My Sister

April 8, 2020
User Level:
Average Rating: 3.0
bookmark add to bookshelf

What scared me the most were the summers with her. Once we stepped into that dry world full of listless winds and dirt clouds that bit at our feet and burned our eyes she was at her most frightening. No longer anchored by the ferocity of the cold that prompted her to hide beneath thick coats and scarves. She was in full form during the summer.

When we walked to town to get root beer floats from Lola’s soda shop, I would watch her from the corner of my eye. She wore her skirts scandalously short with her favorite ruffled blue top that revealed her pale shoulders and smooth, flat stomach. She looked at me and the rest of the world over the brim of her red sunglasses. She seemed to know something we didn’t. When I would try to hold her hand, she would pull her fingers impatiently from my hot grasp.

“Easy Molly, jeez, why are your hands always so sweaty,” she’d say.

I’d shrug and stuff my accursed fingers back inside the pockets of my overalls. We were going to see Billy, he was old—too old, but she didn’t care. She said he was miles better than the beastly boys that went to her school. My sister was a goddess to me, and I was too lowly, too ignorant of the adult world, too obsessed with her to see that she was heading toward destruction. Of course, I didn’t know that then, yet even if I had I would still walk with her every summer afternoon into the heaving, swaying world of society and watch with tears in my eyes her ultimate demise. I would cradle her head in my hands, I would brush the hair from her face, I would smooth down that shattered skirt and through it all she’d still roll her eyes and say, “Jeez Molly, you’re such a sap.”

                                                        **********

The day that it happened, I remember waking up slowly. I was groggy with sleep and the remains of my dream still lingered in my mind. I rolled onto my back and listened to the sound’s mama made as she moved around in the kitchen downstairs. She slapped pots against the stove and grumbled-- none too quietly-- about her lazy daughters who would sleep all day if she let them. She would eventually get herself worked up into such a froth that she would storm upstairs and throw open our bedroom doors and bellow at us to get up. I still had a good hour or so before that happened.  As I made to turn over onto my side, I noticed my sister lying next to me and I screamed. It wasn’t her being there that frightened me. It was the state of her that turned my blood cold and brought goosebumps to my arms and legs.

Her right eye was swollen shut. A puffy, cabbage colored mess. There were purple polka dots that ran down her arms, her skirt was torn to shreds and her coveted ruffled blue top was now crudely tied together after being ripped in two.

At the sound of my scream, my sister woke up and with one swift movement clamped her hand hard over my mouth. Her palm was rough and tasted like metal. “Shut up Molly, do you want mama to come in here and see me like this?” she hissed.

I shook my head. No.

“I don’t want them to find out,” she removed her hand, “not yet.”

With a groan, she turned to face the wall. I stared at her back, watching as her shoulders shook with the effort of her muted weeping. I considered comforting her. My hand hovered in the air but the sight of my jagged nails encrusted in dirt made me ball my fingers into a fist, I dropped my hand. I could not touch her.

There was a heavy ball in my stomach that pitched and rolled as I climbed out of bed and threw on my overalls. I opened my bedroom door slowly, giving myself just enough room to squeeze out before closing it shut behind me. I tiptoed to the bathroom.

 I splashed cold water on my face and looked at myself in the mirror. Would that happen to me one day? Thinking about it made me feel sick. If that’s what being a woman meant, then I hoped I would never become one. I would resent my breasts and loath the flower between my legs if it meant that I could be destroyed so easily. I didn’t want to look at myself anymore. The pink towel hanging over the edge of the tub made my heart constrict painfully in my chest. That was her towel, still damp from her shower last night.  I grabbed it on my way out as I crept back to my room.

I crawled onto the bed beside my sleeping sister and with slow methodical movements, I cleaned the blood and dirt from her face. I took her hands in mine and cleaned them too. I stared too long at the chipped nail polish, feeling an immutable anger rising within me. She never let her nail polish chip. She was very diligent about keeping her nails neat and manicured.

“Did Billy do this,” I asked.

She pretended not to have heard me, so I repeated my question louder. She nodded. She was an older woman now, with a spirit that was heavy and fatigued with the world. She told me I might as well get her some clean clothes to wear. I didn’t want to go into her room though, I didn’t want to share a space with the ghost of the girl she used to be. She shot me one of her deathly stares that said stop being such an idiot Molly.

 There was no room for me to argue so I stole into the hallway once again, this time turning left towards my sisters’ room. When I opened her bedroom door I was immediately assaulted by her perfume, Evening in Paris. No matter how long the span of years stretched between this moment I would never forget her scent. I opened her dresser; there were remnants of neatness here, clothes half folded, tossed hither and thither in the search for a particular shirt. I pulled out a long-sleeved white blouse at the bottom of the drawer and from her closet, I grabbed a pair of thick brown trousers which mother had bought her for school, of course, she never wore them, she claimed they made her look like a boy. They did. I shook the pants free of wrinkles and wrapped them around my arm. When I left her room, closing her door quietly behind me I felt like I was shutting close a tomb.

I threw her clothes on the bed when I got back to my room and watched her get dressed in silence. I pretended not to hear the sharp hiss of pain when she lifted her arms above her head to pull her shirt down. Her stomach was now some kind of strange art; mottled and discolored against a pale white canvas. Once dressed she stood up and went to the bathroom.

                                                   ****************

Not once during that day or the days following did we say the word. I think we felt that if we said it aloud it would be real and neither of us wanted to confront it fully. We edged close to it, we looked at it from the corner of our eyes, but we did not say it. She never told our parents. I think she meant to, especially during soft moments when we all sat together as a family but something in her kept her lips sealed tight. She would look at me mournfully almost begging me to take the responsibility from her, but I couldn’t tell them either. I loved her too much to be the cause of any more pain. 

                                                   ***************

 

The summers became dull. No longer brimming with the thrill of danger that my sister would always inadvertently bring. Sometimes I would wake up from dreams where I could hear the faint laughter of a girl in a ruffled blue shirt and in the dark, I would cry for the sister I lost. The sister that both terrified and amazed me.


Add Your Rating/Comment

Prolitfic
Comment Tags
(Ctrl + click for multiple)


Pacing and Polishing
slorence rated this work:

May 13, 2020, 5:44 p.m.

Although I can you have a strong sense of pacing, there are spots where redundancy distracts from the pacing. That said, I think the story is strong and the relationship between the character is compelling. The whole thing could use just a couple more once-overs to do copy-edit type cleaning and polishing.

Pacing

No rating on this comment yet ☹

Show Thread
Rate
slorence:

Yeah, sure. I think it's a little bit of redundancy and a little bit of show-don't-tell. The first paragraph for example, has beautiful prose, but it's four sentences that are all basically saying the sister was done up and frightening in the summer. I think you could probably either shorten or cut the third sentence and combine the fourth sentence with the first. This would shorten the paragraph by taking away some redundancy without losing your overall meaning.

Then when you say "She said he was miles better than the beastly boys that went to her school. My sister was a goddess to me, and I was too lowly, too ignorant of the adult world, too obsessed with her to see that she was heading toward destruction. Of course, I didn’t know that then..." You have that the narrator was "too ignorant" and "I didn't know that then." This paragraph was a bit confusing because if those two phrases are both to say that the narrator didn't realize what her sister was doing to herself, it's redundant. But if it's saying that the narrator didn't know how ignorant she was of her sister's situation, it's a bit convoluted. I think a bit of shortening and rephrasing of that paragraph will clear things up to whichever meaning you intended.

Then "She never let her nail polish chip. She was very diligent about keeping her nails neat and manicured." While I like the rhythm of that paragraph, these two sentences are saying the same thing.

Those are the main points that stuck out to me. But again, they're pretty minor changes and overall I think you have a strong piece here. It just needs one or two more careful read-throughs. Hope that helps!

oddone:

would you mind pointing out where you feel the story is being redundant?

Passive Sentences
ifyouseekay468 rated this work:

May 19, 2020, 7:48 p.m.

First things first: this is a story that needs to be told even if it is repeated, because the quantity of these stories are what make a difference, the individual idiosyncrasies of each one is what gives these stories their power. So focus on the story you personally want to tell, the emotions and experiences you feel should be there, and bring them to life. Later in this I give my personal suggestions on different ways to do this.

One thing that would really make the story come alive is if you got rid of the word 'was'

There was a heavy ball in my stomach that pitched and rolled as I climbed out of bed and threw on my overalls.

A heavy ball pitched and rolled as I....

it forces you into writing with more action. Another thing I think would be show the gradual degradation of the sister's character, instead of just 'one day she woke up' it's a slow but sure process. First it's cat calling, then there are small bruises, etc etc- it would definitely help demonstrate the point that these are things no one talk about because in the moment it's not a big deal but in retrospect it is.

Nightmares, that's another thing I'd suggest, or at least the character developing some sort of paranoia. I'd suggest coupling it with nativity- knowing that men can hurt you and knowing the word rape but not quite knowing the physical details but more the instinctive, emotional ones that develop at this age. Let the silences stretch with the speaker's questions and fears, but being too nervous to speak up about them because previous incidents warranted no more than a shrug from the parents. Show the tenants of rape culture that hang in the air, on the walls and in the language they use, the first time coming across casually, but after the incident happens crawling with sinister origins.

Passive Character

No rating on this comment yet ☹

Rate