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three weeks earlier

"I got you a present!" my roommate burst through
the door to our dorm with an Urban Outfitters bag in hand. I raised my eyebrows, letting her drop the bag on the edge of my bag with a giddy smile on her face.

"Is it laced with Anthrax? You never do nice things," I said suspiciously, taking the bag within the tips of my fingers and slowly sliding it closer to me. I put my laptop to the side and opened the bag. "The dress I wanted?"

It was a simple sleeveless black dress with a red and white stripe down the side. When Aaliyah and I were shopping a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I wanted it but it was too expensive.

"Yeah. I clearly remember that you said you'd go out with me if I bought you a new outfit," she smirked smugly, crossing her arms over her chest. "And there's a Beta party tonight. We're going."

"Lee," I sighed, eyes flickering between her and the dress. "I can't. I won't."

"Actually, we will," she dug around in our closet and pulled out a pair of plain black platform booties. "I am so done with you sitting around here every second you're not in class. You have got to get out of this rut. It's not healthy to constantly be worrying about your ex boyfriend."

Ah, my ex boyfriend. A grade-A asshole with a lying problem who cheated on me multiple times yet always made me the bad guy. Dylan Ferrow was another level of crazy, and when I finally got out of that toxic relationship, I hadn't been the same sense. I didn't want to see him anywhere, and he was a shitty frat boy who always seemed to be creeping around at parties, looking for innocent girls to fuck with.

"I don't want to go," I whined, rubbing my hands over my face and banging my head against the wall behind me. "What if he's there? What if he sees me?"

"Then you ignore him?" she said like it was obvious. "You're not going to fall back into his trap, not on my watch. But don't worry, he's not going to be here. Dre told me he went home for the weekend."

I looked down at the dress I wanted and back to her, a smile growing on my face. "Fine. I'll get ready."

"Yay!" she cheered, clapping her hands together like a toddler. I loved Aaliyah with all my heart, but sometimes she was a bit of a pushover. She wanted me to be happy, and that's all I could ask for in a friend.

I got out of my bed and shed myself of my fleece Winnie the Pooh pajama pants and my large paint stained t-shirt, sliding on a bra, nicer underwear, and my new dress. Aaliyah knew me too well; the dress was perfect. It boosted my confidence to be dressed for the first time in six months. I felt good.

I put on some basic makeup and decided I looked good enough to go out. It was a frat party; everyone there was a drunken idiot anyways.

"Pretty!" Aaliyah smiled at me, and I turned to look at her outfit. She had on white high waisted jeans and a red crop top, simple but effective.

"You too!" I giggled, giving myself one last look in the mirror. When we had gathered all of our things and decided we were ready, we left in the Uber Aaliyah ordered, knowing good and well neither of us would be able to drive back to the dorms.

Seeing the crowded frat house in person had my nerves jumping once again. I hadn't seen a crowd like this in sixth months, and the idea that I was about to be squished in it, struggling to hold a drink, frightened me. The idea that there was nowhere to run if I ran into Dylan was even worse. Even though Dre told Aaliyah he had gone home for the weekend, I found that hard to believe. He hated his family and wouldn't miss a Beta party.

"Ready?" Aaliyah asked, holding my hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze.

"No," I admitted, eyes flickering from the crowd in the lawn to the wide open front door. "But the Uber already left and I put makeup on, so let's just go."

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