And not just any summer. The next two months were going to be amazing for a number of reasons. One, I had just graduated high school, which meant none of the usual AP work that was required before the first day of school. College would present its own challenges, of course, but I could at least take a huge breath in the meantime. Two, our parents were going to be out of town for eight full weeks on a business trip rounded off with a vacation at the tail end. While I wasn’t exactly a party girl, it would still be nice to have some extra freedom.
Paige was the only complication. My step-sister and I were the same age, and absolutely nothing alike. At first, I had been excited to finally have a sibling. That is, until we actually started living together. She and I were polar opposites, to put it lightly, and I was the one who was always stuck dealing with her since our parents were rarely around. I didn’t mind getting her in trouble for ‘borrowing’ my homework, or for breaking curfew, or for plenty of other transgressions. However, our parents were usually the ones who handled the punishments. There was no way Paige would listen to me, and it’s not like I could be calling our parents every day for help.
As much as my irresponsible sister often felt like my responsibility, this was also my summer. Maybe it would be better if we just stayed out of the other’s way, and coexisted to the best of our ability. My friends could have the main floor, and she could have the furnished attic, or vice versa. I could always keep a journal of anything inappropriate she did in our parents’ absence, and report the notable ones when they got back.
Of course, it was difficult to ignore Paige when she was already messing with my plans on the first day of summer break.
It took three back to back phone calls to get her to pick up, and she didn’t answer the last one until the fifth ring or so. “What’s up, Alyssa?” she asked, “Are you dying or something?”
“No. Paige, you said you’d pick me up at four. It’s nearly 4:20.” Unfortunately, we only had one car between the two of us, and it had gradually defaulted to being ‘hers.’ I had so many after school activities that I usually got a ride from a friend. The more I didn’t drive our car, the more ownership Paige felt, which made things frustrating when I eventually did need it. Like after my ballet class, where I didn’t really know any of the other girls that well. I offered to drop my sister off at home first, but she insisted that it would be easier for her to drive and swing by the studio on the way back to the house. Except, as expected, she clearly didn’t keep track of time, and now I was stranded without a ride.
“Ooh, 4:20?” she giggled, “That means it’s time for something else. Sorry, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Actually, why don’t you just get someone else to drive you? I’m comfortable, and I really don't want to put a bra back on.”
“Paige, I’m the last one here! Come on, it’ll just take a minute.”
“Hmm, let me think. How about . . . No. You can walk.”
“What? No! Paige, it’s hot, and-”
“Tough, little sis. Use the time to think about how you should stop being a stuck-up brat and an obnoxious tattletale. Bye, Alyssa!”
Before I could get past the first word, I heard the low *beep* of her ending the call. Groaning in frustration, I re-dialed twice to no avail. After sending a very pointed text that included a threat to get our parents involved, I leaned against the nearest wall and scrolled through my contacts to see if there was anyone I could think of that might be both free at the moment and close enough to the studio. Aside from it being hot, I was also going to tell Paige that it would be about an hour’s walk back to the house. Thankfully, I had shorts and a tank top to wear over my leotard, but I’d still rather avoid such a long commute.
And yet, that’s what I ended up doing. I figured it made more sense, as otherwise I would potentially spend even more time in the sun calling various friends and waiting for them to get their shoes on and drive over.
Paige’s parting words echoed in my head as I began the walk. That attitude towards me was exactly why there was no way I’d ever succeed in getting her to listen to anything I said. My driver’s license said that I was five feet tall, but the truth was that I hadn’t even made it that far yet. Standing at a painfully under average 4’11 and ¾, pulling off ‘intimidating’ was an impossible task, especially against my sister who seemed to grow another inch every year. Even when I wore heels and she was barefoot, Paige towered over me. Her body was a lot more womanly as well, while I was stuck looking like a tween who had barely started developing. It was fine at school, as my nice outfits worked wonders in offsetting my unfortunately tiny body, but ballet was a prime example of times when I had a lot less going for me. In just a leotard and with pinned up hair, I was constantly mistaken for one of the younger girls any time the studio hired a new teacher or assistant. And, while my classmates respected me and didn’t care about my size, the same couldn’t be said for my sister. She was only a month older than me, but acted like it was years thanks to the way she looked in comparison.
Silver lining, there were advantages to being a small dancer. So far, that was about the only perk I had been able to find as the shortest person I knew.
Little did I know, however, that my size was about to work against me in a way I never would have imagined.
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