Exposed to the hard spattering of raindrops, I had never been smaller than at my grandmother’s graveside. Grandma Carolina Haverton MacKinley herself was small next to my great grandmother, Helen Haverton, who took “Haverton-Gibson” as her married name. Grandma Helen worked her husband, an architect, to found a construction and real estate empire. She began in Portland. Our properties now dominated areas as far south as California’s Sacramento delta. My mother managed it now.
My mother wept at the graveside that year. Grandma Carolina had died a year after our congressman broke his promise to us. Despite protests, he had given rights to a defense contractor to build a factory west of Beaverton. Its disgusting fumes could be seen from our properties. My mother was so incensed that she challenged our representative’s seat the following year. Though it took more than money for a politically inexperienced, single issue, candidate to beat an entrenched politician. He had the support of his good old boys allies that went back to his Ivy league. Dejected, my mother conceded, and contented herself to withdraw our donations.
I knew then, as a shivering middle school girl, that my family would call on me. The terrible weight that I would someday serve Helen Haverton’s legacy confined my heart. One day too I would take over as my grandmother and mother had done. More though, I would have to exceed them. I would need a network as strong as our back stabbing congressmen. Our family and our city needed a Haverton in public service.
That had been my idea. I existed to prove myself and to carry the legacy. To begin, I began college with my long term purpose in mind. I must connect with best, and only the best. Grandma Carolina used to used to quote some old philosopher: ‘Know the fortunate in order to choose them.’ Therefore, the right friends would assist in my goals, but purposes had changed so fast. Pledge week had only been two weeks ago. I ignored every competing sisterhood and walked straight to the oldest one on campus, Phi Gamma Omega. There, I looked straight into the wary, regal, blue-green eyes of one sister.
“Yes?” she said to me.
“Hi,” I said. “Can I ask your name?”
“I’m Morgan,” she said. Her tone spoke so much more. As did her gaze. ‘Why are you talking to me?’ it signaled. ‘Why should I be interested?’ was written on her face. “Who are you?”
I had been nervous then. I fought a little battle in my mind even though there couldn’t be anything to worry about. Grandma Carolina used to tell me that people only know how you act, and never how you feel on the inside. So even when you trembled around that boy you had a crush on or how scared you felt to speak in a group, if you pretended enough, no one would know. Then you’d get what you want.
“I’m the next girl you will invite to this sorority,” I said standing as straight as I could, my face unwavered though my heart thumped inside me.
“Is that so?” said Morgan. “Now why would I do that?”
“My name is Jasmine Haverton Vicinda,” I answered. Morgan’s eyebrows raised. Her crossed arms relaxed to her side, and she prodded her chin.
“As in…” she said.
“Okay legacy,” said Morgan. Her attitude changed towards me. Instead of coldness, she offered a sliver of respect. “I’ll sponsor you myself. Though you’re going through your pledging process like any other, do you understand?”
“I think I do.”
“‘Think you do’? There’s no special treatment here,” Morgan said as she glowered towards me. “You will pledge like any other freshmeat. You will do whatever any other freshmeat does. If you don’t do what we want, then you don’t really want to be in.”
“I…” I began.
“Really, it might be best for you to walk away,” said Morgan. Her judgmental facade dropped for a split second. Was she testing me?
What was it I felt in that moment? I think it had been fear. I had been right to be afraid. If I stepped away, I would’ve kept on existing as normal, and joined some other sorority. I’d be partying between studies and giving head to cute boys and maybe a professor. Future lawyers, business magnates, and other influential people would still be among my peers. I could have walked away right then. This sorority was more than a mere power group. I wanted this and I was going to do whatever it took to live up to my name. Everyone named Haverton had done something great. Great-Grandma Helen would be proud.
“I’ll do whatever it takes, big sister,” I said. “I don’t want to be treated any different.”
Grandma Helen had been one of the first women to attend Granitewell College, a private school on the edges of Portland, back in the early fifties. She helped found the Phi Gamma Omega sorority, and later she met my great-grandfather. My family’s name preceded me. Granitewell begged me to visit by the tenth grade. Great-grandma had forbidden -with uncompromising terms- her daughter to follow in her educational path. My mother told me of the threats Great-grandma had given when she considered applying. Helen Haverton didn’t think anyone could do it.
I had struggled, but I knew my path. I would become the first legacy ever to join the Phi Gamma Omega women. So I had endured high school and all its abuses and applied to only one college. Nothing would stop me. Nothing would stop me from gathering that network of the fortunate. Resolved, I prepared myself for whatever Morgan had in mind.
There had been two other girls pledging that week with me. The big sisters had given us a schedule so strict we had to dodge our classes. When we crossed the antique oak doors of the sorority house, we were stripped of clothes and ordered to be silent. The sisters affixed thin canine collars. Each collar had a little dog tags declaring which big sister owned us for the week. We were shown the messy kitchen, the filthy bathrooms, and cluttered bedrooms. After we scrubbed and vacuumed the house, they threw aprons at us and sent us to cook.
They never told us why we cooked so much. They gave us no notice about the party they had planned. Guests arrived in the evening. We served food to guys I’d seen on campus and girls older than me. The big sisters’s boyfriends gazed at our nudity. Every second degraded us. One boyfriend reached out to Yumi, another pledge, to flick her small breast. His girlfriend slapped his hand away and clarified the no touching rule.
That’s when I knew my big sisters would keep us dirty little pledges safe. They take good care of their own. I’m sure Yumi is happy now. Bristol too. I’m even more so. Safer and happier than you can imagine.
That party had lasted late, and we’d been given cots in the basement. The three of us cleaned the next morning. Yumi had been sweeping the kitchen floor while Bristol and been gathering empty cans, paper plates, and even some random clothes. Bristol looked at Yumi and noticed the bit of jewelry at her neck.
“How come you still get to wear that, there?” she asked.
Yumi touched the pendent that hung from her neck.
“Come on, let me see it,” said Bristol. She stepped over to the kitchen and bugged Yumi.
“My big sister didn’t make me take it off,” protested Yumi.
“But you’re not naked then,” said Bristol teasing. “You get to cover up with whatever that little metal is.”
“You don’t think this is naked?” said Yumi. She stretched her arms out and whipped her black straight hair over her shoulder. Her nips pointed out against the cool air. The contours of hips and stomach shown under the light. “I feel pretty naked.”
Beyond the collar, the only thing on her body was that crucifix necklace.
“I think she looks more naked with it,” I said. “More naked than us.”
“Yeah, that’s probably why your big sister let her keep it,” said Bristol. She twirled back to the cluttered living room.
“So where are you from, Yumi?” I asked.
“Sacramento,” she began. Yumi looked at my chest then diverted her eyes towards my face. Then glanced away again. “Sacramento area anyway. Place called Citrus Heights.”
“Yeah… I wanted to come up here, because it’s far?” she said. She checked me out again. Out of curiosity, I rolled my hips in a subtle display. Yumi’s pupils dilated and then she glanced away again. My mother always said use your beauty whenever and on whoever. “I wanted to get in the best sorority I could too.”
She shifted her gaze to our wall of fame. One woman smiled in the robes of a judge. Another woman sat in a director’s chair. A third, smiled in doctor’s scrubs accepting an award for an innovative new surgery technique. This is what the women of Phi Gamma Omega became.
Yumi and I talked more throughout our cleaning shift. I remember thinking how beautiful her light brown eyes were. Her lashes and eyelids hinted at Asian ancestry. I couldn’t place where she might be from though. I only wished that I could have had hair as sleek as hers. Bristol’s eyes were dark blue, and her lashes spoke both come hither and I’ll cut you in the same blink. Her brown hair was held back with a clip that had her name on it. I guess that’s the bit of clothing her big sister let her keep. Metal bars pierced the nipples of Bristol’s full chest. They looked like they could hurt when I saw them. I wanted to bite them too.
“Philosophy,” I said when they asked me what I studied. “Minoring in English too.”
“Oh God, so do you love to study or what? Can’t imagine studying for fun,” said Bristol. “Missing classes must be killing you.”
“I can have fun,” I said. I cared about her opinion of me then. “Besides it’s about finding the right teachers.”
“Oh really? So do you know who is good for freshman English?” said Yumi. “Cause I gotta change my classes and I might get a new instructor.”
I didn’t. I didn’t know who had been the right teacher for me. When Yumi said those words, it struck me as to how I had suddenly overlooked the quality of my own Freshman English teacher. Anxiety struck me and it cut deep into my body. I’d researched all the right professors for my first two years, based on every rating system I read online. I’d examined some of the stuff they wrote and published because that’s what I was supposed to do. Though when it came to my Freshman English professor, a professor who would probably determine whether I wrote well or terrible for the rest of college, I had picked who fit in my schedule. I remember this sudden tension in my heart and an urgent need to do something.
“I don’t know,” I admitted.
“Don’t know?” said Yumi.
“You could check Doctor Ellis,” said Bristol her voice was gentle and her eyes cunning. “She writes for magazines and stuff.”
“Okay,” said Yumi.
I cleaned up in a hurry that day. You see, I had to check for myself too. I left Yumi and Bristol and sneaked my way upstairs.
What I did then was silly. I know that now. Now I don’t stress about my classes or having the right everything. I go to my classes and then return to my cell. It’s simple there. Though right then, I agonized over the perfect teacher. Upstairs I found a computer and connected to my usual rating systems. I read everything I could about Doctor Ellis. I then looked up magazines she’d written in. I sent some to myself to read later. Then, when I read her third book review, Morgan hollered my name from down the hall.
“Freshmeat?” she said bursting through the door way. I had been caught on a computer when she expected me to be cleaning. Trembling and red in the face, I stared at my big sister’s furious expression.
“Pledge, what are you doing?”
“I’m on the internet.”
“And what were you supposed to be doing?”
“Cleaning the house until it sparkles, big sister,” I gulped.
“I see,” said Morgan. She slammed the laptop’s lid shut. “Come with me.”
Morgan took me to her bedroom. She opened a drawer and pulled out a paddle. She then put it back and reached in for another one. Holding the two in her hands she ignored me and then decided on the wider one with leather padding.
“Bend over pledge,” she said. “Turn around. Hands on the bed frame.”
“Yes, big sister,” I whimpered.
The first strike came in a wide, flat impact on my ass. Then my big sister tapped the other cheek. I embraced the second wet leather thud.
“Jasmine Haverton Vicinda,” sneered Morgan. “Did you get excused from cooking with your pledging sisters?”
“No, big sister,” I said.
Another strike came. I choked down a cry.
“Do you get to wear clothes while other pledges stay naked?”
“No big sister,” I said.
“Did you get excused from chores with your sisters?”
“No, big sister,” I said.
The next hit hurt. I cried out. Morgan leaned over me. Her hand moved up my chest and her fingers curled around my neck. Her face went straight to my cheek.
“You’re not special, little sister,” she said. “You do what I say, because you told me you would take it. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes,” I said.
I dared not move my hands from the post. Prone, I took another two firm slaps of the paddle. I’d never been punished before. My big sister loved meting it out. She surprised me when her smooth hands caressed my back, my chest, and legs as I was bent over like that. When her fingers made it to my bare pussy, I winced. The soft pinching she gave my outer lips relaxed me. It made me feel good.
“You will do whatever I want,” she said. Her fingers moved in testing my wetness. I loved every humiliating second of her prodding. When she pulled out, I almost pleaded her to continue. Instead, she put her fingers to my face and had me smell my juices.
“You like the smell of pussy, pledge?”
“Yes, big sister.”
“Would you eat my pussy if I told you to?” she said.
“Whatever you ask, big sister,” I said. I looked up at her, playing the part of the obedient pledge. I had suspected she would demand this, eventually. My anxious heart would not stop me. I would do it. I would do it until my big sister came to prove my dedication. It wouldn’t matter how degrading that would be. I existed for this sorority and all that it promised me. Nothing could humiliate me so much that I would turn my back. I was meant to be here. Morgan wanted it too. My gaze dared her, and even begged her, to drop her panties before me.
Only later did I understand why big sister Morgan wavered, stepped away from me, and ordered me to stand up. Air deflated from my lungs. Almost. We could have done the oral sex and gotten that test over with.
“You’ll eat pussy before you know it, freshmeat. I’d make you eat mine right now, but that’s not on me yet,” she said in a firm tone. Her words pushed down whatever her own cravings were. “We’re getting you pledges dressed up tomorrow night and taking you somewhere special. Then, we’ll see if you have what it takes to join Phi Gamma Omega.”
The next night arrived. Our big sisters had given us all simple instructions: dress in the hottest outfits you can. Though what had they meant by that? Club hot? Formal event hot? Trashy hot? All of those silly thoughts had run through my head as I tried on an outfit, removed it, changed again and then modified the look. I didn’t know what I was going for, and I didn’t know what was happening next. I only knew to get it right.
“Pledge,” said my big sister. She entered dressed in a sorority uniform, a dark sweater vest with green trim. She looked completely official right down to her knee height boots.
“Yes sister?” I turned halfway out of my previous outfit. I must have looked like such a mess. Too many things were complicated right at the beginning of the semester. Maybe it had all been in my head though.
“What are you doing?” Morgan raised an eyebrow at me. “I said put on your sexiest outfit, not a hurricane of half dress. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” I stammered. “I have to look my sexiest. But what is it for? Who is it for? If I’m going to look hot I have to look the right kind of hot.”
Morgan raised her hand to shush me.
“Which outfit makes you feel the hottest?”
I stared at the mish mash of outfits resting on my bed. Morgan sighed.
“Okay, well the tube top is going to go. We won’t use that one,” she said. She took my dark green top and pushed it aside. “This single long dress? Yes, it’s hot and sleek, but it’s not working for what’s planned tonight.” She pushed that back into the closet. “I like this skirt.” She said tossing it to one side of the bed. “But we’re getting rid of this belt you have with it…”
Morgan went through my clothes one at a time, never asking once what was what. After a few rounds, she had me down to two items of clothing. My pastel colored, asymetrical dress. She picked a belt out for me to accentuate my waist, then tied the look together with a coat I’d brought from home. Picking this out would have kept my manic head spinning in circles for hours. She had made snap decisions in a matter of seconds.
“There,” said Morgan. “You’re sexy. Make-up too?”
The outfit worked, and I knew what tiny bit of eyeliner and lip stick I needed to complete this look.
“I know what to do for makeup,” I said.
“Good,” said Morgan. “By the way, you’re not wearing those cotton panties either. You got something hotter right?”
“Umm, in my suitcase still?”
Morgan opened it and went through my collection of lingerie bottoms.
I came down out of my room to the group of big sisters, the other pledges. I remember feeling embarrassed at being so late. I could tell by how the other uniformed big sisters eyed me that I’d taken way too long to dress. Bristol looked me over. She wore a tight top that emphasized her perfect cleavage and tight daisy dukes to match. Yumi wore a black pleather skirt with a white top that showed her shoulders. She kept her crucifix in between her perfect collar bones.
“You look good there, Jasmine,” said Bristol.
“Thanks,” I said. “Sorry for making everyone wait.”
“You can pick faster next time,” said Morgan. “Any last minute adjustments, pledges? Are you at your hottest?”
“Will we be… outside?” said Yumi.
Morgan and the other big sisters looked at her outfit.
“Yeah, she could use a jacket too,” said another big sister. Yumi looked at them unsure.
“Yes, Yumi, go upstairs and be quick,” said another sister. Yumi scampered upstairs to her room. She returned down with a wind breaker.
“Perfect. Sisters, remove their collars,” said Morgan. “You freshmeat bitches? Come to the garage.”
We walked down the hill outside our Sorority house, around a parking lot, and to the garage shed. The wet asphalt glistened against the yellow of the night’s street lamps. The cloud cover hid the sky as always. Rain was light tonight. The shed itself? It frightened enough with its old peeling paint and its walls covered with decaying vines. The sisters opened it. Inside there was a windowless van. Morgan opened the back doors to reveal a pristine interior of metal as clean as a mortician’s table. A row of seats with constricting seat belts awaited us.
“Get in bitches,” commanded one of the sisters. The Haverton women needed political power someday. Remembering that, I refused to hesitate. I sat down and buckled myself in. Yumi and Bristol followed me. The doors closed with a clunk. We were in darkness except for the pale blue of the interior light. Even the window to the driver’s seat in front had been closed. The engine hummed and the van moved.
It might have been minutes. It might have been hours. I don’t remember anymore. The van bumped over potholes. We had a sense that we traveled on a highway. All throughout that ride, my heart pounded. Not so much out of being scared, although I had been that too. No, my heart beat out of confusion at what I had went through. Less than an hour prior I had stressed about small things like what to put on. Later, I was getting driven in a cage of a van, yet I existed in simplicity.
“Where are they taking us?” said Bristol. Her eyes darted around, as if looking for a tiny crack of light, or a window, or anything. Bristol couldn’t handle confinement too well. Maybe that’s why she hadn’t been chosen in the end.
“I don’t know,” said Yumi.
“Do you?” said Bristol. She said pointing at me. “Your grandma or someone is up on wall. I’ve seen her!”
“I don’t know… Bristol,” I said.
“Yes you do,” she insisted. “Come on! Tell us what they’re going to do!”
“I honestly don’t know!” I declared. I raised my hands up in protest.
“We’ll be safe, Bristol,” said Yumi. “We’re almost done. I know it. Don’t you?”
“But where are we going?” said Bristol. Slight beads of sweat appeared at her neck.
“Bristol,” said Yumi. She took Bristol’s hand and held it, “We’ll be full sisters soon. Don’t you want that?”
Bristol calmed down.
“You know I never left my state before coming out here,” said Yumi. “I almost didn’t want to come all the way up here either. I thought I’d attend a community college, then go to the same UC my sister did, forty minutes from home.”
“You got nervous and went anyway,” I said.
“Thanks,” smiled Yumi. “I wanted to explore the northwest. So I’m here.”
“Alright,” said Bristol calming down. “Okay. I can’t wait for air.”
I reached out for Bristol’s other hand. She took it and squeezed. The tension in her diffused between all three of us. Nervous and unburdened, we rode in silence.