My Freshman Year: Day 90
Days as a Freshman: 90
“Do you have any gum?”
Stacey shifted in the brown leather chair, straightening her blazer. She had dressed for the occasion, opting to go for “mature and classical” instead of her usual “fake and preppy”.
I was sporting my standard jeans and long sleeved shirt look, being under the impression that the Dean of Student Life didn’t really care about our clothes.
“Here.” I reached into my giant purse and pulled out a half-crushed packet of gum. “You sure you want to be talking to Dean Carlon with stuff in your mouth, though?”
“Do you have any gum that hasn’t been through the washing machine?” Crinkling her noise, Stacey stared at my hand like I was passing her a dead rat. “And I was gonna spit it out before going in there anyway. I just have this horrible taste in the back of my throat.” Begrudgingly taking a piece of gum from the pack, Stacey slipped it behind her shiny pink lips and bleached white teeth. “I always get a gross taste in my throat when I’m nervous.”
“Should we be nervous?” I took a piece of gum myself and started to chew quickly, realizing that my jaw had answered my question for me; we should be very nervous.
“Is there anyone else in there?” Sitting up as straight as she could, Stacey tried to look over the frosted glass portion of the dean’s office. “Do you think the guys are in there? Do you think they’ll make us talk with them sitting there?”
“I don’t know. I hope not.” I couldn’t imagine talking while five guys stared at me. I didn’t think it was physically possible.
“Why isn’t Rebecca here?” Stacey cracked her gum, “she was with us. She saw the whole thing too.”
“Rebecca’s on her way home.” There had been a note on our door this morning from Rebecca saying goodbye and Happy Thanksgiving! in giant pink letters. Surely Stacey had seen it. The pink had been a direct homage to her wardrobe.
“Oh, right. Because of all that shit…”
“What shit?” I spit my gum into my hand and dropped it into the trashcan next to me. I didn’t want to forget about it and then walk into Dean Carlon’s office. It was going to be hard enough to talk without the extra hazard of possibly choking.
“Her brother and the whole gay thing.” Stacey looked at me, her big blue eyes squinting in confusion. “Didn’t she tell you?”
“Her brother is in Iraq right now. He got shipped out a couple months ago. Plus, she just told her parents she was a lesbian in like, September. I’m not sure she was real excited to go home. It’s weird that she didn’t tell you.” Leaning back in her chair, Stacey busied herself with trying to look through the office window again.
It was weird that Rebecca hadn’t told me any of that. Weirder still that she had confided in Stacey instead. I thought Rebecca hated Stacey…and I thought we told each other everything.
“Ms. Simmons and Ms. Keller?” The door to the dean’s office opened slightly, Dean Carlon poking her white-haired head out. “I’m ready for you now.”
Jumping up like she had been stung, Stacey headed for the office without looking back. Gathering my stuff, I followed behind, hoping Stacey’s combination of nerves and a Red Bull breakfast wasn’t going to make her say something stupid.
Dean Carlon’s office was small and smelled faintly of cigarette smoke and Lysol. A mahogany bookshelf, a desk with a computer, and three chairs were about all that fit inside the room, and I was relieved to see Stacey and I were the only ones being interviewed.
Sitting behind her desk, Dean Carlon smoothed out her fashionable white bob and smiled faintly at us. From what little I knew of the Dean of Students, she seemed like a fun, easy going person, sitting in the stands at basketball games and teaching special lectures about resumes and life after college. We had never formally met, and I as I sat down on another brown leather chair, I wished our first official encounter was about something else. Something less…complicated.
“Thanks for coming, girls. I know there are a lot of big papers happening right now.”
“No problem!” Stacey smiled too wide and practically shouted. “Totally no problem at all!”
“I hesitated calling you girls in…” Dean Carlon closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them again, seemed much more weary than I had initially noticed. “But this whole soccer house thing is really getting out of control.”
“Is that what the fight was about?” Stacey did her best to look concerned. “I had no idea. Grace and I got there at the end. We saw the guy get punched—” She stopped, unsure if she was unloading too much information, but Dean Carlon was already leaning in and taking notes. “Public Safety basically broke it up before anything was explained.”
I sat on my hands to keep from cracking my knuckles, a habit I had developed from years of pre-piano-recital jitters. Even though I no longer practiced piano, I still took my anxiety out on my hands.
Stacey was basically telling the truth. We had arrived at the tail end of the fight, but we had seen more than just one person getting punched.
“So you weren’t there when Justin Stevens supposedly pushed…” Dean Carlon looked down at some papers on her desk, “when Justin pushed Jake Ryan into a wall and threatened him?”
Stacey’s eyes slid over to mine. We had been there. But it was more complicated than that.
“We didn’t see it. Maybe it happened before we got there.” I looked Dean Carlon right in the face and lied, hoping the guilt I felt wasn’t noticeable.
“Alright. Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Straightening up her papers, Dean Carlon looked at Stacey and I with a friendly but intense stare. Did she know something we didn’t? Did she know we were holding something back?
Yes, we had seen Justin Stevens, aka half-dressed organic peanut butter guy, slam someone against the lounge wall. But he had done it to protect Sasha, who was doubled over on the ground, trying to recover from a kick to his stomach. We had seen that, too. And we had heard things.
Like the guy who Justin had gone after yelling about what Sasha had done to Sammy.
I swallowed and tried to smile at Dean Carlon. She should know all of this. I knew that. But I also knew I couldn’t say anything.
At least not yet.