I really had no way of describing them. I suppose that could have been because they were close to being my enemies - an older, richer version of my disgustingly precise sister who baked cookies during holiday times for the homeless when she was younger and never broke the rules. Leaving school for her had been a teary bunch of days of packing up her things, handing out thank you cards and chocolates to her teachers and a graduation that I'd dragged Jace to to sustain at least a chunk of my sanity. I imagined my graduation process very differently; it involved me getting a permanent marker and making Elizabeth's photos and certificates more . . . decorative. Crashing someone else's memories of finishing school would just about make my end of high school.
I walked into the room already sulking. I could feel Jodie's eyes burning through the back of my head and into my mind, almost as if she were raking through my thoughts in a desperate attempt to see through me. Even through the windows and mum's lacy curtains she'd spent weeks working on with grandma, I could sense her watching me. With a smile, I wondered how she would react if I stripped down to nothing and jiggled my bits through the window. Then she might leave me alone.
Mum was sitting at the table with Elizabeth behind her, mulling over something written on paper in front of them with camomile tea wafting through the room like a disease. I covered my nose and opened the cupboard.
'Hello, Mindy,' mum cooed from the dining table. Elizabeth swallowed loudly and followed, her voice even more fake. I cringed, grunted a hello, and made my way to the couch. Abandoning Eliza's files, mum carried her tea over to the couch, slumping down next to me.
'I got another call from school today,' she said.
I didn't want to look at her, to surrender to the eyes that had duplicated onto Eliza's face. My eyes, unlike my parents', had been passed down from dad's great grandmother who'd been a chain smoker and drug addict and had died from a lung condition and stomach ulcer. I was the living, blinking reminder of her, a memory dad preferred to forget.
'You know you're not supposed to leave school during your frees,' mum said, leaning forward to put down her tea. I focused on opening my muesli bar, not what she was saying. Keeping to myself was the best way to cope with the isolation I got in the family.
'Why does it matter? They're my frees.'
'Given to you by the school,' she corrected, 'yes. Mindy, what about your college applications? You know you're supposed to give that information to the school.'
Elizabeth sneezed pathetically at the table.
I could picture the college application files scrunched up in my bin with Jace's inappropriate drawings along the sides and mock universities I'd filled them out for. I wasn't quite sure how mum would have reacted if I handed her those.
'I didn't hand them up because I'm not going to college.'
'What are you expecting to do?' Elizabeth retorted angrily. 'You can't live off mum and dad's money for the rest of your life.'
I gave her a stunned look. 'You make that sound almost appealing. Trust me, if I thought college was going to get me away from this place, then I'd already be there.'
Mum reached out a hand to slap me on the leg, but I caught her wrist.
'It is clear that you two don't respect my routine, but maybe I don't want to become a lawyer. Maybe I don't want to wear ugly clothes that are unflattering and marry a guy that is so boring, your babies will be forever demented with the "boring" disease!'
My sister let her mouth fall open. 'How dare you speak to us with such foul language! I am your sister! She is your mother!'
'Really?' I screamed. 'Because I'm starting to feel like you're trying to be my mum too! Am I the only one around here that knows my proper status in this family?'
'If you mean embarrassing filth with absolutely no life goals and a friend who is flaunting around and waiting for his sport to make him a living . . . then yes, I suppose you do know how you rate in this family-'
'Girls!' mum screamed, jumping out of her seat with her hair over her face. Elizabeth was panting, holding one hand over her chest and the other on her head as if she was checking her temperature.
'Mindy, get out for a while!'
'Why me?' I yelled back. 'Why can't Elizabeth go? I'm sure her fiancé would be happy to take them both back to his place for a while. Maybe that would stop me from hearing something sounding like two mice getting at it in the afternoon every, goddamned night!'
I didn't wait for mum to answer because I was afraid of what kind of excuse she'd make up to cover Elizabeth. She was the favourite and I was the one that wasn't supposed to exist. I was the one that wore the darker make up and the trendy clothes, while my sister restricted herself to clothes too big and boring for her. I had no doubt that Elizabeth could have been a pretty girl, but her personality only added to her hideous clothes!
I threw open the front door and stumbled out, ignoring mum's raging comments. Elizabeth's sobs wafted through the hallway, which I blocked out. My dad's car pulled into the drive and he beeped as I raced across the lawn, but I kept my feet striding one in front of the other.
I stopped at the corner of the street, panting and half-crying. I knew it wasn't the place to stop, the place to stop would be in the middle of Antarctica, for Christ's sake! But I needed to think without my entire family each contributing their own little bit to my unhappiness.
Some kids were bullied at school, some bullied themselves, but I had no doubt that being bullied by your own family was the worst. The people that were supposed to be lending a hand and supporting me just weren't. They didn't exist in my household.
I looked around in front of me, not behind, and groaned. Across the street, Jodie had paused on the curb, carrying two bags of groceries and managing a flimsy iPod into her pocket. She saw me, of course, red in the face and clearly distressed, but just bowed her head and kept walking.
From the time that I'd walked into the house and left, Jodie had gone and got food for her family. Boring or not, at least her parents accepted her.