I Bet You (Page 27)
I hear crying as I walk down the hall. The sound comes from the common area where we have our meetings. Usually those doors are open, but today they’re closed.
I tap lightly on the wood. “Hello?”
When I don’t get a reply, I try the door, but it’s locked.
I chalk it up to sorority house drama when Keri, one of the pledges, appears next to me.
“It’s Margo,” she whispers furtively.
I frown. “Our president?”
She nods. “She’s been in there for half an hour. We were talking about the theme for the party, and she just ran out of the meeting.”
I scratch my head. Margo’s the kind of girl who eats metal shavings for breakfast and spits them at girls she doesn’t like afterward. She never cries.
Keri shrugs. “The planning committee chairperson said we’d just proceed without her.”
“I wouldn’t count her out yet,” I say then nod my head toward the room past the kitchen, a sunroom where we have a copy machine, a couple of laptops, and a bulletin board. “Why don’t you head back to the meeting, and I’ll meet you there.”
Keri wavers. “They sent me back here to report on how she is—”
“Tell them she’s fine and will be there in a minute.”
Pledges. Margo and I may not be best friends, but we’ve been together for three years, and no freshman pledge is going to be talking about her and why she’s crying. She hasn’t been here long enough.
She reads my face and scurries off.
I tap on the door again. “Margo. It’s me, Penelope. Let me in.”
Her voice is wobbly, and I sigh. “As soon as you open the door.”
I hear sniffling and guilt brushes over me.
“Open the door or I’m going to go get a hairpin and pick the lock, and you know, it might just mess up these old antique doors. I know how much pride you take in our house—”
The door flings open, and my mouth gapes at what I see. The normally coiffed and cool Margo is a mess with smudged mascara and stray hairs poking out from under her headband. Even her clothes are askew, as if she’s been lying down. My eyes take in a fuzzy blanket draped over the couch in the back along with a pile of potato chip bags and candy bar wrappers.
“Why do you care?” she snaps.
“You’re a person, Margo. I care.”
She shrugs and flips around then takes a seat on one of the couches in the room. I follow her inside and shut the door, taking the seat next to her as I reach over and grab a wad of tissues off the cherry coffee table. I pass them over.
“Is this because I invited Ryker?”
She takes my offered Kleenex and dabs at her hazel eyes, the green in them more prominent when they’re wet.
She tugs her navy cardigan around her shoulders. “You stole him from me.”
I snort. “You embarrassed me in front of our whole sorority. Like you really liked him anyway?”
“God, no.” She holds a hand to her chest as if the idea will give her a heart attack.
I smirk. “Exactly. I know your type. Wasn’t your ex some kind of uppity Mayflower descendent?”
“His name was Kyle. And yes.” She clams up, a stoniness taking over her expression.
I nod, recalling the details. “And you caught him with a Theta. Sasha? She’s their president, right? And you wanted Ryker on your arm so everyone will see him and it will get back to your ex…” My words drift off. “Am I close?”
She wipes her nose. “Guess you really are the genius your dad says you are.” Her words are brittle.
I frown. “You’re jealous of me and my dad?”
She shrugs. “You have everything, Penelope.”
I give her an incredulous look. “My mom is dead. I’m separated from her forever.” My voice grows louder. “Your mom is alive and well—and married to my dad.”
Margo swallows and looks away from me, shaking her head. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” She looks down. “You’re all he talks about, you know. How smart and talented you are.”
I blink. Oh.
She bites her lip. “My dad can barely stand me.”
I shake my head. “Mine is just trying to make up for being shitty before.”
“Well, don’t we make a fine pair then.” She picks at the green fabric on one of the pillows and continues. “Love sucks and doesn’t last. Don’t our parents know that?”
“Maybe when you find the right one, it changes things.”
She tries to tuck her flyaway hairs back into her headband, and I reach over and help her. “I’m sorry…for causing a scene. I got so worked up when I came to the meeting, and it hit home that I don’t have a date.” She chews at her lipstick. “And I’m sorry about embarrassing you. It was a shitty thing to do. I’m not myself since Kyle.”
I nod, accepting her apology.
She blinks away more tears, clearly still thinking about something…
The soft side of me can’t take it. She is my stepsister, and perhaps there’s a thread of something between us that can pull us closer.
“You’re one of the smartest women I know.”
A tiny smile flashes. “You really mean that?”
I adjust my glasses. “You took our academic standing to the top last year, and you weren’t even president. And Kyle is a douche.”
“An asshat with a stupid Rolex,” she says, her voice gathering strength. “And that Porsche he bought—trust me, he is totally compensating.”
I smile. This is the closest we’ve ever come to having a real conversation.
I stand. “We can sit here and cry or…” I nod toward the door. “Suck it up and get to work. Keri looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and odds are she’s planning on making SpongeBob SquarePants the theme of this party.”
Margo’s brows hit the roof. “Indeed.”
Of course, I’m exaggerating, but if that’s what it takes to get her claws back out…
I look at my nails. “Hmmm. Sometimes those pledges need to see who’s boss. This might be one of those times.”
She straightens her shoulders. “They have no idea what kind of hissy fit I can throw.”
She stands and we walk out of the room together.
We aren’t exactly friends, but my gut says we definitely aren’t enemies either.
The following week, I’m late for the library as usual and practically running as I juggle my backpack and a few extra books. I’ve just turned the corner around a big oak tree when I run into Ryker. We’ve seen each other in class this week, but either Connor has been talking to me or Ryker’s been surrounded by other players or jersey chasers. Sure, I could bust through the crowd and talk to him, but my heart knows the truth: we’re avoiding each other since his visit to my house.
We collide and several of my books fall to the ground.
Great. I inwardly groan at my penchant for always looking my worst—in other words, a shirt that says Mother of Dragons, orange skinny jeans with holes in them, and a pair of leopard flats. At least I have lipstick and mascara on and my hair is down and tame for once.
“Whoa!” he says as we stumble back, and he reaches out to steady me. “Slow down.”
“Sorry,” I murmur as I bend down to pick up the books.