The traffic was badly backed up on the freeway and my annoyance was beginning to turn into an aching tiredness. I could hardly wait to get home and relax, maybe have a hot bath. I rested my elbow on the door and laid my head against it. Slowly, slowly, I inched forward.
My phone suddenly rang and I answered using my Bluetooth.
“Hey, Amber honey. Are you nearly home?” came the deep voice of my husband.
“Sort of, but traffic is terrible and I’m stuck right in it,” I complained.
“Long day at work?” he asked.
“Always, but especially today because of you know what.”
“Do you really want this promotion? You could work for better places. Heck, you could come work for me,” he said.
I huffed. I knew whenever he said this, he had a point. But I was in too deep now. I deserved the promotion; I had worked my ass off for the company. I hoped they would realise that.
“Yes,” I simply growled at him.
He chuckled. “I’ll see you soon.”
I heaved another deep sigh and wished the traffic would hurry up.
I finally made it home and was greeted by the excited yaps of Bosco. I leaned down to give him a pat and the contents of my bag spilled over onto the marble floor. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut.
“You look like you’re having a bad day,” came the voice of my husband as he walked through.
He came over and wrapped me in a big hug and I felt some of the stress leave my body.
“Something like that,” I said.
“Here, let me help,” he said, scooping down to pick up all my stuff. “Go into the kitchen. I’ve got a hot drink for you and a snack.”
I gave him a grateful kiss then staggered into the kitchen to his lovely cup of tea and two scones doused liberally with strawberry jam. My favorites.
I devoured the snack then decided it was time to call it a night perhaps, even though the sun had only just set. I had an early morning briefing tomorrow.
But first, I decided to have a nice bubble bath, maybe listen to some music or something to unwind. Then maybe Grant could give me a shoulder rub, although that was always risky asking a man to do that. It gave them ideas.
I trudged up the broad stairs to our bathroom that contained a huge spa bath in one corner. It was one of my favorite places in the house, a place where I could totally relax. I began filling the bathtub and poured in some of my favorite vanilla scented bubble bath. Bosco came trotting in so I sat on the plush mat and played with him until the bath was full enough. Bosco curled up beside the bath to keep me company and I put my phone beside me on the bath rim, setting it to play some relaxing classical music. Cliché, perhaps, but I got really sick of words and talking. Sometimes the instrumentals were what I needed to tune out the day’s stresses. I sank neck deep into the water with a huge, satisfied sigh and closed my eyes, feeling the stress slowly ebbing from my body.
My mind floated from insubstantial thought to insubstantial thought and a part of me hoped that my subconscious would assist me in figuring out how to get that promotion.
My relaxation was interrupted by my phone vibrating loudly, interrupting the calming music. I opened one eye and managed to peer at the screen. No caller ID. Probably telemarketers from somewhere. I waited until it rang out then resumed my relaxing. Not 5 seconds later, the phone rang again. Same thing. I grew annoyed and waited for the call to stop, then waited about a minute to see if it would ring again. Nothing. I settled back down again. Almost immediately the vibration droned through my ears.
“Oh my god!” I exclaimed and reached over to grab my phone, sudsy hand and all.
“Hello!” I answered more forcefully than I intended.
“Now is that any way to greet your sister?” came the voice from the other end that was almost identical to mine.
I froze, any thoughts of relaxing and getting an early night now completely gone.
“What do you want?” I said coldly.
“A little bit of pleasantness, first and foremost. Maybe a, ‘Hello sister,’ in return?” she purred.
“Hello, sister,” I said through gritted teeth. “Now what do you want?”
“No manners. It’s a wonder you survive your oh so privileged life,” she sneered.
“Violet, what do you want?” I repeated again.
“What I always want, dear sister. Meet me at Hotel Motel. Number 13. It’s not far from you. See you very soon,” she said, then hung up the phone.
I focused on taking deep breaths, in and out.
I hated my sister, although perhaps not as much as she hated me, like her life not turning out as planned was entirely my fault.
I dunked my head under the water and let out a muffled scream, making the water bubble. I emerged again and tried to mentally prepare myself for visiting her. Luckily she only blew into town two or three times a year, but each time left me shaken. Grant didn’t understand why I kept helping her. I didn’t entirely know either. My own parents had completely disowned her, although it had broken mother’s heart, and I had no respect for how she lived – as a drug addict and a thief.
Part of the reason was because she was sister, and family had always meant a lot to me.
The other reason was part fear.
I heaved myself up out of the bath, dripping all over Bosco who barked, and got ready to go and meet with my sister.
I was ashamed, so I didn’t tell Grant what I was doing. I knew it would result in a huge argument and I couldn’t deal with fighting with him right now. My head needed to be as clear as it could for dealing with my sister. I snuck out of the house, hopped in the car and drove a little way down the street. Then I texted him.
Going to meet sister. Won’t be long. Stay up for me. I miss u already.
Then I silenced my phone. I would have a lot of explaining to do when I got home.
My GPS said that it would take about 15 minutes to drive to the place and I mostly just focused on the road and my breathing, trying to calm my thoughts.
My sister and I had a long, complicated history.
We’d had a fairly standard childhood, well-balanced. Our father worked a lot and our mother was a stay-at-home mum. As children, my sister, was always a spoilt one. My mother tried to curb this behavior but my father often encouraged it. You could say she was his favorite, and I was mother’s.
Things were going along okay though until we both hit highschool. There our paths diverged almost completely. At school, I was entirely focused on my studies, working my way towards a degree in Finance and Accounting. I had always loved numbers.
My sister, however, found boys and drugs.
I couldn’t even begin to count how many boyfriends she’d had throughout the 4 years she was in highschool. It seemed like she had a new one at least every month. Most of them were good for nothing losers who were obviously drug-users, thus how we discovered Violet’s addiction. That was the start of the disintegration of our family.
Somehow, Violet had managed to graduate with decent marks despite not attending a lot of her classes and I still wondered how she had pulled it off. Then again, my sister was far from stupid. Just her talents didn’t lie in books and numbers and school, unlike me.
As soon as she turned 18, she was kicked out of the house. I remembered her looking at me almost pleadingly, begging to let her stay, or even to let her move in with me, as I was getting ready to leave for college.
At that point in time, I was fed up with her. I had tried so hard to connect with her, to rein in her destructive habits but time and time again she had ignored me and done something to anger my parents. For years everything had been about her, not me. She had crashed her car on the night of my graduation, had almost made me miss my entrance exams for the college I’d been dying to get into and now, when I had been accepted and was getting ready to move away from her and everything, she wanted to come along and ruin that too.
I told her harshly to leave and never speak to me again. I told her that from this day onwards, she was no longer my sister.
I winced at the harshness of my words back then, and I knew that they must’ve hurt her deep down. But instead, her pleading look had changed to one of blank surprise and then her eyes had slightly narrowed and her mouth curled up in a sardonic grin.
“So be it,” she’d said.
And then she’d left.
That had been ten years ago now. In that time I had finished my studies, gotten a good, well paying job and met Grant, the love of my life. Everything was perfect. Then, two years ago, I had finally heard from my sister again.
She had wanted money, as she’d heard my husband and I were quite well off in our big, fancy house. I had laughed at her, refused and then hung up.
My car was vandalized at work the next day. There was no proof it had been her, but deep in my gut I knew. She called me again, giving no indication that anything was amiss and asked again.
This time I agreed.
And so, a pattern had emerged, one I’d managed to keep from Grant until Bosco had gone missing for a few days then magically reappeared out the front of my house with a new, purple coloured collar. And it wasn’t just any purple – it was violet coloured. Grant had noticed me stiffen at the sight of it and knew something was going on. I told him and he threatened to call the cops, get a restraining order out or something. I simply shook my head silently. There was no proof that she was even behind any of it, and I had no idea where she was any way. We lived on the outskirts of a large city, so she could be anywhere.
And besides, she was still my sister.
I finally reached the Hotel, turned off the car and took a few more deep, reassuring breaths. I had to appear strong. Violet loved exploiting any weaknesses, tormenting you with them.
I walked along the rows of doors until I saw one with a 13 on it in gold lettering.
The door opened and I took an involuntary step back.
It was like staring into the mirror.
You see, my sister and I were twins. I was the eldest by a few minutes, something that had always irritated her. When we were children, we had looked exactly the same. The same long, wavy, brunette hair, the same warm, chocolate brown eyes, full lips and oval-shaped face, the same tall, yet solidly built frames. As Violet had grown older, she’d hated the identicalness and dyed her hair blonde and made sure to wear different clothes to me. But changing her hair, her make-up, her clothes still couldn’t change the fact that we were still cut from the same stone.
When I saw her last about six months ago she had still been blonde and far, far thinner than me, her face with that narrow, gaunt look that drug users often had.
Now, she looked exactly like me in every aspect, except perhaps somewhat thinner.
“Sister,” she drawled at me.
Even her voice, usually low and husky had changed, sounding more like my pert, warm voice.
“Let’s get this over with,” I said, pushing past her roughly to try to hide my shock.
“What do you want this time, Violet? Money, a recommendation, one of my connections to help you get a job,” I scoffed, turning around at her.
She seemed unperturbed and shut the door, then lazily loped over towards me.
“Always straight to the point aren’t you, Amber. Admirable,” she said.
“No point in beating around the bush. Besides, you’re very predictable,” I said.
“Am I?” she asked. “Pity. And here I thought I was very unpredictable. I saw your shock when you opened the door. Do you like how I look?” she asked, doing a slow spin.
“I liked you better blonde,” I replied.
“Wouldn’t matter either way. You don’t like me at all,” she laughed.
I remained silent.
“Unfortunately, I have to let down your low expectations of me. You see, I called you here to tell you that I have seen the light, realized the error of my ways, turned over a new leaf, etc. etc. I’ve found a good job that pays well, a nice place to live and I may even have found ‘the one,’” she said dreamily.
“The one?” I asked.
“You know, the love of my life, my future husband,” she said.
I looked at her skeptically. My sister laughed at that.
“I told you, I’m changing my ways, have changed them in fact. From now on I’m going to be an upstanding citizen of society. I’ve even been clean for the last three months. No drugs. It’s done wonders for my complexion,” she smiled.
Looking closely at her face, I could still see the telltale scars on her face that bespoke of her addictions, but they didn’t seem as new or fresh. Hardly anybody would notice them unless they knew to look.
“That’s good,” I said slowly, a frown creasing my face. “Violet, if you don’t need anything, why am I here? I have work to do in the morning and I need to go home and sleep.”
Violet moved closer to me and I shifted away from her, a growing sense of unease encompassing me.
“I asked you here to say goodbye, sister. After tonight I promise you won’t see me ever again,” she assured me sincerely.
“Never again?” I asked, almost not believing it but hoping it would be true.
She gave me a broad smile and nodded.
“It’s my way of saying thank you, for helping me to get a better life, to realise what I needed to do to drag myself out of the dirt. So, thank you,” she said, then held out her arms for a hug.
A part of me was still screaming that something wasn’t right here, but here was my sister, reaching out to me, apparently cured and on to a better life because of my help. That’s all I’d ever wanted, was for her to make something of her life instead of wasting it away on drugs and men.
I gave a small, hesitant smile back and moved forward to hug her. She was wearing the same perfume as me, a sweet, flowery smell that I loved.
“I do still love you, Violet, you know,” I whispered into her ear.
“I know, sister, I know. I love you too,” she whispered back.
Amber, her face buried in her sister’s hair, feeling a spark of hope that maybe things would all work out, never even saw it coming.
It had been several months since I had last seen my sister. Occasionally, very occasionally, I would get pangs of missing her, but she was in a better place now, thanks to me. Grant was happy when I told him the news, although he was furious at me when I first came from the Hotel until I calmed him down and promised him that my sister would never bother us again. He was skeptical at first but as the months went by with nothing, he eventually believed it.
Work was, as always, a whirlwind, but I finally managed to get the promotion I deserved. Apparently, the higher ups admired my newfound pluck and aggressiveness. It’s amazing how much better I felt without my sister stealing all of my attention.
I started pushing Grant to get a promotion as well, and often sat up late with him thinking of strategies that he could use to win his bosses over. I could tell that he loved all my interest in him, and he enjoyed showering me with gifts for my thoughtfulness. We were perfect partners, as I had always known we would be.
All was well and I was happy.
Sometimes though, I almost felt bad, lying to Grant. He was a good man, perhaps the best I had ever known. But I will never tell him. I will never tell anyone my secret.
Nobody will ever know that I am not my sister.