Olivia knocked the practiced rhythm into the green door. When the vice president poked her head out, she whispered, “She’s going to be pissed” as they went through their secret handshake.
“You’re late,” Ava said. She was perched, looking perfect, at the long wooden table.
“I know,” Olivia said. She stumbled over closed-toed shoes to her seat in the fourth row. “I was … it was the interview with the dance company—”
“Oh! How’d it go? Did you—”
One of the sisters in the back row was instantly shushed by Ava. “We follow Robert’s Rules here, in case you forgot.” Ava shifted in her black robe and turned her attention back to Olivia. “One more time this term, and you’ll have to go in front of the disciplinary board.”
Olivia just nodded and pulled at her black skirt so that it barely stretched over her knee. The last thing she needed was a reprimand from Ava or her minion, member-at-large, about not following “formal” dress code.
“Okay, now, ladies,” Ava resumed. She stroked her president’s gavel softly. “We need to finish up details for spring recruitment. Does the social chair have her report?” The “social,” Justine, stood up and began droning on about ice cream picks and dress codes.
“We have dairy-free options, but I’m not sure if we should get vegan, too?” Justine asked.
“Good question,” Ava said. “Can we have a vote?”
“Did you get it?” Hannah whispered to Olivia. She looked at her kindly. Olivia had really lucked out with Hannah, as both a sorority sister and roommate. She gave her a nod and smiled.
Hannah squeezed her knee and smiled back, her gap-toothed grin a welcome comfort. “I knew you would,” she said quietly.
Ava cleared her throat and glared at Olivia and Hannah. “Now, ladies, we really need to reach quota this spring. That’s thirty new members.” The room groaned. “I know, I know. It’s a lot for a spring recruitment. But we have a lot of graduating seniors and making quota will keep National off our back. Plus it will give us a head start for fall recruitment.”
One of the seniors raised her hand in the front row. “I have some trepidation about partnering with the TUKs for this,” she said. “As we all know, and I’m not trying to talk badly about them, they’re not the most desirable fraternity on campus …”
“I get what you’re saying,” Ava interrupted, “but at this point, it’s them or nobody. The other houses have already partnered up with the other sororities. And it’s important for the recruits that they see the camaraderie between the sororities and fraternities.” Everyone nodded in agreement.
Hannah linked arms with Olivia as they walked back to their dorm. “I can’t believe we have to do this spring rush thing,” Olivia complained.
“Yeah, but it might be fun!” Hannah said, the eternal optimist.
“With the internship starting, and having to understudy for Mia—even though I’ll never dance the lead, this term is shaping up to be insane.”
Hannah briefly rested her blonde head on Mia’s shoulder. “You always stretch yourself too thin,” she said. “So, tell me more about the internship interview. I’m so proud of you! But isn’t the process supposed to be hell?”
“I think I lucked out,” Olivia said. “They seemed more interested in how well we knew our way around Microsoft Office than our dance history. Which, you know, I expected, but seriously there were almost no questions about dance. Thank God for those summers spent making minimum wage with work-study in the admissions office.”
“Yeah,” Hannah said. “At least they paid off in more ways than just keeping you in Subway twice a day!”
Olivia laughed and swatted at her as they kicked off their shoes at the door and padded into the kitchen.
“Wine?” Hannah asked as she pulled the bottle of white out of the fridge.
Olivia shook her head. “I’m just starving. And don’t have time for a wine hangover in the morning.”
“You’re such a lightweight,” Hannah teased. “You better start building up some kind of tolerance before your twenty-first in a few weeks.”
“Don’t remind me,” Olivia said. “It’s the last milestone birthday until the big three-oh. I’m in no rush for it to come.”
Olivia pulled her long auburn hair up into a messy top knot and started making a peanut butter sandwich. Hannah propped herself onto the counter with a glass of wine and watched. “Make one for me?” she asked.
“Just because you’re my favorite roommate,” Olivia said, pulling out two more slices of bread.
Curled up together on the couch, Hannah pulled the plush, furry purple blanket over both of them. “Mmm,” she said. “That Scottish accent. Gordon could season my hind quarters any day.”
“Hannah!” Olivia laughed. “That’s so gross. He’s, like, fifty.”
“He is not!” she said. “Besides, what’s wrong with a silver fox, anyway? At least they know what they’re doing.”
“Well, for starters, he doesn’t even have any silver,” Olivia said. She finished her sandwich in just a few bites and looked longingly at the kitchen.
“Technicality,” Hannah said. “You want another?”
Olivia nodded and Hannah bounded to the kitchen. “And some almond milk!” she called to her.
“You and your almond milk,” Hannah said. “You sound like Justine.”
Olivia rolled her eyes. “Don’t even joke about that,” she said. “It’s just higher protein than cow’s milk, that’s all.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before,” Hannah said. She plopped back on the couch and handed Olivia another sandwich and glass of milk. “But, seriously, show me where the teat is on an almond. Just show me.”
Olivia laughed. “Just watch your old man crush,” she said, gesturing to The F Word on their little TV.
“Happily,” Hannah said. “It’s aptly named, too. So, tell me, then,” she said, lifting the glass of wine to her lips, “if you had to choose a famous chef to hook up with, who would it be?”
“Andrew Zimmern,” Olivia said without hesitation.
“Ew! Really? Why?”
Olivia shrugged. “He seems nice.”
She didn’t want to tell her that her real answer was Anthony Bourdain. He seems like an asshole, but there was something about him. Something dark and feral that hooked her just right.
“And that’s your precursor for a hookup?” Hannah asked.
“It’s a better precursor than a lot of other girls’,” she said, licking the jam off her fingers.
“You’re probably right,” Hannah said with a sigh. She scanned Olivia all the way down to her bronzed legs stretched out to rest on the coffee table. “Jesus, I don’t know where you put it all. I’d kill to eat like you and still look like that.”
Olivia looked at her sadly. “You’re beautiful, Han,” she said. “I dance. I’m always in rehearsal. I’d probably have to eat like The Rock to put on any weight at all.”
“You’re just being nice,” Hannah said, looking down at her own curvy hips and thighs. “But it’s okay. I’ve accepted being the invisible girl next door.”
“You think you’re invisible?” Olivia asked. “You don’t see how Adam looks at you then.”
“Ugh, TUK Adam? Don’t remind me,” Hannah said with a groan. “I’m sure he’ll end up being my requisite ‘date’ for the social anyway. He’s so needy, like a puppy!”
Olivia giggled. “He’s not so bad. Just kind of awkward, that’s all.”
“At least you have Wyatt,” she said, downing the last of her wine. “And he knows what the hell he’s doing with his life. A pre-med student that’s actually going to med school—what an idea.” Hannah shook her head, still flustered at the pre-med student she briefly dated last year who decided to ditch grad school and go teach English at a private prep school in South Korea instead.
“Yeah, and you know how much Wyatt loves my ‘silly little sorority commitments.’ I’ll have to drag him to the social screaming. I swear,” she said, while pointing and flexing one foot at a time, “I wish it were easier.”
“No you don’t.”
Hannah leaned forward, the slight buzz from the wine releasing what little filter she had. “You’re all about school, and dance, and everything. And Wyatt just fits into it all perfectly. Which is awesome! That’s how it should be. It’s good you don’t have everything all up in the air like me.”
Olivia clutched her glass of milk and stared at Gordon Ramsey as he raced from one side of his restaurant to the other. She wished Hannah was right—that her life were as put together as it apparently seemed.
“Oh?” Hannah asked. “What’s wrong? Don’t be grumpy. I just meant, you know … you’ve got all your ducks lined up, quacking in sync. Me? I swear. I need to get laid. You’re lucky you don’t have this out-of-control libido.”
It’s not that I don’t think about it, she wanted to tell Hannah. It’s that I’m terrified of it, too.
When Hannah and Olivia first met, their whole sorority class got buzzed off of a can of Underwood wine the night before Initiation. Emboldened with the fizzy alcohol, Olivia sat down to a game of “I never.” It was her first time playing, her first real party in college, and she didn’t know the rules. She didn’t understand that everybody lies.
After a few cursory “confessions” to get everyone warmed up, one of the girls said, “I’ve never had sex.”
Olivia didn’t even move to pick up her drink. “Olivia?” someone asked, and she’d looked at them confused.
“I haven’t either,” Hannah had instantly piped up as she sat down her drink defiantly.
“Oh. Well, that’s cool, I guess,” the so-called confessor had said, even as she took a long pull from her own drink.
Olivia had barely exchanged a few words with Hannah at that time, but in that moment their bond was sealed. As the other girls drank and the game moved on, Hannah winked at Olivia from across the circle. When they officially moved into the sorority house later that month, the two of them naturally claimed a shared bunk bed. Even after a year in those very close quarters, there was no question about them moving into a private dorm together for sophomore year. She was truly the sister Olivia had never had.
Of course, since then, Olivia had found out that Hannah was far from a virgin. She’d slept with her high school boyfriend numerous times. “But I never liked it,” she’d said, making a face.
“Why not?” Olivia was terrified, but still wanted to know. She’d heard the horror stories about how painful it was.
“I didn’t really like him,” Hannah had said.
“Oh. Well, no wonder then.” Olivia hadn’t wanted to push, and Hannah never brought it up again.
“I’m gonna go to bed,” Olivia said, checking her phone in case she didn’t hear the chirp. Wyatt hadn’t even texted to ask how the final interview went. “The internship starts tomorrow.”
“Already?” Hannah asked. “That was fast. Yeah, Gordon, stuff that tushy!” she yelled to the TV.
“What can I say? I grew up with re-runs of Married with Children,” Hannah said.
“I’ll give you some privacy with your Scottish braw there,” Olivia said. “I’m beat.”
“Get some rest,” Hannah said, pulling the entire blanket across her until it looked like she was drowning in a sea of fur. “Love you, babe.”
“Love you,” Olivia said, pushing herself up and walking towards her bedroom.
She shut the door, smeared a makeup remover wipe across her face, and crawled beneath the covers.
From the dorm room above, she could hear the squeaks of an old mattress. Olivia pulled her pillow around her head and squeezed her eyes shut to block out the sounds.