The Longest Ride. Занятие 5

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1

You’ve got to come,” Marcia pleaded. “I want you to come. There’s like thirteen or fourteen of us going. And it’s not that far. McLeansville is less than an hour away, and you know we’ll have a blast in the car.”

2

Sophia made a skeptical face from her bed, where she was halfheartedly reviewing some Renaissance history notes. “I don’t know… the rodeo?”

3

“Don’t say it like that,” Marcia said, adjusting a black cowboy hat in the mirror, tilting it this way and that. Sophia’s roommate since sophomore year, Marcia Peak was easily her best friend on campus. “A, it’s not the rodeo—it’s only bull riding. And B, it’s not even about that. It’s about getting off campus for a quick road trip, and hanging out with me and the girls. There’s a party afterwards, where they set up bars in this big, old-fashioned barn near the arena… there’s going to be a band, and dancing, and I swear to God you’ll never find so many cute guys in one place again.”

4

Sophia looked up over the top of her notebook. “Finding a cute guy is the last thing I want right now.”

5

Marcia rolled her eyes. “The point is, you need to get out of the house. It’s already October. We’re two months into school and you need to stop moping.”

6

“I’m not moping,” Sophia said. “I’m just… tired of it.”

7

“You mean you’re tired of seeing Brian, right?” She spun around to face Sophia. “Okay, I get that. But it’s a small campus. And Chi Omega and Sigma Chi are paired this year. No matter what, it’s going to be inevitable.”

8

“You know what I mean. He’s been following me. On Thursday, he was in the atrium of Scales Center after my class. That never happened while we were together.”

9

“Did you talk to him? Or did he try to talk to you?”

10

“No.” Sophia shook her head. “I headed straight for the door and pretended I didn’t notice him.”

11

“So no harm, no foul.”

12

“It’s still creepy —”

13

“So what?” Marcia gave an impatient shrug. “Don’t let it get to you. It’s not like he’s psycho or anything. He’ll figure it out eventually.”

14

Sophia glanced away, thinking, I hope so, but when she didn’t answer, Marcia crossed the room and took a seat on the bed beside her. She patted Sophia’s leg. “Let’s think about this logically, okay? You said he stopped calling and texting you, right?” Sophia nodded, albeit with a feeling of reluctance.

15

“So okay, then,” she concluded. “It’s time to move on with your life.”

16

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do. But everywhere I go, he’s there. I just don’t understand why he won’t leave me alone.” Marcia pulled her knees up, resting her chin on them. “Simple —Brian thinks that if he can talk to you, if he says the right things and pours on the charm, he’ll convince you to change your mind. He honestly believes that.” Marcia fixed her with an earnest expression. “Sophia, you have to realize that all guys think like this. Guys think they can talk their way out of anything, and they always want what they can’t have. It’s in their DNA. You dumped him, so now he wants you back. It’s Guy 101.” She winked at her friend. “He’ll eventually accept that it’s over. As long as you don’t give in, of course.”

17

“I’m not giving in,” Sophia said.

18

“Good for you,” Marcia said. “You were always too good for him.”

19

“I thought you liked Brian.”

20

“I do like him. He’s funny and good-looking and rich— what’s not to like? We’ve been friends since freshman year, and I still talk to him. But I also get that he’s been a crappy boyfriend who cheated on my roommate. Not just once or twice, either, but three times.”

21

Sophia felt her shoulders sag. “Thanks for reminding me.”

22

“Listen, it’s my job as your friend to help you move past this. So what do I do? I come up with this amazing solution to all your problems, a night out with the girls away from campus, and you’re thinking of staying here?”

23

When Sophia still said nothing, Marcia leaned closer. “Please? Come with us. I need my wingman.”

24

Sophia sighed, knowing how persistent Marcia could be. “Okay,” she relented, “I’ll go.” And though she didn’t know it then, whenever her thoughts drifted back toward the past, she would always remember that this was how it all began.

25

As midnight gradually approached, Sophia had to concede that her friend had been right. She’d needed a night out… she realized that for the first time in weeks, she was actually having fun. After all, it wasn’t every night that she got to enjoy the aromas of dirt, sweat, and manure, while watching crazy men ride even crazier animals. Marcia, she learned, thought bull riders oozed sex appeal, and more than once, her roommate had nudged her to point out a particularly handsome specimen, including the guy who’d won it all. “Now that is definitely eye candy,” she’d said, and Sophia had laughed in agreement despite herself.

26

The after-party was a pleasant surprise. The decaying barn, featuring dirt floors, wood plank walls, exposed beams, and gaping holes in the roof, was jammed. People stood three deep at the makeshift bars and clustered around a haphazard collection of tables and stools scattered throughout the cavernous interior. Even though she didn’t generally listen to country-western music, the band was lively and the improvised wooden dance floor was thronged. Every now and then a line dance would start, which everyone except her seemed to know how to do. It was like some secret code; a song would end and another would begin, dancers streaming off the floor while others replaced them, choosing their places in line, leaving her with the impression that the whole thing had been choreographed in advance. Marcia and the other sorority girls would also join in, executing all the dance moves perfectly and leaving Sophia to wonder where they’d all learned how to do it. In more than two years of living together, neither Marcia nor any of the others had ever once mentioned they knew how to line dance.

27

Though she wasn’t about to embarrass herself on the dance floor, Sophia was glad she’d come. Unlike most of the college bars near campus—or any bar she’d been to, for that matter—here the people were genuinely nice. Ridiculously nice. She’d never heard so many strangers call out, “Excuse me,” or, “Sorry ’bout that,” accompanied by friendly grins as they moved out of her path. And Marcia had been right about another thing: Cute guys were everywhere, and Marcia—along with most of the other girls from the house—was taking full advantage of the situation. Since they’d arrived, none of them had had to buy a single drink.

28

It all felt like the kind of Saturday night she imagined occurring in Colorado or Wyoming or Montana, not that she’d ever been to any of those places. Who knew that there were so many cowboys in North Carolina? Surveying the crowd, she realized they probably weren’t real cowboys—most were there because they liked to watch the bull riding and drink beer on Saturday nights—but she’d never seen so many cowboy hats, boots, and belt buckles in one place before. And the women? They wore boots and hats, too, but between her sorority sisters and the rest of the women here, she noticed more short-shorts and bare midriffs than she’d ever seen in the campus quad on the first warm day of spring. It might as well have been a Daisy Duke convention.

29

Marcia and the girls had gone shopping earlier that day, leaving Sophia feeling almost dowdy in her jeans and sleeveless blouse.

30

She sipped her drink, content to watch and listen and take it all in. Marcia had wandered off with Ashley a few minutes earlier, no doubt to talk to some guys she’d met. Most of the other girls were forming similar clusters, but Sophia didn’t feel the need to join them. She’d always been a bit of a loner, and unlike a lot of people in the house, she didn’t live and die by the rules of the sorority. Though she’d made some good friends, she was ready to move on. As scary as the prospect of real life seemed, she was excited at the thought of having her own place. She vaguely imagined a loft in some city, with bistros and coffeehouses and bars nearby, but who knew how realistic that was. The truth was that even living in a dumpy apartment off the highway in Omaha, Nebraska, would be preferable to her current situation. She was tired of living in the sorority house, and not just because Chi Omega and Sigma Chi were paired again. It was her third year in the house, and by now the drama of sorority life was wearing thin. No, scratch that. In a house with thirty-four girls, the drama was endless, and though she’d done her best to avoid it, she knew this year’s version was already under way. The new crop of sophomore girls fretted endlessly about what everyone else thought of them and how best to fit in as they vied for a higher place in the pecking order.

31

Even when she’d joined, Sophia hadn’t really cared about any of that stuff. She’d become a member of the sorority partly because she hadn’t gotten along with her freshman roommate and partly because all the other freshmen were rushing. She was curious to find out what it was all about, especially since the social life at Wake was defined largely by the Greek system. The next thing she knew, she was a Chi Omega and putting a deposit down on the room in the house.

32

She’d tried to get into the whole thing. Really. During her junior year, she’d briefly considered becoming an officer. Marcia had burst out laughing as soon as Sophia had mentioned it, and then Sophia had begun to laugh as well, and that had been the end of it. A good thing, too, because Sophia knew she would have made a lousy officer. Even though she’d attended every party, formal, and mandatory meeting, she couldn’t buy into the whole “sisterhood will change your life” ethos, nor did she believe that “being a Chi Omega will bestow lifelong benefits.”

33

Whenever she heard those slogans at the chapter meetings, she’d wanted to raise her hand and ask her fellow sisters if they honestly believed that the amount of spirit she showed during Greek Week really mattered in the long run. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t imagine sitting in an interview and hearing her future boss say, I notice here that you helped choreograph the dance number that helped to put Chi Omega at the top of the sorority rankings your junior year. Frankly, Miss Danko, that happens to be exactly the skill set we’ve been searching for in a museum curator.

34

Please.

35

Sorority life was part of her college experience and she didn’t regret it, but she never wanted it to be the only part. Or even the major part. First and foremost, she’d come to Wake Forest because she’d wanted a good education, and her scholarship required that she put her studies first. And she had.

36

She rotated her drink, reflecting on the past year. Well… almost, anyway.

37

Last semester, after she’d learned that Brian had cheated on her for the second time, she’d been a wreck. She’d found it impossible to study, and when finals rolled around, she’d had to cram like crazy to maintain her GPA. She’d made it… barely. But it was just about the most stressful thing she’d ever gone through, and she was determined not to let it happen again. If it hadn’t been for Marcia, she wasn’t sure how she could have gotten through last semester at all, and that was reason enough to be grateful she’d joined Chi Omega in the first place. To her, the sorority had always been about individual friendship, not some rah-rah group identity; and to her, friendship had nothing to do with anyone’s place in the pecking order. And so, as she had since the beginning, she would do what she had to in the house during her senior year, but no more than that. She’d pay her fees and dues and ignore the cliques that were no doubt already forming, especially the ones that believed that being a Chi Omega was the be-all and end-all of existence.

38

Cliques that worshipped people like Mary-Kate, for instance.

About the Author

Диана Семёнычева

Диана Семёнычева

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