The Passed Note Issue 1 June 2016 - Page 18

Barbie doll. I guess it must’ve felt threatened, because it kicked me in the leg and darted out of the way.

“Never make an animal feel cornered,” Uncle Jack told me after, when I sat on his counter with an ice pack on my thigh. “They’ll lash out—it’s instinct.” Like the whole thing had been my fault. Like I deserved the bright blue bruise that refused to fade for weeks after.

“Don’t even think about coming closer,” I warn the horse in the paddock, even though this one’s never done anything to me. Clearly uninterested, it wanders in the opposite direction.

I look back toward Carol’s, mentally reviewing my list of other universities. Safety nets I halfheartedly filled out applications for, not thinking I’d ever need them.

Gripping the fence with my mittens, I let the air bite my cheeks. The wind smells colder, the temperature dropping by the minute. Snow is coming and Mom will be stranded in Philly for sure. The driveway will freeze. Donny’ll spend all night towing Des and Carol’s guests out of the pothole. Our family will probably have to pay for at least one busted tire, and we still won’t fill that hole come spring. Call it laziness or fear of change. Call it learning to adapt to whatever life throws at you. I’m not sure which I believe.

I ring the bell as a courtesy. Just because we’re family doesn’t mean we all believe in that what’s-mine-is-yours crap. I ring again and I’m suddenly reminded of the Three Little Pigs and wonder who I am: the first pig whose straw house was destroyed with no effort or the wolf seeking confrontation.

A woman I don’t know opens the door, wine glass in hand.

“It’s unlocked,” she says like I’m an idiot, and walks away.

I wish Mom was here. I haven’t gone to a family party without her since I started high school. Like girls who go to the bathroom in pairs, I feel safer at Bailey family functions with her by my side. She keeps me from sinking too deep into the drama.

I step inside. Like Uncle Jack’s house, I haven’t been to Aunt Carol’s much at all lately. Seeing her house filled with strangers look more at home than I do makes me want to melt into the wall. Blue