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So, "What about this?" Daisy cocked her head to one side as she held out yet another item from the new wardrobe she insisted we get for me.

A long, pink sundress with lace and ruffles; my lips pursed in observation. It was a stunning piece of apparel, but it didn't belong on me.

For the sake of my girlfriend, I pretended to amuse it by extending my hand.

Do you know someone who calls themself a "empath"? Some individuals claim to have the ability to take on the emotions and moods of others.

Those folks are definitely full of it.

It wasn't that I was an empath because I could see that Daisy was in a good mood and that she was in seventh heaven trying to locate clothing for me, but I could also tell that she was concerned about how I would react to her selections.

Instead, it was because I had mastered the subtle art of reading her body language.

The emotions on her face as she examined an article of clothing and then returned her gaze to mine. I could see she was holding her breath until I gave my opinion. She was in such a hurry as she hurried from shop to store, rapidly scanning the racks.

I was able to read her delicate body language since I had to learn to do so when living with a mother whose behavior was very unpredictable. It was her subtle actions that determined whether I would be treated to ice cream that day or forced to scrub the floor with a bristle brush for eight hours straight because there were stains on the floor that only she could notice.

People who claim to be empaths are really merely traumatized.

I titled my head and ran my fingertips over the smooth cloth, admiring the garment.


"That Daphne is so lovely!" Give it a go, would you? Daisy let out, evidently bolstered by my performance.

I paused for what seemed like an eternity while I pretended to think about it. I reached for the price tag hanging on a thread. As I read the price, I had to force my eyes to stop watering. $350.

To my friend, "I think it would look better on you," I muttered, shaking my head at the ridiculous cost of such a fine garment.

I decided last week that $350 would cover my food costs for the next two months. And here was Daisy, hardly batting an eye at shelling out that much for one garment.

"What?" Daisy sighs loudly. "No. I think that would flatter my figure, but no way! You'd look stunning in that. If physical similarities are your main concern, we share a lot of them. It's likely that we're the same size. She paused for emphasis and then looked down at me. To paraphrase, "Your boobs are definitely bigger, but if anything, it means the dress would look even better!"

I shrugged my shoulders and turned back to the almost lined garments on the rack next us as I started to walk away. I wasn't concerned about how my physique looked.

I responded, "I have clothes," hoping my voice sounded as calm as I felt it should. You don't have to do that. No, please don't have your folks purchase me any new threads.

What do you mean, "Clothes?" After I finished speaking, Daisy slipped the garment

back into place at my side, acknowledging defeat.

I murmured, "Yeah," and pretended to be searching for something else. In all honesty, I could not make out the garments in front of me. I was preoccupied with trying to make sense of my emotions.

I didn't feel horrible about using Daisy's parents' money since... They had obviously had enough of it by that point.

The idea that I owed them money after all they done for me was even more discouraging. Everything is free: housing, groceries, wardrobe.

There is a cost to everything, that much I have learned in my years. The cost for such a massive debt should be as large.

The things Lucinda had said earlier had made quite an impression on me. But as the minutes turned into hours, my worry began to wipe everything out.

It would be like when my mom said she'd take me to Disney World, but then she'd blow the money on drugs instead.

At the time, it was a kind gesture on her part, but she didn't place a high value on me.

We can't assume that Lucinda is any different.

Daisy's reorienting words, "You have like three outfits," brought me back to our discussion.

My defense began, "I..." More than three garments existed in my closet. Possibly five.

Asking, "What's the real problem?" Perhaps in order to avoid being overheard by the interested salespeople, she lowered the volume of her voice.

The simple answer is "nothing," as I shook my head firmly in disapproval.

"Nothing?" She gave me her best eyebrow lift and scowled. You are, in fact, a young woman of puberty. A black American Express card and a teenage girl usually make for a happy combination.

I masticated my lower lip thoughtfully; she made an excellent point. I mean, where can you go, like, to Target or something? How come these garments are so pricey?

I stole a peek at her and saw the look of bewilderment that I had anticipated spread over her face. She glanced at me as if I had asked a difficult mathematical question.

Asking, "Why does it matter?" When she inquired, I found myself wondering whether the weight of the discrepancy between our two lives was as hard for her as it had been for me in the five hours since I'd met my sister.

I attempted to deflect her inquiry by saying, "I don't know," but she narrowed her eyes at me, and I realized I wouldn't be able to escape her scrutiny that easily.

When asked, "What if your parents change their minds and want me to pay them back?" I asked, attempting to seem casual by averting my gaze from her as I spoke.

You could be asking yourself, "Why would they do that?" Daisy inquired, her voice tinged with bewilderment.

"Who knows," I said with a shrug. I'm sure I can come up with a number of ways to let them down.

With an understated "hmm," she aired her thoughts. And you want my parents to give it all back if you hurt their feelings? Everything I own would have been repossessed many times by now if it were the case.

I looked at her again after that. Daisy didn't seem like the sort to let her parents down.

"You should have seen how mad they were the time I skipped class and had too much wine on the beach with Tiff," she said with a wry smile, as though recalling the incident with fondness.

I watched my sister while she talked, in part because I was taken aback by her lack of goody-two-shoes behavior and in part because I saw that she didn't seem to be very shaken up by her parents' disapproval.

She continued, meeting my gaze with hers and said, "I promise you, Daphne." "You have nothing to worry about unless you rob a bank or deliberately set the house on fire."

While processing her remarks and searching her face for deception, I forced my lips into a straight line. "Are you sure?"

"Positive." Daisy beamed at me and said, "so, can we shop now?"

I laughed softly, and Daisy became aquiver at the sound. Then I understood that my laughter was the first she'd ever heard.

I said, "Okay," and with a shriek she grabbed my arms and pulled me into a brief embrace. In this case, "it's just..."

She backed off, casting a suspicious glance in my direction.

Looking her over and then at my own clothes, I said, "We have..." in the hopes that she would draw the conclusion on her own. We're both unique in our own ways.

Holding her hands out in front of her, she said, "Okay, okay," and she released me. "OK, I'll think about it. She joked, "Daphne can only wear neutrals," and I joined in the mirth.

After three hours, my arms started to ache.

My whole body, including my arms, legs, feet, and even my abs, was mildly hurting, and I couldn't figure out why.

Shopping with Daisy turned out to be a marathon rather than a sprint. Every time I thought we were done shopping, she'd bring me to yet another store. She had another situation for which I could require clothing just when I felt my new wardrobe was complete.

To celebrate in style with a pool bash. A get-together on the beach. Throwing a sleepover. Camping. School. Theatrical hall. Dates. The fitness center. Coffee.

Indulging in a Netflix binge.

She had even shown me a tennis skirt at one time, saying, "Well, what if you take up tennis?"

Until I complained of being too tired to continue, at which point she reluctantly gave in. I had many more garments than I had ever anticipated having. Although they didn't resemble Daisy's attire, they also wouldn't have drawn attention to themselves in their new, more affluent environment.

"So," Daisy began as she turned the key in the ignition of her baby blue convertible bug. While we were talking, I learned that she never drives with the top down because the wind always messes up her lip gloss.

Did you like the poolside cabana? She went on, looking at the road and back at me as if attempting to gauge whether or not I was lying. If you don't, you may say so. I promise not to tell Mom.

I looked at her with a puzzled expression, wondering what was wrong with the place. As for me, "I love it."

"Really?" She questioned, evidently not fully convinced.

It begs the question, "Why wouldn't I?" So, I decided to ask her some questions.

She began, "I mean," before adding, "it's just a little boring."

As I shook my head, "No," I said. You may say, "It's perfect."

Not in the least bit would I call it boring. Despite its atheistic undertones, I found it to be more akin to cleanliness. Really out of my comfort zone. I couldn't express to Daisy how much I appreciated everything being fresh and clean.

The question, "Was it a guest room or something?" My curiosity peaked, I questioned her why they called this stunning space the "pool house."

"I think that's what my parents intended for it to be, when they had it built," Daisy said to me as she turned on her blinker and changed lanes without so much as glancing in her rearview mirror. However, it is seldom used. Because my parents don't have many relatives, we don't have many guests.

I nodded, frowning slightly as I said, "Oh."

"Mostly, my friends end up there sometimes," she said, "when they're way too drunk and don't want to go home and face the wrath of their parents."

Is this a common response: "You guys drink a lot?" I asked, keeping in mind that she often mentioned drinking and gatherings.

"Yeah," she said indifferently to my inquiry. "This location is rather uninteresting outside of tourist season. I didn't really understand what she meant when she said, "The school I go to isn't that big, and there isn't much to do."

The corridors of my last intercity public school were like sardine cans, packed with thousands of students.

An uneasy "So, uh," came out of Daisy's mouth as she drove into her perfectly paved driveway. Do you need to rest? Due to your extensive travels?"

I took a quick look at her and saw that she bit her lip while she spoke. It wasn't only out of idle curiosity that she inquired.

I said, "I mean," attempting to gauge the tone of the conversation and learn more about the context. My response would be conditional on her next move. "Maybe?"

"Well," she said with an anxious chuckle. "It looks like my pals are almost here..."

Then yes, I replied without hesitation. I just want to say, "I'm tired."

"Daphne!" Daisy laughed and swatted my arm playfully. I can assure you that my pals are awesome. Everyone can't wait to finally meet you. No one new has joined us in quite some time.

I sighed as I looked at her, trying to think of what to say next.

"Please?" She chuckled as she pleaded with me, pressing her hands together. The speaker pleaded, "Please, please, please..."

"Fine," I said with a chuckle, moving her hands apart. In other words, "Fine, if you'll shut up!"

"Yay!" She let out a shriek when she unlocked her vehicle and hopped out, having forgotten her keys inside. My gaze quickly shifted to meet theirs. It was another evidence that I had arrived on another world.

For the simple reason that if I were to leave my keys in my vehicle, I wouldn't have a car for very long where I come from.

As we came through the front door, Daisy offered to assist me with my baggage. She put the luggage into my hands as we entered the foyer.

I must make some adjustments. Get dressed in something fresh. And I'll see you at the pool in the backyard, all right? She turned with a gleam in her eye and began to skip up the stairs.

Then, though, she retreated. Sighing my name, "Daphne," she addressed me. Just to clarify, "I am not... Sincerely, I'm delighted that you've arrived.

"Me too," I said, smiling back at her, since it was largely true.

I lugged my belongings through the home, the backyard, and the pool house after Daisy had left. Remembering that Daisy had indicated her friends were on their way, I began to move with a little more urgency.

I took a deep breath and ripped open the bags holding my new clothing, looking for anything in particular. Daisy had put everything together for me after correctly predicting the styles of clothing I would really wear.

A simple black dress, composed of stretchy fabric that clung to every curve. When it was over my head, I shook my hair out with my hands. In addition to the gold earrings she demanded I buy, I wore it with the black shoes she had chosen.

When I was done, I glanced in the mirror and was a little taken aback by the girl who stared back at me. She resembled me, obviously, but in a unique way. Elevated.

As far back as I can remember, people have thought I was attractive. After all, I was a direct descendant of Daisy. I thought she was very stunning. However, my attractiveness was always in the background.

To a large extent, trauma is to blame. But at the moment, I'm hardly able to make out that horror.

I sorted through Daisy's pricey cosmetics collection, which included dozens of individual bottles. I applied mascara, powdered my cheeks, and slathered my lips with gloss.

When I was finished, I continued to look at myself in the mirror for an extra second. Surprisingly, the prospect of meeting Daisy's pals had begun to make me anxious. Are they going to like me? Are they good people? Maybe I'd enjoy them. Would they see through me and realize I'm not from this world?

After clearing my nasal passages, I shook my head. I walked away from the mirror against my will. I had an internal monologue going on. You can impress them, Daphne. And if they don't, who gives a damn anyway? You have never been more in need of companionship as you are now.

There was some dim light in the garden, but hundreds of small lights seemed to emanate from every direction at once.

The fact that I was the first one here helped me relax considerably.

It was, at least, until I laid eyes on him.

My pupils widened as I took him in. When I initially arrived, he was doing the same thing I did—standing by the pool and staring into it. He stood at an impressive height, and his brown hair swept in gentle waves about his face. He was too tall for a teenager, and his face was too attractive.

Indecisive, I waited there waiting for him to respond. When he faced me, I realized I had been grossly underestimating his wonderful looks.

But as he started talking, I had an immediate want to hit him in the face.

His eyes swept twice over my body as he said, "Well," with a sly grin on his face. Not at all like the homeless girl Daisy's family had to come and save.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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