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"Rippled" (Just a preview)
June 12, 2001 was the day I turned seven. Technically, it was the day before my birthday; Mom liked to celebrate it a day early. My mother, my five-year-old sister, and I decided to walk down to the movie theater on the corner of Hiltopper Avenue and Jones Street. We lived in a small town, an everyone-knows-everyone kind of place. Some people will claim to live in one of those places, but they are lying. I lived in a place that was Spartan, in the completely xenophobic aspect of the town.
So here we are, walking down the street to the theater. My sister’s baby doll she carried everywhere fell out of her hands when we rushed across the crosswalk. She decided to turn back and get it just as an unknown SUV came floating down Hiltopper. Right now, you are most likely thinking that you know the outcome of this story.
But you’re wrong.
Most of you might think, “Well, her sister gets hit by the car and she lives her whole life wishing her sister was alive.”
My mother was hit by the car saving my sister, and I lived my whole life wishing my sister were never born.
My aunt Pat loves to pinch cheeks. She’s got hips as wide as Russia, lips that are covered in Red Rave lipstick, and painted on eyebrows. Mom was going to tell me the story one day about why aunt Pat doesn’t have real eyebrows.
Mom’s dead though.
Uncle Marty kneels down in front of me and says quietly, “If you keep that sad face on, it might stick, Charlie.”
“That’s a lie,” I mutter.
“And how do you know?” he questions.
I shrug. “Momma told me.”
Uncle Marty just smiles sadly and pats me on the head. Bernice, Mom’s best friend, would kill him if she knew he frizzed up my hair. She spent hours on it. Thinking about how much it would hurt her if my hair was a mess, I run my fingers through it and shake my head rapidly.
Bernice shrieks, “What are you doing, Charlotte!”
I look up at her and reply, “Whatever I wanna do.”
“You are seven years old, Charlotte. You do not get to do whatever you want to do. Do you understand me?” Bernice asks.
She’s got her arms crossed and the too short black dress scrunches up. Her blonde hair is neatly tucked behind her ears. She looks a lot like Mom. I wished I looked like Mom; if I looked like her, whenever I peered in the mirror, I would be reminded of her. Instead, Bernice looks like Mom, and Anna looks like Mom. Anna killed Mom.
I cross my arms too and yell, “You aren’t my mom! You aren’t my dad! You aren’t even family!”
She looks hurt and doesn’t reply. Anna does though.
“Charlie, whatsa matter with you?” she asks timidly. I’m scaring her. Good.
“What’s the matter with me? At least I didn’t kill Mom.”
“Now, Charlie, those shorts are not dressy,” Bernice tells me. We’re in the dressing room in Sears.
I glare at her. “I’m eleven years old; I can pick out my own outfit.” I throw the stupid, pink, puff dress on the dressing room bench. I refuse to wear something so hideous. I refuse to wear a dress at all.
“Why can’t you do anything I ask?” she half-shouts. “This is your first dance and a boy actually wants to go with you!”
“What’s that supposed to me? Someone actually likes me?” I shout back.
My godmother crosses her arms across her chest. “You are bratty and cold and distant. You will grow old and alone if you push everyone away! I’m surprised you said yes to Robert.”
“Screw you!” I yell and run out of the dressing room. I don’t want her to find me, so I hide in one of the racks of clothing. People come over to the rack every couple of minutes and grab a blouse or two. No one notices the preteen girl hugging her knees against her chest with tears flowing down her cheeks. No one cares because I’m not their kid; I’m not anyone’s kid. The worst part?
Bernice never came looking for me.
Some new Rihanna song blares from the oversized speakers in the gym. I stand at the double doors, freezing in the skirt I stole from Sears. It’s red and pleated and completely unflattering. But it’s a skirt, and it’s cute.
I see my friend Maggie that I met last week when I moved here. She’s wearing jeans and a tunic with her hair in a braid. I frown, feeling as if I’m the only girl here wearing a skirt. I wave to Maggie and she looks at me. I smile, beckoning her over, but she just rolls her eyes and goes inside.
I grab her arm to slow her. “Hey, Mags!”
She laughs. “Mags? Who do you think you are, brace-face?”
“I thought I was your friend.”
Maggie looks guilty for a minute, but she says, “You thought wrong, Chelsea. We all just felt sorry for you, but you’re a freak.”
“My name is Charlie.”
“That’s a boy’s name, and it’s weird.”
I shake my head. “It’s mean of you to say that.”
“You of all people should know that not everything is all nice and stuff,” she says.
I wrap my arms around myself. “What do you know about me, anyway? You don’t know me.”
“I know your mom got squashed by a truck and your sister pushed her in front of it,” Maggie replies.
“You don’t know anything! How dare you say my sister pushed her in front of the car! Anna was five years old!” I shout.
Maggie snorts. “You’re the one who once said you hated Anna for killing your mom. New travels fast, and it’s even faster when you talk about murder.”
“You don’t know anything,” I repeat. Maggie doesn’t say anything, but she walks away as if nothing bothers her. Everything is bothering me, but I’m trying not to let it show either. I break down when Robert walks past me into the dance and hugs Maggie.
I slept in a tree last night, looking at the stars and listening to everyone dance to Pink’s new song. The words bratty, and cold, and distant circled around in my head. Soon, all I could hear in my head was, “I’m not here for your entertainment...”