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I didn’t notice right away that their family had more money than ours. The beach house wasn’t some fancy kind of place. It was a real honest-to-God beach house, the kind that’s lived in and comfortable. It had faded old seersucker couches and a creaking La-Z-Boy we kids always fought over, and peeling white paint and hardwood floors that had been bleached by the sun.
But it was a big house, room enough for all of us and more. They’d built an addition years ago. On one end there was my mother’s room, Susannah and Mr. Fisher’s room, and an empty guest room. On the other end was my room, another guest room, and the room the boys shared, which I was jealous of.
There used to be bunk beds and a twin in that room, and I hated that I had to sleep all alone in mine when I could hear them giggling and whispering all night through the wall. A couple of times the boys let me sleep in there too, but only when they had some especially gruesome story they wanted to tell. I was a good audience. I always screamed at all the right places.
Since we’ve gotten older, the boys have stopped sharing a room. Steven started staying over on the parents’ end, and Jeremiah and Conrad both had their rooms on my end. The boys and I have shared a bathroom since the beginning. Ours is on our end of the house, and then my mother has her own, and Susannah’s is connected to the master bedroom. There are two sinks–
Jeremiah and Conrad shared one, and Steven and I shared the other.
When we were little, the boys never put the seat down, and they still didn’t. It was a constant reminder that I was different, that I wasn’t one of them. Little things have changed, though. It used to be that they left water all over the place, either from splash fights or from just being careless. Now that they shaved, they left their little chin hairs all over the sink. The counter was crowded with their different deodorants shaving cream and cologne.
They had more cologne than I had perfume–one pink French bottle my dad bought me for Christmas when I was thirteen. It smelled like vanilla and burnt sugar and lemon. I think his grad student girlfriend picked it out. He wasn’t good at that sort of thing. Anyway, I didn’t leave my perfume in the bathroom mixed in with all their stuff. I kept it on the dresser in my room, and I never wore it anyway. I didn’t know why I even brought it with me.
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