“Alexis, go tell your brother and Nate supper is ready.”
That’s my mom, Elizabeth Voight. She insists that we eat together every evening. That is the one meal no one is allowed to miss. We live on a working ranch, so my dad is out at the crack of dawn every morning. Most mornings I’m out there too; helping him before school. My brother and Nate help out too, but my parents insist they spend more time studying than anything else right now.
We have sheep, pigs, cows, horses, and chickens, so the workload is great. Obviously, we have ranch hands too, but I like helping out as much as I can. I love animals and I love to be outdoors. I’m not a typical girl; I’m a country girl and I wouldn’t know about fashion or makeup if they smacked me in the face.
We live outside a small town in Williamson County, Tennessee. There’s like a population of 100 people in the town, so it really is tiny. I’m quite happy with that though. I like that we’ve known everyone forever, that we’re all safe and we know if any strangers are in town just by seeing their faces or cars.
My brother, Caleb, and his best friend, Nate, are currently in Caleb’s room catching up on some homework. They’re in their senior year and will be graduating in a few months. I’m in the year below them, so I’ve still got another year after this one is finished. As I near Caleb’s room, I hear them talking. Now, I’m not usually an eavesdropper, but something stops me in my tracks this time and I stand, listening silently.
My brother’s is the first voice I hear, “So, what’s the deal with you and my sister? I’ve seen the looks you’ve been shootin’ at her. I can literally feel the anger rollin’ off you every time she’s nearby...”
My eyes widen and I quickly think, ‘What?! How did I miss that?!’
Nate’s voice snaps me back to reality, “I hate her.”
Caleb’s tone is warning when he speaks again, “Watch it, that’s still my sister man.”
“Sorry, I can’t help it. She’s so annoyin’. She thinks she’s one of the guys; hangin’ around us all the time. Us guys can’t do anythin’ without her taggin’ along. I hate it. We can’t just be guys because she’s always there. She isn’t one of us so we can’t be normal. We always have to include her in everythin’. All the guys feel like they have to include her, even if they don’t want to, because she’s your sister. It’s frustratin’ and I hate it.”
“You want me to have a word with her? I’m sure she doesn’t mean it that way...”
“That’s even worse! She so selfish and blinded by her own agenda that she can’t see how annoyin’ she is. I’m sorry, man, I know she’s your sister.”
Caleb is silent for a few seconds and then he says, “Just don’t say anythin’ to her. You know she doesn’t have any other friends. I’ll try to work somethin’ out.”
I turn on my heel and walk away as fast as I can. I pass my mom in a daze and head out to the barn to call my dad in for supper. I feel a lump forming in my throat and the tears threatening to fall. Before I get to the barn door, I pause and take a deep, steadying breath. I refuse to cry right now. I don’t want anyone to question me about this. I wasn’t supposed to hear Caleb and Nate talking, so I can’t tell anyone I know.
Maybe Nate is right. I do hang around with the boys all of the time. Caleb is right too, I don’t have any other friends. I talk to people at school, sure, but I don’t really have anyone else I can hang around with. I don’t have any of the same interests as girls in my classes. Because our town is so small, we have to travel to the nearest school, which is an hour drive both ways. Even if I did have friends in school, we wouldn’t live close.
I thought Nate and I were pretty good friends. We’ve always hung out and had a great time together. I didn’t know they all hated me so much. Why didn’t someone tell me? Why didn’t they just say they want to do guy stuff on their own? Well, I guess that puts an end to everything. If they want to be left alone, then that’s what I’ll do. I’ll stay out of their way now that I know I’m not wanted.
My dad is feeding the horses, so I grab some buckets and help him. This is usually his last job before coming into the house.
“Hey, Little Bit. Did your momma send you out?”
“No, sir. I just thought I’d help so you can come in quicker.”
He nods and we carry on in silence. He places his hand on my shoulder, making me jump slightly.
“You ok, Lex? You’re awfully quiet tonight.”
“Oh, yes sir. Just thinkin’ about my homework. I have some papers to finish up before the mornin’.”
“You don’t need to help out in the mornin’, sweetheart. Finish your homework tonight and have a mornin’ in. I don’t want you to burn out.”
“I like helpin’. I’ll just eat supper quickly and get started tonight.”
He nods, knowing he won’t change my mind. I’m a stubborn one, that’s for sure. Once I’ve made my mind up about something, then I’ll stick to it come hell or high water.
Now that I’ve left enough time between hearing the boys’ conversation and getting my dad, I go back and call them for supper. I don’t want them to get suspicious and think I’ve heard them. Nate pretty much lives at our house. There’s nothing wrong with his place; he even has nice parents. I don’t know why he’s here so much. To be honest, it’s never really bothered me. Until today. Back when I was twelve or thirteen, I had a huge crush on him. I would never have admitted that to anyone. I kept it so well hidden, that I almost convinced myself it wasn’t real and didn’t happen. At that time I spent all of my free time out with my dad, which meant I was around the guys most of the time. That’s when I sort of fell into hanging with them so much. Have they hated me that long? Has Nate hated me all of my life?
There are a thousand thoughts running through my head, so I’m quiet through supper and I keep my head down.
My mom asks, “Alexis, is everything ok?”
My head snaps up in shock, “Oh! Yes, ma’am. Thinkin’ about my homework.”
I quickly shove some more food into my mouth, which makes my dad chuckle.
“Little Bit, you’re not a horse. Slow down, missy.”
My mom frowns, “Alexis, you’re a lady, not one of the boys. Please behave accordingly.”
I swallow the lump of lasagne that’s in my mouth and mutter, “Yes ma’am. Sorry.”
Caleb and Nate laugh at my expense, but I don’t look in their direction. I feel like if I look at them, my heart might actually split in two.
I finish a little more supper, but I’m not really hungry and I ask if I can be excused from the table early. I literally feel everyone’s eyebrows raise and I know why. I never skip dessert. Ever.
My mom sounds shocked when she asks, “You don’t want dessert? I made pie.”
“No thank you. I need to get my homework done tonight so I can get into the barn in the mornin’.”
My dad interrupts, “I told you, you can have a mornin’ off...”
“I want to help.” I let out a sigh, “Please may I go now?”
They both nod and I hightail it out of there.
As soon as I’m in the safety of my bedroom, I dive under the bed covers and let the tears fall freely. It feels like my heart is literally breaking. How did I not know they all felt this way? Have I been so blind all of this time? I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid. I’ve probably made myself look like a complete idiot. I’m sure they’ve all had a great laugh at my expense over the years. I honestly have no one now. My parents don’t count, because they aren’t my friends; they’re my parents. I have no friends at all now, but I have to believe I can be strong enough to get through this.
I cry until my head feels ready to explode and I have no more liquid inside of me to cry out. I fall asleep with tear stains on my cheeks and on my pillow.
Since that day, I have completely detached myself from everything to do with the guys. I have pretty successfully avoided them like the plague. My brother and his friends have just graduated high school and we’re starting our summer break. I lead such a pathetic life now. I have no school to look forward to, so I don’t socialize with anyone, except for my father’s ranch hands. I spend all of my time out working with the animals or in the fields. I eat supper with everyone, because that’s the one meal we aren’t allowed to skip, and trust me I’ve tried. Then I either retreat to my room, or head to the lake and watch the stars.
I have plans though. After I graduate from high school, I’m leaving. I haven’t told anyone this, but I’m getting out of this town because I feel like it’s suffocating me. The last year of seeing the boys having fun; going out fishing, playing football, catching games together, watching movies in the den and basically having the time of their lives has slowly been killing me.
I have trouble befriending people, especially girls. I’m not the same as them. I’m not a guy, but I don’t have any of the same interests the girls in our town do. In this town, girls are expected to be southern belle’s; lady-like and feminine. Those are all things I am not. I’m sort of stuck in the middle, not fitting in to any group. Instead, I stay on my own and wallow in my own self-pity.
I’m currently laying on my bed, tossing a football in the air repeatedly.
There’s a knock on my door, so my eyes flicker to the doorway just long enough to see Caleb standing there. I resume my ball throwing and wait for him to speak.
“Hey. The guys and I are gonna play some ball in the back field. Do you wanna join us?”
“You sure? We’re headin’ to the lake after to swim. I know you love the lake...”
He’s right, I do love the lake, but not with them; not anymore. I’ll go by myself in the middle of the night if I want to swim. That way, I have no chance of running onto any of his friends.
“No thanks. I’ll pass this time.”
“Are you sure? It doesn’t look like you have any other plans...”
I sit up on one elbow and narrow my eyes at him, “Actually, I’m goin’ out riding in a minute. I told dad I’d check the fences for him.”
Caleb sighs and runs his fingers through his auburn hair. He takes after mom with his hair and eye color. Both him and mom have brown eyes and auburn hair, with pale complexions. I take after my dad, with blonde hair, bright green eyes, and olive skin. I’ve been told my eyes are my most unusual quality because the color is so rare. I remember the optometrist in Nashville being shocked at my green orbs, describing them as a mixture of jade, sea green and turquoise. The color varies depending on lighting and my mood.
“What’s goin’ on, Lex? You haven’t been yourself for some time now.”
I fake a confused look and question, “What?”
“You’ve been acting... weird for a while now. Did something happen? Did someone hurt you? If they did, you need to tell me. Me and the guys will sort it out...”
I laugh. I actually laugh. I do this for a two reasons. One, if the guys hate me as much as Nate says they do, then no one is going to help Caleb sort anything out. Two, if he only knew the truth of the matter, then he’d have a whole new take on the situation.
Once my giggles are under control, I simply say, “You’re imaginin’ things. I’m fine. I just like to help dad.”
He sighs, “That’s all you seem to do now.”
I snap, “I like workin’ in the barn and with the animals.”
He opens his mouth to speak again, but then clamps it shut before saying anything. We stare at each other for a minute or two, when he eventually says, “Whatever. Your loss I guess.”
Caleb doesn’t shut the door fully when he leaves and I hear Nate ask, “She comin’?”
“Nah, she’s goin’ out on fence check. Maybe she’ll change her mind and join us at the lake later. Mike will be disappointed; he likes the way she plays ball.”
Nate huffs, “Yeah, I’m sure that’s what it is...”
“What’s that supposed to mean? She’s a great ball player.”
Nate’s last word actually makes me angry. I’ll accept that I’m probably annoying and the guys hate me, but I won’t accept the insinuation that I’m a trash ball player. I’m actually pretty good, thank you very much. I grew up playing with my dad and Caleb and then with all of the guys. I bury my head in my pillow and let out a muffled scream. This is torture. How am I supposed to get through another year of this? As far as I know, neither Caleb or Nate have any plans to go away for college, so I’ll be stuck living this way for the next year.