I turned and looked at my sister and I felt wilder, meaner, sharper than her.

Behind the Glass

It was Saturday. I remember it well, the fog after a summer rain, the smell of wet earth and the rot of leaves, damp on the side of the road. She was older than me, still is I guess, and wilder, meaner, sharper. I was quieter and mouse-like, a shadow in her footsteps.

That day, she dressed like a princess, wrapped my mother’s pearls around her arm like Cleopatra’s bracelet. I was naked, with my tawny hair stretched down and over my back, my own body’s cape.

The sun was casting shadows through the windows onto my father’s leopard rug that he had bought at a second hand shop in the Meat Packing District. He had flung it out onto his study floor and flaunted it as if he had shot it on some African safari.

My sister sprawled herself onto it’s spotted back, smoothed flat against the floor and rested her head on the leopard’s, it’s ears cupping her head like mittened hands. I flopped down beside her and ran my ringers through a string of pearls. She sighed and looked away. I moved closer. I could smell the soap of her skin, sweet like honeysuckle and lavender. I touched her hair and it was silk on my fingers. She brushed me aside.

I looked at my naked body and saw bones and skin and soft folds of flesh. I was awkward and ashamed. My sister closed her eyes and I studied the contours of her face, the slight flush of her cheeks, the black of her eyelashes. The sun cast shadows like storm clouds and the air was thick and heavy.

It happened fast and I almost missed it with my eyes halfway closed, imitating my sister. But I left them open, just a little, so I could steal glimpses of her, watch her chest rise and fall like the tide. Outside I heard the thunder of two worlds colliding and I thought I was dreaming. And then I saw it and my eyes opened wide.

I saw it flying through the air like a rag doll, limbs and hair and eyes; eyes so wide I thought they’d pop right out. They stared at me through our living room window, and I noticed they were the same color as mine, steely grey. And then it was gone. I looked at my sister and her eyes were still shut, as if the deafening sound outside had not happened.

I stood and walked to the window. My nakedness was reflected back to me in the shine of the glass, and there, lying next to my reflection on the grass outside, was a girl. She looked like me, with long brown hair and skinny legs. But her limbs were all wrong, all pointing in different directions, as if she were a Barbie and someone had rearranged them to make her walk backwards.

But then I saw the blood, streaming out across her forehead toward her eyes that still looked at me. Those eyes that didn’t blink. And in the background, I saw a bike with yellow streamers hanging off the handlebars and only one wheel. There was a man, crying on his knees on the sidewalk, his car parked on the curb and my neighbors were piling out of there houses, all running, running, running toward the girl who wouldn’t stop staring at me. I saw my father, in his dirty jeans from working in the garden, kneel down to the girl and lift her up as if it were me and he was carrying me to bed. Her head flopped over his arm and she stopped looking at me, as he carried her away to the man who was crying. The three of them got in the man’s car and my father shouted something to our neighbors and then they were gone.

I felt my sister standing next to me. I could feel her eyes on my face.

“What happened?” she asked.

I shrugged. I didn’t know. I looked at our reflections in the window; my naked body next to hers swathed in pearls and I didn’t want to touch her, didn’t want her hair that felt like silk or her ebony eyelashes. I looked like that girl being carried away in my father’s arms, and I wanted to touch her, to close her eyes, to wipe the blood from her hair.

I turned and looked at my sister and I felt wilder, meaner, sharper than her. I bent and picked up my dress lying on the couch, pulled it on over my head, and walked away.

Danielle Battee lives on an island in New Zealand and wishes every day that she could return home to the States.  She writes for travel websites and in her free time writes short stories about characters with whom she relates. 


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