yeah.”

“Same,” he said. “I’m Liam, by the way.”

“I’m Caitlin, and this is Paige.”

I smiled in what I hoped was a vaguely polite way. “Hi.”

“Conor,” the second guy volunteered, leaning forward to grin at us from the other end of the couch.

“Nice to meet you both,” Caitlin said with another coquettish smile. She seemed to be completely in her element, unlike me.

“Have you decided what you’re majoring in?” Liam asked.

“Psychology,” I answered.

He nodded disinterestedly and turned to Caitlin.

“I’m not completely sure yet, but probably media or marketing or something like that,” she said. “What about you?”

“Business,” Liam said, “finance specifically.”

Caitlin cocked her head. “Wow, someone will be making a lot of money when they graduate.”

Liam’s mouth turned up in a playful smile. “What, are you a gold digger or something?”

“Maybe,” Caitlin said, equally teasingly. I was already starting to feel like a very conspicuous third wheel – or fourth, more accurately.

“Hoping to be the next Michael Burry?” I asked facetiously.

Liam’s eyes barely flicked in my direction. “Oh, yeah, sure.”

“It’s so loud,” Caitlin giggled to him, “maybe we should go upstairs for a bit.”

I couldn’t quite hear what Liam said in response, but he must have agreed, because they both stood up from their seats in the middle of the couch, leaving me and Conor sitting with a large gap between us.

Conor scooted a few inches closer to me. “So…”

I smiled at him awkwardly, no teeth, and tried to think of something to say. But once again he beat me to it.

“Where are you from?”

“Colorado,” I answered mechanically.

“No way, my family went there to ski last winter. You ski?”

I wished for a moment that I’d come from a more athletic family, or maybe just a richer one, so that I could give more than a monosyllabic answer. “No. Sorry.” I chewed the inside of my lip for a moment, then, in an attempt at humor, said “I can be pretty clumsy, so I’d probably be one of those people you hear about who fall down the mountain and break all their limbs.”

“Oh,” Conor said, with a half-chuckle.

“I didn’t catch what you said your major was?” I tried.

“Business, same as Liam.”

“Ah, right,” I said, “cool.”

We fell into silence again, making me hyper-aware of the throbbing base of the music causing the floor to pulse beneath my feet.

“Look,” I said finally, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, I’m really not trying to be rude, but I’m kind of tired so I think I’m going to head home.”

Conor started to stand up. “I’ll come with you.”

“You really don’t have to,” I said quickly.

“Nah, the music sucks anyway, let’s go.”

I nodded unenthusiastically. “Cool, let’s go.”


It was cooler but humid as we walked back to campus, and I could almost feel the moisture clinging to my skin. Conor kept up a steady stream of banal conversation, which I honestly didn’t mind since it meant that I didn’t have to think of entertaining things to say myself.

When we arrived at the front entrance to the dorm I was staying in, he looked the high-rise building up and down, then turned to me. “I’m staying over in Thornton.”

“Oh,” I said, not sure what I was supposed to do with this information.

He indicated my dorm with his gaze again. “I bet the view’s really nice here.”

“I’m actually only on the third floor, so…” I shrugged apologetically, not that I’d had anything to do with the room assignments. “Well, it was nice to meet you.”

“You too,” he said, then leaned towards me unexpectedly, his hand wrapping around my hip.

I turned my head quickly, causing his kiss to land on my jawbone instead. “I don’t really…I wasn’t really looking for anything like that tonight. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression.”

He looked at me warily for a moment. “Are you religious or something?”


“Look, I’ve been with virgins before,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”

I exhaled shortly. “No, I’m not a…it’s not that.”

“So, what?”

“I just…” I was staring down at the pavement, but I could still feel the pressure of his eyes on me. “I’m just not really into that whole, sort of…thing.”

He scoffed lightly. “You’re not into, what, having fun?”

“I’m asexual, okay?” I heard myself blurt out, then immediately regretted it. It was the last way I’d wanted to come out – I hadn’t even told my mom or friends back home yet. But I was sick of people making assumptions about me.

“Oh.” He took a step back, looking towards my crotch with a panicked expression that might have been funny in a different situation. “Like…you’re part boy?”

“No, not unisex,” I said shortly, trying hard not to feel angry at an ignorance that was probably only partly his fault. “I just don’t feel sexual attraction.”

“Wow, that’s…harsh.” His face was twisted into an expression that was some combination of hurt and annoyed. “I’m not your type I guess?”

“No,” I said again, starting to feel like a broken record, “what I’m saying is that no one’s my type. In that way.”

We continued to stand there, very conspicuously not meeting each other’s eye, for several seconds. I felt guilty, even though I knew I shouldn’t.

“Um, you can come in if you want, though. Maybe we can watch a movie, or…”

He nodded, perking up slightly. “Okay, sure.”


About fifteen minutes into the movie, he turned to me, talking over the dialogue onscreen. “Maybe you just haven’t had good sex, have you ever thought of that?”

I felt embarrassed heat creep up my neck, and tears prick my eyes, as if all the shame I’d felt when I’d first realized what I was had suddenly come back.

“I mean, you wouldn’t say you’re anti-ice cream,” he continued, “just because the only flavor you’d tried was like, broccoli or something, right?”

I don’t know how he moved so quickly, but the next thing I knew he was on top of me. His lips felt wet and slobbery against mine, and suddenly I felt very sorry for all of the princesses in fairy tales who went around kissing frogs. All those stories ever talked about was how the frog transformed into a prince afterwards, but they never said how disgusting it must have been in the meantime.

“Conor, stop, I told you I don’t–” I tried, pushing against his chest. He only looked around 180 pounds, but he might as well have been 300 now.

He grabbed my wrists and pushed them down against the couch. “You’ll be thanking me in a minute.”

I tried to remember any self-defense tactics I’d ever heard about, but few came back to me, and the ones that did seemed impossible now in the moment. I tried to lift my leg to knee him in the balls, but my limbs were pinned under him, leaving me to thrash until I tired myself out.

“You just don’t know what you want,” Conor whispered. I turned my head away and looked at a spot on the wall, which was either a small spider or a nick in the paint. I didn’t care either way. It gave me something else to think about.


Clarisse Gamblin is an alumna of University of East Anglia, where she received a masters in creative writing, and has a BA in Cinema and Media Arts from Indiana University. Her previous short stories have appeared in Northwest Indiana Literary Journal and Literally Stories. In addition to writing prose fiction, she has written and directed several short films which have been screened at festivals across the United States.