Chapter 5 – After

Chapter 5 – After

I’m thankful when Hardin finally leaves so Steph and I can discuss the party. I need more details to ease my nerves, and having him around is no help at all.

“Where is the party? Is it within walking distance?” I ask her, trying to sound calm as I align my books neatly on the shelf.

“Technically, it’s a frat party, at one of the biggest frat houses here.” Her mouth is wide open as she layers more mascara onto her lashes. “It’s off campus, so we won’t be walking but Nate will pick us up.”

I’m grateful it won’t be Hardin, even though I know he will be there. Somehow riding with him seems unbearable. Why is he so rude? If anything, he should be grateful that I’m not judging him for the way he has destroyed his body with holes and tattoos. Okay, maybe I am judging him a little, but not to his face. I’m at least polite about our differences. In my home, tattoos and piercings are not a normal thing. I always had to have my hair combed, my eyebrows plucked, and my clothes clean and ironed. It’s just the way it is.

“Did you hear me?” Steph says and interrupts my thoughts.

“I’m sorry . . . what?” I hadn’t realized my mind had wandered to the rude boy.

“I said let’s get ready—you can help me pick my outfit,” she says. The dresses she picks out are so inappropriate that I keep looking around for a hidden camera and someone to jump out and tell me this is all a joke. I cringe at each one and she laughs, obviously finding my distaste humorous.

The dress—no, piece of scrap material—she chooses is a black fishnet, which lets her red bra show through. The only thing keeping her from showing her entire body is a solid black slip. The dress barely reaches the tops of her thighs and she keeps tugging the material up to reveal more leg, then back down to reveal more cleavage. The heels of her shoes are at least four inches tall. Her flaming red hair is pulled into a wild bun with curls escaping down to her shoulders and her eyes are lined with blue and black liner, somehow even more eyeliner than she had on before.

“Did your tattoos hurt?” I ask her as I pull out my favorite maroon dress.

“The first one sort of did, but not as bad as you would think. It’s almost like a bee stinging you over and over,” she says with a shrug.

“That sounds terrible,” I tell her and she laughs. It occurs to me that she probably finds me as strange as I find her. That we’re both unfamiliar with each other is oddly comforting.

She gapes at my dress. “You’re not really wearing that, are you?”

My hand slides over the fabric. This is my nicest dress, my favorite dress, and it’s not like I really have all that many. “What is wrong with my dress?” I ask, trying to hide how offended I am. The maroon material is soft but sturdy, the same material business suits are made of. The collar goes up to my neck and the sleeves are three-quarter length, hitting just under my elbows.

“Nothing . . . it’s just so . . . long?” she says.

“It’s barely below my knee.” I can’t tell if she can see I’m offended or not, but for some reason I don’t want her to know this about me.

“It’s pretty. I just think it’s a little too formal for a party. You could borrow something of mine?” she says in all sincerity. I cringe at the idea of trying to squeeze into one of her tiny dresses.

“Thanks, Steph. I’m fine wearing this, though,” I say and plug in my curling iron.

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