I perched on the edge of my sister’s king-sized bed, staring at her brand new Gucci dress that hung innocently from the wardrobe door in front of me, my thoughts wandering to places they had no business being, my mind unable to prevent such travesty. I am quite certain that if things had been different between us, our earlier relationship would have fortified the very bond we might have otherwise manifested. However, my existence equated to nothing more now than a one-bedroom flat, shockingly few possessions, and a cat I wasn’t entirely certain I liked. As for Emma, we were practically strangers. How that happened, I honestly do not know.
It had been one of those days. One of those horrendous, annoying mid-week days, where I just wanted – no, needed – something to happen. Anything, in fact, that might have the potential to lift me out of the otherwise dull existence I was shocked to admit had seemingly become my life—the last few years of unwitting monotony unable to sustain any kind of contentment I may have found comfort in. A tepid blend of boredom and frustration equating now to a blackened mood that had surreptitiously found its way into my psyche. It wasn’t a good feeling.
I am not proud of the fact that I was tempted to do something rather stupid that evening—the blades of a simple pair of scissors slicing together in my clammy palms, cold metal feeling ambivalent between throbbing fingertips, unassuming. Innocent in compound only, yet quite happy to allow unfiltered thoughts that actively created a malignant intention no one could have predicted.
I could have even convinced myself that I did not set out with any preconceived notion of causing mayhem. But that would be a lie. My self-serving existence would be entirely misplaced in such matters anyway, and I dread to think the type of person that would make me – an unfathomable, unbridled hatred for my sister, something I had developed over a considerable period of time. I could do nothing about such matters now, even had I the capacity to change the past.
I glanced at my somewhat worn, overused jacket lying innocently across my lap — nothing more than an item of clothing that should have found its way into the dustbin some time ago had it not held a weird sentiment with relation to a boyfriend whose name I barely recalled. This simple covering was all that protected my thoughts from those around me, from my sister’s gaze, from everything I did not wish the world to see in me — a modest pair of scissors hidden on my dithering knee, beneath fake leather and sweat, trembling in the calculating hand that held them. Hidden enough so I could somehow convince myself I was doing no harm. No one could see my speculation, hear undeniably bitter thoughts or condemn not so carefully considered actions. A single nick. An accident. That is all it would be — what a shame.
Emma would, of course, curse and mutter profanities. She would wonder how she’d failed to notice such a conspicuous slash mark in the overly expensive material purchased that very day. She may even blame the poor shop assistant for folding her garment so carelessly inside the same bag as the new shoes that had hastened her indulgence. What an unexpected occurrence, her otherwise prestigious shopping trip now unfathomable, my unrefuted mix of shock and drama adding further chaos to the equation.
From my perfect vantage point on this bed, a savoury smile would linger behind my weary eyes, hidden from view — hidden from my sister’s incorrect assumptions and outrage. I would be glad to have caused such sudden suffering, satisfied even for the briefest of moments to have brought forth an unexpected pain to her day. A pain I was destined to endure most days, my suffering burrowing a hole into my brain every bloody time I looked at her. I might even relish the satisfaction that I’d stopped her wearing the sodding thing. It didn’t suit her anyway. Such bliss I would feel. Such pride I would glean from my impromptu accomplishment.
I could, of course, convince myself that it was for my sister’s own sake that I was considering such an appalling act of sabotage. I could pretend to my brain and anyone interested, should they ask, that I hated the dress, that it looked ridiculous on her, that it didn’t suit her figure in the slightest. I could even tell myself that I was merely trying to help, to save her from total embarrassment — to save us all. But the simple truth was, it did suit her. Actually, it looked incredible. And I am sickened to admit that she looked incredible wearing it. The way it hugged her slim frame, dancing from curvaceous hips that, even after childbirth, bore no resemblance to the ones owned by little old despondent, childless me.
No. The simple truth was, if I had to place an actual word to my emotions, I am slightly ashamed to admit that I was probably a tad envious. How can my sister indulge in such lavish items when I struggle to afford the simplest of clothing from my local charity shop? Envy isn’t the nicest of sentiments, I know. Yet, forming such an emotion inside the privacy of my own head doesn’t feel altogether inappropriate because I can privately justify my innermost thoughts unknown to anyone else. Emma has, after all, made me the way I am. She has no one to blame but herself for the way things have turned out between us, so my distressed emotions are entirely understandable.
‘Come on, Stace. Better get a move on if you don’t want us to be late.’ Emma shoved her overinflated head around the bedroom door, offering a smile that appeared to me as fake as her overbearing lipstick. That bloody smile. I swear if I were ever able to summon the guts, I’d knock the thing clean off her shoulders. Why was everything always about my goddamned perfect sister?
‘Sure thing, sis,’ I chimed in, unable to help the sarcasm that left my lips unchecked, a sigh involuntarily escaping my throat. I was quite shocked that I attempted to return a smile of my own, probably failing in my quest, and utterly unsurprised it went unnoticed, as usual, by the woman who only ever saw her own reflection in the mirror. I certainly did not wish to be inside my sister’s head or experience any emotional response that might mean I had to pretend, even for a moment, that I cared about her wellbeing. I was here now purely because our mother had insisted I share in her good fortune. Good fortune? Why could she not send some of that my way?
‘You okay?’ Emma absently muttered what sounded like a molecule of concern as she rounded the bed, searching for an elusive tube of mascara.
It wasn’t genuine. Emma was never genuine. Had I been fortunate enough to have noticed the discarded plastic wand sitting forgotten on her bedside cabinet, I probably would have dipped it, entirely by accident of course, into the toilet bowl before reuniting it with its ignorant owner. Conjunctivitis would have been, in my opinion, a far better look for my sister than the smoky eye shadow that hid her true malignant identity. An unexpected eye infection would stand out against any makeup she attempted to cover it with, the perfect opportunity to make me smile and raise my otherwise subjacent spirits. She would actually appear the very demon I knew her to be. Heinous. Shocking to those who looked at her. Ever so slightly ugly. She wasn’t asking about my welfare out of genuine concern for my state of mind. She merely did not want me ruining her otherwise perfect evening. How should I react to such a throwaway question? No, Emma. I’m not bloody okay if you must know. I could think of around a million things I’d rather be doing with my evening than accompany you to your pathetic flaming book celebration dinner.
‘Sure,’ I replied, offering nothing more than a single grunting syllable, detached from her gaze, congratulating myself on the ability to keep my offhand opinions to myself. ‘I’m good.’
I dropped the scissors, that were beginning to dig into my palm, carefully into my inside jacket pocket as Emma snatched her mascara from the bedside cabinet and floated towards the bathroom, humming. She unhooked her new dress from the coat-hanger, not even bothering to grace my disgruntled response with any kind of acknowledgement. I sat and stared at the back of her head, recalling how many times I’d trailed behind her as a toddler, then as a teenager. Gazing in awe at the world in which she lived, compelled to remain forever invisible to her, no matter what I did. I wasn’t surprised that my sister failed to notice my low mood tonight. She hardly ever notices me. Why should I assume she might see my emotions now? To care how I’m feeling or express honest concern for me? I was kidding myself with my silent musing that my sister actually gave a shit.
I considered racing into the bathroom and expressing every thought that swam in my head, telling her what I was thinking, what I truly wanted. I wished I had the courage to divulge those little secrets my precious sister didn’t know. Secrets I’d kept firmly hidden, telling myself too often not to ponder over them, yet failing in a mission that had become all-consuming. I wanted to stand on this bed and scream at the top of my lungs that I hated her so much. That I wished she would–
‘Stacey, for crying out loud, will you please hurry up?’ Emma’s irritated tone reached my ears, her words no less annoying than a cat scratching at a closed door.
I’d done nothing to warrant such arrogant interaction, hovering on this stupidly comfortable bed for the last hour, mouth welded shut for fear of what I might say. I had been forced to watch while she flitted around me like a headless pig, the apparent centre of everyone’s attention, expecting the entire world to stop simply because she now declared herself some fantastic, entrepreneurial, newly acquired author. Brilliant. Well flaming done, Emma.
I didn’t want to, but I got to my feet, smoothed scissors that now felt as if they were laughing at me against the frayed inside lining of my jacket pocket, and wandered into the bathroom. ‘So? How do I look?’ she asked, spinning around in the mirror several times, gleaning attention she assumed I would provide without question. You look bloody shit. Seriously, Emma. SHIT.
‘You look great,’ I offered, my own less than perfect image standing mockingly behind her in the mirror. I wished I could disappear. At least until the end of this unbearable evening. I wondered if I could get away with shoving her head through the mirror. Would that count as an innocent accident? Maybe I could convince Jason that his wife had simply spun around too fast in deluded pursuit of perfection? I sighed under my breath, suppressing an urge to scoff. Don’t be stupid, Stacey. Play nice.
‘Just, great?’ Emma was beside herself with my irrefutable and lamentable response. I was still staring blankly at her, my thoughts lost in transit somewhere far away. Yes, of course, she would require over-exuberant praise for the fact that she could afford such an expensive garment and a tonne of make-up to complete the façade. Who knew such a simple act warranted so much astonished approval? I felt like clapping my hands together in forced congratulations, a twisted grin imprinted onto a less than impressed face, probably appearing slightly deranged, demonic even. But I thought better of it. Instead, I attempted a smile I didn’t feel like offering, pulling my jacket over my somewhat less expensive, several-year-old sage green all-in-one trouser suit, scissors still mockingly lying in a pocket that now felt slightly heavy and encumbered. I hoped it wouldn’t burst a seam, revealing my hidden intentions, my sister’s glossy bathroom tiles bearing witness to a savage act not yet complete. I wasn’t sure what might offend her the most: the appalling reasons behind the presence of scissors or the unfortunate crack the impending fall from my pocket would certainly create on her bathroom floor? She would probably expect me to pay for a new one.
‘What else do you want me to say, Emma? You look beautiful. You always look beautiful.’ I hoped she wouldn’t notice my irritability, the roll of my eyes behind her head, trying hard not to automatically shake my head with over-enthused sarcasm. I honestly just wanted this evening over and done with.
She had a weird knack of making me feel inadequate, ghastly, sometimes to the point of nausea. It was exhausting and far more than I could contend with right then. I couldn’t bring myself to look in the mirror. Next to my sister, I always appeared slightly less than acceptable — less than perfect. I sighed. I had made as much effort as I could with my own appearance, but nothing in my wardrobe would ever contend with Emma’s. I could wrack up a credit card bill to end all credit card bills and still be unable to afford the luxury brands indulged by my sister. We both knew that truth.
‘Oh, I get it.’ Emma turned to face me then, probably for the first time that day. It unnerved me.
‘Get what?’ I was in no mood for games.
‘Time of the month? Am I right?’ Emma gave me one of her knowing laughs, nudging me on the shoulder much harder than I would have liked. In her deluded mind, she probably meant it as a playful action, but I wanted to push her straight out of the goddamned window and be done with it.
‘Seriously?’ It was the only rational thing I could think to say. At this moment, it was all that stood between the two of us and complete fury. I was staring at her, my face blank, glad she didn’t notice the seething look behind my now offended eyes. If I said much more, we would end up in a fight — and not a verbal one. I couldn’t believe my sister’s callous attitude towards a sibling so obviously unhappy.
I held my breath, allowing unhealthy thoughts to dissipate before daring to open my mouth again. How dare she assume my low mood would be due to anything other than the fact that she was acting like a total bitch? Yet, saying that, Emma always acted like a bitch, totally unable to see her own reality. She assumed she was perfect, convinced that everyone else could see how perfect she was too. Seriously, what more could I expect from the woman?
‘Well, you’ve had a face on you for the last hour, sis. What am I meant to think?’ Emma was applying dark red lipstick that made her look cheap. If she applied any more make-up, someone would have to carry her to the car because she would never get her inflated head out of the bloody door.
This is the only face I have, bitch. Besides, I’d much rather have my face than to be forced to stare at yours all night, thank you very much. I stared at her, wishing I could express exactly how I felt at this moment, suffocating in the overbearing heat of the room. Yet, I knew to keep my opinions to myself. I didn’t need the stress they would have provoked, the argument we would have ended up having.
‘I seriously hope you’re not going to have that wasp-like look on your face all evening,’ Emma said, totally oblivious to my emotions as she continued to enjoy her reflection in the mirror.
‘I have a headache, if you must know.’ It was only a half-lie, so it didn’t count. Emma was enough to give anyone a headache. ‘I’ll be alright once I’ve taken something.’ I smoothed fingertips across my now throbbing temples, wishing I had the guts to use the scissors Emma was unaware I had in my possession. I needed to get out of this room before I did something regrettable.
‘Oh poor baby.’ Emma’s berating voice merely increased my impending nausea. ‘Jason will show you where the paracetamol is, if that’ll help?’
‘Okay, whatever,’ I muttered, needing to get away from her now in case I accidentally threw up, threw something at her, or stabbed her to death with my scissors.
She didn’t even turn my way as I staggered back into the bedroom, the mere mention of her husband’s name enough to send my head into a complete spin along with the swirling image of my sister’s Gucci dress.
I didn’t want her to notice the look in my eyes right then, her condescending tone already too much. I swallowed. The unadulterated thoughts of this woman’s husband were something I’d spent many evenings alone with. I smiled slyly as I ventured onto the landing.
As much as I hated to admit it, I could never endure my sister’s company for long. She was overbearing, and any extended time with her provoked dark thoughts no sane person should experience. I often wondered what Jason saw in her.
I was now actually developing the very headache I’d only moments ago invented. Typical.