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I like to look at the framed picture of the young girl that hangs in my room. She is smiling, and her dark blonde hair is ruffled. She looks happy. I would do anything to get to know her, to see that smile and hear her laugh, but I can’t. She’s dead. She died giving birth to me.
The door opens, and Aunt Josephine walks in. I don’t have a lock, and she never knocks. It’s her house after all, and I am only twelve. She doesn’t look mad, but I know she is, she always is. It’s never anything I’ve done or haven’t done, although she always makes it seem as if it’s my fault. I know now that I can never make her happy with me. She hates me. She hates that she has to take care of me until I’ grow up.
I am glad that I’m going to boarding school this year, even though Aunt Josephine says that the nuns will ‘discipline my mother’s faults away’. The nuns may be bad, but they can’t be as bad as Aunt Josephine. Nobody can.
She comes towards me. She is tall and thin, and her skin always looks shiny. I look away from the picture, but not quickly enough. Her face is a tight mask of disapproval as she studies it.
“Why do I even bother?” She snaps at last. “Anybody can see that you’re going to end up exactly like her, pregnant with God knows who’s child.” Her black eyes flash, and I can’t stop myself from flinching. “Just don’t think I’ll be wasting another eighteen years of my life looking after your bastard.”
“Sophie? Are you alright?”
I look up from the spot on the wall where I’ve been staring while my thoughts wander, and give Stacey Carver a smile. I have perfected the smile that says I’m fine, even though most of the time, I feel far from it.
“I’m fine.” I tell her, turning my attention back to cleaning a shelf, which is what I should have been doing in the first place. “I was just thinking.”
“You’ve been doing that a lot.” Her voice is so full of concern that immediately I start to feel guilty. She is my boss at the gift shop where I work as an assistant, and she worries about me, more than she should. I wish she wouldn’t, she has enough things to worry about without adding me to the list.
She has already done too much for me. When my Aunt Josephine died very suddenly, a little more than four months ago, and I found that I had little money, no home, and absolutely no plans, she literally became my guardian angel. While her husband, my aunt’s lawyer, took care of discharging the will and settling the estate, which Aunt Josephine bequeathed almost entirely to the local library, Stacey helped me find a small apartment in town, and gave me a job working as an assistant in her gift shop.
“Really, I’m fine.” I smile again for good measure. She nods and turns towards the front of the shop. She is a pretty woman, small, brown-haired, and always nicely dressed.
I can’t see her face anymore, but I can tell that she is frowning. She is worried because the gift shop cannot afford to keep me much longer. Business is worse than usual, but she doesn’t know how to tell me. For some reason, she feels responsible for me, maybe because she was friends with my mother all those years ago, but it’s time for me to be responsible for myself.