“No, I said make out. Like you fucking mean it, pledges. Fuck her mouth.”
So we do. Because more than anything, pledge week breaks down your sense of self-preservation, your will. By that point our responses were almost automatic. They say jump, we learn to fly.
So there it is on the Internet for horny dudes to wank it to: me and Rebecca, hot and heavy, our clothes soaked through and practically transparent. Tits and vag out on full view.
And it goes on for much longer than I remember. So long I assume it must be looped, until finally it ends and I look up at Rebecca who’s still sobbing. Not in anger anymore, but humiliation. The video has thousands of views in just a few hours. Already, it’s spreading.
To Greek Row.
The entire campus.
And the only person who could have uploaded it is in this house.
I’m going to be sick.
The thought reaches my brain well after my stomach spasms and vomit rises in my throat. I bolt for Sasha’s bathroom and barely make it to the toilet before I choke on the hot liquid filling my mouth. I hear the bathroom door shut while I’m rinsing my mouth out and assume it’s Sasha come to check on me. Instead, I turn around to see Rebecca sitting on the edge of the bathtub.
She’s composed herself. Face still red, eyes puffy. Her tears have dried. In their place, a frozen image of resignation.
“So it wasn’t you,” she says dully.
I wipe my face, smearing the makeup Sasha had just applied. “No.”
“I’m sorry I accused you like that.”
Closing the lid of the toilet, I sit down, still trying to get my own heart rate under control. Hurling did a lot to temper my panic, but the longer I’m upright, the faster the thoughts rush back to the surface.
“I understand,” I say.
If I’d been the first of us to see the video, I’m not sure I would have reacted any better. Maybe not charging through the house screaming, but certainly suspicious. Fact is, Rebecca and I have never been friends. She was the shyest of our pledge class back then, and after pledge week we hardly spoke again. Not for lack of trying on my part—it just always seemed when I walked into a room, she found her way to the other side.
Now, something’s changed. Besides the obvious, I mean. She sits there looking at me, defeated, like all this time she’s tried to outrun me and her knee’s finally given out.
“My parents are going to kill me,” Rebecca whispers, hanging her head. She sighs. A big burdened release, as if rather than fearing the consequences, she’s almost relieved to accept them.
“They wouldn’t really blame you for the video getting out, would they? They have to understand it’s not your fault.”
“You don’t get it.” Her fingernails dig into the folio cover on her iPad, leaving crescent shapes in the fake leather. “My parents are ultra conservative, Taylor. They hardly associate with anyone outside their church. My dad didn’t even want me to pledge a sorority, but I convinced my mom that Kappa was basically like joining a bible study group. She said they hoped it would teach me how to be a proper young lady.”
A frown touches my lips. “What does that mean?”
It’s hard to imagine my own mother ever going on a parent kick, trying to tell me what to do. I think the last time she told me to clean my room was when I lost the class ferret somewhere in the month-old laundry pile.
“I had my first girlfriend in eighth grade,” Rebecca says, meeting my eyes. “We were only together for a couple weeks when a girl caught us kissing in the band room and told her mom, who went to church with my parents. My dad bullied my girlfriend’s parents until they finally pulled her out of band and got her transferred out of any classes we had together. We were forbidden to see each other.” She shakes her head bitterly. “Every summer after that, my Dad sent me to bible camp. Started setting me up with boys from church. Usually some gay kid who was just as mortified and depressed to be forced to kiss a girl in painfully staged date pictures. By the time I graduated high school, though, I’d convinced them I was reformed. I could be trusted again. I figured living in a sorority house would at least keep my parents from dropping in whenever they felt like it to snoop through my room or hide cameras in my walls.”
“Shit, Rebecca. I had no idea. I’m sorry.”
She shrugs. A sad grin makes a fleeting appearance, then vanishes. “I’m sorry we never became friends.”
“No, I get it.” I bite my lip. “I can’t pretend to know how you feel, but I get it.”
A lot of us are trapped in our own lives. Told we’re made wrong, deficient. As if being ourselves is somehow an affront to society. Some of us are constantly beaten with a stick of conformity until we learn to love the pain or give up altogether. I still haven’t figured my way out of that trap. Yet there’s nothing worse than when it’s your own family on the other end of that stick. Which pretty much makes Rebecca the strongest person I know—and one hell of an ally.
“So what are we going to do?” she says quietly.
My teeth dig harder into my lip. “Only a Kappa could have shared that video.”
“I have a pretty good idea who.”
I don’t remember who was holding the phone. One of the seniors, I’d guess. Except for rituals, all pledge activities were recorded for “posterity.”
The real question is, who had access to the video. I’ve never seen any footage from mine or another pledge week aside from the highlight reel that always runs at the first dinner after confirmations. It makes sense the person who would have control over that archive is the president.
And her VP.
Downstairs, Rebecca and I confront Charlotte in the lounge. She’s alone, curled up in a high-back chair with her laptop open and her headphones on. Considering the commotion a few minutes ago, I would’ve expected her to have circled the wagons, as it were.
“We have to talk,” I tell her.
Charlotte pushes one of her headphones off one ear, lifting an irritated eyebrow without looking up from her screen. “What?”
“We need to talk,” I repeat.
“Yes,” Rebecca insists.
Charlotte’s gaze remains on the laptop. Lately she’s completely checked out. She’s graduating and Abigail was named her successor, so there’s not much left for Charlotte to do than hand over the keys and pose for a photo that’ll hang on the wall with the other former presidents. We’ve all noticed the change in her attitude in that regard. Full-on senioritis.
“Charlotte,” I snap.
Rolling her eyes, she slides the headphones off and shuts her laptop. “Fine. What is it?”
“This.” Rebecca shoves her iPad in Charlotte’s face and presses play again on the video.
At first, Charlotte appears bored, confused, glancing at us for an explanation. Then I watch the realization dawn on her. She scrolls down to read the comments. Scrolls up to look at the website name at the top of the page. Her startled eyes dart up to ours.
“Who posted this?” she demands, fire in her voice. Charlotte Cagney is a force to be reckoned with, which is why she was elected president in the first place. Everyone voted out of fear of what would happen to all those who opposed her. No one dared run against her.