From the time she was born, Jessica Mitchell was told there was nothing special about her, so she spent the good portion of her life trying to make people see otherwise.
When she was three, she won a toddler beauty pageant. When she was ten, she won a creative art competition and her work was immortalized in a coffee table book. At her high school graduation, she was valedictorian. She had offers from all the best universities world wide. And yet, it still wasn't enough to please her parents.
Now, she was a freshman at Pendleton University, living in the most expensive dormitory that she couldn't really afford, with an equally snobby roommate.
She was struggling to stay afloat, especially when her tuition bill came in the mail the week before. She needed $25,000 if she wanted to stay in class and in the dorm.
Majoring in medicine, Jessica divided most of her time between classes, the library and the on campus coffee shop. She didn't have any spare time for work and calling her parents for a loan was never going to happen.
The day started like any other. Jessica woke as the sun shone through the lace curtains, warming her face. She stretched and yawned before making her way down the hall to the communal bathroom. She had a shower, washing her long chocolate brown hair.
She turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. Jessica dried herself before using a hairdryer to dry her dark tresses.
Wrapping a towel around her naked body, Jessica raced back to her room. Her roommate was still asleep, so as quietly as she could, Jessica rummaged through her closet until she found a clean pair of jeans and a simple white T-shirt.
Getting dressed, Jessica grabbed her purse and raced out the door.
The morning was beautiful. The trees waved gently back and forth in the spring breeze, their green foliage trapping the heat of the sun.
Jessica hurried along the path to the coffee shop. “Morning, Adam,” she greeted, flashing the guy behind the counter a warm smile.
“Morning,” he replied, dropping the car magazine he was reading. “The usual?” Jessica nodded, pulling her wallet out. “Yes please. I've got a long day with Professor Welsh. And an even longer night planned,” she replied, handing over a twenty.
Adam chuckled as he busied himself making her latte. “Party tonight?” he asked, innocently, knowing that it wasn't really her scene. Jessica shook her head, chuckling slightly. “No, studying. If I want that internship, I have to hit the books.” And find a job that pays well, she thought bitterly.
Handing over her change, Adam couldn't help but grin. “Just as long as they don't hit back,” he teased, flashing her a devilish grin.
Jessica groaned at Adam's attempt of humor. He was always joking around with the customers. In fact, she can't remember ever seeing him act serious.
As she waited for her latte, Jessica realized that she didn't know that much about Adam. Sure, he was cute. Anybody with eyes could see that. But he was mysterious. She knew he was a student at Pendleton because all employees at The Coffee House were. But aside from that, she was stumped when it came to the guy who made her coffee every morning.
“So, Adam, what are you studying?” she asked casually leaning against the counter.
“Economics,” he replied, handing her the freshly made latte. “I got Professor Campbell.”
“I heard he's tough,” she replied, taking a sip. Her tongue darted out of her mouth, licking the excess from her upper lip. Adam laughed, his green eyes sparkling. “Yeah, he's a hard ass, but at the same time, he's one of the best in the field so I'm learning a lot.”
Jessica grinned. “That's how I feel about Professor Welsh. Hard, but fair,” she said, batting her eyelashes seductively.
“You got Welsh? I don't envy you at all,” he teased, pushing his magazine aside and climbing up onto the counter.
“So, how come I never see you outside of our morning meetings?” he asked, brushing his blonde bangs out of his eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“You're never at any of the campus parties. And with a professor like Welsh riding you, I thought you'd be looking to let your hair down a little.”
Jessica shrugged. “I'm not one for parties,” she answered truthfully. “My roommate is the partying kind and she gets in at all hours. Although, I didn't hear her get home last night.”
“Maybe she crashed somewhere.”
“Nah, she was in bed when I left this morning. Probably over did it on the tequila shots.” Adam chuckled. He knew exactly how Jessica's roommate was feeling. He had his fair share of purging on tequila.
He hopped off the counter and made his way to his book bag that was hanging up on a hook. After rummaging around for a minute he returned with a slip of pink paper in hand. He handed it to Jessica, before taking up residences on the bench again.
“What's this?” she asked, scanning the paper, her lips moving silently as she read.
“Party at the frat house tonight,” he explained. “I was hoping to skip it, but being a brother, I have to make an appearance. Maybe you could come to make it less like torture. Then, if you want, we could go some place else.” He shrugged, hoping he came off casual and cool, not desperate and sleazy.
Jessica glanced up at him. She bit her lip, searching his eyes. He was awfully cute and she was stressed with her workload. “What the hell,” she said, breaking into a smile. “I could use the break.”
Adam grinned and hopped off the counter as the door opened with more customers. “Awesome. I'll look for you there,” he said, before turning his attention to the other patrons.
Jessica moved out of the coffee shop, smiling to herself. She had scored a date with a super hot guy and she was going to her first ever frat party. She was excited, and as she strolled down the path she felt a little spring in her step as she mentally assessed her wardrobe, vetoing everything.
“Guess I'll have to go shopping,” she said out loud to herself, knowing that she couldn't really afford it.
That night, dressed to the nines in a slinky black dress that stopped above her knees, Jessica turned up to the frat house. Loud rock music was blaring out the window and there were people everywhere. Some girls were throwing up in the bushes. A couple of the guys were peeing on a wall. Some guy ran around in a bed sheet yelling, “Toga! Toga! Toga!”
As she entered the house, a beer cup containing some strange liquid was immediately placed in her hand. She smiled, thanking the anonymous beer donor, before moving into what she assumed was the living room. There, in the middle of the room, was Adam, chugging down a mini keg through a tube.
The crowd around him was chanting then began cheering when he held up the empty keg and tube. He dropped them and let out a loud burp, slapping high fives with a couple of people, before spotting Jessica as the crowd parted.
He made his way over to her. “And now that I've made my appearance, would you like to go somewhere else?” he asked, wiping his chin.
Jessica nodded. Adam grinned, taking her hand and began to lead her upstairs.
He pushed opened one of the bedroom doors and stood aside so she could pass by. He closed the door behind him, locking it. “Welcome to my digs,” he said somewhat sarcastically.
Jessica forced a smile to her face as her fingers tapped the cup in her hand. The room was what she pictured a frat boys room to look like. Pizza boxes, soda cans, clothes thrown all over the floor. The bed looked like it hadn't been made this century and there was a strange smell.
Adam placed his arm around her shoulders and took the drink from her hand. “I wouldn't drink that,” he said, placing the cup down on top of the dresser. “You can never trust a frat boy to make a drink.”
“You make me my lattes,” Jessica reminded him.
Adam laughed, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “Yes, but that's different. You're paying me to make you one. Here, anything that is handed to you usually contains 99.9% alcohol.”
Jessica joined in laughing.
Adam moved over to his wardrobe and pulled open the doors. Inside was a mini bar fridge. He got busy making something that wasn't 99.9% alcoholic while Jessica began moving some things from the bed so she had a space to sit down.
“Here we go,” Adam said, handing a plastic beer cup over to her. “Bottoms up.”
Jessica stared at her drink before glancing up at him. Adam was already taking a sip of his, but there was a twinkle in his eye that she didn't fully trust.
“Thanks,” she said, placing the cup to her lips as though she was about to take a drink.
Adam spun around as a water balloon filled with shaving cream hit his window. “What the fuck?” he cried, placing his cup down and moving across the room.
He pulled open the window and shouted a few obscenities at the guys standing on the grass below before slamming it shut.
Jessica was still sitting on the bed. “Boys will be boys,” she said, tilting her head back and draining her drink.
Adam nodded and picked up his drink. In one breath he drained the cup. He smiled sweetly at Jessica, watching her closely, almost as though he was expecting something.
She stared back at him, blinking innocently, watching his body begin to sway from side to side.
Adam's vision became blurry and his tongue felt dry. For the briefest of moments he thought he saw Jessica's lip twitch into a smirk. “What the -?” he said, before falling forward on the bed.
* * * * *
Adam sat up, ice cubes spilling over the side of the bathtub, onto the bathroom floor. He glanced around wildly as he took a moment to work out where he was. A dozen cans of beer lined the tub near his feet. He was in the upstairs bathroom of the frat house, in a bathtub full of ice.
He pulled himself up, wincing in pain, as he tried to stand. What the hell happened?
Adam remembered offering her a drink. Then nothing. Everything after that was a blank.
Carefully, he climbed out of the bath, being sure not to slip on an ice cube as his feet pressed against the cold tiles.
He made his way back to his room, fumbling with the door handle. What was in his drink? He hadn't added anything to the beer.
He stopped cold. He might not have added anything to it, but he did turn his back to his drink long enough for Jessica too.
Adam broke into a sweat as he entered his room. There was no sign of Jessica. He winced again, grabbing his side as he stepped over some shoes. His side felt wet.
Looking down, Adam let out a bloodcurdling scream. His shirt was soaked in blood.
Frantically pulling away at the material, Adam ripped his shirt off and raced to his mirror. His whole side was covered in blood and there were dark stitches poking out from the skin. He ran his hand over the wound, feeling it, his mind racing, wondering what happened.
He glanced up at the mirror and his blood ran cold.
Taped to the mirror was a note written in lipstick. His lips trembled as he read it.
“For sale. One human kidney. $25,000.”