Friday, December 19, 2014

Chapter 38, part 1: Rush

I caught glimpses of Elk River lettermen jackets every time crossed the Quad the rest of that week. I wondered if Brad was looking for me. I wondered if he was avoiding me on purpose or maybe he didn’t even think of me at all.

I spent a lot of time telling God about my sorrow and hurt. Though I knew He forgave me completely, I still had the consequence of my sin to deal with: a broken heart. My stomach was bothering me too, worse than ever, but that was really nothing new. I chalked it up to my emotional state.

Zoey passed me in the hall outside my room in the German House on Friday afternoon. “Tonight’s the informal rush party. You’re coming to the Delta House, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it!” I said. “I need something to keep my mind off things… you know.”

“Breakups are tough,” she commiserated. “We’re both better off without him though, remember? See you in an hour or so. We have something really special planned.”

I was surprised to hear male voices coming from the Delta House as I walked up.

“Giselle, you made it!” Zoey said, waving me over to a deep cushioned sofa in front of the fireplace where she and Owen were snuggled up. They made a cute couple. “Have a seat.”

Owen stood and winked at me. “I think it’s so cool that you’re checking Greek life out. Now, give me your right shoe.” He took the purple boot from my hand and disappeared through a door that led down into the basement.

“This some sort of hazing ritual?” I joked to Zoey, wiggling my toes inside the wool sock Mom had knit me as a Christmas present.

“No, no. It’s a Cinderella party,” Zoey explained. “Kappa Sig is our brother fraternity, so we’re holding this event jointly. Each guy will be blindfolded, pick a shoe out of the bucket, and try to match it up with the girl it belongs too. Then you’ll be a team for a game of Cranium. We do it every year and it’s hilarious.”

Owen came back into the room. “Gents, come with me. It’s time to retrieve the slippers of your lady fair for the evening. Ladies, wait here. Zoey will bring you down to the game room in a few moments.”

“There weren’t very many guys in here,” I whispered to Zoey. “Will every girl get a match?”

“Don’t worry. A bunch more of ‘em already headed down to the basement before I even got here.”

After five minutes had passed, Zoey signaled us to follow her to the basement.

It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. I headed for the table of faux cocktails and reached for a virgin pina colada.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey there Cinderella,” said a familiar voice.

Brad held out my purple boot. “I was glad when I picked this because it reminded me of you. Never thought in a million years you’d actually be in a place like this.”

“Is that so,” I said as coldly as possible. I leaned against the wall and put my boot on. “Looks like we’ll need to find different partners,” I said. I caught Zoey’s eye across the room and took a step toward her.

He blocked my path. “You’re angry, aren’t you.”

“You kicked me out, remember? Said I was neurotic, impossible to love?”

“Guess I was a little bit harsh. But you gotta know it’s hard on me to deal with you being so emotional and back and forth. Almost like you’re a split personality. I never know if I’m going to be talking to cool Giselle or her guilt-ridden evil twin. It’s exhausting. So I finally reached the breaking point. I’m not proud of it. I know I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that. I said some things I regret.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one thing, I didn’t really want to break up over it.”

“So why have you been avoiding me then?”

“I’ve been laying low and giving us both a chance to cool off, so you’d be more likely to accept my apology.”

“I still haven’t heard one,” I said.

“What do you think I’ve been doing? Fine,” he said, clearly exasperated. “I never should have lost my temper and said all that crap. You deserve better than that. Can’t we try again?”

“Would things be any different?” I asked.

“Different how?”

Before I could answer, Zoey interrupted us. “Excuse me, Giselle, it looks like we’re out of margarita mix. Can you help me get some upstairs?”

I followed her up into the kitchen. “I’m so sorry,” she said as she gathered more supplies for the mocktails. “I had no idea he’d be here tonight. I think it’s probably best if you go. There’ll be more rush events next weekend.”

“Thanks. See you later.”

I found my coat and headed out into the cold January night. Just as I reached the stoop of the German House, Brad’s old silver Nissan pulled up.

“Giselle, I can’t believe you just took off like that,” he shouted at me as he shut off the engine. “We weren’t done talking! I didn’t think you were such a coward.” He slammed the door and stomped toward me.

“There’s a time and a place, and that wasn’t it.” I turned back toward the steps.

He grabbed my shoulder and whirled me around to face him. “How about now?” His tone changed abruptly. “Let me take you for coffee or something. I love you, Giselle. I really want this to work out.”

I searched his face. Did he really love me? A few days ago I would have given almost anything to hear him say that. I waited for hours in the student center for him to come and say those words.

But if he had showed up when I asked him to, would God have gotten through to me the way He did? Would I have been willing to risk vulnerability with Sylvie, and in front of CSF? Kirsten would still be struggling in shame and silence. Then there was Zoey’s warning to consider. Wasn’t Brad doing exactly what she predicted he would do?

“It’s freezing out here, Giselle. Let’s go somewhere warm to talk this out. How about your room?”

Visions of us sitting on my bed talking late into the night instantly sprung to mind. We’d kiss and make up and one thing would lead to another … “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Alright, then, let’s go for coffee. I’ve got my car right here.”

“There’s no need to go anywhere. It’s over, Brad. It’s right that things ended between us.”

“There you go again. The other night you were begging me to take you back. See what I mean by split personality?”

“Maybe. But neither of the Giselles you saw were who God created me to be. He’s called me back, and I’m not waffling anymore. Part of me wishes we could still be together—”

“We can. I figured out how. Let’s go inside so we can talk about it.”

“You can say whatever it is out here.”

“Giselle, you don’t know how much I’ve been thinking about you. And what I realized is, you really have been acting crazy and neurotic—admit it, you have—but it’s not your fault. My friend Jay, you know the one from my photography class? He helped me see it. I was torn up about us and told him everything. He’s really into healthy eating, and he said it sounds like you have a food intolerance. He said they can cause all kinds of symptoms, even mental problems. You know how your stomach always bothers you? Whatever is causing that could be messing with your mind too, making you feel guilty and depressed over nothing.”

“This isn’t just in my head, Brad.”

“Don’t get so defensive. I’m trying to help you, and you’re discounting everything I say. I know you’re mad but what about forgiveness?”

He had me there. God showed me so much grace. How could I not at least hear him out? “Go on.”

“Jay said to start by eliminating dairy and gluten and see how you feel. I wouldn’t be surprised if all your religious guilt and other mental symptoms just melted away.”

“Belief in God is not a mental symptom,” I huffed. “If you really think that, I don’t see how we can be together.”

“What gives, Giselle, why are you making this so hard on me? How could you even think that’s what I meant? Of course I know you’re really serious about your faith and this purity stuff. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m willing to start fresh like you said the other night. I may not agree with your view, but I love you enough to control myself.”

There it was again. He loved me. It sounded just like what I wanted to hear. I wanted so desperately to believe him. But we couldn’t just go back to the way things were.

“You might be able to control yourself,” I said, “but I’m afraid I wouldn’t. If we’re were ever going to get back together, we’d have to set new ground rules.”

“Of course we’re going to get back together. You just have to give me another chance.”

“I don’t know, Brad …”

“Tell you what. Don’t make any decisions now. Give the diet Jay suggested a try and let’s just hang out as friends the next few days. We can figure out our relationship after you’re healthier.”

“I guess I could give it a try.”

“That’s my girl. What time do you want to meet for breakfast tomorrow?”

I finally remembered my promise to Zoey. Was there time to talk to her before morning?

“I already have plans for breakfast,” I lied. “How about lunch?”