Even though I tried to push Sandra’s words aside, over the next few days they come back to haunt me. They echo around my head as I photograph parking lots and alleys, and a sequence of fountains at an abandoned complex that are still running for some reason. They boil down to a mantra in my head. Not mine. Not mine. Not mine.
My whole life I’ve been average though. Average talent, average looks, average grades. That’s all anyone’s ever expected me to be. Who they still expect me to be. I can feel the realization on the edge of my mind, but I don’t let it in. I have a feeling, like dread, that fully understanding Sandra’s words is going to devastate me, and I’m honestly not sure that I’m ready for it.
I’m going through my photos from my second day of shooting when my phone rings. I cringe, hoping that it’s not Hudson. He’s called a couple of times and left messages. I haven’t answered. Don’t know if I’m going to answer. But it’s not Hudson. It’s my sister. I haven’t actually talked to her since we argued on the phone last time. She’s probably pissed at me. It’s been three weeks and I haven’t talked to anyone back home. I wonder what it says about me that I didn’t even notice.
I pick up the phone, and before I even have a chance to greet her, she’s speaking. As usual. “What are you doing this weekend?”
“Hello to you to, Catherine.”
“Hi.” Her tone is clipped and short. “What are you doing this weekend?”
Nothing. Freaking, miserable nothing. “No solid plans. Maybe some work, nothing too special.”
“Perfect. Mom and I will be there tomorrow morning.”
My entire body freezes. “I’m sorry…what?”
“There’s a piece of equipment that Dad needs for the store. They won’t deliver and Dad can’t make the drive so Mom and I thought we’d come and pick it up and stay with you for the weekend.”
I’m trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. “What were you going to do if I said I had plans this weekend?”
“Tell you to cancel the plans, of course.” There’s absolute certainty in her voice, as if this was expected. Perfect, boring, Christine. Of course she’d be willing to go along with this. Why wouldn’t she?
I clear my throat. “It’s a little short notice, Catherine.”
“Yeah, but you just said you weren’t doing anything.”
“I said I had no plans, not that I was doing nothing.” I feel a familiar frustrated pressure in my chest, the way I usually do when I talk to my older sister. Sometimes it feels like she’s not even hearing what I’m saying. It’s the same way when I talk to my mom.
Her voice is scathing, “You’re going to make us stay in a hotel because we have to pick up a giant fridge and we sprung it on you?”
“No,” I say carefully. “But I would like it if you told me more than twelve hours in advance.”
Catherine snorts, “The city is turning you into a princess. No wonder you think you’re special. We’re family. You should be ready and happy for us to show up whenever.”
I have to physically bite my lip to keep from screaming at her, and I’m quiet for so long that she asks if we’re still connected. “I’m here,” I say. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“By—” I press the end button before she can say anything else. Anger is burning in my chest and I feel like I’m going to explode. It’s always been this way, whenever I say something that makes sense, they tear it down like I’m crazy. Why would I need more than twelve hours’ notice for visitors—are you some sort of royalty? Why would I need to move away from the city—you too good for us now? Why would I need to go to college?—you think you’re smart enough to get in?
That sickening realization that I’ve been holding back comes hurtling into my brain and I can’t breathe. Sandra is right. None of that has ever come from me. Every time I’ve wanted something more or tried something new I was shot down, bullied into being what everyone else thought was normal. So why would I think it would be any different with Hudson? Of course I wouldn’t think that he would want me when I’ve been practically trained to think that he wouldn’t.