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the countdown begins

        The naked girl walked weakly and shakily out of the multipurpose room.  There was nobody in the foyer.  She then burst into lightning speed, running down the hall, into the other part of the building.

 

        The slapping feet turned this way, then that, through the deserted halls, then at last the naked girl banged into a bathroom in the admissions office wing.

 

        Tami stood in front of the toilet stall for a silent moment, then banged it with her fists over and over.  “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!!”  Then she kicked it with her feet like in a judo match.  “FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!”  She had hardly ever used that word before, but she sure felt like it now.  Catching her breath, she leaned against the stall, the metal cold against her bare breasts.  After a minute she started banging away again.  With one final kick she hurt her big toe.  “Ouch!  Shit!!”  She tried to rub it while standing on one leg but almost fell over.  Finally with unsteady hops she fell backward to sit on the floor against the wall.  After rubbing her toe some more she broke down crying.

 

        Her howls and sobs echoed against the cold tile walls.  She then gasped as she caught her breath again.  She was almost calm enough to talk by now, though her words were punctuated by sobs.  “Please . . . God . . .let me have clothes! . . . I WANT TO WEAR CLOTHES!!”

 

        She looked up and took some more breaths.

 

        The naked teenage girl started mumbling softly.  “Why can’t I have just a little . . . scrap of something . . .”  She started crying again.  “That coat . . . was so . . . beautiful . . . and WARM!”  In the midst of all that fine clothing everyone was wearing at the dance, she had to be naked.  Everyone was feasting, and she was denied even one little crumb.

 

        She thought of a half-remembered dream where she was condemned to be naked the rest of her life walking through ice and snow.

 

        She then looked at the ceiling.  “Please God . . . I don’t want to be naked any more.”  She kept looking as if waiting for a sign.

 

        Tami sat there for a long time.  At length her breathing returned to normal.  She looked down at herself.  What am I doing on this dirty old bathroom floor?  She saw the dark soles of her feet and brushed some of the dirt off.  Then she got up, brushing dust from her back, her butt, the backs of her legs.  Yuck.

 

        She turned and looked at herself in the mirror.  Her hair was wild and scattered.  Her eyes were red.  Her face was streaked with tears.  She thought of the last time she looked in the mirror, a couple of hours ago, all done up in the dorm, admired by her circle of friends.

 

        A different part of Tami took over just then.  There was a part of her that really was as strong as her friends thought she was.  Strong Tami told herself: You really are a sorry sight, aren’t you? You were babbling like a spoiled baby.  Think of how good you looked before.  Let’s get this under control.

 

        She ran the cold water and doused her face.  With the gritty paper towels she wiped her face clean and arranged her hair with her fingers as best she could.  A minute later she was looking much better.

 

        She leaned against the sink, looking down at her nipples, which still had some of the rouge Mayree had put on them.  There were also some sparkles still across the tops of her breasts.  Her trimmed diamond-shaped pubic hair poked up above the edge of the white porcelain.  She thought of her last crying fit in the bathroom, right after that disastrous meeting with the Dean.  She didn’t want this to become a habit.  This can’t go on.  I’ve got to have a plan.

 

        My summer job.

 

        She had thought about it before.  A summer job, away from campus, in another town, away from home.  Where she would live.  Where she would make new friends and acquaintances.  And where she would wear clothes!  They wouldn’t be any the wiser.  They wouldn’t know about this nude religion crap.  To them Tami Smithers would be just another average girl.

 

        I’ve got to be organized about this.  I’ve got to have a plan.  Tami told herself: I’ll start Monday.  I’ll start checking the summer job boards then and I’ll do it every week.  Once the new semester starts there should be something up there pretty soon.  I’ll make lists of who to call, who I’ve already called . . .

 

        There was a goal in sight.  Maybe pretty far at the moment, but every day it would get closer.  How many days?  Tami remembered that the last final of Spring Semester was May 22.  Today was December 9.  Being a math major, Tami was good at counting.  January 9.  31 days.  February 9.  62 days.  May 22 . . . 164 days.

 

        164 days!  Almost half a year!

 

        Tami remembered something she saw on an old rerun of “Mission: Impossible”.  She loved that old show, with all its gizmos and intricate plots, it appealed to her nerdy, scientific side.  Mr. Phelps was pretending to be a prisoner.  A new guy, the guy they wanted information from, was assigned as his cell mate.  “Five years!”  he said.  “How am I going to live through this for five years!”

 

        “You’re taking it all wrong,” Phelps said.  “The smart con does his sentence one day at a time.”

 

        Tami told herself: one day at a time.  Today it’s 164 days.  Tomorrow it will be 163 days.  I’ll be one day closer.

 

        She looked again at the mirror and decided she was O.K.  Back to the dance.

        This Tami, the Strong Tami, strode bolt upright through the hallway, her heels thudding confidently on the tile floor.  She kept telling herself in a sort of prayer:

 

        164 days.

        As God is my witness, I will be wearing clothes starting May 23.

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Earlier that same evening, what helped drive Tami to this state:


Tami looked desolately onto the dance floor. There was a girl with a slit skirt with sequins. To the left was a girl with a strapless fur-lined black gown. Over closer was a girl with a pink dress that was O.K., but with fine silk gloves that went up to her elbows. Then Tami looked lower. The pink dress girl had white heels much like Tami wore to her junior prom. The girl next to her being twirled by her man wore big black platforms with white lining. Over to the side there was a girl who was actually wearing dressy sandals on this bitter cold night, but she…


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