“Remember, Laughter is ten times more powerful than screams.” – Mike (Monsters Inc.)
Christmas was getting closer but one thing was coming up I wasn’t looking forward to: FINALS. Brian and I were going nuts studying….so much that many nights we ended up hitting the books all night long. Classes were taking their toll and lack of sleep made us cranky.
I kept to myself while Brian studied and took walks so I wouldn’t overload. One morning I decided to go get some coffee and ran into someone I wasn’t expecting.
“AJ?” I muttered. He was alone, and to my surprise- sober. Then again, it was ten in the morning. He didn’t have Howie or anyone else with him so I approached him slowly.
“Carter!” he called over to me as he waved. I ordered my coffee and we sat down at the table to talk.
“I just wanted to say I am sorry for Howie ruining your date with…”
“Crystal.” I said bitterly. My face still stung when I thought of her.
“I tried to tell him not to do that.” AJ said as I almost choked on my coffee. I was really confused. Every time Howie came to get me, he blamed him….now I wasn’t so sure AJ had anything to do with it.
“You did? What about everything else? Howie told me you really wanted me for the frat.” I said. AJ looked at me and shook his head.
“He pretty much runs shit behind my back, I never realized until recently. He’s a bully, I heard all the stuff he did to you, I never wanted any of that.”
“Yeah. I thought the Spice Girls shit was funny but I didn’t want them to make you clean our house. The hazing stuff was out of control. So I was hoping I’d run into you to talk to you about it.” AJ said. I sipped at my coffee and just stared, feeling like he was telling the truth, but part of me was nagging. How did I know Howie wasn’t fucking with me yet again?
“Our dads went to college together.” I said.
“Yeah I know. They weren’t really friends, so I can’t tell you much. Just some old pictures we keep as a record of alumni and stuff.”
“I’d like to see them.” I smiled. AJ and I went to the frat house and he showed them to me as we hung out and talked. AJ was nothing like Howie and he was actually a cool guy.
“This is from when your dad had the toga party the last year he was here. Is that your mom with him?” AJ said, holding up the picture. I looked at it. The woman had brown hair and definitely did not look like my mother.
They were kissing.
“No, that isn’t her. This is weird.” I said. I wondered for a moment if it was Brian’s mother but shook that thought out of my head. There was no way.
“Maybe it’s his college girlfriend….” AJ said. They were in a few more pictures together, holding hands and just partying. We heard someone yelling downstairs and figured out that it was Howie.
“He’s such an ass.” I said bitterly.
“A lot of the brothers don’t like him. He thinks he’s in charge around here when I’m too drunk to notice.” AJ commented. He had told me a lot while I was with him, how Howie was a huge manipulator.
“You could always get back at him.” I suggested with a smirk.
“I think someone tried that. Our kitchen still smells like fish.”
I busted out laughing, remembering what Brian and I had done.
“That was me. Sorry about that.” I confessed. A smile appeared on his face.
“Wanna help me get back at him some more?”
He didn’t even have to ask.
It took us quite a while to set this prank up but AJ told me it was a classic and sure to work. Plus we had used a lot of butter to grease the floors in certain spots.
“Howie, can you come into the foyer?” AJ called. Howie came marching in but looked pissed.
“What the hell is he doing here? He’s not welcome HERE!!!” he screeched as his feet slid. AJ and I were full blown belly laughing at the sight of him slipping and sliding. He fell on his ass but got up, then fell again. Even some of the brothers were laughing.
“Someone help me!” Howie yelled. Brock and Gary stumbled over and they all fell in a heap. The three of them tumbling over made it even more hilarious. I was gonna piss myself if this kept up.
Howie finally managed to stand and start walking over to us, but he slipped again. He slid and I opened the door, he went flying off the steps and right into a giant mud puddle outside. Everyone was laughing as he splashed.
AJ walked over, smiling at Howie.
“For lying to a pledge and running things behind my back…..you are on double probation until further notice. Now go clean up.”
A few of the brothers cheered, me included. Howie stormed up to me pointing a muddy finger in my face and opening his mouth.
“Furthermore- you better not do anything else to Carter, because if I get wind that you have….you will need to find yourself a dorm. I don’t want our frat to be known for hazing.” AJ added. Howie growled and stomped into the house, leaving muddy footprints.
I was so happy when I went back to the dorm, but I knew hell was going to be starting. I had a lot of exams coming the week before christmas, and I was not looking forward to any of it. Brian had invited me and Kevin to Kentucky for Christmas.
I’d borrowed the picture of my dad and the college girl, I was gonna ask Kevin what that was about for sure. As far as I knew, my dad didn’t have a lot of girlfriends in school. Why did this girl look so familiar?
It was definitely weird.
I woke up the morning of finals week with my head swimming. I grabbed a coffee on the way to my exams, not sure how I was gonna get through them. I was pretty sure things were gonna work out, I wasn’t exactly a genius but I wasn’t an idiot either.
All I wished was for this week to be over so I could just enjoy my vacation. Kentucky seemed like a great idea. I was looking forward to meeting Brian’s family and seeing where he grew up, what could possibly go wrong?