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The Friend I Didn't Choose
The hardships of being Winnie, a seventeen year old social queen
My brother is like algebra and my parent’s rules; he just doesn’t make any sense. The other day, our parents forced me to invite him to go play mini golf on the island with MY friends, because “Eli really needs to work on a social life” and whatever, and he told me sorry but he couldn’t, he had promised to teach our sister Maeve her new piano song. And I said so what, and he said he couldn’t disappoint her.
The kid is seven years old, she shouldn’t even know what a piano is. But no, Eli needs an accompanist to play all his favorite songs. I guess I’m not good enough to be the pianist anymore. Anyway, Eli and Maeve spending time together is unhealthy for both of them; he’s lost whatever friends he used to have, and she’s showing the early signs of Eli-like weirdness. The other day, I told her to please, please, please tell our parents that it was her who left the milk out after breakfast, because I knew she wouldn’t get in as much trouble as I would, and she just looked at me and said:
“That would be ill advised, Winnie. You must take responsibility for your own actions.”
A regular little Yoda. She really is a cute kid. If only I had gotten to her first, she might have turned out all right.
When we were little, I used to play with my brother, but then he got too weird, so I had to move on. I never talk to him at school; half of my friends don’t even know we’re related. He doesn’t even care. He thinks he’s so much better than me, always smiling at me in the halls, just to embarrass me. It’s okay with me if he wants to be an antisocial outcast; I just want him to leave me alone.
The hardships of being Eli, her outcast of a brother
I know that God has a sense of humor because my sister and I are twins. I seriously doubt that two people more different than me and Winifred ever came into contact with each other. I guess it’s not really her fault she’s so whiny and mean; she is a girl, after all. But our sister Maeve is only seven, and she’s never had a conniption fit in the middle of dinner when our parents told her she couldn’t go to her friend’s house because she hadn’t finished her homework. I guess Winnie is just the irritable type.
Or maybe she’s just stark, raving insane, but I don’t think so, because every time I pass her in the halls at school, she has at least three hundred people behind her. Maybe they think she’s pretty or something. I wouldn’t know; she’s my sister. She never talks to me at school. I must be an undesirable, because I used to smile every time I passed her in the halls, but she wouldn’t even look at me. And at home it really isn’t much better. Oh, well, life is hard. At least I can actually name all of my friends: Maeve.
But really, all things considered, I don’t mind that Winnie ignores me. It’s just one of the hard truths of life. I don’t get bored, even though Maeve is my only companion. We live in Port Isabel, Texas, across the bridge from South Padre Island. I can drive down to the beach whenever I want. I like to fish, because I think I want to be a marine biologist. Or a world class rock guitarist. Hey, they aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I have this great, shamelessly nerdy vision of teaching school children about marine life through song… but I try to keep my dorky dreams to myself. No matter what, I always have Maeve to bring along to the dock or to accompany me on my keyboard. I guess she’s kind of my replacement Winnie. Winnie used to want to be my scientific assistant or keyboard accompanist, but not so long ago I noticed that her eyes would glaze over when I read her a National Geographic article or told her the deeper meaning of a song. I figured I shouldn’t bore her, so I started teaching Maeve. She’s catching on pretty well. So if Winnie would rather pretend I don’t exist, she can go right on ahead.
From an oppressed teenage girl
This is the worst day of my life. My parents forced me to skip going to the movies to have “fun” at the beach with Eli and Maeve. So I had to call up my friends and tell them that I had to go to a family event. Real cool. And Steven Jones, this boy who I really, really like is going, so I felt like it was only fitting to mourn for the entire fifteen minutes it took me to get ready.
“Ready, Win?” Eli yelled from downstairs
“NO, ELI!” I screamed, crying my eyes out on my bed, “I’ll NEVER be ready!”
“Okay, five more minutes! We’ll be in the truck!”
I heard the door slam closed.
“Winifred, they’ve already been waiting fifteen minutes!” my dad said.
“I DON’T CARE.”
“GET OUTSIDE NOW!” Mom barked.
And she marched right up to my room, grabbed my hand, pulled me up, and walked me downstairs and out to the truck.
Maeve was beside Eli in the front. They were both singing along with the radio. I got in beside my sister and slammed the door.
“You had better be nice, Winifred Anne,” my mom whispered just before we pulled out of the driveway.
I ignored her and leaned my head against the window. Eli and Maeve kept singing.
“Turn that off, Eli,” I said through gritted teeth.
“But this is truly art!” said Maeve.
“Sorry Win, we haven’t gotten to Maeve’s favorite part yet,” said Eli apologetically.
“Yeah, the lotion part.”
“No, it’s notion, remember?
“Oh, yeah. And that means a feeling, right?”
“Is this it?”
“Yes, it’s coming after the instrumental part.”
“Okay, I’m ready.”
“Sing it, Maeve.”
“FOR THOSE WHO HAVE A O… LO… NOTION!”
She looked to Eli for approval.
“Have a notion… That it ain’t no… um…be glad you’re alive! I wanna find one… face that ain’t looking through me! I wanna SPIT AT THE BADLANDS!”
“Excellent, Maeve. That’s close enough for our purposes.”
“Eli, how would someone look through you?”
“It’s a metaphor. It means that people don’t pay attention to you because for some ridiculous reason they don’t like you and don’t see that you’re actually REALLY AWESOME.”
My brother sure is subtle.
From her extremely irritated brother
I admit, I said that last part a little louder than necessary, but Winnie was seriously asking for it. She hates me so much that she cried for fifteen minutes because she had to spend two hours with me?
We got to the beach before Maeve had finished listening to her song a second time. She said she wanted to swim before fishing, so I carried her sandcastle building tools and inner tube while Winnie followed us with her towel.
We set up in our usual spot. Winnie spread out her towel and lay down, to tan of course.
“You ever heard of skin cancer, Win?” I asked.
“I put sunscreen on.”
“Okay then. Maeve wants to go look for hermit crabs, so we’ll be back soon.”
“Aw, that’s real nice. Wish I could join you.”
It took all of my will power to keep from saying something sarcastic. I kicked the sand as I walked out to the water to meet Maeve.
“Carry me!” she said.
I picked her up and balanced her on my side.
“Okay, let’s see if I can carry the crabs and you.”
“I’ll carry the crabs.”
“That’s what you say every time. Then they come out of their shells.”
“And I scream.”
“Exactly. Hey, Maeve, you wanna do something fun?”
“I’ll leave you here, and I’ll swim out a little farther, and you go back and tell Win that I drowned and see if she cares.”
“That wouldn’t be nice, Eli.”
“I know, I know. Never mind.”
“It would be a better use of our time to look for wildlife instead.”
“Right, Maeve, you’re exactly right.”
Winnie’s take on the situation: Does this mean I don’t have to go to school?
I woke up the next day feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. I was so hot, but so cold… the dreaded flu must have caught up with me at last.
“Mom!” I called. I couldn’t be expected to help myself in this condition.
I called her two more times, but I didn’t really expect her to hear me because her bedroom was all the way downstairs. I forced myself to get up and dragged my poor aching body out of bed and into the hallway. I staggered to the stairs, where Maeve was lying on her face. I screamed and she picked up her head weakly.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“What happened to you?”
“I don’t feel good, so I went to tell Mommy, but I got tired and so I had to stop and rest here.”
It was the most pathetic thing I had seen in my entire life. Dad came sprinting up the stairs with a golf club.
“Who’s there… What?” Dad stammered, lowering his weapon.
“What happened?” screamed Mom.
Both of my parents looked at the scene. Maeve was still lying in place and I sat down beside her, my energy gone.
“We’re sick,” said Maeve, “Very, very sick.”
Dad put down the golf club and felt our foreheads.
“Yeah, y’all both have a fever,” he reported.
“It must be that flu that’s going around,” sighed Mom, “Let me get you girls some medicine.”
“We have influenza?” asked Maeve, her eyes widening.
“I think so, sweetie,” said Dad, picking her up.
“Millions worldwide died in the influenza outbreaks of 1918.”
“Now how do you know about that?”
Does he really need to ask?
“Don’t worry, Maeve. You’ll be better in a couple of days.”
“I hope so.”
“Trust me, you will be.”
Dad carried her downstairs and I didn’t follow.
“You need to be carried, too, Winnie?” he asked, coming back up.
“I don’t think my back could take it.”
“Dad, that’s a really offensive thing to say to a woman. Didn’t your mother teach you anything?”
“Sorry, sorry, I wasn’t calling you fat. Fine, I’ll try to carry you.”
He picked me up and almost tripped on the first step.
“I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”
He put me on the couch beside Maeve. She put the remote into my hand.
“You can choose first.”
“But if you cared at all, you’d let me watch ‘Blues Clues.’”
I sighed and handed her the remote.
“You’re giving it back?” she asked, stunned.
“If I had the strength to argue I still wouldn’t because I’m going to be sitting here with you all day.”
“So we should start off on the right foot.”
“Okay, then you can choose.”
“Maeve, turn the TV on and put it on ‘Blues Clues.’”
“You want to watch it?” she asked, with an expression of deep confusion.
“No! I want to start out on the right foot! TURN IT ON!”
“Okay,” she said quickly, “I want to start out on the right foot, too.”
“I think you should start out on the left foot,” said Eli, coming down the stairs, “What’re you girls doing?”
“We have influenza, Eli!” cried Maeve, looking to him with terrified eyes, “Do you think we’ll make it?”
“Yes, of course, Maeve. Bad bedtime story,” he added to me after coughing into his elbow. “I don’t feel good either.”
“Eli, didn’t you hear me screaming?” I asked.
I knew the answer before I asked the question. The kid could sleep through anything. Last year we went to Washington, D.C. on vacation and some fool set off the hotel fire alarm at four in the morning and Eli didn’t even wake up. I was sure I had saved his life by screaming his name again and again and shaking him until he finally got up, so I was really kind of disappointed when it turned out that there wasn’t a blazing inferno after all.
“I would’ve helped you if I’d woken up,” he said apologetically.
“Never mind. It hurts my throat to talk.”
After everyone left, I spent the longest two hours of my life watching cartoons with my sister. “Blues Clues,” “Dora the Explorer,” and so much “Spongebob Squarepants”… Then, I heard the front door open.
“WHO’S THERE?” I yelled. It would be so unfair if a robber happened to come on a day that I was even more defenseless than usual.
“Me,” said Eli weakly.
He staggered into the room and collapsed between us.
“I think I have it, too.”
So this is how it will be. A week of the three of us, sitting on the couch together. This will be a bonding experience.
Eli’s take on the situation: But we were just getting to the good stuff in calculus…
“Let’s watch ‘Star Trek,’” I suggested hopefully, seeing an educational looking cartoon on the TV.
“Okay,” said Winnie, strangely eager.
“Okay,” said Maeve.
I forced myself to get up.
“Alright, girls, we’re going to watch the old movies. Neither of y’all have seen them. Maeve, you really aren’t old enough, so close your eyes when I tell you to. And just remember that Spock isn’t really dead, so don’t cry.”
“What?” gasped Maeve.
“You’ll see later, okay?”
“Spock is the one with the pointy ears, right?” asked Winnie.
“You’ll see, Win.”
It became our project for the week. We made it through the first two, which took us two whole days because one, two, or all of us kept falling asleep in the middle and then we had to rewind so that we would all be at the same part. I think Maeve might have learned a new bad word or two that I forgot was there, but she definitely liked it and I could tell that Winnie was interested even though she didn’t say. It was so weird; she was strangely peaceful and so bizarrely amiable. It made being sick tolerable, except when it was time to answer the door for the pizza man. (We had pizza everyday. It’s not like you have a lot of options when you feel so bad you can’t stand for long enough to make a simple peanut butter sandwich.) We got into a fight about who had to get up and pay every day. I always lost. Winnie kept playing the whole “You’re the man, we’re just girls,” card and the really disgusting part is that Maeve sided with her, but I fell for it every time.
Things were going along as well as could be expected. Then, on the third day, Wednesday, we got to number three, the one where they think that Spock dies but in number four you find out that he actually didn’t... it’s pretty weird, even for someone like me who enjoys “Star Trek” very much. Anyway, I told Maeve over and over that it was coming, but she still cried like a baby, which made her nose run even worse. I knew this would happen. When I reached to get her a tissue from the box on the coffee table, I was shocked to see that Winnie was clinging to a pillow, her face smeared with tears. She noticed I was looking and gave me a horrible glare.
“Why did you make us watch this?” she snarled.
“Winnie, it’s a movie. Calm down.”
“But… Eli…” she stammered between sobs, “The last words… to Captain Kirk! ‘I have been… and always shall be… your friend!’”
Maeve started crying even harder.
“My gosh,” I groaned. I felt pretty sick that day, so I guess it made me a little less willing to comfort my sisters over the fake death of a fictional character than I usually would have been. “Girls, it’s a movie. I think you both need to take a nap.”
“Yeah,” said Winnie, wiping her eyes, “That sounds good.”
What the heck? I was starting to wish that Winnie would get sick a little more often. It made her so… nice.
They were both asleep in a few minutes. I tried to get some English homework done (I always woke up during my numerous naps thinking of how much school I was missing), but I only got through half a page of The Scarlet Letter before I fell asleep, too. We missed lunch that day because no one was awake to open the door for the pizza man and the fool just drove off. When we woke up, Maeve was once again reduced to tears by this unfortunate turn (“Eli, you’re supposed to be taking care of us!”)
We all felt better the next day, which was a mixed blessing. The good part was that I knew for sure that we would not succumb to the dreaded flu. The bad part was that Winnie was returning to her normal self. So I had to spend to rest of my time as an invalid listening to “This show is boring, let me find one” and “I’m hot” and “I’m cold” and “I’m so sick of pizza, will you pleeeeease make me a sandwich?” (I only capitulated the first time.) I was definitely glad when we were well enough to return to school on Monday.
Winnie: Um, what did you just say to me?
So I finally recovered from the flu, and tomorrow I’m going back to school. But that’s not the bad part. Today I was talking to Claire on the phone and just for no reason at all, Mom barges into my room and tells me that I should do something productive, like reading a book.
“But Mom,” I said with my hand over the receiver.
“Hang up and ask your brother to drive you to the library right now.”
I could see I wasn’t getting around this one (Maeve had said too much about our trip to the beach a while back), so I told Claire that I had to go while my mom stood, hands on her hips, with a look of satisfaction.
“Eli!” I yelled, running down the stairs, “I have to go to the library, I need…”
Eli appeared in the living room, taking his keys out of his pocket. I’d had him at “library.”
He was talking about classic literature all the way to the library, but I didn’t hear any of it.
“Okay,” he said, holding the door open for me, “It would be good to start with Shakespeare. I think you’d like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or…”
“Not a chance, let’s go to something easier.”
He led me to young adult fiction.
“Here,” I said, pulling a skinny book from the rack, “This one is fabulous.”
“I don’t think you want to do that.”
“That one definitely has a tragic ending.”
“You’ve read this girly-looking pink book?”
“No, just look at the title.”
“The font. Look at that cursive. It’s practically a universal truth, Winnie; the fancier the letters, the higher the body count. Here, the unconventional alignment of the letters on this title definitely suggests humor.”
He handed it to me, and I swear the thing weighed ten pounds.
“That’s way too long!”
I pulled another thin one. He read the summary on the jacket and told me I wasn’t old enough. He chose another in the vein of War and Peace, and I tried once again to make it clear that it wasn’t happening. It went on like this for a while until I told him that I hated reading, I didn’t want his help, and he was the biggest nerd in human history. He had a response for this.
“Just because you’re too stupid to read without Sparknotes doesn’t mean that I’m a nerd because I have a brain! I’m so sorry I said that!”
He looked as surprised as I was; neither of us had called each other stupid since we were about eight. I mean, I’ve wanted to, but I try to keep a little bit of truth in my insults, and my brother is by no stretch of the imagination stupid. Even though I don’t really like him and I know that he’s just jealous, I couldn’t help but be a little offended.
“You better be sorry!”
I pulled out the book that I had originally chosen, marched to the counter, and checked it out, with Eli shuffling along behind me.
Eli: The sudden downhill spiral
I have just received the single greatest shock of my life. The day started out like any other; so deceptively mundane. I ate my cereal with Maeve, and we sat in the car and waited for Winnie to finish choosing her outfit. She finally came, and sat in the passenger’s seat. But something was up. She was mad over the same thing each and every morning; she didn’t get to drive. I sided with our parents on that decision; when one of your kids hit two mailboxes in her first week of driving and the other hasn’t hit anything at all in a year of driving, the matter of who drives to school is kind of a no brainer. But this morning she didn’t say anything about how our parents liked me best and I was a mama’s boy and it just wasn’t right because she was older (a word of caution: if you ever wind up as the parent of twins and they ask you which one of them was born first, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and say you don’t remember because it is just plain annoying to have someone try to lord over you because they have had an entire seven minutes more experience). Anyway, she calmly got into the passenger’s seat and I got kind of concerned.
“Good morning, Winnie,” said Maeve as I pulled out of the garage.
Instead of the normal “Yeah, whatever,” Winnie turned around and smiled at Maeve.
“Good morning, Maeve. Your hair looks pretty.”
Maeve’s jaw just about hit the floor, and I had to swerve away from the mailbox to avoid ruining my perfect record. Winnie just smiled, pulled her phone out of her purse, and started texting. Glad to have at least one of her morning rituals back in place, I returned my eyes to the road.
“You didn’t tell me good morning, Eli,” she said.
Is this a dream? I mean, especially after yesterday’s library incident. For the first time, I almost felt like I deserved Winnie’s normal behavior.
“Uh… Good morning, Winnie.”
She went back to her texting. Who was she texting? Maybe that had something to do with it. I was about to sneak a glance, but didn’t want to risk killing her mood.
“So, who’re you texting,” I asked, trying to sound casual.
“None of your business,” she snapped.
Her phone buzzed, and she looked down at the message and giggled. Oh, no. This could only mean one thing; a boy was on the other end. A boy she didn’t want me to know about. I started going through a list of potential suitors in my head, but realized that it could be anyone. I would just have to pay more attention in school.
We got to the elementary school, and I walked Maeve to her classroom.
“Take care of Winnie,” she whispered gravely before letting go of my hand.
When I got back to my car, she was still texting and giggling. This was definitely very bad. We didn’t talk for the rest of the way to school, and she got out of the car as soon as we arrived. Not another word. Sighing, I shouldered my backpack and followed her into the school.
Winnie: The day I fell in love for real
I couldn’t believe that Jake Miller, the super incredible, amazingly cute, ridiculously awesome football player was actually texting me! This is how our conversation went:
“hi jake!!!!! <3 <3 whats up?! ?”
“nuthin. ur pritee. cum 2 movees affter skool with mee?”
“ok kool meat u behind skool.”
I was so excited I just couldn’t help but share my mood with my poor, unfortunate brother and sister. But of course, Eli just had to ask who I was talking to. See, I don’t exactly want him to know that I like Jake. Eli is such a goody goody, and I know he would tell our parents. They don’t like Jake because a few years ago he got in trouble for driving without a license. But that’s in the past, right? Besides, that’s not even close to being the worst thing I’ve heard about at school.
So I went through my whole day happy. I didn’t see Jake all day because he’s a senior and we don’t have any classes together, but I made sure to tell all my friends. I couldn’t help but go into a long discussion about it with my best friend Claire because I kind of thought that she liked him, too. What can I say? The same thing had happened to us about a million times, only the other way around.
When the bell rang at the end of the day, I could feel my heart banging so fast I started getting a little worried. Claire and all the other girls followed me out to the back of school to wait.
Eli: The Sacrifice
My last and worst class was PE. The main reason that I hated it was Jacob Miller, that football player who all the girls were obsessed with. I couldn’t really see what they found so captivating about him. Simply put, he looked and acted like a blonde gorilla. If that’s what it takes to get a girl to like you, I think I’m out of luck. Worse still, he seemed to have singled me out as some kind of a target for his sick games. To summarize, going into the locker room before and after class was like walking into a deathtrap. Really, really hot water in the shower, clothes in the toilet, you know the rest. Today hadn’t exactly been a good day for me. First, I tripped on this girl’s foot while I was going to calculus. Then, these two girls in of my English class were whispering through my whole, carefully rehearsed presentation. This is exactly what I hate about high school; you can be pouring your heart out and there will still be a couple of fools in the back of the room giggling about their weekend plans. To top it all off, I dropped my soup in the cafeteria, and this fool put someone else’s lock on my locker. And we played “flag” football in PE. I don’t think everyone understands the whole no contact idea. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the mood for Miller to whip me in the back with a towel the second I walked into the locker room.
“That didn’t hurt,” I said immediately. (It did).
Did you know that I’m ranked number one in my class? Sometimes my actions betray that. He whipped me again, laughing with his henchmen.
“That doesn’t really hurt, Miller,” I said, “Physically, it stings a little, but deep down, I wouldn’t care if you and your mercenaries got in a line and clubbed me down with your gym bags.”
Way to go. Give the pyromaniac some kerosene and matches.
“You know,” he said with an evil smile, “That doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. In fact, I think it would be pretty fun.”
“Bye then, Miller. Have a nice day and I’ll be seeing you.”
I turned around and walked out of the gym. I walked a little faster when I realized Miller was following me. Miller? Who’s scared of Miller? He could only snap me in half like a toothpick. I threw my backpack down and ran.
The halls were empty, but I could hear him and his buddies behind me. I regretted dropping my backpack; it was my only hope of self defense. Turning down a hall, I remembered the utility closet. With one superhuman rush of speed, I ran to it, threw the door open, and jumped inside, running right into someone else. I would recognize that “Get off of me!” anywhere.
“Winnie, help me!”
“I can’t because Miller, that twisted maniac, is trying to destroy me,” I whispered, “Don’t attract attention unless you want my blood on your hands.”
I noticed for the first time that she had tears on her face, and it dawned on me to ask her why she was hiding in a utility closet.
“What are you doing in here?”
“None of your business. Hiding because Jake dumped me in front of everyone!”
She started crying like crazy.
“SH! Winnie, he’s going to find me!”
She tried to control her sobs.
“It was so embarrassing! He said he’d never even liked me!”
I tried to put on a sympathetic tone, even though I wanted to celebrate.
“He dumped you? You were going out with him? With MILLER?”
“Yes! Well, kind of. No, not really. But he’s going to ask Claire out now!”
“Claire? But… that doesn’t even make sense.”
“He said… he said…” she stammered, “He said I’ve been gaining weight!”
My fear for my own life instantly dissolved. That jerk just called my sister fat. I couldn’t just stand by passively.
I threw the door open. Miller and his fan club were walking casually down the hall. So maybe I had imagined being hunted down for destruction. Better safe than sorry, I always say. I saw Winnie watching through the slightly opened door.
“Hey, Miller,” I said, “You swine!”
The elite stopped walking, and Miller smirked. It sounded so bad that I kind of wanted to laugh too. He probably didn’t even know what “swine” means. I needed to kick it up a notch.
“I heard about what you said to my sister, and you had better apologize to her.”
“I had better apologize?” Miller asked over the laughter of the others.
Yeah, he had a point. Like I was going take him in a fight. But I had started up now, and I wasn’t finished.
“That is no way to treat a woman! If you have to cut one down so the other will feel better, there’s something wrong. Something seriously wrong. With you. You’re never getting married if you stay as the same idiotic, immature, insecure, pig headed…”
I had noticed that he was walking towards me the whole time. I really, really wanted to back up, but I stood still. He did have great timing; I had run out of insulting adjectives just as he came close enough to knock my lights out. But really, he could have just given me a good slap instead of a full scale punch to the face.
“Stop it!” Winnie screamed, running out of the closet.
Thanks, sis. Better late than never.
I thought I was probably going to die of a brain hemorrhage later, but I got up off the floor as fast as I could. Which was not very fast. Shoot, two years of braces for nothing. My teeth used to be so straight. So did my nose. Fortunately, Winnie took over from here.
Winnie: The most painful two words in the English language; “I’m sorry”
I strolled up to that dirt bag, swung my purse back, and aimed for his face. Of course, I couldn’t reach that high, so it was more like a tap on the shoulder. I had imagined him flying down the hallway and crumpling in a heap, but he just started laughing, along with everyone else. Time to switch to verbal abuse.
“You hit him! Jake Miller, that was uncalled for! You’re so awful! I can’t believe I ever gave you a second thought! I hope you get put in detention for the rest of your life! I’m totally telling!”
“Oh, did y’all here that?” Miller asked his followers, “Winnie’s gonna tell her mommy that I hurt her precious brother!”
I had to stop to think of some more insults before I responded to this, more furious than I had been when Maeve used all of my mascara. All of it. On one eye, too! That’s when I remembered my brother. I guess breaking up is hard to do, but I don’t think it’s as hard as breaking your face, so I turned my attention to him. He was still standing, but his face was really bloody and he looked like he was about to collapse.
“Can we go home?” he asked weakly.
“Tell your mommy to give him a kiss for me, Winnie!” said Miller as we walked away.
“Shut your mouth, you Neanderthal!” I screamed.
Fortunately, a teacher chose this moment to appear, and after I was sure that Miller would be brought to justice, me and Eli walked out to the car.
We got into our normal seats; him on the driver’s side and me on the passenger’s. I gave him all fast food napkins that I could find in the glove compartment.
“It’s going to be really embarrassing when I go back to school tomorrow,” I sighed as he held them to his nose.
“At least you have a nose.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure it’s still there.”
Actually, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure. Neither of us said anything for a minute.
“You were right,” I said.
“Thanks for standing up for me.”
“All in a day’s work.”
He leaned out the window to check his nose in the rear view mirror. It still looked pretty bad. He came back in and reapplied the napkins. What could have possibly possessed him to pick a fight with someone who was probably double his weight?
Duty. Brotherly love. Me. Darn it. I’d been feeling this emotional apology coming on for a long time. It was going to happen sooner or later… but, as I always say, better later than sooner! I relaxed in my seat, then looked at his nose again. My goodness, that was awful. Okay, here it goes…
“I was looking through you.”
He gave me a look like I had completely lost it.
“You know that song Maeve was singing on the way to the beach?”
Now he got it. He just nodded.
“I’ve been childish and immature,” I said, “And a big jerk. And not a good sister. So I’m really, really sorry. And actually, well, I kind of…”
“You know, I like you. You’re my brother… and… you’re nice… What I’m trying to say is even if you’re right and you never find that pretty, strange, science loving girl and I keep humiliating myself in front of super cute awesome guys, you still won’t die alone because I’ll be right across the hall from you in the nursing home. Even if Jake comes around someday, I’ll always be...”
“Are you crying?”
“I’m talking honestly, and it’s emotional! If you’ll just give me a second…”
I stopped and took a deep breath.
“I’m saying, I’ll always be your older sister.”
He thought about this.
“Seven whole minutes. Okay, I’ll always be your twin sister.”
He handed me one of the few unbloody napkins, and I tried to wipe the mascara trails from my cheeks.
“I was looking through you, too,” he said.
“Oh, you know. I just wrote you off as one of those silly, conceited, annoying, self-centered…”
“Okay, okay, I get it.”
“And I’m… I’m… sorry too. You know, it never stops being hard to say sorry to your sister. But I really am.”
He took the napkins off his face and leaned his head back to try and slow down the blood.
“I think that most people look through the average high school student,” he continued, “Actually, the average person. Which is why you need to find someone who looks at you. Just remember, Winnie; to me, you’re a door, not a window.”
“You know, like dad says when we stand in front of the TV? You make a better door than a window? Because you look through a window...”
“You’re so weird, Eli.”
“You don’t have to get me, Win,” he said, crumpling the napkins into a bloody ball and placing it at his feet, “It’s like Captain Kirk and Spock.”
“Yes... you’re logical, I’m emotional. But we could be complimentary.”
“Exactly. Yet another example of how the world would be a much better place if we just put down our weapons and watched a little ‘Star Trek.’ Okay, emotional discussion over. We’d better go before Maeve asks if she can call the FBI to report us missing again.”
“Oh, I wonder what her teachers think of her.”
He sat up straight and put a hand on the steering wheel. I reached for a tissue from the glove box and wiped my nose, then started crying like a baby.
“It’s okay, Winnie. You told me you’re sorry and you won’t even remember Jake in ten years.”
“No, you probably will. But it’ll be funny then. It’ll be a good story.”
“Promise me you won’t tell anyone.”
Eli: Happily ever after (I hope and pray)
Then, Winnie had a hundred eighty degree turn around and I was able to fully appreciate her at last. The end.
Well, that’s how I thought it would be, but of course, it wasn’t. I mean, she apologized. I apologized. She cried. My nose was purple for goodness’ sake! But the next day, she was still Winnie and I was still Eli, and I guess I really shouldn’t have been surprised when she started texting in the car just like always. Granted, she did respond to my “good morning” a lot better than normal (she answered, and with some interest). I drove on without talking much to Maeve, extremely confused. Did I do something wrong? I tried to be glad that apparently Claire at least hadn’t abandoned her, but trust me, it wasn’t easy.
After we left Maeve at the elementary school, the car was completely silent. Then, at school, she went to her homeroom and I went to mine. Well, back to the daily grind, I guess. I opened my planner to see what I had for today. Wait, I never use pink sticky notes… Well, I guess God knew what He was doing when He threw the two of us together after all. There it was, stuck on top of my chemistry assignment, covered with purple ink in my sister’s handwriting:
“Eli - I have been and always shall be your friend.”