The Deal (Off Campus #1)(10)

By: Elle Kennedy

But the best thing about Briar is how safe it is. Seriously, our crime rate is next to zero, which probably has a lot to do with Dean Farrow’s dedication to the safety of his students. The school invests a ton of money in security in the form of strategically placed cameras and guards that patrol the grounds twenty-four hours a day. Not that it’s a prison or anything. The security guys are friendly and unobtrusive. In all honesty, I barely notice them when I’m wandering around campus.

My dorm is a five-minute walk from the music building, and I breathe a sigh of relief when I walk through Bristol House’s massive oak doors. It’s been a long day, and all I want to do is take a hot shower and crawl into bed.

The space I share with Allie is more of a suite than a regular dorm room, which is one of the perks of being upperclassmen. We have two bedrooms, a small common area, and an even smaller kitchen. The only downside is the communal bathroom we share with the four other girls on our floor, but luckily none of us are slobs, so the toilets and showers usually stay squeaky clean.

“Hey. You’re back late.” My roommate pokes her head into my bedroom, sucking on the straw poking out of her glass. She’s drinking something green and chunky and absolutely gross looking, but it’s a sight I’ve grown accustomed to. Allie has been “juicing” for the past two weeks, which means that every morning I wake up to the deafening whir of her blender as she prepares her icky liquid meals for the day.

“I had rehearsal.” I kick off my shoes and toss my coat on the bed, then proceed to strip down to my underwear despite the fact that Allie is still in the doorway.

Once upon a time, I had been too shy to get naked in front of her. When we shared a double in freshman year, I spent the first few weeks changing under my blanket or waiting until Allie left the room. But the thing about college is, there’s no such thing as privacy, and sooner or later you just have to accept that. I still remember how embarrassed I was the first time I saw Allie’s bare breasts, but the girl has zero modesty, and when she’d caught me staring, she just winked and said, “I’ve got it going on, huh?”

After that, I didn’t bother with the under-the-blanket routine anymore.

“So listen…”

Her casual opening raises my guard. I’ve lived with Allie for two years. Long enough to know that when she starts a sentence with “So listen,” it’s usually followed by something I don’t want to hear.

“Hmmm?” I say as I grab my bathrobe from the hook on the door.

“There’s a party at Sigma house on Wednesday night.” Her blue eyes take on a stern glint. “You’re coming with me.”

I groan. “A frat party? No way.”

“Yes way.” She folds her arms over her chest. “Midterms are over, so you don’t get to use that as an excuse. And you promised you’d make an effort to be more social this year.”

I had promised that, but…here’s the thing. I don’t like parties.

I was raped at a party.

God, I hate that word. Rape. It’s one of the few words in the English language that has a visceral effect when you hear it. Like a bone-jarring slap to the face or the chill of ice water being dumped over your head. It’s ugly and demoralizing, and I try so hard not to let it control my life. I’ve worked through what happened to me. Believe me, I have.

I know it wasn’t my fault. I know I didn’t ask for it or do something to invite it. It didn’t steal my ability to trust people or cause me to fear every man that crosses my path. Years of therapy helped me see that the burden of blame lies solely on him. There was something wrong with him. Not me. Never me. And the most important lesson I learned is that I’m not a victim—I’m a survivor.

But that’s not to say the assault didn’t change me. It absolutely did. There’s a reason I carry pepper spray in my purse and have 911 ready to dial on my phone if I’m walking alone at night. There’s a reason I don’t drink in public or accept beverages from anyone, not even Allie, because there’s always a chance she might unwittingly be handing me a cup that’s been tampered with.

And there’s a reason I don’t go to many parties. I guess it’s my version of PTSD. A sound or a smell or a glimpse of something harmless makes the memories spiral to the surface. I hear music blaring and loud chatter and raucous laughter. I smell stale beer and sweat. I’m in a crowd of people. And suddenly I’m fifteen years old again and right back at Melissa Mayer’s party, trapped in my own personal nightmare.