The sister was shaking as her hand tremulously unlocked the front door using the key on the small key ring with a miniature slipper. She let herself into the familiar flat and looked around. The light shone in and threw dappled shadows of the tall Parlour Palms gently onto the cream walls. She turned the salt lamp on in the corner and a soft, hazy orange glow diffused through the room. The flat exuded style and taste. She was sure she had left the boots by the entrance- yet there they were by the window: slim, tall, polished and proudly standing. Beautiful brown heeled, leather boots, much like the black stylish panama which was hanging off the coat stand behind the front door. She walked over and slipped off her shoes and then stood in the long brown boots, feeling tall. She then perched herself on the edge of the luxuriously snug sofa and peered down to the river below, sitting on her hands. In a moment, she would get up and make an elegant lunch, perhaps add smoked salmon to a crispy salad, with crusty baguette on the side.
Long, dreary prayers a week later were still being chanted at the house, and her family had looked at her wild eyed self; mad they supposed with grief, too restless to remain amongst friends and family in calm supplication for her deceased sister. She had cried, yes. Genuine tears. But it was a week now. And in actual fact, she had had to leave when she caught her Mum’s face smiling at a neighbour who had dropped by to pay her respects, and then instantaneously turn to distress and potential tears when her Mum’s sister-in-law walked over to hug her. That smile and then instantaneous wail had been hilarious! She kept her head concealed, hidden into her scarf to muffle her laughter. 'I need to be alone' she managed to get out, and then fled the family home, face covered and down.
Such a deep love between the sisters, mourners were mumbling as she put her plain, black, flat shoes on in the corridor. The chanting of prayers continued, and she left the house to find the Volkswagen.
She had not allowed for the notion or the space of being able to mourn for long. While her sister had lain in hospital, she had aggressively been seeing to her poor sister’s every wish and need. ‘She doesn’t want to talk, she’s feeling unwell. She says thank you for coming. She wants to be left in quiet- she’s not feeling up to visitors’. Her sister had been quite touched with such tender devotion at the end as she rapidly wasted away from the illness which had now clamped down upon her. How her darling sister had lovingly handled all of her correspondence and letters, outstanding bills, unfinished obligations. She had sat over her, brushing her hair away from her dying sister’s eyes, stroking her cheek, moisturising her sister’s skin as it grew more wan and pale; it was like gazing into a mirror. The flush and rose hint to her cheeks had been reduced to tired browning blossom, its colour turning sallow and fading away. Her poor sister didn’t even have the energy to speak or recognise anyone before long, but must have felt cherished to the end. Delicate flower that she was. Her erratic written requests had promptly been scrunched up and carefully thrown into the waste bins outside the room.
She wondered, sinisterly, if her sister was hovering above her now, watching her, observing her, noting her actions, her intentions, her motivations; eyes narrowed and regarding her with the same suspicious wariness she always used to. A rook landed outside on a branch and she stood up promptly to shoo it away. She could taste the grilling baguette as it browned nicely in the oven, and swallowed back a mouthful of nauseous, bilious unease. She stopped, and supposed, and surmised. Her sister had always forgiven her so much, as any loving, three minute older sister should.
Like the time they had been 8, and Yazmin had told Rainie when they had been walking home with their Mum from school, how the shattered glass at the bus stop looked like sugar. Silly observation.
And so that evening Rainie had taken a clear glass bangle and crushed it with a rolling pin she had taken from the kitchen. Quietly, on a sheet of newspaper while she kept the bath tap running so it wouldn’t be heard, she had then taken the crushed glass remains and delicately, with diligence poured it from the fold of the newspaper, discreetly into the sugar bowl from the kitchen cupboard, meticulously and with great care.
Of course the screams the next morning had been horribly horrendous. She had looked interestedly on as blood had poured from her parents’ and sister’s tongue, and had then smoothly rolled the blame onto her sister. ‘She told me the broken glass at the bus stop looked like sugar. Isn’t that funny?’ with an earnest expression. In the end the weekly cleaner had borne the brunt - a new girl who scowled behind their Mum’s back, Rainie said. But Yazmin had never looked at Rainie with fond eyes since - though she never said anything openly to her. Neither, thought Rainie, had their Mum looked very fondly upon her again.
Since then, Rainie wore her envy for her sister around her like a tightly intact, steel armour, from which she silently judged, examined, and critiqued her. They both had long, wavy black hair that cascaded down their backs, and slim, defined figures, straight teeth and pleasing smiles. But if one looked closely, a very tiny, unseemly wrinkle appeared under Rainie’s eye at odd moments, such as when she frowned or looked worried, which Yazmin never had. Yazmin was practically perfect.
The relationship was fast dissipating between the two sisters by the time they had reached their A levels; the casual acts of careless cruelty from younger sister to older were getting easier and easier. Yazmin almost lined up the high points or joys of her life like dominoes; so easy were they to knock down. When Sammie, the son of their father’s friend who also happened to be in their A level Maths class had been messaging Yazmin, and was obviously, magnetically drawn to her like a bee to the honeycomb, the way he gazed at her incessantly and accompanied her to the bus stop and around college had irked Rainie no end. As though he needed to be in the canteen when she was, or discuss the same programmes on TV as she watched, like he watched exactly the same programmes and with as much zeal as Yazmin. Huh. Therefore it had been easy to take her phone, which Yazmin left unlocked, and message Sammie back one day and then delete: ‘I think I need a break from our time together. I’m too occupied with stuff. I’ll let you know when I have more time.’ Sammie had glared at Yazmin and been gruff and cold with her from then on. Yazmin shrank from the rejection and became inadvertently hurt and injured to her core. Moped for days, didn’t comb her hair - dishevelled and dismal. Common looking for once, like a trampled daisy. All for a guy? Yet Sammie had never turned to Rainie with a smile or a chat when there was a perfect window for her. What was the difference? They looked the same. Perhaps Rainie dressed worse, or wasn’t as amusing or entertaining as Yazmin. Perhaps she didn’t think of the right retorts at the right moments. To Yazmin’s delicate floral notes, she knew she was wilted and dry. Try as she might with offhand greetings and anecdotes, Rainie could not charm him.
The phone suddenly rang and she looked down at it as she fished it out of her bag- their Dad.
‘You left so early.’
‘I wasn’t feeling too well.’
‘My poor daughter’ his voice caught as he sobbed. She wanted to reassure him, everything would be okay eventually. She would give him the love of both of his girls. So many years left for him-he was only in his 50s, far too young to lose a daughter. She would make it up to him. This was her purpose now. She felt herself fused into a strange, intertwined, unnatural identity. So much upon her shoulders- she was the powerful Janus, bestower of love and comfort to her parents. Now her cunning competence and capability would save the family. She would be the provider of security, love and dependability. She would be masterful in her silver - tongued eloquence.
‘See you tomorrow Dad’.
Her verbal skills and confidence in them already waned. Rainie felt most unexpectedly now this current boyfriend made her skin crawl; his kisses and over eager arms spread all over her, his encircling, suffocating presence always requiring her to talk, or just sit in comfortable silence while he was just there. She had imagined the warmth and closeness of the boyfriend would have been richly satisfying; instead it all felt soulless and empty, dull and dreary, like a pair of little gold earrings that had lost their shine. His startled expression now hung in front of her eyes, the drained, face depleted of any warmth when he had said to her the other afternoon, while kneading the back of her head as though it were a hunk of dough, : ‘What a falling off was there, hmm?' Something so random and odd! Rainie just smiled back weakly, murmuring: ‘hmm’, and had somehow wrongly responded.
Oh. I’m not feeling well.’
He had blanched at her explanation, and looked painfully puzzled.
Anyway, it had all started out as a twisted joke, because when Mum came and looked down at her sister in the hospital room, all love and tenderness in her eyes: ‘Rainie?’
Rainie had simply answered: 'Yes she's resting Mum’ .
That’s how the idea had dawned upon her. It was planted - it hadn’t been her idea.