Sadie had moved over from her bed under the window and slid under the covers with me. She sat cross-legged with the quilt bunched around her waist. This was a nightly ritual for us. Mom called it our ‘giggle time’, though over the last few years we’d enjoyed serious conversations as well, mostly centering around the boys—excuse me, ‘young men’-- who attended Washington High School with us.
“So what did you think was going to happen, doofus? I mean, come on!” I laughed at her and grabbing the stuffed elephant out of her hand, I hit her playfully in the stomach with it. She pretended that I’d hit her with a brick and fell backward onto the pillow. Then she settled in, covers under arms, hands on her stomach, fingers steepled together. I knew that meant she was getting serious, that she had something important to say.
“What?” I prompted, laying my head next to hers on the pillow. We each had blonde hair, hers curlier than mine, but if someone had looked at us there, they’d have a hard time telling where one of us ended and the other started. I stayed quiet, knowing she’d talk when she was ready.
“I bumped into Joe after English class.” She kept her eyes on her fingers, which were now running through the motions of the exercises she used during her piano lessons. She’d done them so many times, I’m not sure it was anything more than an unconscious habit for her anymore.
“And? I didn’t get a chance to talk with him today, since I was busy in the library all afternoon and then he had football practice—“
“He asked me out, Em.” Her voice was flat when she said it. She was hiding her nervousness.
“What? Well you said ‘no’, right? I mean, he is so close to asking me to homecoming, I just know—“
“No. I mean, I said ‘yes’.” Her fingers stilled and she turned to look at me. Our noses were only inches apart and she was calm. Like she always was. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand that about her. She stayed calm, waiting for me to be the one to explode. She knew me as well as I knew her.
I practically jumped to a sitting position and twisted to stare her down. “How could you? How could you do that to me? You know what going to the dance with Joe means to me. How could you--” I couldn’t find the word I was looking for in my vocabulary because I’m not sure I’d ever used it before. “—betray me that way?”
“He isn’t yours, Em. You don’t know that he was going to ask you to the dance. It’s pretty obvious now that he wasn’t, don’t you think?”
Her logic and its truth was the last straw for me. “Get out of my room!” I screamed.
“It’s my room too, now, you know.”
“Yeah, well, that’s just one more thing you’ve stolen from me. You come in here and take over my bedroom, steal my clothes, my makeup and now my boyfriend! Just ‘cause Aunt Mary is a drunk doesn’t give you the right to come in here and mess up my life!” Had I just called her mother a drunk? Even as I said the words, I couldn’t believe they’d come from me. And I couldn’t stop myself now, even if I’d wanted to, which I certainly did not. “You’re just my cousin. I don’t need any more sisters. You don’t belong here and I wish you’d leave!”
I didn’t have to look at her to see the hurt; it radiated from her like heat. Had that hate really come from me? I was aware of my own temper, but until that moment I’d never so clearly seen the darkness present in myself. This was Sadie, my best friend. The cousin who had become closer to me than either of my sisters since she’d been adopted by my parents. And look at how I had hurt her.
Oh, God, forgive me, I prayed silently as I watched her pick up her stuffed animal and climb into her own bed. She turned to face the other wall. “Sadie, please, you know I didn’t really mean it. I’m sorry.”
That silent moment turned into a night with no more giggles and a lesson never forgotten.
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