“Baby, I just want what’s best for you.”

She sits at the foot of my bed. Her weight pulls on the blanket, squashing my toes. I want to move but I remain still. I want to argue but I say nothing. Her encouraging smile is the glue that binds me. I don’t trust my voice.

She genuinely loves me. She thinks she’s helping. She’s all I have.

I won’t argue with her tonight. She eventually leaves my room, turning out the light.

I sleep.

“Who’s that girl who walks with you to school?”

I find her making sandwiches. I wonder who they’re for. It is only when they go into my lunchbox that I realise they’re for me. Perhaps this is my reward for not arguing last night. Perhaps this is because I have a friend.

“Taylor?” I didn’t mean for it to be a question.

“She’s pretty.”

Taylor’s appearance isn’t important because I love her. I reach for the lunchbox and our fingers brush. Like a switch has been flipped, she frowns.

“Are you wearing makeup? Where did you get that from? Did Taylor give it to you?”

I mumble that I’m not wearing makeup and it is the wrong answer. She screams accusations. I cringe and dump the lunchbox into my bag. Each criticism about my judgment, my friends and my choices leave scars for me to pick at later. She calls me lost.

She’s sobbing when I escape the house. I know the routine but guilt consumes me. I don’t want to be a disappointment. I can’t be anything else. Taylor finds me on the corner. She wraps her arms around me until I stop shaking.

We go to school.

That afternoon, Taylor holds my hands. My house looks conventional. “You don’t have to go back there.”

“Where will I go?” I challenge. “I can’t live with you. Your parents—” It’s painful to be around them. Their warm smiles and acceptance taste bitter.

I pull away.

I find her in my room, three of my magazines in her hands.

“Why are you doing this to me?” she screeches. My cheeks heat up at the pictures she must have seen. My gut churns at the invasion of privacy. Perhaps she was looking for the makeup she thought she saw. Maybe it was just an excuse to search my room.

I can still feel the warmth of Taylor’s hands. “I’m not doing anything to you.”

“The choices you make!” she screeches. “Why not date that pretty girl?”

“She doesn’t like boys.” I realise my mistake when her eyes widen. Glossy pages scrunch in her fists and I look away from the tears rolling down her cheeks.

With a trembling voice, she delivers her disapproval. “You’re not to see her anymore.”

I say nothing. She genuinely loves me. She thinks she’s helping. She’s all I have.