What the BLEEP is Mascot Girl?
Christmas, the day of death, had arrived. I spent most of it in bed with the curtains drawn. It was a cycle of nightmares and restlessness. My phone rang when I was in my bathroom, vomiting the remnants of the McCloud family Chritmas Eve dinner. Since I can’t cry, sometimes I barf. Fun fun. I didn’t look to see who was calling me.
I heard a gentle rapping on my door. I rushed to my bed and pretended to be asleep.
“Miss Brie,” Sylvia, the kind, direction giving, maid, said, “you must have a drink, hija.”
I pretended to wake up. “I’m sick.”
Sylvia gave me that look. A pained, sympathetic, cherubic gaze. Leah must have told her about my mom’s eleventh death-aversary.
“I take care, senorita.”
“Sylvia, its Christmas. Can’t you go home? You deserve it.”
“I have no children. No husband. I do have a sick chica. I take care. Sit.”
I didn’t want calories today. But, there was no use arguing. I arose to a sitting position and winced. It is curious how the body can respond to emotional turmoil with physical symptoms.
Sylvia fluffed a pillow and placed it behind my back. She gave me a glass filled with a bubbly clear liquid, ice, and straw. I slurped up the liquid.
I crinkled my nose. 7UP. Whoever thought lemon and lime would make a good fizzy drink was smoking crack, I thought. I forced a grin that I’m sure looked like road kill trying to look happy.
“Dulces suenos, Senorita Brie,” Sylvia said, running her smooth hand over my cheek. “Sweet dreams.”
When she left, I staggered to the bathroom again. Sylvia was a stranger who cared for me. It was a crying moment with no tears. I wished that I wasn’t so broken.
My phone rang. Backstreet Boys- Incomplete.
“Hi, Dad,” I said into the phone. I scampered back to my bed and dove under the covers. I braced myself for a slurring train wreck on the other end.
“Hi, there, Brie.”
I couldn’t even say anything for a minute. He sounded clear-headed. “How are you?” I managed.
“Not too bad, not too bad. Does feel mighty strange without ya. Ya know?”
“Ya. I know.”
“I’m glad you are up in LA with the McClouds. But I-I just….”
“I miss you too,” I said. “And Dad…”
“Thanks for calling me. It’s nice to hear your voice. You sound, um, like you are well.”
“Thank you. We ‘ought to call more often. Ya think so?”
“Yes. Especially if you are…all clear to talk.”
“Yes. I like sober Dad.”
“Me, too, Brie. Me too.”
“Brie. I know we don’t give each other gifts or nuffin. Christmas isn’t our thang. But my gift to you is me tryin. I gone to my first AA.”
Just like that, my resentment towards my dad started to thaw.
“That’s all I could ask for,” I said with a crackling voice. “Just to try.”
After that conversation I slept for a long while. I woke up and it was 12:12 AM December 26th. I let out a huge gust of wind. I made it. A little package with silver paper and a red bow was on the foot of my bed.
I leaned over and read the note on the top.
You can donate this.
Or you can keep it.
I don’t care.
I just want you to be a little happy.
At least practice opening it. It’s the first step.
Love ya, girlie,
I stared at the gift. If my dad could try, why shouldn’t I? It took awhile to remove the ribbon. I almost had to hunt down a pair of scissors. I slid my hand under the paper and heard the ripping sound as the paper tore. I smiled. I remembered that sound.
I wondered what kind of makeup or handbag was in the box. Maybe it was a scarf from Macy’s. Or perhaps something more practical, like Theta gear.
My heart fell to my stomach. I pulled out a canvas that had an amateur painting of a long, winding yellow brick road, and a pair of shoes that had red sparkling glitter. I flipped it over and saw Leah’s signature on the back. I flipped it right side up. Some of the glitter sprinkled off onto my blanket.
There was a quote from the movie in sloppy cursive.
Everything you were looking for
Was right there with you all along. –The Wizard of Oz
My first thought was Nash. My second thought was that I felt like the cartoon Grinch when his heart grew three sizes. The gift wasn’t what I was expecting, it was better. I guess I had forgotten that gift giving was about the gesture, not the price. I made a silent promise to craft gifts for family and friends next year. I was shocked at my self-promise to participate in Christmas culture.
Friendship is everything, isn’t it? I thought. Trina gave me a set of wings. Leah pushed me from a cliff, knowing that I would fly, even if I didn’t know it.
One week later, our yellow taxi dropped us at Theta Gamma Nu. Leah and I struggled to free our luggage from the trunk.
“I’m glad I have an excuse to give to Dillon, if I ever see him again,” I said pulling my suitcase up to the sidewalk. “I didn’t think gallivanting around LA with a stranger sounded like a fun New Year’s Eve.”
“Girl, you should give him a chance,” Leah said, out of breath, as she struggled with her three humungous suitcases. “He’s handsome, I think. He’s my cousin, so it’s hard to tell.”
“He is hot,” I admitted. “I guess a getting a coffee sounds okay. New Years Eve was just too much.”
“You’re in big trouble, he probably sees you as a challenge now,” Leah gave me a nudge.
“It might feel nice to be sought after.”
“ You know, he is in Lambda Psi Tau. They are, like, the richest, hottest frat.”
“Really?” I asked as we walked up the sidewalk. “I don’t remember partying there yet.”
“We haven’t. I bet they don’t invite Theta pledges often,” Leah said through her teeth.
“Lambda doesn’t, but Sigma does?”
“Notice all the Star Trek posters and pimples at Sigma?”
“No, not really,” I said sifting through fuzzy party memories. “Well, now that you say it, kind of. Frat brothers look the same to me. I don’t know.”
I thought about Dillon. Then I thought of the Sigma guys that dissected the plot of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ with me until 2AM. I would sooner date a Sigma. Or then again, maybe not. It was hard to decide whether or not someone is dateable when your mind is all wrapped with the handsome James Nash. I just wasn’t looking. I needed to start.
“You really just don’t see stuff like that, do you?” Leah shook her head. “Like why we are called the leftovers.”
“Okay, look. Subconsciously, I know, right? I don’t fully consider it because I’m too busy not giving a shit about shallow categories and boxes and clichés.”
“Girl, this isn’t Glee the TV show. This is Baylor U. Not everyone is all ‘be yourself’ here. We are outside of LA, of all places.”
“I always thought of LA as a place for dreamers.”
“Girl, I grew up in LA. The scene is rich, plastic, polished. Be rich and famous or go home. It is what it is. Honestly, Theta’s are average. Some are ugly, a lot are plain Janes, a handful are pretty. But place us next to perfect, plastic Barbies…”
The red door swung open with Lauren on the other side. I cringed, wondering if she heard Leah’s words.
“Welcome home,” Lauren said, giving us each a butt-out hug.
“Thank you so much for letting us spend New Year’s Eve with you,” I said, walking into the foyer.
“The pleasure is mine,” Lauren said shutting the door. She folded her arms. “This actually works out well; Brie, I love to speak with you. In private.”
“Private?” I gulped. Lauren always made me feel as if I was a moment away from being in trouble.
“Yes,” Lauren said. “You girls can stay in the guest rooms in the basement. Follow me.”
We trotted behind Lauren. Behind her back, Leah mouthed “what the hell?” to me. I shrugged in response. After a few hallways and lots of downward stairs, we were in the basement. The smell of old house was pungent. It wasn’t like the rest of the updated, sparkling clean house. The basement reminded me of an old school building that was in need of a remodel.
“Here you go,” Lauren said, gesturing to two doors at the end of a hallway. “Put down your things, Brie, and we can go to my office.”
My stomach churned.
After I put down my things I followed Lauren, without words, to her office. I walked in and she shut the door behind me.
“You can have a seat,” Lauren said, gesturing to a large easy chair that was in front of her cherry wood executive desk. Lauren sat behind her desk and folded her hands.
I sat down and peered into Lauren’s hazel eyes.
“Brie, with the initiation ceremony next week, you are practically a Theta. Right?”
“Yes,” I said with a nod, wondering where this could be going.
“Well, I want to tell you about your role, so that we can make that announcement at the ceremony. It’s tradition that you know first. Okay?”
“Um, okay,” I said fidgeting with the button on my grandpa sweater.
“You agree that you will keep this secret?”
“As you know, you will be our new Macot Girl. Mascot Girl symbolizes Theta Gamma Nu. She is our Miss America. She is our ambassador. She gives us credibility with the other houses at Baylor. She represents the beauty within Theta.”
“W-what? You want me to be that?”
“I’m not telling you what I want; I’m telling you what you already are. You are the ‘it’ girl.”
“Oh, I’m really not.”
“ Brie, you are naturally pretty, got a perfect figure, confidence, a great personality. You know this. You don’t have to be humble, we are just stating facts.”
“Honestly, Mascot Girl t sounds a lot like you and nothing like me.”
“ I’d rather focus on my duties as the President TGN for my last semester, and transition out of this role. You will need lots of training and I will help you.”
“So, it’s mostly like, an honor.”
“No you’ll do a lot. Until you have reached your senior year, the elected social panel will give you your duties.”
“What kind of duties?”
Lauren sighed and rested her head on her propped up arm. I guessed that I was being more difficult than anticipated.
“Like, an example,” Lauren said, “if we need to communicate with another sorority, Mascot Girl makes that call. Social committee will be by you and tell you what to say when you call. If a group wants to go to a frat, Mascot girl walks in front and gets the Theta girls in. Things like that.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “So, you want me to be a puppet for the social committee?”
“You are an actress. When we reviewed you for this position, you were, like, the perfect person to do it.”
“But I’m not. I was just like some drama geek in high school. I was certainly not an it girl. You have me pegged out all wrong!”
“College is a place of reinvention. In high school, I was that fat girl who had to wear a back brace. When I wasn’t being awkward, I was playing the trumpet in band. The summer before freshman year, I lost weight and was able to ditch the back brace. The Theta’s recruited me as Mascot Girl. I felt like you do now.”
“There is no way you were that girl,” I said shaking my head, looking at Lauren’s effortless beauty. She had to be a cheerleader in high school.
Lauren scrolled through her phone for a few moments. I was about to think she was rude, when she flipped her phone so that I could see. There was a picture of a younger Lauren. She was a chubby girl in a marching band hat next to a heavy boy with greasy curls and circular wire framed glasses.
“That’s me and my ex, Rob,” Lauren said shuttering.
I covered my mouth.
“Yeah, I know, Brie. The old Mascot Girl taught me how to act. What to eat. How to do makeup. In return, the sorority house bought me clothes, paid my dues, things like that. It worked. I have Lambda boyfriend. I have, like, a million friends in other sororities. Theta got invited places because of me. It’s amazing. It’s all an act, Brie. Underneath, I am a band geek, back brace loser.”
My brain scrambled. “I thought Mascot Girl, was like a cheerleader or something. Like I’d have to wear a big bear suit and dance around at parties.”
“You weren’t too far from the truth. You will wear a mask of some sorts.”
“This is nothing like I thought. I don’t think I can do it, Lauren,” I said hanging my head.
“Yes you can.”
I lifted up my head to meet her gaze. “No, I’m saying that I won’t do this. As humbled as I am that you chose me, you’re going to have to choose someone else.”
“Then you aren’t a true Theta. A genuine Theta would do this for the sake of her sisters and her sisters’ social standing on campus.”
“What are you saying?”
Lauren licked her lips and folded her arms. “Either you are a Theta sister and our mascot, or you aren’t either.”
I stared at Lauren and felt every emotion swirl around like a hurricane in my heart.
I wondered if Dr.Jones could get on Skype.