I’m under instructions to keep posting despite the broken formatting of the blog. So I’ll keep them coming.
That night after dinner Marc came over.
“I have to find her. There must be a campus directory,” I said.
“There is, over in the Student Union building,” Marc regarded me with a look of doubt.
“I have to talk to her. It’s important.”
I was reluctant to tell him. It might be a completely untrue accusation. But somehow I had to find out what I could. My stomach had been in knots since I had begun to ponder the matter of Celeste and Venus dealing drugs, since I’d retreated under fire from Mary’s room.
“I just feel like I have to check in on her, see how she’s doing,” I said, biting my lip.
He stared at me. “Yeah?”
I didn’t want to come clean with him. I didn’t want to tell him what I was thinking. It was too risky. He would try to talk me out of it. Maybe he would think I was inventing things. “Why do I need a reason? I want to see how she’s doing,” I said, frustrated and annoyed with myself for not sounding more confident.
He was dubious. “Rowan, Celeste didn’t seem very happy to see us when we went to the hospital. Did you notice?”
He sat down beside me on the bed, and faced the wall opposite us, sighing. “Maybe it would be better to leave her alone for a while. Give her- – and yourself — a rest. You haven’t been yourself lately. Can’t you put this thing aside for now? Long enough to let your self feel better and move on? I bet that’s what Celeste and Venus are trying to do.”
I knew he meant well. But he didn’t know about Mary’s rape, the drugs, the bizarre sightings of Celeste and Venus at the fraternity houses. This wasn’t just about my dead friend anymore.
And I couldn’t let it go.
“It’s something else. One of the girls in our dorm was raped the other night. The same way they tried to rape me,” I said, looking at him.
He looked angry, and then disgusted.
“Jerks,” he growled.
“That’s an understatement, I think.”
“But what does that have to do with going to see Celeste?” he asked.
“Gretchen saw Celeste at the party. She arrived alone, carrying a handbag. Apparently she went into a room with some fraternity brothers alone and left soon after, still alone. There’s been a question raised. What was she doing? Dealing, perhaps?” I looked at him hoping he would agree with me. See my position. Support me. Come to my rescue.
He stared at me.
I continued. “So, I thought after seeing Venus at the Zeta party doing something similar, coming in alone and going into a room with some of the fraternity brothers, maybe I should see what I could find out …” my voice trailed off.
“Venus was at the Zeta party?” he asked, surprised.
Just then it occurred to me that I hadn’t told him about Venus’ mysterious disappearance into the back room at the fraternity house. I had completely forgotten it in the excitement and horror of my near disaster at the hands of the would-be rapists. “Yes. I saw her that night. But we didn’t talk. In fact, she didn’t even see me, I don’t think. She went into a room that was off toward the basement’s back side and disappeared behind a locked door. Sort of the way Gretchen says Celeste did the other night at this other party.”
His mouth hung open in disbelief. “You know, for someone who spends so much time with you it’s hard for me to understand how I know so little about what the hell’s going on. How is that?” he demanded.
“Well … I, um, I’m not keeping anything from you,” I said apologetically, not really understanding why he was angry. “Things have just been so crazy. I didn’t even think to tell you about Venus. I didn’t think it was important, ” my voice trailed off as I watched his face, tried to understand why he was upset. I had expected him to be dismissive, disbelieving. But not upset.
He continued to stare, his expression slowly registering real annoyance. Anger. His mouth gaping, he regarded me with mounting incredulity.
I recoiled, not sure what was coming.
Finally he spoke. “So you think these girls are dealing drugs and you want to go find out? Does it occur to you that you could get hurt?” his voice was rising.
“Rowan, you know it seems like lately you’re dropping a bomb every day. Ghosts, drugs, rapes, suicide attempts. Honest to God, what’s with all this drama?” he spread his arms wide to emphasize his point. “Is there anything else you haven’t gotten around to telling me?” He looked at me, obviously really angry now.
Very sexy, angry like that.
“Umm, nope, I don’t think so,” I said, my mind turning from finding Celeste’s address to jumping on him. I smiled suggestively.
But he wasn’t having it.
“I’m not going to help you find her. You know why? Because it’s dangerous, if it turns out to be true. You nearly got raped the other night and as far as I’m concerned you should stay away from Celeste and Venus. You aren’t going to grieve Eva this way. Finding out if her sisters are dealing drugs is not going to bring her back.”
That hurt. Being swept aside, treated like a little girl who didn’t know what was good for her. I realized I was relying on him for a lot. Too much.
“Maybe you’re right,” I said defiantly. “You know what? That’s fine. If you aren’t going to help me, I’ll find Celeste myself. Thanks for the tip.”
I got up and stormed out, slamming the door behind me and leaving him alone in my room.
I knew he was trying to protect me. I knew I shouldn’t be angry with him for that. But I was angry at everyone and everything, and Marc came in that category.
I walked, fuming, to the Student Union building and found the information desk. She did not have campus housing anymore, as I expected, but there was a phone number listing for her name. I went to the nearest pay phone and fished a dime out of my pocket. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I dialed anyway.
“Hello?” a woman’s voice came over the line.
“Hi there. May I please speak with Celeste?”
“This is she.”
“Hi, Celeste. It’s Rowan.”
“Oh, hi,” she said, sounding surprised to hear from me. She hadn’t given me her phone number. Perhaps that was why.
“I’m sorry to bother you. I was just wondering if maybe I could drop over for a minute? To say hi?”
“I guess so. What’s it about?” she asked, sounding unsure.
“Just a social call,” I said. “What’s your address?” I asked, not giving her a chance to change her mind.
She gave it to me. Just out of the center of town.
“Will you be there for a while? I can come now.”
“For a while,” she said.
“Okay. I’ll be right there.”
Celeste showed me into the common space, which she called a living room, and sat down, waiting for me to speak. Her apartment was comfortable and very well furnished for a student’s space. There was a contemporary style pink couch, walls painted a shade lighter than the furniture, and some framed repro art posters on the wall. It was neat as a pin, magazines stacked neatly on a coffee table. There was a bathroom with a door. I realized that I missed having a bathroom with a door. I resolved to use it before I left, even if I didn’t have to go.
I took a seat on an ottoman, which was also pink. I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in a seat.
It was odd, but I didn’t feel like a guest.
“I wanted to see how you’re doing. I haven’t seen you in a while,” I began, looking at her. She looked fine. No trace of the suicide attempt.
“I’m okay. How are things over at Randall?” Her tone was relaxed.
“Well, a little weird,” I said, seeing an opportunity to open the discussion about the fraternity house and the drugs. “One of the girls on our floor was raped the other night over at the Tau house.”
She grimaced. “Nasty. Is she all right?”
“Well, she’s pretty upset, as you can imagine. And she got crabs from one of them,” I said, making a face and sticking my tongue out.
“One of them?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said, disgust in my voice. “She was raped be a few guys. They drugged her,” I added, watching her face very carefully.
“Wow,” she said, sitting up and bristling a little. “I’m really sorry to hear that,” she said softly.
“Yeah,” I agreed, nodding. “Not joyful. Nearly happened to me once … ” She looked at me, surprise registering on her face. But she didn’t ask me when or where. She kept very silent, in fact.
“You weren’t at that party by any chance, were you?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No, I don’t go to those things,” she said, a look of distaste on her face.
That was interesting. She wasn’t at the party. But Gretchen had seen her at the party. No reason to lie, was there? Or was there? My line of questioning dead ended, I changed the subject.
“How’s your semester going?”
“Oh, fine,” she said languidly. “The usual.”
“What’s your major, again?”
“Physics,” she answered.
Bright girl, Celeste, I thought. “Wow,” I said, smiling appreciatively. She and Eva both were inclined toward the sciences, where I, myself, had been unable to determine the sex of the frog I was assigned to dissect in sophomore biology. Quite miraculously I had discovered both ovaries and testes in my own specimen. Mr. Carter, our biology teacher, had made a point to showcase the unusual nature of my findings to the class, much to my horror.
Chemistry hadn’t been better. Mine had been the only exploding beaker in class that year. The sciences were definitely not my area and I’d sworn them off beyond general requirements for college.
Celeste smiled. “Science was always my thing. Safe, cut and dry. Not a lot of writing,” she said.
“Right,” I answered.
She waited for me to say something else, perhaps to reveal why I’d come.
“You haven’t seen Eva since we talked, have you?” I asked. If Venus had told her about our discussion perhaps there would be evidence of that now.
“No,” she answered, sounding relieved.
I smiled. “I guess that’s a good thing, then, right?”
“Definitely,” she answered emphatically.
“Well, I’m glad. I just wanted to stop over and say hello. See how you’re doing. I’ve been thinking of you.” I said, leaving off of the indelicate matter of her suicide attempt.
“Yeah, thanks,” she said, acknowledging what I hadn’t said in her expression. “I’m okay.” And she gave me a little smile.
“Okay, well. It’s late and I should probably get going. Take care of yourself,” I said, rising to leave.
She walked with me toward the door. “Thanks for stopping over,” she said as she reached to open the door for me.
I smiled back at her as she closed the door.
She’d lied about being at the party.