The Girl I Was Before

By: Ginger Scott

Book 3 in the Falling Series



One photo.

It took a fraction of a second to take it.

The light was low, but I can still see what needs to be seen. I can see faces—one face. The only face that matters in this picture.

This single image; it could change everything.

The picture on my phone screen is condemning. Chandra Campbell always holds the power—in everything she does. She rules the college’s Greek system, thus ruling McConnell’s social circles. She says who gets into a party, who gets elected to Greek council. If you want to date certain men, she has to approve. It’s all part of her name—the daughter of Texas oil, ruling the school her father graduated from and has since pumped dollars into at the same speed his company sucks oil from the ground.

She sits on this pedestal—one we’ve all put her on, me included—and she rules from it. The problem with pedestals is the taller they are, the harder the fall from the top. Maybe that’s not a problem. Maybe in Chandra’s case, that’s a good thing. And I’m probably evil for thinking that, but I’ve been evil before. I’ve been selfish, heartless, calculated—cold. I’m starting to think the problem is that it’s taken me this long to find the line between the good side and the bad, and right now, I’m straddling.

With one press of my finger on my phone, I can send Chandra to the ground. I’m holding her power hostage, afraid of the responsibility that comes along with gambling with it. No, that’s not the truth. I’m not afraid of the responsibility at all. What scare me are the consequences.

I can’t explain what compelled me to climb the steps in the Delta House tonight. I walked past the bodies of my drunken, passed out sorority sisters, ignoring the frat boys still roaring with laughter on the sofa in front of the TV in our common area downstairs while they watched some female fighter beat the shit out of another girl in a cage.

There were several shots coursing through me, the last one something the guys called a fireball. The feel of the alcohol left my skin numb, but my mind was somehow still sharp. I sensed things were off, so I followed my instincts up the stairs, to Chandra’s room.

I don’t go in there much. She’s the house president, and while I’ve quickly moved into her inner circle, she still didn’t trust me enough to let me into her personal space often. My other sisters had their theories about her need for privacy. I’d heard the rumors; we all had. Many of the girls didn’t believe them—naïve to how well someone can hide a secret.

But I wasn’t.

While secrets can be buried, they always leave a trail. The trick is talking those who uncover your secrets into staying quiet about them. I’m not so great at keeping my lips sealed. I’ve burned a lot of bridges by sharing people’s secrets—people I love—like my sister, Cass. My mouth has caused a lot of pain, but I’ve also learned from those mistakes. I’ve learned how to read people, how to read liars.

Chandra…is a liar.

I knew Chandra had a drug problem. Her mother has one too, though I hear hers is of the prescription variety. Chandra’s talked to me about her mom before, and there was always something in the way she emphasized her hurt and disappointment over her mother’s overdoses or failed trips to rehab. I’m not saying she wasn’t affected by her mom’s choices, but rather, she was terrified over what it meant for her own habits. There was always a story behind her eyes, like a whisper begging me not to see her own problems.

Chandra’s recreational habits are more damning; hers are the ugly kind that people like to gossip about—white powder, but never needles. Needles leave marks, and marks are evidence. I had heard that sometimes she smoked her addiction, always counting on her wealth and family name to keep questions away.

But tonight there was a lot of powder. Tonight, Chandra was careless. It’s hard to hide photographs. No matter how wealthy you are, when things go viral on the Internet, they can no longer be contained by dollar signs.

When I stepped into her quiet bedroom upstairs, I had no business being in there, no real reason to enter the room at all. Something else urged me forward, drew me in. The mirror was flat in the center of the bed, and Chandra and a guy I didn’t recognize were half clothed, comatose, in a drug-induced slumber that would carry them through the entire next day. I don’t remember actually taking the photo. I’m not sure if anyone was awake as I passed back through the halls to the patio at the back of the house—to this small bench pushed close to the brick fire pit outside. The fire inside is old, its embers dying.

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