Chapter One
Reality and You Don't Get Along, Do They?

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The results seemed incorrect—in fact, I felt like my entire life had been a semi-lie. Of course, I might have acted overdramatically, but with my basic understanding of myself at stake, dramatics didn't matter.

"This can't be correct," I commented, holding the paper out towards her, "not at all."

My psychologist took the sheet of paper and made no comment. The only response I received was the overused 'raised eyebrow' expression that only pushed my irritation to its full maximum. I settled back into the leather seat—the one I'd nicknamed 'Kyle' (only because it was cold and ugly, like my ex-boyfriend) and let out an exasperated sigh.

"Listen," I began, "I don't think that some online personality test should decide who I am, you know?" I shifted in the chair. "I mean, how can a few simple questions determine the way I am?"

Bettie, my psychologist, placed the paper down on her desk and pulled out her journal. "This test is one of the best—if not the best." She said, and twisted the cap off her pen with a loud pop! "You should be happy with these results; from what I can see, you're described as a very kind and understanding woman."

I sighed and glanced out the window, where Bettie seemed to have the best view (the parking lot). After a few contemplative seconds, I burst into conversation again. "Well okay, sure, but it makes me sound like I crave happiness, or whatever." I muttered. "I thought I was a pretty tough person, sort of like the ice queen of all the penguins." I paused in thought. "You know, a bitch."

Bettie smiled and put the cap back onto her pen. "You're far from a bitch, Wendy, and it surprises me that you think of yourself in that light."

I nodded and glanced towards the clock. "Yeah, well, it makes me feel tough—all army chick like." I stood up. "But anyways, I guess this test sort of helped—even though I didn't really like the results. Thanks, Bettie. You're the best."

She smiled again and closed her journal with a snap. "I'll see you next week, Wendy."

I left quickly in search of my sister, she'd tell me the truth (or whatever it was I was looking for).

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"Well that perfectly describes you." Frances said, wiping some ketchup off of her bottom lip. I frowned heavily, still determined to prove that this test was wrong. She looked up from the paper and raised her eyebrows (yes, both of them). "What?" She asked, as if offended. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

I breathed through my nose and looked at the man in the table next to us. His hair was clearly fake and the woman he had as his date (I assumed she was his date) had hair the color of an ice cream flavor. The name Cotton Candy Flavor popped into my mind for a brief moment, before I brought my attention back to my sister.

After I popped a fry into my mouth I replied. "It's nothing." I muttered, "Just the fact that my life is ending as we speak."

My sister stared at me for a few seconds with a wide-eyed look before she suddenly burst into full out hysterics. I glared at her with as much hate as I could muster (it wasn't much), but she steadfastly ignored me.

"Well listen, Mom was hoping that you could come to stay with her this summer," Frances said. "To catch up and all before you leave for another one of your random vacations."

I rolled my eyes at what she said, but she continued. "Where do you get all the money for that stuff anyways? I mean, it's not like you really work that much."

Offended, I huffed and looked away. "I do some odd jobs here and there—you know, the really bad ones that pay a lot. And I've been saving up since I was in diapers. You know that." I said.

She nodded and popped another fry into her mouth. "I know that." She muttered. I stared at her and then checked my watch. "Well okay, should I call Mom then?" I asked her.

Although Frances was younger than me by three years, she'd been dubbed my "conscience" as my family members liked to call her. Without Frances I'd probably have already burned down the house, or something drastic like that. Frances nodded, but then cut her nod off to frown.

"No wait, don't." She said, "I think mom's in a client meeting right now."

I sighed and pulled out my phone. "So when should I call her?"

Frances spaced out towards the table (I liked to think that she was actually thinking and not really spacing out) and then came to after a few seconds. "You should probably wait until the evening—around five or so." She said. I nodded and wrote 'call mom 5 or so' into my phone. If I didn't add these things, I didn't remember.

I'm a recipe for disaster.

"Listen," Frances began, "just forget about this whole personality test—we can figure that out later. Focus on other things, Wendy. Don't psych yourself out." She finished. I bit my lip and then smiled. "Okay. Will do." Frances nodded and then smiled.

"Alright," she stood, grabbing her purse (she was so adult-like for eighteen), "give me a hug before you run away." She joked.

I was the kind of person who didn't like to stay in one place. It wasn't as if I was unstable, per se, it was more a fear of growing up that led me to move from state to state, or country to country. My fear of commitment led me to an inconstant life that I had deemed incapable of ever fixing. And now that my mom wanted to speak to me only meant two things.

1. She wanted to complain about my dad.

Or

2. She wanted me to help her with her work over the summer.

It was never a call of "I miss you, Wendy." Or "How have you been?" Her voice was always sharp, always to the point. There was never a hidden detail left in her messages, or any remnants of feeling. She was a business woman, and I was her deal. I was only an opportunity for her selfish gain.

Frances walked out of the restaurant, and I sat in the booth contemplating whether I should be doing something productive (There was this killer job offer up in LA for Barbie dress desgining. Cool, right?) I steepled my fingers, and decided that my Barbie dream job would have to wait. I had something else to do.

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"Ew! What is he doing?" I pointed towards the character. I was currently caught inside my little brother's room, holding an outdated controller and contemplating whether I should make an excuse to use the bathroom. My ultimate reason for visiting home was to talk to my mother about what she needed from me (it wasn't anything good, I knew that…)

My brother looked completely offended, and yanked the controller out of my hand. "That's Mario, Wendy. Mario. How can you even say that? He's one of the most influential characters ever created. I can't believe you." He said, and furrowed his eyebrows. "Besides, he's resting." My brother whispered the last word, and narrowed his gaze.

I grimaced and looked towards the screen. The character (or Mario--Whatever.) was resting on his side, looking (honestly) like a hooker. My brother Finn poked at the screen in anger and then turned to me.

"I think you're being stupid, Wendy." He said. Bless his soul; he was only ten years old. No matter how similar we were, I still couldn't forgive him for calling me stupid.

"Um, Finny, you're actually the stupid one." I accused, pointing a finger at him. "And is that lipstick you're wearing?" I said, peering closer to his mouth. It was distinctly shinier than any normal kid's mouth (not that I paid attention to that sort of thing! Jeeze...). I knew my brother had this thing (an infinity) for cross-dressing.

I never bothered to question it.

He wiped at his mouth and then puckered his lips. I swatted at his face, but missed it entirely. "You little twit!" I shouted. Finn leapt up from the couch and ran out of the room. Somewhere in the distance I heard a door slam.

"Finn! Please be quiet!" My mother ordered from downstairs. For a moment I wondered whether my mother was finished with her meeting, and, for another moment, I wondered if she was in a good mood today.

Cautiously, I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen, where my mother was standing with he back towards me. She was sifting her hand through her hair, and her other arm was resting on her hip. To me, she looked very maternal—at second glance, though, she looked angry.

The fluorescent light was glowing, and as I entered the kitchen I flipped the light switch on. "Don't." My mother hissed towards me. "Do not turn that damn light on." And she shifted to lean against the counter.

I swallowed and quickly shut the lights back off, disappointed in her mood. If she was willing to be mean, I was willing to leave this house; and hopefully, for at least some time, her. My mother turned around to face me, her complexion sallow. I bit my lip and waited patiently for the verdict. Quickly, though, she spoke.

"Aunt Marnie is sick." My mother said. I swallowed thickly; I already knew what she wanted by this point. My aunt was sick and she needed someone to take care of her. "So…" I trailed off. I waited for her to finish what she was going to say. She didn't. "So you want me to go." I said for her.

She smiled, something very similar to a grimace, and walked over to the dining room table, where her purse was. "I've got your train ticket and all the other things you'll need to get there." She said. All I could think was 'how considerate…' until she opened her damn mouth again.

"You'll be there the whole summer, I should think. If you don't stay I'm revoking all future funds." Her eyes narrowed, "Even your bank savings."

I was sure I looked considerably confused. Was I not a legal adult, with my own money and my own rights? Did she not understand that pulling out my money was not only stupid but illegal? It disgusted me to think that she had instilled such little faith in me. I wasn't so heartless as to leave my sick and aging Aunt alone for the whole summer. I had my priorities straight.

"That won't be necessary." I promised. "I'll go." I said. She nodded, just once, and turned her back to me. "I hope that this summer you can learn what it means to be a kind person." My mother said, "And to not act so selfishly."

As she left the kitchen I gaped like a fish out of water.

It's funny… the way she thinks.


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