Chapter 2

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On March 16, seventeen years ago, the Morris family added a new member: Matthew Julius Morris. Matthew was a healthy baby boy who weighed 8 lbs and 7 oz. He had curly black hair and deep blue eyes. He was constantly giggling at everything and made everyone, even those grumpy new grandparents, happy to be around them.

Little did the new and proud parents know that there was another member added to their little family: Miya Julianna Morris. She was supposed to be their firstborn, not Matthew. But biology intervened, and Matthew got all the attention. Sure, he loved acting like Miya, but he only did it when he was alone. Matthew was afraid of what his parents would think of her.

Once, when Matthew was five, and Kelly was three, his dad caught him playing with his mom's make-up and flipped. He smacked Matthew away from the lipstick and sternly said, "Boys do not play with their mommy's make-up."

He then got Matthew all the toys he wanted to keep him from applying lipstick on again. But only the toys meant for little boys. Matthew's dad wouldn't hear about getting his eldest child Barbie dolls and dresses. "Those are for girls like Kelly," he once explained.

That was the end of the Miya days.

______

The next morning, I wake up, not knowing why I'm in my sister's room for a second. Then it hit me: my parents were fighting last night. Dad was cheating, according to mom. I sit up and listen for any sounds outside of the room. I don't hear any, so I figure it's the best time to wake up and go to my room to get dressed.

Minutes later, I go downstairs to see my mother at the table, in the same seat yesterday. She has her hands covering her face, and I can hear her crying. A box is placed next to her, and she's surrounded by crumpled up tissues. I freeze at the spot, unsure of what to do or say. Kelly clomps down the stairs, singing loud to a song she's listening to. I don't think she gives a shit about what happened last night.

The singing gets mom to look up at us. Her eyes are red and puffy. "Mom?" I ask, taking a step towards her. "Is everything okay?" She sniffles and shakes her head. I sit down next to her and touch her arm. "What happened?" Out of the corner of my eye, Kelly's rolling her eyes.

"If you two are on your periods, at least let me leave first," she says, rudely. I glare at her. "What? It's not as if--"

"Your father's gone," mom chokes out. Kelly shuts up and widens her eyes. "He left to be with his . . . his . . . " she doesn't finish her sentence, and sobs loudly. I put my arm around her and hold her, while Kelly stands still. "How could he do that to us?!"

"We'll be fine, mom," I assure her. "We're better off without him, right?" I see Kelly frantically shaking her head no. "Right?" I repeat to her. I point at mom.

"Uh, yeah," Kelly says, shakily. "We'll be okay." She looks worried. I don't blame her; it's not every day we see mom like this.

However, mom keeps shaking her head. "It's not going to be okay," she insists. "Nothing will be the same again!" She starts sobbing again. I pull her in for a hug while Kelly looks likes she wants to disappear. Much to her excitement, Kelly's phone rings.

"Sorry," she says, not sounding it at all. "I, uh, gotta take this." She exits the house, leaving me and mom. I find it annoying that she can do whatever the hell she wants, and doesn't bother making sure her family is alright. It's like she considers us 'people she's forced to live with'.

Minutes go by before Mom calms down a little. She sniffles, and clenches a tissue in her hand. "Matthew," she says quietly. My ears wiggle a little, an obvious sign I'm uncomfortable with what I'm hearing. "You'll have to take care of your sister a lot more than usual." Despite the hysteria I witnessed earlier, she seems unemotional now. "I don't care what you do. If you need to pick her up from school if I can't get there, if she needs some help with any assignment. . . " She trails off into space.

"Mom," I say. "We'll be fine. I don't mind helping out some more." I squeeze her shoulders. "Kelly can probably get a job, though." Hopefully, that'll get her out of trouble, I add in my head.

She nods. "Fine. Anything to keep us here. Oh God," Mom says, letting out a breath. Kelly pops her head in the front door, and mouths for me to come to her. I carefully stand up and walk outside.

"What is it?" I ask, annoyed.

Kelly puts her index finger in her mouth and chews on her nail. The last time I've seen her do that was five years ago, when she wasn't sure she'd be able to get accepted to Charles Wright Academy, the prestigious school a couple of towns away from Columbia Junior High School, where she now attends. She must be really stressed.

"Um, Josh wants to know if you can hang out today," Kelly says. Click click, goes her teeth as she works on the long colored nail. "And I really need to get away for a while."

I raise an eyebrow. "What does Josh have to do with you getting away?" I ask. "Is there something going on between you two?"

"What? No!" Kelly looks disgusted by what I'm suggesting. "He has his sister over. And Mandy promised to teach me a couple things about hair styles."

"She's back?" When she was 18, Mandy ran off to New York. The official reason was because she was accepted at a college there, but I have a feeling she wanted to get away from her family as far as she can go. Sometimes she visits Josh, but only for about a couple days before she leaves again. I'm surprised she can afford to do so; she doesn't have a good job as far as I know.

Kelly nods, looking relieved. "So, it's cool if we go to their house, right?" Before I can protest, she shouts, "Bye Mom, we have to go somewhere for a bit!" She grabs my arm and drags me to Josh's house about a couple streets over. We get to the front door, and she knocks. "You're welcome, by the way," she says to me. I scowl in reply.

Mandy opens the door and smiles when she sees Kelly. "Oh my God, it's been so long!" she exclaims, hugging Kelly. "Come on, let's go to the living room. I have tons of ideas I want to show you." While they're having their reunion, I'm standing awkwardly on the porch.

I can tell New York has changed her appearance. Instead of the French braid Mandy sported back when she lived here, her hair is now curled and delicately placed around her shoulders. Tight, purple skinny jeans and sparkly top replace the baggy hand-me-downs, and Mandy traded ratty tennis shoes for red pumps.

I wonder if the heels come in my size . . .

"Matthew, you can stop 'discreetly' checking me out," Mandy says, rolling her eyes. I tear my eyes away from the shoes and blush in embarrassment. "Boys," she says to Kelly, who nods. "Josh is in his room. You can go up if you want to."

"Um, thanks," I mutter, stepping in the house. It's modeled almost exactly like my house, but I know for a fact there's a basement instead of just a garage. Josh took me there once, but it didn't end well. Apparently, only his dad is allowed there. I was banned from hanging out there for a week and Josh got grounded.

I look at Mandy. "Where did you find the shoes?" I ask.

She smirks. "You planning on getting a pair for your imaginary girlfriend?" Kelly laughs hysterically. Mandy rolls her eyes again and adds, "You can get them at any shoe store. Trust me, they're not that special to have a secret place."

"Oh." I pause. "Um, yeah. I'll just leave you guys alone." I can hear my sister make a noise of joy as I go up to Josh's room.




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