When Beryl turned 17, her birthday present was a changed lock and a suitcase on the front stoop. It was a year before what she’d assumed was inevitable, and it had caught her off-guard…but it wasn’t all that surprising. She would adapt. She wouldn’t let her parents win. Beryl sneered at the pretty wrought-iron gate that covered the door and wished she’d brought a can of spray-paint with her. f*ck them. f*ck them and their filthy spending habits and poor appreciation of the things that actually mattered in the world.

She left her deactivated cell-phone on the welcome mat, the screen reading “f*ck you” in big glittery letters written with crazy glue. She’d torn into the suitcase the second she’d reached the bus stop and hoped to the goddesses that one of her brothers had packed it. Beryl was relieved when she found an envelope of cash and a note apologizing (in Anibal’s handwriting), along with her laptop and a few of her other essential things. There was also a train ticket to one of the major cities in Glaston, where Eldridge was attending school.

Beryl considered leaving for Glaston but when she thought about her eldest brother, she knew that she couldn’t burden him. Besides, she had a year to finish at Temperance. She’d tough it out. There was enough weed in her back pocket that she could get herself into one of the downtown motels for a night, but dealing in drugs was a good way to get herself trapped in the business if any of the local dealers found out she was in their territory. For a little rich brat, Beryl knew enough about drugs that she realized dropping the habit immediately would be in her best interest.

She needed to save the money in the envelope for as long as she could, because until she got a job or until her art started to sell, she’d be living off what she could get. There was nowhere to stay, no relatives to go to, her brothers were too busy for her to want to bother them. It was with a heavy heart that Beryl decided to call her girlfriend.

Angela arrived at the bus stop with a huge coat that had to have belonged to her father and a thermos full of cocoa that was made by her mother. Despite the box of tissues in the back seat, Beryl didn’t cry. She remained dry-eyed and bitter the entire drive back to Angela’s house, and it wasn’t until Mrs. Pell embraced her that Beryl finally cried.

She didn’t miss her parents, she didn’t miss her big house on a hill, she didn’t miss the money. She hadn’t wanted any of it when she realized that they had come at the price of her own happiness.

All she’d ever wanted was the unconditional love of a family, and with the Pells wrapped around her like a big cocoon of arms, Beryl finally felt like she was home.