Thursday, June 4, 2015
A little more about Sister
Sister woke, grumpy and suspicious. Birds filled the air with song, a sprinkler ran in the neighbor's yard, and her parents quiet conversation filtered up from the veranda through the soft green of willow branches. She wanted to go back to sleep, but as she turned her head on the too warm pillow, she felt an unfamiliar sensation of short hairs bristling against the pillowcase, her scalp strangely sensitive. Her eyes narrowed as she reached back and touched the little scrubby patch of red hair, easily the size of a strawberry. "Brother" she growled.
The day before had been Brother's 7th birthday. Sister wanted nothing to do with it. First because he was a nuisance every single day, and more importantly because his birth had usurped her 'only child' status and demoted her, simply and suddenly, to Sister. Mother had enlisted her to set the table. Paper plates with garish pirates on them, hunched over treasure chests and leering past eye patches and parrots. Sister felt annoyed by the repetition of the pattern, thinking they could at least have had different pirates with different booty on the cups and napkins and hats. She climbed onto a chair to push the large plastic treasure chest into the middle of the table, and heard Mother call to her "be careful of the wood, dear!". Sister glared at the kitchen door and hated her mother and decided to mar the mahogany before the day was done. "Stupid party" she whispered, and it felt good to say it aloud.
The treasure chest was just like the one at the dentist's office, which held the constant disappointment of new toothbrushes and travel sized toothpaste. Only this one had a false bottom, and just the top third of it was filled. Chocolate coins and eye patches and cheap plastic hooks with a little black cup sleeve to hide your actual hand in. She wanted to put something terrible in the chest. Cat poop, maybe. Or worcestershire sauce. As she considered how to go about this Father walked through the room. As usual, his voice entered first and left last, as he was in the habit of announcing the names of whomever was present and then speaking at them as he walked in order to avoid being stopped in conversation. "Sister! Look at my tall girl, being Mother's helper today!", the final words fading as he disappeared down the hall to his study. Sister hated him, and she knew he would be drunk by 2:00, and that he would start to act inappropriately toward Mother by 3:00. She knew that Mother would blush and laugh and have to 'take care of it', at which point Father would nap until his observed cocktail hour of 4:30. She felt sick with embarrassment and it hadn't even happened yet. So she pushed it down, down, as far as she could. Because it was a new day she was able to push it almost all the way to her knees.
The doorbell chimed it's eight soothing notes promptly at 11:00 AM, and heralded a tight group of children, carpooled and awkward in short pants and stiff dresses and little bow ties. Within an hour the house was filled with them. And by the time the cake was rolled out they were a tumbling, screaming, disheveled herd of little wild things. Sister could barely tolerate it. Post cake the sugar high would reach its peak. She tried to escape as she had all day and was once again stopped short by Mother. "Please, darling, I need you to help with gifts! Once they're opened you must keep the card with the package so Brother can write his thank you's". Sister seethed. Her ears turned red and she huffed and snorted through her nose like a little ginger bull, ready to gore the nearest living thing. "Of course, Mother." She smiled with her face and shoved the anger down but it only went as far as her throat. It had been a trying day.