This is an excerpt from “The Rush” by Laura Leigh Abby, available now as a Kindle single on Amazon.
The pledges “crossed” into the sorority just after Halloween. The nights were dipping down near freezing, and the approach of winter meant the impending end of the semester. About a week after cross one of the senior girls hosted a slumber party at her house outside of Boston. We rode the train out on Saturday night, ordered pizzas, filled our glasses with boxed wine, and played charades in our pajamas. Sam didn’t sit with me on the train but later followed me out onto the back porch. We stood in the corner, and I exhaled fast and loud, watching my breath cloud in front of me.
“It’s freezing,” I told her as I hoisted myself up to sit on the corner railing, my knees falling open. She spoke as she positioned herself between my legs and placed her hands on top of my thighs.
“I’ll warm you up.”
I blinked and looked up at the other girls through the sliding glass door and sipped my wine.
“You’re being weird,” I said and shrugged, feigning oblivion at her touch. A silent moment passed, and then someone slid the door open, and voices drifted out. I hopped off the railing. A sister walked outside to smoke a cigarette.
Midnight approached. Most of us had purple teeth as we enlisted others to make popcorn. Someone suggested a game of Truth or Dare, and we sat in a circle on the living room floor. One of the girls called Sam’s name. “Truth,” she spoke as she stared at the floor.
“Have you ever slept with a girl?”
Sam laughed it off as she admitted that she had. When pressed to explain she turned to another girl and offered, “Truth or dare?” Of all of us in AEPhi that semester, no one ever talked about experimenting with girls.
That night I felt an obvious shift in our relationship. Again, she wouldn’t sleep in the same room with me. I couldn’t figure out why, or why it bothered me. Her untold secrets held hostage my every thought. If Sam had been with girls did she want to be with me? Did I want to be with Sam? I could not liberate myself from bewilderment, but neither could I engage the thoughts racing through my mind. I tried to focus on Troy. I tried to forget about her hands sliding over my thighs.
I stood in the shower one night and absentmindedly washed my hair. In that moment, I thought about Sam and the smell of her shampoo. I sensed my own desire and panicked. I knew then that the feeling I couldn’t place was attraction. I could try to deny it then but would never deny it now. My new feelings unnerved me. I instinctively suppressed them. My longing to be physically near her did not feel like friendship.
In late November, we began a Friday night drinking in my suite. Kate poured vodka into mismatched glasses. I spritzed on my favorite perfume—Michael by Michael Kors—and Sam put her nose near my neck. “I love how you smell,” she told me, and my body felt like a slab of fresh concrete baking in the sun. It was like Sam had taken a stick and etched her initials into my skin.
“I’m too old for this,” I told my reflection in my cracked over-the-door dorm mirror. Surely if I were a lesbian, it would have occurred to me years before. I thought my friends were pretty, but I didn’t want to kiss them. I did want to kiss Sam. Once I knew this I’d vowed to stay away from her, but here she was, sitting on our dirty couch, telling me she loved my smell.
“Is your boy coming tonight?” Sarah asked me as she popped the top off of a bottle of Corona with a rusty opener. She’d been working at a bar near campus known for its party and drug scene. It was loungy, not like the dives we were used to. Sarah promised she could get us all in.
Hours later, our bar tab increasing, we sat on plush couches arranged around small cocktail tables. Troy arrived and squeezed in next to me. I thought the more I saw him the less likely I would be to think about Sam. Her eyes flicked over his arm, which hung around my shoulders. She met my gaze.
“Laura,” she shouted my name over the din of the bar and across the table between us. “Do you dare me to make out with Sarah?” I looked from one girl to the other. What the hell, I thought, while I replied with some pretend-bored version of “Why should I care?”
Sam and Sarah stood up and walked towards the ladies’ room. I downed my drink. They returned minutes later for their coats and announced that they were going back to the dorms.
I stayed long enough to pay the entire bar tab before racing back and pounding on Sarah’s locked door, sobbing through my slurred commands. I knew I didn’t want them in there together, but I did not know how to stop them.