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Lily is my sister. She is very small. My mom says she is living in her belly.
I am three, and Mommy’s belly has been growing bigger and bigger for a long time. Sometimes she sits there and touches it without looking. When I ask them why they don’t tell me. They say I’ll know later. I want to know now.
Today, Mommy and Daddy make me sit down with them, telling me that I can keep playing after. I wiggle, wanting to go play with my toys, but I sit.
They both look at me, and Mommy rubs her tummy again. It is bigger than my head! She and Daddy look at each and smile. She tells me I am going to have a sister, and I am confused. “Why? How? What is that?” She says I am going to have a friend to play with, but she will be very little. She tells me I will need to be careful because she will be smaller than me. I shrug and go back to playing. Maybe it’ll be fun to have a friend.
One day, Mommy and Daddy wake up in the night to go to this big white building, going fast. They leave me at home with Nana instead of taking me with them! They don’t even tell me why! I’m three and a big girl, but they don’t tell me why even when I told them what a big girl I am. A while later, Nana wakes me up again and tells me to get dressed. Then we get in the car and start driving.
I ask where we are going, but Nana doesn’t answer. She looks happy, but, just like Mommy and Daddy, won’t tell me why. She just keeps saying to wait and see.
After a long time, Nana stops the car and gets out, taking me out of the car seat too. We walk into a really, really big building the color of the cold stuff that falls when Santa comes. It’s scary and full of beeping noises and people everywhere. I don’t like it. I hold Nana’s hand, and we stop at a big table with a fat old lady with a bowl of candy next to her. Nana tells her that we are looking for Mommy and Daddy. The lady tells us a weird number, and Nana starts pulling me along again, but I grab a piece of candy as we walk by and the lady smiles at me. We walk upstairs and by lots and lots of rooms. There are people everywhere. There is talking and laughing and crying and too much noise. Too loud.
Finally, Nana goes into a room, and I walk in too. Mommy is lying in a bed with a little—thing in her arms. It’s pink and looks soft and squishy, and I run over to look. Is this the one that’s supposed to be my friend? Mommy says she is Lily, and she is my sister. Mommy looks tired, but happy. Do I want to hold her? I nod, but I’m not sure. It looks funny, tiny but with big eyes. I sit in Mommy’s lap with her arms around me and she gently gives it to me.
It is heavy and warm. It is in a blanket and is very quiet. Daddy is smiling big at me and the thing and tells me that I looked like this once. I stop. I don’t think I looked like this. But it makes a little noise and I look down at the little face. It is soft, and it looks like—like a strawberry! I smile. It is small and its eyes are closed. It must be taking a nap! Then it opens its pretty blue eyes, opens its tiny mouth and—WAAAAAAAAAAA.
I look at Mom, then back at the little strawberry thing. “Did I break it? What’s it doing? Why is she making that bad noise?” Mommy just smiles at me and takes it back, holding it close and singing.
Watching it fall back asleep, I begin to think. This little Lily is tiny but makes loud noises.
I do not know how I feel about her.
It’s my sixth birthday, and three-year-old Lily is following me everywhere. We just finished eating cake and ice cream, and now it’s time for the best part—presents! Lily is beside me, watching as I open packages, most of the grown-ups standing around me. I rip the boxes open fast, left to stare at the presents and trash all around me like a ring. I am sad once all my presents are gone, but also hungry. I begin to get up, to find some more ice cream.
But before I leave the room, Mom hands me one last box from her and Daddy that I missed when I opened all the others. I unwrap it quickly and smile as soon as I see her face. It’s a doll that looks like me! I love her! She has two shirts, a hat for her head, and only one pair of pants, but that’s okay. She just really, really likes these pants.
Soon, after investigating my favorite new toy, I wander off to find some more ice cream because I’m still hungry, leaving my newly named doll Rosie in the playroom. And after I leave, Lily wanders in. She likes my doll too. But she doesn’t know how to play dolls, so she does what she knows how to. Somehow, a big red marker, the kind Mom doesn’t let us play with, finds its way into her little chubby hands. Lily draws all over Rosie’s pretty plastic face, along her arms and down her legs in fat, ugly lines. With giggles of delight, she pulls off the one pair of pants, and using her red-stained hands, picks them up and runs away with them, the pants never to be found again.
I am very mad at Lily. I cleaned the whole playroom all by myself, without even being told to, when she came in and pulled everything back onto the floor in heaps. I was very proud of myself, sure Mom would tell me I did a good job, but now Lily has ruined it all. Toys are everywhere—again. I’m very angry. I’m eight, and she’s five, and suddenly, an idea pops into my head. I remember seeing a bottle of that really strong glue—I think it’s called monkey or something—in the playroom. I start to make a plan in my head.
I put the glue all over the cold toilet seat, a trap for Lily. It’s almost bedtime. Mom always makes us go to pee before we go to bed, and I will just let Lily would go first. With a tricky grin, I run to the third floor to wait for Lily.
Soon, I hear her start crying for Mommy and feel like a cop putting a robber in jail. Good. Now she paid for messing up the playroom. But her crying continues, and I come back downstairs to see Mom trying to pull Lily off the toilet, tears running down Lily’s face. I begin to feel a little bad as I watch her get pulled off, like an extremely sticky band-aid. Her butt is pink and raw, the palms of her hands too from when she tried to get off by herself. Now, I start to feel bad.
Mom tells me to get in the car. We’re going to the hospital, and only then does it really hit me what I have done.
I never, ever, meant to hurt her that badly.
I’m in eighth grade now, and Lily’s in fifth. I just began to enjoy the freedom of being older and thus more responsible--usually. I shiver slightly as the sun beams down on the playground, trying to push away the chill in the air from winter’s clinging, frostbittenly-black grip. Standing in a small group of people, I look up and spot Lily just about to line up with her class. Chatting with a gaggle of her friends, she suddenly raises her head, as if sensing my gaze upon her caramel-haired head. Her eyes catch mine even as I try to look away, and she runs over, leaving her own friends behind to talk to me.
“Can I have a hug?” she asks hopefully, her hazel eyes big and warm. She asks me the same thing every time she sees me on the playground, and I always give the same response.
“No.” There is no wiggle room in my answer, no “Pleases.” or even a “Maybe at home.” But perhaps there should be. Perhaps I should give her a hug and tell her to have a good day, but I don’t. I suppress that little niggle of thought, like I always do, and immediately begin to justify it to myself. I don’t talk to her at school: as I frequently said, I want it to be a place where I could be free of her.
Perhaps I shouldn’t want to be.