Property Restored

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Stravaganza

Copyright: Mary Hoffman

Russell surveyed his empty room with relief, waving away a cloud of dust motes from his face. All his stuff was packed, his CD's and video games neatly stacked in cardboard boxes piled into the trunk of his father's car. In a few minutes, he would leave this long detested house, which had never been a home, behind at last.

Along with Georgia.

Looking back at their history of hate gave him a headache; he was quite ashamed of the way he'd treated her. His counselor had remarked that projecting his rage over his mother and sister's abandonment onto his stepsister was an unhealthy habit, and though he was none too sure about that interpretation, he couldn't deny that he felt much better these days.

Georgia's presence had aggravated him in a way he still couldn't explain; she had been the thorn in his side, the intruder in his family, along with her nosy, busybody mother. The two females had taken his father away, or so he'd thought at the time, watching Ralph smile and laugh; years of Russell's own fierce loyalty and attention had never made his father so happy.

And because Maura was an adult, an authority figure, and the object of Ralph's most intense protectiveness, Russell had been reduced to venting his spite on Georgia.

It had been too easy, really. That mousy, sexless thing with her obsession for horses had positively invited scorn, and her spineless passivity even more so. Why didn't she fight back? Perversely, Georgia's silences had made him even angrier, unable to stop the poisonous things spilling from his mouth like some sort of word vomit. A vicious cycle.

Russell fished the little winged horse out of his pocket and stared down at it absently, wondering what to do. Taking it had been yet another act of spite, this time directed at Georgia's love for horses. He'd done his best to spoil her enjoyment of it because truth be told, he envied her. Russell had no passion, no sense of purpose; he hung out with his mates, got drunk, listened to whatever music would annoy Georgia the most. He was, in many ways, even more pathetic than she had been.

He would never know how it had happened (though his private theory was still that she'd gotten together with Nicholas). From one day to the next, Russell's downtrodden stepsister had transformed into a confident, outspoken woman; insults slipped off her like water from a duck's back, and it was her turn to wither him with a single look.

He would bite off his tongue before admitting it to anyone but his counselor, but in fact...he didn't hate Georgia any more. He admired her.

He refused to apologize for what he had done – it would be too embarrassing – but in a sudden move, he placed the horse onto his stripped mattress and clattered down the stairs.

Knowing Georgia, she would come into his empty room first thing after school to exult in his absence. And there she would find her rightful property restored.