Coffee with Lauren
I sat up and cracked my neck. Floors are meant for walking, not sleeping. But that’s where we all crashed after the welcome pajama party. Leah was next to me and like everyone else, her eyes were still shut. I stretched my arms over my head and yawned. My arms crashed back down on my favorite oversized, gray sweatpants.
Just then, a memory tip-toed across my mind. It was hazy, like trying to see through morning fog. I ran my fingers over my sweats and felt my cheeks lose their color.
I remembered Nash bringing me up to my room that night. He laid me down in bed, like I was made of china. Then, he took off my shoes and jacket. He tucked my legs under my old worn and torn comforter. The same blanket I’ve had since I was a little girl. .
“Waiiittt!” I tore off the blankets and unbuttoned my pants. I grunted while I shimmied them off. It was quite a task, while wasted. I rolled them up in a ball and threw them across the room. Nash was a statue; his face the color of a tomato.
“I need my sweatpants.”
“Oh,” Nash let out a breath, “Where are they?”
I pointed to my dresser. Nash opened and closed every drawer before he found them. He turned around.
My memory went blank. What the hell did I do next? I wondered. I laid back down on the floor and pulled my blanket over my head. Maybe I would just stay under there for the rest of my life. I felt my face burn as I replayed striping my pants off in front of Nash. I didn’t remember what kind of underwear I had on that day, but I prayed that they weren’t too ratty.
I heard footsteps passing through the hallway and I peeked out. It was Lauren. I threw off my covers and climbed to my feet. Last night, I didn’t have the chance to ask Lauren about the term Mascot Girl. She was speaking with other pledges and I found myself more bashful than usual.
“Lauren, wait up,” I said in a screaming sort of whisper. I tiptoed around slumbering bodies and then scurried to the hall. “Lauren!”
She turned around. When she spotted me, the edges of her lips curved. The moring sun that seeped through the massive windows in the foyer gave Lauren a glowing halo. She wore a white knee length cotton dress with a sunny yellow paisley pattern, and a buttercup button up sweater. Her hair was down and straight, and she put a small, messy, French braid across the crown of her head. She had blackish roots showing. It was strange how she could pull off roots so that I wanted roots of my own.
“Good morning, Brie.” She looked like she wasn’t wearing makeup. She didn’t need makeup.
“Hi,” I said, feeling that sheepishness from the previous night return.
“Hungry? I can show you to the kitchen. I was just headed that way.”
“Um, ya,” I said.
I followed her to the kitchen. We were greeted by the gurgling of brewing coffee and a hazelnut mocha aroma. I scanned the kitchen in awe. There dozens and dozens of white cabinets which hung over a glass mosaic backsplash and gray granite countertops. The room was so clean that it sparkled. There was two of everything. Two stainless steel refrigerators, two stoves, two sinks. I couldn’t remember the last time that my stove at home worked. I forgot what I wanted to ask Lauren.
Lauren poured two cups of coffee and asked how I liked mine. She was surprised that I took it the same way as her: cream only. She went to the refrigerator and retrieved a small, white glass jug of cream. I wouldn’t dare tell her that I usually used powder, and only had the luxury of real cream a handful of times.
“Do you want something to eat?” She asked.
“Um,” I fumbled. I typically never wasted calories on breakfast. “Do you have fruit?”
“Oh ya,” Lauren waved at me to follow her. “We have a lot. Unfortunately, we end up throwing a lot of it away.”
“You won’t if I live here,” I said. She lead me into their formal dining room. There was a lengthy, dark wood, table on top of an oriental rug. I couldn’t believe the size of it.
“Wow. Does everyone fit here?”
I grabbed an apple from the wicker basket in the center of the table and took a seat across from Lauren. I sipped the warm, rich, coffee and couldn’t help but release an mmmm.
“Glad you like it.” Lauren smiled. Her teeth reminded me of Nash’s.
I took a deep breath and released my lungs slow. “Can I ask you something?”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
“I heard a few sisters last night muttering about some Mascot Girl, or something. They were acting kind of weird around me whenever the term was brought up.”
“Oh Lord,” Lauren said taking a slurp from her mug. “I guess we should have clarified to keep some things quiet during the first sleep over. That is an oversight on my part. Sorry, Brie.”
“No-no,” I said holding up my palms. “I didn’t feel like, weird, or anything. I was just really curious.”
“Good,” Lauren nodded.
We sat for a few moments in silence before I realized that she wasn’t going to explain anything to me.
I crunched into my red apple. My fingers tingled. 90 for the coffee, 70 for the apple. That was a lot to begin a day with.
“Did you have any other questions for me?” Lauren asked. “I was going to get some yogurt and go back up to my office. I have some planning to do for our family night event.”
I fiddled with my wrist and felt the outline of my old scar. I wanted to ask her why she was so nice. Popular girls aren’t supposed to be that way, and it was clear that Lauren is queen of Theta Gamma Nu. I wondered if I should feel suspicious.
“Okay, Brie,” Lauren said getting up. “Nice to have some coffee with you. I’ll see you in a little bit.”
“Lauren, I just really want to know.” I said, squaring my shoulders. “If it were just a term, that’s one thing. But I kept hearing it over and over last night in whispers behind my back. One sister said that you were the mascot girl.”
“Which one?” Lauren asked. She looked calm enough, but I saw her ears turning crimson.
“Oh, I’m not sure of her name. She had on daisy duke sleep shorts and these big slippers.”
“I’m sorry, Brie. I shouldn’t have put you in that position to ask you her name.”
“Oh no,” I said raising my brows, “I have no problem pointing out who she is, it’s just I really don’t know her name. They didn’t have name tags on.”
Lauren twirled a strand of her hair. “I’ll have to remind them to wear them. How quickly they forget what it was like to be brand new.”
“To be candid, we all assume that each you will become a sister. We really do. But we don’t just rattle off house secrets at the beginning of the pledge year.”
“I completely understand.”
“I will tell you everything you need to know about Mascot Girl. Trust me.”
“I do trust you,” I said, feeling sucked into Lauren’s charm.
Lauren stared at me for a moment and sighed. “I trust you, too, Brie. Look, you can’t tell what I’m about to say to any of the pledges or anyone. Even boyfriends.”
“I won’t, I swear,” I said leaning in.
“We have a huge ceremony where you swear to keep our chapter secrets. We even ask that you sign a contract. It’s both spiritual and legal commitment, of sorts.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling my shoulders sag. Maybe she wasn’t going to tell me until then.
“Yes, I am the Mascot Girl.”
I stared at her blankly, with my lips stapled shut.
“And you’re next.”