“Did you finish unpacking, sweetheart?”
“Mmm hmm.” I numbly agreed. Then I remembered my suitcase that was still half full sitting wide open at the foot of my bed and I smiled sheepishly. “Almost.”
“I could help you.” She offered and shut the door behind her. I wanted to say no since I really could use the alone time, but my mom’s look brooked no disagreement and was obvious obvious she wasn’t actually asking. We started to unpack my things in silence, walking past each other back and forth across the room between my closet and my suitcase. A serious conversation was on the way, just wait for it. Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it—
“There are going to be some new rules here.” There it is. Each time we moved to a new place, we would always reiterate the “basic rules” first before adding to them. I have a whole list crumpled inside my makeup bag that’s made it through the last three times we’ve done this, pretty much every word is engraved in my memory by now.
THE FIVE COMMANDMENTS (ANGELA
Don’t look at anybody. Eye contact is always the first sign of trouble. That’s just a given fact everybody knows. Remember that one time you were on the train in New York and you stared for a second too long at this one lady? You were totally justified of course, since it’s not everyday you see a grown woman wearing a fluffy goose dress, and yes, the dress had an actual GOOSE’s face. Think of the swan dress Miley Cyrus wore in Hannah Montana if you forget.
Don’t smile at anybody... even if they smile at you first. (I don’t really follow the this one because that would just be rude, but mom doesn’t need to know that) Smiling just gains unwanted attention from people, especially boys and that would be a big NO NO. Look as antisocial as possible so people would leave you alone.
Don’t talk to anybody. Probably the biggest DON’T out of the 3 DON’TS. Only speak when spoken to or else keep the trap shut. People can be damn nosy, and you never know who is lurking in the corner or eavesdropping behind that door.
Don’t draw attention to yourself. In other words, I couldn’t be on social media. No Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat, nothing. Any leaked pictures or videos of me, my mom, or Jack would blow our cover completely and then all of this effort would have been for nothing. This was probably the most important rule. I had to keep my head down and stay under the radar.
Don’t fall in love.
This last one, I decided to add myself. Sounds dramatic, I know. But it nearly happened once already, and I’d be damned if I let it happen completely a second time. Thinking about him still made my heart squeeze.
“What are they this time?” I asked. New rules get added based on whatever the place we moved to is like. This time, it’s Seth’s hometown. A posh, upper class town in Northern California named Santa Bay.
“This town is very small, so pretty much everybody knows everybody and word gets around fast. I don’t know these people and you know I don’t like to judge, but even Seth says he is a bit wary of what goes on here . There’s a lot behind the scenes and constant clashing between families, I can’t have you accidentally getting involved with them or their children. So when I say don’t talk to anybody, I really mean don’t talk to ANYBODY about us, no matter how nice they seem. I know it’s difficult and I’m so sorry that I have to put you through this but—”
“Mom!” I grabbed her hands and squeezed them to stop her from rambling. “I know, and I understand everything you’re saying, but you’re not putting through me anything. We’re in this together. You, me, and Seth. Okay? I’ll be careful, I promise.”
She sniffled back tears and slowly nodded her head. I hated seeing her cry. Nothing I said ever seemed to work, it’s just too much on her shoulders. But she has to know that I’m here, and that I’m not going anywhere. I refused to let my life be taken by that asshole, period.
“And secondly, if any of these people give you any other trouble, go right to Seth. He’s a lawyer and he’ll put their asses on trial.” That’s a relief, she was back to joking. Our faces cracked into smiles and I wrapped my arms around her, letting her pull me close and stroke my hair like when I was a little girl.
“I’ll protect you, baby.” She whispered. “I always will.”
“I know.” I gave her another tight squeeze before she finally let me go, seeing that I was on the brink of suffocation. I watched as she wiped her tears away and walked out of my room, probably to go help Seth who’s cooking my favorite dish—lasagna with meat sauce that I could already smell its delicious aroma from downstairs.
Instead of finishing unpacking, I decided to go out onto the balcony. Gosh, I’ve wanted one of these since I was young. Remember when you were a little girl and you’d dream about standing at your balcony just gazing up at the stars? I’d give anything to go back to those days when I really did have it easy.
Damn, why didn’t I put on a jacket? I shivered as a sudden blast of cold air hit me. With all the lights from the street lamps on, you could barely see any stars. Only a few were twinkling prettily from opposite corners of the sky. Maybe I should make a wish? I’m not really sure for what, though for obvious reasons, you might think you know. A normal life here that will last? That’s a lot to ask for. For that sick twisted asshole to remain in the crazy house until the day he dies? Also a lot to ask for.
There isn’t even a shooting star, but as you can see, this is what my life has come to. Pathetic, I know, to wish away all the crazy things in your life on a star. What else can I really do? I’m not the wish king or Santa Clause, I’m seventeen and living what I thought only happened in horror movies. So, tonight I think I’ll wish...
A clattering sound from below shook me out of my manifesting. I leaned over the balcony to see the shadow of a girl as she kicked a garbage bag slightly off the curb and into the street. I couldn’t see too clearly but she looked as if she was wearing a mini skirt and tank top. Damn, wasn’t she cold? Especially with this wind I would’ve thought to bring a sweater.
Suddenly, she turned and looked up at me and I gasped at her makeup stained face. She must have been crying a river because her eyes were dark and smudged like a panda. There was a dark purple streak in her hair, and it was the most noticeable thing other than her eyeliner. My first instinct is to shout out if she’s okay, until I remembered I’m supposed to be keeping a low profile and not talking to anyone when it’s not necessary.
No, I thought better of it and instead smiled sympathetically down at her, (I told you I don’t follow rule number two). I almost think I creeped the poor girl out when she frowned at me, just then I heard Seth hollering for me and she was running off by the time I looked back. Oh, if only I’d known what she would mean to me later on.
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