As we walk, Cam kicks pebbles around, chasing after them every once in a while. “Look, I know you’re really confused that the moment, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.” She tells me.
I sigh as she looks at me expectantly. “Baby steps, I know.” Scowling, I pick up a twig and snap it in quarters. “Sometimes I just wish I wasn’t known as Riley’s sister.”
“I keep telling you, you’re not,” Cam argues, jogging back to my side from where she had kicked a pebble into a tree.
I roll my eyes. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like I am,” I mutter. “I just wish I could move away. Get away from the people that know us both. Make an identity as someone who isn’t under the constraint of siblings. You know, where I’m Ash and people treat me for me.”
Cam chuckles. “You’re not alone on that thought, trust me. And like I said, you just need to figure out who treats you best. Who treats you regularly and shows full respect or attention.”
I roll my shoulders back, sighing again. “Yeah, well it would be much less complicated if people treated everyone the same way. You know, same level of emotions, thought, and personality for everyone. But nobody works that way – hell, sometimes I don’t.”
We reach a rocky path, and Cam stops kicking pebbles. She picks up a stick, uses it as a staff. “Riley doesn’t get that different of treatment,” Cam murmurs unconvincingly.
I laugh, “From you, maybe. It’s funny how I feel like I know the whole lot so much better, but I really don’t.” Cam stays quiet as if to know I’m in the middle of a thought. “You know how I always said I wished I was Dumbledore in that end scene of Order of The Phoenix, and other were Harry?”
Cam smiles, “I do recall that, yes.” She chuckles, twisting the staff in her hand as I stop walking to wipe my hands on my pants.
“I seemed to have forgotten that most often, I’m Harry and they are Dumbledore.” I mutter, kicking a piece of wood and watching fly off the path.
Cam grins again. “Why’s that?”
I shrug. “Because talking to most people reminds me of yelling nonsensically, where I feel like I’m sort of getting my point across, and they refuse to make theirs if and when I ask for it.” I laugh humorlessly. “It’s like everyone I know refuses to show me the side of them that they show everyone else.”
“I thought Dumbledore did make his point across,” Cam says with a frown.
I smile, shoving her playfully. “Yeah, but it’s manipulative, not really that explanatory. Plus, Harry’s satisfied with it for the time being, but he spends most of the summer wondering what the hell was happening, so.”
“You say you related to that temporary satisfaction?” Cam repeats.
I nod, “Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of the same thing. They give me stuff every once in a while so that I stop wondering why I’m the only one left in the dark, and then they don’t talk about if for ages. Refuse to, even.”
Cam sighs, “Look, this idea that they give you a slice of their true personality might be realistic, but I don’t really know why it would have anything to do with Riley. You just need to figure out who out of the lot of them actually helps you think through your stuff, who makes you feel better.
“I got that. And for the record, it has everything to do with Riley. He’s the reason they think I’m some uptight dramatic weirdo, self-centered enough to constantly talk about themselves and think everything is personal. They find him trustworthy and logical enough that he gets what I ask for.” I say, running a hand through my hair in irritation.
“But why does it matter that much?” Cam wonders, wincing at the insensitivity of the question. We’re almost at the end of the trail. The trees are looking more climbable than ever.
I shrug, sighing again. “I don’t know. I guess it’s because it’s Riley and I. Everything about the two of us makes me question everything else. It’s like some endless competition that I know I’m going to loose. I’m a pushover, remember? I let everything get under my skin.”
Cam laughs. “You might be a pushover, and they might take advantage of you, but nobody does it as much as Riley.”
I nod. “I know that. You’d think I didn’t, though, by the way I go about it.” I stop to look around, smiling. “I’m going to climb that,” I say, pointing to a tree with low branches.
Cam nods, considering whether to join me as I grab onto the nearest branch. The tree isn’t that big, and the view is a bit obscured by branches and leaves, but it’s nice. Not that many bugs either. “I’m just sick of feeling liked the failed copy – or like the shitty alternate universe.” I tell Cam as she grabs onto the branch that I’d used.
“Well,” She says with a huff as she joins me, “you aren’t. You know, Riley’s confused about being in the position he stands in as well.”
I snort. “Not that I would know. Not that I care that much. I mean, in this type of situation, I welcome his confusion. I deserve better than the way he treats me, the way our friends treat me. I hope he realizes he’s somewhat of a dick.”
Cam nods. “You do deserve better, and yeah, he should see that you do those things genuinely, until he tries to take advantage of it. They all should.”
I laugh, shifting positions to avoid the branches from digging into my back. “I almost put Em to the test yesterday. They made plans, and I was wondering if she’d accept my offer over Riley’s if I made plans for the same day. Last month, I’d made plans with her and she made up a story and an excuse so that she could run off with him instead.”
“So did you wind up testing it?” Cam wonders with a smile. When I shake my head, she glares. “Why not,” she exclaims. A leaf falls into my lap, and I stare at it.
“Cause I’m not a manipulative asshole. I’m not one of them.” I reply, tearing the leaf apart.
Cam laughs, smiling. She takes my hand, stares at it. “I know.” I sigh, and she looks past the leaves into the trees around us.
“If you ever leave, remember that certain people treat the two of you differently.” She mutters.
I laugh. “I’d never lose contact with you. I have a list, but it needs to be narrowed down.”
Cam smiles. “I’ll help you get that done.”
“I know. People like us stick together.” I say, ruffling her hair.
Cam leans into the playful touch, and I laugh. “You’re such a cat.”
She laughs, “Sue me, your hands are soft.”
I chuckle, fiddling with her fingers. “Thanks for bringing me here.”
I look into the forest, hoping to stay here for as long as possible.