bathroom and count her pills – she’s down two. That’s good. That means she took them. I can breathe easier, and maybe get a solid night’s sleep. “There’s a package for you from your father,” Mom says. She’s up and baking muffins – hence the blueberries. It’s a good sign. No, scratch that; it’s the best sign I’ve seen in a while. “Thanks.” I smile. Forced smile. Always a little forced. It won’t be a real smile until she’s really better. But I don’t remember what better looks like, anymore. The package is wrapped in brown paper and on my bed. The box inside reads Chanel. Dad married a rich programmer from New York – they’ve got two-year-old twin girls, and a boy on the way. I’ve never met them, but just knowing I have stepsiblings wigs me out. I see them on Facebook through the pictures Dad posts, but it’s like they aren’t real. It’s like they’re photoshopped Loch Ness monsters and the University of Whatever is going to prove the hoax by showing me the beam of light in the background is wavy or something. They’re real. Sometimes I wish they weren’t. And that’s horrible, so I stop wishing that. Or at least I try to. Inside the box is a beautiful chiffon blouse. It’s light and fluffy and with dozens of frills, expertly tailored to my measurements. Dad’s new wife wheedled them out of me two summers ago when I visited. She’s nice enough, but it’s things like this that remind me she just wants me to like her. She thinks gifts of expensive name brands are all it takes to woo a high school girl. She’s half right. A blouse like this would woo any girl. Any girl who isn’t ugly. But before I can fold it carefully and put it in my closet to never touch again, I stop and consider this one. If I wore this, would I be prettier? Will it make me prettier? Maybe if I put this on, I can be pretty, and understand a smidgen of what Kayla’s problems are, what she feels. Maybe I can understand her better. I pull my shirt off and slip the blouse over my head. It’s so cool and airy, and the ruffles bounce with my every step. I can see my angry red stretch marks on my stomach through the gauzy fabric, but they don’t bug me as much for some reason. I smile at myself in the mirror – I look different. Prettier. Maybe Nameless was wrong. Maybe I am pretty. The door to my room opens just then, and I’m frozen in the headlights that are Mom’s eyes. She looks me up and down, and immediately shakes her head. “Oh, honey, that doesn’t suit you at all.” The air punches out of me again, but this time in a deeper way. A more final way. Mom opens the door wider, totally oblivious to how deep the wound is. “The muffins are ready. Come down and have some.” “Awesome. One sec. Just, uh, let me change out of this stupid thing.” When she’s gone I can’t look at myself in the mirror without flinching. The ruffles seem to droop idiotically. The color is an eyesore, especially on me. It’s not my thing. Being pretty is not my thing and I was stupid for testing the logical facts and practical boundaries. There are rules. And the number one rule is don’t try to be someone you’re not. I’m myself, no matter how ugly that is, and trying to be someone prettier is stupid, a waste of energy. I won’t do that ever again, no matter how much I want to. It’s not worth it. I will never be anything but ugly. And I’ve come to terms with that. I’ve made my peace with that. I stuff the blouse in the box and chuck it in the closet.
-4- 3 Years 12 Weeks 4 Days
For approximately two weeks I debate the validity of ruining Jack Hunter’s life slash reputation slash all future prospects with women. Or men. Just love in general, really. Guys like him shouldn’t get to be happy. He ruins a girl’s happiness at least once per hour. On Wednesday, someone left him a love letter tucked between the wipers of his