The Difference Knowing Makes
It had been an exceptionally shitty Thursday. All I wanted to do was curl up in my teensy twin bed with a Harry Potter paperback. What I actually did was head straight to the library to bury my nose in a much less appealing book.
Despite it being my junior year, I had, for some reason, managed to snag the much-despised eight a.m. Friday class. And said class had its first exam that following day. Which would have been just peachy if I weren't making a habit out of being unprepared for exams this semester.
Also, studying was going to be increasingly difficult after my beloved roommate left her curling iron sitting atop my French textbook. The textbook which was currently sporting a rather ugly burn cover straight through page 61. On top of that my bike chain jiggled itself loose on my way to class that afternoon, resulting in my being thirteen and a half minutes late. The professor took the time to glance at his watch before informing me so; only to have my least favorite pen burst all over my very favorite pair of athletic shorts.
"That'll be eight seventy-five."
My eyes darted up to meet the frowning cashier. He looked perturbed, as though it weren't the first time he'd informed me of my total.
"Oh," I mumbled, fishing through my tote for my money clip before dumping the contents of it into my hand and handing him exact change. "Here."
He then set both coffees and a shiny green apple on the counter before pointedly ignoring me and moving on to the next customer.
I took the Red Eye Espresso in one hand, the yummy mocha-caramel-somethingorother in the other, and bent down and sunk my teeth into the apple.
Spinning around, I found myself staring into a pair of hazel eyes I swear were mocking me.
I'd have smiled, but the apple would have probably fallen straight from my mouth and onto the questionably sanitary floor of the library, so I nodded and continued on my way to an empty booth in center of the bustling room.
When I'd situated myself comfortably in the booth, I dropped the tote bag to the floor, listening as if fell with an unceremonious plop, and pulled out my mangled French book, knowing I was being followed.
The mocking hazel-eyes continued to smile as a tall girl slid into the seat across from me.
"Well? There's no apple in your mouth now," she said, reaching across the table and snatching the coffee that was closest to her. It was my Red Eye Espresso. "Aren't you going to say hello?"
"No," I frowned, glancing down at my book and then back at the coffee stealer. "And if you're going to take my drinks, have this one, please. I have a feeling I'll be needing that one."
"Not a problem." She switched our coffees and took a drink of the one she'd pilfered. Grinning, she rested her elbows on the table and stabbed the bottom of the coffee with its straw. "I actually prefer this one. Thanks."
"You ruined my French book," I replied, not glancing up as I pulled out my spiral notebook and began copying verbs.
The smile in her voice indicated that she was anything but.
"So," she interrupted after a few seconds of silence. "Are you going to the Phi's mixer tonight?"
The Phi's were a fraternity who threw parties on Thursday nights just to rub it in the faces of the less fortunate who hadn't managed three-day weekends. I didn't dislike their mixers, per se, but I wasn't even tempted to toss in a good grade on a French exam for four hours of a cheap-beer induced buzz coupled with loud music and horny frat guys.
"I wish, but I've got studying to do." I motioned to the destroyed book. "But do me a favor and keep an eye on James, okay?"
As Meredith nodded, her bouncy blonde curls floated over her shoulders. It was really quite pretty and even a bit dramatic, but it was difficult appreciating such beauty when I knew the instrument that produced such luscious locks had maimed my textbook. Though even with a curling iron I'd never be able to achieve such body.
"Will do," she mock saluted. "Don't work too hard, okay?"
I nodded and watched as she took off with my deliciously diluted caffeine with a sigh.
At first glance, Meredith was every bit the leggy blonde a true sorority girl ought to be. She was the embodiment of the stereotype I fought against, but when I'd emptied the contents of my stomach into the commode early freshman year, she'd held my hair back. We'd been best friends ever since.
She'd also make good on her promise to keep an eye on James, my boyfriend of three and a half months. James was as easy going as he was gregarious, and he was not only on the Greek Council as a party planner, but was Vice President of his fraternity. He joked that being VP ensured he was in on all the decision making without having to do any actual work. And though James was funny and friendly and quite easy on the eyes, he despised having to lift a finger to do anything. It drove me insane more often than not, but he kept me sane and grounded. I thought we did a nice job of balancing one another out. If I didn't have someone pushing me to outings and parties, I'd probably stay in my room watching NCIS marathons all the time. While I made sure James didn't get too shit-hammered, and always insured that he turned in his work on time.
I wasn't so much worried James would cheat on me, but I was sure without someone by his side he'd over drink and end up doing something stupid. His shenanigans kept our three months together interesting, but I was usually there to clean up his mess. That wouldn't be the case tonight.
The party would have been interesting, had I not been so focused on my studying. I was so attentive, in fact, that I hadn't noticed my phone flash or vibrate. Four hour later, and a firm grasp on the subjunctive tense, I gathered my battered book and notes, and stuffed them back into my tote. I grabbed for my phone and keys, and I tossed my empty coffee cup in the trash. The Red Eye Espresso was a life savor and I was still feeling awake despite the fact that it was past midnight and I'd spent the last few hours straining over schoolwork.
Pushing the library doors open and entering the brisk, night air, I glanced down at my cell phone and read my missed texts.
One was from Meredith, and it read:
'Do we need to talk?'
Blinking and pulling my sweater closer to my frame, I set out for my sorority house and read the second message, this one from James.
'Sorry babe this isnt working out. I love you btu need my space. C u 2nite?'
I took a moment to stare into the cute little green speak bubble on my phone, wondering why James never took the time to correct his spelling errors or abide to the simple laws of syntax. I was no member of the ever-elusive grammar police; heck, I'd committed a grammatical crime or two in my day, but I at least had the decency to spell out simple words like "see" and "tonight."
And then I froze.
Right there between the Chemistry Building and one of the dormitories. I just stood there, staring at my phone. Had James just broken up with me? Via text message? And a text message he didn't bother to proof read!
I know a normal person would have been feeling sad, but for some reason I couldn't look past my anger. I felt humiliated receiving a brush off worthy of a cheap one-night stand, not a faithful girlfriend of three months!
Marching through campus I made the familiar trek across the strip of bars and trendy restaurants, straight through the well lit Greek Row, and entered the Zeta House.
It smelt like freesia and cookies. That probably meant Allison was baking again. I went into the kitchen, snatched two chocolate chip cookies without bothering to smile at the apron-clad blonde who looked armed with procession of sentiments. Glaring at her, daring her to say those dreaded words, I ripped open the fridge and poured myself a glass of milk.
Allison continued to stare at me, mouth agape, as I marched out of the kitchen and upstairs, snack in tow.
The second floor hallway was carpeted and flanked with doors. Each door bearing two names written in a loopy font, and was adorned with an assortment of blue and green hearts and scrolls and flowers. What I'd usually found cute looked sickeningly girly right now, and I entered the door labeled "Meredith & Shane" nearly as quickly as I slammed it shut behind me.
It was warm in the sorority house, but I curled in bed and flipped on the TV. After a few minutes of flipping through the channels I settled on a mindless reality show and snuggled into the blankets.
Allison's cookies were really quite delicious. I don't know why having a boyfriend break up with you brings on such an urge for a sugar coma, but I was fairly sure mine was more to do with the fact that James was really into taking care of himself and refrained from eating junk food. That had always bothered me, and I felt unhealthy when we'd go out to eat. I'd order a burger and fries paired with his egg-whites and salad.
Yes, that was helping ward of the anger and humiliation – focus on the negative! I wasn't entirely sure how to go about this whole break up thing; dating was still relatively new to me.
I didn't grow into my looks, no; I'm pretty sure I've always had them. I'm certainly not drop dead, or even just plain gorgeous, by any means, but I'm comfortable enough in my skin to admit with a little mascara I'm passably pretty - brown hair, green eyes, and a nearly invisible spray of freckles.
In high school I hadn't belonged anywhere; I'm terribly uncoordinated and never played any sports, and I wasn't blessed with any sort of musical talent, so I never found my niche in choir or band. I didn't belong to any clubs, and I never had a job, so I just kind of floated through high school. I made good grades and took difficult classes, was always friendly and polite to everyone, but I was too shy to put myself out there. Instead, I was just kind of 'there'. I sat at lunch with a few girls, but never opened up enough to do anything outside of lunch or class. My only hobby was running for pleasure, but I always ran in solitude, so it never had an effect on my social life.
It was one of the reasons I liked the idea of being in a sorority – girlfriends who'd stick up for you, no matter what; having friends to stay up late with, that sort of thing. It was an idea my dad put in my mind, thinking I should be more involved at university. So I rushed and found my niche in the Zeta house. It was rather simple; I had parties and social events to attend, and girls to talk to.
It also wasn't until college that I began to date boys, and even then it was never anything too serious. Just a few fraternity guys who I'd been introduced to or set up with by friends. In fact, therein lay the problem: Frat Guys.
Though I strove to break the 'sorority girl' mold, I hadn't dated a guy who wasn't wealthy, lazy, or who didn't have nice arms they worked entirely too hard on…
The door swung open and Meredith stepped inside our room, a small, sad smile gracing her features.
"Allison told me you stole her cookies."
I let out a small grunt of acknowledgement and shrugged.
"Those were for the homeless."
"Well, the homeless can spare some from the heartbroken."
"Are you really though?" She asked, sitting on the bed adjacent to mine, studying me. "Heartbroken, I mean."
I scrunched up my face, thinking for a moment. There was anger at myself and at James' lack of tact, but my heart didn't ache the way heroines in novels always described.
"Is it bad if I'm not?"
"No." She said, shaking her head quite sage-like. "Heartbreak is for when you really love someone. And you didn't love James."
It was a simple statement, as though my best friend just … knew. Meredith knew I didn't love James, as though it were no big deal. We'd said the terribly informal 'love yah', but that 'yah' had never morphed into a 'you'. And it had only been three months. And, it was James.
"I knew we weren't going to get married, no, but I feel I deserve a little better than a two sentence text."
She winced. "Well, he never was the most eloquent…"
As I laughed, Meredith snuggled into her own bed, turning her attention to the TV.
Glancing at the clock I realized it was still early, party speaking. Meredith must have been worried about me and bailed early. I smiled. Say what you want about sorority girls - any rude, snarky comment that's born out of a stereotype - but no one had ever put my misfortune before having a good time before I'd joined Zeta.
Tomorrow life would resume as normal. I'd drag Camie out of bed, we'd run two miles; I'd take my French test, attend my classes, eat lunch, and celebrate the weekend with my friends.
My sisters. I was doing a fine job of breaking the stereotype, and I didn't need another jerk hanging off my arm, thankyouverymuch.
So that was it. I'd formed my plan and now it was time to enforce it.
"So I've decided," I said, and Meredith glanced at me, her confusion evident. "No more Frat guys. Ever, okay?"
Her head tilted to one side, the waterfall of slinky curls spraying across one shoulder. "Hm," she smiled. "Sounds much easier said than done."
"I'm serious. I need something more substantial. No more dates in bars or backwards hats. And don't even get me started with that carefully styled 'just-rolled-out-of-bed' look! Or… or…"
"Or breakups via text-message?" She offered with a grin.
And with a nod, Meredith seemed to accept my resolution. I just hoped the other girls would understand my feelings and refrain from setting up the newest single member of the house with the only breed they knew: The Frat Guy.