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Wrong Side
Author: H.J. Bellus







"Mercedes Diamond Alexander."

I whirl around to face my mother in her pencil skirt, pearls, and hair pinned back. It makes my stomach flip in disgust because she has me dressed the same exact way. She prances down the elegant steps of our home toward me. It's not a home if I'm being honest. It's a mansion, their trophy showcasing their prestige while masking all their sins.

"Now, remember to check in once a week, but not on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays; as you know, I have prior commitments that can't be interrupted." She reaches out, straightening the collar on my suffocating button-up white shirt.

"I will, Mother." I force a smile on my face.

"Now, don't use that tone with me and straighten your shoulders." She pinches her brows together. "It's taken a lot for your father and me to let you attend Penwood University when Harvard accepted you. Yale? The list goes on."

I nod, forcing my tongue to soothe a kind tone. "I know, Mother. You have no idea how thankful I am to be able to follow my dreams."

She scoffs, folding her arms and tapping her finger on her chin. "Art. Don't even get me started on that worthless career. You are so smart and could achieve so much if you'd lose this silly dream."

I nod once again. I learned a long time ago it doesn't do any good to reason with her or my father. It always turns into one massive argument where they are the victors who belittle me with their sharp and nasty words.

"And for God's sake, if I find out that you're not wearing your contacts and instead, those god-awful glasses, there will be consequences."

"Okay, Mother."

"It's bad enough that the surgeries we paid for couldn't even fix your vision."

I nod, knowing far too well everything they've done for me. She acts like it's a bone thrown to a dog and I should lap it up.

She opens her mouth to continue her tirade when a throat clears. We both glance to the stretch limo to see our driver, Harvey, with his always gentle smile on his face.

"Mrs. Alexander, Miss Alexander, we need to be hitting the road so Mercedes has plenty of daylight to get settled in Penwood."

"Fine." Mother glances down at her watch. "I have a lunch date at the country club anyway."

I act without thinking, raising both of my arms offering a hug to my mother. She shakes her head, stepping back.

"This blouse wrinkles easily. Have a good day, Mercedes." She turns, walking back up the stairs.

"Is Father around?" I ask, biting down on my bottom lip.

"No, he has a busy day and couldn't make time." With that, she walks the rest of the way up the stairs and slams the front door of the mansion.

Even several feet away, I felt that slam straight to the heart. My knees wobble and tears well up in my eyes. I refuse to let them fall. I mastered keeping my emotions in check over the years. The youngest of three who never fit in, from my thick bottle-cap glasses, scrawny figure, and love of painting. I never fit their mold like my older siblings. Jillian and Joshua were carefully carved and sculpted into successful businesspeople who hold powerful positions. But just because they turned out all shiny and perfect doesn't mean they were raised with care and love. Those types of feelings and emotions don't reside in the Alexander mansion.

"Come on, baby girl." An arm wraps around my shoulder and ushers me to the limo.

I melt into Harvey's side. "Thank you."

He opens the door and waits for me to climb in. I feel hollow on a day I should be ecstatic, but once again, my mother burned out that flame of hope.

Harvey slides in the front and begins driving. I watch the towering castle I grew up in fade away in the distance as I bite at my nails. A terrible habit deemed by Mother. She tried everything to get me to stop, from hot sauce to whippings, and she could and would never understand how it was a direct reflection of the anxiety she planted within me every single day.

"Sadie." Harvey glances in the rearview mirror.


"There's a surprise on the seat next to you."

"Uh?" I glance to my side to see a large black garbage bag. My heart skitters in excitement and my fingers fumble to get it open.

"How!" A shrill scream comes out as I hug my favorite paint-covered hoodie to my chest.

"I have my ways." A huge smile covers his face.

"Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me." I continue to dig through the bag. My fingers run over every single piece of my favorite clothing, footwear included.

Mother went through my room a few days ago and had one of her maids bag up all the clothes I love. When they were done, the only things left were business suits, pencil skirts, blouses, and anything else that resembled money and power in my mother’s eyes.

"Get on with yourself. No way I'm dropping my girl off at college dressed like that." Harvey rolls up the divider, and I don't waste one second.

My heart went from frozen to one beating full of life and love. Harvey has always been my best friend. He took me to eye doctor appointments since I was a toddler, snuck me greasy fast food, and always made me feel loved. The poor guy owns every single one of my paintings and often shows me pictures on his cell phone of them hung in his house. He truly is my only family member.

I tear off the stuffy clothes in lightning fashion, tossing them on the floor of the limo. I slip into my favorite worn pair of skinny jeans, tug on a black tank, and put a torn gray T-shirt on top of it. The material warms my skin and relaxes my spirits. I damn near bawl when I see the glasses case in the bag. I pop out my contacts, chuck them on the floor too, and put on my favorite, black-framed glasses. Contacts have always irritated my eyes, made them so tired by the end of the day, and left them bloodshot. I pull my hair out and finger comb it letting it lay where it falls. I catch a glance of the girl I want to be in the tinted window staring back at me. Here I come, Penwood University.

Harvey stops four hours into the drive. I swear this guy has connections everywhere. We both used the restroom, and then an old friend of his showed up with two pizza boxes. My stomach growled at the smell of the zesty tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, and jalapenos. He bought both of us two large bottles of Diet Mountain Dew. I swear the sticky sweet soda runs through Harvey's veins.

"Thank you." I smile, twisting the top off.

A pang of guilt hits, knowing Harvey had to buy all of this stuff. If my parents saw a credit card charge at a gas station or pizza parlor, they'd send the cavalry to drag me home.

"Gonna miss you, kid." He relaxes on the back of the limo—his salt and pepper hair curling around his ears.

We are both perched on the trunk of the limo, eating and drinking. The tiny rebel inside of me rejoices in all of this. My parents would have a shit fit at the sight of us. And for the first time, I don't care. With each mile ticking by and the hours flowing, I feel the chains they've imprisoned me in fade away.

I peer down at the empty pizza box, and raw, honest emotion strikes hard and fast without warning.

"I don't know what I'm going to do without you," I admit.

It's been a thought rambling around I've chosen to ignore until now.

"You are going to live." He reaches over and clutches my hand. "You are going to be you. I have no doubt you'll flourish and find your path."

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