The first days of university are stressful as first year students struggle to adjust to their new environments, find their way around disorienting campuses and make new friends. For Matt, the unusual, long-haired kid from a small city on an island more than 4,000 kilometres to the west, the University of Toronto offered a chance to start his life again. With its long and colourful history, sprawling campus, numerous organizations and students groups, Matt believed St. George Campus offered a bright future, one he hoped would be very different from his past.
It wasn’t that high school was rough for Matt, rather, he just didn’t seem to fit in. He was athletic but not a standout, got good grades but was never an ‘A’ student, and had acquaintances but not friends. When Matt missed a day of school, few people noticed, and this bothered him. In fact, it bothered him a lot. He yearned to be liked and welcomed, like Norm from that show Cheers his dad watched. Everyone loved Norm, and Matt wanted that same feeling from others, most of all from his own parents. They divorced when he was young, something that made him actually happy since it put an end to the constant bickering, arguing and fighting, some of it physical. His parents gave him the choice of whom to live with, which for him, was like choosing between the lesser of two evils. Most people in his situation might have lived with their mom, but since she showed indifference to him, he stayed with his dad. As it turned out, his dad wasn’t around much, and when he was, the TV dominated his time. So Matt basically raised himself, and ended up being an awkward teen. Classmates and teachers alike didn’t seem to quite get his humour, his style, or him in general. He longed for a new start in university.
Day one, his move into residence, was encouraging. Although assigned a sparse, single room, containing just a twin-size bed, desk, lamp, chair, and bookshelf, he viewed it as a blank canvass with an invitation to paint. Everyone on his floor, all 24 of them, seemed genuinely happy to be there. “Wher’ you from?” was the question of the day as unfamiliar, eager faces sought commonality. Matt found two others who seemed as itching as he to get a good start. Together, Sienna, Katie and Matt passed most of the day in each other’s company, sharing their experiences, thoughts and dreams. After scoping out St. George Campus, they agreed to meet up in their dorm lobby and go for supper together. Matt was feeling good. Neither Sienna nor Katie rolled their eyes when he told a weird joke, looked the other way when he said something a bit crude, or laughed at his lack of style. Promising.
About to take a bite out of his burger, Matt stopped mid-bite, his mouth hanging open. She was sitting a few tables over with a small group of girls. With darker skin, long, wavy black hair, high cheekbones, and thin, almond eyes, her features drew him in like a magnet. Matt gathered himself and got back to eating supper, but he stole quick glances in her direction for the next hour or so. Once, with a slight throw of her thick hair, she giggled and smiled. It was nearly too much for Matt to bear.
“Who is she?”
“Huh? Oh. I don’t know. I was just looking around the dining hall, seeing who else was here.”
“Uh-huh. Sure you were.”
Sienna was a keen observer of people, so not much was lost on her.
“You should go over and say ‘hello.’ Whad’ ya got to lose?”
“Not a chance. So what’s the plan for this evening?”
A deft change of subject and Matt was back within their table's noisy conversation discussing which pub to go that night. A short time later, as they left the dining hall, Matt glanced over one more time. She was still there, enjoying her present company. Wow! Is she ever gorgeous.
The first pub night of the school year was filled with typical frosh debauchery. Cold beer was ordered, loud laughter abounded, silly stories were shared and sweaty bodies writhed about the jammed dance floor. Clothes were flashy and hormones raged, like colourful birds showing off for potential mates. Sienna and Katie drank their fair share, but Matt was more guarded. By nature, he was reserved, doing his best to always keep a solid head on his shoulders. It saved him from certain trouble in high school, when those disturbing thoughts first started to rise. He wanted to be in control of himself tonight and too much beer would not be helpful. Stay in control Matt. Stay in control he had repeated to himself over and over again for years now. He was repeating that exact phrase when she walked by their table, but just as quickly, she disappeared into a crowd. Was that her? Matt strained to see where she went. Sienna didn't miss a beat.
“So, you gonna just stare at her?”
“Huh? No. I was just looking around.”
“Sure. Uh-huh. I’ll be right back with three more. This round is mine.”
"Oh. I'm okay for now!"
He was too late. Matt and Katie chatted while Sienna headed to the crowded bar.
“That’s a fantastic shirt! Where’d you get it?”
“Thanks. I picked it up at a vintage store. I love the cut and colours. They don't make shirts quite like this anymore!”
“Well, it looks great on you. So do the shorts. And those legs! Hot damn! With your style and those legs, guys must be dropping drinks at your feet.”
“Nah. I buy my own drinks. Can’t stand immature boys hitting on me with offers of alcohol.”
Sienna had struck up a conversation with a girl in line, one with long, black wavy hair.
“Whad’ya drink anyways?”
“I like red wine, the bolder the better. Shiraz is my favourite. You?”
“Beer is my thing. Any beer really. Hey waiter, I’ll have three Mooseheads... and a glass of red wine. Shiraz please.”
Sienna smiled and tipped her head towards her almond-eyed companion, who was now curiously regarding her.
“My treat. I am pretty sure we live in the same residence. Were you in the dining hall earlier?”
With that question, Sienna had put her plan in motion. It was no fluke that she struck up this particular conversation. She knew Matt couldn’t stop staring at this beauty during supper, and Sienna, very outgoing and particularly impatient, thought she would move this whole thing along quickly.
“Listen, I hope you don’t mind, but I have this friend who has taken a real interest in you…
“Sorry, people. Long line up. Drinks and a new guest have arrived. Matt, this is Orchid. Orchid, meet Matt. Come on Katie, it's time for us to dance!”
Matt sat stupefied, watching Orchid form words with her full lips. He could not believe what just happened.
“Hey. Turns out, we all live in the same residence, and your friend Sienna seems nice. So how’d your first day go?”
Sienna and Katie returned some time later to Matt and Orchid laughing hysterically, appearing astounded by each thing the other said. They had hit it off quickly, with Matt drinking in every bit of his new companion and wondering how his night was going to end. He didn’t need to wonder much longer.
“I should head back to my friends. They keep looking over here.”
She waved to a table near the back and stood up, offering Matt a glance at those toned legs.
“Nice to meet all of you. Oh, and thank you Sienna, good call. Matt, I’ll see you around.”
Orchid spun around, hair flowing over her shoulder, and started walking away. One, two, three… she looked back, delivering a sultry, flirting glance at Matt. His stomach caved in, but he managed to smile while working out options to cross her path before Last Call. She certainly left an impression.
As it turned out, Matt’s night ended early helping his two friends home, each draped over each other's shoulders, singing songs from the night, and doing so poorly. Simon Cowell would cringe, but Matt didn’t mind at all. He was having a great night. On the walk home, he thought about his fresh, new start. Tonight gave him something promising, something unforgettable...something...he gave his head a hard shake. Stop it! Neither girl noticed.
As a curious youth, Matt believed his sometimes-violent images were normal, disturbing thoughts that everyone had. It was just that most people, except the crazy ones, didn’t act on them, and he was no crazy person. I wonder what it feels like to squeeze the life out of someone? If I bumped into someone on the sidewalk, could they stop themselves before they fell into traffic? Once, as a young teenager, he turned those thoughts into action when he tried the "bump”, but just ended up apologizing to the old man waiting at the bus stop. He had caught his balance and glared back at Matt. That is when he first started to repeat the phrase to himself: Stay in control Matt. Stay in control. It had worked for years, but during the last months of high school, the thoughts were harder to keep at bay, harder to keep caged, harder to ignore.
They saw each other during the next few days as they went to class, ate dinner, or hung out with groups of friends. Orchid flirted with Matt, but he stayed reserved, just smiling warmly. This definitely was not how she planned for it to go.
Orchid had also spotted Matt at dinner that first day, studying him when he wasn’t looking at her. He was calm, a bit quiet, and easy on her eyes. She loved his raggedy hair, especially the way it shielded part of his face. When she saw him at the pub, she made sure to 'accidentally' bump into one of the girls he was with and start up a conversation. She needed to know about this new boy. Sienna turned out to be a great accomplice, even offering to introduce them. An author could not have written a better story. However, he was just not getting the hint as she flirted away, so she, the bolder of the two, took a leap.
“Got any plans Friday evening? There is a great blues band playing at The Rex.”
Matt was hesitant. He wanted to spend time getting to know Orchid better, but in a more intimate way, rather than going to a bar, so he made a counteroffer.
“Friday sucks for me, but I have all day Saturday. Why don’t we grab lunch and then explore downtown a bit? I hear there is a tall tower somewhere in this city.”
She loved his obvious effort at humour.
“It’s a date. I’ll meet you in our lobby at noon.”
From a light, late lunch, they rolled into an afternoon of exploring downtown Toronto, walking past theatres, malls, sports stadiums, restaurants, and many bars and clubs. Before they knew it, it was closing in on supper. Feeling good about his odds, Matt made the move.
“How do you feel about dinner up the CN Tower?”
Finally! "So you aren't sick of me yet? Think you can handle more of me? Well, let’s find out!”
The views from the top were stunning. Although his hometown had mountain views, Matt had never seen a city skyline like this before. Dozens of towering skyscrapers, a sprawling Lake Ontario, and busy city blocks that looked like they might have been constructed out of Lego. Orchid’s company added another layer of beauty, her smooth curves contrasting with the straight, geometrical city lines. As they thumbed their menus, hiding their surprise at the sky high prices, a waiter arrived with glasses of water and proceeded to take their orders.
“Might I suggest a red wine to complement your food choices? We have a Niagara merlot that I think you both will like. I believe it will pair beautifully.”
Orchid gave an inquisitive raise of her eyebrows, encouraging Matt to reply.
“No merlot for us, thanks. But we’ll each have a glass of shiraz.”
Things were going so well for Matt. He felt warm inside, beyond the feeling he got from the shiraz, as pleasant thoughts of her drifted through his mind. Orchid was energetic, confident, funny, smart, and seemed to like him, even with his odd sense of humour. As they continued to talk, they began revealing secrets, testing the waters even more.
“When you were younger, did you ever have crazy thoughts about hurting people, like some of those things you see in video games or movies, and then wonder what that would be like in real life?”
Matt was pushing boundaries, but he felt as though Orchid and he were on the same wavelength.
“Yeh, of course. I think everyone does. Like, I once saw the scene in The Quest for the Holy Grail where the knight gets his arm cut off and blood spurts out, and I wondered if that would happen to someone whose arm got cut off. Crazy right?”
That was not exactly what Matt meant, but it would do. At least Orchid did not shy away from the subject.
The food was excellent and as the waiter arrived to take their plates away, Matt could see the evening might be ending.
“Can I get anything else for the young couple? Coffee, tea, dessert?”
“Whad’ya thinking for dessert Matt? Chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream? Or what about chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream on top!? Since we are a couple, we may as well get a couple of desserts, right?”
Matt looked at the waiter, who was grinning knowingly.
“Well, I guess we’ll have what my lady wants, with two spoons, small ones, so we can make dessert last.”
“Certainly. I’ll be right back with your order. I think, for this couple, I’ll ask the chef to liven it up a bit, to match your style.”
Matt and Orchid sat quietly for a moment, reflecting on what just happened.
“So…I guess we are a couple now?”
“I guess so. You know, your real choices were coffee, tea…or me, but the cake and ice cream is a good start. I have to use the ladies room. I want to make sure I look as good as the dessert, or else my boyfriend might get wandering eyes.”
She strolled away slowly, swaying her hips. One, two, three… With a toss of her hair, she threw a flirting glance over her shoulder, knowing he was going to be watching her. He was, glass in hand. Hook, line, and sinker.
Matt watched as she looked over her shoulder, and responded by lifting his glass in a slight toast, noticing the deep red shade of the shiraz. He continued watching her swaying figure through the wine's blood red hue. I wonder what she would look like, caked in… stop it! He shook his head quickly, realizing he was on his third glass. Stay in control Matt. Stay in control. But he was not certain that he wanted to be in control anymore.
Dessert arrived while she was still in the bathroom. Indeed the chef added a nice touch, with some whipping cream and two ruby red maraschino cherries on top. Shaved white chocolate sprinkled the plate. To Matt, it looked as perfect as his dinner date, and he could not wait to dig in. When he looked up, she was elegantly strolling back towards the table. Flawless. The evening was second to none.
“Your spoon, my lady. Let’s dig in.”
Matt fed her the first bite of dessert ecstasy.
On the way back from dinner, Orchid held Matt’s arm to keep him close to her, but also to steady him. The five glasses of wine at dinner made him a bit unsteady on his feet. Luckily, it was a short walk back home, only about 30 minutes. He was still a bit drunk when they arrived at her door.
“So, thanks for the great evening. I really did enjoy it.”
“Me too. But you sound like the evening is over? Like I said, coffee, tea…or me?”
Still holding his arm, she guided him into her room, feeling no resistance.
“I guess it’s me then.”
Putting her arms around his neck, she kissed him slowly while using her foot to push the door closed. Matt was taken aback, since he had no real experience with a girl. He pulled away nervously.
“Uh…this is new territory for me. Maybe we should slow down for a second.”
He was struggling inside, unsure what to do next, unsure if he could maintain control. He just needed to be sure of himself, needed to make sure… those thoughts weren’t coming back.
“Okay. I guess dessert will have to wait for another time. Let’s have a glass of wine to take the edge off. I’ll grab a bottle from the kitchen."
Matt slid onto the couch, trying to compose himself while prying his mind. He didn’t sense any danger in there, but could he trust himself? Time would tell.
“Shiraz, of course. And also, a little pill to help you relax.”
“What is it?”
"Well, I don’t quite know what they call it, but I know it’ll make you feel glorious. Pill first, then the wine. Afterwards, maybe you'll want dessert."
Pill in mouth, Matt drank the glass of wine, then opened his mouth wide, showing Orchid that everything was gone. Impressed, she slowly crept towards him on the couch, letting him look down the front of her shirt. She had already left her bra on the kitchen counter.
Minutes later, with Orchid straddling his lap and gently kissing his neck, Matt loosened up. She sensed it, leaned back, and lifted off his shirt. Then, with his eyes glued on her, she carefully peeled away hers, letting Matt see all of her. His heart raced as he absorbed her beauty, feeling light-headed but bold and unreserved at the same time. She gazed back, then took his right hand and helped him squeeze her breasts. Their eyes were fixed as she took her other hand and slid it down the front of his pants, giving a slight squeeze. Leaning back in, she put her full mouth onto his, lightly biting his lower lip. Breathing heavily, he realized he could not trust himself. Orchid showed no sign of concern when a hand reached out, slid around her neck, and squeezed. I wonder what it feels like to squeeze the life out of someone? Matt finally lost control. With his heart pounding harder and harder, nearly beating out of his chest, he compressed Orchid’s neck.
She let out a grunt, straining against his grip, but kept working with her lips and her hand quickly as she felt the pressure mounting around her neck. Almost. Come on Matt, let me get you there. As Matt climaxed, his grip loosened ever so slightly, giving Orchid a chance to snatch a breath. Then, very quickly, Matt's aggressive demeanour changed. Letting her go, he kicked back and grabbed his chest. His body started towards the floor, but she reached out and held him up. Catching her stare, Matt tried to open his mouth and say something, anything, but it was no use. His muscles had stopped working. He was helpless, like a wayward insect wrapped in a spider's web. What was in that pill! his eyes screamed. She didn't offer any answers, but just sat there and watched him as he slumped forward, drool slowly flowing from his mouth. His heart had stopped.
Orchid calmly got up and strolled to the bathroom. There was some bruising on her neck, but that was okay. She could hide it. Satisfied, she slid into some silky pink and white pyjamas. When she emerged from the bathroom, she dialled 911 from her cell phone, forcing a cry while explaining to the operator how she thought her boyfriend had just died. Minutes later, sirens wailed. It was then that Orchid made one more call, this time using an old Motorola flip phone she kept hidden away for exactly these occasions. Her mom, an experienced attorney with political connections, answered.
“Mom. I need your help...again.”
Hymenopus coronatus, more commonly known as the pink orchid mantis, is a beautiful insect, with bold, bright colours, and long shapely legs that resemble the petals of orchid flowers. Its front limbs are perfectly adapted for quickly snatching and holding unfortunate victims. They are ambitious and deadly predators. Like some others of their species, immediately after mating, the female pink orchid mantis will often grab and eat her male partner alive, starting with his head.