Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chapter 18, part 1: Going Public

One Friday toward the end of April, I broke a long, lingering kiss with Brad and straightened up as much as I could in the huge bowl of his papasan chair. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. What do you think about coming with me tonight to CSF’s activity of the week? They’re showing Facing the Giants tonight.”
“Babe, we’ve been through this. I don’t have a problem with you personally, but a lot of people in that club of yours are judgmental freaks. Sorry to be so harsh, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in a CSF meeting. Besides, I thought tonight you could come with me to the Kappa Sig party. I want to show you off, and it’d be a good chance for you to get to know the others who’ll be coming to Germany with us.”
I considered fighting to get my way. I’d missed about one third of the CSF meetings, Bible studies and other planned events in April because Brad and I lost track of time holed up in his room, making out. I didn’t mind all that much; Brad’s kisses were heavenly and it was still awkward to be around Lacey and especially Rob. I stayed away from our shared room as much as possible these days.
I once again snuggled in beside Brad’s lean, well-muscled form and planted a wet smooch on his cheek. “I’d love to meet your friends,” I said. If anyone from the CSF leadership team questioned my absence, I could always explain that I’d been busy putting their plan for evangelizing the Greeks into action.
The combined population of Elk River College and the town of Elkridge was less than five thousand. The closest movie theater and bowling alley were twelve miles away in Exeter, meaning that for those without a car, there wasn’t much to do outside of clubs, social or otherwise. Nearly 80 percent of the freshmen class rushed each year.
But not me. I wasn’t sure if I had been more afraid that no club would pick me or that one would. For some reason I assumed all members of fraternities and sororities were godless – lost souls in search of nothing but pleasure. Maybe even alcoholics or even drug addicts. Brad seemed different, but that was when we were alone together. Would I see his true colors tonight.
Before I could speculate as to the answer, Brad pulled me into another long, slow kiss. All worries floated away as he intensified the kiss and ran his hands up and down my back. One moved to tangle in my long curly hair, and another teased at the hem of my loose cotton shirt. His rough hands were so warm on my abdomen. A niggle of conscience urged me to say something to stop his advancing caresses, but curiosity to see what he would do next and how it would feel won out. I returned his kiss with full passion, not stopping even when his hands cupped the outside of my bra.
A blast of music from Brad’s cell phone startled us both.
“Hey, Josh,” Brad finally said after fumbling to extract the phone from his pocket. “Dinner? Is it already that late? Sure, sounds good. We’ll meet you outside of Paxton Hall in five minutes.”
I sat up and pulled down my top, simultaneously relieved and frustrated at the break in action. How far would he have wanted to go if the phone didn’t ring? How far would I have let him go?
“Hungry?” Brad gave me a quick kiss. “That was my big brother in Kappa Sigma, Josh Breckenridge. He and his girlfriend Tonya thought it would be a good idea for the four of us to eat together before the party. Ready?”
“Sure.” How could I say that I dreaded meeting his friends? How could I possibly fit in with them?
Dinner went surprising well. I wolfed down three double-cheese slices of pizza while we chatted amiably. Josh and Tonya seemed normal and were easy to talk to. What did I expect? Horns growing from their heads? I thought. No wonder Brad thinks Christians are judgmental freaks.
The party started off small and laid-back in the sitting area of the Kappa Sig house. Brad introduced me to Tom Carmody and Owen Jacobs, the pitcher and catcher from the Elk River baseball team. Conversation ebbed and flowed around us, and I enjoyed watching Brad interact with his teammates and fraternity brothers.
My stomach started it’s by now familiar twists and gurgles. Why did this have to happen now of all times?
Tonya interrupted my thoughts. “Giselle, I haven’t seen you at many parties before. What do you usually do for fun?” Tonya asked.
Should I mention CSF? No, better not risk turning her off just yet. “I love to read,” I said instead.
“Cool, me too. What’s the latest book you’ve read?”
I mentioned a few titles and then let Tonya take over the conversation. The rumblings in my gut were increasingly distracting, but I nodded and smiled at the right times as Tonya described in detail her love of the latest young adult fiction series.
Tonya’s cell phone buzzed, and she checked the message.
“It’s about time,” Tonya said. “That was Josh. I told him to signal us when the kegs got here. Now this party can really get started! Coming, Giselle?”
Tonya led us through the maze of hallways to the back door of the building. As we neared the exit, the thump-thump of bass grew louder. The pulse of rap music assaulted my ear drums when we finally went outside. We stood at the top of a staircase leading down to a painted wood deck. People crowded the wide, shallow porch wall-to-wall with students, most with clear plastic cups of yellow liquid in hand.
From this vantage point on the stairs, we could see Brad at the opposite corner of the deck. A curvy redhead in a skimpy halter top and Daisy Dukes hung on his arm, whispering in his ear. He threw back his head and hooted in response to whatever she said, and then together they downed their beers in one swallow.
“Oh, good, Zoey’s already here,” Tonya said, evidently indicating Brad’s buxom drinking buddy.
Zoey? This was the “pal” he invited on our trip? Now I really did feel like I was going to be sick.
Tonya grabbed my hand and led me through the sea of people. As we squeezed and bumped past, I couldn’t help comparing myself to the other women there, glancing from my loose shirt and baggy pants and then at the scantily-clad tanned curves all around. I was overdressed, except for my face, which felt naked compared to the eyes rimmed with heavy liner and cheeks caked thick with makeup. Never had I felt more plain or dowdy. How could I hope to compete with the fun-loving bimbo on Brad’s arm? What was I even doing here?
By the time we reached Brad and Josh, there was no sign of Zoey. All I could think about was the building pressure in my stomach. This was worse than all the other episodes I’d had. Maybe I was coming down with the flu. I stood in stony silence as Tonya, Brad and Josh chugged a few more beers. They offered one to me, but I shook my head and mouthed no thank you. Eventually Brad yelled over the music to ask what was wrong.
I leaned close to his ear and explained my upset stomach. “I think I’d better head home,” I said. “Nice to meet you, Tonya, Josh,” I shouted. “Brad, say goodbye to Tom and Owen for me.”
Brad gave me a hug and attempted a kiss.
I turned away from his beer breath and offered a cheek. “Don’t want you to catch whatever I’ve got,” I quickly explained.
“Poor thing. Hope you feel better, babe. I’ll come by your room to check on you tomorrow morning, okay?”
“Sure, see you then.”