Perfect

El was on the roof again. She wasn’t supposed to be up there – not tonight of all nights, the night her parents were having their country club friends over for the most important dinner of their entire lives. She was supposed to be downstairs with her matching flowered dress and purse, greeting the guests, smiling, shaking hands and being the best future housewife River Heights had ever seen. In her defense, she’d been downstairs for a few minutes. It had been long enough to meet the Reynolds, a rich couple who’d just moved out of the city. “Former celebrities,” said her mom in awe as El put away their coats. “Imagine what their lives are like – imagine their house! We must get invited over for dinner.”
El nodded, tried to smile, and hurriedly excused herself upstairs to study for the SAT’s. Then, taking great care not to drop her purse, she’d climbed out the window and onto the roof, positioning herself right at the edge so her toes were dangling in the air. This was her territory. 50 Park Lane, the nicest house on the block – and maybe in the neighborhood if her mom was feeling adventurous. It was clean. Well-kept. Perfect.
But El had long ceased to admire the perfection of their lives. She was tired of the predictability of the suburbs, hundreds of little brick houses lined up in neat rows. Being respectable wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, she thought, swinging her legs over the gutter and staring up at the black sky. Perfection was never as good as it looked.
“El?” she heard her mom call from her bedroom. “El, where are you, honey?”
There was an edge of distress in her mother’s voice, but El wasn’t worried yet. It would take at least another ten minutes to blow up into a full-blown panic. Then there would be a problem. She stretched her arms out across the roof, spread her fingertips wide, imagined that she was flying. Wondered what it was like outside of River Heights. Wondered when she would get to see the rest of the world.
Suddenly, there was a screech of annoyance inside the house. “Eleanor! Come down from wherever you are! Come down right now!”
That was her cue. She slipped back inside the window, strolled downstairs to where her mother was sitting by the Reynolds with an anxious smile plastered onto her face. “El!” her mom yelled when she saw her, straightening up. “We were looking all over for you!”
“I was in the bathroom,” El said with a wide smile. “Did something happen while I was gone?”
“Oh, nothing’s happened,” her mom said quickly. “It’s just that Ms. Reynolds seems to have misplaced something that was in her pocket just a few minutes ago. We can’t think where it’s gone.”
“Oh!” El said. “What was it that she lost?”
“It doesn’t matter,” cut in Ms. Reynolds suddenly. “All that matters is that I had it and now I can’t find it. It’s just gone.”
“Gosh, that’s strange,” El said. “Was it something important?”
“Very,” said Ms. Reynolds. “I can’t leave this house without it.”
“Well, that’s a bummer,” said El. She turned to her mother. “Sorry I worried you there, but I’ve got to get back to the SAT’s. I was halfway through a practice test and I don’t want to break my concentration any more than I already have.”
“Eleanor, we agreed you’d – ”
“I know we did,” El smiled, walking back up the stairs. “It was nice to meet you, Ms. Reynolds!”
Once she was in her room, El closed the door behind her and reached into her purse. It was strange that Ms. Reynolds didn’t want to say what she’d been missing, El thought to herself as she examined the men’s wristwatch that she’d found in the pocket of the wealthy woman’s coat. Even stranger that Mr. Reynolds had been wearing a watch already. This one really wasn’t his style. El smiled to herself, putting the watch back in the purse. Perfection never was as perfect as it looked.





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