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Meanwhile, Casey's brother Rusty wants to create a truly spectacular legacy ...
Meanwhile, Casey's brother Rusty wants to create a truly spectacular legacy for his fraternity, Kappa Tau, and KT prez Cappie is hoping to live up to Casey's expectations for their fragile new relationship. The pressure is getting to everybody. When Casey goes overboard trying to advise Rebecca on how to win Sweetheart, things reach the breaking point. Will a surprise finish to the competition shake everything apart, or is it just the shock needed to bring best frenemies together?
Winter had become spring and spring had become summer, then fall, and Casey was standing in the same place Frannie had stood a year earlier, looking down on Rebecca Logan, who awaited her own destiny. That destiny was not president—not yet—but the all-important stepping-stone position of Omega Chi sweetheart, a sappy but respectable Greek honor if there ever was one. It was an honor that involved prestige, sucking up and an interminable amount of waiting. At the moment, they were at the waiting stage.
Rebecca sat on the antique yet well-maintained couch in the bright sunny hallway of ZBZ, looking far less patient than Ashleigh, who in her capacity as president sat beside her as a personal cheerleading squad. It was nomination day, a harrowing day when the Omega Chi fraternity brothers went from sorority house to sorority house, giving white roses to each nominee for sweetheart, one for each house. Casey's year, ZBZ had been last. Looking at the clock, she saw this was probably the case again, as it was already three o'clock, the ending hour of the procession.
"Rude!" Ashleigh announced, jumping to her feet. "They're late! They're always late. Guys, right?"
"Maybe they're not coming." Rebecca didn't sound defeated so much as disinterested. But her real feelings were harder to read.
"They have to nominate someone. We're fourth-ish—not eighth!" True, ZBZ had slipped in the sorority rankings with the scandals of the past two years, but they were hardly on the bottom. They just weren't on the top. "Can we even be fifth? Without like, chickens flying?"
"Pigs," Rebecca corrected. "Pigs fly."
"Pigs can't fly."
"Neither can chickens. But the saying is pigs. 'When pigs fly.'"
"It doesn't matter," Casey interrupted. "No flightless animals are flying. ZBZ is gaining in the rankings and they have to nominate one of us. There are ancient rules, probably going back to when CRU was a college for landowners' sons and the cafeteria served mead."
"Then there would have been no girls."
"That's not the point!"
"Negativity!" Ashleigh announced. "No negative vibes around our sweetheart." She waved her arms around Rebecca as if to scatter any tiny flies or evil invisible pixies. Instead she looked more as though she was dusting her.
"I'm not a piece of furniture. Besides, we don't even know I'm going to be nominated."
"Please," Casey said. "Who else are they going to nominate?"
"Yeah, snaring Evan is kind of an in," Ashleigh blurted, and Casey glared at her. "I was just saying the obvious. I'm sure they would have picked you anyway!"
Casey sighed. In addition to her kick-ass speech, dating Evan Chambers, president of Omega Chi, was probably the deciding factor the previous year. It had all been so romantic— her supersweet boyfriend giving her a rose in front of a choir of neatly dressed Omega Chis, being fawned over (in a respectful way) by her sisters. She had felt as if she was glowing. Now it was Rebecca's turn—to be nominated and, apparently, to be dating Evan Chambers. "Whatever. It's—I'm so past that. This year is about Rebecca."
"It could be Ashleigh," Rebecca pointed out. "She's way more excited about the whole sweetheart thing anyway."
"And already president of ZBZ," Ashleigh said. "They like up-and-coming girls. Ouch. No pun intended. Wait, was there even a pun in there?"
"And the four other nominees."
"Who are hopefully not dating Evan."
"Boys don't cheat on me," Rebecca said. "And there's a difference between Evan and the rest of Omega Chi—the fraternity Ashleigh snubbed last year for the Lambda Sigs."
"Hey, that was a decision. As a house."
"That you made spontaneously and the Omegas have never forgiven us for."
"No fighting!" Casey said. "We have to look poised and pretty, as if we've communed with the gentlewoman we're theoretically supposed to be in the alternative reality this contest seems to take place in. You know, with aprons and muffins and doilies. We're supposed to be sweet."
"So I'm a housewife now?" Rebecca said. "Why do I want this again?"
"Because the Omega Chi sweetheart is not just someone's girlfriend. The sweetheart is the perfect girl. The girl guys want to bring home to their moms because they're proud of how awesome she is, and how she is not the campus skank.
That's why a Tri-Pis has never won. But the sweetheart is also the girl who all his friends wish that they could have too, because she is fun and the hottest girl on campus. More important, it's the indicator of who will get voted ZBZ president, and it's public recognition of the best house on campus."
Instead of being encouraged, Rebecca just stewed. She was so good at it, with her dark eyes glaring like the hardest of diamonds—beautiful but icy. "If I was even remotely interested in girls, I would go lesbian right now. And hard. Lesbians don't have to meet moms."
"Lesbian girlfriends have moms. I mean, if they're talking to their moms. Then they have moms. And they bake muffins sometimes, too, so don't think you're getting out of that!" Ashleigh shook her finger at Rebecca. When Rebecca didn't soften, Ashleigh changed her demeanor. "Of course you don't have to actually bake muffins. That's what the hasher is for." The hasher was good for cooking their meals, general cleanup and, on the occasion that they hired a campus hottie, a good hookup.
"Yeah, we're liberated women," Casey said.
"Is that why your room is pink and we have ceremonies where people hold a cat doll named Pussy?"
"Pussy Willow, and yes. Or it's because pink is a pretty color." Casey looked at the clock again nervously.
"I still say you're jumping to conclusions. It might not be me. It could be Ashleigh."
"Even aside from your Evan, er, connection, I'm an outgoing senior. They have to give it to someone younger so that she has a year to be available to fulfill her sweetheart duties. Which involve Case, what do they involve?"
"That. Existing. Which I won't next year, except as an annoying alumna who is not yet old and rich enough to hit up for money at Founder's Weekend. So, not even on ZBZ's radar for another twenty years, unless I become some kind of executive at a law firm. Which would be in an alternate universe where I take the LSATs."
"You could date an executive in a law firm."
"Now that's feminism at work," Rebecca said.
Casey was about to comment when the doorbell rang. Ashleigh squealed and opened it to a crowd of Omega Chis, dressed in their ultrapreppy blue blazers and khakis, complete with red ties. All they needed were ascots and they were ready for an afternoon of yachting on their imaginary boat near landlocked CRU. Still, it did make them look dashing, especially when they were so sincere about it as they serenaded the first three people they encountered at ZBZ. They were decent singers, too—a result of mediocre talent but lots of practice and lots of heart. Even Rebecca, normally implacable, looked a little overwhelmed as Evan provided her with a white rose.
"Rebecca Logan," he said, "we are proud to nominate you for Omega Chi sweetheart."
If Rebecca wouldn't swoon, Casey felt that she might almost have to oblige instead.
"It was so romantic."
It was not the first time the phrase was uttered, but this time it was by another ZBZ and not Ashleigh, as if other people had been there. Some girls did hear the singing and rushed down, but most were elsewhere and had to hear about Rebecca's nomination and moon over it secondhand. With even more gossip and exaggerated retellings, Casey couldn't blame Rebecca for looking as though she wanted to throw up.
The ZBZ house had turned into a hub of activity, not all of it mindless chatter over the nomination. The pledges were especially excited to see something good happen—something not related to being unpopular, winning or losing competitions, having their party walked out on or burning down a house. From a certain perspective, accidentally setting another sorority on fire was pretty interesting, but it was more terrifying than anything else. The sweetheart nomination was a good thing—for Rebecca and the house by association—and they wanted good things to continue. They wanted her to win. Dale, their current hasher, couldn't keep them supplied with enough snacks as they chattered about the sweetheart nomination.
"No signs!" Casey said. Somehow a pledge had found poster board and paint, but signs just weren't Casey's M.O. "No signs, no T-shirts unless they're really funny or ironic and approved by the house and where did you get that megaphone?"
"I wanted to lead the chants," said Abby, looking dejected. She was also wearing a pink-and-yellow bandanna for some reason.
"No chanting! This is a campaign, not a protest. We want the Omegas to love Rebecca, not think she needs to be freed from some foreign prison."
"But we can use glitter!"
Casey rolled her eyes. "I promise, you can use glitter on other stuff. But no signs. And no chanting." She added, "And no megaphones." She made Abby hand it over, just in case. "This is going to be a respectful, dignified campaign. So that means no crowds, no shouting and no spreading nasty rumors about the competition—unless it absolutely, positively cannot be traced back to ZBZ. And if you think you're being too careful, you're not."
"Even the Tri-Pis?"
"Even the Tri-Pis."
Abby, the overeager pledge, raised her hand. "Can we still do muffins?"
"That's Rebecca's call. Rebecca?"
Rebecca didn't look up from her cell phone. "Sounds good, but I should mention I'm allergic to cooking."
"We're talking about baking."
"Abby, you can bake." Which was no doubt a relief to Abby, who had been hovering over Rebecca as if she was president of the Rebecca Fan Club or something since the announcement. It might be good to give Abby a task that Rebecca herself would want nothing to do with. "Rebecca, Abby is assuming the baking duties. And speaking of duties, I've made a list." She got out the list, a better use for poster board. "We need to win over the hearts and minds of the Omegas. Strategically, without looking like we're doing it. Some of you will be assigned to specific Omega members. Don't bother the other members. We don't want them to feel crowded." With the attention of all of the ZBZs, she began a detailed explanation of the different Omega Chi-friendly events they would inconspicuously be throwing to win over the hearts and stomachs of fraternity members and make them love Rebecca, or at least make them love ZBZ enough to choose Rebecca. They all understood that Rebecca being chosen as sweetheart would do a lot for their house's diminished status. If Omega Chi reaffirmed its relationship with the best sorority on campus, ZBZ would move closer to its rightful place at the top of the rankings, and Rebecca would win political capital for running for president later in the semester. If Rebecca were to show more enthusiasm during the speech it might be better, but unlike Casey and Ashleigh, she wasn't known for showing enthusiasm.
"Don't be all mopey!" Ashleigh sounded excited when she said it, nudging Rebecca in the shoulder but lowering her voice. "It's not good for the sweetheart image."
"And what is the sweetheart image good for?"
"No ZBZ president has ever not been sweetheart first," Casey said.
"But I never said—"
"Besides 1995," Casey continued, interrupting Rebecca's objection, "but she had the sympathy vote for her scoliosis— and Ashleigh, but that was because you nominated her."
"And everyone hated you," Rebecca said. The election had been so highly contentious, with Casey, interim president, running against Frannie, the previous president, that the frustrated ZBZ pledges had rallied around Rebecca's call for change and nominated Ashleigh. It shocked even Ashleigh, who reluctantly accepted the position over her friends. "Besides, I never said—"
"I don't think they hated me," Casey defended. "Just how I was acting. At that moment. And maybe the week leading up to it."
"But the point is, they were both sweethearts," Ashleigh said, diplomatically changing the subject back to the contest. "It's an important cornerstone to the presidency."
"And you love controlling and manipulating people, so this should work out," Casey said. Before Rebecca could answer with her legendary evil eye, Casey's cell phone rang. "Hello?"
"Did you get a bunch of really big hamsters? Because I hear a ton of squeaking in the background. And it's scaring me."
"Cappie!" It was her boyfriend, Kappa Tau president Cappie. "No, we do not have giant hamsters. And the pledges would not appreciate the comparison."
"To be honest, I was kind of hoping for the scary hamsters. Are you ready to go?"
"What? Oh crap!" She then remembered her date with Cappie—scheduled for half an hour ago. If she'd been paying attention, she would have noticed Cappie was late as usual.
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