“Millie, can you imagine all the hot college guys?

Ava jumps onto my bed, causing the mattress to shuffle and disturb my momentary silence. Her golden-brown hair falls messily against the lavender bedspread, and the scent of her cherry-flavored gum lingers in the air between us.

“California guys, since it’s obvious where I’m going,” I answer bitterly.

Beside me, Ava lays on her back, hands resting on her exposed stomach as we both stare at the ceiling. “He’ll come around.

I rub my eyes, letting out a frustrated breath.
“Maybe with you. He treats me differently.

“Well, it’s not exactly like you make an effort with him either.

“Two-way street,” I quickly inform her. “You’re his favorite.

I recall a childhood full of great memories, and given our closeness in age, the two of us were inseparable. I’d been dubbed the so-called daredevil in my earlier years, never a moment of fear as I jumped off things, out of things, rode my bike at a fast speed without a care in the world. Ava and Andy were unfortunate that I bullied them with my overbearing ways, and on more than one occasion, I dared them to do things that landed us all in trouble.

My body is covered in scars from my knees being scraped numerous times to the several ER visits from concussions and broken bones.
It’s fair to say I’ve given my parents multiple coronaries.

Though somewhere along the way, I guess I changed, unaware I had done so. I became more cautious of my actions, and perhaps, I matured as I grew older, knowing certain situations carried heavy consequences.

I swapped adventure for studying, outdoor activities for reading. The daredevil in me no longer existed, but the memories still lingered. Ava and Andy made up a huge part of my life, two people I’ll miss dearly once I go to college.

My younger sister, Addison, arrived years later, then the youngest, Alexandra, much later than all of us. According to my parents, a surprise baby. I don’t need any more details.

Unlike some of my friends who have fathers from divorced marriages or those who run wealthy companies, my father has been present. He often attends our sporting events and every school milestone, Mom ensuring he never misses out. With certain things, her word holds more weight. I know my father works hard, and Mom often calls him a workaholic, which has led to several arguments, but he never made us feel unworthy by absence. He travels, but when he is home, the attention is on my sisters and me. Being one of four girls, I do feel sorry for him since he suffers through more gymnastics and ballet than most other fathers I know.

Yet, it must have been in middle school when our relationship began to shift, and my interests changed. I started to like boys. My friendship circle grew in junior high, which included more of the opposite sex, prompting my parents to give me “the talk.” It was uncomfortable, awkward, and I’d never seen my father so quiet. Mom carried the whole conversation, and, of course, in front of him, I kept my questions at bay.

“Let’s talk about the party tonight.” Ava changes the topic.

“The one Dad won’t let me go to?

“Austin will be there…”

“I know.” I sigh, knowing this is the biggest party of the year, the one I’ve been anticipating as the reward should my hard efforts pay off.

“It’s not fair that juniors aren’t allowed,” Ava whines.

“Madison wanted it to be a pre-graduation event,” I remind her, my frustration deepening as the minutes pass. “Besides, it’s the only weekend her parents are away.

Ava sits up, her long hair swooshing at her sudden movements. “You mean, there’s no chaperone?

“Not exactly. Her older sister and brother are there.

“Do Dad and Mom know?

“They know there’s adult supervision. That’s it.

I feel terrible for lying, but it doesn’t matter anyway since I’m not allowed to go.
I never felt the need to lie to either of them, nor have I disrespected their rules despite disagreeing. On the other hand, Ava often pushes the limits, sneaking out whenever she gets a chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns up at the party after our parents fall asleep.

“I think you should go anyway. Just sneak out once Dad’s asleep.

“It’s not even worth it,” I tell her, less than enthused.

And just at that moment, my phone lights up beside me with a text from Austin, my boyfriend.

Austin: Can’t wait to see you tonight. I miss you. I can’t believe senior year is almost over.

A smile spreads across my face. Typing fast, I send a reply.

Me: I miss you too.

I hop off the bed, darting to my closet, which consists of more comfortable attire, the complete opposite to Ava’s wardrobe.

“I need to borrow a dress,” I yell out to her.

Ava runs into my closet, barefoot with excitement. “I have just the one.

She disappears, to return moments later with a red off-the-shoulder dress which sits mid-thigh.
When it comes to shopping, Ava and Mom are experts. If Ava owns this dress, Mom approved it.

“Perfect.” I grin, holding it up. “Shoes?

Ava huffs, leaving the room again to return with a pair of gold heels. Handing them to me, I scowl at the height.

“I’ll fall over in these,” I point out, my eyes gravitating toward my closet floor. “I mean, how wrong would it be to wear my Chucks?

“Very wrong,” Ava exaggerates, eyes wide.
“We need to raid Mom’s closet.

“Uh, in case you forgot, how can we raid her closet without her knowing?

The sound of a throat clearing causes us to shift our heads abruptly. Mom is wearing a pair of sweats, still looking beautiful, though I heard her complain earlier that she’d spent an hour cleaning my sister, Alexandra’s, room. Her hair is tied in a messy bun, but I’m always in awe of her beauty no matter what she wears. As far as mothers go, Mom looks years younger than her actual age, often mistaken for my older sister.

“Hey, Mom,” Ava drags, her lips parting with worried eyes. “We were just talking about clothes and how your wardrobe is every girl’s dream.

“Uh-huh.” Mom nods, standing still while watching us with her arms crossed beneath her chest. “Ava, could I have a word with your sister, please?

Ava bolts out of the room, quick to escape the lecture I’m about to receive for attempting to sneak into Mom’s closet. So typical of her, and the worst part—this was all her idea.

“Can we talk, please?

I follow Mom to my bed, sitting beside her as the guilt sets in over my brief lapse of judgment. I could blame Ava. After all, she’s a bad influence and not the angel everyone makes her out to be.

“Amelia, I know you’re upset, and you have every right to be. I’m not here to defend your father’s actions.” She takes a deep breath, choosing her words carefully. “Your father loves you. And believe it or not, he’s very proud of you.

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