“Taissa Zalesky?” The lady behind the counter asked me. She pushed her spectacles up on her nose and gave me hard stare. I was wearing a black tank top and black skinny jeans when I left the institute. I added on a few accessories to complete my aggressive look. I wore a black cord necklace with a metal star like pendant, a few wristbands and a pair of heeled ankle boots. I knew my attire has nothing to do with my Russian name but the only plan I have in hand is to create a normal college girl look, maybe a little extreme. Miss Fiona had prepared forms stating I’m a mixed blood of Ukrainian and American. I smiled awkwardly hoping she would let me go without further investigating my background. Miss Fiona told me that normally to enter premises that require full information about background, it is easier to go with foreign material because most people never bother to check the details but of course that will only work for short stay. I personally feel that Miss Fiona had put me in a test and want to see how I can pull of this totally unrelated identification with myself.
With a frown on her face, she gave the hostel key and some papers for me to fill up. I sat on the only cushioned chair in front of her and pen down the information I memorized. Ivy had printed the entry form of this college last week and we memorized the required details. I handed her the form and went to my room. Thanks to the Angels I have gotten a room just for myself. No roomie trouble. I didn’t bother to place clothes in the small cupboard, just in case if I have to leave immediately. I checked my reflection on the old dresser. I brushed through my curly hairs both sides with my fingers. I stopped and admired my red ringlets locks dangling above my waist. It’s been a while since I let loose my hair. I dyed my hair perfect shade of red right after my schooling days. It’s been months, now my hair looks red brown, giving my hair a rich texture. I walked out of my room to the first class. I have been registered under science department.
There was a big group of boys in the class when I walked in. I went to the back of the class and claimed a spot at the centre table, secretly hoping no one owns the sitting place. The class room was half full when the lecture begun. I earned a few curious looks from the students. We were only told to play the students role and no further instructions were given. I had no idea how to go by this mission just by being a student. After looking up a few books at the library, Naomi and I came up with a strategy. We made a guess of what type of groups of students would most probably involve in illegal activities, obviously, the bad ones. To get to them I need to gain their attention. I scanned through the class and spotted two sleepy headed guys. Both of them looked as though they are suffering from hang over. I kept my eyes on both of them. Halfway through the class they slipped out of the class using the back door. The lecturer, an old man was too keen in scribbling down some formulas on the board. I had the feeling that staying in the class will be a waste of time. So I decided to skip the class as well. I picked up my sling back and tip toed out of the class. I walked fast to the stairs and saw the two boys smoking at the staircase. I stopped a flight away from them, trying to think of my next step. I always have trouble in talking with people, especially me starting a conversation. I know I cannot use that as an excuse now. It might have been so much easier if Naomi was here, she would simply go to them start talking as though they’re friends for years. So far I had no problem but now I’m stuck. Testing my luck, I walked down the staircase with heavy steps. Just as I planned they stopped talking and stared at me. One of the guys with a messy hair smiled. I made eye contact for a full second before looking away. “Hey, you’re the one from our class.” The other guy recognized me. “Yeah, that’s me.” I stopped. “Skipping the class on your first day?” The same guy went on. I leaned against the wall beside me and gave them a bored expression. “The class was dull. I want something fun.” I wanted to sound real but my voice came out robotic. “You want fun. I can give you fun.” The messy hair guy stepped forward to me. Normally, I would never try to make conversation with these types of boys but today I have no choice. I got to find out something. I took a few steps back from him. “I guess you have no idea what I’m talking about.” I told them and started to walk away. “Wait, you wanna smoke?” The other guy asked me. I shrugged, “I don’t smoke in the morning.” I blurt out. What? I cleared my throat, “Is this where you hang out?” I asked him. The other guy lost interest in me so he turned away, puffing off his cigarette. The messy hair, the one gawking at me answered. “Most of the time, if you want to go somewhere else I have no problem.” I wanted to punch his goofy smile out of his face. I don’t think I could learn anything from them. I walked away cursing under my breath. First attempt. Failure.
I went down to cafeteria and spotted familiar face sitting at the front table in a group. Naomi looked up at me, just like the rest of her new gang members. I paid them no attention and walked past them to the inside of the cafeteria. The tables were empty. I sat in the middle table and wondered what the hell am I doing here? Exactly one minute later, a group of doll like girls walked in. When I said doll like, I meant it literally. Three girls in high heels with Barbie hair sat on the next table. I couldn’t help but to stare. I think every piece of cloth they wore would start with the word mini at the front. They took no notice of me which is good because I can study them further. I noticed Naomi was watching them too. I made eye contact with her and my phone buzzed seconds later. Naomi sent me a text. I looked over her table. She was busy saying something to the other girls. Obviously they’re gossiping about the Barbies. *Big shots in this campus. Watch them.* I was sure it’s the Barbies’ she talking about.
I pretended to be to focus on my mobile while listening to their conversation. They were talking about a party and pools. I listened intently hoping to know where that would be but they stopped talking. I glanced up and saw a guy walk towards one of the Barbie, the brunette. He didn’t utter a word and straight away dive in for a kiss. Thank god it was a peck on the lip kind. His eyes found mine and lingered. The brunette noticed that and turned around to look at me for the first time. I was uncomfortably trapped in the staring circle. The guy didn’t say anything but his eyes were still on me. The brunette was not happy about that. She looked at me from head to toe. She raised her left eyebrow and gave me fake smile, “Nice boots. New intake?” She asked me. I gave dumb look and nodded. “You should invite her to the party.” That guy told her, more like asking her permission. “Of course sweetie, we wouldn’t want the freshies to miss out the fun.” She told him. “Great, I will see you girls later.” He smooched her and left. The brunette leveled her gaze at me, “Name?” She asked me. I didn’t like her tone but ignored it. “Taissa, you?” She smiled as though my name amused her. “Tyra. This is Mia and Rachel.” She pointed at the other Barbies flanking her both sides. None of them greeted me so I kept quiet. “So see you at the party then, room 48 bloc H, boys dormitory.” She stated and then walked away. She held her chin ridiculously high as she walks. Naomi and her group went missing. I didn’t notice them leaving. That’s bad. As a spy I was taught to notice every single movement around me. *I’m in.* I texted Naomi. We are using our normal mobiles to not draw any attention. My spycell is in my jean pocket. I went back to the class after that, not really know where to go next. As planned, five minutes after one I went to the girls’ washroom at floor two. Naomi was in there, tying her hair in ponytail. I made sure nobody in there before talking to her. “There’s a party and I’m invited. At boys’ dorm.” I stressed the last one. Naomi gave me a thumb up, “Good luck with that.” “How about you, any luck?” I asked her. “Found some friends. Nothing suspicious.” Her shoulder slumped as she said that. I wanted to ask her about the Tyra girl but two girls burst in the room. I quickly started to wash my hands. “Come on, Alina. I’m hungry.” The tall one with a greasy hair said to Naomi. “Coming.” She dashed out with them.
I thought I may have to sneak to the boys’ dorm but I found so many girls simply walking to the building chit chatting. I looked around for a warden but no any elderly person around. I didn’t have any trouble to find the room. The music was blaring loud even with the door closed. I have never been invited to any wild party before this so I have no idea what to expect. I braced myself for the worst and knocked the door. Nobody answered, of course who’s going to hear the knock through that disco sound. I tried the handle, the door was open. I prepared myself for the worst and then entered the room. I almost suffocated when the air rushed out as soon as I opened the door. There were a mix of heavy alcohol and smoke smell in the room. The room was dark and crowded so I had trouble to even take five steps in. Someone had placed a disco ball at the corner so there was a moving colourful spotlights around the room. I felt super hot and sticky in that environment. Unlike me, the others were having fun. In the low lights I barely recognize anyone. I looked around and saw some of them dancing to the loud thumping music, some talking, sitting at the very few couches and making out. I have no idea what to do here, this is so not my territory. I took a few stumbling step forward and walked straight into someone’s back, a huge guy’s back to be precise. I tried not to go off balance and steadied myself. The huge guy turned around. He took a step back and studied me. I looked at him awkwardly. Another guy beside him nudged him and stepped forward. “Hello, there.” He slurred. Both of them were drunk. I wanted to just walk past these two, but before I make a move. The huge guy pushed the other guy away roughly and stood in front me, closer to me. God, how tall is this guy? I took a step back. This guy smells like liquor mixed with decaying meat. I gagged when he leaned closer. “You’re hot.” He said sluggishly, looking at me up and down. I was wearing a knee length, black dress. It’s the only party wear I brought. I didn’t expect a drunk guy to hit on me. What am I supposed to say? Should I flirt? Should I just walk away? He leaned in and whispered, “Looking for someone to have fun with?” It’s like he’s repeating my words earlier today. “Excuse me?” I looked at him ridiculously. He inched closer, “What you want to do first?” Kick you and flip you upside down, I thought. Too bad action in public is a big no. I almost walked out but my eyes caught the sight of a group of girls staring at us. It’s the Barbies. The others did not pay any attention to us. Since the room is literally dark with only disco balls at the corner of the room. It’s difficult to even recognize the person standing three feet from you. The three girls were isolated from the crowd and by looking at the way they behave it’s pretty obvious they are one of the popular girl groups in this college. So all I have to do is get their attention more than I have already has. I looked at the guy in disgust and push him away from me. He was dumbfounded. This caught a few others attention around us. “You know what you should do first? Take a shower, you smell like a dead rat!” I said in a loud voice and immediately I felt bad for the big guy. Students around us started to laugh. I didn’t mean to humiliate him but damn it, if only I could control my mouth. Even though it’s dark, I do not need the help of a bright light to know that the guy’s face looked just like hulk but red instead of green. I was silently hoping everyone will look away when he decided to throw me out of here. Unlikely, more people turned to watch the scene. I had a feeling he wants to punch me. Okay, no fighting, just self defense. “What the hell?” He yelled. I blankly stared at him. I open my mouth to say sorry but a girl stepped in front of me. I recognized the brown long hair, its Tyra. “That’s it enough. Back off.” She said sharply. He glared at her. “You don’t have get involved in this, she needs to learn some lesson from me.” He said but his tone was a little softer. Is he afraid of her? She turned and winked at me. Though I was surprised to see how calm she handled the situation, I kept my blank face. “Hey!” She raised her voice. She smirked and called out, “James!” She looked at the crowd expectantly. “Whoa, cool down, Tyra. I’m cool. It’s all good” The big guy said with his hand up like he’s surrendering. He backed off. “So where were we?” Tyra asked me. I noticed that guy walked away and the whole crowd dispersed. Everything went back to normal. By normal I mean, the music were still blazing with the annoying disco lights. The students started dancing and jumping, of course some making out at the corner.
“Let’s get out of here.” Tyra said out loud and then step outside. I was more than relief to breathe in the fresh air. “You were lucky, we were here.” Another girl, whom I believe to be Rachel told me. “Really?” I pretended as though I don’t understand. “Yeah, we saved you from Roy. You should be grateful.” Mia said. ‘Oh, okay. Thanks.” I said awkwardly. “I like you.” Tyra stated while twisting her hair with her fingers. “What?” “Not bad for a newbie. Come on, we have a party to crash.” Tyra tossed her hair over her shoulder and started to walk away to the stair. I was confused. The party is in the room. “Where is she going?” I whispered to Rachel. Tyra giggled, “Taissa right? That is a moderate party. I simply went because Roy and his fellow friends wanted me to show up for awhile. We don’t go there, we have our own, more private and isolated party.” She gestured towards herself and the other two, trying to act like royalties. “Again, you’re lucky. You are invited now.” The Rachel girl told me. I noticed these two are like Tyra’s fan girls. I followed them quietly as they walked out of the college compound to the parking lot. Tyra got into a red Hyundai Elantra. I followed them without any question. The second the car took a turn from the main road, my spycell in my handbag buzzed. I was with Rachel at the back and she just can’t stop talking to me.
I will get to my phone when I reach the party. It’s better to not to attract any attention. My hope was vain because the party was not crowded and loud at all. Tyra pulled her car in front of a bungalow, right in the middle of the city. “Your place?” I asked her as we got down. “My parents.” She didn’t even look at me when she answered, too busy applying lipstick. Rich Barbies. So far I found nothing suspicious or useful for my investigation purpose. Probably, these girls are nothing more than spoiled and self delusional college students. She didn’t walk into the house instead she went to the side. There was huge pool at the lawn. The pool was not empty. There were four girls in bikinis in the pool pinned around three guys, oblivious to our presence. Another three dudes are leaning at the side with drinks in hand, alcohol I guessed. In my opinion, this party is cooler and classier than the previous one. The Barbies came prepared. They stripped of their dresses revealing hot coloured bikinis and jumped into the pool. And for the third time that day, I stood awkwardly staring not knowing what to do next. For sure I’m not going any closer to that pool.
I was too fixated at the pool that I didn’t notice a bar at the left. There was a long marbled table attached to the wall and a few liquor bottles and glasses. The most importantly, there was a guy sitting at the bar. He sat too still, facing the wall that I almost didn’t see him. He was the only one who’s not in the pool apart from me. I have no idea if he even knows that I’m standing right here staring at his back of his head. I was wondering whether I should go over to have a little chit chat or ignore him. “Hey, don’t waste your time. He will never look at you.” One of the girls that I didn’t know suddenly said out loud. The others started to giggle and I flushed. But that got his attention. He turned and looked at me. I know I should act normal so I carefully shifted my gaze from him and went to sit at the bar, at the edge, the farthest I could get from that guy. I can’t go and talk to him now, he will think I wanted to flirt. But shouldn’t that what normal people would be doing? Why else I’m here? I started to get paranoid if I’m doing anything wrong. My spycell buzzed again. I fished for the cell but didn’t get it out. I don’t want them to start questioning the model of the phone I’m using. The screen showed two messages from Ivy. I clicked open the first. *Where are you going?* and the next one was *Why are you in a bungalow?* I was amazed to see that. Ivy is so good at this. Miss Anita sure was not kidding when she mentioned about Ivy having the potential to be one of the best techno junkie, of course that not how she said it. *Party with Barbies.* I replied her quickly and then zipped my bag. I almost drop the bag when I realized that the guy that was sitting far away from me is now standing right next to me, holding a glass. I cleared my throat and faced him. I didn’t get to see his face clearly just now so I took a closer look. He was tall but he leaned against the bar, so I don’t have to look up. His dark brown hair looks as though he styled it to be messy. He was wearing a body fit grey t-shirt and a black pants. He was good looking, really good looking that I still haven’t found any words to say. Strangely, he appeared tongue tied as well but not in a stunned way but more like studying me. His gaze was calculative. My mind quickly snapped, making me to sit up straight. I didn’t like the fact that some random guy is actually studying me. The staring was too long. “What?” I snapped at him. Bad move but I can’t help it. “Drink?” He asked, lifting up the empty glass. “Sure. Wine.” I told him. “Of course.” He stated and then went to the middle of the bar. He picked a brand new bottle and poured a red liquid into the glass. I watched him. Something was off about him.
He sat on the stool next to me. He positioned his body to face me. I took the wine glass and took a sip. He was sitting close to me and I can smell his cologne. He was holding a half full whisky glass. I leveled my gaze to match his. He didn’t look away and continued staring. His eyes were deep brown, reminding me of chocolate. “What are you doing here?” He asked me. His tone was unpleasant. I momentarily panicked if he had realized who I am. I gave him a half smile, hiding my anxiety. “That’s rude.” I stated and took another sip of wine. I welcomed the sourness while keeping my eyes on him. My instinct told me that I should watch out for this one. Something about him was so off but I couldn’t find what is it. He chuckled at me, “My apology. I didn’t realize that. Where is my manners?” He was not sorry at all. He stopped laughing and smiled at me, his dimple on his right cheek was attractive. “I’m Joe.” He introduced himself. “Taissa.” I told him and he burst out laughing again. “Really, you got to be kidding me.” I didn’t like him laughing at me but not the way he laugh. I mentally scolded myself to focus on the right things. I felt very edgy because most probably he is laughing right now because he knows it’s my fake name and how ridiculous that is, or he has a weird sense of humor. Any good mood left in me is gone now. “My name is funny?” I asked him pointedly. He shrugged, “Sorry again, but you don’t look like…”
“I know I get that a lot.” I interrupted him. He drank his whisky and looked at me expectantly. “My mum was born in Ukraine and she loved that place so when I was born, she named me Taissa.” I explained, hoping he would buy that. “Oh, now I get it.” He drank again and I sipped my wine, looks like we are drinking a lot. He poured himself whisky and then helped me with the wine. I smiled. We felt silent for a while. “You’re new to this town.” He said as a matter of fact rather than a question. I nodded, “I joined the college. You?” “I’m a student too.” He answered. I shifted in chair uncomfortably, trying to think of something to ask. “So why did you asked me what am I doing here?” That’s the only one I could come up with. “I was curious because you don’t. I mean you’re don’t look like you belong here.” He shifted his gaze and looked at the pool. I scoffed a laugh, feeling half impressed and half annoyed because he acts like he knows me. “Why would you make that conclusion, Joe?” I asked him. “You look lost and you’re not comfortable being here.” He stated, making me more annoyed. “No, I’m not. I’m here with my new friends. They said there’s a party so I came along.” I told him and stifled a fake laugh again. He smiled at me. If not for his rude demeanor I would actually admit that he’s cute, okay who am I kidding he hot. Focus. “Maybe I’m wrong. You know what amuses me right now?” He leaned in closer. I went still. “What?” I breathed. “How uninterested you’re with your new friends. I mean, you didn’t even spare them a glance until now and you said you are here because of the party but strangely you’re not having fun or going wild like them.” He pointed at the pool. He was right the group at the pool were going nut. Tyra and her boyfriend was nowhere to be found though. The others were splashing the water at each other like crazy. Joe was watching me but I couldn’t bring myself to look at him. He knew something is not right but why is he making it so obvious. He is very observant and that is dangerous. I cannot panic now. I can’t storm out of here, that’s not how spy deal with crisis. I have to handle this, somehow and at the same time I was curious where Tyra and James went “Are you drunk?” I asked him. “You have to ask?” he asked me back, pointing at his glass. “You know, since you told me what you think about me. I got to be honest with you too.” Now, it’s my turn to lean forward. He smelled so good that I almost forgotten what I wanted to say. “I think you’re very rude, oh wait I told you that already. Uhm you’re pretentious because you’re just like me. You don’t look comfortable either and I even suspect if you’re at all drinking liquor because unlike the others you smell so good and the way you move, you’re steady and alert. That’s mean you’re not drunk and..” I paused awhile to take another long sip from my glass and then gave him an up and down look. “And the way you dress, your hair. You wanted to look normal like that dude at the pool but you don’t. You said I don’t belong here guess what? You too. What were you doing looking at that ugly wall a while back? You’re not socializing with anyone and from what that chick said, you probably don’t have fun with any girls too. You’re so out of place, Joe. Now that I said it out I really wonder what are you doing here?” I rested my head on my palm, leaning on the table. My head felt fuzzy. I smiled satisfying when Joe struggled to say something smart but he can’t. I was happy I shut him up.
“I didn’t know you like red head.” A guy from the pool said to us suddenly. I looked at them and the girls were throwing me curious looks. “Flirting much.” Rachel called out. I gave them a dubious look and then I noticed how close both of us were sitting and the way I was smiling just now. Of course they would think of that. I moved away awkwardly. “I didn’t know that either.” Joe said to the guy. “She said. I smell good.” He continued. He smiled slyly at me. My jaw dropped. “What are you doing?” I demanded. “I’m just sharing the truth. I didn’t know you would notice so much about me. It’s flattering.” I knew he’s distracting me from our earlier conversation and he’s good at it. I wanted to argue further but instead of doing that I gulped down the wine. The taste of wine was really good and I want it more. I didn’t wait for him to pour me, I stood up and the world spun around me. I grabbed the table to steady myself. “Wow, easy Taissa. Let me get that.” He placed his hand on my shoulder, gently pushing my body back to sit. He took my wine glass. I did sit but I glared at him. “Take your hand off me.” I told him, suddenly feeling angry. “Sorry.” He took his hand off. “You had enough drink. You should go back.” Joe told me. I grew more annoyed, “Who are you to tell me that?” I gave him incredulous look. “I can’t believe I have to deal with this.” He muttered to himself. He grabbed my wrist, “Alright, I will get you back to the hostel.” I immediately tried to yank my hand away but his grip was too strong. “No, I don’t want to leave. I’m here to party.” I told him. He pretended to not hear me and drag me out of the lawn. “Somebody is about to get lucky to night.” I heard the boys shouting at us. The group made some noise but Joe was too busy dragging me away. “What are you doing? Let me go.” I told him and he did. I stumbled forward and he caught my wrist again. “I said don’t touch me.” I said menacingly, or so I think. He sighed, “You can’t even walk straight.” He said to me. He walked to the black Peugeot and I leaned against it. “Your car?” I asked him. He didn’t answer. He opened the door for me and I sat in.
He drove us out of the house into the city. My head buzzed so I rested it on the chair. Joe tossed me a water bottle. I drank it without asking any question. I felt so much better after drinking the plain water. I closed my eyes and listened to the car engine’s soft roar. Slowly, I recalled the last one hour. I opened my eyes in shock. I stared at Joe, wide eyes. My head hurts a little. “I got in a car with a stranger.” I said out loud and then clamped my mouth. I was drunk. I am drunk now. I feel hyper and woozy but not as much as before. My mind quickly assessed the situation. I went to the house with Tyra, Rachel and Mia. Then, I started talking to Joe and after that things got weird. I remembered each word he said about me and me to him. I started to act giddy all that while. That wine. Of course. But it’s just a wine. Miss Raina taught us about drinks in one of her class and she recommended us to go for the wine if we have to drink. She said it’s the best for us, since we never had alcohol before. So what is wrong with the wine I had. I stared at Joe suspiciously. He pulled up at the college compound. “Why are you staring at me like that?” he asked me. I shook my head. “What was in that wine?” I asked him without thinking. “You should go.” He told me. My gut told me that I should listen to him. I opened the door and set one foot out. I felt so confused. “Taissa.” Joe called me. I turned and faced him. “I don’t know if you will remember this tomorrow but listen, you’re new here. You don’t know this place. I’m not scaring you. I want you to stay away from us. You get it. Maybe, you think joining Tyra is a good idea. Trust me it’s not.” I stared into his brown eyes trying to make sense of his words. My mind is very sluggish, I have trouble processing my surrounding. “Joe, right? You’re not making any sense to me right now.” I told him honestly and step out of the car. I stumbled all the way to my room and sank on the bed. I am so wasted. “What did they put in it? Drug? Truth serum? And Joe, what is up with him?” I wondered out loud before passing out on my bed.