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“Mia is perfect.”
The words are like a slap across the face. Robert has never liked me--he always prefers blonde, perky Mia.
Robert continues flipping the pancakes. I don’t understand why my mother married him. Mia stares at her empty plate, waiting to be fed. But, essentially, she is avoiding my gaze. Mia looks most like our mother. They both have the golden hair, blue eyes and tan skin--like California cheerleaders. I, on the other hand, got the looks from my father. Jet black hair, strange green eyes, that often would turn blue, or a mix, and a pale complexion. I’ve only ever seen my father in pictures, since he passed with Mia and I were young from cancer--her seven, me five. And ten years later, I had gotten it as well. A generic thing. Mia, too, had gotten it, when she turned thirteen, but it was declared gone the day before her 17th birthday.
I myself am not so lucky. I have yet to start losing my hair from the chemotherapy, and honestly? I don’t want to. I love my hair, and no matter how expensive a wig may be, it still looks fake.
I glance over at the dead thing on Robert’s head.
Yes. Definitely looks fake.
After breakfast, Mia suggests we go down to visit Ms. Belikov. Awfully sweet and generous, Ms. Belikov is like a grandma to me. Together we road our bikes to her house and stashed them behind her car. Her front door is closed, which is odd for her. She loves leaving it open, feeling the cool breeze.
It’s strange, having to knock on her door. She opens it within a minute, and the look of deep worry vanishes from her face when she sees it’s us. “Girls!”
“Hey, Ms. Belikov!” Mia and I greet together.
“Mia, Jane, so nice to see you. Come in, come in.” She steps out of the way and allows us to pass. We follow her into the living room to see a young gentleman sitting on her couch. Mia and I stand over by the far window, across from the couch. Ms. Belikov sits in her old rocker.
“Hey,” I say. “I’m Jane. This is Mia, my sister.” I gesture to her.
The strangest look crosses over his face, but Ms. Belikov says something in her native tongue--Russian--and he smiles, almost sympathetically. “Hello, Jane. Hello, Mia. I’m Fyodor.”
“He’s my grandson,” Ms. Belikov puts in. We make awkward conversation for a while, but all I really pay attention to are the nice curve of Fyodor’s shoulders, his muscles, tight against his shirt, his hair, and how soft it would feel beneath my fingers…
“Well, Jane and I ought to be going,” Mia suddenly cuts in.
“Yeah,” I agree. “We should go. Thanks, Ms Belikov. I’ll see you around, Fyodor.”
“Mmhm. I sure hope so.”
As Mia and I ride our bikes home, she smiles a little. “You like him, don’t you?”
I frown. Mia always seems to be able to read my mind. “Just a little,” I admit after a moment. Mia looks at me a little funny. “Hey…are you okay?”
I nearly topple over on my bike. She can always tell when I’m going to have one of my episodes before it actually happens. “I just…need a moment.” I say, jumping off of my bike and sitting on the curb. Mia patiently sits there while I try and control my breathing. After about twenty minutes, she helps me back up and we ride home.
We stop in front of our house. Robert is outside, watering the plants. He stops when he sees us. “Well, there you girls are.” He strides over. As he gets closer, his eyes roam over my legs, exposed by my shorts. Beside me, Mia stiffens, but says nothing.
“Ah, Jane. Can I talk to you for a minute? In the garage?”
“Sure,” I answer, uncertainly. He would most likely make me do yard work. “I’ll see you inside, Mia.”
“Mmhm,” she responds tightly, hopping off her bike and pushing it around to the side of the house. I hop off of mine as well, and push it towards the garage, following Robert. As I enter, I lean against the tool counter. “What’s up?”
“Well, Jane...” he says, walking towards me. “You seemed to have failed to do what I asked you to do.”
“Which was what?”
“Not dress so…sexually.” His hand falls on my thigh and I stiffen.
“Don’t,” I say. “I’m serious.”
He hooks his finger into my belt loops, trying to tug my shorts downwards. I begin to panic. “Robert!”
“Shhh, Jane.” His lips find my neck and I attempt to slip past him. The hand on my belt loop holds on.
I put my hands on his chest, trying to shove him away. His fist suddenly connects with my cheek, and I gasp as the force of the punch causes me to stumble to the ground. The sobs that escape me are short, scared, pathetic.
“Get up,” he growls. When I fail to do so, his foot collides with my side and I gasp. He reaches down, grabbing me by the back of the neck. He yanks me to my feet, and his other hand closes around the front of my neck.
I began seeing the black spots people see before they pass out.
“Jane! JANE!” I hear Mia’s voice scream. Then everything disappears…
… “Jane!” Someone shakes me. My eyes flutter open. Above me stands Ms. Belikov, Fyodor and my mother. My hair and eyelashes are both clumped; slick with…I reach up.
Blood is on my hand. “What happened?” I don’t really make much of a sound, but being able to take deep breaths feels good.
Fyodor understands what I’m trying to say. “There was obviously a struggle…you shot Robert in the back of the head, in your own defense.”
“I…didn’t have…a gun…”
I look around. There is blood on the wall, behind where Robert and I stood. The gun is lying in the door way leading from in the house to the garage. Police officers are taking pictures of the crime scene, obviously not really bothering to wake me up.
One officer strides over. He hands me a bottle of water. After a finish about half of it, he inquires, “You Jane Mead?”
“And did you shoot Robert Cole in the back of the head?” he asks
“No…no, my sister…Mia. Mia did.”
My mom and the officer exchanged glances. Then my mom turned to me. “Jane…Mia’s dead. She’s been dead for three years.”