She ‘X’ed’ out of the screen and stared at the laptop before sighing in frustration. How many times had she read the stories; certainly enough at this time of the year as to be almost annoyingly painful, despite the lighthearted approach by nearly every writer? She shook her head; tempted to open the window up again, as if things would seem different…that definition of insanity? She hesitated before closing the laptop and walking away from the desk.
“You decide what you want to wear for Halloween?” The raspy voice called from the living room downstairs. She bit her lip.
“Not yet….” The voice trailed off; almost weary just from the question; wondering about her mother’s same-every-year enthusiastic curiosity which made nearly no connection with her at all. Not because of a lack of interest, but an overwhelming desire to see things differently than they had been the recent past. And Halloween would be twice as frustrating this year since she’d been invited to a costume party by one of her classmates.
She stood in front of her dresser, gazing at her reflection. Uncharacteristic tears came to her eyes. How does anyone cry at the mention of a day supposedly filled with wonder and fun and fright and amusement? Because the day teased and provoked her to swallow that hard, bitter pill of reality. She leaned closer and raised an eyebrow in self-assessment.
She looked down at her body. She still was a wee bit pudgy if much slimmer than in years past. She folded her arms in what looked like a hug; the only expression of appreciation for her, since her value to others was for someone else entirely in a way, if at all.
But today would be the day, she decided. No more holding back. She smiled and walked across the hall into her sister’s bedroom. A quick shake of the head was followed by a peek out the doorway to make sure the coast was clear. With her Mom busy folding laundry with the girl's youngest sister and her next younger sister busy at band practice, she saw she had all the time she needed. The only thing missing up to that point was resolve; an asset that never failed her at other, less important times. Taking a deep breath she looked in her sister’s closet for something appropriate…..
She stood at the foot of the stairs and sighed; a now-or-never moment if there ever was one. She heard her mother singing happily in the kitchen, having moved on from laundry to dinner. Her youngest sister sat at the table; math book open and I-Pod barely muted behind pink ear-buds; a recent replacement for another, less age-appropriate but familiar comfort. Her Mom had just tossed some potatoes and carrots into a pot on the stove when she turned around. At that moment, her father’s voice echoed from the front door, announcing his arrival. Simultaneously, her other sister came through the back door into the kitchen. All four sets of eyes stared blankly at her.
She looked down at herself. Apart from the newness for everyone else, there was really nothing remarkable about her appearance. She was the same child and sibling they always knew, just in a slightly older and different package. Her golden hair was much shorter than she could have hoped for, but it was styled nicely. She wore a string of large faux pearls and one of her sister’s dresses. It happened to be another, more mature version of the bright red wardrobe her sister finally abandoned in deference to earthy suede jackets and denim minis and black tights; clothes more suited for her newly-appreciated status as a high school freshman.
“Oh…my…” Her mother breathed out in a raspy near-whisper as she wiped away a single tear. The girl’s eyes brightened and the wry, nearly sarcastic grin she usually displayed was replaced with a half-smile. She turned slightly on one pointed foot; shy and embarrassed but pleased with her mother’s reaction.
“Nice,” her 'baby' sister said tersely with a soft laugh, barely lifting her gaze from her homework. The girl smiled back in relief.
“What took you so long?” Normally her other sister, even at two years younger than her, would have been almost confrontational from their nearly life-long rivalry, but the smile and tone indicated a heretofore missing sisterly affection. The girl shrugged her shoulders with a sheepish grin.
And her father walked calmly to the fridge. Reaching inside he pulled out a can of beer. Popping the top, he stood by the stove, staring into the pot at the simmering contents. He turned around and said to no one in particular,
“What’s for dinner?”
His wife shook her head in amazement before using her eyes to point his attention to the girl standing in the archway of the kitchen. He looked at his wife before following her gaze toward the girl. His eyes widened only slightly before squeezing closer in a confused peer before saying finally,
And the youngest of the family calmly looked up once again from her homework. She mirrored the same wry smile as her family's erstwhile oldest daughter before echoing her with a very familiar phrase.
“Don’t have a cow, man!!!”
Thanks to Melanie for reminding me about who falls where in the birth order; I've adjusted the story accordingly.
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