Crashing Back Down
Crashing - 1
Kristen Hope Mazzola
Excitement started to form butterflies in my stomach while Cali and I giggled in her bathroom, getting our makeup just right for our first adventure into the new world of college Greek life. We had met only a few weeks back during sorority rush, and became instant friends. We could not have asked for more; being pledges for the same sorority and starting to dive right into a ‘real’ college experience. It was the first night of fraternity rush and some of our older sisters invited us to join in the festivities at one of the fraternity houses on campus. It was a really big deal, and we were bubbling over with giddiness.
When we were finally walking up the dampened front lawn of the frat house, I grabbed Cali’s arm, completely in awe of the sea of ravishing men we were wading through. She pointed out an especially good-looking guy wearing his letters across his noticeably chiseled chest. He was tan, tall, and had tattoos poking out from under his sleeves. I bit my bottom lip and salivated with Cali as we followed the hottie into the foyer.
There were tons of guys and girls, all grouped off, trying to convince potential new members that being Greek was amazing and that this was the fraternity for them. It did not take too long for a handsome brother to stride up to us, and to our surprise, the guy I was mentally undressing before stood next to him. I found out that the hottie’s name was Walker, but my attention was quickly diverted to his friend, Randy. There was just something about him that stunned me.
We chatted and flirted with them throughout the night, while meeting other potentials who were not so favorable. Apparently, during fraternity rush, they had a few guys doing "trash duty,” meaning any guy who over stayed his welcome was kindly escorted out by the trash handlers. It was a pretty fun role that Randy and Walker let us participate in. We drank, chuckled, and toyed. Cali and I played with our hair, laughed at every joke and batted our eyelashes perfectly.
A pimply-faced freshman puffed on his inhaler while talking to Randy, and Cali grabbed my arm. “Come with me to the bathroom.” I nodded and asked Walker where it was.
His lips curled seductively as he put his hand on the small of my back, pointing in the direction of the girls' room. “Don’t worry, we cleaned it this morning.” His southern drawl curled around the words, making him that much more attractive as he winked and gave another sexy smile. We both fawned over his seductive tone as we weaved through the crowd to the bathroom.
Luckily, the oversized bathroom that smelled like piss and Lemon Pledge was empty. Cali undid her shorts and plopped on the toilet while I checked my mascara in the mirror.
“Those two are freaking hot as hell, Mags!” Cali’s voice was full of excitement mixed with lust.
I touched up my makeup, trying to talk without messing up the liquid eyeliner. “The girls were right. There are men for the picking.” I finished, and turned to Cali, who was zipping up her tight black shorts. “Which one do you want?”
Her eyes went wide at my words, “Randy is all over you; obviously he’s yours! Besides, Walker has a bad boy southern edge I’d love to jump on!”
I nodded, feeling my cheeks blush with anticipation and lust as I grabbed Cali’s hand again to lead her back to find our evening’s prospects.
I was thankful the pimply-faced guy had already been booted by the time we returned.
Randy’s eyes lit up a little when he noticed us walking toward him. He slid his arm around my waist and hugged me close to him as he handed me a fresh beer. “Having fun?” His silky, deep voice tingled in my ear while he whispered, sending goosebumps down my neck and arms.
Trying to be as sexy as I could, not really being the best flirt and so nervous to come off as an awkward freshman, I licked the top of the bottle a little, before taking a long swig, and then nodded. “Yeah, tonight’s been great!”
Randy hugged me close again, a smile dangling on the corners of his mouth. Faintly a hint of red dusted over the back of his neck. Seeing the slight red creep over Randy’s skin made longing surge through my body. Right then I knew I was in deep water already.
Toward the end of the night, another one of the brothers came over to introduce a brand new pledge to Walker, claiming that he was his perfect match for a little brother. The five of us all got along like we had known each other for years. The conversation flowed easily between all of us, and we stayed together, laughing and joking for the rest of the evening. Mitch Katz was a freshman, just like Cali and me, and pretty outgoing. When he went to shake Randy’s hand, I noticed a sleeve inked into Mitch’s arm. Could these guys get any hotter?
Starting to slur his words making his southern accent that much thicker, Walker leaned over to put his arm around Randy’s shoulder. “What do you say we all get the heck outta here?” He had a devilish grin on his face as he winked at Cali, making both of us blush.
The rest of us agreed and made our way to the parking lot. Randy grabbed my hand once we made it out the door, leading me to his truck. “Race ya home, Walker!”
My college years were a blur of studying and partying. The only thing I can say held any significance was meeting Randy, the fraternity guy with the great smile. Meeting him lifted me off the ground in an instant. And just as quickly, I crashed back down to earth the day I found out he hadn't held up his end of the bargain. I never realized “until death” would come before kids and old age for us.
I always knew his choice to join the military would be difficult for me. When his unit was called, Randall McManus was whisked away from me only two short months after our vows were said. He took so much pride in his status as a paratrooper that I knew he was meant for greatness. His head was held a little higher after he enlisted two days after he graduated from college.
For what felt like forever after Randy died, I was not awake. I simply went through the bare, basic motions of life. Friends and family would stop by to make sure I was taking care of myself from time to time. My mom did most of my grocery shopping, and even got so fed up with my lack of cleanliness that she broke down and hired a maid. Work continued to be the only venture into normalcy I could stomach. Most people stopped calling, texting or stopping by. It’s sad to say, but I was happier being left alone. I couldn’t handle being bothered, constantly reminded of my ‘sad situation’ and a continuing source of pity.
Walker was my most frequent visitor, pretty much like clockwork. Every Sunday at noon, I expected to see his bright green eyes light up when I opened my door. He was going through his own process of grief and loss. I think he needed the company as much as I did.
Walker Eastman was Randy's right hand man ever since they pledged their fraternity. He was even overseas with Randy when the military-deemed-accident had happened. There were some faulty cables that snapped when the parachute tried to open. Needless to say, there was no condolence letter good enough from the military to cool my anger and sorrow. All of us came hurtling down to earth that day. Walker was the only one who never said the wrong thing, or pressured me into talking. I welcomed his company warmly, to my surprise. Mostly we just sat, drank coffee and watched TV; simple yet perfect.
When I finally coaxed my eyes to open, I read eleven-thirty on my alarm clock and sighed, looking at all of the pamphlets from all of the different organizations supposed to help me with my grief. I rolled my eyes and shoved them out of my mind, allowing myself to ignore them for a little bit longer. Knowing Walker would be showing up sooner than I wanted, I fought through my down comforter to find my phone. Maybe he won't mind missing one visit. I really was not in the mood for cheering up that morning.
Once my phone was finally in my hand, I fumbled through my contacts, clicking on his name. Before I could even rethink the call, Walker was on the other end declining my suggestion for a rain check. Right as I started to protest, I heard my front door slam shut. He hung up as he entered my room, his brawny arms carrying a box of donuts and coffee. I couldn't help but smile, a little relieved Walker was just as stubborn as I was.
I felt like it was the first time I’d truly opened my eyes in weeks and to my horror, I realized how disheveled I looked, and how messy my room was. My baby blue carpet was almost entirely hidden under dirty clothes. My makeup lined up on top of the dresser was a huge mess and I hadn’t even made it out of my bed yet. I was wrapped up in the covers with all the pillows thrown on the floor. Randy always made fun of me for being a ‘pillow tosser’ in my sleep. I wasn’t even allowed to have beverages on my nightstand for fear of knocking them off in the middle of the night.
I cringed with shame from the mess and my wretched appearance, "Walker, I'm not even dressed. I'm sure I look like hell!” I shrieked, diving back under my blanket. I was in one of Randy’s old Army shirts, and basketball shorts, makeup still on from the night before and smudged all over my eyes. My dark-brown hair must have looked like a lion’s mane, a tangled mess. I felt it, half-matted to the side of my face.
I could hear Walker’s deep southern drawl through the comforter, "Come on Mags, I've seen you at your worst. Trust me, you look like an angel compared to a few months ago."