Chapter OneMature

"I used to hate horses," I say to Logan, not caring if he's a diehard horse lover or not.
"Really?" he asks with shock seeping through his voice. I'm glad he doesn't seem to care that I used to hate horses-one of the things he loves the most. I couldn't bear to lose him too.
"Yeah," I whisper, swinging my legs through the air, hoping to whomever's upstairs that I don't fall off the ledge and die. "I used to hate horses, but then the horse that I hated the most saved my life.

I hate horses.

            For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated horses. I’m not even particularly sure why I hate horses; I just know that I do. My mom says that it’s probably because my sister is obsessed with horses, and she’s obviously the more “successful” one between the two of us.

            The sad part with what my mom said is that that’s pretty much exactly how she worded it.

            Never have I really even thought about envying my sister until my mom told me that Grace was more successful than me. I suppose I’ve just never given it any thought. Before I was thirteen, which was when she told me what she did, it didn’t bother me when Grace got better grades than me or always got better Christmas presents than me.

            It wasn’t relevant to me, and to be frank, I didn’t even realize until my mother so blatantly shoved it in my face.

            So basically after age thirteen, I began to hate horses and my sister—two of the things that meant the most to my mother.

            When my mom was younger, she was a horseback rider just like Grace. In fact, my grandmother and my great-grandmother were also horseback riders. Therefore naturally, she assumed that her firstborn would automatically take on the family tradition of horseback riding. Unfortunately, her firstborn was me—clumsy, not-coordinating, carefree me.

            I guess that’s why my mother tried for another child. She probably wanted somebody to continue that family tradition, and much to her happiness, Grace turned out to be a prodigy when it came to riding on the backs of horses.

            Grace’s first horseback riding lessons went extremely well. The teacher was prestigious, much like my mother, and hit it off with Mom immediately. They talked for the longest of time about how Grace was a natural, and how Grace was going to be magnificent, and Grace this and Grace that.

            Honestly, I tried to hate Grace, and this was at age seven. But I couldn’t really hate my younger sister. After all, she was only five, and there was no real reason to hate her.

            But then age thirteen rolled around and my mother so harshly told me that I was lesser than my younger sister, which then drew the line for me and finalized my hatred toward my sibling.

            And apparently, Grace knew—she still does—that she’s the favorite daughter in my mother’s eyes, and she liked to rub that fact in my face every chance she got. At the dinner table, she’d always talk about her horse and how she took care of it. She’d talk about how there was this cute guy there that asked her out. She’d talk about how her teacher (the same one from when I was seven) was so amazing and how she learned something new that day.

            Ever since it dawned on her that every time she talked about her horse, our mother would fawn over her, she acted like a stuck up bitch that had something shove up her—

            “Harlow, darling,” my mother’s sickly sweet voice says through my wooden door.

            I roll my eyes, not wanting to deal with her at the moment, but I know that she’s unavoidable, and I’ve learned that it’s best to just get her over with. “Yeah?”

            The door is pushed open and my mother’s perfect self walks into my room without permission. “Don’t speak to your mother like that, Harlow,” she says snippily. Sometimes, she’s so prim and proper that I wish she would just go out with her rich friends and never come back. The ironic part about her hanging out with rich people is that we aren’t even rich.

            Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I sit up from my laying position on my bed and force myself to stand up and acknowledge the fact that my mother isn’t going to go away. “Sorry.”

            “You should be,” she says like she knows that she’s won our miniature argument that probably wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t the way she is. “But on a different note, your sister is home.” A warm smile adorns my mother’s face, and I can see the gleams of appreciation in her eyes.

            It hurts to see that she’s so proud of Grace. She’s always so happy when she talks to and about Grace, and then when she talks to or about me, a frown or scowl is permanently etched into her face. Even though I don’t really like my mother, her disapproval of me stings.

            Sighing deeply, I push myself off my bed, my bones making tiny popping noises. Of course my mother just leaves my room without even asking if I’m okay. Any normal mother would comment on my crackling bones, but mine doesn’t.

            “Thanks for asking!” I whisper to myself flatly. “As a matter of fact, I did fall in the hall today, and that’s why it’s difficult for me to stand up without making a bunch of noises because I hurt all over. I’m so glad that you care.”

            But that’s the thing. She doesn’t care. Now if Grace stands up from her bed and starts to make popping noises, our mother would be all over her and asking her if she’s alright and if she broke anything.

            But not me. Because I’m just Harlow. Plain old Harlow Evans.

            The disappointment of the family.

 

“Grace, darling! Would you like anything to drink?”

            Mom—I’ve decided that she’s not fit to be called mother anymore, and I’m close to calling her Lydia, her first name—is bustling all over the kitchen, acting upon Grace’s every request.

            After all, it’s not every day that your child wins an important State Championship in horseback riding. It only happens once if you’re Harlow Evans, but Grace Evans is another story. If you’re Grace Evans, you win the some kind of championship every week. And after all those medals and trophies that Grace has accumulated over the past few years, I don’t see how Mom still finds each one spectacular.

            I’m sitting on the couch adjacent of Grace’s, and I can’t stand the smug look on her face. She knows that she’s already outdone me the moment she walks through the door, and that kills me.

            “Oh no mother, I’m not thirsty. Thank you for asking though,” Grace says, smiling pleasantly at our mom. “Though I’m just begging for a family dinner so I can share what happened.” After saying this, she turns towards me and winks.

            It’s kind of like a sisterly secret except not really because one sister hates the other with a burning passion.

            Clapping her hands together happily, Mom takes Graces hand and drags her into the dining room, which is decorated with ‘Congratulations’ signs all over the room. I follow behind Grace and Mom, walking into the dining room myself. Upon seeing all of banners and balloons, I sigh.

            I’m never going to get a congratulations dinner. Ever.

            Being the great mother she is, Mom pulls out Graces chair for her, and my younger sister takes it gratefully. Mom pushes the chair in and almost-but-not-really skips to her own seat across from Dad’s, which is at the head of the table.

            Dad smiles warmly at me, and I’m reminded yet again of the reason I don’t leave the house. My dad.

            Through everything, he’s been there for me. He thinks that the way his wife treats me is terrible, but he loves her. He’s tried to talk to her about her actions before, but she just brushed him off like a fly. It pisses me off how Mom pays more attention to Grace than Dad and I put together.

            They’re married. I’d think that she’d at least pay attention to Dad, even if it is more than me. Dad deserves it after all he’s had to put up with involving Mom.

            “How was your day—“ Dad’s words are cut off my Grace’s squeal of delight.

            “Eek! Mom!” my lovely sister screeches at the dinner table, successfully gaining all of our attention. “I got first place!”

            I begin to cut up my meat, listening in on my family’s conversation but not joining in because I know that I’m not invited. I’m never invited to join in on dinner conversations. And whenever Dad tried to join me in, Mom always diverts the conversation topic so that Dad’s attempts are futile.

            Mom’s face brightens instantly at the news, even though I’m pretty damn sure that she already knew that Grace got first place. Grace always gets first place, and when she doesn’t, Mom blames the place that hosted the competition and calls them out for cheating.

            “That’s great, darling!” says Mom.

            Dad sighs heavily. I know he’s getting sick of his wife’s obsession with Grace, but there isn’t anything he can do about it so he just goes along with it. “Congrats, Grace.”

            “Awh, thanks daddy!” Grace says in a girly voice. Whenever she calls Dad ‘daddy’, I know she wants something. I guess it’s like that for every teenage girl, but when it comes to Grace, it just seems extra bitchy.

            Raising his eyebrows, Dad continues to cut his meat up into equal size pieces. “No problem, sweetie.” He seems concentrated, but like every other time, Grace has to ruin it by opening her big mouth.

            “So daddy…” she starts off, and I instantly know for a fact that she wants something. “There’s this horse that I got to ride today.” Grace stops there to eat a piece of her steak.

            “That’s wonderful,” Dad says after swallowing the meat he was chewing. He resumes his eating, ignorant to the fact that Grace is sweet talking him.

            “Yes, it is,” Grace says slowly, waiting for Dad to ask about the horse.

            Dad seems to catch on pretty quickly. “What about this horse?”

            Like it’s no big deal and like she wasn’t just begging for the question, Grace shrugs. “Oh, you know, he was so awesome,” Grace says nonchalantly. “He was an appaloosa, and he was absolutely gorgeous.”

            “That’s cool,” Dad says while chewing. It’s incredibly disrespectful to do that, but I’m happy that he did. It was his way of telling me that he didn’t care about Grace’s horse.

            “Paul,” Mom snaps at her husband, “don’t you dare talk with your mouth open. That’s so disgusting.”

            Inconspicuously, Dad winks at me and then directs his attention to his irritated wife. “Sorry, Darla, I won’t do it again.” Thankfully, he finished his piece of steak before answering Mom.  

            “Anyway,” Grace says, trying to make the conversation less awkward, “Olivia said that Bubba—the appaloosa—needed a new home. She said that I would be the perfect person to take care of her beloved animal. She said that even though he’s expensive, he’s worth it.”

            “Shocker,” I mumble, hoping that nobody heard me.

            But luck wasn’t on my side, because three pairs of eyes shoot toward my direction. Looking up from my food, I probably had the deer in the headlights expression.

            Mom’s fiery eyes burned a hole through my forehead. “Why can’t you just respect your sister and her love of horses?”

            “Because she always talks about horses,” I say, trying my best to come off calm and not absolutely and utterly pissed off.

            Raising one perfectly plucked eyebrow, Mom’s eyes become even more livid. “And what’s so terrible about horses?”

            “Oh dear,” Dad mutters, dropping his head into his hands that are propped up on the table. “Here we go.”

            Taking a bite out of my bread roll, I decide to piss her off even more. It’s all or nothing. “They’re boring.”

            Mom’s posture becomes stiff and rigid. She’s obviously about to ground me, and I could care less. As long as I get out of talking about my sister and her damn horses, then I’m fine. “You have no right to say that about horses.”

            “Actually,” I say, placing my bread roll back onto my plate, “I didn’t say that horseswere boring, and I didn’t even say that horseback riding was boring—“

            “Don’t say it, Harlow,” Dad warns me, but I don’t listen.

            “—I said that Grace and her fucking horseback riding talk is boring.” With that, I pick up my bread and continue eating.

            It’s not surprising that water is splashed all over me. When I look up, I see Grace standing on the other side of the table, anger written all over her face. “How dare you say that, Harlow! I am your sister.”

            Not even bothering to hold back, I roll my eyes. “Yeah, and I am your sister. And to be specific, I’m your older sister.” I cross my arms, enjoying the fight. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been one for a good argument.

            “Yeah,” Grace says, “well at least I have something going for me.” Her eyes are swirling different emotions that I’m too lazy to place.

            Scoffing, I say, “So what? Who says that I even want to do anything?”

            “Honestly, Harlow,” Grace spits in my direction, “you don’t think that you can live here forever, do you?”

            “No, but—“

            “For god sakes, Harlow, you’re eighteen years old. You already graduated high school. The next step is college.” Grace is still standing from across the table, but her stature has eased up a bit.

            I swallow, knowing that I’m the most unlikely victor in our sisterly argument. “Like I don’t know that. At least I’m free. You’re tied down to horseback riding. You’re never going to get out of it. It’s permanent.”

            “But I like it, so I don’t mind,” Grace says indifferently, her voice quieting and her anger receding. Even though it seems as though she’s backing down, I know her better than that. Like they say, the calm before the storm.

            “Yeah, Grace,” I say, my voice still the same tone as it has been the entire fight, “well I like my freedom, and I like that I have choices.”

            “At least I have family,” she whispers, sitting back down. Her lips are curving up into a smirk, and I know that something bad is going to come out of her mouth. “You don’t.”

            “And what ever could you mean by that, sister dear,” I deadpan, trying to keep my tone of calm. It’s slipping though, and it’s slipping fast.

            “I’m the favorite daughter, Harlow, and you know it.”

            Silence.

            “Mom will always love me more.”

            Chaos.  

The End

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