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Sometimes Life is Tart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I sighed.
No. It doesn't get more dramatic than that. Despite what you might think, I'm not a dramatic sort of person. Drama happens in my life, and I react in a minimalistic way because it's easier than crying all the time. Veronique must have inherited all of our mom's drama genes, because she's dramatic enough for both of us.

I'll admit that I do a lot of internal ranting. God, Caroline Jarvis is such a b****. I can't believe Marie's wearing that sweater. Doesn't Jack know everyone thinks he's a jerkface? and so on. But nobody ever has to put up with my verbal diarrhea because I internalize. I know it's toxic, blah blah. I really don't care.

So while internally I was tearing myself apart and screaming and writing dramatic letters to Teddy explaining how I was really the love of his life and b****-slapping my sister and yelling BLOODY CHRISTMAS!, externally I just took another jam tart from the swiftly emptying plate and shoved it in my mouth.

Veronique was soon swarmed by admirers, so all I was required to do was smile blandly and mouth “Later.” This would afford me the opportunity of exhuming the shred of sisterly affection that was buried deep within my tiny shriveled heart.

She would want to relate the tale to me, in all of its clichéd mundanity, and I could practically hear her breathy, effervescent faux-French ­accent crying out with glee ….

Oh, wait – I could hear it. She was exulting beneath the halo of jalapeno-pepper-shaped lights like a pterodactyl that had managed to snatch a particularly large rodent in its talons. She literally had her bejeweled manicure spread out talon-style, displaying her white-gold-and-diamond engagement ring.

I had to choke back the jam tart, which was slowly creeping back up
my throat.

My soulmate, Ted, who had somehow managed to end up engaged to the wrong sister, was wearing an ecstatic but dazed expression, as though he couldn't quite believe his luck. He'd been coming around the house probably since Veronique started high school, which in retrospect meant that I'd been in love with him since fifth grade. It was kind of pathetic, really, because at this point I was 18 and still in love with him.

It was totally wrong, and I realized that. A wave of self-disgust, mingled as always with a healthy dose of self-pity, washed over me, and I was prompted to force another pecan tart into my dry mouth. The tart made me happy for about six seconds, and then I was back to wallowing.

I had grown up under a constant cover of shade. Somehow, Veron­ique's gorgeous, perfect shadow had managed to blot out the sun. She caught my eye again. Here we go, I thought, putting the tray down on the coffee table, carefully avoiding Uncle Billy's head. He'd had a little too much egg nog, as usual. Then, I followed her upstairs, to my imminent doom.


*
*

I'll skip over all the painful crap. You know, the part where she tells me how Teddy got down on one knee, like that's oh-so-original. I'll also skip the part where Veronique realizes that I'm only half paying attention and lays into me about how much it hurts her that we don't go to get pedicures together.

“What I mean, Dan-”

“Don't call me that,” I broke in. She pretended I hadn't spoken, which was something I'd come to expect. Usually, my policy is that you call me Danielle or you die, but that doesn't exactly work when the person you're threatening doesn't appear to hear you.

Flipping her hair, she continued. “What I mean eez, why aren't we cloze? You know, like, cloze.” Why exactly, I wondered, does she have to speak like that? I know Dad's from France, but even he doesn't have an accent.

I looked down at her skin-tight-denim-clad knee, which was an inch from my not-skin-tight-but-still-denim-clad one. “I thought we were,” I said.

“Wat are you talking about?” Her tadpole brows drew together. “I mean sharing shooze and theengs. Like, cloze.”

I chuckled inwardly. Ah, the joys of exercising dramatic irony on the witless.

We sat in silence for another moment, and she eventually pulled out a glittery pink lip gloss
to touch up her pout. This action, which was so very self-motivated, and which was performed so autonomously, forced my hand and I placed the box of chocolates she'd handed to me on the duvet.

“Veronique,” I started. She looked at me with a comical I-am-concentrating-really-hard expression, and I ­suddenly felt like the older sister. It wasn't a foreign sensation, but the fact that she had a diamond the size of her eye glittering on one finger made it seem a little surreal. “I love you, right?”

She nodded dutifully.

“But we just …,” I breathed out loudly. “You wouldn't want to borrow my shoes.”

“That's eczactly wat I mean!” she broke in. Her lips were slathered in so much shimmery goop that I was surprised that she had been able to part them. Don't get me wrong – I love a good lip gloss, especially if it smells like melon. I just don't want to have insects becoming trapped and drowning in my makeup. “Eef you were more like me, you would have cute shooze, and zen I would want to borrow zem.”

I wondered briefly how anyone could ever want to be more like my sister. And then, I realized a terrible thing.

I was not only a little s***. I was a jealous little s***. It was the only reasonable explanation.

Maybe it was the hair. Or the way she could eat boxes of chocolates and sit around half-reading maudlin romance novels and never jump from a size 2, while I seemed relegated to size 8 with a persistent muffin top. Maybe it was the way she'd snared the undivided attention of anyone in the vicinity with a Y chromosome at 13 and had never let go, even after she'd scored the one guy I had my pathetic heart set on. Or that she only had the best intentions for everyone, even if she was severely misguided, while I sat around being a jealous little s***.

But maybe, maybe I didn't have to be jealous. Maybe I didn't have to eat a whole damn plate of tarts. Oh God. I did eat that whole plate, didn't I? Crap.

I'm a bit like a pecan tart, really. Crusty on the outside. And inside I'm nuts.

“I'm happy for you,” I blurted.

Veronique looked at me as though she couldn't believe I'd spoken. And yep, I realized that it was not a dramatic speech, not some lengthy dissertation on sisterly affection, not some soliloquy in which I poured out my heart and apologized for being a crappy sibling. But it was something like a start.

She lunged at me – pterodactyl! – and I managed not to yank myself away as she buried her face in the shoulder of my green pullover. I pulled one of her highlights from my mouth and sat there, patting her back awkwardly.

And I was happy. Sort of. No, not sort of. I really was happy. I couldn't have Ted. I just couldn't. There was no question of that. And I had to let him go. I had to let everything go, all the bitterness and the oh-my-life-sucks and maybe even the Jack's-a-jerkface. And definitely the jealousy. Yeah. The jealousy had to go.

“Look,” I said, once I grew tired of the touchy-feely stuff. “You give me back the Christmas card I got you and I'll …,” I swallowed. It was going to take a lot of effort to force the next bit out. “I'll … I'll take you out to get a pedicure.”

She looked at me with teary doe-eyes. All I could do was sigh. “What eez in ze card?”

I ducked my head uncomfortably. “A gift certificate. To Booster Juice.” I snorted. “It's stupid.” It's not like I wanted the gift certificate back or anything. It was just kind of an inane gift, and I'd hoped, after the whole pedicure thing, she'd quietly let it go and spare me the shame of being a poor gift-giver.

“Zeyre grenadine smoozies are very nize,” she said.

I was suddenly filled with gratitude.

Veronique jumped up abruptly, shattering the atmosphere. She had reverted to her usual perky, I'm-a-Barbie state, and I realized with even more gratitude that the fact that I was a s***ty, jealous sister had whizzed past her. She saw it, probably. She just didn't stick on it. “Ayam going to go get one of zoze gamdrop cookeez before Grandmere Verny eats zem all.”

The moment had ended. I was almost sad to let it go. But I jumped up too, and said, “Good idea,” because Grandma Verny does love gumdrop cookies.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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