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It'll be all right, little owl.

We were still sitting on the floor; Mo- the other me had pulled me half into her lap, her fingers tracing down the line drawn in stubble over the curve of my head.

And it felt right; there was that star-sense of her, right up against me, that felt like sitting out on a spring day and letting the sun warm your clothes.

She held me. She saw me.

And it didn't hurt at all.

It was the only thing that felt right in my entire life.

And the only conclusion I could reach from that was that I was utterly, bitterly fucked, because the only sort of solace that I could find came with a built-in expiration date.

"I can't do this," I whispered to myself. Listened to Mom hum in quiet acquiescence as she stroked my hair. "God, I can't do this and I don't know what to do."

I felt... drained. Wrung out, even; I felt like an old torn-up dish sponge, soft and tattered and still vaguely damp no matter how you squeezed it out.

"I can't stay here."

Mom shhhhhhed, shushing me in ocean-wave susurrus. "It'll be all right."

I knew the words were mine, but her voice, it-

It was so much her, it hurt.

My eyes closed and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. "Promise?"

The pad of her thumb brushed along my hairline. "Promise," she echoed, her voice soft and soothing. "I'll take care of you."


Thunder filled my ears, resolved to the sound of a fist pounding on my door.

"Taylor? Taylor?"

I sat up- I was in bed, still dressed, a cover thrown over me-

...and I was alone.

The doorknob rattled, turned; my door cracked open and I could see the glint of Dad's glasses in the hallway light.

I sniffed, wet my lips. "...was sleeping." The words came out fuzzy, sounding almost petulant.

"Dinner's almost ready. I want you downstairs in five minutes."

I hesitated. Considered. "...I'm... not really hungry."

He looked at me, through me. "I want you downstairs in five minutes."

And then he was gone, without even bothering to close my door behind him.

I stared at the ray of illumination left by my half-open door, looked down at the spike of brightness broadcast across my bedroom carpet.

And I thought about how Dad sounded, angry and cold like Aconcagua.

I thought about Mom, and myself.

I'll take care of you, she whispered.

Is this what that looked like?

Did she try talking to Dad?

My gut twisted tight as I got up and headed downstairs, and it wasn't from hunger.


'Dinner' was the Hebert comfort food staples: grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.

Dad barely touched his; I managed a few bites of sandwich, pushed my spoon around my bowl, watching scraps of meat and chopped vegetables swirl in slow currents.

"Taylor."

I swallowed, looked up at him from my food. Looked up into flat, cold eyes, greener than glacier ice.

"You don't ever, ever make one of those things in the house again."

Dad stared at me, and it was like I'd swallowed concrete and let it set in my gut; it felt like when I was little and I'd done something I didn't know was wrong.

"...Dad?" my voice was small, quiet and trembling. "What..."

And Dad looked at me, the way he looked at Blackwell, the way he looked at Sophia, something naked and furious in his gaze that left me wordless and stammering.


He let me leave the table; didn't have anything to say to me as I fled up the stairs, back to my room.

I shut my bedroom door, leaned against it, closed my eyes.

I wanted to throw up what little I'd eaten, covered my mouth not sure if I was going to retch or sob.

I can't do this.

I thought... god I didn't know what to think. That somehow things would be better, given time?

And just... I'd given it time, I'd slept on it even, and now things were even worse.

I couldn't do this. I couldn't just sit here and let Dad chip away at my life.

I took a step, then another. Crossed the room, opened my closet door, ready to dig out my old weekend bag that we'd used for vacations-

Only it was right there, sitting on top of everything else in my closet.

And when I picked it up, it was heavier than it should be.

I set it on my bed, unzipped it-

It was already packed: two, maybe three days of clothes rolled up into tidy bundles, an old nylon wallet loaded with what I'd saved from my allowance...

And in one zipped pocket, a note.

It was in Mom's handwriting.

 

If you're reading this, then you've found the bag, and that means things aren't going well with Danny.

I can't claim to understand what he's going through; most of me is you, after all, and we both know how we feel about Dad right now.

The wallet contains all the cash I could find; I went online and pulled down the Greyhound departure times for Boston.

There's also a listing for some youth hostels and cheap hotels, too.

Know that I love you, and I'll be there when you need me.

 

I had to sniff back tears as I finished.

The bag sat on my bed. Ready. Waiting.

Was I ready?

I mean, god, I was running away from home.

I was leaving behind everything.

But...

...I bit my lip. It's not like there's much to leave behind. Not like it's my life anymore, anyways.

I reached down, zipped the bag up. Looked over at my window, then back at my bedroom door.

I closed my eyes, sank into that dark space where someone was always watching-

There was a hand on my arm, a star in my mind; I opened my eyes, saw Mom-

And I closed my eyes; focused on that bright, shining star and pulled-

And when I opened my eyes again, I was staring at myself, a sad little smile on her face.

"Twice as bright, huh?"

My smile mirrored hers. "Half as long. Sorry. Can you...?"

"Keep him busy?" She nodded. "I'll tell him what he wants to hear, say I'm going to bed."

I nodded. Watched as she opened my bedroom door, started to thump down the stairs, calling "Dad?"

"...god, I'm sorry," I whispered, and went to the window. Opened it, felt the rush of cold night air, heard the broad-shadowed tones of my copy and Dad talking as I climbed out, bag slung over my shoulder.

I dangled from the sill, wearing Mom's clothes, wearing her face.

I let go.