By the time I got home, I was in no mood to deal with Paige.
While I had cooled off mentally, the same couldn’t be said about my body. It’s not like I could just wear my leotard and nothing else in public, and the ballet studio had already been locked by the time I realized I was stranded with no ride. Stripping down naked outside obviously wasn’t an option, so I had to put on my street clothes over the leotard and suffer through the summer heat. There was some shade to be found here and there, but two miles was still two miles.
My sister’s door was open upstairs, but I didn’t bother. She would just dismissively wave off my complaints, and my time was better spent taking a shower and maybe grabbing the keys so I could head to my friend’s place earlier than planned before Paige could claim the car for herself again. Ugh, except she probably had the car keys in her purse or somewhere else in her room. Demanding them would start an argument, and politely asking for them would just reinforce the idea that it was HER car, rather than ours.
I hadn’t even gotten fully undressed when yet another inconvenience added to the day’s seemingly never ending list. The doorbell rang. “Paige!” I exclaimed. There was no way I was about to open the front door in just a leotard; plus not even the pins in my hair had kept my red locks from getting a little sweaty from the long, hot walk. “Can you get that?” I instantly winced in regret. Why had I asked? That never worked with her.
“Get it yourself, ‘Lyssa!” she called back. Even with my bedroom door muffling her voice a bit, it was easy to make out the usual presumptuous tone. I was the responsible sister, which meant she could be lazy and assume I’d do stuff like this. “It’s probably some scam artist, anyway.”
Probably. When you weren’t actively waiting on something or someone to arrive, it was almost always some salesman trying to pitch something and wasting twenty minutes of your life despite the constant ‘no, thank you’s’ said again and again.
But Paige and I were in charge of the house for the next eight weeks. What if it was actually something important?
Another ring of the doorbell caused me to groan in frustration. “Paige, come on!” I exclaimed. Swinging my door open so she could hear me more clearly, I said, “I’m not dressed. Just get the door, okay?”
“Then put some clothes on! It’s not like you have anything to hide, anyway.”
A third ring.
“I’m comfy, sis. And I’m still not wearing a bra,” she said, not even making the effort to turn her music down, “Seriously, it’s fine. They’ll go away eventually.”
“COMING!!!” I yelled. My earlier frustrations with Paige were starting to resurface now that she was being as unhelpful as ever, and the time between the doorbell button being pushed was getting shorter and shorter. The same could be said about my temper. Storming down the hall, unfairly projecting my annoyance at my sister towards the impatient person at our front door, I practically had to bite my tongue to keep from loudly swearing in response to the fifth doorbell ring.
Why did I always have to do everything in this house?!
Fantasy Alyssa would yank the door open and scream ‘WHAT?!’ to the person on the other side. The real version of myself, however, simply took a breath before placing her hand on the doorknob. I just hadn’t had a chance to vent about the unfair walk home to my best friend yet, which was why I was so pent up. The only way I survived life with my step-sister was by bitching about her to whoever would listen, since aiming my anger directly towards Paige just caused her to giggle and pat me on the head.
Opening the door before a sixth ring cut through the house, I found myself face to face with a tall brunette girl. Maybe in college, if I had to guess. “Can I help you?” I asked. She had a backpack and a duffel bag with her, rather than a clipboard. That was a good sign.
“You must be Miley.” Without waiting for an invitation, she stepped past me and into the house. “About time. It’s rude to keep people waiting.”
“Umm.” The last thing I expected was a girl with a more patronizing tone than Paige. Also, what the fuck? This wasn’t her house; she couldn’t just waltz in like she owned the place. “No. I’m Alyssa. Who are you, exactly?”
“Nice try, Miley. I heard about that trick already. What, was it babysitter number three who circled the neighborhood for an hour after being sent away with fake directions?” Her duffel bag landed with a heavy thump on the wooden floor below, and she placed a hand on her hip. “I’m Noelle. And if it saves us a little time, I’m not an idiot. So, let’s try this again. You must be Miley.”
After a long moment of silent confusion, things clicked into place. Miley. The thirteen year old brat who lived down the street.
The embarrassing part was, I wasn’t even insulted that I was being mistaken for a girl her age. It happened enough at the studio, so of course the same thing was happening right now when I was only wearing my leotard. “No.” Rolling my eyes, I explained, “Miley lives three doors down. I can show you her house, if you want.”
“Right. So you can sneak off or run away? No, thanks. I already had my exercise today, although I’m not below chasing you down if I have to.”
I just sighed. “You’re not listening. Look. Noelle, was it? I’m not Miley; I’m her neighbor. Call her parents if you don’t believe me.”
“Hmm,” Noelle looked me up and down with a confident smirk, “Pass. I’d rather just deal with you myself.”
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