A goopy, salty, greasy, triangle stared at me from my plate. It was Friday, and I was trying to bank calories for alcohol. Pizza Hut had other plans. The cheese slabs of hot grease were detestable. Yet, scrumptious. Such a strange game. I took my napkin and absorbed some of the grease. Then another napkin. Then another. The cheese was practically dried out when I was done, and I had a little mound of white crumpled grease stained napkins. I took my knife and fork and began to cut it into small little triangles. The smaller, the better.
“Brie, what are you doing,” Bradley asked, gaping at my plate.
My heart jumped to my throat. It was rare that anyone asked why I eat the way I do. I froze in place and stared into Bradley’s brown eyes. I felt like I was on the toilet and he just opened the door on me. I was being gross and was completely exposed.
Lauren wacked her boyfriend on the shoulder. “Bradley. What’s wrong with you? You don’t hear Brie asking you why you chomp with your mouth open, now do you?”
Bradley snarled at Lauren and took a savage bite. I had to avert my eyes. Bradley looked like a hyena tearing into the flesh of a lion cub. Watching other people eat was hell. Eating around others was hell. Especially since I knew I was monitored. I shoved my plate away and gave Bradley and Lauren a weak smile. Without much thought, I started scootching out of the red booth.
Dillon grabbed my wrist. “Where are you going, baby?”
“Oh, um, just to the bathroom,” I said as I retrieved my purse and clutched it to my chest with my other hand. I wiggled out of Dillon’s grip.
“Don’t keep me waiting too long,” Dillon said with a wink.
I forced a toothy smile and turned to scurry to the bathroom. Did he just give me a time limit on the bathroom? Or was he being sweet? I wondered as I opened the door. I was happy to find the bathroom empty, other than the smell of dirty diapers. I crinkled my nose.
I flung my purse on a dry spot of the sink and looked in the mirror. Ugly lighting. My mascara was running a little bit so I licked my finger and tried to wipe some of it off from under my eye. It didn’t help much. It did, however, make my eyes puffy from rubbing. I grunted.
I unzipped my purse and rummaged through. My nerves tingled until I found it. I let out a sigh of relief. I typed in the 4 digit code. Only one ring.
“Boo-boo!” Trina screamed through my ear piece. And all of the sudden, the nasty diaper smelling bathroom became an oasis of comfort. All it took was Trina’s voice.
“Oh my God, I miss you!” I squealed back. I hadn’t talked to Trina in two or three days. It was a record.
“Miss you more. What are you into?”
“I’m into trouble,” I said with a stiff giggle.
Trina gasped. “What? Okay, you stay put, I’ll be there in, like, ten hours or something.”
“No-no,” I said glancing up at my reflection. Ew. I looked away.
“Seriously! I told you, anytime you need me out there, I am coming.”
“You don’t have to do that!”
“Besides I’m dying for a reason to visit Coralvalley, are you serious? Can you say campus tour? I need to get off my lazy fat ass and apply already you know that the deadline for next fall is at the end of March so I bet-”
“I’m fine,” I interrupted, “although, I would love for you to come visit. I am officially staying with Leah in the summer, so even if you can’t come this spring, we you can visit me in LA.”
“Shutup!” Trina screamed.
My cheeks stung from smiling. “Yes!”
“That’s amazing! And sorry I’ve been busy the last few days, I was practicing for my spring play audition. We are doing Peter Pan. Can you think of a better Peter Pan than me? Homeboy is androgynous as fuck!”
“Can I come back and play Wendy?” I said, my chest feeling like an empty cave. I had only been an extra in a production at Baylor and had worked behind the scenes in the Coralvalley community theater, thus far. That hardly compared to center stage with a lead, which was my life in high school. I even beat out a senior for Juliet when I was a freshman. They say pain translates into art, it must have been true. I didn’t even know what I was doing.
“I wish! Jess is trying out for Wendy. Pshh. She sucks.”
I imagined myself jumping up and clicking my heels together, Irish style.
“Can I be a bitch?”
“I’m glad Jess sucks. She doesn’t get to be hot, have a cute accent, kiss my Nash, and have talent. No. Just…no.”
I flashed a tight lipped smile at a random woman who walked in and headed for a stall. I hoped things wouldn’t become bathroom-sounds awkward. There was no music or white noise. But I wasn’t going back to Lauren, Dillon, and Bradley just yet. I didn’t have my full dose of Trina Lubble. Bring on the farts and poop splashes.
“So, have there been any Nashjess sightings out around town?”
“Um, no, they are like, done-done. I saw them a few times together after Christmas break, but he was like, ignoring her, and she looked hella bored.”
“Brie, just fucking tell him already.”
“Over my dead body.”
“Brie, don’t ever put that image in my brain.”
I felt my heart sink. “Oh man. I’m so sorry. Poor word choices.”
“Trina, I need to go soon. I’m on a double date with Dillon, Lauren, and her boyfriend, Bradley Patsoop.” I cupped my mouth and whispered into the receiver, “His last name is so stupid, it really suits him.”
“I love it when you talk bitchy to me.” Trina laughed. “How are you and Dilly? Any changes since we last spoke?”
“Well,” I said, as I heard water flush down a toilet. “It has its ups and downs. I still don’t know what to make of it all. I’m reminded daily how important, perfect, and rich he is. It has me wondering why the hell he likes me.”
“There are a million reasons to like you, boo-thing. You are a star.”
“Oh whatever. So there’s Dillon, and the whole other secret thing I told you about Theta. That’s my whole life right now. What is happening to me?” I darted my eyes at the woman who was washing her hands and staring up into the mirror at her blonde, fried, permed hair in the mirror.
“Oh ya-ya. The Mascot Girl thing,” Trina said adding a ‘mmhm’.
“The Thetas are pushing me to make things official with Dillon,” I whispered as the stranger exited the bathroom.
“I am having such a hard time understanding Mascot Girl.”
“Me too, honestly, I’m learning as I go.”
“Insane. But Dillon is growing on you?”
“Like, I like him, but at the same time, something is weird. Then when I FaceTimed Nash and he pointed out that men should treat me as an equal. Then it dawned on me, that is what my gut was telling me in the first place. Dillon sees me as, I don’t know, Foo-Foo his pet poodle, maybe? Why am I still intrigued by a guy who treats me like a poodle?”
“Girl, I don’t blame you, I stalked his Facebook and hot damn. Hot….damn.”
“Right? I think I’m blinded by it. He’s so fucking…dashing.”
“Dashing, hells yes. Good kisser?”
“He is! That’s all we’ve done thus far, but judging by that, he has to be good with other things.”
“Not that you would know exactly good from bad,” Trina giggled.
“Well…there was Jesse. So I at least know how bad, bad can be.”
I jumped when the bathroom door swung open. Lauren walked in, folded her arms and raised a brow.
“Oops, gotta go Trina.” I heard Trina say bye and I shoved my phone back in my purse. For some reason, I felt like I had been caught cheating.
Lauren peeked under the stalls for legs and let out a sigh when she knew we were alone. “Remember, in public, you represent Theta. Even at Pizza Hut.”
“I’m not allowed to cut food or use the restroom?” I asked, surprised as I heard the words slipping from my mouth. I covered my lips with my hands. I knew Lauren was training me, the problem was, I hated to be told what to do. I had to think of this more as an acting job, and Lauren was my rich, Californian, director.
Lauren stared at me for a long awkward minute. She smoothed back her hair and appeared to be composing herself.
“Brie. If you don’t want pizza, don’t get it. Get a salad. Eat a breadstick. Say you ate before you came.”
“I like pizza.”
Lauren rolled her eyes.“It wouldn’t hurt to argue with the suggestion of Pizza Hut. Lambda’s would almost expect that from girls they deem suitable for dating. They don’t date girls larger than size 6.”
“It’s so damn hard being a girl…”
“But cutting it all up and then throwing up in the bathroom? That is something you would do in the privacy of our home. Your sisters wouldn’t mind. But in the public, thinness should be effortless. Not covered in vomit.”
“Oh no, I was absolutely not throwing up. Absolutely not.”
“It’s okay, Brie.” Lauren reached over and stroked my shoulder. “We are sisters. I won’t judge you. How do you think I lost all my weight? I didn’t throw up, but I exercised for two hours a day and only ate gummy bears and diet coke for three months.”
“I’m not going to say I have healthy eating habits, but I am not throwing up. I came in here to make a call. I needed a break. I like those guys, but sometimes, I don’t know…”
“I understand,” Lauren said nodding. “But it looks like that is what you came here to do. You just need to be mindful of your public perception. Even if its just you and Dillon. Sisters are safe, but no one else.”
“What if Dillon wants to be official? I’m sure he’ll see an ugly side of me then. Like I said, I don’t throw up, but I’m not healthy either.”
Lauren shook her head. “No. He must think that you are perfect, because you are. You are everything every girl wants to be and the one every guy wants to marry. Not bang…marry.”
“No,” I said with a little laugh. “I’m not. Seriously.”
“Brie, Brie, Brie, how many times have we been over this,” Lauren asked as she guided me out of the bathroom. She leaned into my ear and said, “Fake it.”
My faithful roommate, Leah, had her thigh was pressed against mine as we sat stiffly on the couch in the formal living room. She was usually allowed to come with me to these social meetings, almost like, my unofficial side-kick. I wondered if Leah knew that she would come to college and become a side-kick. She didn’t seem like the type. But then, we were both in positions that we didn’t want. My gut said to stand up, march to the red doors, swing them open, and dash out of Theta without glancing over my shoulder. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
“All I’m saying,” Caroline Stevenson said, pushing her glasses back up her nose, “if you make him your official boyfriend, we would be secured for next year. The Lambda president? Really? How can you be unsure.”
I cleared my throat and peered at the five sets, unblinking eyes. The social committee was Lauren Cunningham, Caroline Stevenson, Mallory Birch, Beth Bolvichski, and Gina Rivera. It took me awhile, but I was finally learning the roles and names of the most important women in my life.
Lauren was president of Theta Gamma Nu and the current Mascot Girl, Mallory was the VP and head of the social committee. Beth and Gina were two very opinionated members. I dreaded that the darling, little miss Caroline and protective, strong Lauren would be graduating in a few months. I would be left to the mercy of the remaining three: Mallory, Beth, and Gina.
Mallory, Beth, and Gina were known, behind their backs of course, as the ‘terrible three’. They were total bitches. In all honesty, most of my sisters were friendly, but of course, there are bitches everywhere. The joke of life is that bitches always turn into management. Why is that so? We already planned on replacing Caroline and Lauren with whatever president the sister’s elect and my right hand gal, Leah. May the odds be ever in my favor that the elected president isn’t a psycho. And isn’t Mallory.
Mallory ran her tongue over the humongous gap between her two front teeth. She had a habit of doing that. It made me want to reach inside her mouth and yank out her tongue.
“It’s social suicide to reject Dillon McCloud,” Mallory said. “What is your problem?”
What in the hell does Mallory know about young adult social structure? An education of Saved by the Bell reruns? Dweeb.
“I’m not sure it’ll get to that place,” I said shifting uncomfortably. “I can’t make any promises.”
“Brie, Dillon simply adores you,” Lauren said with false warmth in her voice. “I could tell yesterday at dinner. Ask him to make it official, already. I think he likes your wishy-washiness because he’s so used to hearing yes. But that won’t last forever.”
“I do have bad news,” Lauren said with a gigantic frown. “Bradley says Dillon is noticing this chick Krissy from Omega Sigma Sigma. And, well, it makes way more sense he’d be with an Omega girl. Their frat is historically linked to that sorority.”
I gasped. They stared. I glanced at Leah who had her mouth in the shape of a small ‘o’.
“Krissy? Krissy Ferro?” I stumbled over my words.
Lauren nodded. “Friend of yours?”
“She lives on my floor in Valentine Hall. She rooms with this girl Charlene, who is telling everyone I drew a knife on her.”
Everyone talked at once. I was overwhelmed with: what? are you serious? a knife? holy shit!
“Order, order!” Mallory demanded. Her skin was turning the same color as her dreadful brassy-yellow spiral curls. “What do you mean knife?”
“It was a total misunderstanding, one night. Charlene was blitzed. She’s been on this downward spiral since Pi Delta Xi rejected her. She didn’t care for me much before, but now she’s effin hates me.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Lauren asked tilting her head. “We need to help you with your public image. If there is an unfair rumor, we do damage control.”
My palm flew up and met my face. I stayed there. Eyes closed, behind my hand for a few moments, when Leah yanked my hand off of my face.
“Calm down, girlies! Most everyone knows Char is a wacko,” Leah said, “but Krissy has been really rude to both of us ever since the knife rumor thing. Krissy adores Char.”
“Krissy might try to snatch Dillon for revenge,” Beth spoke up. It always sounded as if a clothespin pinched her nose closed.
“Do it Brie,” Gina said nodding her head. Gina was the only person I had ever met whose bottom lip was smaller than her top. “You better lock things down with Dillon before Krissy does. I don’t even know her, but if she’s an Omega, she is a threat.”
I felt a firecracker exploded in my chest as I thought about Dillon placing his soft, luscious lips on Krissy’s collagen, plumped, duck beak. I massaged my temples and glanced at Leah. She nodded at me and gestured for me to ‘go-ahead’. I took a deep breath. Before this went further, I just had to say my piece.
“Guys, this Mascot Girl thing…I need to say something.”
“The floor is yours,” Mallory said, sitting back and crossing her legs.
Thanks for your permission Miss Birch. “Um, when I was introduced to Theta Gamma Nu, I bought into the philosophy. Diversity. Charity. Internal beauty. All of that. I didn’t think about superficial things because that was never important to me. Well, sometimes I did. Who doesn’t? But it wasn’t a ruling force in my life. Until now. It’s already effecting my thinking.”
“You know it’s all a lie. It’s all a game,” Lauren said, sounding like Dr. Jones’s firm but sweet. “You won’t change inside. I haven’t. It’s only made me wiser and ready to have a career when I graduate. Everything is fake. Home is real.”
“But being fake…all the time? I don’t know if I can or want to. Part of me wants to try, part of me doesn’t.”
“Brie,” Mallory said with furrowed brows, “you already accepted the position. You knew exactly what it was all about. We don’t even ask you to do that much, honestly. What is wrong with you?”
“Because I wanted to be a Theta so I could relax and be with, you know, weirdly normal people! Now I have to be this robot, Barbie, who is shoved into arranged boyfriend situations.”
There was a collective giggle.
“You can force me to date Dillon McCloud any day,” Beth said with a snort.
“We are paying your dues here. Lauren is going to go shopping for you,” Mallory said. She put the period on her sentence by running her tongue over her gap. Why does she do that? Is she checking to make sure it’s still there?
Lauren shrugged. “If you don’t do this for us, then what kind of sister are you? How deep is your loyalty?”
I took turns looking into each of my sisters’ eyes. I supposed that I could be their glamours sacrificial superficial lamb. That didn’t mean five minutes from that moment, I would change my mind. Again. At least I had finally acknowledged my issues.
“I do know one thing,” I said with a smirk, “that Omega twit can keep her french manicured claws off of my Dillon.”
I saw sinister smiles creep across the social committee’s faces. Leah patted my back.
Lauren and I were right in front of Lambda Psi Tau’s door. I felt like I did when I was about to walk out on stage. Like a hundred little puppies in the vet waiting room were right inside of my stomach. This time, the frat’s door was my curtain, Lauren was my director, and my audience would the famous Dillon McCloud.
“Just fake it,” Lauren whispered. She dug out her set of key. She jammed a silver key that had the shape of a heart on the top in the keyhole and twisted. I heard a little click and we both stepped in. We walked right into the formal living room where I immediately saw Dillon, Bradley, and a few other frat brothers talking with a group of cross legged young women. My heart thumped against my chest. I felt a little vibration in my purse. I fumbled through my purse to take a peek. I hadn’t heard from my dad in a few weeks and I wondered if it was him.
Nash: Hey. Saw this and thought of you. LOL!
“Are you fucking kidding me? Nash texts me right fucking now?” I grumbled out loud. My strong resolve instantly began to fade.
“Get off your phone!” Lauren barked. “And leave your filthy mouth on the boat with the rest of the sailors. For heaven’s sake,Brie.”
“Sorry,” I said straightening my shoulders. I tugged on my Tiffany blue, form fitting V neck sweater and then pulled up my jeggins. “How do I look?”
“Killer,” Lauren said. Her eyes looked more sincere than usual. It gave me a tiny ego boost.
I walked with Lauren through the living room. My gray wedge, knee high boots clicked against the hardwood floors. I mimicked Lauren’s hint of a switch in her walk. My chin was up, my expression was soft yet confident.
I cut through the circle of socializing co-eds. My eyes fixated on Dillon. He developed a sexy smile when he saw me approaching. I gripped his dress shirt into my fists and stared into his eyes. I yanked him closer and planted an uncomplicated little kiss that turned PG-13 within moments. I threw my arms around his neck and allowed him to run his hands down the sides of my body. His big,bulky, Bvlgari watched scraped against my brand new sweater Lauren had given me for this particular event. The sensation brought me back to reality.
I leaned back and Dillon looked into my eyes. He stroked my cheek tenderly. I had to remind myself to breathe.
“Like, what in the hell is this?” A familiar female voice said from behind me. I spun around and my hand flew to my mouth. Among the visiting girls on the couch was Krissy. And right next to Krissy sat cross armed, burning eyed, Char.
“What is a Theta doing here?” Char said swiveling her neck.
I glanced at Lauren, who looked as puzzled as I felt. Did Char just imply what I think?
I let go of Dillon who looked mildly amused at the comment. This triggered something. Some deep seeded. I didn’t know it was there until that moment. Maybe it was when my sisters came to my dorm room and lit my Theta Gamma Nu pledge candle. Maybe it was at the initiation ceremony. Maybe it was the first time I got us into Lambda’s party. It didn’t matter. Char stepped right on something that I didn’t know existed.
“I go where I’m wanted,” I said, resting my hand on my hip and flipping my silky long blonde hair over my shoulder. “Isn’t that right, Dillon.”
Dillon wrapped his large hands around my waist from behind me. I was surprised when he answered by kissing my neck. I giggled and curled up. I whispered to him that it tickled.
I could tell everyone felt uncomfortable. That is, everyone but Dillon and me. And Lauren, who was hiding her mouth behind a balled fist.
“I, um-I,” Char stumbled.
“What do you think Dillon? Anything wrong with a Theta girl?”
“Hell no. If they would let me be in a sorority, I’d be in whatever one you were in.”
“Dillon, I didn’t know you, like, …know Brie,” Krissy said. “She’s the one we told you about. The one who…the knife…poor Char.”
Dillon twirled me around to face him and he ran his hand through my hair. “You did tell me there would be surprises. Didn’t think attempted murder would be among them, but hey, I’m flexible.”
I bit my lip, and did my best Cindy Crawford bedroom eyes. “Just don’t give me a reason to stab you.”
Dillon chuckled and looked over my shoulder at his stunned guests. “Rumors are for the weak.”
Dillon interlaced his hand with mine, and without another word, lead me away from the group.
I knew right then I became two things: A girlfriend. A Mascot Girl.