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1.5 Lizzie

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I walked into my house, dropped my book bag, walked a few steps into the carpet and then, finally, lay face down in it. My bones sunk into my skin, weighed heavy by the stress of the day and the unforgiving humiliation. Closing my eyes, I debated just napping here. Fuck it.

My phone buzzed and I groaned against the rough carpet. It made me itch and my eyes water from the dust. In this chess game I was playing against life, it was my turn. But I didn't know my next move and I hadn't been planning ten steps ahead, but who said I couldn't just lie here on the floor forever?

The front door shuddered, swinging open and just missing my shoe. My mother stepped inside and I knew it was my mom without looking because my mom carried noise like anyone would carry a purse. Peanut Butter and Jelly, our two Welsh Corgis barreled into the house, barking their tiny little heads off. They jumped around me as my little sister, Gina, stepped over me, talking a mile a minute about her sleepover plans with her litter of sixth-grader friends that also walked over me, giggling into hysterics.

One of my older brothers, home for the weekend, Danny, laughed when he spotted me. "I think I've stepped on a bug in that position before, Liz. Are you alive or what?"

I peeked up, noticing his duffle bag and two trash bags full of his clothes. He laughed again when he saw my grimace and just kept walking. He yelled at the horde of girls running up the stairs like a stampede of miniature horses. "Hey! If we're getting pizza, you gotta get something I like too! Something with toppings! If you want just some bread, cheese, and sauce, I'll make you some bread, cheese, and sauce at half the cost!"

"It's my party!" Gina shouted back.

"And I get it, you'll cry if you want to!"

"I'm not crying!"

"It's a joke! It's my car going to pick it up, so it's gotta have toppings!"

Our dad had a strict policy of carry-out service only. He said the "convenience fee" on delivery was the worst criminal act someone could legally demand.

"Isn't anyone going to ask what Lizzie wants?" my mom asked, slamming the door behind her as she spoke on the phone in Spanish. It must have been someone from work because it was all medical jargon. In one room, a TV was switched on; Danny turned on an NPR podcast and the girls upstairs blared radio pop music without using the radio.

Sighing, I worked up the energy to stand up. I grabbed my bag, dragging it into the kitchen with me. The dogs followed, nipping at my heels. My mom sat at the table, slipping her work shoes off. She wore light blue scrubs today, her ID badge still clipped to her shirt. Her spools of dark hair were piled into a high bun, but rebellious strands framed her round face. All the girls in my family were short, but my mother was all curves with plump lips. The only thing we shared was our sharp dark eyes.

"Alright," she said into the phone and sighed when her feet were free. "See you tomorrow. Okay." She hung up, looking up at me. "Are you hungry? How was your day?"

"I don't need dinner," I said and dropped my bag on the table. "I'm going to hang out with Camille tonight..." This wasn't a lie. I was just going to hang out with Camille and a house full of other people throwing a party. Did I know Olivia Young well enough to celebrate her seventeenth birthday? No. Was I weak against Camille's puppy dog eyes? Yes.

Also, my anxiety churned around and around my stomach like a cement mixer. I hated these things, but I didn't want to be left out. Again.

Mom freed her hair and ran her hands through the curls, making me a little jealous. My hair fought between being wavy, straight and just full-on frizzy. She sighed, studying me longer than I would have liked, feeling like the ants underneath a vengeful magnifying glass lined up with the sun. Hopefully, she went easy on me; I burned easily. She said, her words as tired as her bones, "Your teacher called today, Mr. Burka."

I froze. She might as well have two-handedly pushed me into a bath of ice water. Sinking under, the chunks of ice tumbled down my throat, freezing my lungs. Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse. This was an assassination of my good time.

"He said you were very upset during your audition," she explained my own life back to me, a freak game of telephone about something I lived. "But when he tried to find you, you were gone. Mija..." she called me, and it was the exact way to make my heart all mushy. The name threw me back to sleeping in her arms after a nightmare when I was a kid. The name was the equivalent of stroking my hair. She went on, "If Orchestra upsets you so much, maybe you should stop. You'll be a senior next year, so maybe you should focus more on school and less on..."

My mind blocked out the words. The idea wasn't something I could process and envision into reality, like the sky turning green, chocolate tasting sour or the entire plot of Love Never Dies.

"Can we talk about this later?" I cut in before my heart exploded all over the kitchen.

"Okay, but just look into other options for yourself."

"Sure, right." I nodded, grabbing my bookbag and running to my room. I locked the door behind me, pressing my back against the wood. Taking a deep shuddering breath, I looked up at my ceiling in an attempt to not ruin my eyeliner. It took forever to apply (since it took at least four tries to get it right) and I was already late picking Camille and Parker up. Quickly, I pushed aside my mother's words and threw on a sweater because if I was going to suffer at a party, I was at least going to do it comfortably, and raced out of my house before my mother could say one more word about ruining my life.


Author's Note

Uh, oh! Looks like Mom's getting some bad ideas in her head. Also, the sibling energy? How does that feel? Too close to home? And pet names... where does Peanut Butter and Jelly rank. Please give me your pet's name, thank you very much!

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