I study the envelope on the cab ride downtown. Still drawing a blank. As soon as I get upstairs I can do a more detailed search on the internet behind the symbol and colors. If sophisticated strangers in designer suits are hand–delivering letters to me on high quality paper, there has to be a reason behind it.
I didn’t want to use the library’s computers because I didn’t want anyone in my business. A search on the Theta sorority could lead to a porn site or a dozen of them. Besides, I wouldn’t get a seat at a terminal anyway. Everyone is checking e–mail, sending messages, and making final travel arrangements before they got ready to head to the airport.
The T1 connection at the penthouse is a lot faster than the local area network at the library. Unfortunately, New York City traffic isn’t. I anxiously peer out the window of the cab waiting for the traffic light to change so I can get home and get some clues regarding the mystery behind this fancy stationery.
I let out a sigh of relief as the light turns green and the cab sprints up Park Avenue and approaches Seventy–Third Street. When the driver eases into the parking space right under the awning of 3430 Park Avenue, I unzip my backpack, pay the fare and stuff the envelope in it. As Earl our doorman marches down the red carpet and opens the door for me, I give him a friendly smile.
“Welcome back Ms. Anderson.” The thin gray haired caramel colored man greets. “How was school?”
“Got through the semester with a 3.99 GPA Earl. How are things with Clarice?”
Earl lights up. “Clarice made the honor roll.”
I knew she could do it if she applied herself. “She keeps pulling grades like that and she’ll be in NYU herself.”
“I don’t know if I could afford NYU on a doorman’s salary.” Earl laughs.
Ms. Wallstien, an old White woman who lives downstairs grimaces watching Earl and I chat. As she approaches the building with her toy poodle, Earl quickly stiffens his body language and pastes a staid expression on his face while he opens the door for her and her dog. I understand he’s keeping things professional to keep his job. I keep things personal by reaching into my backpack and taking out my wallet.
“Maybe this will help with the tuition.” I say as I hand him a tip.
Earl smiles at me then at the $100 bill. “Thank you Ms. Anderson.”
After tipping Earl, I stroll through the lobby to the private elevator at the end of the hall. Anticipation builds inside me on the ride upstairs. As the elevator opens in the foyer of the penthouse, I hear chatter coming from the living room. Daddy must be entertaining a guest. The internet search on the Theta sorority is going to have to wait.
I put on a smile and make my way into the living room where I’m surprised at the sight of my Aunt Margret chatting with Daddy. The thin mocha colored middle–aged woman wearing a pastel colored Chanel Suit, bone colored heels, and a pearl necklace jumps off the oxblood nailhead leather sofa and rushes up to me to give me a hug. She wants something.
“Colleen,” Aunt Margret greets as she breaks the embrace. “How are you?”
My smile twists into a grimace. “I’m okay Auntie.”
“I hear you’ve been doing exceptionally well at University.”
“I told her you got straight A’s this semester.” Daddy says from across the sofa.
I flop into the matching oxblood leather chair across from my father. Aunt Margaret sits on the sofa a cushion’s distance from him. “I’m glad you’re doing well in your classes Colleen. But you’re going to need more than good grades if you want to be competitive in the world. What are you doing for extracurriculars?”
“You know, school paper, clubs–”
“Er…I’m taking on a six–class course load at NYU. There isn’t any room for extracurricular activities.”
“You do know the girl has to eat and sleep Margaret.” Daddy jokes.
“But Jack, Colleen needs to be better–rounded so she can grow into a balanced person. Everything can’t just be academics.”
“If I get any better–rounded at college I’m gonna need a straight jacket.”
“I just feel you’re not having the educational experience you should be having.”Aunt Margaret continues. “You need to have a social education in addition to an academic one if you’re going to be prepared to run your father’s business affairs–”
God, not this crap again. Ever since I was six years old my whole life has been dedicated towards getting a social education. While other little girls were playing with jump rope and Barbie dolls, I was learning basic etiquette so I could meet with the members of the Anderson Financial Board and our senior executives at company parties. Learning to behave in just the right way. Watching every move I made at the dinner table. Wearing the right clothes. Wearing the right hairstyles. Getting the best grades so I could go to the best private schools. Not doing anything to embarrass the family or tarnish the family name in the public eye. I thought college would be a break from all the pressure I’ve been getting to be social for the past eighteen years.
I roll my eyes. “Does everything have to be about my inevitable destiny?”
“Colleen, you’re going to be taking over Anderson Financial when you get older. Your father needs you to learn all you can so you can be the best leader you can be.”
“I can’t lead others if I don’t have control over myself.” I snarl.
“Well, when I was at University I was in clubs, reported on the school paper, and I was involved in student government. The education I got doing all those things helped me become the woman I am today.”
A pretentious snob who thinks she’s better than everyone else and judges everyone before she even gets to know them. You’re not helping your case Auntie.
“You didn’t go to NYU.”I retort.
“I went to Fisk. It was just as challenging.”
“Still you didn’t go to NYU. We have a nice spot in Washington Square where all the suicidal types have something to aspire to when they decide to end it all.”
“Are you doing anything this summer?” Aunt Margaret asks.
I just got back from college yesterday. Can I get a chance to unwind? “I was planning on sleeping in for two months–”
“I want you to meet with some of the sisters from The Thetas this afternoon.”
I reach into my backpack and pull out the envelope. “So you’re the one behind this fancy stationery I got at the dorms?”
“I see you got our invitation.”
“They missed me.”
“Even so, I’ve asked some of the sisters to drop by the penthouse to discuss your pledging them this summer.”
“Pledging? Wait a minute–”
The buzzer interrupts me. Aunt Margaret rushes over to pick up the phone. “Yes, send them up.”
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