Chapter 10: We Need to Talk

My head swirled as Constance and I parted ways. What was the deal with Maike and Greek Life aside from the gossipy backstory my ex had given me? Was her hatred of Greek Life that made her hate Constance? I kept walking, lost in thought until I found myself outside the front entrance of Maike's dorm. I hesitated for a few seconds until another student brushed past me, slid his ID card into the building, and the door opened with a high pitched beep sound. He turned back toward me, keeping the door propped open with his arm until I got in.

"Thanks."

"No problem."

I sighed deeply as I climbed the staircase to the 4th floor where she lived and pushed the door open to her side of the building where she lived.

"Excuse me, sorry!" a girl said as she dashed past me. Her chemistry book in her arm jostled my elbow as she kicked the closing door open and continued to run down the stairs. I winced as I rubbed my arm - her book had some weight to it, geez! Then I heard a door open and a girl emerged from it, talking into her phone.

"You don't have a spare set?" she asked her companion on the phone. "Yeah...uh I have them in your case here. What's the add- oh shoot! I can't drop them off, I have a meeting with the advisor of student body about a program on Saturday! ...You need them that badly?"

I turned my head toward the girl who had paused outside her door and was leaning against the wall parallel to the door. I walked towards the girl, straining to remember where Maike's door was. Not the first door on the right, not the first one on the left, and not the second...hang on, the door the girl came out of was Maike's!

"Hang on M there's a guy wandering around looking for someone," the girl said. "Can I help you?"

"Um yeah, I was looking for Maike's room," I replied.

The girl held the phone away from her ear and gave me a knowing smile before sweeping her arm in a dramatic gesture to the door parallel to where we were standing. "Well its right here," she said. "I'm her roommate Veronica. She's actually at kickboxing right now but I have her here on the phone if you want to talk to her. What's your name?"

"Dean. Dean Tang," I replied.

"Oh wait! You're the guy she told me about, the tall basketball guy she kissed," Veronica said as she looked closely at me. "Actually, could you do both of us a huge favor and run her mouth guards over to her now? I have a meeting in 10 minutes otherwise I'd go."

"Sure...where is the gym or place she goes?"

"Here you have an iPhone too? I'll bump the address to you," she said as she held out her hand.

I handed over my phone and she took it, scrolling through her address book, selecting the address of Maike's kickboxing place, and nudging her phone against the side of mine. Soon my screen flashed that I had a new address that was transferred over via a nudge. She handed my phone back and the container with Maike's mouth guards in it.

"Thank you so much Dean! You're a lifesaver!" she said before returning to her conversation with Maike. "Okay crisis averted, I found your friend Dean and he's going to bring them to you."

She listened to Maike's reply on the other end before saying goodbye and hanging up.

"She said she'll look for you and says thanks a lot," Veronica said. "Thank you again! And I hope we talk again soon?"

"Yeah, yeah sure," I replied. "And thanks for the address."

She was sitting outside on a bench when I pulled up in front. She stood up and began walking over to my car. I picked up the mouth guard container and got out as she approached me. She accepted the case from me and tucked a wispy strand of hair away from her face.

"Thanks a lot Dean," she said, "Coach told me to sit out until I got them since he said he doesn't want to pay for my dental bill in case anything, ahem, happens."

"Hmm yeah that would be bad," I replied, "but I didn't just come to drop off your mouth things. We need to talk. Do you have time to do that or did you need to start practicing now?"

Maike looked back over her shoulder as her coach appeared in the doorway. She held up her case and he gave her a thumbs-up before briefly smiling and waving at me. She turned back to face me and looked past me for a few seconds.

"I'd hate to make you wait...but would you mind letting me practice for...20 minutes then we can go somewhere else and chat?" she prompted.

"Yeah, yeah that's fine," I said. "Want me to wait outside?"

"We have chairs inside," she said with a small smile, "unless you want to sit outside like the kids do when they wait for their parents."

"Ha ha very funny," I replied. "Inside it is then." I followed her inside the building where she gestured to an area where chairs were placed haphazardly in a zigzag line by the wall. I sat down in one of the chairs as she popped the mouth guards in and climbed over the bungee cord ropes around the boxing square. Her coach tapped the 2 cushioned punching paddles together before holding them in front of him and prompting her to start. She adjusted her cracked, red boxing gloves and stared intently at the paddles before suddenly punching the right one with intensity, followed up with a kick to the left one.

"Thank you again for being so patient," she said as we headed to our cars. "So uh, where did you want to go to talk? Are you hungry?"

"Actually...I am if you are," I said. "There's a Japanese place not far from here if you want to go. Or is there something else?"

"Japanese is fine," she replied as she wiped a drip of sweat off her forehead. "Excuse my lack of proper appearance. If I look too gross and sweaty then I understand."

"What? Nah its cool," I replied.

"Tonkatsu curry rice and milk tea please," Maike said to the waiter as he took our order.

The waiter scribbled it down on his notepad before taking my order of salmon roll, side of rice, and water.

"Geez you sound like a total health nut compared to me," Maike joked as the waiter left. "Getting salmon and water you know."

I shrugged it off as if it was nothing. Maike rested her arm on the table and drummed her fingers on the table. She looked out the window we were seated near before prompting me to talk about whatever it was that I wanted to talk about.

"You uh, never answered my question a few days ago," I began, "how do you know those chicks from Delta Phi?"

Maike blew a few loose strands of her hair out of her face. She rolled her eyes at the mention of the girls and cringed slightly.

"Well...believe it or not, I joined Delta Phi earlier this year," she replied. "I know it doesn't seem like something I'd do, but I decided to try it out for the sake of my mom and...soon-to-be sister-in-law. Mom was worried that I was just going to be some recluse in college who acted like a boy and hung only with them so to make her happy, I said I'll pledge and see how it works out."

"What about Constance? Why did you mention her as one of the people you did it for?"

"You know my sister-in-law?" Maike said. Her eyebrows arched up in amusement and she crossed her arms over her chest.

"One water and milk tea," the waiter said as he put the drinks in front of us.

"I ran into her this afternoon," I explained. "Mascara was running down her face so...I gave her a tissue and she spilled her guts to me about the whole soon-to-be married deal."

Maike picked up the straw that the waiter left for her tea and she tore off the wrapper, sticking the straw into the creamy caramel colored drink, and leaning forward to take a sip. Her eyes stayed glued to mine as she drank. Once she swallowed she broke the silence.

"I thank you for being the chivalrous bystander and let her gab," Maike said with a faint trace of a smile. "I admit I was being bitchy to her earlier but just seeing her today looking like a bad Snooki poser and that run-in with Elaina made me mad. But I got off topic, I guess I joined because I wanted to try to find something we could have in common but mainly it was my mom making me try it." She took another sip of her tea and I went for my water. "What did Constance tell you anyways?"

"She mentioned that she was getting married to your brother, you didn't like her which made her upset, and she was surprised to learn that you used to be in Greek Life. And before you go asking how I happened to know this before you mentioned it to me now, my nosy ex spilled the beans on you in an attempt to make me get back together with her."

"Charming ex you have there," she replied. "Well she's a Greek too yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Ah heck then of course she saw me leave the sorority I was in. Go figure," Maike said.

I propped my right elbow on the table and prompted her continue. "My ex gave me what she saw: you got yelled at for wearing casual dress, a drunk guy threw up on her, and you threw a rag on her head before saying you quit."

"Hah well she got most of it, what else is there to really say?" she asked. "Oh what the Hell, I'll just tell you my side of it. I was having a problem with my car so I took it to the garage to get it fixed. Once the guy told me that it was an easy fix, I decided to just do it myself to save some money. I ran late to the event and it was too late to change so I just went as is. Even if I did have the time, I don't have a party dress or something to that extent up here at college."

"All right, I have 1 salmon roll with a side of rice?" another waiter interrupted as she brought our food out on a brown tray.

"Me."

"And the tonkatsu curry rice must be yours," the waitress added as she put Maike's dish in front of her. "Can I bring both of you anything else?"

"No we're good," I replied.

"Enjoy," she said as she walked away.

I turned back to Maike and encouraged her to continue.

"I showed up in jeans, leather jacket, and combat boots which didn't make Elaina happy," Maike continued as she snapped her chopsticks apart. "And earlier in the Pledge Week, I forgot to do a lot of things like wear this color on this night, dress like a famous person, etc. So that was the final straw for her and she gave me this stupid speech of 'I didn't get elected to this job that was, like my cousin Constance's, to have someone like you ruining my year!' when she saw me. It just so happens that a guy from outside snuck booze in and one frat guy was so nauseous from having too much that he threw up on her. She wailed and screamed and I was pissed to learn that she and Constance were related. I mean, to me, that was the cherry on top: the sorority you end up in is the same one your sister-in-law was the head of and her bratty cousin is calling the shots. And the rest is history: I threw the greasy rag on her head, told her to shove off, I was quitting, and left."

I chewed a piece of salmon roll slowly as I thought about her description of the story. It made more sense but I was still hazy on why she hated Constance so much.

"So why don't you like your sister-in-law?" I asked carefully.

Maike looked up from the large piece of tonkatsu she was trying to pick up with her chopsticks and shrugged.

"I know, I know its stupid and childish to hold a grudge against a person in your family, especially when the whole point of marriage is to unite families into a bigger one," she began, "but I think its because Constance used to be the same way in college like Elaina. So now that she's turned herself around, I feel like my brother's being hypnotized or cursed to like her since they never even saw eye to eye in college. It makes me wonder whether its a trick or if she's for real."

"Listen...its not my place to talk about who to like in your family and not but I think that Constance probably went through a phase or just went along with the stereotype image expected of a sorority type to fit in," I offered. "She seemed concerned about Elaina's rudeness toward you as she wants to leave a good impression on your family and be respectful."

Maike stopped chewing her tonkatsu and her eyes widened. She swallowed her mouthful quickly and gave me a confused look.

"Yeah I know Maike, she looks like a not-so-smart Jersey Shore clone but I think she's just trying to fit in still," I said. "Seems to me like she's looking for someone to accept the fact that she does have a brain in that poofy hair-do of hers despite her physical appearance."

She put her chopsticks down and looked around the restaurant for a while. She continued to look at the other diners as she said, "Now I really feel like a bitch for being rude to her."

I dipped a salmon roll into the soy sauce dish and picked it up quickly to pop it into my mouth. As I chewed, Maike diverted her eyes back to our table.

"I guess I owe you a thank you for telling me this about my sister-in-law," she said.

"It's nothing Maike, really," I replied. "But uh, can I ask you to help me concoct one last dare for Spencer?"

She grinned widely at those words and took a sip of her milk tea. As she put it down, she replied, "You've got it. Now what were you thinking?"