Part 3: Caitlyn
Caitlyn began college the way most overprotected, unpopular high schools girls do, determined to carve out a new identity. After all, how hard could it be to be popular? You simply had to be nice, right?
As was so often the case in Caitlyn’s life she overestimated the value of niceness. While Caitlyn had all of the necessary prerequisites to be accepted socially, she was attractive enough, smart enough, what set her apart was her inability to understand the social rules of young adulthood.
For example when she was singled out by Simon, the best looking boy in class for a date she’d said yes, not knowing that a girl named Sarah liked him. Female bullies use interpersonal relationships to punish others and from that moment on, Caitlyn had a target on her back. Caitlyn became a well known pariah among her female peer group. She had a small circle of two close friends, but she never quite fit with the larger circles. Ironically, Sarah and her friends accused Caitlyn of being the bully. ‘She shouldn’t have gone after him. Caitlyn knew I liked him.’ That was Sarah’s rallying cry and it was believed widely that Caitlyn was not a ‘girl’s girl.’
While it hurt Caitlyn’s feelings she managed to get on with her life, but something inside her was growing, a belief she wasn’t good enough to be liked. It would be years before she met Jason, but this belief would be one of the many things that made it possible for him to reel her in.
As college went on she found her place among the brains. Being smart was her natural inclination as it was something that had been so praised in her childhood. Intellect was her safe space and there was a boy, Steve, far too popular for her, but he was smart and sometimes when no one was around they’d have long conversations about the world. In public he ignored her, but she found herself half in love with him anyway. It wasn’t surprising that she’d choose someone who ignored her most of the time. It was something she was used to from having a workaholic father.
By Caitlyn’s junior year she was beginning to blossom into the woman Jason would be determined to have. Although Caitlyn didn’t see what others did, she was becoming a beautiful woman. It wasn’t merely the baby fat falling off her frame, but it was her aloofness. Years of bullying meant she’d erected a strong protective shell, and it created a mystery around her that added to her allure. And it was at this time that she met David.
David was Caitlyn’s first narcissistic relationship. He’d met her when she was in a weakened state, and he smelled her vulnerability like a shark smells blood in the water.
It happened at a party. Steve was finally talking to Caitlyn in public. She was elated. He’d even brought her a beer, which she hated, but she held it anyway and gazed up at him, hardly believing that it was finally happening, Steve was going to ask her out. Why else was he flirting with her? And then the world shifted.
‘I have to go. I’ve been ignoring Kim all night.’ Steve said.
‘Who’s Kim?’ Caitlyn asked.
‘Oh, she’s the girl I just started dating and she’s going to be pissed I’ve been talking to you all night.’
And just like that, Steve walked away to join Kim, a girl glaring at Caitlyn like she wanted to kill her. Caitlyn looked over at Kim’s friends who were staring at her with the same kind of contempt. For once Caitlyn couldn’t hide the pain she felt. Steve was her perfect guy and he’d chosen someone else and now more people hated her. Caitlyn looked down at the beer in her hand and chugged it with one go.
‘Hey, take it easy with that.’ A voice from behind Caitlyn said.
Caitlyn turned around and was shocked to see a man who looked remarkably like Steve. They were both tall with brown hair and green eyes. And he was smiling at her, unlike Steve who had Kim, and couldn’t care less about Caitlyn.
‘Hi, I’m David.’
They spent the rest of the evening talking. It was the first time Caitlyn had ever been around a guy who listened to her. A few times his football friends came over to interrupt, but David didn’t leave. He laughed at everything Caitlyn said. She didn’t even know she was funny, but he kept telling her she was. Three hours later Caitlyn wasn’t thinking about Steve. She was kind of amazed that a guy as cool as David was interested in her. That night he walked her home and kissed her good-night. He was only the second guy who had kissed her. The next day she woke up smiling and couldn’t believe when David called her to ask her to meet him for a picnic. He picked up sandwiches and a bottle of wine. He took her to a place in the park off campus. He told it was his favorite spot to come and think. It never occurred to her that it was his favorite spot to seduce girls and that she was in a long list of many. She didn’t know it was a joke among David and his friends to ‘nail the virgin.’
Caitlyn had grown up going to church every Sunday. She wanted to wait to have sex until she was married, but as the weeks went on and David told her how much he loved her, how much he wanted to show her, Caitlyn changed her mind. Finally, one afternoon she said ‘yes’ because she loved him and wanted to make him happy and she also wanted to know what sex was all about. David told her over and over how good he was and how he wanted to be the one to teach her.
They had sex, and it wasn’t what she expected. For one thing it wasn’t how David said it would be. He seemed to enjoy it, but it really didn’t feel like it had much to do with her. Still she was happy afterwards, but surprised at how awkward he seemed to be.
He didn’t call her the next day, or the day after that. Finally she walked over to his dorm room and he told her.
‘Look, we had fun, but it’s over now. I’ve got to start training more for next season and me and the guys want to have fun this summer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend.’
Caitlyn walked back to her room in a haze of pain. David had broken up with her. She’d waited so long. She’d been good and now, what? He’d said he loved her. Had he lied? Why? Why would he lie to her?
She called in sick to her classes and stayed in bed the next three days. Finally her roommate, Kelli said, ‘Get up, now. You’re gross.’
Later that day Caitlyn went to the cafeteria. She planned a time later than the football players ate so she wouldn’t see David. It didn’t matter. Sarah was more than willing to tell Caitlyn, ‘Hey, don’t feel bad. David sleeps with everyone. He’s already moved onto Mia.’
In that moment a part of Caitlyn’s soul shattered. ‘How could I have been so stupid?’
Five years later, Caitlyn will meet Jason…
Bullying leaves an indelible mark on people and their interactions with others. Caitlyn’s experiences with girls in high school and then in college had made her accustomed to being treated poorly.
Caitlyn falling in love with Steve when he barely acknowledged her existence publicly was based on romantic ideas created by Disney. ‘If only one day he actually looked at me then maybe we could be together.’ Yes, Steve enjoyed her admiration and wasn’t against using her for an ego boost when he needed it, but he didn’t care about her.
David watched the whole scenario knowing instinctively that with a little romance and attention he could have Caitlyn because she just wanted someone to see her.
Caitlyn was in no way prepared for someone like David. She was used to being treated rudely, but not having people lie to her. It was pure lack of imagination that she couldn’t imagine David would pay that much attention just to get her into bed. She’d seen herself as the girl men wanted to marry, not sleep with. She was the ‘smart’ girl after all. Unfortunately for Caitlyn by the time she meets Jason in five years, she still won’t be seeing herself realistically.
Come back next week for part 4 when Jason and Caitlyn finally meet.