The Dare

Page 68

My takeaway thus far is that serial killers are rampant in quaint country villages. Also, dating shows are better with accents, too. Although one thing I’ve noticed is the severe lack of excessive drinking on their reality programming—I mean, how are people supposed to start throwing chairs and breaking shit if they’re sober all the time? They do love their lip fillers and hair extensions, though.

“I like the one who says ‘fit’ a lot,” I tell Sasha over speakerphone while I watch a show that’s essentially Tinder, except they all live together. “And they call girls birds. I feel like it’s still the fifties in just Cuba and England.”

“Uh-huh,” Sasha says with boredom in her voice. “Have you showered today?”

Clearly she doesn’t appreciate sophisticated television.

“It’s Saturday,” I tell her.

“Do we not shower on Saturdays now?” Always so judgey.

“Water doesn’t grow on trees, you know.”

After Sasha drove me home from the Kappa house Thursday night, I got in my sweats, went to the couch, and watched British Cottage Murder Detective Priest while eating an entire box of Cheerios before falling asleep in the same position, waking up this morning, getting more cereal delivered, and resuming my viewing schedule. This will be my life now. With Instacart and online classes, who needs to leave the house?

“It’s the end of the semester,” I add. “Isn’t this what college students are supposed to do? Lie around in a nest of our own molting skin, watching TV and gorging on processed foods.”

“Not since millennials all got startups, Taylor.”

“Well, I’m an old soul.”

“You’re hiding,” she says sharply.

“So.” So what. Aren’t I allowed? I was dragged out in the middle of the student union, stripped, and ogled by the entire campus. That’s how it feels, anyway. So fucking sue me if all I want to do is lock myself inside and escape into other people’s lives for a while.

“So you were violated,” she starts, her tone softening.

“I’m aware.” Thanks.

“Don’t you want to do something about it? We can get the video taken down. We can go to the police. I’ll help you. You shouldn’t have to just accept that this happened and suffer for it.”

“What am I going to do, have Jules arrested?”

“Yes,” her voice bursts out of the speaker. “And Abigail’s shithead boyfriend. Or, ex, I guess, based on the screaming coming from her room last night. What those two did is a crime, Taylor. It would make them sex offenders in some places.”

“I don’t know.”

Cops mean statements. Sitting in a room with a dude staring at my tits while I recount my humiliation for him.

Or worse, a morally righteous woman who tells me this wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a video, if I hadn’t put myself in that situation.

Screw that.

“If it were me, I’d be slitting throats.”

“It’s not you.” I appreciate Sasha’s venom. It’s what I love about her. She’s everything I’m not, vengeful and confident. I’m not built that way. “I know you’re trying. Thank you. But I still need time to think. I’m not there yet.”

Truth is, I’ve barely wrapped my head around the idea that this is happening, much less the larger implications. When my alarm went off yesterday morning for class, a fierce and immediate sense of panic erupted through my muscles. I felt sick at the thought of walking across campus to the lingering eyes and hushed conversations. Heads turning when I entered the room. Classmates with their phones in their laps, the video playing. Giggles and stares. I couldn’t do it.

So I stayed home. On one of my TV breaks, I even texted Rebecca. I don’t know why, I guess to share in the misery together. She didn’t respond, which is probably for the best. Maybe if we just ignore this and each other, it’ll just go away.

“Have you heard from Conor?” Her voice is apprehensive, as if she’s concerned I might hang up on her for daring to ask.

I almost do. Because just the sound of his name sends a knife of pain to my heart. “He’s texted a few times, but I’m ignoring the messages.”

“Taylor.”

“What? It’s over,” I mutter. “You were there when I dumped him.”

“Yes, I was, and it was obvious you weren’t thinking clearly,” she says in aggravation. “You did everything you could to push him away. I get it, okay? When we’re in that level of crisis, we fall back on our worst insecurities. You were worried he’d judge you or feel embarrassed on your behalf—”

“I don’t need a psychology lesson right now,” I interrupt. “Please. Just leave it alone.”

There’s a short beat of silence.

“All right, I’ll leave it.” Another beat, and then she somberly says, “I’m here for you. Anything you need. I’ll drop everything.”

“I know. You’re a good friend.”

With a smile in her voice, she replies, “Yes, I am.”

After I hang up with Sasha, I go back to my shows and stress-eating. A few episodes later, there’s a knock at the door. I’m confused for a minute, wondering if I’d forgotten I ordered something else, until I hear another knock and Abigail’s voice asking me to let her in.

Fuck.

“Before you tell me to piss off,” she says when I reluctantly open the door, “I come in peace. And to apologize.”

“It’s fine,” I reply, just to get rid of her. “You apologized. Bye.”

I try to close the door, but she pushes it open and slips her skinny ass in before I can slam her foot in the doorjamb.

“Abigail,” I huff, “I just want to be left alone.”

“Yeah…” Scrunching her face at my never-to-be-seen-by-another-human-person sweat ensemble, she says, “I can see that.”

“Why are you here, dammit?”

Being Abigail, she waltzes over to one of the stools at the tiny kitchen island and takes a seat. “I heard you broke up with Conor.”

“Seriously? You want to start with that?” Fucking unbelievable.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she says quickly and takes a breath before starting over. “I mean, I think you made a mistake.”

Her pretenses drop. That air of permanent bitchiness. For the first time in a long time, she’s regarding me without a smirk of cruelty or sarcasm. It’s…sort of creepy.

Still not ready to trust her intentions, I stand against the opposite counter from her. “Why do you care?” Not that I give a shit what she thinks.

“Okay, look. I do this too.” There’s a chord of sympathy in her voice. “You’re upset and embarrassed and you want to push everyone away. Especially the people closest to you. That way they don’t see the pain you’re going through. They don’t see you the way you feel about yourself. I get it. I truly do.”

First Sasha, now Abigail? Why can’t everyone just leave me alone?

“What the hell do you know about anything?” I mutter. “You run through boys like makeup wipes.”

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