I wanted to slap Paige across the face.
This whole thing could have been avoided if she had simply backed me up to Noelle. Instead, I had been absolutely humiliated with that spanking and I was still stuck as ‘Miley.’ If anything, Paige should have been apologizing to me. Or at least coming clean about everything and putting an end to a misunderstanding that had gone way too far. Instead, she was being as smug as possible without tipping Noelle off.
The only thing that I had going for me was that I was facing away from Miley’s babysitter at the moment. I knew begging with my eyes wouldn’t do anything but give Paige more satisfaction at my current predicament. Rather than seeking help that she clearly wasn’t interested in giving, I scowled and narrowed my eyes at her. A silent threat. While she never took me seriously, there were still our parents to consider. Letting me get treated like this? I couldn’t imagine a way she could spin this like she usually did to get out of trouble.
However, a hard stare was all I had at my disposal. After letting her patronizing question linger for a few seconds, I begrudgingly said, “I’m sorry for being difficult.” Blunt and emotionless. In the back of my mind, I knew that it was exactly how a younger girl would spit out an apology she was being made to say, but I didn’t care. I had nothing to actually be sorry for.
I half expected Paige or Noelle to correct me somehow, but my sister merely smiled and said, “Apology accepted, Miley.”
Then it was Noelle’s turn. “Now go stand in the corner.”
I remembered. Until I had ‘permission to move.’ It was the kind of punishment I had only ever seen in a comic strip once, maybe, but it was surprisingly effective despite the fact that I wasn’t really ‘Miley.’ Once I was there, I realized just how uncomfortable the position was. My leotard was still slightly wedgied between my cheeks, and I really didn’t want Paige seeing my reddened backside. But Noelle had clarified that my hands were to stay by my sides as I walked over, meaning I had no way to cover myself. Additionally, I could hear the two of them quietly talking about me, but was too far away to make out more than the occasional word. The temptation was to glance over my shoulder, especially whenever I heard ‘Miley’ despite it not being my real name, but all I could do was awkwardly stare at the corner of Paige’s room.
With no sense of time, all I could do was shift my weight from one foot to the other and stand there with my own thoughts and constant embarrassment. Not that it helped. Since I had been sent to the corner, I was even farther away from Paige’s door than I was before. Sprinting to my room and grabbing my driver’s license was still the best plan I could come up with, as it was clear that Noelle wasn’t going to call Miley’s parents and interrupt their trip now that she fully believed that I was her. In order to prove my identity without getting in more trouble first, however, I would have to continue to demean myself until I had an opportunity to slip away. Now was not that moment.
“Miley?” Noelle said, “Come here, please.”
I didn’t need to be told twice. Anything to leave the corner and get closer to my goal of showing Noelle that I was really Alyssa. As I turned around and walked back over to the brunette, my heart sank when I saw Paige grinning behind her. Oh no. What the fuck had they been talking about?
“Yes?” I asked. Despite everything, I was trying to keep my head up like the high school graduate that I actually was.
“I know it’s the first day of summer break for you, but your sister and I think it’s a good idea for you to get a head start on some of your assigned school work. And before you claim that you lost them or something, your parents already sent me all the materials provided by your teachers. I know science is your favorite; we can start with that.”
So not true. Science was hands down my least favorite subject. And, based on the way Paige shot me a wink following that statement, I had to assume she was the one who lied about that rather than Noelle knowing that it was Miley’s preference or whatever. Also, what school work?! I attended the same middle school the brat down the street did, and summer assignments were very much a high school thing. And only for AP classes.
My sister seemed to effortlessly read the confusion on my face. She piped up before I could figure out what to say. “Hey, at least it’s not summer school. Could’ve been worse, Miles. But seriously, how is it even possible to flunk out of middle school?”
That’s what this was?! I knew Miley had a bad reputation for her age, but Paige was right. At that age, all you had to do was show up and pay attention to and you could probably manage a B. It really wasn’t that difficult.
Coming to my defense, Noelle said, “Well, she didn’t flunk. She just needs to prove that she’s prepared for Day One of next year’s classes.”
Paige just shrugged, “Just an expression. Sorry, Miley; my mistake.” Her little smirk made it clear she didn’t mean the apology in the slightest. To be fair, I hadn’t meant mine, but I had a lot more reasons to be pissed at her.
I didn’t know what to say. It was easy enough to connect the dots. Miley probably did poorly enough in her classes that she was given a bunch of extra work to make sure that she wasn’t behind at the beginning of the following year. A more tame version of summer school. And it very much explained why Paige looked so amused–we had literally just graduated from high school, and now I was basically being told to do make-up work as a middle schooler.
“Umm, Noelle . . . ” I trailed off. Was now my moment? It didn’t exactly make sense to work on a school assignment while still in my leotard.
“I think you mean, ‘Yes, Noelle,’” she replied. While at least on my side in terms of not letting my ‘older sister’ tease me, she was very much against me as a whole while she viewed me as the troublesome girl she believed me to be. Crossing her arms, she said, “I don’t want to hear any excuses, young lady. Your education is important, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Of course,” I nodded, and meant it. Not as Miley, but as Alyssa. “May I shower and change first?” I asked. Polite, but also to the point. “I just got back from ballet, and-”
“I know, I know,” Noelle waved me off, “Your sister told me. As for your shower, that will have to wait until before bed. You’re welcome to change into fresh clothes, but I won’t make an exception about your bedroom. In the meantime, Paige volunteered to find you something to wear.”
It took a moment to process. Then I realized Noelle was talking about Paige’s little line from earlier. As in, I wasn’t allowed in my room. Until after what? Brushing my teeth before bed?
From behind Noelle, Paige’s grin widened.
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