Once upon a time, there was a girl sweet as sugar and as beautiful as a blossoming flower.
Just kidding. I'm a girl raised on heat and dust and bitter coffee grounds, of cloudy skies and starless nights, of the sun burning down on my back and frost biting my skin. I am made of blood and sweat and hard work.
My eyes lost the brightness and wonder of childhood once my parents taught me that work was the only thing that would do me any good, my mouth stopped asking questions once I realized there were no answers in life, only working and living and growing up and then dying.
This isn't a fairy tale. If you can't handle real life, you shouldn't be living it.
My age is technically around fifteen, but I already work, and people tell me all the time that I act older and sometimes more mature than that. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I know that they mean it as a compliment and I take what I can get.
Today, it's sunny. I'm sitting in the dusty living room, working the sewing machine. If it was cold, I'd be cooking in the kitchen and making hot, spicy cider for my dad. If it was mild, I'd be working with him. But it's hot, so I'm here, sewing and watching my siblings play with spoons and empty cans and a ball of yarn. They're too young to really do anything, so my parents leave them to me.
It's around noon. My parents should be back soon, and I glance out the open doorway from time to time. Dust floats in the air, visible in the sunlight.
I turn back to my sewing. The clock on the wall ticks loudly, and I fall into a sort of rhythm with it. I keep an eye on my siblings as I work.
When I'm done sewing the cloth, I get another one and start again. And again. I work all day and into the night because that's what my family needs me to do.
My oldest sibling, Lena, is twelve now, and I'm nineteen. It's been four years, and my siblings can now help me in the kitchen, stirring and sticking their fingers into things they shouldn't. Normally, I don't stop them. The best learning comes from experience, and they still have a lot to learn.
I've gotten a job as a cashier at a shop, so I'm only home to help my parents three days a week. Lena uses the family phone to call me between shifts, the highlight of my day. My mother and father never call.
My parents don't approve of my job, saying I should just work with my family. I keep the job, partially because I want to have my own life, partially because there's a cute cashier who also works there, and mostly out of defiance to my parents.
I make more money working at the shop than I ever did at home, selling clothes. My parents hardly talk to me at dinner when I'm home. They never thank me for the money I'm making them. They hardly ever go to the store I work at anymore.
I'm twenty, dating the cashier, whose name is Max. I've moved into his house, which he shares with a woman. I always forget her name, but I know it starts with a "C" or a "K". My sister doesn't call me anymore - she's now thirteen and has better things to do with her time.
My parents cut me off when I moved out. They don't approve of Max. They don't have any reasons, but they claim it's for my own good. My youngest sibling, Evie, who's eight, still occasionally calls me, mostly by accident when she presses random numbers on the phone.
My parents shop at the shop I work at occasionally. They pretend they don't know me. When I ask how Lena is doing, they glare at me as if I've done something terrible and don't answer. I am left just looking in through the cracks of the walls I was once trapped inside.
We break up, Max and I. My parents call me and ask if I want to go back. I don't answer the phone.
I leave my job at the store. My parents call me and ask if I want to come home. I'm too busy filling out a resume for a new job to answer.
I leave the town to work at the job I've gotten. My parents call me and ask if I'm really just going to leave them all alone.
I remember how they shunned me when I got a job, how they cut me off when I was dating Max. There are a thousand things I want to tell them, but I know they won't listen.
I don't answer the phone.