Video games weren’t my thing in the slightest. Plus it’s not like I would even know how to watch. They played on five screens in Paige’s room, and I would be clueless as to what was going on in a single one of them. Also, I had already suffered enough in my sister’s bedroom today.
I had expected a constant barrage of ‘Miley’ from Paige’s friends, but bracing myself for it didn’t seem to help. The false name itself wasn’t terrible, aside from being annoyingly not mine; I was more bothered by the fact that every iteration would work against me where Noelle was involved. It was one thing for my sister to keep it up, because of course she would want to extend this misunderstanding for as long as possible, but the other girls following suit were going to make it more and more difficult for me to properly explain things once I had a shred of evidence that I was who I actually was.
And lean into it they did. Though I successfully positioned myself in a way where I was last in line as everyone filed into the kitchen, it didn’t make me invisible. Ever the cohesive group, whether it was gaming or messing around as friends, they tossed out ‘Miley’ just enough. ‘Here you go, Miley,’ when I was being handed a plate by one of the girls. ‘Hey, Miley. Drink?’ Paige, when she grabbed a can of soda from the fridge. Since I wasn’t actually her little sister, I saw exactly what they were doing. Using the name too much would probably draw Noelle’s attention to it, which is why they maintained a clever frequency as a group.
It wasn’t until Paige offered me the box that was half Hawaiian with a casual smile that I remembered that she had mentioned it as my ‘favorite’ earlier. I scowled at her as I grabbed a single slice, grateful that I was facing away from Noelle at the moment. The small pineapple slices would be tolerable, even though I didn’t enjoy the thought of it paired with cheese, but there was a good chance the ham was going to make me gag if I wasn’t careful. And it’s not like I could pick all the meat off without looking odd; it was way too late to inform Noelle that Paige had been lying, and not taking something that was specifically ordered for me would appear rude. “Thanks,” I muttered. Taking only a single slice from the box, I immediately moved on to the next box and grabbed a plain cheese one as well. Good enough. Maybe I could just have a few bites and claim I wasn’t hungry. A total lie, considering how my stomach had been growling ever since walking into the kitchen and being hit by the smell of the numerous open pizza boxes. I must have been hungrier than I realized from ballet and the long walk afterwards.
Most of the girls had filtered out of the kitchen and down the nearby stairs, although a couple of them lingered to grab drinks and some snacks to supplement the pizza. One of them, Dakota, paused before turning the corner with her armful of chip bags. “You coming, Miley?” she asked.
“Umm,” I hesitated. Right. That was just a conversation between me and Noelle; the rest of the girls hadn’t been informed yet. Normally, it would have been effortless to brush off Paige and her friends, but not when they were all subtly amused by my current predicament. Instead of what would normally be a scoff and outright dismissal, I was supposed to be denying the hangout offer for the sake of homework? I had literally just graduated.
Thankfully, Noelle was nearby and opted to step in. “Miley still has some work to take care of,” she said. I appreciated that she kept it vague. “Maybe she can join you in a bit.” And, of course, leaving the door open in case I decided that my sister and her friends were more interesting than homework. Unlikely.
“Aww, Miley!” Paige whined, “We were so excited for you to join us. Five doesn’t split into even teams. You sure you can’t?”
“Come on, Miles!” Violet said. She pouted a bit herself, “It’ll be fun.”
“Sorry,” I replied, “Maybe later.”
Paige gave a small roll of her eyes as she finished grabbing a few more cans from the fridge. “Whatever. Come down whenever, if you change your mind. Oh, one of these is yours!” Setting down all but one of the drinks on the counter beside the fridge, she came over to where I was still standing by the edge of the table and held out the can of diet cola for me.
For a moment, I was suspicious of whether or not she had secretly given the can a good shake while she was out of view a minute ago. Then I realized she wouldn’t do that with Noelle standing on the other side of the kitchen. Not after Paige had gone out of her way to seem like a responsible older sister for the most part in the presence of Miley’s babysitter. But she did have something in mind. As I took the drink from her, she reached into her pocket with her other hand.
My eyes widened as I saw what she procured. It was my driver’s license! For all of one second, I saw the familiar ID in her hand. Before my recognition could turn into action, however, she slid the plastic card deep into her bra. My eyes widened. Short of plunging my hand into her cleavage, provided she didn’t step back or make any attempt to stop me, it was too late to grab the license. And Noelle was behind me, which meant Paige was using my body to block most of what she just showed me. “You-”
“You’re welcome,” Paige nodded. Turning the focus back to the soft drink she handed me, she said, “Shame you can’t take a break. I was going to give you a chance to win back something of yours.” She paused just long enough for that to sink in, then swiveled on her heel and called back over her shoulder, “Later, sis!”
Violet shot me a wink while Paige and I still had my babysitter’s attention. Without adding any comment of her own that might tip Noelle off, she just picked up my sister’s plate of pizza while Paige took care of the cans. The girls had humored Noelle in terms of using the plates she and I had set out for everyone, instead of taking the boxes and maybe a roll of paper towels like they normally would, but hadn’t gone so far as to use the glasses. Yet another example of how Paige was the more irresponsible sister. She was just pretending, splitting the difference between her normal self and her ‘Miley’s older sister’ game.
I wasn’t desperate enough to call out for them to wait, but it was already sinking in that staying up here and doing more schoolwork might not be the best choice any more. Paige’s friends had already seen me in the youthful outfit, and taken pleasure in pushing me further into the role I was trapped in.
If suffering through a little more embarrassment was the price I had to pay to get my ID back . . . maybe that was a price worth paying?
“Umm, Noelle?” I said, “I changed my mind.”
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