My sister and I have never been much good at the verbal communication thing. Catfights, the occasional prank – lots of just staying out of each other’s way to express affection. We’re much better sisters when we’re a few states apart. College for her and career for me have vastly improved our relationship.
Sort of like right now. Just the two of us and the mountain of Thanksgiving dishes in the kitchen. I talked my mom into relaxing while I did them this year, and Jessie gave me the shock of my life by volunteering to help. Very un-Jessie behavior. When you consider that her glued-to-her-hip boyfriend Jason is here, it makes it even stranger.
Swish, drip, slosh. This plate needs another scrub.
They haven’t been so glued today. In fact, I’ve barely seen them hold hands. Jessie spent half the morning locked in the bathroom perfecting her liquid eyeliner application technique, and Jason has been ducking behind the paper every time someone comes near him. He’s not a crossword-type guy, so I’m guessing they had a fight.
“So,” I say, letting the word drip like the plate I’m holding out. “How’s school?”
Jessie grabs the plate and attacks it with her towel.
“Caref-“ I bite my lip, but she’s already glaring.
“I’m not four, you know, SamAnn. I can dry a plate without breaking it.”
“I know.” I return my attention to the suds before me.
Her body is completely closed to me, quite the feat considering we’re sharing counter space here. She sets the plate atop the pile and waits, tapping her left foot in impatience. There is a topic I could bring up, but I don’t want to with Mom’s good china within reach.
Swish, drip, slosh. Pass a plate, take the next. Comforting rhythm.
“Have you told them?”
The plate slips from my hand and thuds in the sink. I turn to face Jessie, though she’s still turned away. Her shoulders are squared for a fight.
“Told them what?”
Her head snaps around. “You know what.”
I merely raise an eyebrow, waiting for her to say it.
A tear threatens that perfect liquid line. “Of course you told them. Miss Sherlock Holmes couldn’t pass on a chance to tattle on little sis, could she?”
Anger sears through my chest. I turn away from her, fumbling for the lost plate.
Swish, drip, slosh. Memories of my last visit to her apartment. The aftershave in the cabinet, a man’s shirt in the hamper. She’d obliterated most traces, but not all.
Jessie grabs at the plate. “That’s why Mom and Dad have been so anxious to keep us in their sight, isn’t it? Don’t trust us anymore?”
I grab it back. “Or maybe they just want to see their daughter who never comes to visit or calls because she’s too busy shacked up with her boyfriend.”
Jessie lets go so fast the plate slips from my hand. We both reach for it, but it hits the tile, breaking into three large pieces and a shiny shower of shards. For several heart-pounding moments, we just stare at it.
“Mom’s good set,” Jessie moans.
Her teary voice snaps something inside me. “Why do you care?”
Rather than square off for another round, she drops to her knees and starts collecting the shards. She never would have done that before. She would have laughed, flipped her hair and said she’d done enough and I could clean up the mess.
I retrieve the dustpan and mini-broom from under the sink and pass them to her.
“I didn’t tell them.”
She drops the pieces with a clatter. “You didn’t?”
I shake my head. “Not my place.”
She bursts into tears. “I can’t fix this.”
I know she doesn’t mean the plate. I help her sweep up the mess in silence. Not like I have any answers she wants to hear.
We go back to washing. Swish, drip, slosh. I rinse the next plate and show it to her. The cracks are barely visible. “I broke this when I was 10. Dad glued it back together and we’ve been using it ever since. Just like new.”
She shakes her head, turning away again.
“It’s not always so easy.”
“It can be. Try us.”
I hand her the plate. She puts it down and faces me.
“SamAnn, I’m pregnant.”
“Do you hate me?”
My sister and I have never been good at verbal communication. I figure a hug should fill in the blanks.
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