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The Paper Bag Princess

by Rebecca Jones-Howe

The guy at the bar is wearing a T-shirt that says “Honey Badger Don’t Care.” He’s skinny enough for the shirt, but he cringes when he takes a sip from his bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I wonder if he can fuck a girl like me and really not care.

I like to tell myself that I’m not that ugly. I’ve studied my reflection enough times to believe that my cheeks aren’t that chipmunk-like, that my teeth aren’t too big, that my forehead isn’t too high. Those features are all I know, but self-confidence is a difficult thing to maintain when you live in a society that judges everything on face value.

Having bangs and makeup help.

So do paper bags.

I should have been offended the first time a guy said he’d only fuck me if I covered my face the entire time. Truth is, I was tired of being defensive. It was easier to allow myself the privilege of being selfish, because the guy was suave and sexy and entirely worth banging, the sort of guy I’d never bang if it wasn’t for the one condition he stipulated.

So I swallowed my pride.

It was scary, at first. His breaths got heavy as soon as I slipped the paper bag over my head. He kept calling me his Little Fuck Doll and I lay there imagining that I was the broken-headed Barbie I owned as a kid. He grabbed my tits, squeezed them hard. I never asked him to stop. My reactions just made him try harder. He propped my legs over his shoulders and he fucked me maniacally, his grunts echoing over my covered face, his sweat dripping, leaving spots on the paper bag. He fucked me so hard that I came before he did. When he finished, he pulled the bag off my head and asked me if I liked it. I was so high off the endorphin rush of climaxing that I couldn’t even answer the question. I just laid there and grinned.

A broken Barbie’s an easy fix. Just press her head on good.

There’s a fresh paper bag inside my purse. I dig it out and set it on top of the bar and that’s when the guy in the honey badger shirt looks over. To be fair, he notices the bag first. Then he looks at me. He meets my gaze and he scrunches his face.

The features he sees are the chipmunk ones, but I’m okay with that. Honey badgers will eat practically anything.

He walks up with his poser beer and leans against the bar. “So uh, you’re that girl, right?”

“Yup,” I say.

“Like, the paper bag girl?” he asks.

I glance at the bag on the counter and I look back at him.

He takes a sip from his beer and laughs. “I thought people were joking about you.”

“Nope,” I say. “I’m legit shit.”

“That’s sweet,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say. “It’s just straight-up dope, isn’t it?”

He takes another sip and looks me over, studies me from the neck down. He wants the experience, the opportunity to brag. He looks at my face again and I smile. I make him nervous. He looks about ready to concede, but he’s wearing the wrong shirt to do that.

“So, uh…” He takes another drink. “Do we just-”

“We do this in the handicapped bathroom,” I say.

“Right now?” he asks.

“Right now,” I say.

He takes another drink. “Fuck it,” he says. “Why not?”

“Fantastic,” I say.

He smiles way too eager.

I reach for the paper bag. “So, you want a face or would you rather do the headless thing?”

“What?” he asks.

“I’ve got faces,” I say, digging into my purse for the cutouts. Tonight I’ve got Audrey Hepburn and Courtney Love and Kate Middleton. His brows furrow when I hold them up. “You don’t have to pick one,” I say. “It’s just that some guys get weird about doing me when there’s nothing to look at.”

“I’m not weird,” he says.

“I could also draw a face on the bag,” I say, reaching for the Sharpie in my purse.

“Okay fine,” he says. “I’ll pick a face. A real one.”

I fan them out for him, the heads of the women I’ve kept forever in my mental toy chest. He picks the Duchess of Cambridge and instantly I know what kind of fucker this guy is.

“You like her?” I ask, wagging Kate’s face at him. “You think she’s hot?”

“She’s okay.” He cocks his head to the side and takes another swig of his beer.

His confidence is kind of sexy, even though it won’t last. He’s the sort of guy I would have dreamt about getting with in high school, except back then my idea of getting with a guy was more like holding hands and going out for ice cream and shit. I’m sure behind his pent-up ironic obnoxiousness that he’s probably thinking of taking Kate Middleton out for ice cream. He just seems like the kind of guy who started out a romantic.

I pull the roll of tape from out of my purse and I attach Kate’s face to the paper bag.

“So, are you ready for this?” I ask.

He tilts the PBR back but he doesn’t finish the beer. His fingers tighten around the neck of the bottle as I lead him to the bathroom. I hang up my purse, turning the lock on the door before handing him the paper bag. He takes it, holds it gently. Then I unbutton my dress. He stares. He’s turned on even though it’s still my face that’s staring back at him. He adjusts his jeans, gropes there a moment.

I dig a condom out of my purse and toss it at him.

“Are you serious?” he asks, setting his beer on the counter.

“You might not want to think you’re fucking me but you still are,” I say.

His belt buckle clinks when he undoes his pants.

I take the paper bag and pull it over my head. Now I’m a princess and I hear the sound of him tearing the condom wrapper. I smile behind my shield of brown paper.

The air in the room is cold, but his hands are colder when he gropes at my chest. He pushes me back against the counter. I bite my lip and I prop myself up. He reaches between my legs.

It’s funny how I once thought I was vulnerable.

“It’s better when you say something,” I say.

“Yeah,” he says, moving his hands, spreading my thighs, his touch just as soft as his voice. He clears his throat and repeats himself. “Sure, yeah.”

I’m sure he thought he’d sound more dominating.

“Yeah?” I ask. “That’s all you can say?”

“No,” he says.

“You’re letting me down, honey badger,” I say.

He shoves me back. My head hits the mirror and my lips twitch. I smile behind the paper bag.

He’d probably grab my hair if he was actually looking me in the face, but Kate Middleton’s hair is too perfect, so he grips my wrists instead. It’s sexy, the way his fingers tighten and his frustration cuts off my circulation. His groan meshes with the distorted bass that throbs from the speakers.

“Maybe I don’t wanna talk,” he says.

“Are you shy?” I ask.

“Maybe I don’t have anything to say to you,” he says, his voice getting deeper. “I know what you are.”

I bite my lip. I try not to laugh. “You’re supposed to treat a whore like a princess,” I say.

He grunts and pulls me toward him. I slip over the counter, gripping my fingers around its squared edge. He grips my waist, slides his hand down. He grabs my ass and pushes himself into me.

The moan I make is legit.

“Am I a real princess?” I ask.

He slaps my tits.

I don’t sound like Kate Middleton, but he fucks me like I’m a princess. He digs deep, buries his nails into my thighs. His breath catches, the sound filling the room with desperation and exhaustion.

I’m grateful that I can’t see his expression from behind the paper bag.

“Fuck,” he says. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

This is probably how he masturbates when he’s alone, all of his aggression and anger and frustration in a crescendo of solitary release. He comes before I can, but his taut grasp burns a release through my limbs. He slips over me. His chest beats against my stomach. He gasps for breath and then he groans and lets me go.

He pulls off the paper bag and I’m fixed again.

I press my back against the mirror, goosebumps forming on my flushed skin. I reach up and rub the back of my neck and draw a breath of cold bathroom air. He’s already turned around, his back to me.

“Did you like that?” I ask.

“That was fucked up.” He yanks the condom off, his shoulders already tightened, already pretending. “I can’t believe you do this shit,” he says.

“Was it like fucking a princess?” I ask.

“No.” He tosses the rubber in the garbage and then bends down to pick up his pants.

“That’s too bad,” I say, “because you made me feel like one.”

He crumples up the paper bag, crumples Kate’s face. He throws the bag at me and does up his pants, buckles his belt. His eyes dart up at me as he adjusts his shirt.

Honey Badger Don’t Care.

“You totally care,” I say.

“What?” he asks.

I point at his chest. “You’re wearing that ironically, right?”

He looks down at the badger and then back at me.

“It’s okay,” I say. “We’re all human, right?”

“Fuck you,” he says. The door closes behind him and I’m left alone again.

His beer’s still beside me on the counter. I bring the bottle to my lips. The dregs are warm and awful, but the last of my endorphin rush makes the taste almost tolerable.

I slip off the counter and pick the paper bag up off the floor. I smooth out the lines on Kate’s face. She’s not really a princess but everybody likes to pretend she is. She mirrors my smile and I fold her nicely. I put her back into my purse.

It might sound fucked up, but I’ve kept every single paper bag I’ve ever worn.

Rebecca Jones-Howe lives and writes in Kamloops, British Columbia. Her work has appeared in PANK, Pulp Modern, and Punchnel’s among others. Her first collection of short fiction, Vile Men, will be out in 2015 from Dark House Press.

Lead image: “sometimes i just don’t wanna” (via Flickr user jamelah e.)


  1. Todd Mercer Todd Mercer

    Wonderfully structured, existentially terrifying. I did actually laugh at the Duchess of Cambridge mention. Lets have a theatrical slow-building clap for Rebecca Jones-Howe. Hats off.

  2. Dino Parenti Dino Parenti

    Love this! Captures perfectly the humor in the uncomfortable.

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