A/N: Something VERY new! It came to me this summer and I wasn't able to get this book out of my head. This will take me a while to finish, but omg -- I'm personally so obsessed with this story. BUT here's the start of it, and it's not edited so read at your own risk!
(I'm holding the title to myself for now.)
There must be a god somewhere laughing at me because I’m being driven to Chastaine University, a D1 school where football was law, creed, and religion when it was supposed to be my brother attending this school. Not me.
The joke is me.
I’m the joke.
He wouldn’t have ruled over the school. That would’ve been difficult considering around thirty thousand students were enrolled there, but I knew my brother. He would’ve been dang close. Gabe was loved by everyone. Literally. He wasn’t on the football team, though he was supposed to have been. He was one of their equipment managers and well, the truth was that everyone somehow began to depend on Gabe. It’s just how he was. No matter what type of job he’d take somewhere, within a month, he’d rise up the ranks where even the managers would have him doing their jobs.
It’d been the same in high school.
Gabe was the star athlete back then and would’ve kept going, but that part of the dream went down the drain when he sustained a knee injury. It was bad enough where if he wanted to pursue higher education athletes, he’d run the risk of eventually not being able to walk or… well, not be in high-pressure sports and be normal for the rest of his life.
Now considering that if we’d known he only had one more year to live, I wished he’d gone the sports route.
That was my personal opinion. And it wasn’t one I shared because, well… that also just wasn’t me. Gabe shined. I hid. He had the infectious smile that made everyone smile back at him.
Me, if people looked my way, I wanted to wither into the backdrop.
Going to this college, which was so high profile and one known for its football, its greek systems, and its parties wasn’t my dream. I wanted to attend Colombia in New York and forever be a New York snob. I wanted to know the differences between Tribeca and Soho and look down on my nose at one over the other in front of people who had no clue, all the while just loving that I knew all the different provinces of New York because all the provinces were the coolest. I wanted to find a neighborhood cute coffee shop, and be a regular where I’d curl up in the corner couch with book or textbook and where the workers would bring my ‘usual’ because they’d just know depending on what day of the week it was or how long I’d been there or even if the weather changed, what kind of different coffee drink I would want.
That’d been my dream.
The city where everyone went to pursue their dream and where everyone were neighbors you just hadn’t met because that’s how you looked at them, not how they looked or what kind of name brand of clothes they were wearing. Though, that did happen because New York was known for its fashion as well.
Chastaine University was the opposite in almost every single way.
But Gabe’s dream was attending Chastaine and graduating from here. And since he couldn’t achieve that, here I was.
“You ready, honey?” My mom reached over, patting my leg with a smile that I knew was costing her.
We were both in the same boat, or vehicle. Literally. Kathleen Heir was the kind of mom who cried in her bedroom, but when she left that room, she was all smiles and all politeness. At first glance, she looked like a typical housewife. Blonde beautiful hair, styled how all the other society wives did their hair. She kept herself in shape. Wore the pastel outfits and sweaters when it was weather-appropriate. She attended the same luncheons, fundraisers, and banquets, and Chastaine was also her alma mater and where her sorority home was. She loved Chastaine. It was why Gabe wanted to come here so badly, had come here, but that changed like so much else had changed over the last year.
When my dad died.
When my mom remarried.
When we met--“Do you want me to take you to Beta Phi? You could meet some of the girls. I’m sure they’d love to know you.”
She was trying to be helpful.
She was. I reminded myself of that, but I couldn’t hold back the wince.
She saw it, her lips turning down. She removed her hand from my leg, but I caught it and gave it a squeeze. “I…” I wasn’t sure what to say. She knew I didn’t want to join her sorority. She knew I didn’t care for the fundraisers and society parties she did. I didn’t care about that life. She knew all of that. Again, that was Gabe. He was the male version of her.
“I know. You’re not like that.” Her smile faltered, though, but she masked it like she always did. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel. “I know. I’ll remember that. You’ll be in the library, not on Greek Row.”
I let go of her hand, relaxing.
I tensed again.
She added, hitting the turn signal as we were pulling to my dorm, “I know the girls in that house, honey. I know so many of their mothers and I know they’d love to meet you. They would be like your unofficial little big, you know? You don’t have to join and I do know you, Gizela.” A long sigh left her as we pulled up, being waved over by a girl holding a clipboard. “Just, make some friends. Okay?”
My mom reached for her seatbelt as the girl approached our window, but I stopped my mom, a hand to her arm. “Mom.”
She paused, and I caught a glimpse of her sadness before it was blanked. “Yes, honey?” She reached over, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear. Her smile was back, her mask to the world.
“I’ll make friends.” I wanted to make sure she understood that, she didn’t need to worry about me in that department. “I’m not Gabe.”
“Oh, Giz, of course you’re not. I didn’t mean to suggest--”
I reached up, catching her wrist because she was tucking another strand of my hair back. When she was upset, nervous, or uncomfortable, she had to fidget, perfecting something. If there was nothing obvious to rearrange or fix, her go-to was fixing her kids. Our hair. Our shirts. Smoothing out any invisible wrinkles.
I knew this so I wasn’t annoyed, but I made sure to lean close and speak clearly. “No. I’m saying that I’m not him in the way where he was popular just by being him. He would just show up and people would love him. It’s the Gabe effect. And he liked that. He welcomed that. He could handle having all those friends. I’m not like that.”
Again, she sounded regretful, but she wasn’t fully hearing me.
I spoke over her. “But I’m not a social pariah either. I’ll make friends. I always do. I just don’t like having as many friends as Gabe, but Mom, I’ll be fine. I want to be here for him. I made the decision. I’m doing this for him.”
A tear slipped down her face, and she gasped, pulling back from me. We lived in California, but my mom came from the south. She was a southern belle, and that meant not showing even a single tear in a car with only her daughter to see.
“You’re right. Plus, there’s--”
I tensed at who she was going to say.
But she said, “--Taylor and Carlie are here.”
“And I know while they’re Gamma girls, they’re still going to check on you. We both know how much those girls adore you.”
I let out an annoyed breath because she was right. They both graduated in the same year as Gabe, but they were his friends so therefore they would fawn over me. It was how it was growing up. Girls loved Gabe. They found out I was his sister and I was a sister where we were actually close, not a sibling that was a nuisance or who he hated. Sometimes, I wished we’d been that kind of brother and sister. It would’ve made everything so much easier.
“Okay, honey. Are you ready to go?”
We both shared a look, lifted our shoulders, took a breath, and as I nodded, we opened our doors.
* * *
Stay tuned for more!