Page 22

The moment we hang up, the pressure weighing on my chest eases slightly. Dealing with the folks takes an actual physical toll.

“Colin, hey!”

I turn to find Nora Ridgeway approaching. Nora was in two of my art classes last year, and this semester we have Advanced Figure Drawing together. She’s a cool chick. Double major like me, in Visual Arts and Fashion Design.

“Hey,” I greet her, eager for the distraction. It always takes a few minutes for the tension to completely drain from my body after a parental encounter. “Class isn’t until two. You know that, right?”

She smiles. “Don’t worry, I’m aware.” She nods toward the building across the lane. “I’ve got History of Fashion in ten minutes. I saw you over here and just wanted to come and say hi.” As she talks, her breath comes out in a visible white cloud.

“You need a hat,” I tell her, noting that the tips of her ears are red.

“Eh, I’ll live.”

I can see why she doesn’t want to cover her hair. Cut in a pixie cut, it’s jet black except for the ends, which are bright pink. She’s got a cool indie vibe to her that I’ve always appreciated. Plus, she has tats, a definite checkmark in the pros column for me.

“How was animation?” she asks. “My friend Lara is taking that course, and she was so pumped about it.”

“It was awesome.” I grin at her. “I guarantee it’s more fun than History of Fashion.”

Nora lightly punches my arm. “No way. Clothes are way more interesting than computers.”

“Agree to disagree.”

“And this course is taught by a legend.” Her light gray eyes sparkle in the winter sun as they fill with excitement. “Erik Laurie.”

My blank look makes her laugh.

“Former fashion editor for Vogue, GQ, Harper’s. And he’s the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Italia, probably the most innovative fashion magazine for men. He’s like the male version of Anna Wintour.”

I draw another blank.

“Editor-in-chief of Vogue, and total goddess. She’s my idol. And so is Erik Laurie. He’s teaching two classes at Briar this year, and he’s the director of the year-end fashion show. I’m beyond excited. We’re going to learn so much from him.”

I wonder if Summer is in Laurie’s class today. I can’t remember if she’s majoring in Fashion Design or Merchandising. I suppose History of Fashion lends itself to either one, though.

And speak of the devil.

Summer appears on the cobblestone path, bundled up in a knee-length coat and a thick red scarf looped around her neck and hair. Her easy gait stutters for a step when she notices me. The moment our eyes lock, I remember her tiny towel sliding off her delectable body. That split-second glimpse of her wet, naked tits. A fleeting, dick-hardening tease.

I don’t call out a hello or raise my hand in a wave. I’m waiting for her to initiate the greeting. Only, she doesn’t. A few seconds tick by. Then she frowns at me and keeps walking. I don’t know if I feel offended or ashamed. Maybe I should’ve greeted her first.

“Do you know her?” Nora has realized my attention’s been diverted. Her suspicious gaze rests on Summer as she awaits my response.

“Yeah. She’s a friend’s sister,” I say vaguely, deciding not to mention that we’re roommates. I feel like that’ll just open a conversation I’m not in the mood to have.

Nora relaxes. “Oh, cool. Anyway, I have to run, but I’m thinking maybe it’s time we grab that elusive drink we’ve been talking about for a year?”

I laugh. “Maybe we should.” We’d talked about it last year in Color Theory, but my schedule makes it hard for me to date. We played phone tag for a while, and by the time I finally had a free evening, Nora was dating someone else.

Clearly she’s single again. “Do you still have my number?” she asks.

“Still got it.”

She looks pleased by that. “How about tomorrow night at Malone’s? Text me during the day to confirm?”

“Sounds great.”

“Perfect. See you then.” She squeezes my arm briefly, then hurries toward the same building Summer just disappeared into.

I guess I have a date tomorrow night.

13

Summer

As I get comfy in my seat in the History of Fashion lecture hall, I try to remind myself that I’m all about girl power. We live in a society where too many women tear each other down instead of raising each other up. That’s absurd to me. We need to empower one another, teach future generations of girls that it’s important to stand together. Once upon a time, we had a common goal and a common enemy. We were burning bras and fighting for the right to vote.

Now we’re body shaming each other on social media and blaming the mistress if our man cheats.

I don’t consider myself a radical feminist. I don’t believe men are evil demons from hell and should be purged from society—I think men have lots of good things to offer the world. Their dicks are fabulous, for one.

It would just be really nice if we could show some female solidarity like we used to.

But I know what’s stopping us: jealousy. We’re too frigging envious of each other, and envy is such a crippling feeling. It causes us to say things and behave in ways that we’re secretly ashamed of, or at least I am. I regret nearly all the things I’ve said and done out of jealousy. I’ve also been on the receiving end of it from other girls. Some of them resented me for my looks. Others assumed I was going to be a bitch to them because of said looks, so they attacked first.

In spite of that, I’ve always tried to keep a smile on my face and be nice to everyone, even the haters. Ironically, a lot of the haters in high school ended up good friends of mine once they stopped linking me to their own insecurities.

So yes, I’m pro girl power. Ladies doing it for themselves. I am woman, hear me roar.

Yet I hate this girl Nora with the heat of a thousand suns.

She was talking to Fitz before class. Now she’s sitting with two other chicks, talking about Fitz. I know her name is Nora because one of her friends called her that, and since I’m only two rows behind them, every word she utters floats toward me, clear as a bell.

“…just so cool. And wicked smart. And he’s so talented. You should see his paintings.”

“Doesn’t hurt that he’s hot as fuck,” her friend teases her.

“Those tats,” the other friend sighs.

I guess they’ve all seen Fitz’s tats somehow? I now loathe the friends too.

“So hot,” Nora says, pretending to fan herself.

And I’m so ready to accidentally throw something at her, because she’s so annoying with her overuse and overemphasis of the word so.

“We’re having drinks tomorrow night.”

The flames of hatred in my stomach are doused with an icy bucket of reality.

He asked her out?

“Holy crap, this date is finally happening?” One of the friends claps with delight.

“Yes! I’m so excited.”

Okay. So Fitz invited her on a date. She’s pretty, has a great sense of style. Why shouldn’t he go out with her?

And why should it bother me if he does?

Because…

Because, well, because she’s obviously a bitch. I don’t want Fitz going out with a bitch.

She’s not a bitch. That’s your jealousy talking.

No, I stubbornly argue with myself. She absolutely gave me a couple of dirty looks before she joined her friends. I didn’t imagine that. So there’s some bitch in her, at least.

And there’s a lot of bitch in you right now.

“Fuck off,” I order myself.

A few seats down in my row, a guy with longish black hair shifts his head in my direction. He arches a bushy eyebrow at me.

I raise my hand in a friendly wave. “Just ignore me. I’ve decided I’m going to be the crazy lady who talks to herself in class.”

He laughs. “Noted.”

Nora turns at the sound of my voice, narrows her eyes, and then turns back.

I hate her.

You’re being insane.

“Did we not just determine that I’ve chosen a path of insanity?” I say out loud, though mostly it’s to mess with my row-mate.

Bushy Eyebrows glances over again. “Oh wow. You weren’t kidding.”

I grin. “I’m done now. I promise.”

In front of me, Nora’s friends are grilling her for more details about her impending date.

“Just drinks?”

“Just drinks,” she confirms. “Do you honestly think I’d ever agree to a first-date dinner after Eight-Course Ethan?”

The girls break out in laughter. “Oh my God! I forgot about him!”

I tune them out as they reminisce about the time Nora got stuck on an expensive, four-hour dinner date when she was ready to bail before the first course. It’s an entertaining story, but I’m too busy trying to combat my unwanted jealousy.

Fitz can date whomever he wants. Besides, I have no right to be jealous. I cuddled with Hunter the other night. Granted, we didn’t do anything but spoon, but it felt nice lying there with a warm male body pressed up against me. And if Hunter had made a move, I can’t say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have reciprocated.

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