I’m still doing my make up when my phone buzzes for the umpteenth time this hour. “Have you decided which dress you’re wearing?” “How are you doing your hair?” “What type of alcohol do you want?” “What time should I come over to pregame before the like actual pregame pregame?” “Are you going to go home with your date after?” “Have you heard from John?” “I bet John’s date is going to be ugly AF” “Does he know you’re going with Ben?” “Can you send me a link to my date’s fb profile, I wanna check him out” “how tall is my date?” I roll my eyes and turn my phone over, I was already beginning to regret asking Tessa if she wanted me to get her a date to phi psi’s winter formal, and the night hasn’t even begun yet.
I don’t want to talk about John; no, I haven’t told him his pledge brother asked me to their date party the very same day we broke up, and no, I’m almost positive he has absolutely no idea I’m going to be there.
As Taylor Swift’s song, Look what you made me do starts playing, I pick up my phone and tell Tessa to come over at 8:30 and to bring champagne. I also tell her I don’t want to talk about John, but I’m sure his date will be some underage tramp he picked up at Rounders the night before.
At exactly 8:32, Tessa comes over and we ooh and aah over each other’s full-length dresses while we sip our Andre and gossip about the boys taking us.
“Are you worried at all about seeing John and how he’ll react to you being there? I mean, it’s not like you’re going with some one random, you’re going with one of his pledge brothers…” Tessa asks me as innocently as she can muster, but I can tell she is desperate for the gossip.
How do I answer without answering? Yes, I’m fucking terrified of seeing him.
“It’s whatever, he’ll just have to get over it.”
“Well, he’s an asshole for what he did. You deserve way better.”
Then why do I want to apologize to him so badly? Why do I feel so at fault?
It’s been months since Tessa and I have hung out as friends, as we’ve only just made up over a fight from September a few days earlier and it’s now December, the threat of snow on the forecast and a day off in an email from the school’s president in our inboxes. I think back to the October evening when things between us had finally hit a climax, and she’d actually tried to punch me outside of a bar in town just for hanging out with her ex boyfriend, even though she knew I’d been talking to John at that point. I remember her pulling her fist back, standing at her full 5 feet 5 inches, pushing her chest out and jutting her chin up as if to make herself seem taller than my 5’10. She’d stood there with her fist pulled back, screaming at me, entirely incoherently, and distantly behind her, I spotted her best friend Madison running toward us shouting and waving her arms around, “Tessa, NOOOO! We’re classier than that! We’re classier than that!”
She never did punch me, and after several days of living in fear she was going to run me over with her car if/when she saw me again, we both moved on from what had happened. However, so long as her ex had remained one of my best friends, she and I couldn’t move on officially from what had taken place.
So, it wasn’t until last Monday that we started talking again.
Last Monday was a game changer all around, to say the least. John and I broke up, her ex and I stopped being friends, and Ben asked me to their Christmas formal.
I look at Tessa and shrug, even though I can feel my heart beat picking up to a full sprint. The thought of seeing John tonight gives me anxiety, but I won’t let it show. I shrug and I laugh through the pain of my fluttering and hurting heart, “Like I said, it’s whatever. Hopefully he can be mature about it, but this is John we’re talking about. So… we’ll see.” I take a big sip of my mimosa and vodka, and take a look at the time on my phone. “It’s 9, we should head over to the pregame. I think it’s at that house on 13th, my friend Becky is dating the guy who lives there and she sent me snaps, it looks fucking lit.”
Lies, I just want to get out from these foru walls – it reeks of heart break and scheming in here.
I order an uber and it arrives within minutes. When we arrive at the white house too nice for a bunch of degenerates to be living in, we look at each other, unsure what to do; there isn’t anyone out in front smoking a cigarette or loitering around. We can barely even see movement through the windows. I shrug and say, “this is definitely the house, lets just check it out.”
We stumble in our heels to the front door and push it open, like a gateway to an alternate universe. At least 30 couples are here, in long dresses and tuxes, drinking unhealthy amounts of vodka and whiskey and champagne, while some are blowing down lines of powder on the coffee table, others are taking hits from a blunt being passed around. There’s a game of flip cup going on to our left, guys against their dates, and the girls are dominating them. I close the door behind us as I spot our dates at the kitchen island, they’re laughing over something on Ben’s phone. He looks up, sees me, and smiles even bigger as he waves us over.
For the next hour, we challenge each other to see who can take the most shots, we take goofy photos and cute ones, too. We talk about what we did over the summer, how we both travelled all over Europe and it’s too bad we only met this semester or we could have met up in Amsterdam, Barcelona, or soemwhere. At one point, we sneak off to a bedroom and each do a few bumps of coke, and as we walk out of the room, we giggle like a couple of high school freshmen who just got away with an under-the-shirt make out session in the girls locker room. When it’s time to go to the bar, I find Tessa is already making out with her date, Michael, in some corner.
It’s chilly out, the promise of snow in the coming hours thick in the air, as we line up behind the other fraternity brothers and their dates waiting to get into the bar. Up ahead, I easily spot Alex, John’s roommate, as he towers over everyone else there and do a quick look around to make sure the coast is clear before I go over to say hi. I quickly tell Ben I’ll be right back, a glaze in his eyes tells me he barely hears me, and he doesn’t really care what I do as long as I come back. I grin at him and throw back a heavy sip from his flask, for courage in case I’m wrong and the coast isn’t clear.
I check again to make sure John isn’t with Alex, then I skip over and wrap my arms around Alex’s neck. “Heeeeeey, babe. How are you?” I drawl, as I pull back and away from him. He smiles easily at me.
Good, this means he’s not mad at me and we’re still friends at least.
“I’m good, I’m good. You seem pretty good, too, India. Maybe a little too good?” He chuckles and taps his nose with a finger. He knows me all too well.
I laugh and shrug, “You know me, always good, always great. Where’s your girl, where’s Tori?” I look around for his 5 foot 4 inch girlfriend, thinking maybe I missed her since she’s so small. Instead I come eye-to-eye with John.
Fuck. The coast is most definitely not clear. ABORT ABORT HELP SOS. I telepathically send help to Tessa, but I soon realize it’s a lost cause – shes too enamored with Michael.
I stare at him, as the shock is clearly evident on my face since he smiles uneasily at me. He didn’t expect to see me either, and I should have known better. I had never understood when people said that they wanted the world to eat them up right there, and that they just wanted to disappear; I’d always been someone who liked being seen. Right then though, I finally understood. I’m looking into his blue eyes, and at his dark 5 o’clock shadow. I’m looking at the boy who broke my heart and whose heart I broke just a few days earlier, and I want to disappear. I want to teleport back to my group and erase what has just happened from the universe’s records.
“Hey, Inds. You look nice.” He says to me stiffly but pleasantly, because what else do you say? Fuck you for hooking up with my best friend while we were on a break even though I manipulated you both into it and told you guys to hook up with each other to test your loyalty?
“Oh. Uhmm… hiiii?” My head is mush. I’ve imagined this moment at least a million times since Ben asked me to their date party, I’ve imagined how I would show him what he’s missing and that I’m doing so well without him now. I have imagined this exact moment a million times and I have even fucking practiced in my bathroom mirror; practiced facial expressions, what to say, how to react, I fucking prepared myself for this, and I still said OH UHM HI?! THE FUCK???
I glance to each side anxiously, looking for an exit, and see Tori beaming at me, “hey, India!!” She gives me a big hug, and it gives me enough time to compose myself after my previous severe deficit.
“Oh my god, I literally was just asking Alex where you were because I couldn’t see you, but here you are, and OH MY GOD. You look amazing!” My head is no longer mush, the adrenaline from seeing my ex is kicking in, or maybe it’s just the coke. It really could be either, to be honest.
I notice Tori glance at Alex with a grin, then she says to me, “snow doesn’t hit t-town for a few more hours, but you’ve already hit the slopes? That’s my girl,” she shakes her head with a knowing smile, and a small chuckle.
Damn, I feel like that would make a great instagram caption – I need to remember that one.
John clears his throat behind me. I turn to look at him with an eyebrow raised.
Bring it, ya bitch.
“So, who are yo-“
“Wow, I love your dress! Where is it from?” He’s interrupted by a petite, brunette, girl with a heart-shaped face beside him. Impressively, I actually recognize her from sorority rush earlier that year, but I can’t remember exactly who she is or who she ended up pledging; a forgettable looking girl, with a forgettable name, from a forgettable town.
She probably got dropped.
“Oh, thanks. Not really sure who the designer is, but I got it at Bergdorf’s last time I was home.”
“Well, it looks really good on you. Seriously, you look soooo pretty.” It’s obvious to me then how drunk the girl is. She’s drunk and doesn’t feel the tension, she has no idea who I am, or what the situation is right here right now, and I really should be the bigger person; I shouldn’t start drama, and I should say thank you and walk back to my friends. I should be a role-model for exes and upper classmen. And, I’m about to. But then.
I study her a little closer, and I narrow my eyes.
“Thaaanks, I’d say you look good too, but I thought this was supposed to be a FORMAL event. You know, like, looong dresses?” I roll my eyes and sneer a little.
I notice how close she and John are standing to each other, and how her hand is literally clasping his sleeve to keep herself upright and from losing balance. They are clearly here together. This child is clearly my replacement.
This girl is standing here, complimenting my dress, and hanging onto MY guy.
In a short fucking dress, at a freaking formal.
I turn on my heel and strut back to my squad. Michael and Tessa are all over each other again, Ben looks at me with crinkled eyes, “what did you do?”
He loves stirring the pot almost as much as I do, we might be soulmates.
I give him a mischievous smile and a small shrug, “nothing,” I say as innocently as I can.
But, he knows better and he laughs. He takes my hand and pulls me to the front of the line, and we cut in front of everyone. Even John and his forgettable, underage, date. Ben hands the bouncer a benji and the guy wraps our wrists with bands and lets us in.
The rest of the party goes without incident, John stays to one side of the room and we stick to the other. Everyone buys me shots, and everyone dances with me. Despite what happened between John and I, they’re still happy to see me. I notice John eyeing us with a look I can’t understand. A look I don’t recognize.
I ignore it.
Fuck him and his stupid turtleneck.
I go to the bathroom with Tessa and we do more bumps, and when we are done, we go out and drag our dates to a perfect spot in the room for photos. We make the boys take more than they want to, but they do it because they want to take us home at the end of the night. So, they don’t complain.
At some point, Tessa is gone, and I’m alone with Ben and her date. He’s asking me where she went and I tell him I have no idea. “Tessa’s a wild card, she probably went on an adventure,” I tell him.
We don’t see her again for the rest of the night, but I get a text from her roommate that Tessa is safe, but stupid – she went home with her ex. I wasn’t worried, but good to know, I guess.
Around 1am, Ben convinces me we should go home. So, we call an uber and make a show of getting in together while John is outside smoking a cigarette. I notice him flick his barely smoked cigarette to the ground and go inside with a scowl on his face, as we zoom off down the road.
Yeah, watch me and weep, jerk.
Inside the uber, Ben looks at me and laughs a little, “I think you pissed John off sufficiently tonight.”
I look at him guiltily, but before I can say anything he goes on, “I don’t care, it was funny as fuck. You want me to drop you off at home, or do you want to come back to the fraternity house with me? We don’t have to hook up, or anything, we can just smoke a bowl and watch some White Collar, if you want.” I think to myself how sweet Ben is and agree to go back to his place.
After we get there, we struggle to stumble up the steps in the back of the house, we struggle to find his act card to open the door, and we struggle to get his act card to open the door. Once inside though, he gets me some water from the soda machine, and I tell him I’ve never actually been inside their new house before. So, he offers to give me a tour, both of us giggling in fits. When we get to the back room where their Christmas tree stands, I stop to admire the ornaments. It’s really quite pretty. Ben has other ideas though, and grabs one of the ornaments and puts it in his coat pocket, as casually as he would trying to smuggle a still-full yellow hammer out of gallettes, with the least subtlety known to man.
“What are you doing?! That’s steeeealing!” I exclaim to him with wide eyes and mock judgment.
He shrugs his shoulders and gives me a mischievous smile.
“Okay, then, dude, if you’re going to steal something, at least make it something good,” I sigh in exasperation.
“Good? Like what?” He wanders around the room in search of a “good” momento and stops in front of an ugly painting of fruit and flowers hanging in a heavy thick gold frame. The frame is as wide around as my fist. “This is it, this is the one. Help me take it down?”
This kid might be a moron.
I stare at him for a moment, unsure if he’s serious about taking something so obvious, “an alarm isn’t going to go off, is it…?”
Ben narrows his eyes in disbelief at me, then rolls them. “Grab that side and help me,” he directs me.
Nope, definitely a moron. How did he get into college again?
Excitement at doing something we shouldn’t be kicks in though, and I grab the other side. “Slowly… slowly…” the painting is a lot heavier than I expected, and I struggle to carry it as we inch toward the elevator, giggling. Ben, in front, almost trips over his own feet and I can’t help but laugh at the sight. He looks back at me, a genuine smile on his face, and I’m reminded of the day we met. It was at Gallettes and John’s ex had pushed me onto the ground just for dating John, even though I had never met her before nor said anything against her either. I sat there on the ground in shock at what had just taken place, with my drink all over my ruined clothes, and ready to start crying. I looked around for John, but he was nowhere to be found, instead some ginger I’d only ever seen around but never spoken to, with too-long legs and bright blue eyes, was crouching down next to me and asking if I was okay. He gave me a lazy smile, helped me to my feet, and then bought me a new drink. All the while insisting the spill wasn’t so bad and nobody would notice. The dry cleaners turned my shirt away and said there was nothing they could do for it, they offered a good funeral home for it though. He stayed with me until John resurfaced, a time frame that consisted of 3 touchdowns for Alabama.
As I remember this, I regret being so hard on the freshman slut earlier, it’s not her fault he was using her to rebound, and it’s not her fault she’s dumb enough not to know you wear long dresses to formals.
LOL, jk. Yes, it is.
I see that boy now, handsome even for a ginger, with a nice smile, the sort that makes you feel like everything is going to be okay – even if you’re on surveillance stealing a giant, expensive as fuck, painting from a fraternity.
I find myself looking at him in the elevator, and he looks back at me, “what? Hey, don’t drop it! It’s probably super fucking expensive, Inds.” He says this sternly, but his smile says something different, as does his use of my nickname – not many people are allowed to call me by a nickname.
I wish I had met him before John.
When we finally get to his room, we place the painting by his closet and step back to admire our handiwork. I take a snapchat and joke, “take me to your date party and you’ll be sure to ostrasize yourself from a pledge brother and steal a price-less painting.” Ben laughs as he hands me a tshirt and some boxers to sleep in.
He puts on White Collar and I snuggle into him on his bed and I fall asleep wishing he wasn’t in my ex’s fraternity.
When I wake, the first thing I notice is that I’m not wearing any clothes. Like, I’m literally naked.
Then, I notice the door isn’t where I remember it being.
The sheets aren’t the same color blue I remember them being.
And the room temperature. My god, it has to be 100 degrees in here. At least.
I turn my head, and I realize the person next to me has dark hair, not red.
OH. MY. FUCKING… WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS HAPPENING. Or happened, whatever.
“Oh, thank god. You’re awake.” Michael exclaims.
“Yeah… uhm. What… is going on…? I mean, what… happened…?” I glance at him again awkwardly. I notice at least a foot of distance between us.
“Uh, honestly… at like 3 am, I woke up and you… were just here.” He averts his eyes like he wants to be anywhere but his own bed at this exact moment.
“Oh… my fucking god. Why… I mean, how… did I… I mean, uhm…”
“Ben and I share a bathroom. I guess you went to… relieve yourself… and then just came out the wrong door and… got in the wrong bed…”
“Jesus… fuck. We didn’t… did we…”
Please fucking deny it, please fucking deny it, please just fucking say no, even if we did. Let me live blissfully in ignorance.
“No! No, definitely not.”
“Okay, good. Sooo… why am I not wearing… any clothes… then…?”
“Honestly, you were wearing them at first but I think you took them off because it’s so hot in here… I turned my space heater up all the way before I went to sleep because, you know, the snow and all…”
I really need to cover myself right fucking now. Where is a blanket, or my clothes, or even a freaking paper towel. ANYTHING.
“Right… okay, then… uhm, I’m… gonna go… now.” I shyly get out of the bed, look back and Michael politely turns over in his bed to face the wall and give me privacy. I grab my clothes from beside the bed, throw them on and I run out of the room through the bathroom door, and back into Ben’s room as quickly as I can. Like, maybe if I run fast enough, I can erase what just happened. I jump under Ben’s covers and hope he doesn’t wake up, or that he hasn’t already noticed I was gone.
“Where were you?”
“Uhm… honestly I, uh… went to the bathroom… and just wandered out the wrong door… and kinda got in the wrong bed?” Repeating Michael’s words, I put my hands over my face, so embarrassed over what I had done.
There is silence for a moment, then Ben starts to laugh. He laughs so hard he has to turn over and laugh into his pillow, because his laugh is a loud one, a hearty and real kind, from the gut, a laugh you can’t fake. I put my head into his shoulder, “it’s not funny! I am literally so fucking mortified.”
He gets up a bit and leans forward on his forearms, turns to look at me and says, “I woke up about an hour ago and you were gone, so I just thought you just went home, you know… then I realized all your shit was still here. I thought, no way India’s gonna go home without her keys and phone. So, I was, like, where the fuck did she go? But that actually makes total sense…”
I look at him, sure my face is beat-red from the humiliation. “Please don’t tell anyone this happened, I would die if anyone found out…”
He reassures me he wont, and I call Tessa asking her to come get me. As I dress, Ben pulls me back into the bed, kisses me on the cheek, and tells me he had fun the night before. He says it was worth alienating himself from John. He lets me go and before I leave, I turn back and tell him to let me know what happens with the painting. I joke and say I’m going to tell them he forced me to do it if I get in trouble, he says back “India, there is absolutely no way anyone in this fraternity would believe anyone coerced YOU into something, they’re more likely to believe you coerced ME!”
I laugh and say, “its not not true,” with a shrug.
On my way down the hall, I realize too late I don’t know any side exits and kick myself mentally for not asking Ben the stealthiest way out. Which means I have to use the only exit I know, the one we used last night – through the main dining room.
I check the time on my phone. 12:04pm.
Great. Lunch. Everyone will be here. Fuck my fucking life.
After I find the elevator, I take the time down to collect myself and decide to turn this moment of embarrassment into a moment of power. I throw my shoulders back, put both my heels in one hand, and thank the lord for make-up primer and setting spray when I see my reflection in the doors. I look just as flawless as last night, sans lipstick.
The elevator doors open, and I strut past a group of sophomore brothers I recognize but don’t actually know, who stop and take a long look at the shacker walking by them. I take a hard right, straight into the dining hall, full of guys eating their lunches or throwing them at each other.
Is this what it’s like in here when girls aren’t around?!
It’s mayhem in there, and I’ve never felt so intimidated before in my life, but I refuse to show it and as I walk through, I casually pause to say hi to guys I know and even make light conversation, like this isn’t the second most awkward moment of my life; the first obviously being to wake up in Michael’s bed butt-ass naked. I take a detour to the door, casually stop at the soda machine and make myself a cup of ice water. I then look around and notice that since my entrance, the volume in the room has dropped by at least 50%. I guess after you date a brother who lives off campus for 4 months, it can come as quite a shock to the rest of the brothers when you’re caught shacking at the house only a few days after the break up.
If they only knew…
I’m so close to the backdoor now that I can actually see snowflakes falling, and I hesitate in dread at the thought of having to walk through it barefoot, but I persevere. I turn back, wave to everyone, and exclaim, “bye, guys! Have a good winter break!” I smile and wave like these are all my friends, like I would to my sorority sisters, and not a bunch of guys who are probably already on their phones texting my ex and narcing on me. A freshman, I think his name is Kyle, comes up to me and gives me a hug. “I’m praying for you,” he actually whispers in my ear. I stare at him for a moment.
I want to punch him.
Instead, I keep smiling and I say, “thank you, I’ll pray for you too,” and I keep walking toward the door.
Pray you get fucking dropped, asshole. Who the fuck gave him a bid anyway?
I keep walking, and as I pass Alex, he gives me a knowing smile and a thumbs up, I shoot him finger guns back. Beside him is Whitey, another senior and another of John’s roommates, who salutes me, to which I return with a royal wave, like the motherfucking queen I am.
Bow down, peasants.
I’m already out the door and about to go down the steps when I hear the House Mother say, “who the FUCK took the painting from the wall behind the Christmas tree last night?”
Then, I run like hell.