The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron Year 3 Episode 3: Designer Torture by Mother

Welcome to The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron, entering its third year. If you’re new to this series, just start reading. 

If you enjoy this episode and want to catch up on Year 1, you can start with Year 1, Episode 1: Winners and Losers or check out the List of Year 1 Episodes or read the Year 1 Synopsis.

Previously in The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron, Sydnee’s mother interrupts a basketball game of Sydnee’s court and takes her to New York for a vacation without a return date. (Year 3, Episode 2: Sore Losers)

Episode 3: Designer Torture by Mother

Six pairs of sandals.

Two pairs of flats.

Three pairs of heels.

Four times I’d put on this pair of toe-pinching red shoes.

“Do they make her feet look too big?” Mother pressed her lips together and stared at my feet. “I think they do.”

The saleslady, Anda, stood to the side, listening but not contributing. Maybe because Mother had requested I try on at least twelve pairs of shoes in the last four hours, several of them multiple times, but she had yet to say, We’ll take that pair. Anda had tried agreeing with Mother. She’d tried disagreeing with Mother. She’d even tried giving suggestions to Mother. But Mother just pursed her lips, frowned, and then chose another pair.

“I like these.” Jessica, my thirteen-year-old sister, pranced over, a pair of sparkly silver sandals dangling from her fingers. She thrust them at Anda. “I want to try them on.”

“Yes, Miss Cameron.” Anda scurried to the back room. Jessica had tried on twice as many shoes as I had, so Anda had her size memorized.

“If your feet were normal . . .” Mother shook her head and looked at me like my shoe size was my fault. It certainly wasn’t her fault, since she wore a cute six-and-a-half. “They don’t even carry nines or tens in some of these shoes.”

Which had gotten me out of trying on twice as many pairs. Thank you, Alexander. I’d inherited most of my features from my dad; my height, my dark hair and eyes, my shoe size. The only thing I’d apparently inherited from Mother was the grace and coordination that made up my athletic ability. But I couldn’t imagine Mother ever playing basketball. Actually, I could imagine it, but not without laughing.

Anda returned with shoes for Jessica who shoved her normal-sized feet into them.

“What do you think?” Jessica paraded around the room, posing in front of every mirror.

This meant Mother would forget about me for at least ten minutes. I slipped into the corner I’d discovered two hours ago. Out of Mother’s sight, I took out my cell.

Are my feet too big? I sent the text to Chris Clayton, my best friend and boyfriend. Then I leaned back into the padded chair and thought about what Chris might be doing. It was five p.m. in New York, so that meant it would be four p.m. back home. Chris was probably helping David, his dad, with yard work around the Cameron Estate. The gardens took hours a day to maintain, and even with a riding lawn mower, the lawn took over three hours to mow. Then there was the pool, the drive, and a hundred little things to keep perfect. Mother expected perfect—from her employees and her daughters.

I failed at perfect, and Mother had reminded me of it every day of the two weeks we’d been in New York—in front of the personal shoppers and shoe salespersons and cosmetic specialists.

Ur feet r smaller than mine. Chris almost always texted back immediately. The only times he didn’t were during church.

That doesn’t answer my ?

If ur feet were small, u’d look weird. Like stilts, not legs.

I smiled and kept my giggles silent.

New shoes? Chris asked.

Don’t know. She can’t pick.

Can u pick?

I’d break my ankle in any of them. I didn’t need to add playing basketball. Chris would know what I meant.

“Sydnee!” Mother’s shrill, impatient voice invaded my corner of quiet.

I hurried into the open.

“It’s time to leave.” She narrowed her eyes at my feet. “Take those shoes off so Amanda can wrap them up and send them to the hotel.”

“Her name is Anda, Mother.” I slipped the straps from behind my ankles and passed off the shoes to Anda. Guess my feet didn’t look too horribly big.

“Who?” Mother’s tone indicated she wasn’t really asking a question. She got the names of store employees wrong so consistently I’d wondered if she messed up on purpose. “Let’s go.”

Mother and Jessica cruised out the store doors. I hopped on my shoed foot, trying to slip my right shoe on.

A car waited for us. A car always waited. I hadn’t figured out if Mother told the driver when to return, secretly called him, or if he spent hours at the curb.

“Tomorrow is a spa day,” Mother announced.

“No shopping?” I tried to keep the excitement out of my voice but failed. Getting wrapped in seaweed or caked in mud would be a million times better than being zipped into dresses and stuffed into shoes.

“Not tomorrow.”

I smiled and looked out the window. The world looked a little sunnier.

“And you have a date tomorrow night.”

I leaned my cheek against the cold window, watching the yellow cabs zip around us.

“Did you hear me, Sydnee?”

“Hear what?” I snapped away from the window and looked at Mother.

“I said, you have a date tomorrow.”

“A what?” My hands went cold. I’d heard her just fine, but I hadn’t believed she was talking to me. “Mother, I have a boyfriend.”

“Who? Why haven’t you told me about him?” Mother sounded truly surprised I hadn’t confided in her. Maybe the air conditioning was blowing a mind-altering gas.

“Chris Clayton?” I hadn’t told her because she wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. Take the dress I had on. If she listened, she’d know I liked to wear jeans.

“Clayton? I don’t know any Claytons.”

“Yes, you do.” I could see in her narrowed eyes that she knew who the Claytons were.

“He’s not your boyfriend.”

“Yes, he—”

“Tomorrow, you have a date with Jaxon.”

“Mother—wait.” My annoyance cooled a degree. “Jaxon Braddock?”

“Yes. He and Alicia are flying in late tonight.”

Were they flying into New York so Jax and I could go on a date? That sounded crazy, so probably true. But a date with Jax I could handle. It wouldn’t be a real date. Jax and I were friends. Just friends. He knew about Chris. If Mother was going to force me to go on a date with anyone who wasn’t Chris, I was glad it was Jax.

I’d been wanting to talk to him all summer.


The spa day was mostly relaxing. Facials, body rubs, a massage, all taking place in private rooms. Private, as in “away from Mother.” I did have to listen to her complain about my tan lines—like Chris, I also helped David when I was home, and all those hours outside had darkened my face, neck, and arms, but jeans had kept my legs pale. And I had to suffer through three hours of highlights and styling. But the day was better than any other of the last two weeks.

Of course, we eventually returned to the hotel and Mother invaded my room. Some girls might find dressing for a first date a bonding moment with their mother. But like everything else, Mother just made it torture. She had plenty of reasons for me not to wear certain dresses, and almost every reason had to do with my failings, not the dress’s.

“This dress is probably the best you can do.” Mother held up a bright blue dress. A couple dozen rejects were piled on my hotel bed. “Be careful not to mess up your hair or makeup.”

“I will.” I took the dress from her.

“Jessica’s already left to meet her friends, and I’m meeting Alicia for drinks.” Mother’s best friend was also Jax’s mom. Really no surprise they’d try to fix us up. “Jax will be here for you at eight. Be ready to go.”

“No problem.” It wouldn’t take an hour to zip up a dress and slip on a pair of shoes.

“And behave like a girl. You’re going on a date, not to a ball game.”

I didn’t want to lie, so I didn’t answer. Mother’s definition of being a girl and my definition of being me matched as well as orange and purple.

But Mother didn’t seem to notice my lack of response. She left without saying good-bye.

I took a deep breath of peace. This was the first night I’d been alone. I walked through the suite that was practically an apartment without a kitchen. Mother and Jessica slept in every morning, so I was almost alone then, but I could never relax or turn on the TV or do anything that risked waking Mother. If well-rested Mother was bad, I never wanted to meet up-too-early Mother.

I switched on the TV and checked the baseball scores. My phone vibrated with a text from Chris.

U survive?

Yes. But I’m darker and smell weird. 

Weird? Not like sweat?

Haha. I curled up on the couch, a sports network playing on the TV.

What’s 2night? Dinner? Show?

My pulse picked up and goose bumps popped out all over my arms and legs. I swallowed. Chris already didn’t like Jax; no way could I tell him my mother was making me go on a date with Jax, even if I called it something other than a date. And I had no idea where Jax was taking me on our not-a-date.

Don’t know yet. At least that was true. My stomach cramped like what I wasn’t saying was burrowing into my gut. Hope there’s food.

Chris and I texted about nothing important—baseball scores, how the Cardinals were having a better season than the Cubs, stuff like that—for another twenty minutes. Then I had to get dressed.

I twisted like a contortionist to zip up the dress, slipped on a pair of flat-soled silver sandals instead of the white, strappy heels Mother had chosen, and with one minute to spare, leaned against the wall near the door, waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

I checked my phone. Eight-fifteen. Had I gotten the time wrong? Probably not; I didn’t make mistakes with numbers. But Mother might have.

I returned to the couch and turned the TV back on, keeping the volume low so I could hear any knocks on the door.

By 8:35, Jax still hadn’t arrived. I went to text him and saw the last message he’d sent me. We’re not friends.

My chest felt tight, like my dress had shrunk while I was wearing it. He’d thrown my own words back at me. Words I’d said when angry. And maybe they were true. Jax and I had always had a weird friendship, almost like we were secret friends, not public friends. And Jax had done several very unfriendly things, like adding to the online bullying about me during eighth grade. But he’d always apologized, and I’d always forgiven him.

I sent him a text. We hanging out tonight?

My phone, the hotel phone, and the door stayed silent for another half hour. Then I texted Jax again. Where r you?

Still no answer, and I was getting hungry. I waited for forty-five minutes. Maybe if I called him, he’d answer.

The phone rang four times, and then I heard Jax’s voice. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

I held the phone away from my ear and stared, open mouthed, scrambling for a comeback.

Jax continued, “If I wanted to talk to you, I would’ve answered.” Beep.

“Is that your message?” The heat in my blood cooled. “It’s kind of rude. I just wanted to know what’s going on. I know our mothers set this up and you probably don’t want to hang out with me. Fine. But could you at least text me and say that? I’m hungry and need to know if I should order food or wait for you.”

After another twenty minutes, I gave up and ordered room service—a burger that cost the same as a quarter of a cow. A full stomach put the world back into perspective. What if Jax hadn’t ditched me? What if something had happened to him?

I listened to his voicemail message. “Me, again. You weren’t, like, mugged or something on the way to the hotel, were you? Of course, if you were, you wouldn’t get this message. So if you weren’t mugged or murdered or something horrible like that, please, text me.” I paused. “And we’re still friends, Jax.”

I disconnected. I could call or text Mother and let her know, but Jax was probably off with friends, like Jessica. Maybe he was with Jessica. Getting out of a date should make me happy. Especially since I had a boyfriend. But I felt weighed down and droopy instead. Maybe I’d eaten a bad hamburger.

It was after eleven now, so I changed out of the dress and into pajamas, washed off the spa-applied makeup, and crawled into bed. I hadn’t wanted to go on a date with Jax, but being stood up still hurt.


“Did you and Jax have a good time last night?” Mother asked during breakfast the next morning without looking up from her phone.

“Um . . .” Searching for the best answer—should I tell Mother Jax never showed?—I poked through my bowl of fresh berries and melons. Second breakfast for me. I couldn’t survive waiting until ten a.m. to eat. I also couldn’t survive without some sort of physical activity—shopping did not count—so every morning I grabbed breakfast in the hotel restaurant and ran on a treadmill in the hotel gym, all before Mother got out of bed.

“Jax says you had fun.”

“He did?” That made answering more confusing. I hadn’t dreamed Jax didn’t show, had I? No, those texts and messages were all real.

“Did you not have fun?” Mother finally looked up. Her face pinched together in a way that looked accusing, as if not having fun would be completely my fault. “Why didn’t you have fun last night?”

I thought for a second. I’d had the hotel room to myself and been able to catch up on baseball stats, scores, and commentary. “Yeah, I had fun last night.”

“Good.” She picked up her phone again and returned to whatever she’d been doing. Probably texting Alicia, since she knew Jax’s version of last night. “Be ready to go in two hours.”

“Where are we going?” Clothes, purses, shoes? I’d need those two hours to psych myself up for today’s torture-by-designer activity.


“Home?” My voice jumped and so did my pulse, but I fought against the rising hope. Mother could mean something different with that word. Like Florida, where my grandparents—step-grandparents—lived and Mother spent most of the winter.

“Illinois, where we live?” Mother’s sarcasm sounded annoyed. I was interrupting her important phone time. “The Fourth of July is in two days, and I can’t miss my party.”

“I’ll go pack.” I almost knocked over my chair pushing away from the table.

“Only what you need for the plane.” The sound of Mother’s voice followed me to my room. “Someone else will take care of your clothes and other things.”

I twitched with energy and would’ve started packing anyway, if I had any idea where the suitcases were. I snatched up my phone and texted Chris. Coming home!!!

When? His reply came quickly.

Today!!! I couldn’t help adding the extra exclamation marks because I felt like an exclamation mark, bouncing around the room.

I was finally going home.


For the rest of the day, I totally forgot about Jax standing me up. My heart and mind were obsessed with Chris and my cousins and David and Candy. Home.

And then the plane landed.

“We’re in Chicago.” I stepped out of the plane and into heat that was no match to the fire lighting up inside me. I grabbed the hot metal handrail and hurried down the stairs. “You said we were going home, Mother.”

“We’re almost home.” She said this dismissively, as if she didn’t care how much it hurt to be this close to my friends, my bed, my life, and still not be able to touch any of it. “I realized none of us had anything appropriate for the party. So we’re spending tomorrow finding the perfect dresses.”

“The perfect . . .” I sputtered, not able to understand Mother’s special insanity. The asphalt of the runway felt squishy beneath my feet. Mother’s brain must be squishy too. “We spent two weeks shopping, Mother. Two weeks! And none of us has anything to wear?”

“Stop whining, Sydnee.” Jessica pinched her lips together in an imitation of Mother. “Shopping won’t kill you.”

“It might.” I glared at my sister, beads of sweat gathering along my eyebrows. Who was she to lecture me on whining? Jessica was the one who whined and complained about colors of clothes or sizes of shoes. I’d kept my jaw wired shut the entire time we were in New York. I’d modeled every dress Mother demanded I try on. I’d paraded around in shoes that pinched my toes. I’d let her set me up on a date. I’d done everything she expected, and then she says we’re going home only to stop two hours away?

Sweat rolled down my cheeks and landed on my lips. Salty, like a tear. Maybe it was a tear.

I slid into the back seat of the waiting car, pulled my phone out of my handbag—another obedient change—and texted Chris. My hands shook and autocorrect had to figure out what I meant. Change of plans. Home tomorrow.

I didn’t add a maybe. I couldn’t. But what if Mother changed her mind again? What if she canceled the Fourth of July party at the last minute and made me go somewhere else? What if I spent the rest of my life stuck in designer dresses and toe-pinching shoes?

All I wanted was to be me, in jeans and basketball shoes, dating a boy who was also my best friend. Because of that, would Mother punish me forever?

Forever would be a long time to never go home.

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