Author : N. R. Crowningshield

Vanessa let the shower water flow over her hand. The old pipes moaned and shrieked as the shower head spewed into the white pedestal tub. The temperature of the of liquid changed from cool to warm to hot. Steam pillowed out of the tub.

Gingerly, she stepped into the hot shower and pulled the curtain closed. The warm water blanketed her body in a warm sheen. Her auburn hair clung to her neck and shoulders. Inhaling steam she let out a sigh of relief.

“Sunshine Scent,” Vanessa read out loud to herself. She flipped the cap open and picked up a citrus essence with a light touch of honey. Squeezing out the bright pink shampoo into her palm, she brought her hair to a thick lather. Vanessa closed her eyes and submerged her head in the water. Creamy pink bubbles ran down her body and swirled at her feet. Wringing her hair clean of the soap, she brought her head out of the water and wiped her eyes clear. Steven was standing in the tub.

“Steven!” Vanessa shrieked. “We talked about this. We had an agreement!” She covered breasts and womanhood as best she could.

“I’m sorry. I just… I dunno.” Steven looked down at his feet. He wore red sneakers and blue jeans as he always did.

“I need you to respect my privacy if you want this to work.”

“What about when I needed you?” Steven snapped.

Vanessa expression darkened. She stepped out of the tub, and attempting to keep herself covered, she wrapped a seafoam green towel around her torso.

“What’s bothering you?” Vanessa questioned as she reached in the tub and silenced the shower. She grabbed a matching towel and wrapped her hair in a makeshift hat.

“Why were those kids so mean to me?”

“It’s because you’re different.” Vanessa made her way into the adjacent bedroom. She took a seat on her bed and patted the mattress. “Come take a seat.”

“Is it because I’m albino?” Steven appeared, sitting on the bed beside her. He watched his feet as he bounced his heels off the side of the bed frame.

“Unfortunately, yes. Kids have a hard time looking at what matters on the inside. They can’t get past the surface.”

Steven stopped his feet and looked Vanessa in the eyes. “Why didn’t you stop them?”

“Believe me buddy, if I could go back and do it again, I would have.” Vanessa’s eyes filled with tears. A single drop streamed down her cheek. Steven reached a hand up and failed to dry her face. His hand went through her cheek. She felt nothing and wiped the tear for him.

“Alright, I’m heading off to work. Behave yourself. We’ll finish up your physics lesson tonight.” Vanessa sat on the bench in living room. She slid on a pair of black heels over her nylon covered feet.

“Okay. Can we play a game or two of chess after you eat?” Steven blurted in excitement.

“Absolutely.” Vanessa smiled as she watched Steven’s quiet celebration.

The apparition of Steven walked through the living room wall into Vanessa’s bedroom. She knew he would watch her pull out of the driveway as he always did.

She reached for the front door. Before turning the brass door knob, she paused as she always did. There on the white door written in marker read, “Live with it.” Underneath her hand writing a news article was taped in place. In bold print, “TEACHER TO BLAME FOR STEVEN ST. CLAIR SCHOOL SHOOTINGS.”

Vanessa took in a deep breath and stepped through the door.

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