One Small Thing

By: Erin Watt

1

“Hey there, pupster.” I laugh as Morgan, the Rennicks’ dog, races across the lawn and jumps up on my khaki pants.

“Morgan, come here,” yells an exasperated Mrs. Rennick. “Sorry, Lizzie,” she says, rushing over to pull the big black mutt off me without much success. She’s small and he’s so big that they’re about the same size.

“It’s no big deal, Mrs. R. I love Morgan.” I crouch down and scratch the big boy behind his ears. He yaps happily and slobbers all over my cheek. “Oh, and it’s Beth now,” I remind my neighbor. I’m seventeen and Lizzie is a name I wish would go far, far away. Unfortunately, no one seems to remember.

“That’s right. Beth, then. Don’t encourage him,” she scolds, tugging on his collar.

I give him a few more rubs behind his ears before releasing him.

“Your mom’s going to have a fit.” Mrs. R frets.

I look down at the dog hairs that are now dotting my white button-down shirt, which was already spattered with food stains from work. “I need to wash up anyway.”

“Still. Tell her I’m sorry.” She drags Morgan away by the collar. “I promise to watch him better.”

“Don’t,” I say. “I love all the time I get with Morgan. It’s worth the punishment. Besides, it’s not like there’s any reason for us to not have a pet now.” I stick out my chin. The reason for our pet-free house has been gone for three years, even if my parents don’t like acknowledging that fact.

Mrs. R falls silent for a moment. I don’t know if she’s holding back curt words toward me for being callous, or toward my mom for being too strict. And since I don’t know, I’m too cowardly to press.

“I’m sure she has her reasons,” Mrs. R says finally and gives me a small wave goodbye. She doesn’t want to get involved. Good choice. I wish I wasn’t involved, either.

Morgan and Mrs. R disappear inside their garage. I turn and squint at my house, wishing I was anywhere but home.

I check my phone. There aren’t any messages from my best friend, Scarlett. We talked this morning about going out tonight after my shift at the Ice Cream Shoppe. School starts on Tuesday. For Scarlett, the summer of fun is over. For me, it means I’m one day closer to true freedom.

I roll my head around my shoulders, trying to loosen the tension that always appears the minute I see my house. I exhale heavily and order my feet to move forward.

Inside, Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” trickles into the mudroom. Mom’s playlist is set in an eternal 2015 loop of Sam Smith, Pharrell and One Direction, back when One D was still a group with five members. I toe off my ugly black work shoes and drop my purse onto the bench.

“Is that you, Lizzie?”

Would it kill her to call me Beth? Just once?

I grit my teeth. “Yes, Mom.”

“Please tidy up your locker space. It’s getting messy.”

I glance down at my section of the mudroom bench. It isn’t that messy. I’ve got a couple of jackets on the hooks, a stack of Sarah J. Maas books that I’m rereading for the eightieth time, a box of mints, a bottle of body spray that Scarlett bought me at the last Victoria’s Secret sale and some random school supplies.

Stifling a sigh, I pile everything on the Maas books and walk into the kitchen.

“Did you pick up in there?” Mom asks, not bothering to look up from the carrots she’s chopping.

“Yeah.” The food looks unappetizing, but then all food does after I’m done with work.

“Are you sure?”

I pour myself a glass of water. “Yes, Mom. I cleaned up.”

I guess I’m not believable, because she sets down her knife and goes into the mudroom. Two seconds later, I hear “Lizzie, I thought you said you tidied up.”

Ugh. I slam down the glass of water and join her. “I did,” I exclaim, pointing to the neat pile of supplies and books.

“What about this?”

I follow the line of her finger to the messenger bag hanging on the hook in the section next to mine. “What about it?”

“Your bag is in Rachel’s section,” she says. “You know how she didn’t like that.”