January 22, 2014
I pulled my bike up the front lawn of my shabby little one story house. Not home. I jumped off the bike while it was still going, letting it drop to the pitifully brown grass. I bounced right off the door, pulling it open with me and letting it slam shut on its own behind me. The cat on the couch raised his ugly grey head to glare at me.

“Mushu, where’s Jared?” I asked softly. I peeled off my jacket as I spoke, staring at my ugly blue and white waitress uniform. Mushu hissed softly, but leapt ungracefully off the couch and strutted down the hall, brown spotted tail waving like a banner. I followed him quickly, peeking in Jared’s room. He sat crouched on his bed, bent back so his whole body was focused on the game system in his bony hands. His black, ‘blasé’ glasses slid down his nose and he absently pushed them back up to his lovely blue eyes. His long, honey brown hair looked greasy even in the dark.

I flipped on the light and he winced. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t heartbreaking that the fifteen year old boy had no friends to go outside for. Mushu jumped on his lap and yowled for attention. “Jared, how was school?”


“How was your classes?”


“Did you meet anyone?”


“Did you do your homework?”

“Eh.” Jared stared at his game, entirely focused. I never understood how he could be so interested in things like that. I tried to play one of his Sonic games once. It made no sense and I died.

“What does ‘eh’ mean?” I demanded. It was bossy, of course, but I was his sister. Our mother and father had to work all day and night just to afford this dump thanks to Jared’s tests and our sister. Jared needed me to help him. I needed him to be smart. To not be Callie.

“It means not yet,” Jared qualified distractedly. I walked over and snatched the game out of his hand. “HEY!”

“You need to do your homework.”

“I will. Just let me finish-”

“No. Now.” I watched him sit back, ready to wait me out and when that didn’t work, pin me down and take his game back. I sighed. “Callie called again.” He stiffened.

“Hm.” Jared feigned disinterest, but the hard look in his eyes betrayed the dismay and anger he felt at that name. I did too. It was hard not to be angry with our sister.

“She needs mom to give her another two hundred for her rent. She spent it on her boyfriend’s suit, she said.” I didn’t need to elaborate. We both knew her loser convict boyfriend didn’t have or want a suit. She spent it on drugs and alcohol. “She lost another job, too.”

“So?” Jared asked, annoyed at the conversation.

“She’s not coming for your birthday next week.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Jared stared at me, his eyes suddenly dark. I sighed, sitting down next to him. Already he was taller than dad.

“I’m telling you this because it’s the same thing as every month. She calls us to tell us how she is disappointed us this month. How she messed up. She’ll never get better. She’s in a bad place at a bad time. She’s surrounded by bad people and she won’t get better until she admits she has hit rock bottom, which was a few years ago.”


“And I don’t want to be like her. I don’t want you to be like her.” I sighed. My sister was all I needed to understand the danger of drugs. Her broken life was the only thing I needed to see to know that no matter how crappy I managed to make my life, I wouldn’t go there. “I want to be here for every one of your birthdays. And I want you to be here for mine. Do your homework. Don’t be like her. You’re way too good for that, too smart.”

I put his game on the bed and walked out of his room, letting the door slowly close behind me. I listened at the door for his video game music. Instead I heard a book being open and-

“Get off my binder, Mushu.”

Smiling, I walked to my room and stared at the clock. Dad would wake up in two hours for his night job and mom would be home in three hours to eat a TV dinner and fall asleep. I thought again of Callie. I loved her. I loved her so much because I remembered when she was my big sister. When she was home when I got home and we shared a room.

Then she turned eighteen and didn’t want to grow up. She moved out with one of her many loser boyfriends, got addicted to drugs and alcohol, and changed into someone I didn’t even know. My sister wouldn’t have missed Jared’s birthday for the world. This Callie didn’t even call Jared to tell him directly. I fell on my bed.

A year ago, we thought she was getting better. She went to AA and was getting help with addiction. She dated a reasonable guy and got engaged. Then she cheated on him and he broke up with her, sending her back to drugs and worthless alcoholics who didn’t have jobs or education. Callie went back to hell, only I didn’t think she would come back this time. I didn’t think anyone could.

I pulled myself up. Thinking about Callie reminded me. Time to do my homework.

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