She was packing before I reached the bedroom. I’d seen her slip off and managed to melt away, after her.
Dear Father, please show me what to say to her.
“Sophie?” I inched through the guest bedroom to see my younger sister submerged in the cavernous closet. “You okay?”
There was a grunt as the rest of her appeared, shoeboxes tucked under her arms. “Define ‘okay’?”
“You left.” I reached out to help with the boxes. “It’s a family reunion…we didn’t even get to cake yet and you were gone.”
“So?” Blue eyes glared at me, softening before she handed the boxes over.
I took them. “Where are you going?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“Hangman or twenty questions?” I set the shoeboxes on the bed.
“You always lose at hangman.” She wrestled an armful of t-shirts into a duffel bag.
“Okay, twenty questions it is.” I held the duffel open. “You’ve decided to become famous by joining a local band and they’re leaving for their big break in five minutes.”
Sophie scowled. “Not even close-hold that.” She rolled to her feet, disappearing into the closet.
“Sophie…” I left the duffel, following her. I tip-toed to see over her shoulder, for a sixteen year old, she was taller than my nineteen years.
“What?” She whirled around, an armful of hangers swinging directly to my face. “Leona!” The armful fell to the floor.
I winced, gingerly touching my jaw and nose. “I’m fine. All fine.” I inched backwards to sit on the edge of the bed. “Okay, I’ll bite…and now you owe me.”
Sophie grunted, dropping to her knees to sort out the mass of clothes.
“Love me more.” I said simply.
Sophie froze. “What?”
“You think they love me more.” I repeated. “That’s why you’re leaving. Am I right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about…maybe you’d better get some ice or something. I think I hit your head.” Sophie turned back to the closet.
“I’m fine. If Mom sees me with an ice pack, forget it!” I pulled my feet up and away from the clothes flying out from the closet. “Where are you going to go?" No answer. "Sophie…”
“It’s not true.”
“Easy for you to say! Everyone’s going ga-ga over you! Look at Leona, she got all A’s and her grade point average is a 4.0! What a lovely complexion, what gorgeous hair! My, how skinny you are-”
“Stop!” The ache forming in my heart hurt worse than the throbbing in my nose. I didn’t mean to sound as horrible as it came out, but Sophie lifted her chin higher, retreating to the closet. Tiny goose bumps feathered over me and I slowly slid off the bed. There wasn’t an easy way to reach her. “You know…when your folks adopted me, I was worried if I ever did anything bad, they’d send me back. I did everything I could…to be perfect.”
Sophie snorted. “Well, it worked!”
I ducked to avoid a rolled-up sock. “I wanted a sister, but when you came along, I was sure they wouldn’t want me. I mean, I stick out like a sore thumb in a family of blonde-haired, blue-eyed perfection. I’ve got a flat face and straight hair-”
“You’re an exotic Asian beauty!” Sophie shot back, turning to face me, blue eyes brimming with tears. “You’re perfect in every way I’m not!”
“That’s not true.” I fumbled for words.
“Yes it is. I’m fat, my hair is a daily frizz-fest and I’m must be stupid because I can’t seem to live up to your shadow, no matter how hard I try. My own parents tell me this-if I can’t believe them-”
“Sophie…” Tears threatened to come.
“I’m tired of being second, Leona. I’m sick of it. Can you just…go!” Her hands clenched into fists.
“I thought.” I paused in the doorway, words brimming in my throat that I couldn’t keep down. “I thought if I made them love me more, they’d have to keep me. You’re right, it worked. But I never thought it’d cost me a sister. I wish I’d tried a little less.”
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