Palm South University_ Season 2, Episode 5(4)

By: Kandi Steiner

After an introductory speech from my Grand Big, Kelsey, the parents get tours of the house while sipping lemonade and Erin introduces me to a thin, older version of herself.

“Mom, this is Skyler, my Little,” Erin says, gesturing to me.

“Elizabeth Xander.” I take her dainty hand in my own and attempt a shake, but she stops me short with a tight, brief squeeze. “Pleasure, I’m sure.”

“I’ve heard so much about you,” I volunteer, my eyes catching Erin’s. She rolls them behind her mom’s back and I grin. “Would you like to see our rooms?”

Elizabeth shakes her head, scouring the living room of the house with an upturned nose. Her dark blonde hair looks just like Erin’s, especially since it’s pulled back into a tight bun, throwing more attention to the strand of pearls draped over her collar bone. She and Erin are both in brightly colored Lily Pulitzer dresses and wedges, and suddenly I wish I’d let Erin dress me this morning. I’m in jean shorts and a white tank top with our letters on it.

“No need, I had the full tour last year.”

“We should probably head over to the tailgate, anyway,” Erin adds. Her mother nods and they link arms, leading the way.

Family Weekend is packed with random events for students and their parents, including everything from guest lectures to fraternity parties. The biggest event, however, is the baseball game tailgate. The grassy event area right beside the baseball stadium is transformed into the ultimate tailgate experience, food and booze included, and we all pack the stands for the night’s game. Well, those of us who make it past the day drinking, anyway.

Elizabeth talks the entire walk over, chatting with us about her latest shopping trips and Botox treatments. Anytime Erin attempts bringing up her position in the sorority or her classes, her mother loses interest immediately, tapping away on her phone or changing the subject back to something superficial. It’s clear she doesn’t approve of Erin’s major or career choice.

“Oh my, am I seeing double?” A smooth voice drawls from behind us just as we reach the edge of the tailgate yard. Bright orange, teal, and white tents pepper the grass and our Student Government President speaks loudly over the microphone system, welcoming the parents to PSU. When we turn, Erin smiles at Landon, her latest fling and the owner of the smooth voice spitting out clichés. Still, her smile seems bleak, the same way it’s been for weeks, and I wonder how badly the stress of the Omega Chi website is getting to her.

“Hi,” she says sweetly and Landon grasps her gently by the elbow, pulling her just close enough to kiss her cheek before turning to Elizabeth. His blonde hair is almost too perfectly styled and his freshly tanned skin from Spring Break contrasts harshly with the pastels of his polo and frat shorts.

“You didn’t tell me you had a sister, Ex,” he flirts, reaching for her mom’s hand. She’s all smiles as he lifts it to his mouth for a kiss. Erin and I exchange glances. Is this guy serious right now?

“Aren’t you sweet as pie. I’m Elizabeth Xander, Erin’s mother. And you are?”

“Landon Turner, ma’am.”

“What a strong name,” she says, giggling, eyes bright. “Are you Erin’s boyfriend?”

“Mother,” Erin scolds, cheeks blushing a light shade of pink.

Landon doesn’t miss a beat. He pulls Erin in under his arm and smiles a bright, charming, country smile—all toothy and genuine. “Just friends for now, ma’am. But I’m working on her.”

Elizabeth’s brows shoot up and she grins at Erin. “Well heavens, child, give in already!”

We all laugh, me mostly to ease the awkwardness, and Erin leads us to a shaded picnic table near the alumni tent. It’s a little too warm today, the sun shining high in the sky without a cloud to block it. I’m already sweating slightly from the walk over and gladly take the fresh bottle of water offered to us by the volunteers as we sit down.

“So, Landon, what’s your major?” Erin’s mom asks, sipping from her own bottle. She’s leaning over the dark teal picnic table, ready to devour whatever he says. Of course, when he tells her he’s pre-med with a focus in plastic surgery, his Ken doll smile locked in place and his hand running through his blonde hair, she practically sits in his lap.

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