I Would Never
By Brooke Safferman
Before I got expelled from Worthington Hall during the Spring semester of my freshman year – I’ll tell you why later – I learned the true meaning of what it is to love someone. I’m not talking about my boyfriend, Wesley, although I can tell by that scowl on your face you think I should have been in love with my own boyfriend. Ideally, I’d like to say yes, that Wesley captured my heart and it was love at first sight and all that other crap you see on television. But it’s not like that. Not at all.
Wesley and I grew up together, so I know how immature he is. I don’t trust him to be faithful, not after what I’ve seen him do to some of my best friends, but he tolerates me and I tolerate him and that’s why we work. Sometimes convenience in a world of chaos can act as an oxygen tank for two people who would otherwise slowly suffocate.
I met Cassandra through my best friend, Katie. They were roommates although I don’t know how they possibly got along. Katie and I were known as the “ice queens”, because let’s be honest here, we both had a lot of issues. Daddy cheated on Mommy with practically every lady from the Darien Country Club, but Mommy still took him back every time, which is understandable considering the only thing handsomer than Daddy’s face is his bank account. Other than this hobby of his, Daddy is the sweetest person in the entire world. Which causes me to hate him. I think men are rotten, but Wesley’s alright. In fact, his mother was one of Daddy’s latest conquests. That was a personal problem for Mommy, though, because she was best friends with Wesley’s mother. Not anymore, that’s for sure! Katie’s mother had tons of boyfriends, mainly bartenders or cabana boys down where she’s from in Palm Beach. I really ought to get my ass down to Florida, now that I think of it. I’m tired of these boring Massachusetts people. They’re all just like me, except not as pretty or rich or smart. I’m actually quite smart, but I’ll only do what I need to in order to get by. I always only do what I need to in order to get by.
Enough background knowledge! The day before my expulsion, Cassandra wore her hair in a medium-brown fishtail braid, like she did almost every day. It was so effortlessly beautiful. She was so effortlessly beautiful.
I watched her walk into our dorm, but frowned when I noticed her rain boots were that hideous shade of olive. Over half the girls in our grade owned those same boots. I had them before anyone else did, but then Katie, who’s super into art, painted them this metallic gold to make mine stand out. She knew we had to take action. Being mediocre is a dangerous thing, you know.
“Cassandra! I love your boots,” I cooed, brushing a strand of her hair behind her ear that had broken lose from her braid. “Olive is so ‘in’ right now.” I offered her a smile, and then looked down at my own feet. My fuzzy socks were developing a hole in the toe. Shit.
“Thanks, Athena,” she breathed happily, not taking her eyes off my own. I didn’t want her to return my feelings. She was too pretty and too sweet.
Normally I hated sweet people. Sweet people, I thought, were just playing some sick game of pretend. It was only a matter of time before they cheated on your mother with all the women at the country club.
My stomach felt a little weird, admitting to myself why Cassandra was looking at me in that way, but I’m not really sure how to describe the feeling. I guess my lower stomach burned in the way it did in the late afternoons when I skipped breakfast and then had almonds with a glass of lemon water for lunch. I did this four times a week to maintain my size 0 frame. Empty.
I followed Cassandra into her room, acting like I wanted to hang out with Katie. “I want to hang out with Katie,” I said. I can sound very, very casual when I need to be.
“Katie’s actually working on her final portfolio now in the art building for an hour or so, then she has a quick horseback riding lesson at the stables before dinner. You’re welcome to stay and do homework with me, though!”
I checked my watch. 3:15PM. Technically, it was my mother’s Cartier, but I grabbed it from her nightstand before moving into Worthington Hall. 18k gold. Nice, right?
“Sure, I can stay and do homework with you. Let me go grab my books.” On my way out of her room though, something bizarre happened.
Danny,a senior, or as Worthington Hall called a “6th former”, was standing in the hallway. He and Wesley played together on the boy’s Varsity Football team, and Wesley idolized him. Danny was the captain, of course. Only the best for me and Wes!
“Hey, Athena. You’re always looking so pretty, huh?” In that moment, Danny was the lion, I, his antelope. “Where’s Wesley?” he purred into my ear, his caustic saliva misting my tragus. “Get the hell out of the freshman girl’s dorm, Danny. You don’t belong here.” I backed away and narrowed my gray eyes at him. I’ve been told they’re quite commanding.
“Actually, I’m tutoring Katie’s roommate in physics,” he snickered. He was vile. “I’m guessing you know Cassandra through her. Finals are just two weeks away, and she’s doing pretty shitty when it comes to problem sets about centripetal force.” Danny was going to do pre-med in college, and he always gave some schpiel about not wanting to rely on just his trust-fund and how important it is to be self-sufficient when it comes to financial matters. Whenever people asked why he wouldn’t just work at a hedge fund like his father, he always replied he didn’t like his father much. Welcome to the frickin’ club, buddy!
I rolled my eyes, dismissing him and walked a little further down the hall to my own room. I began picking up the books I needed off the floor – I requested a single room because I don’t tolerate anyone else’s messes but my own – when Cassandra came in. Her cheeks were flushed, and I didn’t like it. “What’s up, Cassandra?”
“I’m so sorry, Athena. Danny said he got the time mixed up! Our original meeting time was 6:30PM but he wrote down 3:30PM. I didn’t want to make him leave, and he said he’ll tutor me now.”
“I’m sure you don’t want to be alone with a guy like him, though. He’s like, the world’s biggest narcissist and he’s not even that cute. Like Wesley has way better arms than he does. Seriously, I can still do homework with you. It won’t bother me if you guys talk because I’m going to have my headphones on, anyway. I love me some Madonna when I do history projects!” I never listen to music when I do my work, and my smile was clearly forced – but then again, when is it not?
I never give my true emotions away (like I told you, Katie and I are the “Ice Queens”), but for some reason, my voice startled trembling a bit. I really did not like the idea of Danny alone with her in her room. “You’re too pretty and too sweet to be alone with him!” I said, slamming my hand down on my desk. Despite my worrying, I admired my nails. They were flawlessly French-manicured, per usual; Su at the salon was such an angel!
Cassandra’s lips parted slightly, her already-flushed cheeks deepening in color. “I like him, Athena.” That’s all she said, and she said it quietly. Then she left.
I sat there for a few minutes and then began to work. About ten minutes later, I heard Cassandra’s voice again. This time, though, she was screaming – loudly.
“NO! STOP! SERIOUSLY, STOP IT! I’M SERIOUS. DANNY, STOP!”
Luckily, her door was unlocked. I opened it to find that Danny was attempting to force himself upon her. My eyes met his and he said nothing as he pulled his pants back up and hurried out of the room.
“I’m so sorry he hurt you,” I whispered, my eyes watering. I offered Cassandra a tissue from the box perched on her dresser, and she blew her nose. She looked so young sitting there on her bed, not being able to comprehend what had just happened, the blankets half-fallen onto the floor. “Just rest.” She followed my orders and took a nap. Now that she was sleeping, I didn’t have to keep it together. I shut my eyes tightly and blinked them back open to let the tears fall. I needed to forget what I had just seen, as impossible as that sounds, so I sat down at her desk with her physics homework and finished the whole damn thing. She deserved a break after what she went through. Danny can mess around with me, I thought, but someone gentle and unassuming like Cassandra clearly can’t fend that creep off.
Katie and I met up at dinner, when I told her what happened. “We have to tell the Dean of Students. He can’t just get away with that. What a little prick,” Katie said, chewing on her seventh stick of celery. I hadn’t even touched my own.
“I think that will cause more problems, Katie,” I said slowly. “I think we need to keep this to ourselves so we don’t cause any more stress for Cassandra than she’s already dealing with.” Cassandra was still sleeping when Katie and I went to dinner. I didn’t wake her up.
Katie stared at me, eyes wide and glaring, so I stared back. Reluctantly, I picked up a celery stick and rolled my eyes. I hate it when she gets that look on her face. She and I both know very well that it means I’ve lost the argument. Wesley strode up to the table – Friday night was Date Night – and the two of us left Katie there to clear my celery-covered plate. “Remember to use protection, lovebirds!” she shouted after us. We looked back and just laughed. But when Wesley turned to face forward again, I was still looking back. She shook her head slightly. There was no way I would tell Wesley about this. Danny was his role model!
The next day, Katie told the Dean of Students what happened because I refused to. Katie warned me that I would have to talk to the Dean eventually because I was involved, but I told her that he could go bite my (perky) ass. I figured the Dean would just let it slide, anyway, because Danny was graduating after finals, which were only two weeks away. Nobody would get punished so late in the game, especially not Worthington Hall’s shining-star athlete on the fast-track to medical school. I had no idea how wrong I was.
I was walking (strutting would probably be more accurate) out of the dining hall after lunch, but stopped short when I heard a male voice shouting. I peered around the wall into the lobby of the dining hall building to investigate what was going on.
“They’re talking expulsion,” Danny said, hands shaking. He was surrounded by all the rest of the kids on the football team. Wesley’s eyes widened as they met mine.
“GO,” he mouthed, “GO, GO, GO.” But I couldn’t go. I couldn’t stop listening to what Danny was saying.
“I’m gonna kill her. Wherever the hell she is, I’m gonna find her and kill her. Have any of you guys seen Athena today?” He turned to Wesley, enraged. “You knew about this, pretty boy? Did she tell you she was gonna be a little tattle-tale?” He thrust Wesley up against the wall, pinning him down. A portrait of some “Headmaster Swinton” from over five decades ago hung above them on the wall. What would Headmaster Swinton have to say about this violence unfolding!?
Everyone was tugging Danny off of Wesley’s arm, but not before he punched my guy in the stomach – hard. “Come on, guys.” Danny led the bevy of buff boys out of the building. Wesley, on the other hand, was crouched down on the wooden floor, wincing and holding his stomach. I ran over to him, placing my hand over his own on his stomach, and gave him an Advil from my Longchamp backpack. “Thanks, babe,” he breathed.
Later that night, I finished the six hours of homework we were assigned on a daily basis. Taking a shower after study hours is the greatest luxury known to Worthington Hall-kind. I flip-flopped my way into the bathroom and turned the water on hot. After I drew the curtain, I thought I saw a shadow. Unfortunately the latch on the door of the shower stall was broken, so the curtain was the only barrier I had from onlookers. If a girl was going to get a good look at me, I’d only want it to be Clarissa, although anyone would be lucky to see me without any clothes. I reached down to shave my legs, when in a blurry instant, the curtain was drawn aside and Danny got in with me, his arms moving towards my throat. I slashed his arm with a razor. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, YOU CRAZY BITCH, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?” He ran out of there, his white t-shirt quickly turning a deep maroon. His arm continued bleeding a river of blood, through his fingers covering the vein in his left arm. What had I done, crazy bitch, what the hell had I done. I wrapped my towel around me, not even bothering to use my beloved Turbie Twist on my hair, which is long and blonde and straight and perfect. It takes a lot of products to keep it that way. But it’s worth it. I’m worth it.
I was hyperventilating as I realized what I needed to do. Still in a towel, I snuck out of the back entrance that the janitors use to take out the trash of the entire building. There’s a dumpster out there that nobody ever would look through. I tossed the razor in, and hurried back inside to my room. Whether the goosebumps on my arms were from the chilly Spring night air on my wet skin or from fear, I wasn’t really sure. Nor did I care. All I could think about what would happen to Danny.
At that moment, the siren of an ambulance could be heard across campus. I looked out of my dorm room window, which had a view of the quad, like all of the other dorms did on our small campus. The circular driveway around the quad was infiltrated with students, RAs, and teachers. Oh, and the ambulance. They were all surrounding Danny, like everyone always did, but what struck me as peculiar was that he was holding a men’s razor in his hand. What? He had flip-flops on his feet and a towel around his waist. His t-shirt was nowhere in sight. He looked like he was crying as they tied a tourniquet on his bicep. It was all so bizarre. I cranked my window open as hard and fast as possible so I could actually hear what was being said. Unfortunately, it was my name.
“Athena attacked me in the shower,” Danny continued with a sob. “She took my razor, and she said she was going to kill me for what she told the Dean I did to her friend. She’s delusional. I never did anything bad to Cassandra. I tutor her in physics, and I’m also her friend. Cassandra’s a great girl. I would never hurt her.”
My eyes scraped the scene, scoring through the people to find Cassandra. She was there, all the way at the back of the crowd. All eyes turned to her.
“Did he really attempt to rape you, Miss?” Oh joy, the police had arrived, and I hadn’t even noticed.
Cassandra knew I was mean, but she knew I wasn’t insane. I wouldn’t go after him, unless it was for self-defense. If somebody was about to kill me, you can be sure I’d kill them first!
She didn’t take her eyes off of Danny’s razor, which for some absurd reason, was still in his hand as the paramedics loaded him into the back of the ambulance. “I… I…”
“Miss, please answer the question, and answer it truthfully.”
“I liked him. I kissed him first. I asked him to take his shirt off. I told him to take my shirt off, too…” Cassandra trailed off as she began crying hysterically.
“It’s okay, Miss. There, there. It’s okay.” The two policeman each placed a hand on one of her shoulders. Right, because that is so comforting. A shoulder touch.
I couldn’t believe it. Katie had told the Dean what Danny did for Cassandra’s frickin’ well-being and Cassandra totally threw her under the bus. I was heartbroken. Like I said, never trust sweet people. They’ll always make you sorry for believing in them, in the end.
I looked around for Wesley, but I didn’t see him anywhere. Katie was nowhere to be seen, either. I tried to sip some water from my Worthington Hall tumbler mug, but it dribbled all over my chin because my entire body was trembling. I was still in my towel, but I couldn’t change into anything else.
I had been… framed.
My legs went weak. I collapsed on my bed and my vision began to go blurry. The posters on my walls – Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O – were getting fuzzier to the point where they were simply blobs of grayness.
Wesley and Katie pushed open my door, both out of breath and eyes full of tears. I knew the police would soon follow. I looked at Katie, unable to offer her my signature fake smile. She said nothing, but I could see the apology in her eyes.
“I would never,” I said.