Read The Girl I Was Before Online

Authors: Ginger Scott

Tags: #Romance, #Love, #Family, #teen, #college, #Sports, #baseball, #Series, #New Adult, #falling series

The Girl I Was Before

The Girl I Was Before
Book 3 in the Falling Series
Ginger Scott
Contents

Text copyright © 2015 Ginger Scott (Ginger Eiden)

All Rights Reserved

N
o part
of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely coincidental.

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Ginger Scott

ISBN: 978-1-311-22888-8

For those of us who love fairy tales.

Prologue

P
aige

O
ne 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.

But I’m here. I’ve been here, staring at the proof on my phone screen for almost an hour, my finger too timid to finish the deed and my heart too afraid of losing everything I know. I’m a Delta sister; at Chandra’s side, I would take over the reigns when she graduated. That attention, the power—it feels. So. Good.

It also feels dirty.

I played that way to get here, to be Chandra’s favorite freshman. During rush week, I was almost pushed out. I’d overheard the board talking, heard my name mentioned among a list of girls who
I knew
were not going to make it. And I panicked. My parents weren’t legacies, and while my father was a lawyer, we weren’t exactly riding an upper-class wave. There would be no last-minute donations of impressive amounts in Paige Owens’s name. My options were limited, and I was desperate.

Desperate. Perhaps that’s just the excuse I’ve told myself.

Chandra was on her phone, walking into the common room, mere hours before the selection meeting, and I heard her complaining about a new girl on the soccer team—a superstar that was going to take away her starting position. She wanted her father to do something about it, but his hands were tied.

I knew who this threat was—my twin sister, Cass.

Cass is the reason I’m at this school. I never really wanted to come here, but my sister suffers from multiple sclerosis, and my parents were too worried to let her attend school thousands of miles from home. So I changed my path, bending it to coincide with hers. A part of me resented Cass for it too. Maybe that’s why I did what I did? Or maybe that’s just next in the long line of excuses I’ve given myself.

Whatever the justification, somehow, I found myself by Chandra’s side the moment her phone call ended. I gave her details about my sister’s multiple sclerosis, filling her in on my parents’ disapproval of Cass playing competitive sports and exerting herself. I told myself it was all in Cass’s best interest anyway. What I was doing, it served two purposes—one that I just happened to gain from.

While my insight piqued Chandra’s interest, I could tell I wasn’t giving her enough. She was walking away, her back to me, my window of opportunity closing fast. That’s when I crossed the line.

I told her about Cass’s past, not completely spelling it out, but saying just the right things to have her believe my sister had an affair with a teacher in high school, letting her draw her own false conclusions from other girls she knew who had given her gossip, not worrying about what it meant for Cass.

I didn’t worry because Chandra’s arm was looped through mine. I gave her more as we waited for the other girls to arrive, and she sat me close to her on the sofa. Soon, she whispered something to her vice president. I tilted my head enough to see the list on the clipboard; I saw my name with a line drawn through it. An hour later, when it wasn’t called among the dozen other girls formally dismissed from our pledge class, I felt a rush. Cass’s secrets had bought me access—and for a while, I got away with it.

I didn’t feel guilt—not at first. My indiscretion hadn’t caused Cass any real pain. She’d still made the team. She was happy. I was happy. Her secrets…they seemed to die right there on that sofa where I’d spilled them.

It was harmless; so I thought.

For the last three nights I’ve replayed the look on Cass’s face—the pain in her eyes as she told me Chandra had used my words against her, had tormented her secretly with the things I’d confided in this woman who I thought was my friend. My sister was assaulted by someone Chandra knew. While Chandra acted appalled in front of me, she was nothing but cruel to Cass, quick to lay blame at my sister’s feet. She even fed the rumor that Cass had acted inappropriately, just like she had in the past—sleeping her way through school and into a spot on the team.

There was no way around feeling the punch in my gut that came along with knowing this was all my fault—I’d given Chandra the impression treating my sister that way was allowed. I haven’t been alone with Chandra since coming back from break. I’m afraid of the words that will no doubt fly freely from my mouth. While she deserves them, I’m not sure I’m ready for the consequences waiting for me if I let go of my tongue.

Chandra—she holds the power. My new life, it only exists because of her. I know I’m a bitch for thinking of myself, but this existence—the parties, the boyfriend, the popularity and status—it’s all I’ve ever wanted. It sounds shallow, but is it really so different from wanting to be the lead in a play or the star athlete? I wanted to be looked up to, admired and envied, and Chandra was my ticket.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” I whisper to myself, the last vestige of the fire burning out before me.

A small piece of ash—the final evidence of warmth—floats down from the sky, its silvery reflection lit by the faint light shining through the window behind me. My eyes watch its path, the tears wrestling loose and sliding down my cheek, racing it to the earth until both the ash and my sorrow land at my feet.

The vision of my feet against the cold cement drifts in and out of focus. I concentrate on my black slipper shoes and the perfect line against the paleness of my ankle. Then I notice the haphazard swirls of beads interrupting everything.

Cass made me this ankle bracelet, using the beads from our mother’s store to thank me for coming here. She gave it to me the day we packed up our belongings and drove with our parents across the country to McConnell. She handed it to me in the back seat, a small note wrapped around it expressing her thanks. She didn’t want my mother seeing, because it wasn’t about getting credit for the gesture. It was about her love for me—despite my flaws.

With one thumb rubbing the largest bead, I pull my phone forward to rest in my other hand, my legs now folded up in front of me.

By morning, everyone will see Chandra for who she is. The story will spread slowly to start, but near the end, it will be rapid. Her coach will know. The athletic director will know. The college president will know.

Everyone. Will. Know.

I hit SEND.

These friends that I’ve made—the ones passed out in the house behind me, the same people who love me because Chandra told them to—they’ll know I’m the one who did it.

And my life will shift.

This will change everything.

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