White Elephant’s Yuletides
It's something no child should ever have to see.
A memory burned into my brain for all of time.
Our house was all glass and shiny metal wrap.
I went to a private school.
Shoulda said that one first. It is much easier.
A man with a woman. But not just any woman. That was my Aunt!
Mom never talked about her much but I knew her face. I knew she couldn't visit because "Grandmother" had instructed as such.
And I knew "bad habits" were hard to break, especially beginning as bad orders from bad people.
Mistletoe. The kissing leaf.
Gross. I avoided the brain worm plant like the plague plastic or real. There was no taking the chance!
Lips together the pair slowly, dizzily pulled apart eyes utterly wrapped in each other.
If I'd known then what I do now, if I could have seen the future--
I would still do it.
Sipping my juice brought their attention snapping onto me. Done up all pretty in my black and green snowflake Christmas stockings, a plaid red dress with long black sleeves, and a glimmery, jangling clip to keep my hair in place and in center.
"Aggie! Aggie, umm you-- you saw right?" Auntie stammered, terror written across her face.
Expression unchanging and uncaring I called out for a packed tea room not too far away to hear.
"MAMA AUNTIE's FOUND A MAN!"
Said man laughed into his hand.
"I don't wanna keep him though."
I'd be much too jealous.
But by how everything had come to yelling and clipped, icy politeness by Secret Santa I had a feeling no one'd listened. As usual.
"Being just a bit dramatic?" Edith said, a smidgeon of sarcasm in an otherwise cool monotone.
"The furthest thing from," I replied in a huff.
"When's the wedding?"
"When Auntie finishes her licensing exam or something. And then handle Grandma's legal things."
"Want a friend there?"
I nodded, letting my lip pout.
"Then I suppose we're girlfriends."
Aggie took the hand offered. First Auntie, before I know it I may just be the next. What with the fake-date trick we're always pulling.
The Renegade Christmas Gift
Ashley's grandmama would die. Just. Die if she'd reneged to wear her generously parted ruby Holly brooch to the Holiday social hosted at her West Side penthouse every year.
Which was exactly what her dastardly and jealous little sister had been planning when she'd stolen the precious item from right her very nose. Pilfering it from her expansive jewelry collection.
Surely she'd do away with the item after that, wishing nothing at all to do with the crime.
And so her search had first led her to the holdings dear Felicity owned. Meager scraps that didn't require all that much savvy or prowess. Given, her sister was quite the washy sort that wanted to be a homemaker of all things. Besides, she'd been diagnosed with some disability or another. Perhaps afflicting her reading.
Grandmother and Mom, everyone really, spoiled her too much.
She pressed the employees, a bit rough but the end results well justified such heinous behavior. She would apologize later.
A girl had finally confessed. And as was due Ashley was no longer the fuming, powerful heiress with powers akin to a wrathful God.
She had softened, generously thanked her and made sure to put in a good word with the feeble, terror struck manager.
Now, she forayed into the pawn shops of lower Los Angeles.
Esme had barely moved to the city.
Her Father was still just a bit heartbroken, quite a rare sight. And one she never hesitated to poke a bit of good natured fun at.
It was just hilarious! How beneath such smarm and finesse was a sentimental, washy pile of goo with a lot of money.
It had been a lot to get used to but she managed.
However, she wanted to take adulthood by her own terms and her own two feet.
She lived with two men and another woman in an apartment. No the guys were not gay! Nor were they brothers.
Her job paid well, though when she had first seen such a beautiful jewel on the display window, very accidentally, on her commute route she just knew.
Catalina. She did most of the chores in their apartment, was the youngest, but never asked for a single thing. Money was tight on her end since she was paying for college, estranged from most-- she'd had to start fresh.
That Christmas night, due early for their first holiday season together she snatched it up from the pawn shop.
On her way was some ridiculous spat between two women. Something or another about breeding and marriage.
There was this ridiculous hierarchy about old and new money.
Her position in a solidly middle class lifestyle kept her and her friends well out of it.
A woman careened into her from the street, coming at a blazing pace and hands clasped firm around the Holly jewel.
A genuine ruby, which likely even the shop hadn't known, was just robbed from her!
The fleece coat individual clacked hurriedly before entering a personal car.
Luster Bright as Dawn
Caleb would peg the downy lady as cheery. All pep, few brains, and possibly distracted by shiny objects.
That worked just fine for them both.
She gushed over Midnight. Cooed at how he held his treasured friend close.
Actually, much more than that. Midnight was the only living thing he could trust right now. The only one he allowed himself to love right back. Midnight's was so naively, so freely given.
Much like the cherry pink leather sectional he nuzzled up in. A matching soft pink fuzzy blanket provided.
"You can even keep it if you like deary," she simpered, turning out the light and waddling away.
She was quite large. Fat and probably somewhere in her fifties, or maybe close to seventy.
Caleb rolled over onto his other side, so he faced the couch and not the hall.
A shiny clock of fake gold and obnoxious design clicked the hour. Past eleven, thirty minutes to midnight.
Did he like stealing from sweet old ladies who had proven to really be so starved for company even homeless boys like him would do?
No. No he didn't.
But Caleb needed to eat and Caleb was not going to return to foster care. Life on the road, it proved quite eventful.
People sure did get wise fast. About the thieving kid that always cased the houses with the classic street waif play.
All untrue. Of course.
The awful thief was probably a miserable little wretch ungrateful and a burden on perfectly tender parents.
Funny how all their precious possessions were stamped onto police reports just as if not more important than thousands of missing children.
These were the things he'd thought about lately.
He really shouldn't get too bitter.
Pete had been perfectly nice.
The older people get it seemed the less they had in them to be mean. Maybe since by then their adult kids don't need them anymore either. Sooo, they got mean.
This lady's name-- the one whose house he was currently robbing-- was named Dawn.
Caleb peeled out of the couch, sliding quietly to the rugged living room floor.
He really hated stealing.
Midnight did too.
She began to cry.
Her drawers had been strung shut but it was a laughably easy job to figure her code. Each and every item had the same date code. The day of her first date. Her husband's deployment. Her first son's birth.
The day that man was no longer any son of hers.
Caleb took only a few of the pretty silver spoons and tea plates.
Next he scrounged the fridge for a fine stash of food for the road that morning and a slice of her sweet, decadent Black Chocolate Gelato cake.
How did the stores get ice cream in the center? How did she?
The light flickered on and Caleb reared.
The plump old bag was smiling serene as a drugged out bird, a nice white robe knotted tight.
"Well about time now," she hmmphed, small and still so, so disappointed.
Caleb did nothing, simply let her strut in her slippers for her dining table.
Where she opened up the tin of stale chocolate and moon cakes.
"Let's have a chat sweetie. About my son."
The Blue Fairy Preaches Responsibility
"Quite nice of you to help me," Livianna said curtly. Her eyes to anyone who dared look, would appear heartlessly cold.
Peck silently nodded. "I'm sorry, about Jimmy. I promise he is better than I am."
"I believe that," she affirmed with warmth, slaking away some of the cold fear that had hardened in his stomach. "However right now," and such a serious look sent yet another dark spiral of remorse, "your brother's the runaway and evading accountability."
"Accountability," he said, tone dark, "for what? His older brother?"
"It's what the adults would say, which is why I took the risk sneaking off from my bodyguards once I could be sure it was the little kid that did this."
"Okay, sorry." Considering she was literally the only option that wouldn't end in prison and exorbitant compensation it was better he behaved himself for once. "Look we can't go to the authorities. I mean, not exactly yet."
"No I quite agree with you on that."
"I, I got pictures. On my phone and from some albums."
"Good making fliers is a good step. Do you have social media?"
Peck just shook his head bitterly. "Too traceable," he whispered, "especially if my Aunt or Mother cottoned on. Peck does though, not too many followers though."
"That can easily change," Livianna said, "with the right message on his feed."
"Oh yeah," he quickly realized himself, if the princess found his brother's account worth following...
"You put up the notice."
Help me, I'm Lost and can't find my way Home.
"Soon as we can get some leads, some area--"
"Then we can worry if I have some contacts there that can point us ahead of the others, stupid Fire Escape guy isn't forthcoming. Something's keeping his lips zipped."
A young employee cleared his throat.
"What for the lovely couple?" he asked smiling indulgently.
What else was any rational person supposed to say?
What was there to cling onto, it was almost frustrating needing to tell the Mother-- whose other disappeared daughter had been much more disturbed-- the poor boy is most likely dead.
And that wasn't her fault.
So, there was no need to fear social services or the county. Not when the child for some reason, probably overdramatic or impertinent, simply ran away. To be swallowed by the streets, disavowing a kind, dutiful Mother.
Really, Ms. Antoinette was better off. To simply start over anew without such a horrible, ungrateful child.
Who would give anything to return to his Mother. Would lob off his own right hand or better yet the nearest councilor who got too close! If they'd be stupid for one moment, just one, to give him access to a axe or halberd.
And then, he would apologize-- on bended knee-- for snooping, for looking into the girl who should have been raised with him. Since surely if her Mother had raised little Pandora up to adulthood if the loneliness got to be too much then she would adopt a surly teenager who constantly pursed his lip on a lemon only he could see.
Who knew better than to listen to small-minded, small town sorts when they went on their sanctimonious soap box.
He'd give his sister-- The Emperess-- that. To worship and commemorate the men who proudly burned and disgraced women at the pyre was dubious and suspect.
Only he had traced her steps that summer evening, hers not his for Azir it had been the dead of winter, to a little, dilapidated misery at the outskirts of the forest.
Followed a song sung for many, many years and many children, to lure them away. When their parents didn't care, when they-- at teachers' behest-- would get rid of them.
He was no such child! He never was. To any adult he was wholly normal, unremarkable, and best of all submissive to their whims and authority.
That sounded bad.
Then again, if Pandora was telling the truth, a truth even her Queen Consort repeated in their breakfast pavilion Azir may have been right on the head for once. His paranoia and disordered fight and flight being useful. For once.
Note the emphasis there.
What he would give to be in his school with all the awful, intolerant brats, sipping t a thick milkshake from the cafe, throwing pebbles at stupid parents in the park whispering about the Mother and son pair.
He wanted Mom's veterinary office where he fainted at the taxidermies and internal organs pictures. Images grotesque as they were chillingly curious and curiouser to his morbid little mind.
This grim realm with it's magic and his sister the Mad Empress, were the same sort of experience.
Disgustingly familiar as much as an iteration of Hell.
"You're supposed to be dead," Oh God Mom.
He hadn't wanted his wish granted quite like this.
Richardson is a whole other world filled with intellect, maturity, and life and lights! The DART stations and the rush of a train! It's all so amazing and fabulous! Three days a week I walk among modern buildings and shining windows coating grand buildings meant for study and note-taking.
Then can you imagine, that I began in a house about seventy years old to the very day right now, where the door hinges and fridge door have begun to creak? Where there are rows of houses just as small with leaking paint and where likely the youngest child got the smallest room where the roof leaked? At least, unlike the rest, this space was all mine.
And I have to say it was a lovely start. My bed was it's own princess tower. I saw everything, I was ruler over all I saw. I had a veritable horde of toys and stuffed animals. My parents-- Mama y Papa-- were very indulgent. I wish I'd been much more grateful, but autism is an elusive, confounding beast. My parents never judged me so harshly. They simply read the signs and got the right people involved.
Then again, they could stand to call my sister by her proper name. You see I have two elder brothers too, still living in this house, but they work and earn the food and space. How wonderful, I could only aspire to be like that.
Now it isn't wholly accurate, turns out the eldest was given the wrong pieces. She'd never been a boy but the dressing and the skin and the parts all contradicted what she had known to be true. And of course, she is still here so there is that. I wasn't wrenched away from my sister, who in her ache and dysphoria had been a bit cold to be honest, for some years.
Though Father still calls her by that name. The "deadname." Which I won't humor even on here, since it. Is. Well, dead.
I grew somewhat self-centered I will admit. I grew up among Spanish speakers, and homely women wearing normal sweats and a bit on the plumper side. I grew up with a Panaderia just past the road.
On that same strip is a gas station, an auto shop, some other food place-- there always is one here in this country-- and a laundromat. Big, automated machines, shiny, new looking washers and dryers. There had been a time where ours malfunctioned so we went there to pay for a wash, for a quarter.
And the rest? Those were given to me, since they had wonderful arcade games on the back wall. To my eyes such games were candy. Absolutely perfect for always moving always animated hands, fidgeting in weird--
I say it over and over but that's because it's just as formative as the lower class, predominantly Hispanic and Black low-class speck of Dallas, Tx I grew up in.
A child always in her own head, I suppose a parent would have to hold on a little tighter.
I remember a little red ball. More than any doll or stuffed animal I put to sleep or decorated the living room with to be a little less empty as I watched cartoons with only my own company, the red plastic, in such a vibrant color and softly bopped against my head enchanted my eyes. I rolled it across a nice little lawn on the front porch, kicked and threw to my Mother who played with me. Until it rolled onto the main road that divided each line of houses and spat out onto the street proper left and right. Point is, I would have absolutely walked onto the pavement in the way of a car for that little red ball. Not even notice-- if my mom hadn't held me with a word, firmly in place so she could get my little red ball.
I could wax on, tell each and every little thing that made my neighborhood small and mundane as it was the very best or how I rolled down the main road while learning to ride a bike that now sits collecting rust and spider webs-- again spoiled-- however the challenge read good or bad.
For better or for worse. In ill and in prosperity.
There was school. And like I said, I genuinely believe there was no 'White' kid in that entire three floor unit. Or was it-- no it was two. Oh, there was a White teacher! Quite a nice man and he taught us out of a one-room schoolhouse! I think that's where all the first grade classes are. And they have metal steps girls can sit on to play patty cake.
Everyone there for the most part were Black or brown.
And, did you know that at that age all primary school kids care about is being loud and beepy games. I like those things too sure.
But no one minded the teachers who were trying to teach or did very well with reading. They were all sooooo slow.
And I know it wasn't very polite, the teacher screamed at me to get that point across, it was just so slow.
I decided to stay much more quiet after that.
School became boring waiting for most of the class to catch up.
And frankly kids are not very kind.
They're demons and I never knew what I did wrong! All I did was be nice and smile. My family had liked it, why did no one my age like me?
I hadn't had a friend before school, I didn't count my cousin then. Such a mistake. He may have been hard to understand before he learned to talk though no one else brought me candy when I was sick. Or thought of me in middle school after I had broken an arm to bring me chips and fruit in a pretty basket.
In place of a wider world that shunned me I found solace in the warmth of my family.
I focused on the wonder of yearly easter egg hunts and what flowery, light colored dress I would wear. On the Christmas prayer-- "misa"-- thing at another Aunt's house, where we opened presents at midnight.
My childhood was birthday parties with awful Mexican music blaring from speakers, at least they shut up when it was pinata and cake time. It was random weekend visits to one cousin whose father owned a ranch and so, so many animals. Who had a Netflix account and gush about cartoons we both liked or hammer out what to watch when and for how long.
"Two episodes of yours... finish this... and then the rest for mine."
"Outside time, just for one Demon Game."
"What are we doing out here? The pizza's come!"
My house isn't exactly a den for activity and entertaining two kids with a burgeoning obsession for TV. Either way we made do.
We played games, we scattered toys, and my brother was always smiling and responsive for a scant couple of hours when we took up his console.
Where did all that time go?
I-- never realized how much bigger the world could be.
Now that cousin is five hours away pursuing hospital management. Management! It's-- it's so grown-up! So technical and well-paid, he'd certainly not seemed the type for such a job. However he certainly loved money. And I suppose, he is a bit used to cheating already.
Both my parents are too old to run with me now. My Mom just about in her golden years. I'd never had to think too hard on being conceived at forty. Not since my mother was fifty, and her daughter was still in the fifth grade. Hardly a functional pessimist.
My sister deems me worthy of hearing about politics or about sterilization. We each know a cache of memes to use in place of dry, bland little tidbits about our lives.
I deem her worthy of speaking anime with.
Two days a week, I speak with a thirty-two year old in the Student Union and I have him in my contacts.
Where has the time gone?
I'm a firm libertarian(?) or liberal. I firmly believe social issues must have more of a concentration in politics, and surely beyond the will of old White dudes.
To think, such nuanced and educated sounding notions coming out of my mouth and onto type. I wonder, could you believe? That I'd started in a poor little barrio where we made tamales from masa rather than turkey and rice rather than green beans and mashed potatoes to go with pollo?
Rather the horrid legions... most of the school, pretended I didn't exist. So, a bit reluctantly, I had to thank Jared for keeping his word.
Now if only he could've left me alone till after school and in better mood to put up with a constant clinger.
Meeting up with my new friend-- and Megan-- I'd tucked in for the story of how she ended up in a wheelchair.
"I've gone on the trails for years, tread all the easy ones since my Cherry glitter BMX, I wanted a challenge."
My respect for Celia went up so high.
"You did not," I said.
"Calm down it wasn't three black diamonds it was only two but called Viper's. Gorge. Windy incline, just as many dips, and can do a wheelie with the right speed--"
"Which she can't get enough of and fell ten feet," Megan cut in which despite such a harsh, waspish tone, there was a haunted look to her eye.
Celia grew more solemn. I'd opened my mouth, hoping to tell her it wasn't like required she answer every single question.
"Yeah it-- it was bad, my leg skewed and my bike in, pieces."
"Good riddance," the other girl heaved. "Not much of a surprise, the whole incident though, considering who her parents are." And she took a bigger bite of her wrap than usual.
"How does that track?" I scoffed.
"Ever heard the names Asinder and Megara?" she preened.
Celia looked quite abashed.
"This year's hottest and fiercest punk goddesses," I squealed.
"Her Mom and Aunt."
"That is so cool!" I said bouncing upon Celia, clasping my hands with hers.
She took it in good spirits, laughing somewhat indulgently when saying, "Good to know what to get you for your birthday. I never did peg you as a punk music fan."
"And I never took you for a rabid fangirl," Megan said making me tense. "We all have our crushes."
"Sorry- sorry, I--" unconsciously I could hear the snappish tone of a man in my ears and extra runs that would strain at my legs lugging a pack full of rocks.
"Harley, really no harm," she assured, "I don't mind, I get my Mom and her sister are really cool. I don't think less of you, how stupid would that be."
"Thanks," I said just a bit uncertain.
"I like learning more about you. And I'm sure Megan wanted to connect with you too," she said a chilly current to her gaze, "she is all about romance, won't shut up on it."
Megan was a bit aghast but nevertheless just huffed and got quiet, still, resolutely silent on the apologizing thing.
Then my phone blipped.
"Friend?" Celia asked.
"I mean, mine are all here, I guess," I said. Opening the message, the only thing that seemed a reasonable response is to chuck the thing and move on.
Once was way more than enough.
I couldn't wait to hear Jared's excuse.
Now slightly important I didn't quite remember when exactly she'd asked for my digits. I wasn't the type to do the asking either.
Never had to. Considering, people still loved vibrant parlaying of pretty girls like they do a shiny star or Fourth of July fireworks.
'Need to talk?'
'Here if you need anything.'
Megan told me all the girls are calling you Disaster *shrug* Cinder or Ember? I dunno, I think they're brainstorming.'
'We won't obvi.'
'Really isn't fair. Prince is dead to me.'
The last couple just asked me to reply when I read the texts.
I sent her a nice lengthy response.
'alright even tho this is so wrong-- how'd you even get my number? Thanks for checking up and I'm fine. They're just petty, spiteful little harpies, believe me, I've got experience.'
I probably did deserve it. At least a little bit.
'Will admit I guess Jared's been the baseline of a gentleman not that I want him anywhere near me still. Double gag.'
Celia replied at once.
'Parents know someone in the force.' She included a deeply sorry face emoji.
'Yeah no way would you want a creeper near you.' Six sick emojis. 'Total support.'
'Least someone does,' I texted.
'Still talk to me. Promise,' Celia sent, not having seen my reply. 'What happened? Folks not believe you!!!??!?!'
Two rows of red angry faces.
'Lexy, my not mom, insists I apologize and she's brainwashed my Dad.'
Celia had my back the whole way. Swearing to guard me against bullies. Even if it was really no big deal, then again it would be lovely dealing with such annoyance even a little less. Still, she warned me about the Princes' almighty influence.
She relayed the story of Lexy who had personally sold the elder Prince son a car-- who does just about all of the driving and ferrying around for the family-- but hadn't gotten the model he'd wanted then. At least a few years back. Week after he returns the car and badmouths Lexy to every bigshot on his contact list causing a year-long dry spell.
'Thanks for the warning but I'm not letting anyone push me around.'
I was ready to defend myself from infinite legions of irate girls.
"Catch that-- liar! And awful slum," Molly wheezed, hands at her knees when she bent.
Continuing her stride all the same, where Ollie, Jocelyn, and Daniel had passed by ahead of her.
At the very least they'd all reached a familiar sight.
The Moors house.
"Oh come on," she complained as their perp jumped the fence more easily than one would skirt a puddle.
"Josie block!" Daniel demanded.
Considering his black eye and another bottle thrown for his face it was reasonable that Ollie eventually staggered to a halt.
But it was too late. He'd managed to throw the door open.
Molly reached the meager distance now standing side by side. At the very least able to block the kitchen doorway and the lovely patio space.
Daniel jumping into a full tackle, sending several of his parents' tchotchkes tumbling to the ground. Shattering to minute glass and crystal.
Wilbur Harris continued to squirm, cursing with vitriol that spit at Daniel Moors.
"Yeah, uh huh. I know Will, I know. Just rest it out of your system but for the time being do please put a sock in it," Daniel trailed, tone bitterly unamused and caustic, "in fact, if you would be so kind little brother."
"I gotta get into-- oh umm okay."
Pulling off his shoe to provide one grey, sweaty, ugly sock gag.
And Wilbur fought, to which Molly twitched in defense, eyes scanning the darkened kitchen for available blunt or better yet sharp improvisation weapons.
"Thank you kindly," Daniel chirped kindly, making Ollie just embarrassed enough to turn his face.
Though as usual she didn't miss the smile. Tinged with pain, a bit too wide and wobbling for someone fourteen.
Wilbur's voice turned to muffled pleas.
Daniel had dutifully called up for his Mother and Father.
Both being in a right state to find the mess and moreso, the one running his side sales of homemade whiskey and white, candy looking joints out of their elder son's bedroom.
"I can only hope someone has learned something today," Daniel prodded, pointed and hard gaze. "About time too."
Ollie laughed, "I learned I need to get into shape."
She was pretty out of shape. Exercise, yuck. Ughh, but this chasing the story turned out to involve way too much real chasing. 'Absolutely. Wonder-ful.'
Dear sister, Clarissa, just had to pry into my business. At this point I was absolutely enraged.
Hearing her absolutely bemoaning my "pitiful expression," and "all the bad blood," I had caused.
Yes. Of course she took his side. She and all the others.
"So I trust," Mrs. Forcett began, "that your first day was quite an adventure Harley?" Dear Lexy sparing hardly a glance for me.
I simply glowered, shoveling a honking portion of greens into my mouth.
Spearing my cut of dressed salmon whole, Fred now nudged me. Hard.
"Knife," he mouthed, suitably demonstrating. As if I hadn't had the very same silverware sets as this household.
I rolled my eyes.
"No 'o yur bunith," I uttered with salmon hanging off my mouth.
Mrs. Forcett shook her head.
"Sweetie," Dad said quietly, "she's never like this, I've never seen this type of thing. Harley's stressed, I think."
"Daddy, you hear her bullying me. I don't like how she's talking to me," I uttered venomously.
"Honestly, are you still throwing tantrums, trying to demand from your Father?" she prodded frustration at her every word. Like she'd not sent me off to where they'd said to use 'I feel' and 'May I' extensively until it glided along in my dreams.
"They'd said it was effective. Actually saying what you need in clear words," I said, furious and yet still speaking right rather than whining!
There was this certain look that at the moment Dad was giving to Mrs. Forcett.
"I suppose, there weren't calls from school. If what Clarissa says is true you didn't bully any children."
"Sure," I answered dryly.
"Liar," Clarissa cut in.
"Now Clarissa," her Mother and my Dad chided at once.
"Mom, Harley made an enemy of the mayor's son, degraded him right in their Lit class paired with each other. The whole thing is all over school," she plowed on.
Mrs. Forcett sighed deeply. "Well then you'll need to apologize by tomorrow and hopefully this could end working in your favor," she decided. Just like that.
"Hang on now Alexis. Shouldn't we at least hear Harley out. Of course, her behavior had been disruptive. Back then but we'd been told and have been shown, what leaps she's made, to grow as a person," my Dad insisted. Ever even and fair toward me.
I shot him a truly grateful smile.
"I'm sorry, you're completely right," she conceded, taking his hand but I didn't say anything. I preferred to look away from that.
I went into the complete, ridiculous hubbub Jared had made that morning.
Of which Dad nodded was absolute lunacy!
And it was hardly a shining impression when we had formally met, to suddenly be hit on and staring at me, absolutely proving me in my rights to tell he was creepy.
To my surprise Mrs. Forcett, an adult who had agreed to have me in her family-- to my Father and the law-- still insisted I had done something wrong.
She was certainly a pain and certainly didn't like me. But cruel wasn't quite a word I would use for my no-nonsense, no empathy step-mother.
"Well you caught his interest somehow. I admit I'm unsure how, which we agree, but most important is that it isn't an opportunity to squander. Anyone with class wouldn't purposefully have caused you discomfort, that I am sure of. You simply attacked too thoughtlessly, not unlike you," and though she wasn't displeased I'd still bungled things up, "all a learning process."
"Dear you-- you can't be serious?" Dad asked looking incredulous. "She's just told you the boy out and out harassed her! My little girl, your girl too. And you still believe the children should be friends?"
When she next spoke, it was in a much more subdued, tired voice. Right fitting for an elderly woman of her age.
"She is my daughter. I love how deeply you love her and fight for her, and I hold your opinion quite highly but powerful families, you've been lucky to be well removed from interacting with them. Too often those types strongarm any of lower standing than they are to get even a modicum of what they have assumed as theirs," the dark, withering look sweeping past the table so even my ditzy step-siblings turned away with some decorum of shame. "As for marriage, blended family, there will always be a few extra obstacles on that front whenever one is of-- well--"
"Lower net worth. Social capital," Dad guessed gruffly.
"It pains me, truly and add in Harley and what we've had to do for her well-being despite the reasons, it is by all accounts scandal. She is in a more unstable place than anyone."
"So what?" Dad declared, riled and defensive. "I don't care, I've told you many times, as long as it would take and much more, all I see is the beautiful, capable, and stunningly competent woman who somehow chose me, a single father. Neither of my girls not her or you, or anyone put up with being treated poorly."
He placed a firm, supportive hand on hers which bore a couple expensive rings.
I could think of someone who had already mistreated my wonderful Dad.
I am glad they don't bring it up too much.
For once us three step-siblings found ourselves our common ground. To watch who was swaying who. I obviously rooted for my Dad. Leading quite handily and generally on the side of all common sense.
"Believe me I don't like it but it is the best advice I can give," she admitted sounding painfully torn.
"i know for a fact her classmates probably tore her apart today, I-- I hoped the opposite, and hoped to hear that from her," she gazed at me. "I'd know it would be a lie and it would be terrible but I'd try not to care too much. It breaks my heart to know the truth of the matter and to see you suffer. To me, I have three children, three wonderful, sometimes strong-willed, unruly children." And it sounded like she loved those supposed flaws the most.
Her voice was worn raw. None of her business face was present. Just a woman.
Oh this woman was good. Too good, completely too good. A Grade-A scheme skillfully stripping my Dad's resolve gently as his work vest every evening.
"Well, if you are absolutely sure we can reach a peaceable resolution best for both," he ventured, but a smidgeon confident.
"NO!" I declared rising from my seat. "He did wrong by me and no one even cares! No one cares about me! AT! ALL anymore! I hate you all! WHY? I don't know, I don't know what I did wrong! Why don't you love me anymore? He isn't even that hot and who cares? Who cares how rich he is? Money is stupid, money is stupid," I whispered, rising again-- "I refuse to even look at his gross face!"
My Dad tried to get me to sit down, apologizing over and over, that he hadn't listened to me.
When I knew he would have.
If not for her.
And I wouldn't have worried, have felt guilty for the stress on his face because of me. Not as long as he would do what needed to be done to make me happy.
Lexy, as usual, derided my outburst. "We should be past these. She can't just be-- given into. This isn't a conversation for her--"
"So now it's about me?" I laughed in a sardonic manner.
"Harley, my sweet princess just deep, deep calming breaths. Like you'd learned. Clarissa, Fred to your rooms," Dad ordered off-handedly.
"No way," both complained.
"All the juicy--"
"Out!" he emphasized, now pointing at the door.
With stomping feet and plenty groans my stepsiblings obeyed.
A single door slammed. Letting my Dad continue to soothe me. "Now no one wants any trouble. I know you don't, I know you want and have been trying to be better and move past unlearning bad habits. Habits which weren't all your fault, I spoiled you, completely and excessively."
I shook my head. Fighting, really fighting for my voice to be steady and concise and not furious and hurt and anguished and completely exaggerating to make someone feel guilty.
"I just wanna be left in peace."
And no one seems to want to let me have that anymore.
"Then friendship is-- an unreasonable ask. It just is?"
"If that's the case, you don't have to give every detail, but okay," Lexy agreed, "but I do still think it would at least be worth your while to make sure few could say anything else in ill will."
"I suppose that is a fair goal," Dad said. "Harley?"
Both adults looked at me. Supposedly having compromised with me.
So I couldn't say no and not look like a brat.
"Fine, I don't care anymore," I relented voice hollow.
Thoroughly losing my appetite I turned away my half-eaten dinner.
All the same mumbling to apologize for me to Nellie. "Super good, as usual."
Lying despondent and splayed on my bed with my legs in the air I checked my phone.
Seven messages from Celia.