Материалы к занятию
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Mary-Kate was the chapter president, and not only did she ooze sorority life, but she looked the part as well—with full lips and a slightly turned-up nose, set off by flawless skin and well-defined bone structure. With the added allure of her trust fund — her family, old tobacco money, was still one of the wealthiest in the state — to many people, she was the sorority. And Mary-Kate knew it. Right now, at one of the larger circular tables she was holding court, surrounded by younger sisters who clearly wanted to grow up to be just like her. As always, she was talking about herself.
“I just want to make a difference, you know?” Mary-Kate was saying. “I know I’m not going to be able to change the world, but I think it’s important to try to make a difference.”
Jenny, Drew, and Brittany hung on her every word. “I think that’s amazing,” Jenny agreed. She was a sophomore from Atlanta, and Sophia knew her well enough to exchange greetings in the mornings, but not much more than that. No doubt she was thrilled to be spending time with Mary-Kate.
“I mean, I don’t want to go to Africa or Haiti or anything like that,” Mary-Kate went on. “Why go all the way over there? My daddy says that there are plenty of opportunities to help people right around here. That’s why he started his charitable foundation in the first place, and that’s why I’m going to work there after graduation. To help eliminate local problems. To make a difference right here in North Carolina. Do you know that there are some people in this state who still have to use outhouses? Can you imagine that? Not having any indoor plumbing? We need to address these kinds of problems.”
“Wait,” Drew said, “I’m confused.” She was from Pittsburgh, and her outfit was nearly identical to Mary-Kate’s, even down to the hat and boots. “You’re saying that your dad’s foundation builds bathrooms?”
Mary-Kate’s shapely brows formed a V. “What are you talking about?”
“Your dad’s foundation. You said it builds bathrooms.”
Mary-Kate tilted her head, inspecting Drew as if she were a mental midget. “It provides scholarships to needy children. Why on earth would you think it builds bathrooms?”
Oh, I don’t know, Sophia thought, smiling to herself. Maybe because you were talking about outhouses? And you made it sound that way? But she said nothing, knowing Mary-Kate wouldn’t appreciate the humor. When it came to her plans for the future, Mary-Kate had no sense of humor. The future was serious business, after all.
“But I thought you were going to be a newscaster,” Brittany said. “Last week, you were telling us about your job offer.”
Mary-Kate tossed her head. “It’s not going to work out.”
“It was for the morning news. In Owensboro, Kentucky.”
“So?” asked one of the younger sorority sisters, clearly puzzled.
“Hello? Owensboro? Have you ever heard of Owensboro?”
“No.” The girls exchanged timid glances.
“That’s my point,” Mary-Kate announced. “I’m not moving to Owensboro, Kentucky. It’s barely a blip on the map. And I’m not getting up at four in the morning. Besides, like I said, I want to make a difference. There are a lot of people out there that need help. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. My daddy says…”
By then, Sophia was no longer listening. Wanting to find Marcia, she rose from her seat and scanned the crowd. It really was packed in here, and it was getting more crowded as the evening wore on. Squeezing past a few of the girls and the guys they were talking to, she began to slip through the crowd, searching for Marcia’s black cowboy hat. Which was hopeless. There were black hats everywhere. She tried to remember the color of Ashley’s hat. Cream colored, yes? With that, she was able to narrow down the choices until she spotted her friends. She had started in their direction, squeezing past clusters of people, when she caught something from the corner of her eye.
Or, more accurately, someone.
She stopped, straining for a better sight line. Usually, his height made him easy to find in crowds, but there were so many tall hats in the way that she couldn’t be sure it was him. Even so, she suddenly felt uneasy. She tried to tell herself that she’d been mistaken, that she was just imagining things.
Despite herself, she couldn’t stop staring. She tried to ignore the sinking feeling in her stomach as she searched the faces in the moving crowd. He’s not here, she told herself again, but in that instant she saw him again, swaggering through the crowd, flanked by two friends.
She froze, watching as the three of them moved toward an open table, Brian muscling his way through the crowd the way he did on the lacrosse field. For a second, she couldn’t believe it. All she could think was, Really? You followed me here, too?
She felt a flush rising in her cheeks. She was with her friends, off campus… what was he thinking? She’d made it plain that she didn’t want to see him; she’d told him point-blank that she didn’t want to talk to him. She was tempted to march right up and tell him — again, right to his face — that it was over.
But she didn’t, because she knew that it wouldn’t make any difference. Marcia was right. Brian believed that if he could just talk to her, he could change her mind. Because he thought that at his most charming and apologetic, he was irresistible. She’d forgiven him before, after all. Why not again?
Turning away, she worked her way through the crowd toward Marcia, thanking God she’d left the tables when she had. The last thing she needed was for him to saunter up, feigning surprise at finding her. Because no matter what the facts were, she’d end up being painted as the heartless one. Why? Because Brian was the Mary-Kate of his fraternity. An all-American lacrosse player blessed with startlingly good looks and a wealthy investment banker father, Brian ruled their social circle effortlessly. Everyone in the sorority revered Brian, and she knew for a fact that half the girls in the house would hook up with him given the slightest encouragement.
Well, they could have him.
Sophia continued to weave through the crowd as the band finished one song and rolled into the next. She glimpsed Marcia and Ashley near the dance floor, talking to three guys wearing tight jeans and cowboy hats, who she guessed were a couple of years older than them. Sophia made her way in that direction, and when she reached for Marcia’s arm, her roommate turned, looking almost flustered. Or, more accurately, drunk.
“Oh, hey!” she drawled, dragging out the words. She maneuvered Sophia forward. “Guys, this is my roommate, Sophia. And this is Brooks and Tom… and…” Marcia squinted at the guy in the middle. “Who are you again?” “Terry,” he offered.
“Hi,” Sophia said, the word automatic. She turned back to Marcia. “Can I talk to you alone?”
“Right now?” Marcia frowned. She cut her eyes toward the cowboys as she turned to face Sophia, not bothering to hide her irritation. “What’s up?”
“Brian’s here,” Sophia hissed.
Marcia squinted at her, as if trying to make sure she’d heard her right, before finally nodding. The two of them retreated to a place farther removed from the dance floor. It wasn’t quite as deafening, but Sophia still had to raise her voice to be heard.
“He followed me. Again.”
Marcia peered over Sophia’s shoulder. “Where is he?”
“Back by the tables, with everyone else from school. He brought Jason and Rick.”
“How did he know you’d be here?”
“It’s not exactly a secret. Half the campus knew we were coming tonight.”
As Sophia fumed, Marcia’s interest flickered to one of the guys she’d been talking to, then she turned back to Sophia with a trace of impatience.
“Okay… he’s here.” She shrugged. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know,” Sophia said, crossing her arms.
“Did he see you?”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I just don’t want him to start anything.”
“Do you want me to go talk to him?”
“No.” Sophia shook her head. “Actually, I don’t know what I want.”
“Then just relax. Ignore him. Hang with me and Ashley for a while. We don’t have to go back to the tables. Maybe he’ll leave. And if he finds us here, I’ll just start flirting with him. Distract him.” Her mouth curved into a provocative smile. “You know he used to have a thing for me. Before you, I mean.”
Sophia pulled her arms tighter. “Maybe we should just go.”
Marcia waved a hand. “How? We’re an hour from campus, and neither of us has a car here. We rode with Ashley, remember? And I know for a fact that she’s not going to want to leave.”
Sophia hadn’t thought of that.
“Come on,” Marcia cajoled. “Let’s get a drink. You’ll like these guys. They’re in graduate school at Duke.”
Sophia shook her head. “I’m not really in the mood to talk to any guys right now.”
“Then what do you want to do?”
Sophia caught sight of the night sky at the far end of the barn and suddenly felt the overwhelming desire to get out of this sweaty, densely packed scene. “I think I just need some fresh air.”
Marcia followed her gaze, then looked at Sophia again. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll find you again. Just hang around here, okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” Marcia agreed with obvious relief. “But I can go with you…”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to be long.”
As Marcia headed back to her new friends, Sophia started toward the rear of the barn, the crowd thinning out as she moved farther from the dance floors and the band. A few men tried to catch her attention as she maneuvered past them, but Sophia pretended not to notice, refusing to be sidetracked.
The oversize wooden doors had been propped open, and as soon as she stepped outside, she felt a wave of relief wash over her. The music wasn’t nearly as loud, and the crisp autumn air felt like a cool balm on her skin. She hadn’t realized how hot it was inside the barn. She looked around, hoping to find a place to sit. Off to the side was a massive oak tree, its gnarled limbs stretching in all directions, and here and there, people were standing in small groups, smoking and drinking. It took a second for her to realize that they were all inside a large enclosure bounded by wooden rails radiating from either side of the barn; no doubt it had once been a corral of sorts.
There weren’t any tables. Instead, knots of people mostly sat on or leaned against the rails; one group perched on what she thought was an old tractor tire. Farther off to the side, a solitary man in a cowboy hat stared out over the neighboring pasture, his face in shadow. She wondered idly whether he, too, was in graduate school at Duke, but she doubted it. Somehow, cowboy hats and Duke graduate school just didn’t go together.