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June 14, 2007 (7 Years Ago)

The muted sound of music and laughter bled through the bedroom walls, and I scowled at nothing in particular.

It was getting late, the party winding down, storm clouds building on the horizon over the seaboard and farther toward the south. Lying in bed, I could see the sky through the open curtains and had been watching it grow as bleak and thunderous as my mood.

Turning my eyes to the ceiling, I studied the small imperfections in the paint, the discolored splotch where I once had a poster taped in place, torn down almost two years ago now. A piece of tape still clung in place, discolored by sunlight and dust—an ugly splotch on an otherwise plain and pristinely kept stretch of space.

I hope it stains and Eleanor throws a fit.

The front door opened and closed. I heard someone's voice out in the yard speaking too loud and too cheerfully.

Teeth grit, I grabbed the first book off the nightstand my hand landed on, intent on reading to distract myself—and I let out a sharp, irritated breath when I read the title of one of Tara's college textbooks. I didn't know how that ended up in my room, and I didn't care, opting to drop the book on the floor, shoving the other texts off the nightstand as well. The heavy thumps of them landing vibrated through the floor.

Again, the front door opened, voices mixing in the yard, and I heard car engines turning over out at the curb as the music died downstairs and the hour grew later still. It didn't take long before footsteps came up from below, and I rolled to my side before the bedroom door opened.

She stood at the threshold for half a second, then sighed. "Well, I hope you're proud of yourself."

I scowled at the wall.

My mother and I didn't share many, if any, similarities. She looked nothing like me or my sister; where we were willowy and stark, pale and dark-haired and blue-eyed like our dad, Eleanor Gaspard was curvaceous and coiffed, light brown hair cut short and kept tidy, her eyebrows sharper than kitchen knives above keen dark eyes. The astringent smell of hand sanitizer followed her and defined my childhood, reminding me of hospital waiting rooms and Eleanor's office, the subconscious snap of her hands coming together whenever she sterilized them.

I despised that sound, and I despised the smell.

"Your guests are gone now, if you're ready to stop having a tantrum and come downstairs."

"Not my guests," I muttered.

"Don't mumble, Sara."

"I said they're not my guests!" I retorted as I rolled to my back, knocking a pillow to the floor. "They're your guests, or Tara's. You wouldn't let me invite any of my friends."

Eleanor scoffed as she entered the room, taking in the mess I'd made, the books splayed on the rug, blankets askew, a sweatshirt thrown over the desk chair by my backpack. A muscle in her jaw twitched. "Those people are hardly your friends—and I've told you half a dozen times you are not to socialize with that—boy. He's at least five years older than you! I'm not about to allow them into the house." She started to pick up the textbooks.

I sucked air through my teeth, watching her from the corner of my eye. She grew more irritated by the minute, and my own mood fed off of her anger, twisting in my middle until it weighed on my stomach like molten lead. True, I didn't much like my own friends either, but that didn't give Eleanor the right to judge them unworthy of my presence. It was my life, not hers.

"You'd have actual friends if you socialized." She picked up my calculus primer. "Instead you hole up here and leave your sister by herself!"

"Yeah, it's all my fault," I sniped. "Everything's always my fault. 'Stupid Sara, having one of her moods.' Sorry I fucked up Tara's birthday."

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