Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)
Sleep eluded me. My childhood replayed itself. The stiff competition, constant comparisons, insinuations, and taunting flashed across my mind like a screenplay. I could hear my aunt’s voice, ‘Angela got first, blah, blah, blah! My precious girl is Miss Charming, blah, blah, blah!’ Aunt Sally was such a show-off and loud mouth. She paraded her daughter as one would a prize trophy. Her angel’s always perfect and the cream of all. Whenever there’s trouble, it’s always someone else’s fault.
Angela’s brainy and good in everything. She’s pretty, charming, gentle and aristocratic. As a child, she attracted people like ants to sugar. Praises, praises and more praises! That’s what she got in every family gathering. On the other hand, I was just average, the rough and tumble kind. What did I get? I was bombarded with endless criticisms, whispers, and disgusting looks that conveyed rejection. While Angela’s top on praises, I made it to the pinnacle of gossip chart despite striving hard to earn acceptance. As if putting up with my mum’s constant, ‘Why can’t you be like Angela?’ wasn’t enough, Angela was ever ready with her strings of snide remarks. How I dreaded her presence!
Naturally, Angel, my reference for my superior cousin, spread her wings when she grew up. She flew overseas to the best university, graduated with flying colors, got a great job, met a great guy, married him, started a family, and lived happily ever after in a faraway land.
Game over! I lost, but I was happy my opponent’s out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind! No more pressure, I thought, but Aunt Sally kept bragging, day in, day out. I was sorry for my mum though I refused to be dampened. As a preschool teacher, my past helped me understand children in similar scenario and I immersed myself in my work.
Then, one day Angela called, said she needed my help urgently. Somehow I was persuaded to make the trip.
“Please fasten your seatbelts! We’ll be landing shortly.” I looked out the window. It was a fine day. I was a little apprehensive as I made my way through the arrival hall. Then, I saw her. I was shock. She looked haggard. Nearer, I could see dark circles around her eyes.
“Hi, Danielle. Glad you could make it.”
“Glad to see you again.” I lied. “Are you overworked? You looked tired!” I queried.
“Get in the car.” Once on the road, she began, “I know I made life difficult for you in our growing up years. I’m sorry. It’s my mum’s fault. She had a challenge with your mum. Sibling rivalry! I must always be better than you. There were times when we resorted to cheating. You remember the day I was crowned Miss Charming? She actually bought those votes!”
“But you’re smart, charming and ever so sweet.” I retorted.
“No, everything was a sham. I had to live a lie in front of everyone. I was miserable. That’s why I came here and refused to go back. Anyway, that’s not the reason you’re here. Alan and I,” she paused, trying to regain her composure. “Alan wants a divorce.” She snuffled.
“But…why…eh? I stammered, unable to find words.
“To cut a long story short, my marriage, was just for convenience. To fulfill Mum’s dream, though she doesn’t know the truth. Alan and I have been living separate lives, but now he’s found his love, I’ve to let him go. I’m tired of lying, anyway.”
“What about your daughter?” I asked.
“That’s why I need your help. You take care of her.”
“But, eh what about Alan?” I was confused.
“Alice’s not his daughter. I don’t even know who her father is! I was drunk, on drugs and had a one night stand. Next thing, I was pregnant. You’re my only hope. I’m trying to clean up my life. After the divorce, I’m going for an alcohol rehabilitation program before heading home. Will you help me?”
I was flabbergasted. After all these years, I was no second fiddle, but there’s no joy in winning.
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