The Passed Note Issue 1 June 2016 - Page 17

“Are you?” When he doesn’t reply, I burst out, “You can’t be serious! Dad, that’s supposed to be my party. My school.” I’m not going to stand by and celebrate the fact that my cousin got what I wanted. Again. Even if I do get in, it’s too late now. I’ll be damning myself to four more years of competition if I go to Bucknell.

“At least think about stopping by,” he says. “Be gracious.”

I remember how he ripped me from my chair on that sixth birthday, my fingers sticky with my ruined cake. How he barricaded me in my bedroom, in time-out on my own birthday.

“Des is your family,” he’d said. “We have to love our family.”

By six that evening, cars are parked three-deep in Aunt Carol’s portion of our driveway. I doubt half of her friends care about celebrating Des’s college acceptance. Since her headache of a divorce was finalized, Aunt Carol’s house has turned into a revolving door of friends who’ve crawled out of the woodwork to drink up her alimony.

I’m sitting on the paddock fence. Technically, I’m on Uncle Jack’s property, but my house is too close to Carol’s. I could hear the cheerful music they’re playing from my room. It made me want to puke, so I retreated outside. Seeing my own house from this angle is strange; it’s narrower, unimposing, the awkward kid at the middle school dance. I can just make out my car’s shape. Useless. My only ticket off the Bailey compound is stuck with an old donut tire that would only get me halfway up the road. And Dad flat out refused to lend me his truck.

“You really should stop by the party. Be a good sport,” he said before heading over himself.

One horse stands inside the paddock, far enough away that I’m not too worried. I’m the only one in the family who hates horses—the animals, the business, the pomp of competition.

When I was ten, I got kicked by one of Jack’s horses. Des had wanted to ride so I climbed into the ring with her, trying to avoid being called chicken. The horse was classic brown with a white stripe down its nose, the kind that’d come with a horseback riding