The Dare

Page 69

“I have issues, too,” she insists. “Just because you don’t see my insecurities doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We all have scars on the inside.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about your deep personal traumas, but you’re one of mine, so…”

If Abigail is feeling some remorse because her assheadedness blew up in my face, she’s going to have to turn elsewhere for absolution. She might have sympathy for me, but I have none for her.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” she says ruefully. “I was so insecure about you kissing a guy I was dating on a stupid dare that the only way I knew how to cope with that was to take my hurt out on you. After the kiss he wouldn’t shut up about oh her huge tits and have you ever thought about implants and all kinds of shit. Do you know how humiliating that is?”

A crease cuts into my forehead. I didn’t know that. I mean, sure, I knew she was pissed. But if a guy I was seeing kept going on about it, comparing us, I’d have lost my shit, too.

“In high school,” she confesses, drawing patterns on the countertop, “I was called pancakes. I didn’t even have enough to fill out a training bra. I know you probably think that’s a stupid thing to obsess about, but all I’ve wanted, for my entire life, was to feel good in my clothes, you know? To feel sexy. For guys to look at me the way they look at other girls.”

“But you’re gorgeous,” I say, exasperated. “You’ve got a perfect body and a beautiful face. You know the last time I wore a bikini? I was still sleeping with a nightlight.” I gesture to my chest. “These things are a fucking burden. They’re heavy. They don’t fit any apparatus known to man. I’ve got back problems like I’m seventy. Every guy I meet is staring at my boobs to distract him from the rest of me.”

Except Conor. Which sends another pang of loneliness stabbing through my gut.

“And yet, I never feel good enough. I never feel confident in who I am,” Abigail counters. “I make up for it with—”

“Being a bitch.”

She smiles, rolling her eyes. “Mostly, yeah. My point is, I’ve felt like shit and pushed people away, too. That’s what you’re doing with Conor and it sucks. I don’t know or care at what point you two stopped messing with me—and don’t bother denying it. I saw right through that bullshit. But at some point it changed and you made it official. Yeah, I noticed that too. He obviously loves you, and if your sudden change in attitude the last couple weeks is any indication, you loved him too. So what sense does it make to lose that because someone else did a shitty thing?”

“You don’t understand.” Because she can’t. And I don’t know what else to tell her that doesn’t sound like an excuse. Even the thought of facing Conor after this makes my throat close up and my legs shake. “Thanks for coming by, but—”

“Fine.” She pivots, sensing I’m about to tell her to beat it so I can get back to conversations that take place exclusively in a Manchester accent. “We won’t talk about Conor. Or that the flowers he left for you are now taking up the entire living room coffee table. Have you gone to the police yet?”

You’ve got to be kidding me. “Did Jules send you over here?” I demand.

“No,” she says quickly. “Nothing like that, I promise. Just if you are going to report the video, I’ll go with you. I can explain how Jules got access to it and everything. Be a witness, if you want.”

This topic is getting exhausting. “You know, I’m getting a little sick of people pushing me. Everyone has their ideas of what I have to do and it’s pretty damn overwhelming. Can I have like a fucking minute.”

“I know this is scary, but you really should go to the police,” Abigail insists. “If you don’t attack this now, it will spread. What happens when one day you apply for a job or, who knows, you want to run for office or something and this video pops up? It will live with you forever.” She flicks up her eyebrows. “Or you can do something about it.”

“You’re not the best person to be giving me advice,” I remind her.

It’s easy for others to say this is what must be done, tell me to suck it up. If our positions were reversed, I might say the same. Things look a whole lot different on this end, though. The last thing I want to be doing is weighing the impact of court cases and depositions, headlines and news vans, with tucking myself under my blankets and never, ever coming out again. The latter is a whole lot cozier.

“You’re right. I’ve been terrible to you. I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings.” Abigail looks down at her hands, picking at her nails. “You were my best friend during pledge.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I say bitterly.

“I was so excited about us being sisters. Then it all went wrong. That was my fault, I should have done something about it then, talked it out or whatever, and instead it’s only gotten worse. I lost a friend. But I’m trying to start making up for that. Let me help you.”

“Why should I?” It’s all well and good that Abigail has reached her epiphany, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to be besties now.

“Because with shit like this, women have to stick together,” she says earnestly. “This transcends all that other bullshit. Jules was wrong. No one deserves what she did. I want her punished for you but also for all of us. Even if you never talk to me after this, I’ve got your back. Every single Kappa does.”

I admit, she sounds sincere. Which I suppose means she isn’t entirely devoid of humanity. And it did take courage to come here. She gets bonus points for laying her shit out and taking the blame. That takes integrity.

Maybe it’s never too late to become a better person. For either of us.

“I won’t promise to go to the police,” I tell her. “But I’ll think about it.”

“Fair,” she says, with a smile that reads as hopeful. “Can I make one more suggestion?”

I roll my eyes with a smirk. “If you must.”

“At least let me get my mom to send takedown notices to any sites hosting the video. She’s an attorney,” Abigail explains. “Lots of times she can scare people with just the letterhead. You don’t have to do a thing or talk to anyone.”

Actually, that’s a great idea. I was dreading trying to figure all that shit out. If Abigail’s mother can just use her fancy law degree and make it go away, that’d be swell.

“I’d really appreciate it,” I say, my voice sounding annoyingly shaky. “And I do appreciate you coming over.”

“So…” She twists on her stool like a child. “We’re not sworn enemies anymore?”

“Maybe more like stepsisters.”

“I can live with that.”

 

 

41

 

 

Conor

 

 

A horn blares. Jolted, I snap up but make it only inches before my head slams into I don’t know what. I can’t feel my legs. Something is digging into my side. My arm is trapped under my body and the other one is numb, wedged under—

Another horn. Jarring. Earsplitting. A long succession of deafening wails.

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