Authors: Stephanie Hale
“Ten-four, Bob. Tell her to call her mom so she quits calling campus security,” another male voice crackles out of the walkie-talkie.
Bob raises his eyebrows unpleasantly at me and stalks off down the hallway. I shut the door and crumple into a ball of humiliation onto our dorm floor.
“Your mom gives new meaning to the word controlling,” Jentry says, half-laughing.
“I can’t believe she called campus security. She’s on a mission to destroy me no matter where I go.” I shake my head while dialing my home phone number.
I calm Mom down by lying and saying that I slept through both phone calls. There was no way I was going to tell her about rush. She’d probably call in the National Guard. I made her promise to never call campus security again or I wouldn’t come home for Thanksgiving break. We bartered over how many times a day she could call. She finally settled on one call a day but unlimited emails. Jentry sat shaking her head and laughing through the whole conversation. I’m positive she thinks my entire family is whacked because her mom hasn’t called her once since she’s been here. I ease myself down into my covers and turn myself in Jentry’s direction. She has her hair fanned out on her pillow with just one of her Ipod ear buds in.
“I bet your family really misses you,” I say, trying not to be too obvious.
“Highly unlikely,” Jentry responds, pulling out the ear bud.
“What are they like?” I prod.
“The polar opposite of your family,” she says, rolling over in her bed.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” I laugh.
“You’re really lucky, GK. I know it doesn’t always feel that way but you really are.”
Her comment is laced with such sadness that I don’t know how to respond. How could her family not completely treasure her? I know I do.
“Besides, you’re my family now,” she says, flipping back over.
“Sisters.” I agree. I can’t believe how close I’ve gotten to Jentry in just a few days. I almost can’t imagine college without her. And I know that no matter what happens tomorrow, she’ll be there for me.
I’m nearly asleep when a bolt of panic runs through my body. What if, by some insane chance, I get into the Alphas and Jentry gets kicked out?
The next morning I’m sitting next to Jentry around the cherry wood dining table at the Alpha house. I’m so nervous that my knees are knocking against the bottom of the table and all the other sisters keep looking around trying to figure out where the noise is coming from.
“Just be cool,” Jentry whispers, laying her hand gently on one of my legs.
She’s right. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh, that’s right, I could become the laughing stock of the entire campus when Lindsay reveals that I lied about being a legacy. I don’t even know why I came here. I should run back to the dorm as fast as I can and never leave my room again. I move to get up just as Lindsay walks in. The whispering from the other sisters ceases immediately. I scoot around in my chair trying to get as comfortable as possible. I might as well enjoy the last precious moments I have left in the Alpha house.
I wonder if the Alphas would have more respect for me if I just stood up and told the truth? Lindsay clears her throat before I can muster the courage to speak up.
“Good morning, everyone,” she begins. “I’m very happy to announce that we do not have to say goodbye to either of the pledges that we so carefully chose last night.”
Jentry clasps my hand for support as all of the sisters look at me with confused looks on their faces. Sloane looks relieved and immediately pulls her fingers out of her mouth. She will love it when Lindsay reveals to the other sisters that I lied.
“I’m also ecstatic to welcome a new pledge,” Lindsay babbles excitedly. Jentry squeezes my hand as Lindsay’s words make it from my ears to my brain. The route is much slower this morning than normal. “Sisters, please welcome our newest pledge, Grace Kelly Cook.”
Cheers erupt all around the table as I sit stunned. How did this happen? Jentry reaches in to hug me and the moment our eyes meet, I know. Her secret phone call she placed this morning. At the time, I thought it had something to do with her family. But now, I have no doubt, she had single-handedly made it possible for me to be an Alpha. I squeeze her until she squeals.
“The woman at Nationals just couldn’t get over how nice your aunt was,” Lindsay brags. “I think she was a little star struck.”
“She gets that a lot,” I say, finally letting go of Jentry.
“Maybe she can come visit sometime,” Lindsay says, looking hopeful. I smile at her, forcing myself to enjoy this moment and not stress about how I’m going to pull off the next four years.
“Okay, girls,” Lindsay shouts. “Let’s celebrate in style.” Two active sisters come in carrying boxes of Krispy Kremes and gallons of milk.
Jentry raises her plastic cup of milk to mine in a toast, throwing me a sly wink, as a sister attaches a pink and gold pin to my collar. I try to focus on the compliments and congratulations that are coming my way but I can’t seem to focus on anything but the tiny circle-shaped pin on my collar. It has a white background and it edged in gold with three overlapping pink capital A’s in the middle. I’ve always been proud of the A’s I’ve received before, but this is by far the one I’m the proudest of. I run my fingers gently along the edge of it.
“You’re going to rub the gold right off that thing,” Jentry teases me.
I drop my fingers self-consciously and whisper, “I can’t believe you did this.” She holds a finger to her pursed-out lips but her eyes crinkle up in a smile.
“Okay, girls. I need your attention,” Lindsay says, taking a seat at the head of the table. A sister grabs the empty doughnut boxes from the middle of the table so that we don’t have to struggle to see Lindsay.
“It is time to explain to our pledges what is expected of them,” she continues. “I’m sure you already know this, especially if you visited the Zeta house, but the Alphas aren’t your typical sorority. We don’t believe in belittling or humiliating our pledges through hazing. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t test your loyalty to us. Loyalty, above all else, is what makes us sisters.”
The active sisters clap in agreement while Jentry and I exchange a fearful glance wondering how we’ll be asked to prove our loyalty.
“The three of you,” Lindsay says, addressing Jentry, Sloane, and I, “will be expected to complete The Alpha Bet before your bids, or offers of sisterhood, become active.”
I tap Jentry on the hand underneath the table to see if she has any idea what Lindsay is talking about. She shrugs her shoulders, looking clueless.
“The Alpha Bet is a set of twenty-six alphabetical tasks chosen for you, by your fellow sisters, to prove your loyalty to the sorority.”
It doesn’t sound so bad but I can’t help but notice how serious all the sisters suddenly got. How hard could these tasks be anyway? I’ve already lied to get here and there isn’t much I wouldn’t do at this point to go from geek to Greek.
“I’m passing out sheets of paper with your letter on them,” Lindsay tells the actives, getting up to distribute the papers. “Because there are more than twenty-six sisters, not everyone will get to choose a task for each pledge. I have tried to divide the letters as fairly as possible.”
The sisters clutch their papers to their chests making Lindsay’s next statement no big surprise.
“No one is to discuss their tasks. Not with each other or outsiders. Do you understand?” The three of us nod our heads like obedient bobbleheads.
“Three sets of letters will be hung in the great room. When you complete a task, the letter will be removed. This is so the other sisters can gauge your progress. We know that if being an Alpha is what you really want, you will find a way to succeed.”
Jentry and I raise our eyebrows at each other and let out tiny sighs. Suddenly this sisterhood business seems like really hard work. And to think that classes haven’t even started yet.
I barely had time to go to the bathroom after Lindsay’s revelation before I was approached about my first task. These sisters don’t mess around.
“You want me to do what?” I ask, confused about what Jodi, the pixie-looking Alpha, is proposing for my first task. I help her throw our milk cups into a garbage bag.
“You’re going to be my running partner,” Jodi says, nearly bursting with excitement. My stomach flips at the mere thought of my body moving at a more accelerated speed than walking. This could be very hazardous to my health, and Jodi’s.
“Jodi, there’s something you should know about me,” I mumble, not sure how to impress upon her the gravity of this situation. I was actually assigned to the equipment room in my high school physical education class. My teachers didn’t want me anywhere near a team sport. I’m terminally klutzy.
“You’re supposed to do whatever I want,” she pouts.
She’s right. I’m only on my first letter and I’m already trying to make excuses. If I really want to be an Alpha, I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone. What’s that saying, ‘think outside of the box’? My personal mantra is going to start being, ‘think outside the geek’. How hard can running actually be anyway? I nod confidently, mentally lacing up my sneakers. Jodi beams from ear to ear.
“Meet me at the track at seven,” she whispers, disappearing with the bag of trash.
Wow. My first task. I was picturing some horrible hazing involving alcohol, and quite possibly, animals. I always have been a little imaginative. I should have been more trusting of Lindsay when she said they would never ask us to humiliate ourselves.
“I need the pledges in the foyer please,” I hear Lindsay call.
I walk around the corner meeting Jentry and Sloane coming from the other direction. The three of us cluster around Lindsay timidly, not sure what to expect.
“I don’t want you girls to think we are being rude but you aren’t allowed to stay for the second half of the meeting,” Lindsay clarifies.
“How’s come?” Sloane asks. I can’t stand her but I’m still glad she asked.
“Let’s just say that even nice girls have secrets,” Lindsay teases. “Don’t worry. As soon as you are all initiated, you’ll be privy to everything that goes on in the house.”
The three of us nod and step through the front door.
“See you tonight, Grace Kelly,” Sloane says, her voice bathed in honey. I smile and wave, acting like I don’t know she is being facitious. I don’t get why she is even here. I can’t imagine that she would voluntarily want to spend time with such nice girls. I just hope our differences don’t become a problem in the house. And I really hope she is done trying to find ways to sabotage me. I refuse to let myself think how disastrous it would be if Sloane somehow found out the truth about Edwina Fay.
Later that night I’m waiting at the track for Jodi. I had to stop and ask for directions twice. I can’t believe how turned around I get on campus without Jentry.
“Were you followed?” Jodi asks, suddenly appearing behind a lamppost and causing me to nearly scream.
“Not that I’m aware of,” I say, sweeping my glance side-to-side for potential stalkers.
“Okay, come over here in the grass and do some warm-ups with me.” Jodi is wearing a sports bra and teeny biker shorts with some very intense looking tennis shoes with more gadgets on them than my watch. I feel very overdressed in my sweatshirt and sweatpants, but it’s chilly out. Besides, I could never muster up the courage to walk around in just a sports bra. She stands on one foot while bending her other leg back toward her butt and grabbing it with her hand. She makes it look easy so I give it a try.
Not only does my leg not bend back the way it’s supposed to, but I lose my balance and land, chest first, in the grass.
“Grace Kelly, quit messing around. I have to keep myself in tip-top condition. I ate two doughnuts this morning and they went straight to my thighs,” she says, smacking her left thigh.
“Your thighs are awesome,” I say, struggling to my feet. “Wait, that came out wrong.”
“I used to be really fat,” she says, nearly causing me to fall over again.
“Oh.” I have no idea how to respond to Jodi’s confession.
“The Alphas didn’t care. They pledged me anyway. Being an Alpha changed my life,” she admits. While I’m flattered that she feels like she can trust me with such private information, I hate that I can’t come up with an appropriate response.
“You look amazing now.” It’s the best I can come up with.
“Thanks. It’s just something I have to battle everyday,” she says, “but now I’m addicted to exercise instead of food.”
“I think it’s really brave of you to tell me that.” I feel sort of guilty about not fessing up about my recent makeover. I’m not necessarily embarrassed about who I was before my transformation, I mean, I’m still me, but I’m not planning to go around making copies of my senior picture and hanging them on all the trees on campus either.
“Someday you’ll feel close enough to the sisters to tell them your secrets. That’s what sisterhood is all about.” She grabs me up in a quick hug then bolts down to the track. I’m starting to get that when it comes to running, she’s all business. I follow her, immediately sliding on the cinders. I take a moment to say a silent prayer for my epidermis.
Jodi removes a stopwatch from somewhere on her teeny-tiny workout outfit and starts punching some buttons on it.
“Okay, I need to run a five-minute mile. I need you to run behind me and shout out my time so I know when to start kicking it in. I don’t expect you to keep up but try not to fall too far behind or I won’t be able to hear you,” she says, handing me the stopwatch. I look up at the well-lit track and breathe a sigh of relief. I can easily jog this entire track in five minutes, no sweat. Jodi must be kind of a slow runner if it takes her five minutes to run all the way around, but hey, what do I know?
Jodi grabs a quick drink from her water bottle then does some more stretching and deep breathing. I’m starting to think she’s a tad melodramatic.
“Are you ready?” I ask, eager to start the stopwatch and get this over with. Jodi bends down, cocks her butt in the air, and places her hands on the cinders. She’s got such an intense look on her face that I almost laugh. I shouldn’t be so critical though, I probably look like that when I’m breaking down a chemical reaction.