two: skip

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     I was momentarily blinded by white light when I entered our living room. Blinking rapidly, I squinted my eyes to get used to the light since it was really dark outside. I took off my jacket and was almost at the stairs when my mother saw me. "Where have you been? It's almost nine in the evening," she scolded.

     I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Who cares if it's almost nine o'clock? It's still early to me. "I left a note on the fridge, remember?"

     Yeah, I left a note that said I was going to a friend's house for advanced lessons in Geometry. I assumed that since she knew how much I sucked at it, she'd let me off easily. I did ask Claire for additional notes and a couple of advanced lessons since she was so damn smart before we hit it off, so I wasn't a hundred percent lying to my mom.

     She narrowed her eyes at me then sighed. "There's still some spaghetti left, honey."

     "No, thank you. I'm good, Mom." I was about to plant my foot on the first step of the stairs when I heard him speak.

     "You're not skipping meals again, Alexa." My father commanded from the kitchen, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It was the automatic response my body did whenever he was near. "Your mother worked hard to cook that spaghetti, Alexa. Come and eat with us."

     I hated it when he used that stupid condescending voice on me. No matter how hard I tried to be brave and strong, my knees would still go weak and my eyes would still moisten with tears when he raised his voice at me. I hated it, I hated it, I fucking hated it.

     "Dad—"

     "No." He said sternly. "No, Alexa. We pretty much let you do whatever the hell you want. Your mother had to deal with your rejection for the past couple of days, and she waited for you to come home first before eating, even though she's been hungry for hours. So have some goddamn appreciation for once and join us for dinner."

     I felt cold. From my hair follicles down to the tips of my toes, I felt fucking cold.

     "Fine," I muttered, walking over to the kitchen and sliding into a chair. No matter how much my mother tried to hide it, I knew for a fact that she liked it when my father bossed me around like he owned this house. Well, he didn't, and he's only been here for a couple of weeks since my mother kicked him out of the house for the fifth time this year.

     "So, how was your study session with your friend, Alexa?" Mom asked casually, as if we were back to being best friends again and nothing fucked up ever happened in this household.

     "It was okay, I guess," I tried to keep my voice steady, sitting right next to my dear father made me jumpy and nervous as fuck.

     "You're not meeting up with that troublemaker, are you?" My dad asked, and for a second there, I almost dropped my fork and choked on my food.

     Of course, they were talking about Claire.

     She and I met at Target three summers ago, and she instantly became my best friend. Honestly, I didn't expect to fall in love with her—I was born and raised in a religiously Christian household and growing up, my father always had this weird hatred for gay people. (Don't ask why; he just does.)

     Also, I didn't even know that Claire was part of the community at all. When we first met, she had a boyfriend that drove her to work and picked her up after her shift.

     At first, I didn't want to admit to myself that I got annoyed whenever he'd kiss her right in front of me, didn't want to feel the unusual warmth I felt rising in my cheeks whenever she'd smile or say hello to me, didn't want to acknowledge the fact that I may or may not be different from what my parents expected me to be.

     But when I finally came to my senses and stopped denying who I really was, I have got to admit, it felt absolutely amazing. I was free.

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