We Are Theta Gamma Nu
Fall break was a blur of Trina, Nash, and the crew at Billy’s and when it was time for my flight back to school, I could hardly believe it. Everyone looked so sad I was leaving and I pretended to be sad with them. But I wasn’t.
As much as I loved my dad and friends, it was like pain actually lived in the air there. I could barley breathe. I guess I hadn’t realized how free moving to California made me feel until I went back home.
I actually hugged Leah when I saw her. We were both surprised that I did that. We sat in the middle of our dorm, crossed legged and swapped stories about our breaks.
“Show me a picture of him already!”
My jaw clenched. I was at B.U. to reinvent myself and leave Kansas in Kansas. I unlocked my phone and pulled up a picture of him on Facebook. I braced myself for the reaction.
Leah gawked at the picture and then met my eyes. “You have got to be fuckin’ kidding me, Brie. Are you sure that’s your friend, and not Channing Tatum?”
I pressed my lips into a hard line and shoved my phone in my back pocket.
“I’m so used to him, I forget that he is, kind of, ya.”
“Girl, I can’t believe it.” Leah said shoving a shelled peanut in her mouth.
“And I still can’t believe that you eat the peanut and the shell. Who eats the shell?”
“Shells don’t have any points, duh. Stop circling this around to me. Mr. Tatum likes you. He bought you shoes! And if he fits, you better wear him.”
“Nah. He’s always bought me stuff, even when we were little. At first, I refused his gifts, so he would just leave them in my house. It was funny because neither of us would mention it. Things like school supplies, snacks, and candy.”
“So he’s taken, huh?”
“No. Single. He was dating this girl, from, like, sixth grade until the summer after senior year.”
“So now he’s up for grabs!” Leah grabbed my arm.
“No way,” I scrunched my face,” it’s not like that.
Leah raised her eyebrow. “He took care of you and bought you shoes. Open up those blue peepers, girlfriend.”
“Okay, I’ll admit it, it does sound that intimate. Honestly, it did feel different now that things have changed.”
“What do you mean?” Leah tilted her head.
“ Damn, Leah, this is hard to explain. Tabitha was a safety barrier between us. It was always, like, not even weird Nash and I were insanely close because we all trusted each other that much. Now that she’s not even in the picture…I think both of us are trying to feel out the edges of our boundaries.”
“Shoot, girl that is complicated as hell!”
I shook my head. “I don’t want it to be complicated. I just want him to be my friend.”
“Now you can let rush distract you.”
“Yes, rush. Can we please go back to you, now? I really don’t like talking about myself.”
“Ya, I’ve noticed.” Leah toyed with a lock of her hair. “But I like to hear about you.”
The corners of my lips curved into a smile.
It was close to midnight and I was in my top bunk in the empty space between dreaming and wakefulness when a commotion in the hallway shocked me awake. Fucking drunks! On a Monday? I thought. I put my pillow over my head and caught a glimpse of my phone. A text from Nash.
Nash: Hey loser. I’m a little worried. You suck for moving to California. You wouldn’t tell me if you were not eating enough or if there was some douche giving you a hard time.
He had a point. I was in the middle of wondering how to respond, when I saw Leah rise from her bed and open the door.
My heart leapt in my throat when I saw them. The singing was for me.
I spotted Caroline in the cluster of girls and she gave me a thumbs up.
In your happiness we will cheer
In sadness we will share your tears
From now until forever
Our hearts will beat together
Friendship, love, and sisterhood
To our house we will be true
We are fair, honest, and wholly good
We are Theta Gamma Nu
I climbed down from my bed and slid into my slippers. I beamed at the Thetas when they stopped singing. The sisters wore light teal robes with heels in were in full hair and makeup. They were holding flickering candles. A few of them had tears glimmering in their eyes.
The girl in the center was one that I had yet to meet. I certainly would have remembered her.
“Brianne Rosalee Merritt,” the girl with golden tan skin and long, dark blond hair said. “Do you accept this candle, as a symbol of your commitment to Theta Gamma Nu’s pledging process?”
I nodded as I reached out and accepted the candle. I was speechless. The girl tilted hers and touched her flame against the wick. With a quiet sizzle, my candle was lit. I admired the Greek letters, ΘΓΝ, that were on the side of the candle in vivid teal.
My chest felt warm. The whole unannounced ceremony was simple, yet I had never felt so accepted. So liked. My cheeks ached from smiling.
“Leah Marie McCloud,” the Theta sister said.
Leah stood straight up and her eyes bulged.
“Do you accept this candle, as a symbol of your commitment to Theta Gamma Nu’s pledging process?”
Leah’s hands flew to her mouth. I couldn’t tell if she was mortified or excited.
“Y-yes,” Leah accepted the candle. “Yes I will.”
I saw a single tear slide down her round cheek.
At that moment, I completely understood what it was to be a sorority girl. It wasn’t like anything that I thought.
It was better.
“Congratulations,” the pretty girl said, “and welcome. We are so excited to get to know you more and we have a lot of fun things planned for you. And I mean it when I say fun. We absolutely do not believe in hazing. We believe in gifts, bonding, and wine.”
There was a collective giggle.
“Without further ado, allow me to introduce myself. I am Lauren Cunningham. President of Theta Gamma Nu, Baylor University Chapter. Our sorority believes in fairness, so the president does not participate in recruitment to negate any unfair biases during bidding. From now on, I will be available to you and support you both through the pledging process.”
“Nice to meet you, Lauren,” I said holding out my hand for a handshake.
Lauren looked and my hand with a confused expression. She blew out her candle and then my own and wrapped her arms around me, giving me a firm hug. Her hair smelled like strawberries.
“Nice to finally meet you, Brie.”
We were shuffled into cars, with quickly packed overnight bags. The sisters drove us to the house and were led to the informal living room. I was surprised to find a party waiting for us. A pajama party. Wait until Nash hears about this, I thought, as scanned the living room looking at every young man’s fantasy. I felt a spark of guilt for not texting back. It was probably best not to, anyway.
The seniors left again to get more recruits and left Leah and I with the sophomores, juniors, and a handful of other new initiates. I heard two of the sisters whispering by me. If they were trying to be secretive, they weren’t doing a good job.
“Are you sure?” A girl with red, untamed curls asked the sister wearing short shorts and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.
“Yes, shh! Don’t say anything. She just got here, she doesn’t know.” Bunny slippers said.
“I’m sure they already told her,” curls replied.
I was pretending that I wasn’t listening to them, so curls tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hi,” I said. “I’m Brie.”
“Oh, we know,” bunny slippers said.
What the fuck is going on here? My mind barked. Something felt off.
“So, did you get a chance to meet Lauren yet? Our Mascot Girl?”
“Um,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “Yes I met Lauren she introduced herself as the president.”
Slippers shot curls an I-told-you-so look.
“What’s a Mascot Girl?” I asked putting my hands on my hips.
“Nevermind!” Curls squeeled and they both dashed off.
I nudged Leah, who was acting quiet, completely out of her character.
“Leah, what the hell is a Mascot Girl?”
“Um, I don’t know.” Leah bit her nail; her eyes darted around the living room at the sorority sisters.
I took a gigantic breath. As soon as Lauren Cunningham returned, I was going to have to ask her myself.