Warwick University is a prestigious school.
It’s one of the nation’s top universities, and what makes it stand out even more is that it’s in a small beach town. Somewhere no one would’ve thought. So to the locals, it’s the town’s most prized possession. There’s a lot of pride there.
Until they came along.
They were privileged kids who looked for trouble. They were a clique made purely out of greed, power, and selfishness. They were all tainted in some way. Parties that were out of control, hard drugs that shouldn’t be on anyone’s list, alcohol poured down each other’s throats like waterfalls, and on top of that, a sexually-active lifestyle that rendered each weekend obsessive.
Cocaine, booze, sex, nicotine — you name it.
They were infamous.
And so it was their infamy that ended them. Caught with their possessions on campus grounds, the university issued a massive wave of expulsion the day after. Kicked out of the curb like leftover trash. All went their separate ways.
“Something you have to know, Dean,” Elliot laughs bitterly as I try not to fall apart right there. I’m walking back and forth around the room, hand covering my mouth, heart racing like it’s going to burst out any minute. “We were all loaded, but no one was as loaded as your friend there. She bribed the head to keep her in the damn school—”
“And I earned it!” I whip my head, pointing at him. My hands are shaking. “I kept my promises. I got my shit straight. I’m one of the leading students in Warwick with the highest GPAs. I deserved to stay.”
“And we didn’t?” Elliot snaps back. “You were as fucked up as we were.”
I’m too angry to reply, running my hands through my hair like I could rip them to pieces. And that’s when I realise who’s been silent the whole time.
My voice is small and vulnerable, and I hate it.
He hasn’t moved from his standing position. He just licks his lips, pondering his words, Elliot’s story. My body is frozen with dread. Fear.
“Just give me a minute.” Dean just stares at the ground, shaking his head. “This was big, Lina. I mean, everyone knew what happened, but what made it so big was that none of us knew who they were.” His eyes meet mine, and I almost crumble. “Who you guys were.”
Elliot spreads out his hands. “Little Warwick wanted to withhold their reputation. To erase their dirty sins and get rid of the bad apples.”
“So what?” I spat, turning back to him. “You came back for a pity party?”
Why did you come back?
“No. I didn’t.” Elliot looks at me for a while, lips tight, as if he doesn’t want to say what he really wants to say. “I got hospitalised, Lina. That’s why I’m here.”
I halt in my steps. Dean holds his breath.
“What?” I breathe.
“Ran out of your smart mouth, haven’t you?” He sighs and puts his hands in his head. “I OD’d, alright? That’s the fucking story. Made it back in time if it weren’t for my folks.” He pauses, and grips the edge of the bed so hard his knuckles turn white. “But you know what really surprised me? I wasn’t the only one. While you were cooped up in your little castle, Mayfield, the rest of us suffered.”
I can’t speak. I just can’t. The emotions that were bubbling inside me has somehow lodged in my throat.
“When I got out, I vowed to never let anyone go through what I went through again. I searched for everyone… everyone. Not that you care or anything,” he scoffs, and I open my mouth but he keeps talking. “But most of them I found were actually doing okay. Others…” Elliot’s breathing turns ragged, and for the first time, he’s as unsettled as I am. His eyes go red for a moment and he rubs them away.
“Yes, I followed you,” he confesses to me, unashamed. “Stalked you, if scouting every bar nearby counts. But I had to see if you had it.”
Dean and I freeze.
“Okay, Elliot, let’s tone it down,” I let out a nervous laugh, hiding the oncoming panic attack, hiding the fact that the tension has sharpened like a knife. “We did some bad shit back then, but let’s not get too far off here—”
“I’m not.” He holds eye contact, and I’m trying so hard to maintain it. “I’m just stating the truth, Lina. Maybe you should give it a try.”
“Watch it,” Dean snaps.
My chest lifts for a moment. Dean still has my back even though he’s been humiliated at being left out of the loop. “You have nothing to worry about, Elliot. Everything’s under control here.” I give him a dazzling smile. “So if you came here to play babysitter, you’ve wasted your time.”
Elliot raises his eyebrows. He doesn’t believe me.
The door raps with a knock, and we all jump.
“Yo! Who’s in there?” Wesley’s voice, slurry and sloppy. “And why the fuck did you lock the bedroom? Not cool, bro!”
Dean rolls his eyes and opens the door.
Wesley blinks at the sight of us, a beer bottle in his hand. “Was it a threesome or were you guys dealing with drugs?”