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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Jwolf
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The English Year - 19. The Big Bad Wolf

"What you put in your article… what you did to Melanie Chu… I’m disappointed in you, Corbin. Very disappointed.”

Dr. Dawn Caroline Watson had more suffixes attached to her name than anyone I’d ever met. And as I walked into her office the next morning, I was greeted with framed evidence of just how badass she was.

Dawn Watkins had received dual degrees in Education and Business Administration from our illustrious alma mater. She went on to concurrently receive a JD and a MBA from University of Virginia. While serving as the James Madison University Dean of students, she received a Master of Science in Psychology. She had a certificate right behind her desk, framed by every other higher degree, declaring her the Interim President at Washington and Lee University, the first female president of the school in its almost 300 year history.

And now she was the Dean of Students at OD, a job a million people wanted; a job that put her in charge of the second largest public school endowment in Virginia; a job worthy of her badassery; a job that chilled me to my core, as I took a seat across from her and her certificates the next morning, ready to see the angry side of a faculty member I’d considered to be a friend for almost two years.

You see, Dean Watson and I had a history. After making a fool of myself at the Fancy Dress Ball my freshman year, she took me on as her pet project. With her mentorship, I was able to repair my reputation, both with the student body, and with all of the faculty who had seen me blacked out at the Ball and had a hard time taking me seriously.

She’d always supported my journalistic pursuits, and it was her ideas that helped me focus The Signature into the relationship advice column that it was.

With that being said, she wasn’t ever afraid to call me on my bullshit. I’d come close to the line several times, most of those times towing the line for Chi Beta. When the fraternity was under investigation the year before, I reached out to Dean Watson for help, and she said we’d earned every drop of the hot water we were in.

She could be my friend, my mentor, and my tennis partner, but she could also be fair. That was our relationship. But as intimidating as she was, as threatening as her oak desk and several diplomas were, I knew how to handle myself with her.

Or so I thought.

“Come in Mr. Crowley,” she said stoically after I knocked on her door with bare white knuckles. She answered a second later, as if she’d been waiting for me. And she probably had been. Since reading her summons the night before, she must have known my level of anxiety.

I had sat up in my bed for hours wondering how this meeting would go, and after running every scenario, every conversation through my mind, I still had no idea what kind of trouble I was actually in for.

Still, I resolved to keep my cool, hold my head high, and not back down. Melanie Chu might have gone for the jugular, emailing the Dean about how my article affected her, but I was the one with the Dean’s ear. I was the one with the history. I was the upperclassmen who had met her kids, sat in her home, and played tennis with her at her country club. In all of my anxiety, I imagined that that would count for something.

One look on Dean Watson’s face, and I knew that being an upperclassmen didn’t mean that I had the upper hand.

“Have a seat, Mr. Crowley.”

I took a deep breath, swallowed all of my fear, and with my face tight and stern, I sat down across from the Dean.

Dean Watson had a way of making her office either the most comfortable place to be, or the most repelling. Her desk was massive, dark, and intimidating. On the visitor’s side of the desk were two very comfortable wooden chairs that angled in to face each other. Any time I had come in to simply shoot the shit with the Dean, we both sat on that side of the massive desk.

On the other side of the desk was a tall backed leather chair that I’m sure could have reclined if it wanted to, but never did. I saw the Dean sit on that side of the desk one time, the morning after I flashed the entire school at the Fancy Dress Ball.

And that morning, because of what I’d done to Melanie Chu, Dean Watson sat across from me, with an ocean of desk separating us, for the first time in a very long time.

She took her glasses from atop the desk and put them on her face, pursed her lips, and looked at me with a stare that could have turned me to stone. I swallowed and told myself I couldn’t back down. I wouldn’t. I was strong, and I had done nothing wrong.

“You know why I called you here, Mr. Crowley,” the Dean said with tight lips, lifting her neck, and squinting her eyes. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement of fact. I did know.

I didn’t answer. Instead, I crossed my arms across my chest ever so slowly and breathed out as if I was bored. Of course I knew, I thought. But I couldn’t let her see me tremble. Trembling meant I knew I was in trouble, and knowing I was in trouble meant I had done something wrong.

“Why don’t you explain to me what it was that I read in the newspaper last night Mr. Crowley,” she said, her voice never raising above a whisper. She took a sip of water from the far corner of the massive desk. “Why don’t you explain to me what had me responding to emails from freshmen and dorm counselors all day, Mr. Crowley. Why don’t you please explain to me what you could have written in the paper to make a young girl cry in the middle of the dining hall, and have her parents call me at home on a Tuesday night while I was trying to spend time with my family, Mr. Crowley. Please. Explain to me exactly what it was that I read last night in your newspaper.”

“If you read it just last night, Dean, then I’m sure you know what I wrote.”

“Don’t be glib with me, Mr. Crowley. Today is not the day to be glib with me, do I make myself clear?”

Any time someone asked if they had made themselves clear, I decided in that moment, the best thing to do is nod and say nothing. Of course she made herself clear, and my toes were shaking under that desk to prove it.

Still, I matched her gaze and kept my face cool. I wasn’t going to back down.

“How in the world could you write something so cruel and so nasty about that girl?”

“Nothing that I wrote was untrue,” I countered with enough muscle behind my voice to mask the fact that I was terrified of the Dean.

“No one is accusing you of libel just yet.”

“Then what exactly am I doing here?”

“I’ve come to expect a great deal from you. After your rocky start, I would think you of all people would show a little compassion to a freshman who made a mistake.”

“I kept her anonymous, Dean,” I said, my voice verging on pleading. I wanted her to understand, but I didn’t want to show too much of my hand.

“I didn’t put her name in the paper.”

“And that makes what you wrote better?” she asked, her eyebrows perching above the rim of her glasses. I didn’t respond. “Not only was what you wrote tacky and unbecoming, but it wasn’t even particularly clever or eloquent. The student body deserves better from you.”

“With all due respect, Dean, shouldn’t I be having this conversation with my editor?”

I knew it was the wrong button to push, but I couldn’t help it. I knew it would get a rise out of her, but that didn’t stop me. I wanted her to see that I wasn’t backing down. I wasn’t intimidated. Melanie Chu could email all of the deans that she wanted, and I wasn’t going to bow down. Not today, and not to a freshman.

“Perhaps, Corbin, but instead you’re having this conversation with me. What in the world were you thinking? Did you think there’d be no ramifications for putting something so graphic and sordid in the school paper?”

“I was just reporting what I saw. What several people saw,” I replied. I took a deep breath, leaned forward subtly, and recited the speech I’d practiced twice in the shower and once on my walk over to the Dean’s office. “You think what I wrote was sordid and disgusting. You think those words were inappropriate? I don’t disagree with you, Dean, they were sordid, disgusting, and inappropriate. But what about the act itself? How disgusting was that? How disgusting was it for the students who were simply trying to enjoy a good dance party, but were instead treated to those two, that boy and that girl… molesting each other on the dance floor? What they did, they did in plain view. My response, my critique, my report to the student body of the goings on on this campus was nothing more than a mirror into the depravity of what we saw with our own eyes. I understand that my article put you in an awkward position, Dean, and for that, I apologize. However, I stand by what I wrote. I stand by every single letter of that paragraph, because if what you read was sordid and tacky to you Dean, then it’s the two students who committed the offense who should be sitting here right now, and not me.”

The Dean gave me a steely glare. She shifted in her seat, but didn’t say anything to me. In the years since that meeting, I’ve learned a thing or two about sales negotiations, and one of the first things I learned as a professional salesman was that the party to speak first after both sides had laid out their offers was the party that usually lost.

If I had known that then, I would have kept my mouth shut and matched the Dean’s glare.

“I’m not exactly sure what else you want me to say.”

“An apology for Melanie Chu would be nice. A retraction of some sort, Corbin. Some semblance of a notion that you understand what you did was wrong on so many levels.”

“I disagree with you on that one, Dean,” I replied with enough attitude to fill the room. She didn’t respond. Instead, she drilled into me with her eyes, shifted in her seat, and once again waited for me to continue speaking… digging.

“I won’t be apologizing, Dean,” I said, tilting my head defiantly. “I don’t think that I’ve done anything that warrants an apology.”

“I’m sorry that you feel that way,” Dean Watson said, leaning forward and pulling a file open on her desk. “Melanie Chu has formally requested that you go before the Student Faculty Hearing Board. She’s asking for a suspension.”

“On what grounds?” I raised my voice before she even had a chance to finish her sentence.

“Defamation of character and ungentlemanly conduct.”

“Oh, please,” I scoffed, leaning back in my chair. What a laugh, I thought. But looking at the Dean’s face, I knew she wasn’t joking. “You can’t be serious.”

“As a heart attack, Mr. Crowley. I told her that I would speak to you first, with the hopes that I could sway you into giving this girl the apology that she deserves. One sentence in your next article, and I’m sure I can talk her down. An apology for what you said, and a retraction for the actions you described.”

“I’ve never apologized for anything I’ve ever written, Dean Watson,” I replied, my eyes involuntarily welling up. I prayed she couldn’t see. “I’ve never… hmm hmm… I’ve been asked to retract dozens of things, and I’ve never done it.”

“Maybe it’s time to reconsider your retraction policy, Mr. Crowley.”

I was fuming. I was looking at Dean Watson, but all I could see was red. I could see Melanie Chu’s face, with a target right over her forehead. She’d played her card, and she’d played it well. And while it looked like I had no cards left in my deck, I was by no means finished playing mine.

“Does Melanie Chu understand exactly what goes in to a suspension hearing, Dean?” I asked, tempering my voice, and keeping my anger in check. “Does she know that the accused has the option to open the proceedings to the public? Does she know that every publication will have members of the press present?”

“I explained to her that your defense could get… aggressive.”

“Could?” I said, raising an eyebrow. My tone was threatening, but the dean had no intention of backing down. “I will come after her with everything I’ve got, you can tell her that.”

“That will be all, Mr. Crowley.”

“You know me, Dean Watson. You know that I didn’t mean… you know what I’ll have to do to defend myself,” I muttered. I was afraid that if I spoke in a full voice, smoke would escape from my mouth.

“Do what you have to, Mr. Crowley.” The Dean peered at me over her glasses. “But do not mistake me. I know you, and I know exactly what you’re capable of on this campus. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel for that poor girl. And that also does not mean that I won’t do everything in my power to see to it that she gets the retribution she deserves. What you put in your article… what you did to Melanie Chu… I’m disappointed in you, Corbin. Very disappointed.”

There comes a moment in every battle when you realize that you’re outmatched. As I retreated from Dean Watson’s office with her words reverberating in my mind, I knew that I’d been outclassed by the Dean, and by proxy, by a freshman slut who thought she could get me suspended from campus for airing her dirty laundry.

As much as I wanted to curl up in my bed and forget about the rest of the day, I couldn’t very well do that. I had to get all of the paperwork filled out for our Parent’s Weekend events that were a couple days away. In two days, two-thirds of the brothers of Chi Beta would be welcoming their mothers and fathers to our house with a cocktail party that I was responsible for putting together. The seniors were handling the dinner on Saturday afternoon, and the rush committee was putting together the annual Mother-Son beer pong tournament on Saturday night.

I registered all three weekend events while I was at Dean’s Row. Then I called Hutch and told him that I had left all the paper work in a cubby on the first floor.

“Is everything okay?” he asked, sensing my mood through my voice.

“I’m fine… I just…”

“Is it this Melanie Chu thing?” he asked without prompting. “There are some stories circulating.”

“If you think Melanie Chu is affecting me, you don’t know me,” I replied, hardening my voice.

“Corbin, we heard that you had to meet with-“

“Listen,” I cut him off. “The papers are in my Founder cubby. If you’ll just get them and deliver them to Dom or the officers, I’d appreciate it. I have a very busy day.”

I hung up the phone before I had to listen to another word about Melanie Chu come out of my pledge brother’s mouth.

I realized then that I couldn’t go home. I didn’t want to see anyone I knew. I didn’t even want to go to class that day. Instead of walking back to Chi Beta, where I’m sure my brothers would have been able to read my failure across my face like a short story, I walked to the library and hid myself in the basement, at my rarely, if ever, used carrel. I emailed my professors, telling them that I wasn’t feeling well, and not caring what my absence from campus in general would do to the rumor mill.

Instead of going into public for any reason, I parked it in the bowels of the library and stewed for as long as I needed to.

My mind raced all day long with ways to get back at Melanie Chu. If this hearing were in fact going to take place, I would have to set up an unimpeachable defense. The first amendment was on my side, I was sure, but I’d have to check what protection I had from punishment under the laws of private entity. I could combat the defamation of character claim by lining up witnesses who would testify that her character was defamed long before my article came along. I could shame her during the hearing, pointing out every single one of Melanie Chu’s character flaws. That would teach her a lesson, sure, but it wouldn’t help me against the ungentlemanly conduct portion of her claim.

That part was tricky. That was the part of the claim that scared me the most.

I needed a game plan, a battle strategy, and it needed to be so strong, so impenetrable, that it would send Melanie Chu running for the hills.

I was at a loss for the first time in my time there at OD. For the first time ever, I had no clue what to do.

“Where have you been hiding?” the Brit asked when I answered my phone for the first time that evening. The sun had been down, and I was fairly certain I was going through Vitamin D withdrawal from hibernating all day.

“I’m in the library,” I replied.

“I’m in the library,” he said, sounding somewhat confused through his accent. “I don’t see you.”

“I’m downstairs. At my carrel.”

“So you really are in hiding,” he said to me. “Is it safe to come down there?”

“If you must,” I replied flatly. “I’m not really in the mood to see anyone though.”

Not even the thought of the Brit’s beautiful eyes, glowing skin, and sexy accent could excite me out of my self-imposed exile.

“Well I’m not really just anyone,” he said confidently. “I’ll be downstairs in a second.”

The OD library was built into a cliff, such so that the main entrance was the first floor of the building. The other floors were numbered backwards, with the lowest floor of the building really being the fifth floor, at the bottom of the cliff that marked the northeastern edge of campus.

I pictured Pete walking down the stairs from the first floor, with its floor length windows, the beautiful sunset probably permeating the empty seats as the majority of students had put their studying away in lieu of pregaming the numerous midweek parties that were surely going on. If I wasn’t the only student in the library itself, I was definitely the only student in the basement floors, and I wondered what was going through Pete’s mind as he descended further and darker to find me.

“There you are,” I heard almost ten minutes later. He sounded almost out of breath. “This place is a bloody labyrinth.”

I smiled for the first time in over a day.

“So who sent the search party?” I asked.

“No one officially. Amanda wondered where you were, and she assumed you were camping out until the heat died down.” Pete pulled the neighboring carrel’s chair towards mine and sat down across from me. I swiveled around to face him, putting my left ankle on my right knee, and crossing my arms.

“Is there always this sort of backlash to your articles?”

“Only the good ones,” I quipped. “Not usually,” I said tempering my voice. “The only other time I ever dealt with this sort of scrutiny was last year when I published the number of girls who’d gone to the health center for morning after pills the day after Tear Night.”

Pete grimaced.

“I’m assuming it was a lot,” he said. “Even though I’m not sure what Tear Night is.”

“It’s the last day of formal rush. The drunkest night of the year, by far. Anyway, publishing those numbers was apparently crossing a very fuzzy HIPA line. Still, even then I wasn’t threatened with a suspension hearing.”

Pete’s eyes suddenly got big. He leaned forward ever so slightly.

“They want to suspend you?”

“Melanie Chu does, and Dean Watson is in her corner.”

“I thought you played tennis with all of the Deans,” Pete replied, remembering a passing detail I’d bragged about weeks ago.

“Just the one,” I correct. “Besides, when it comes to Dean Watson, she doesn’t play favorites for anyone,” I said, lowering my arms to lap. “If anything, being so familiar just makes things worse.”

Pete looked at me as if he didn’t understand.

“She said she was disappointed in me,” I explained.

“Ouch,” he breathed in. “That’s the worst thing an adult can say to you.”

“Exactly,” I said, cutting my eyes downward.

“What happens at the suspension hearing?”

“I’m not sure what happens at the actual hearing. These things hardly ever make it all the way to a hearing. Most students take the punishment that’ll keep the Student Faculty Board from suspending them and call it a day.”

“But you won’t…”

“I don’t know,” I whispered. “I don’t want to back down, you know? I can’t let some freshman slut beat me at my own game. If I do, if I apologize and issue a retraction, then nothing I write for the next two years will be taken seriously. I’ll have no social pull on this campus. My power is in people’s fear of my words, if they take that away from me… I don’t know.”

“And if you take it to a hearing? Will they suspend you?”

“I don’t think so. But then again, I didn’t think they’d call for a hearing in the first place.”

I didn’t tell Pete that I was scared. With Dean Watson on Melanie Chu’s side, I knew that the odds weren’t in my favor. There was a real chance that she’d sway the other members of the board to vote me out, to make an example out of me. They would call me a bully, and fighting against bullies was all the rage. I was being set up as the first casualty in the war against words.

“Aren’t you protected by the Constitution? What about that old thing?”

“That old thing,” I chuckled. “That old thing protects you from retribution by the United States Government. OD is a private entity, and they can punish you for anything you say.”

I had Googled it earlier that afternoon.

“It’s censorship. You’ll argue that it’s undue censorship.”

“Yeah,” I exhaled. “But they’ll make a cause out of it. Half the school will rally behind me, and the other half will rally behind the poor innocent slutty girl who I attacked in a public forum, stripping her of her rights to feel safe on campus. I know how this plays out, and with me being a public figure here, it doesn’t end well.”

“So what do you do?”

I shook my head. That’s what I’d been trying to figure out all day to no avail. What do I do? I couldn’t apologize and lose face. Every person I’d held a secret over to get my way would call my bluff. Every time I released the details of a scandal, the parties involved would call the Deans until I issued a retraction. I’d be apologizing for every column I would ever write for the next two years.

No, I thought. I couldn’t apologize and continue life at OD as I knew it.

And yet, if I didn’t, I’d be faced with a suspension. No one ever came back from that. Most students had their financial aid pulled along with their suspension, and to petition to reissue financial aid wasn’t worth the headache. My parents would be disappointed, ashamed, and embarrassed. They’d probably force me to move back home and finish school at University of North Texas in Denton.

I couldn’t face that either. I couldn’t face leaving OD, no matter how much I wanted to hold on to my pride and social standing. I couldn’t face leaving Chi Beta, my friends. I couldn’t face leaving Pete.

As I sat there across from Pete, I literally felt like I was between a rock, and a very hard place.

I stayed in the library for a few minutes after Pete left. He did his best to cheer me up, but ultimately, I wanted to wallow and stew for a little bit longer.

At about 10 o’clock that night, after being in hibernation for almost twelve hours straight, with the exception of sneaking to the Co-Op to get food, I packed up my things, put my best game face on, and walked back to the frat house.

I knew that we were hosting something that Wednesday night as soon as I approached the back steps. I was under the impression that parties and kickbacks during the week were being held at our off-campus house, but apparently the officers had decided to switch things up on that particular occasion.

I walked into the back entrance of the house, and tried to slide up the back steps onto the back landing without being noticed. Instead, on the back landing of the second floor, I was met by Dom and Oli, the last two seniors I wanted to see at that point.

“You’re alive,” Dom said, his Russian lisp grating every single one of my nerves. “We were wondering when you would be home.”

I hesitated on my last step up onto the landing. I took a deep breath, and gave them my best grin.

“Nice to see you too,” I blinked slowly.

“We need to talk,” Dom said, his voice dripping with just a little booze, and even more animosity.

“Are you dumping me?”

Dom shook his head slowly, not appreciating my attempt at humor. Oliver stood up, put his drink down by the side of the couch, and told Dominick he’d be back in a few. I watched as he waddled towards the Beirut room, and slowly closed the door.

“Have a seat,” Dom said.

“I’ll stand.”

“Do you have any idea what kind of shit storm you’ve caused?”

“No, Dom, I don’t have a single idea what kind of shit storm I’ve caused. Why don’t you tell me.”

“I got a call from the editors of The Constitution, Corbin.” The Constitution was the rival newspaper to The Founder. It was stuffy, staid, and read like a Vanity Fair wannabe publication, without the interesting covers of course.

“Oh? What did they want?”

“They wanted to know what the president of the fraternity whose house the most notorious junior on campus belongs to thought about you going up for a suspension hearing,” he said, his teeth barely pulling apart enough to let the words come out. “Do you know who else they called?”

“I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”I swallowed the brick that was in my throat and resolved to maintain my cool.

“They called nationals, Corbin. And they forwarded the story that you wrote to nationals. I spent two hours this afternoon explaining myself to Andrew Dreiling.”

“I’m sure that was grueling for you.”

“You’re being flippant and I don’t appreciate it.”

“Not once in the last five minutes have you asked me how I’m doing, Dom. Which, considering that I’m going up against the Student Faculty Hearing Board any day now, is surprisingly well, thank you very much.”

“You fucked up,” Dom raised his voice to match mine.

“Really? I don’t see it that way,” I countered, measuring every single one of my words. Dom gave me a stair that could have melted a block of ice.

“How do you see it, Corbin?”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you,” I said, starting to walk away. I was over Dom, but mostly I was over feeling guilty about something that I didn’t even feel guilty about. I’d called people out a million times in my column. Why was this the straw that broke this campus’ back? Why was I being backed into a corner by a freshman girl who couldn’t keep her legs closed to boys with sticky fingers? Why was I even having this fight?

“Don’t take another step,” Dominick threatened. Had he not sounded like he meant business, I would have kept walking.

“What?” I asked defiantly, turning back around to face him. “What do you want me to do? How can I possibly make this situation better for you, Dominick?”

“First of all, you can apologize to that girl. You can tell her that you’re sorry, and that you’ll write a retraction and do whatever it takes to get her to drop her complaint-“

“Give me a break.” I interrupted.

“-And second of all, you can show this brotherhood some respect-“

“Fuck this brotherhood.”

“- And behave, for once, like you’ve got this house’s interest at heart.”

“And who has my interest at heart? That bitch is trying to have me suspended for writing the truth about what she did in the paper. It’s not like no one saw her. It isn’t like I made this whole thing up just to shame her. I wrote what I saw, and you are more concerned with how this house looks to the few people that have rallied behind her slutty ass instead of sticking up for a brother of this fraternity. Who has my interests at heart, Dom? No one, except for me. So I’m sorry, I won’t be marching over to the freshman dorms any time soon and groveling at the feet of a whore who thinks she’s beaten me. I think, instead, I’ll go to my room, and come up with a defense for my suspension hearing, since, you know, it’s me who’s up for suspension here.”

I didn’t wait for Dominick to respond. I pulled my backpack up over my shoulder and stalked confidently to my bedroom. I could tell that Dom was shell-shocked, but I didn’t give a flying fuck. I was livid.

Halfway to my bedroom, I heard the sounds of a party going on in the Beirut room. I had every intention of walking passed the room without stopping. I had every intention of ignoring the revelry for one night, and laying low.

And then I heard her voice. It was distinct. It rang in the air, and penetrated the closed door like a cymbal in an orchestra. I stopped dead in my tracks, back peddled to the back landing, and looked Dom square in the face.

“She’s here?” I asked, my voice so icy, I thought I might see my breath.

“Who?”

“Melanie Chu? She had the nerve to come to my house? After trying to get me suspended?”

“Actually, the sophomores invited her.”

My knees almost buckled. I knew that no one was on my side for this, and I got that. But to invite her to my home? And the sophomores, really? They were the ones who had been cracking up about her the day after this whole thing went down. It was their making fun of her that gave me the idea to write about it in the first place. And they’d invited her over?

I was seeing more than crimson. I was seeing blood. I took in a deep breath.

“Wow. Okay.” It took me a second to form a rational thought. “Okay. You want me to apologize? Watch me apologize.”

He could hear the threat laced within my voice.

“Corb-“ I heard Dom call to me. I kept walking, dropped my back pack at the door, and flung it open.

There were two brothers playing beer pong against two freshmen, and when I walked in, they all stopped dead in their tracks. Newby held his ball above his head, mid shot, and stopped as soon as he saw me, as if he could sense the mission I was on.

Kelly, Sasha, and another one of their sisters were sitting on the two different couches with Hutch and assorted freshmen girls. I scanned the room until my eyes fell on Melanie Chu, sitting across from the Beirut table, holding a red solo cup in one hand and a full shot glass in another.

The room went silent when I burst in, initially because of the sheer force with which I opened the door. After the shock settled, the room stayed silent, due to my expression and the fact that I was obviously pissed off.

“Corbin,” Hutch said, standing up quickly. “Where have you been all day?”

I ignored his question.

“Enjoying the party, Melanie?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. I wasn’t in danger of not being a heard. A pin dropping to the ground would have been heard. She shuffled in her seat uncomfortably, making a show of acting confident, and doing a poor job of it. “Are you enjoying your cocktail, and your shooter?”

She didn’t answer.

“Come in the hall with me,” I demanded with a smile, still speaking at just above a whisper. “I’d like to talk to you.”

I watched her cross her legs slowly and defiantly.

“We can talk about whatever you’d like in here,” she replied, doing her best to appear unfazed by my demeanor.

“I’m doing you a favor, doll,” I said slowly. “Come in to the hall.”

“I’m good,” was all that she said. I let out a soft chuckle.

“I was trying to be nice in front of your friends, but if you’d rather do this in public…”

“You’ve already done your worst to me, Corbin,” she said.

“Corbin, dude,” Newby warned from across the Beirut table. I didn’t even notice him.

“My worst?” I laughed. “You haven’t seen my worst, doll.”

“That’s true,” Hutch muttered under his breath. He sat back down, resigning himself to the fact that was I going to do what I came in to do, regardless of what he said or did to stop me.

“But if you want to do this here, then we’ll do this here. Finish your drink, take your shot, and then get the fuck out of my house. As long as I’m up for suspension, you aren’t welcome here anymore.”

My voice was soft but strong. I could feel the trill travel across the room like a soft wind, and shake Melanie Chu. I must say, she impressed me with how composed she remained. Any lesser freshman would have trembled. She kept her arms still as she uncrossed her legs, and planted her feet on the ground to steady herself from my verbal attack.

“This party is on campus. Campus parties are always open,” she replied.

“Like your legs,” I quipped. The two freshmen boys at the table let out a chuckle. Melanie shook her head slowly and licked her lips. She made a deliberate show about sitting back in her chair and not moving.

“You think because you emailed the Dean that somehow you’ve won this little thing? That I’m going to apologize to you, take everything back, step down from the newspaper? And then what? You continue on like nothing ever happened? You continue to go to parties with my friends, rush and join a sorority with my friends? Hangout with my friends? Guess what, bitch, I can email people too. When I leave here, guess who I’m going to send an email to? My friends. Every president, recruitment chair, and social chair of the five sororities on this campus, all of whom happen to be friends of mine. Fifteen emails, to your one. In fact, I think I’ll forward that email to every president and social chair of every fraternity on campus as well. And in those emails, I will describe just what a dirty and disgusting cancer you are on this campus. Everyone has secrets, Melanie Chu, and I’m in the business of finding those secrets, and I will not rest until everything you’ve ever done since you stepped foot on this campus is in every house’s inbox so that you would be lucky to get within fifteen feet of the door of any house on this campus. And when rush comes around, sweetheart, while you’re friends are all tearing their bids, and joining their houses, you will be sitting in your dorm room in Jefferson Hall looking up plane tickets home and begging your parents to let you fly back to whatever bumfuck backwoods town spat you out. And if I get suspended, if it goes that way, I will be back in January. And I will not rest until your life on this campus is a living hell, and all you have left to keep you warm at night are transfer papers and the memory of what I’ve done to you. So with that said, bitch, finish your drink. Take your shot, and then get the fuck out of my house before I call security and have your thrown out.”

The looks on everyone’s faces were of complete and utter shock. No one thought I’d take it that far. But no one knew that I was pushed up against the wall. I was facing being kicked off campus, and if I had to intimidate the hell out of this little girl to get her off her crusade, I was going to do just that. If I were in her shoes, I would have emailed the Dean right then and took back my complaint.

But she didn’t. She sat there and she chose to defy me.

“You don’t scare me, Corbin,” she said. I smiled, a chilling smile. A smile I had only used a couple of times before to get what I wanted. A smile that could have frozen the eyes of anyone in the room. A smile I reserved for very special occasions. I saw her wince, her first sign of intimidation.

“Okay,” I said, pulling out my phone, and beginning to dial. I chuckled softly to myself. “That’s a big mistake.”

Without hesitating, I called Larry, the head of campus security, whom I’d smartly befriended my freshman year, and who’d kept me out of more trouble than I was even aware of. When Chi Beta had been busted the year before, leading to our investigation and strike, Larry had called to warn me that things were about to go down. I could always count on Larry for help. And that night, I didn’t hesitate to dial his number.

“Larry,” I said. “Yeah, it’s good to hear from you too. Listen, there’s a girl who’s been banned from our house, and she refuses to leave. Well, she is a liability Larry, and with the university watching us so closely, we can’t have blackout underage girls running around. No, Larry, she was drunk when she got here. I appreciate it, Larry. I’ll see you when you get here. Bye.”

I turned off my phone deliberately, and put it back in my pocket.

“You have ten, maybe fifteen minutes before, my friend, Larry gets here and escorts you off my property. I suggest you get your shit, and get out.”

I didn’t wait for a response that time. Instead, I turned on my heels, and walked straight into my bedroom. I didn’t even have a second to enjoy my victory before Hutch made his way into my bedroom. I was putting my backpack down on my couch when I felt my cat circle my leg, and heard my pledge brother close my door.

“That was harsh, even for you,” he said meekly.

“Lay off me. I’m not the one you want to mess with right now,” I retorted, still high off my thrashing of Melanie Chu.

“Corbin, we’re not in the business of making freshmen girls cry,” he said sharply. If anyone knew how to put me in my place, it was Hutch, but even then, I was incapable of seeing reason. All I saw was red.

I turned my head quickly, and faced Hutch.

“Do you know what I was dealing with before I got called into the Dean’s office today?” I asked him, my breath short, and my temper even shorter. “In the past week, I’ve had to deal with the Brit accusing me of not liking him anymore, when every ounce of my body is in love with him. I’ve had to deal with dumping Mike the cadet because I was one fuck away from being his pathetic… thing. I’ve had to deal with all of you guys finding out that I fucked Lee, and all of the jabs and looks that’s gotten me. Not to mention, not to mention, that I was rejected from the one thing I actually looked forward to doing this year in the Ad Class. I’m spiraling, Chad, and I don’t have time to defend myself to you all. I don’t have time to mince my words with that girl that’s trying to get me suspended. I just… I don’t. And I’m sorry if that makes your rush strategy that much more difficult, but guess what, I’m in this house, the big bad wolf lives in this house, and if those freshmen want in this house, they’ll have to do deal with me when I’m spiraling. So I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell me that we aren’t in the business of making freshmen cry, and if you wouldn’t tell me that what I’m doing is completely fucked up. I know that it is, but I have no other ideas of how to deal with this right now.”

I realized by the end of that whole thing that I was crying, physical tears. I’d kept my fear and my anger in check for so long that day, that it was physically pouring out of me. I felt bad for yelling at Hutch, seeing as to the fact that he was the very last person who deserved it. But he was the one standing there when my emotions finally reached a boiling point, and therefore he was the one that got the burn.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized, wiping my nose, and sitting down on my bed. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cried out loud, and I knew that Hutch felt bad for starting in on me.

“I’m sorry,” I said again. Mister jumped up on my bed, and I pulled her in under my arm.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated a third time, to a very still Hutch, who I’m sure hadn’t blinked since my tirade.

“It’s okay,” he replied finally. “Listen, you just… you take it easy, and let me know how I can help you deal with all of this. I’m sorry for barging in here.”

He retreated as if I was made of glass. I heard the door close, and Hutch say something to someone who was standing right outside of it. I leaned back and collapsed on my bed, wondering how everything had fallen apart so quickly.

I had no clue what my next move was, and truthfully, I didn’t care at that moment. I’d gone through the gamut of emotions that day, and it felt good to lay there and feel nothing but the purring of my cat next to my chest.

Looking back at that year, there was never a time that I felt more alone. There was never a time that I felt more vulnerable and exposed. There was never a time that I wanted out, to leave OD, and never look back.

I knew that wasn’t possible. OD was my world, and I had almost broken my entire world in order to protect my place in it. And so instead of running, I did what any warm blooded human being would do when they had nothing left. I laid there until the crying stopped, and I could hold a rational thought in my brain.

I needed a break. That much was clear when my mind reawakened at around 11:30 that night. If I was going to get through this, I had to clear my head, and return in the morning with a full plan of action. Parent’s Weekend was right around the corner, and I wanted this whole ordeal behind me before the barrage of parents and plastered smiles hit campus in two days.

And so before I put my mind to fixing my life’s problems, I decided to take a break. I decided to make a call that, in any other situation, I might have regretted. In any other situation, I might have felt weak, or confused. But I was of sound mind that night. I was the one using someone else for a mind-eraser. It was my call. And so I decided to reach out to someone who I could always count on to take my mind off of all of the goings on at OD.

I called Mike.

“I thought you were done with this,” he said softly into his phone. I could tell he was surprised to get my phone call. “I thought you were taking a few steps back.”

“We’re never done with this, sir,” I replied, my mind clear for the first time that day. I knew what I was doing. For the first time that day, my voice was clear, and not simply pretending to be clear.

“What’s going on with you?” he asked.

“I don’t want to talk about what’s going on,” I replied flatly. “I don’t want to talk about anything.”

“So then what do you want to do?” I could almost hear his eyebrow rise on his face. “Exactly?”

“I want you to come over here and make me forget the last twenty-four hours ever happened.”

“Corbin, I-“

“Please don’t ask, Mike,” I interrupted. “Please don’t say that you can’t. If you like me, if you’ve ever liked me as more than just a friend, you’ll do this for me. You’ll come over, and you’ll spend however long you can with me, not asking me what’s wrong, and just making me feel better. Please. Don’t make me beg you.”

There was a long pause. I heard a shuffle, and I was sure it was Mike standing up or getting out of bed.

“I can make you feel good, Corbin,” he replied softly. A smile crept across my face. “Give me a minute to put some pants on, and I’ll be over there to make you feel very, very good.”

I put down my phone, and returned to my laying position with Mister, until the one cure-all I knew of arrived at my door.

Thank you all so much for all of your support and patience! I know it's been a while since I updated, but hopefully good things come to those who wait. I plan to return to once every week posting schedule, and to continue to write this story until it reaches it's dramatic climax. With that said, I always appreciate your reviews, comments, and thoughts. When you're done, please leave a review, and head over to the forum board to join in on the dialogue about these characters :)

Copyright © 2016 Jwolf; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



I've got to say, I'm totally on Corbin's side about his blind item. It seems incredibly heavy-handed for University staff to be getting involved at all, let alone the possibility of suspension.

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Another great chapter! I was waiting for this update since ages but I must say it was worth the wait.

 

Corbin's frustration is understandable with all the drama with Pete, Mike, Lee and now this article. He needs comfort and someone there for him. I am sure things will be better for him in coming chapter.

 

Corbin is the most interesting and different yet complex character I have ever read. I hope I'll read more of him soon so please update.

 

Thanks for the great chapter. Looking forward for more.

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So you are back... Ummm wow what you have done with Corbin. It's funny to have seen it from the outside, the times I have had to do what I have had to do no matter how horrid an ass I would come off as, knowing the impression that everyone would be left with believing that it is so easy to umm be aggressive. If this is really autobio kudos on your resilience. If it is fiction, fantastic job on keeping the character human and making us think of all the shades of gray that we dont always see. Lol your writings been missed, do it again and hell hounds are on call. Just saying. XD

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Wellllll nowwwww. Imagine my surprise when I wandered over here to see my favorite wolf back cavorting amongst the people. Please refrain from going away for so long. I like this story and I am spoiled. Oh and quite personally. Corbin did the exact right thing. That stupid hootchie mama is a freshman. To let her go on that way would not allow her to learn a valuable life lesson. He did her a favor. Man I felt sorry for him though. He will be ok though because he is that kind of strong. Welcome back.

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On 05/20/2014 03:36 AM, Irritable1 said:
I've got to say, I'm totally on Corbin's side about his blind item. It seems incredibly heavy-handed for University staff to be getting involved at all, let alone the possibility of suspension.
Heavy handed or not, he's still got to answer for it. More on that to come...
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On 05/20/2014 03:48 AM, sacredlove said:
Another great chapter! I was waiting for this update since ages but I must say it was worth the wait.

 

Corbin's frustration is understandable with all the drama with Pete, Mike, Lee and now this article. He needs comfort and someone there for him. I am sure things will be better for him in coming chapter.

 

Corbin is the most interesting and different yet complex character I have ever read. I hope I'll read more of him soon so please update.

 

Thanks for the great chapter. Looking forward for more.

Wow, thanks for that compliment! I'm glad goatee that our protagonist is complex and interesting... That's always the goal! Thanks again.
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On 05/20/2014 04:23 AM, starrynight said:
So happy to see this update. Can't wait for the next one.
I'm glad to be back! Thanks for the review.
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On 05/20/2014 11:08 AM, gabriel_salinas said:
So you are back... Ummm wow what you have done with Corbin. It's funny to have seen it from the outside, the times I have had to do what I have had to do no matter how horrid an ass I would come off as, knowing the impression that everyone would be left with believing that it is so easy to umm be aggressive. If this is really autobio kudos on your resilience. If it is fiction, fantastic job on keeping the character human and making us think of all the shades of gray that we dont always see. Lol your writings been missed, do it again and hell hounds are on call. Just saying. XD
Thanks for the review! It's easy to draw the shades of gray because Corbin is so closely based on myself in college. He can be right and he can be wrong, but he'll always defend himself and his actions. Wait until you see him really up against the wall. More to come :)
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On 05/20/2014 11:18 AM, Carrie76 said:
Wellllll nowwwww. Imagine my surprise when I wandered over here to see my favorite wolf back cavorting amongst the people. Please refrain from going away for so long. I like this story and I am spoiled. Oh and quite personally. Corbin did the exact right thing. That stupid hootchie mama is a freshman. To let her go on that way would not allow her to learn a valuable life lesson. He did her a favor. Man I felt sorry for him though. He will be ok though because he is that kind of strong. Welcome back.
Thanks, Carrie. It's good to be back. There's still quite a bit of story to tell so I don't anticipate going anywhere anytime soon.
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On 05/20/2014 03:27 PM, bluerobe said:
So glad you're back.
Glad to be back :)
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Guest andydandy

Posted

I was rather happily surprised to see the number 19 appear next to the number of chapers.... I am quite eager to read the rest of it, please don't keep me waiting for so long again !

Even though I'm pretty sure I would have reacted like Corbin, am I the only one who feels sorry for the so called slut ? Besides, he hides behind his honesty, but it's not like he's a whistleblower of any kind, he's just worried about his "social pull". I like his pride, but he is partially full of crap if he thinks ethics are on his side...

thanks for the update, keep them coming !!!

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On 05/21/2014 05:26 AM, andydandy said:
I was rather happily surprised to see the number 19 appear next to the number of chapers.... I am quite eager to read the rest of it, please don't keep me waiting for so long again !

Even though I'm pretty sure I would have reacted like Corbin, am I the only one who feels sorry for the so called slut ? Besides, he hides behind his honesty, but it's not like he's a whistleblower of any kind, he's just worried about his "social pull". I like his pride, but he is partially full of crap if he thinks ethics are on his side...

thanks for the update, keep them coming !!!

Andydandy, thanks for the review! I'll try my best not to keep you waiting any more :) I'm sure you're not the only one concerned for the little girl, and you shouldn't be. That's one of the reasons I love writing first person (and CANT right third person) is because we get to sympathize and get to know the main character... I'm sure Melanie's story would describe Corbin a LOT differently... more to come!
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Jon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You don't know how excited I was to see this updated!!!!! :):):)

 

I am SO glad you're back!!!! You were missed!!!!

 

I was also thrilled that you have not lost the voice of Corbin. He is still the same guy we have all grown to love and want to smack upside the head at times! lol

 

I think it's great that he wants to stick to his guns and not back down with this whole suspension hearing thing. But on the other hand, being suspended is a big thing. Would it hurt that much to give in?

 

I think Melanie is playing the suits. She's crying in public places in order to have witnesses so everyone thinks she was wronged, but we saw her at the party; she's just a little freshman slut. lol I don't know what her angle is or why she's even doing this, but she's really screwing with Corbin and not in the good way. haha, ok, that was lame, lol Sorry. She's getting the higher-ups to feel pity for her when it seems like she's doing this all on purpose. I wonder why.

 

Terrific chapter, as always Jon. Can't wait for the next one! :2thumbs:

 

Welcome back!!!!

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What perfect pleasure.just what I have beem waiting for all these months and days and weeks and hours. My boy Corbin don't let this Chu woman get in your face. Her attitude sucks, excuse the pun. Send those emails! Get photo proof for evidence. Turn her life into a living hell. If she comes to you with an apology, tell her to stuff off and make sure you record that apology then destroy her. You cannot believe how angry I AM. As for Pete, well, I can't even begin to tell you just how immature you are that you can't see love right in front of you. And not even a hug for my Corbin. Shame on you! So so so livid.

 

I loved every second of this chap. I love the way you write. Now stay!

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On 05/21/2014 04:41 PM, LJH said:
What perfect pleasure.just what I have beem waiting for all these months and days and weeks and hours. My boy Corbin don't let this Chu woman get in your face. Her attitude sucks, excuse the pun. Send those emails! Get photo proof for evidence. Turn her life into a living hell. If she comes to you with an apology, tell her to stuff off and make sure you record that apology then destroy her. You cannot believe how angry I AM. As for Pete, well, I can't even begin to tell you just how immature you are that you can't see love right in front of you. And not even a hug for my Corbin. Shame on you! So so so livid.

 

I loved every second of this chap. I love the way you write. Now stay!

I'll stay put, Louis! Love the intensity in this review. I'm glad you liked this chapter, but I suspect your lividity will be around next chapter as wll...
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On 05/21/2014 12:13 PM, Lisa said:
Jon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You don't know how excited I was to see this updated!!!!! :):):)

 

I am SO glad you're back!!!! You were missed!!!!

 

I was also thrilled that you have not lost the voice of Corbin. He is still the same guy we have all grown to love and want to smack upside the head at times! lol

 

I think it's great that he wants to stick to his guns and not back down with this whole suspension hearing thing. But on the other hand, being suspended is a big thing. Would it hurt that much to give in?

 

I think Melanie is playing the suits. She's crying in public places in order to have witnesses so everyone thinks she was wronged, but we saw her at the party; she's just a little freshman slut. lol I don't know what her angle is or why she's even doing this, but she's really screwing with Corbin and not in the good way. haha, ok, that was lame, lol Sorry. She's getting the higher-ups to feel pity for her when it seems like she's doing this all on purpose. I wonder why.

 

Terrific chapter, as always Jon. Can't wait for the next one! :2thumbs:

 

Welcome back!!!!

Lisa! Thanks for all of your encouraging messages while I was away! You seriously rock. Glad you enjoyed the chapter. Wait until you see what Corbin finds out about Melanie, and what e decides to do...
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I thought long and hard before starting this story. I thought hmmmm, started in 2012 and we're only on chapter 19, posted almost a year after chapter 18. Enjoying the story, but come on! So long between chapters? You must have SOME idea of where this going. Why not finish it and put all of us out of our misery!

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On 05/22/2014 06:58 AM, pfox25 said:
holy fuck... :) So glad you picked it up again
Thanks for the holy fuck! Can't wait to see what you think moving forward.
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On 05/22/2014 01:55 PM, Coastguard said:
I thought long and hard before starting this story. I thought hmmmm, started in 2012 and we're only on chapter 19, posted almost a year after chapter 18. Enjoying the story, but come on! So long between chapters? You must have SOME idea of where this going. Why not finish it and put all of us out of our misery!
Thanks for the review mr coastguard. There's always some risk in starting a work in progress, but I'm glad you did. Seeing as to this story is based on actual events, I know exactly where it's all headed. Putting paper to pen takes some time, but I don't anticipate any more super long breaks. Thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments moving forward :)
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I think what I loved most about this chapter (apart from the fact that there was a next chapter at all :) ) was the reaction Hutch had to Corbin throwing a fit. Hopefully he and the other frat brothers will now finally wake up to the fact that they have been less than supportive. Corbin has lots of issues and makes mistakes, but he always does his best to increase the social standing of his house. And even though I find the whole social climbing utterly absurd, the loyalty Corbin has to his frat is admirable.

Can't wait to read the next bit with Mike, I like that guy. Hope he doesn't end up too heart broken. I'm not sure what's worst: Being a gay guy in love with a guy in the closet or being a guy trapped in the closet made by society being in love with a gay guy (who is out).

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