You and Everything After(7)By: Ginger Scott
“Is it bad that I’m excited? I shouldn’t be so excited. I should play it cool. Right, cool…phew…deep breath, and ready. Okay, I’m being cool. How’s this?” Paige only rolls her eyes and picks up her stride. “What? Not cool? It’s the shoes, isn’t it? Or my shorts? I should have worn a dress, or something cuter. I’m so bad at this.”
“Jesus Christ, Cass! You look fine. You’re cute. Boys are going to think you’re cute. Just like they did back home. If you’re going to get like this every time we go to a party, I’m going to start going without you,” Paige fires back her short fuse with me, and my nerves kick in quickly.
“You’re right,” I say, blowing out a huge breath into the few strands of my hair that have found their way in front of my face. “I wish Rowe would have come with us.” Rowe’s our roommate. We have one of the big rooms at the end of the hall, which means there are three of us in a room, and Rowe seemed pretty cool. I liked her music, and she seemed like she was hungry for friends outside of her tiny circle—just like me.
“Ugh. I don’t. I don’t know about that chick. She’s…quiet,” my sister says, punctuating that last word like there’s something wrong with being quiet. I’m quiet. Or at least, I was. But I left that all behind in high school. Here, no one knew my history. No one knew about my bad choices for boyfriends—and the reputation that only took months to create and a thousand miles to run away from. Here, I was going to be loud, and confident, and important, and someone’s girlfriend. And I would settle for nothing less.
“You’re just being a bitch. She’s nice,” I say, feeling defensive of my barely eight-hour-old friend.
“Probably. But I still don’t like her,” Paige says, making those annoying last touches on her hair she always makes before she knows we’re about to enter a room full of strangers. I should probably do the same thing, tuck hair behind an ear, or make sure my lips are pink or shiny or kissable or, I don’t know. Paige did my makeup. That’s her thing—hair, fashion…exteriors. Me, I’m more of the crack-open-the-beer, chug-faster-than-the-guys, and then kick-their-asses-in-something kinda girl. I brush my fingers through my hair anyway though, because change is good.
The second we open the door, we’re weaving through a crowd of people. We’re at some old apartment complex, right off campus. One of the fraternities took it over for housing. The living room is filled with smoke, which makes everyone look just a little dirtier.
College parties aren’t like they seem in the movies. They’re not even close. There isn’t some band playing in a corner, or some DJ spinning records. It’s just an iPod plugged into a nice set of speakers, playing the same rap album over and over again. The girls here aren’t all wearing major label designer clothes. Most of the guys are wearing hats, and they sport newly minted beards that haven’t been groomed properly—and way too much cologne. It’s just an apartment overcrowded with people, most of whom are gathered around a Goodwill sofa in the living room or the giant table pushed against a wall in the dining area.
“I’ll get us beer,” I say to Paige, doing my best to push through the group of girls who are gathered around the kitchen island. My experience has me waiting for them to say something to me—or spill their drinks on me on purpose—but instead, I slip through unnoticed, their conversation continuing without pause as I move through them.
I grab two cups and a marker, writing PAIGE on one. I’m about to write my name on the other when my hand suddenly writes out the name ADRIANNA. I put the pen cap back on and can’t help but smile at the idea of being a mystery woman, just for the night. Once I’ve filled each cup from the keg, I slip back through the crowd to find my sister.
“Adrianna?” she asks, taking a sip from her cup and pointing to my persona scribed on mine.
“Yep, tonight I’m Adrianna,” I say, taking a big gulp, and challenging her stare with my mouth pressed in a hard line—just like Adrianna would.