The Other One
Chapter 1: The Real Reason to Hate Mondays
"Only 3:00 a.m.?" I wondered aloud as I stared at the screen of the alarm clock perched on my end table. I sat up to get a better look. Instantly, lightheadedness swept over me. Lying across your bed with your head dangling over the edge for x number of hours could probably have that effect on a person. I had just sort of thrown myself down when anxiously pacing hadn't done anything but make my feet hurt. When the spots cleared from my eyes, I realized that my clock read 5:00 a.m.—not 3:00. Wonderful. This enlightening discovery meant that I was only hours from starting at a new school.
It was pointless to transfer schools after I had been attending the same one for the best or worst part of three years. I'd presented this argument time and time again to my parents, but their decisions were set in stone.
'Your sister says she loves Ocean Shores High and we want you two to graduate together.' They thought it was a brilliant idea. I found several flaws in the plan. For starters, I didn't want to go to a school with the gay name of "Ocean Shores". Secondly, I heard it was one the most stereotypical places known to man. Stereotyping seemed to follow me around like a plague and I did all I could to beat it away. And third, and most important of all, I did not want to spend any more time than needed with Sawyer—especially if she was settled comfortably in her element: surrounded by crowds of people and of course all her stupid friends.
I jabbed my finger into the snooze button, right before the alarm started blaring. I didn't need anything else irritating me on this 'joyful' morning. At least there was no sunlight seeping in though the blinds—yet—a fairly good sign. Gotta love that California sunshine. That was probably why we moved here; Mom's tanning bed had long since busted. Sitting rooted to my bed, squeezing the life out of one of my pillows, and grumbling about the weather wasn't going to help me get ready any faster or make the day end any sooner. I peeled myself off the wrinkled comforter and jerked it upwards towards the pillows: a half-assed gesture to make my bed. Mom insisted that I make my bed, yet she no longer demanded that I clean my pigsty. That too was pointless. Yanking at my linen only caused the pillows to fall into each other and roll off the bed. Shouldn't've even bothered to try. Anyways, on to the next chore, getting dressed.
I picked my way through the maze of debris on the floor to my closet. I couldn't help but notice a CD I'd thought I'd lost months ago, a top that I'd worn when I was about ten, and a number of ancient pieces of homework that had been 'eaten' by the dog I didn't have. I stretched forward as I timidly grasped the handles and tugged. For a while my parents thought I had an irrational phobia of closets, having observed my reluctant tendencies to open mine, so naturally that meant I was dragged off to see yet another shrink. But once they were buried in the avalanche that now spilled from the closet, they understood. I stood about ankle-deep in the contents that had forced their way out. Mostly it was a fresh supply of wrinkled and faded band-and-company-logo t-shirts, all black, wadded-up jeans, and holey socks that were doomed to never have a partner that now littered the floor and the hangers in the closet. I pounced on a top and fished it out from the heap, salvaging a pair of jeans and the closest matching socks there were as well. The top had significantly shrunk and besides being wrinkled, it was stained; the jeans were over-sized and fraying in almost every possible place. Nothing a hoodie couldn't hide.
I found my favorite one all the way on the other side of my room, dangling from a wall lamp. Like nearly everything else I owned, it was in shabby condition, but only because I wore it so much. My 60-gyg iPod was stuffed in the front pocket, right where I'd left it. Unfortunately, it had been left on and now its battery was at the tiniest red speck possible before dying. There was no way I could get through the day without it. I could only pray it would last. The wall lamp was next to a full length mirror and I couldn't help but stare into it.
My reflection gazed steadily back at me. I looked sloppy; I had left my eyeliner from the previous day, or the previous two days on and it was smudged; my new, shorter hair cut was messed-up from shoving the hoodie over my head and the black and red streaks I'd added the previous night weren't as great as I had hoped. My baggy clothes were unflattering, but if they helped me to turn invisible, all the better. Whenever I looked in a mirror, I was always strongly reminded of Sawyer, even if I had a darker style. I could hear My Chemical Romance's song, The End, playing in the back of my mind. If you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, you can find out first hand what it's like to be me…
Those words couldn't be any more fitting to the situation. My reflection and I were mortal enemies. Being identical to Sawyer just made me loathe her all the more. It was always how it was; my parents delighted in dressing us in these little matching outfits when we were young. A stranger would approach and gush over how precious Sawyer looked with her big blue eyes and long blonde hair, and of course, her precious little outfit. Then they would turn to me. By now, they had seen the look already so I was of no interest. All I'd receive would be an exclamation of "Oh, look! Twins! And they're dressed alike. Isn't that adorable!" or "How can you possibly tell them apart?" And then Mom would feed them one of her over-used lines and then the stranger would laugh and leave.
I had never possessed my own identity either. From the moment I was born, several minutes after Sawyer, I was promptly included in the title of "Sawyer and Alexa". For a brief period when I was little, I thought that was my name—and I introduced myself as such. Happy birthday, Sawyer and Alexa. Merry Christmas, Sawyer and Alexa. When time came for us to graduate, I could too clearly imagine a large, bright banner declaring, Congratulations, Sawyer and Alexa.
In spite of myself, I struck Sawyer's classic pose: One hand placed carelessly on the hip…the other flat against the nearest wall…butt out a little….one leg crossed gracefully over the other. I felt stupid doing it and looked pretty stupid when I executed it, but Sawyer could always pull it off. I didn't know what would prompt her to do something like that. I silently swore that I would never do anything that retarded. Speaking of Sawyer, I could hear her alarm clock ringing now, or more specifically, her singing along to the song playing. Ugh. I couldn't begin to describe how tone-deaf she was.
I scooted out into the hall and slid under Sawyer's arm just as she got to the bathroom and opened the door, slamming it in her face and locking it. My only intention of going in there was to screw up Sawyer's routine. She was not pleased. The pounding on the door told me so. At least I'd managed to spoil her good mood.
"Alexa!" she yelled, slapping her palm against the door. "Alexa! Open the door!"
"I'm naked!" I sang out. "Do you really want to come in?" There was a high-pitched, angry shriek on the other side of the door, sounding vaguely like "Moo-ooooo-oo-om!" Then I heard the sound of heavy footsteps tramping off in the direction of the kitchen, to make her complaints known.
"Hey, Barbie!" I called sticking my head out of the door, although making sure to wait 'til Sawyer had stormed about halfway down the stairs. "I'm finished!"
Sawyer gave me a look that wished me death as she ascended the stairs. A disgusted look and a couple of squeaky "Ugh's" symbolized her displeasure. How dare I interfere with her schedule? She shoved past me into the bathroom, banging the door behind her. I felt like such a 'terrible' person. I'd caused my sister to squeal at me. There'd be no living with the guilt I felt. Yeah, right. Interrupting the flow of her perfect life helped me to feel better about the suckish one I led.
I tried to sneak down the other flight of stairs, the one leading down to the entrance foyer: A hopeful escape plan to dodge the kitchen and avoid another "family meal". Family breakfasts were yet another one of my parents' so-called brilliant ideas. In their eyes, they 'helped us to bond and to learn about a typical day in everyone's life', to help us 'understand and relate to each other.' I wasn't fooled by these obviously phony reasons for an instant. They were really designed so that I could have the knowledge of how I didn't belong in the family rubbed profusely in my face. Mom and Dad really didn't even need me. Mom had the perfect daughter. Sweet, cheerful Sawyer, her exercise partner, shopping buddy, and best girlfriend. Dad got the son he always wanted. Josh may have been a fat little mama's boy, terrible at sports, always hungry, but he was a boy nonetheless. I was simply stuck in the middle, sandwiched between my two perfect siblings.
I slunk towards the door, unnoticed, silently grabbing my bag off of the railing. Closer…closer…I stretched out my hand…my fingertips brushed the doorknob. Then…
"Lex!" called a singsong voice from the kitchen. "Where do you think you're going?" How could she always do that? Predict my every move? So much getting away. Now that I had been called-out, my chances of escaping were impossible.
"Nowhere," I answered ruefully, grimly dropping my bag on the floor and redirecting my feet to the dining room. Sawyer and I were the only two that hadn't joined the gathering. Mom placed a final dish of eggs on the table and settled herself in a free chair. She was now making a show of unfolding her napkin. Dad was buried behind today's newspaper, eating his customary buttered toast and sipping the usual black coffee out of his "World's Best Dad" mug. Josh, the big shot freshman, was inhaling a loaded plate of greasy-looking bacon, burnt toast, and greenish eggs. The chopped fruit was only thing that seemed untouched. (Mom delighted in preparing home-cooked meals, but no one ever said she could execute them well.) Two empty, dirty plates were piled next to Josh.
"You don't think you're leaving without first eating a nutritious breakfast, do you?" Mom demanded the moment I sidled into the dining room. Nutritious breakfast, she said? I'd like to know where exactly this breakfast was, because I didn't see it. I looked with great distaste at the bacon, which seemed to be swimming in its own pool of grease and fat. Mmm. I could barely keep my mouth from watering. I'd just get my own breakfast. It should actually be edible. Our pantry should've been well-stocked—if Josh hadn't gone on his usual raid.
I stalked towards the kitchen, hissing out of the corner of my mouth, "Hey, fat ass, why don't you save some food for the rest of the family?" Josh looked devastated. An anguished wail of "Mom!" had me caught like a rat.
"Lex!" Mom exclaimed sharply. "Apologize to your brother this instant!"
"Why?" I asked contemptuously. "I was just telling the truth. I mean, look at your portions and then look at his."
"You know that Joshie is a growing boy..."
"Don't feed me that bullshit, Mom. We both know that the only part of him that's actually growing is his gut."
Mom started to get at me again, but I slammed the kitchen door behind me, drowning out her next argument. She could run from the truth, but she couldn't hide from it. Deep down, I knew she knew that "Joshie" was maturing to be a little whale and that his gluttonous portioning dwarfed hers and Dad's. But she maintained the fact that her little baby was perfect. Both of my parents seemed to go out of their way to tell him he was perfect. It was probably because Mom's pregnancy with him was a very rocky one and she almost lost him multiple times. But that was fourteen years ago…I could understand showering the "miracle child" with affection then, but now it was just ridiculous.
The pantry was significantly emptier than I remembered. At least he hadn't stolen everything. I loaded myself up with a box of Frosted Flakes, a small bowl, and a carton of orange juice. Then back to the dining room, dropping heavily into a free chair. Mom looked disgusted with my meal choice. I knew what she was thinking. How could I possibly prefer eating sugar-dusted corn flakes when she had lovingly prepared a fine meal? The puppy eyes she was aiming at me were ignored. I tipped the box over my bowl and the remaining Frosted Flakes spilled into it. I picked up the orange juice and splashed some over the small pile of cereal. Many people probably thought it was a disgusting combination but I loved it.
"Yuck!" exclaimed Josh, pausing to take a breath of air. "What kind of sick freak eats Frosted Flakes with orange juice!?"
I took a bite before I replied. "What kind of babyish fourteen-year-old still sleeps with a night light?" I challenged. Josh gave a pained whimper and instantly turned to Mommy for protection. She answered his plea by giving me a threatening look.
The third yell of the morning for Mom came echoing down. A frazzled-looking Sawyer accompanied it down the stairs. A dull thud suggested that Sawyer had jumped the last few steps. "Blood!" she yelped, tearing into the kitchen. "There are blood stains all over the sink and the counter!" I knew I was forgetting to do something after dying my hair. I was quite glad that she discovered it before I did.
"Sawyer, calm down," Mom soothed. "Now tell us what you saw."
"Blood!" Sawyer repeated, after taking several deep breaths. "Clearly Alexa has been cutting herself again." What was she talking about? I hadn't cut myself for almost a month. She had to be trying to get me in trouble; or she was really getting as dumb as her Barbie doll appearance perceived her to be. Well, that answered the question if anyone had noticed my hair. I clearly my throat loudly, hoping to draw some attention to myself. It got attention, but in a negative way.
"Alexa, show me your wrists!" Mom barked. "Now!" I sighed heavily and ripped back the sleeves of my hoodie. My wrists were bony and pale, with plenty of faded and fairly new scars, but there were no fresh marks.
"Satisfied?" I snapped at her. "I'm clean." Mom still looked skeptical (and Dad was still hidden behind his paper, deaf to the world), but the matter was no longer persisted.
"By the way, your hair looks like shit," Sawyer hissed as she leered at me from across the table. That little bitch…I'd bet she was just itching to have me shipped off to some asylum. God, I hated her. From under the safety of the table, I directed a kick at Sawyer's shins.
"Ow!" Sawyer yelped shrilly as my foot dug into her thigh with a surprising and satisfying deal of force. "Mom, Alexa just kicked me." Her voice couldn't have been much whinier.
"No, I didn't," I said tonelessly, taking another bite of cereal.
"Did so!" snapped Sawyer. "In a couple hours' time, I'll have a bruise as proof! And I didn't even do anything to her." She looked at Mom for support, her eyes wide and sparkling with pretended innocence. I looked steadily at Mom, my face blank. Surely she would know that Sawyer had goaded me on. As soon as she opened her mouth, I knew she would take Sawyer's side. Sawyer was always innocent. Everything was always my fault.
"Lex, apologize to Sawyer."
I defiantly took another huge bite of cereal and crunched as loudly as I could, even if it meant grinding my teeth against each other, just to show that I had absolutely no intention of apologizing. I did nothing wrong. If anything, Sawyer should apologize for making me out to be a basket case.
"That's alright, Mom," Sawyer said in a saintly voice. "We both know Alexa isn't mature enough to take responsibility for her actions." "Speaking of which," she continued hurriedly, "I'm afraid she may not be mature enough to handle going to Ocean Shores."
If precious little Sawyer didn't think I should go to Ocean Shores, then I wouldn't have to go at all. I jumped all over this. "I don't even want to go!" I exclaimed. "As I've told you and Dad a billion times! Going there would completely destroy me—just look at what it did to Sawyer. Besides, I have friends at…"
"You mean those emo freak loser weirdoes you hang out with?" scoffed Sawyer. I had no idea that she had been striving to build her vocabulary, however redundant it may've been. When Mom looked at her, surprised, she blushed and took a very ginger bite of blackened toast.
With Sawyer chewing painfully in the background, Mom rounded on me once again. "You'll make new friends, Lex," she assured me. I rolled my eyes. As if. Making friends was hard enough to do once. There was no way I could do it again. Mom sighed heavily. "Why do you always have go into everything with such a bad attitude? Is it too difficult for you to look on the bright side?"
"It's pointless to go into things expecting the best," I explained, "because odds are, you'll be let down. If you approach something thinking it'll suck, you won't be so disappointed when it does." Cue lecture……….now. I swirled the Frosted Flakes around with my spoon, and watched them spin about the bowl. Playing with my cereal was much more interesting than hearing Mom's speech again. And that was saying something. I might as well slop paint over a wall and pull up a chair to watch it dry. I sang the Frosted Flakes jingle under my breath. Fros-ted Flakes…are morrrre than good…they're grrrr-rrreat!
"…And you can pout about it as much as you like, but you're going!" Mom was like the bunny in the Energizer battery commercials. Just kept going…and going…and going…and…I turned the T.V. off whenever that commercial came on. It was stupid. She was stupid. If only someone could invent a remote control for parents.
Dad suddenly surfaced from behind his paper, now very wrinkled from the amount of attention he was giving it. I jumped up so quickly and eagerly, leaving my nearly-full bowl of Frosted Flakes for Mom to deal with, that I upset my chair and nearly toppled over with it. Eh, Mom could tend to that too. The only time Dad ever seemed to participate in our "family" breakfasts was to announce it was time for us to get going. Sure enough… "Alright, kids, you all had better be getting to school."
"Grab your bag, honey," Sawyer said to Josh. "I'll give you a ride to school." She looked deliberately at me when she spoke, probably expecting me to beg, Why can't I ride with you? She'd be waiting awhile. I had no intentions of groveling. It wasn't like I was dying to be crammed in the back of her little silver Porsche like a suitcase. I contented myself to riding the city bus like most normal people did, even if it was packed with tourists.
While I studied diligently for my Driver's Test, two or three years in advance, I gave it up. Sawyer, who hardly even reviewed, passed with flying colors. If she could do it so easily, it was obvious I couldn't. As Sawyer ran all around town proudly showing off her license, I sat and tore all my books into confetti.
"Alright!" exclaimed Josh, punching the air with his fist. He bounded from the dining room off in search of his backpack. I could hear a heavy thud each time he landed. The china also rattled with his every step.
It wasn't difficult to see why Josh didn't like me anymore. I flat out refused to baby him, unlike the rest of our family. He was growing up and it wouldn't do the kid any good to get treated like a baby any longer. He was soft as it was…I liked to consider my attitude towards him "tough love". Prepping him for the real world. Nobody got any special treatment in the real world. But at any rate, he worshipped Sawyer. It was funny because she didn't even like him when he was a baby. She thought he was 'icky'. I was the one who helped Mom tend to the ungrateful brat.
"Lex, don't you want to ride with Sawyer and Josh?" Mom asked, once again halting my progress to the door. I looked at her disbelievingly. Oh, she was funny. She was absolutely hysterical.
"Yeah, sure," I said in a falsely bright voice. "And maybe while I'm at it, I'll skewer my own eyes." I rolled my eyes in disgust and stormed out the door, slamming it hard behind me. I heard the sound of breaking china. Taking my anger out on the door caused the china goods that Josh had rattled loose to fall. The crashing helped to chase away some of the gloom circling over me.