Friday, February 12, 2010

Slave Girls of Alpha Beta Delta, Chapter 6

The night of the initiation, Jenny was so nervous she felt sick to her stomach. At one point she thought she was actually going to throw up, but nothing happened. She wondered why she was so much more nervous this time. Maybe because the first time it hadn’t quite seemed real to her; now she had a picture in her mind of who and what she was dealing with. Her desire to fit in and impress her new sorority sisters, and her fear that she wouldn’t be able to do it, had been making her anxious all week. Now, with the moment of truth approaching, it was getting worse by the minute.

Meanwhile, April was scrambling to get Jenny’s dress ready. As a sort of peace offering she had offered to use her sewing skills to make some alterations to the dark red dress. She figured that without too much trouble she could make it seem like a different outfit, and that way Jenny could avoid paying for new clothes. But the changes she was making had turned out to be more complicated than she thought, and as six o’clock came and went she was still sewing away.

By 6:30, though, April was finished with the dress, Jenny’s stomach had settled down a bit, and the girls began bustling about to get themselves ready. Jenny returned to the bathroom to get dressed while April slipped into the strapless dark green number she had picked out for herself. Then April made some final adjustments to Jenny’s dress, teased her hair for a minute, and stood back to evaluate her handiwork. It was the same girl, and the same dress, but she looked like a different person. The altered dress really showed off Jenny’s cleavage and was very tight around her butt. April smiled slyly to herself; a perverse part of her took great pleasure in making this sweet, innocent, repressed girl look like a bit of a slut.

For her part, Jenny was envious of her roommate’s ability to pull herself together so easily. It seemed like April threw on a dress, tugged at a hem here and moved a strap there, spent 10 minutes on hair and makeup, and looked like a million dollars. Jenny thought that if she wanted to, she would be a supermodel someday.

At 7:30 the girls grabbed their overnight bags and retraced their steps of the previous week to Alpha Beta Delta. At the door they were greeted by a cute, slim girl with brown hair and glasses who led them to an enormous formal dining room at the back of the building. She pointed out their placecards, which were toward one end of a very long and narrow table, and returned to wait for the next arrival. The table was already almost full, and by talking to their neighbors Jenny and April gathered that the ten freshmen were all seated at their end of the table, five on one side and five on the other.

In the next few minutes the rest of the places at the table filled up except for the single chairs at either end. At that point Kristin appeared through a side doorway and nodded to the girl with glasses, who was standing in one corner. From her angle Jenny could just make out that she returned to the front door, swung it closed, and folded down a big, heavy inside bar that would make sure it stayed closed. They were in for the night now, Jenny thought. Her heart was beating fast as Kristin sat down in the open chair farthest from them, way at the other side. The atmosphere in the room was highly charged; something very important was happening here, though it was hard to say exactly what.

Then, in the doorway through which Kristin had entered, another figure appeared: Alexis White, looking somewhat less severe than she had the week before. She was wearing a formal, fairly conservative black gown and her hair, while not in a bun this time, was still up in an elegant style with not a strand out of place. Jenny studied her as she swept into the room and headed for the last empty chair. She had an air of quiet authority about her, the demeanor of someone who’s used to being in charge and comfortable with it. Her posture was perfect and every detail of her attire was impeccable.

Arriving at the head of the table, Miss White (as Jenny would soon learn to call her) motioned for everyone to stand. She picked up the half-full wine glass waiting at her place and everyone else followed suit. “To our new arrivals,” she said, and there was general clinking of glasses and sipping of wine. When it died down she asked the company to be seated.

“I’d like to personally welcome to Alpha Beta Delta house our incoming freshmen: Sofia, Maura, Jenny, Rebecca, Natalie, Maia, April, Jessica, Angela, and Rachel.” She rattled off the names without a pause, like they were a poem that she knew by heart. “ABD is a sisterhood with a long and distinguished history here at Bowmore, and to tell you about it, here is this year’s sorority president, Kristin Thompson.”

There was loud applause as Kristin stood, looking intimidatingly gorgeous in a simple white dress. “I would also like to toast the freshmen,” she said, and there was another round of clinking and drinking. “We have a particularly promising crop this year, I think. No offense to you sophomores, of course.” It seemed to Jenny that Kristin was staring directly into her eyes as she said this. Was she, or did she just have the gift of making everyone think she was looking at them?

“Alpha Beta Delta was founded in 1927 as a way for the women of Bowmore to support and encourage each other. There were far fewer of them then than there are now, of course. And things have changed a lot, for the better. But even today, academia presents a unique set of challenges for women, and ABD offers you a place to grow as a person in a safe atmosphere while you develop your mind through your studies.

“Oh, and we have a lot of fun, too. My experience here has been incredible, and I know yours will be too. Miss White?”

“Thank you, Kristin,” said Alexis White. “Now I need to talk seriously to the freshmen.” She scanned the eager young faces to her left and right. “Our conduct here at ABD is governed by three sacred oaths that every member must adhere to. The first is the Oath of Loyalty. We take the idea of sisterhood very seriously, and by taking this oath, you pledge to support and respect every other member of Alpha Beta Delta. Are there any questions?”

As she asked this, she looked directly at Jenny, who was momentarily startled. She realized that she had been staring, transfixed, into Alexis White’s eyes, which were unlike any she had ever seen. They were a cool, steely gray flecked with bits of cobalt blue; the overall effect was of a powerful intelligence that exuded a strange mixture of kindness and cruelty. She felt, immediately, that she would do anything for this woman, would go to any lengths to please her. She shook her head to say: no, no questions. I understand completely.

Miss White looked around at all the freshmen, who were likewise shaking their heads or murmuring “No.”

“Good,” she continued. “To make it official, each one of you starting at my left will say in a loud, clear voice, ‘I understand and accept the Oath of Loyalty.’ ”

Beginning with Maia, a honey blonde who looked too young to be in college, each freshman girl repeated the phrase. When Jenny’s turn came, her voice shook at first, but she gathered her will and by the time she got to “Oath of Loyalty” her tone was firm and decisive.

When all ten had taken the oath, Miss White nodded and went on. “We also place a very high value on privacy. In a man’s world, women rarely get the space they need, either physically or psychologically. Alpha Beta Delta is a place for us, and for that reason, we swear never to discuss our business with outsiders. What goes on inside these walls, or between sisters wherever they are, remains between us. Is that clear?”

There was a general assent. “Now repeat, ‘I understand and accept the Oath of Secrecy.’” Again, each girl in turn repeated the phrase. Jenny, this time, spoke up without hesitation. As she did so she glanced over at April, who was looking very serious. When April’s turn came she gazed thoughtfully into her roommate’s eyes, as if swearing the oath to her personally.

“Now, our final oath is one that some people have trouble with,” said Alexis White gravely. “But it may be the most important one. You need to understand that Alpha Beta Delta is not a democracy. We have a hierarchy that we strictly adhere to. The seniors are at the top, then the juniors, then the sophomores. You will be at the bottom, and some of you may find this difficult to deal with. But remember that every year you move up, and eventually you will find yourself on top.

“This oath is the Oath of Obedience, and it means that when someone above you instructs you to do something, you will do it quickly, fully, and without hesitation. Failure to do so will result in punishment at the discretion of the offended party. If you feel you have been mistreated, you can always come to me. But keep in mind that if I feel your complaint is trivial, I may impose a punishment on top of that already given. My decisions on these matters are final and cannot be appealed.

“Think hard before taking the Oath of Obedience, because it is no laughing matter. If you don’t think you can do it, speak up now and the Sergeant-at-Arms will escort you to the door. In that case, we simply ask that you abide by the oaths you’ve already taken and not discuss what has happened here with anyone.”

There was a minute of solemn silence as the ten freshmen thought over the significance of Miss White’s words. Then, at last, she turned to Maia and said evenly, “When you’re ready.”

Maia gulped and slowly intoned, “I understand and accept the Oath of Obedience.” Next up was Angela, a black girl with darker skin than April’s and long, straight hair. Her wide brown eyes scanned all around the table before she said the words. Then it was Jenny’s turn.

Every sober instinct told Jenny to get out of there — that the devil was at work here and she should get out while she could. But she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t walk away from April, from Kristin, from Miss White, from the panoply of beauty that surrounded her. All eyes were on Jenny as she wrestled inwardly, sipping her wine as a delaying measure. When she looked up, it was to meet the calm, confident gaze of Alexis White. There was no way that she could disappoint this woman. “‘I understand,” she said, “and accept the Oath of Obedience.”

Immediately upon saying the words, she felt a sense of warmth and peace. It was obedience, she realized, that would set her free. By surrendering herself to whatever happened, she would come to know herself. She looked down the table at Kristin, whose luminous face glowed like an ember in the dim light, then at April, whose golden eyes were two torches. Jenny smiled to herself. This was where she belonged.

After Jenny, the oath went around the table quickly. It was as if the others, seeing her accept the idea, lost any doubts they might have had. When the last girl, Sofia, had repeated the oath in her Italian accent, Alexis White smiled. It was a smile that lit up the room, and at the same time was suggestive of a shark about to devour its prey. “Excellent,” she said, looking around approvingly at the newest members of Alpha Beta Delta. “Now we can begin.”

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