Walking back from the music building where she had just finished practicing the piano, Taylor stared at the ground in front of her as her feet kept time: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3. She looked up and accidentally caught a passerby's eyes. Swallowing, the numbers suddenly stopped in her head and she had to force herself to keep walking. Though she hadn't done so since she was a kid, she was counting her steps again. She knew this, but she couldn't stop it. Just like she couldn't stop the constant reorganization that happened all over her dorm room: closets, drawers, cabinets, shelves, even towels on the racks were not left behind in the flurry. Coming into an area of her new college campus that was unoccupied, her breathing slowed back to normal and the numbers once again matched her steps.
It took concentration to count them, because she had to pay attention to where the cracks were in the concrete so she could start the counting from the beginning when she crossed. She had a long stride, so constricting it to the uneven format of the pathway made her walking awkward as she paused or stretched to avoid the cracks and arrange it so that her pattern always ended in an odd number – although two was alright because it was a prime number.
Finally she entered the dorm room lobby, allowing her mind to rest as she swiped her card through the reader that would unlock the hallway doors. Placing her school bag in the bottom of her closet, she sat on the bed with a sigh.
" Taylor!" her roommate called out, seeing her enter. But Taylor just nodded in the general direction and picked at her nails, which were short and stubbly anyway.
Her dad had wanted to name her Shay. Her mother wanted Persephone. Imagine that, Persephone! What a name to live up to. Somehow they apparently agreed on Shay Taylor (though where the Taylor came from she might never know), but her mother – whose face fit the delicate beauty of her name, Lilly – insisted on calling her daughter Persephone whenever her father was out of earshot.
She went by Shay all through elementary school in an attempt to please her father, but people were always pronouncing it as Cher, something she had a hard time understanding at all. When Taylor had complained to her mother about it, Lilly's advice was to go by Persephone, but she couldn't see how that was any better. Only her mother seemed to be able to say it on the first try. In fact, she could still hear her mother's voice, clear and smooth, trickling like water as she spoke, "Per-SEF-o-nee dahling!"
That was Lilly Brandilyn Alexander for you though, Taylor thought. There was nobody like her in all the world, and she'd be the first person to tell you that. Lilly described herself as the modern version of Scarlett O'Hara. Full of charm and beauty to boot, Lilly was born with star quality that allowed her to dance her way through life, literally. Taylor could not remember her mother without being reminded of Lilly's zest for life that reached down to her toes or the way that when she entered a room, she demanded all the attention as if she had soaked up all the oxygen herself. This might have been why Taylor – much to her mother's disbelief – was so shy; she had always felt small when standing next to Lilly; her father too, come to think of it.
How Jack Everett Alexander ever ended up with a woman like Lilly remained a mystery in Taylor's mind. They were complete opposites. Lilly, with all her dramatics, talked loud, drank shamelessly and acted on total impulse, whereas Jack was stoic, spoke with a stern but quiet voice, and worked nonstop at those things he considered of utmost importance, like keeping up appearances and excelling in his job as a county judge.
For as long as she could remember, this was how Taylor – which she had been going by since middle school – referred to the pair that made up her parents: Lilly and Jack. Her mother practically required Taylor to call her Lilly, and when she thought about it, she had never really called her father anything to his face at all except "sir."
But before she had time to wonder why, she noticed a book leaning haphazardly upon her shelf, somehow out of its alphabetical place, and she rushed to fix it, shaking her mind from its lapse down memory lane.