“Just call him,” Leah said, pushing her phone on my ear.
We were standing outside, because while tipsy, Leah smokes. The evening wind nipped my bare flesh. I buttoned my black, form fitting sweater.
“Fine,” I grumbled with my champagne courage. I tucked my blowing hair behind my ears.
I held the phone. It was already ringing.
“What?” Dillon yelled over eardrum shattering music.
“Um, hello to you, too. It’s Brie Merritt.”
“Oh, damn. Brie? Wait a minute, I have to go someplace to hear you.”
I tapped my foot.
“I apologize for my lack of manners, you are calling me from Leah’s phone.”
“That’s how you answer the phone for your cousin?”
I shot Leah a look. She shrugged and blew out a cloud of gray smoke.
“It’s a family-thing, I was just kidding.”
I doubt it, I thought.
“Okay, just so you know, the Theta girls and I are accepting your invite.”
“Perfect. I am sending you a limo,” Dillon said. “I had a few reserved.”
“Seriously? You were that sure we’d accept?”
I glared at Leah and she gestured for me to keep going.
“I assumed Leah would talk you into coming. She’s been nagging me for a spot on the guest list since she got accepted to BU.”
“Good. Then, I thought, if you didn’t want to go out in LA, then I’m going to bring LA to you. Everything top of the line.”
I swooned a little. “Thank you.”
“How many limos, princess?”
“Oh, just one. It’s like, ten of us. That’s all.”
Before I knew it, we were in front of Lambda Psi Tau, in the back of a long winding line to get in. I gawked at the white mansion with three towering Greek letters in the center.
My face flushed when everyone in line turned around to see girls arriving in a limo, dressed like disco balls, to a college frat party.
Lauren linked her arm into mine. She gave me that mega-watt smile. “Brie. We don’t wait in line.”
I felt a pang of guilt walking along side the line to the door. I felt the stares slice through my skin. When we got to the door, two pledging Lambda’s in dress shirts were sitting behind a card table. They each had clipboards in hand.
One of the pledges gave Lauren a sheepish smile, revealing silver braces. His eyes darted back and fourth between us.”Good evening ladies, go right in.” He didn’t even check the guest list.
“Well thank you, sir,” Lauren said giving him a little wink. “What’s your name?”
“Thank you, Todd. Can you tell us where Dillon McCloud might be? This is his date, Brie Merritt.”
Todd shot out of his chair, knocking it over. His face looked like Lauren had pulled a pistol out of her purse and pointed it to his head.
“Right this way, Miss Merritt,” Todd squeaked. He put his arm on my shoulder and guided me to the doors.
I looked over my shoulder at my future sisters who just stood there, frozen. I mouthed ‘come-on’.
They rushed behind Lauren and me. I noticed that they huddled close, almost like we were going through a haunted mansion. I glanced over at Lauren, whose head was high, shoulder’s squared, and wearing a ‘I am the shit, bitches be gone’ expression. I did my best to imitate her.
We were led through the house, which was overflowing with students clutching red plastic cups. There was a DJ in the middle of the grand living room. All of the leather furniture, lamps, and breakables were roped off to the side, with a red velvet rope. Their living room reminded me a little of Theta’s; they must have had the same architect. Yet, everything was masculine. Even the chandelier was made to look like antlers.
Then, I saw him. He was laughing with a gang of model-looking frat brothers, in an unbuttoned dress shirt. I skipped the butterflies, and went straight to lightheaded. He didn’t notice us at first, he was telling a story and buddies were clinging to his words like a fish on a hook.
Dillon did a double take. His dimple came out from hiding when he saw me.
“Welcome to Lambda, Brie Merritt,” Dillon opened his arms wide and walked my way.
He wrapped his arms around me, like he’d known be for years. I rested my cheek against his chest and fastened my arms around his solid waist. His shirt felt like silk. The warmth of his body and and handsome smelling cologne made me want to linger in his arms. Thanks to the champagne. I did.
Dillon leaned back a little and he stared into my soul with his eyes. “You look amazing.”
“Thank you. And you’re no slouch, yourself.” What the fuck did I just say? What the fuck is a slouch?
Dillon threw his head back with a laugh. Good! He’s mistook my dorkiness for comedy.
“You are adorable,” Dillon said, in a voice coated with delafee chocolate.
He combed my locks back with his fingers and the tingling sensation of hair play made my mouth water. Perhaps it was the bubbly flowing through my veins, or maybe I was more open to the idea of dating. Whatever it was, he was so hot.
“Todd, did you get Brie a drink?” Dillon barked.
“Ugh, no, not yet.”
“What are you doing? Get her,” Dillon paused and looked at me, “2007 Nappa Valley Chardonnay.”
“No problem, sir. Um, I think I need a key for the liquor cabinet for something like that.”
Dillon grunted and dug through his pockets. He unearthed a miniature key and flung it at Todd.
I, finally, let go of Dillon and took a few breaths. “These are my sisters.” I gestured to my cluster of arms folded, legs awkward, shifty eyed sisters.
Dillon nodded. “Good evening, Ladies. Lauren.”
“Hey Dillon,” Lauren responded.
“Let me show you around, Brie. Lauren’s our house sweetheart, she can fend for herself.”
“I’ll show the girls the game room. There is probably a waiting list for beer pong game, huh?”
Dillon shook his head. “Not for you, Lauren. Just tell them I said you go next.” He winked at Lauren.
I felt my eye twitch. Do Lauren and Dillon have a history? If so, hell no. I am so over love triangles!
Dillon guided me around the house, pointing out the key features of every room. His fraternity pride practically oozed out of him. I didn’t know what to make of it.
Todd found me with the best wine in the world and after a few sips I found the balls to do it.
“Dillon, did you and Lauren ever…she said she dated a Lambda guy. And she’s the sweetheart, what is that?”
Dillon chuckled. “Yes, I took Lauren on a few dates when I was a freshman. It hardly counts, hun. The guy she was referring to is probably our vice president, Bradley Owens. We eat a lot of popcorn watching their drama play out.”
“Oh man.” I felt my ears warm.
“A house sweetheart is a girl that the frat votes for. Lauren won that title the last two years. It’s just a girl who helps us out, supports us, is friends with the guys.”
We walked up a winding stairway and down a hall. Dillon opened a door and we stepped into an over sized bedroom.
I felt panic grip my throat. Bedroom? Do I look like that kind of girl?
Dillon interlaced his fingers with mine and lead me to a set of double doors. He flung open the doors and I gasped. There was a spacious stone balcony. Thousands of white lights on strings were wrapped around the ledge, emitting a romantic soft glow. There was a small dinnette set in the center.
Dillon pulled out a chair for me from the dinette. I couldn’t hide my smile.
“Wow, this is freaking beautiful,” I said, my eyes scanning the lights.
“Yes, the pledges did a good job.”
Dillon picked up a bottle of champagne that was ice chilling in a stainless steel bucket. I jumped when he popped the cork, and the white foaming bubbles rushed over the bottle neck. He poured two glasses.
“This is a really nice room.”
“It’s nice. I bet you can’t guess who’s room it is.”
Well, there is no way it’s yours. “I’m going to guess it’s the president’s room.”
“Yes it is the president’s room. It’s also my room.”
I furrowed my brows. “You’re the president? No way, Leah never told me that.”
Dillon shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t know. We aren’t exactly close.”
“So you’re a senior?”
“How the hell are you President?”
“Because I’m me,” Dillon pulled out a cigar from the inside of his pocket. “Mind if I light up a cuban?”
“Not unless you don’t share.”
Dillon chuckled as the end of his cigar turned orange. “I never met a lady who smoked Cubans.”
“Well, I should warn you,” I shifted a bit in my seat, “expect a lot of surprises when it comes to me.”
Dillon blew out a plume of dark smoke and passed the chubby brown cigar. “I look forward to solving the puzzle that is Brie Merritt.”
I took a puff. “When you do, could you let me know? I want to peek at the answer key.” I passed back the cigar.
A bottle of champagne later, Dillon got up and took my hand. He escorted me to the edge of the balcony, which overlooked that backyard. I peered over of the edge and felt my chin drop. There was a giant stone water fountain in the center of the yard with two Greek inspired male sculptures.
“Pretty,” I commented.
Without a word, Dillon swooped me into his arms. I melted into his broad chest. Dillon slid his fingers under my chin and tilted up my face. When I met his powder blue eyes, I felt my heart bash against my ribs.
Dillon lowered his head with leisure and brought his lips to mine. My eyelids slid closed. I felt his lush lips stroke my own with a small, gentle peck. It ended way too fast. I kept my eyes shut when he pulled back. My legs felt like noodles, I was glad his strong arms held me steady.
“Before I forget,” Dillon said, reaching into his pant pocket.
He revealed a tiny globe on a key chain. He took my hand and placed the globe in my palm. He closed my fingers around it.
With his eyes unblinking, he said. “This is for you.”
“Wow, thank you,” I said with a confused grin.
Dillon smoothed back his silky black hair. “If you date me, the world is yours.”
I uncurled my fingers and stared at the tiny blue sphere.
“Please excuse me, I will b right back,” Dillon lifted my hand and planted a small kiss on my knuckles.
As I watched him leave, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Is this real? Is he a real person?
I dangled the key ring from my finger and held to my face.
A memory waltzed into my mind. I asked it politely to fuck off, but it didn’t honor my request.
I remembered when we were in eighth grade. I saw Nash staring at a sheet of paper when it was time to line up for the bus. His nose was all red and his eyes looked glossy. Rude pre-teen me grabbed the sheet out of his hand, and he snatched it back so fast, I got a paper cut. When Nash saw what happened his eyes rounded and he let go of his paper to clutch my cut hand in his. He apologized again and again. That’s was before he knew that I took a sick pleasure in ripping my skin, so the paper cut was no big deal. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that there was a huge red ‘F’ on a Geography test.
Later that day, I went home and rummaged through my things and finally found my beach ball that doubled as a globe. I blew it up and taped up the holes. Without mentioning the test or grades or even the word ‘geometry’, I went next door to Nash’s with the globe beach ball under my arm. I talked with Nash about the countries we learned in class. Learning things from paper came to me, like memorizing a script in my plays. But Nash’s brain was different. It was unique, just like him. The hands on method was the only way Nash could retain factual information.
I think we stayed up, looking at the countries in Africa, until his parents kicked me out. When Nash thanked me, I did my best confused look and asked what he was thanking me for.
After that, I found ways to help Nash learn. We never even acknowledged what I was doing, just how we never discussed the bags of necessities he left around my house.
My mind returned to the balcony of the handsome Dillon McCloud. I looked around at the lights and the empty champagne flutes. I wasn’t supposed to be there. Or was I?
It was one of those emotional moments best expressed by tears. My eyes were stone. The contents of my stomach sloshed around and I knew that I would be losing some water weight that night.
I wound my arm back and tossed the globe keychain as far as I could. I aimed for the fountain, I’m not sure if it made it.
I shuffled into the master suite and decided to ditch the shoes. I needed to leave as fast as possible, before the eruption. My feet sang when I flicked off the death stilts. I jogged out of the room and made way for the stairs. I had my phone and a few emergency dollars tucked in my boob, if I could make it to the street somehow, I could call a cab. As long as Dillon didn’t see me sick, I didn’t care.
I groaned when I realized that Dillon would return to find a pair of scuffed, basic, ratchet, Jimmy-Choos.
I can’t be his Cinderella, I don’t have the right shoes.