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Her dark mahogany hair, tinged with red undertones, falls in wavy rivulets to her tan shoulders, and ends in a slight curl which she tries very hard to straighten. She brushes her bangs “casually” out of her face, trying to catch a glimpse at what I am writing. But I gently close the laptop as her curious gaze starts to read the words I am transferring from my notebook to my Dell. Her hand takes hold of my shoulder as she leans against me, wanting to see what I am typing; I can see her dark violet nails glinting in the dim light of the lamp.
“You can look at it later,” I say in response to her protests. She just stares at me, letting me receive her infamous you-can-never-defeat-me-so-why-even-try? look. I smile, soaking up the rage she feels at not seeing what I see: the computer screen covered in words that would bore her out of her mind.
My cousin, a green-eyed beauty covered in every inch with fun, youth, and freckles, turns away from my smirk and stalks out of the room after grabbing a Jolly Rancher from her “secret” stash of candy –a tiny crevice in between the stain-glassed window and the old oak bookshelf that stands at attention in the guest bedroom.
I continue typing my paper. Click. Click. Click, the computer keys fall underneath the steady pressure from my fingers as if they are trying to hold up a gold mine to keep it from caving in on the innocent, hardworking miners inside. My thoughts return to my cousin. She hates her name, thinks it’s so girly. Although you love it, the simplicity and elegance of it is so beautiful, my conscience whispers to me in that soothing voice I seek in chaotic times. Although this is not a chaotic time: it is a time of peace, privacy, and luxury during my spring break, which is three hours away from the southern city of Miami. Where a warm breeze is needed to dry your smooth, burnt skin after a refreshing swim or to relieve you from the hot sun, Marco Island is a good place to be if the weather back home is wet and chilly (and not to mention muddy).
I begin to scan my paper for errors only I can -and will- “find”. With my light-as-can-possibly-be brown hair tied back in a ponytail, I quickly undo it and try to make it [my hair] flow like my cousin’s dark Italian hair. It doesn’t work. She is a supermodel. Everything and anything looks gorgeous on her. I mean it; she would look pretty wearing a paper bag and neon green hair and polka-dot cowboy boots. (And just because my cousin hasn't worn the eccentric outfit yet doesn't mean she won't.) I envy her so much.
Sadly wishing for better looks, I quickly retie my hair in a ponytail. Strangely, I can hear my cousin’s voice in my head: “Love your hair, ‘cause a leopard can’t change its spots.” I then proceed to search the room to make sure no one is looking at my paper, hunch back over the small keyboard, realizing my back is going to be aching for a few hours until I finish my piece, and start to type. I type slowly since I don't want to make a mistake, type slowly since I’m still thinking about my cousin, and type slowly because I’m realizing that my cousin is a lot better than me.
I am so shy –she's not. Far from it, actually: during a walk on Tigertail beach one starry-skied evening, my cousin and I met a younger girl named Samantha who was fishing with bacon. She and my cousin became instant friends, and chatted with each other until we had to go back to the condo for dinner. I had just watched them chat, saying how they would see each other soon, although that never happened. My cousin is also so fun to be around. She makes everyone laugh while I can’t even tell one single joke right. It’s as if everyone loves her, and do not think anything at all of me. Well, at least I have the necessities: food, clothing, a roof over my head, a horse, and a dog. But, of course, she has all the food she wants, the season's latest clothing, two roofs over her pretty little head, and two dogs. I think a small piece of my heart dedicated to my cousin is about to break off when I realize that she doesn't have everything. It may seem like she does, but her whole world is actually falling apart. Her parents are getting a divorce.
This is one of the reasons my cousin was able to come to Marco Island for spring break in the first place: she needs to get away from her parents for a little bit and relax in the sun with our grandparents and my parents. This is also why I am writing this paper: to give her a gift that means more than an endless supply of clothes and all the food she wants to make her happy. This will make her happy.
I realize that I am almost done with my paper -or at least the rough draft, anyway. I hurriedly type the last paragraph and print out my piece. I have decided that my cousin will be the first person to read my paper.
I walk out of the mini office inside the guest bedroom and out into the living room, where my cousin is watching an episode of Cake Boss on TLC. I start to think about all of the possibilities of my cousin liking my piece -and of her hating it. Will she like it? my mind races, or will she hate it? Or, something much worse, like ripping it into a million pieces and lighting the shredded remains on fire? My heart skips a beat, but I quickly shake my head to rid myself of these horrible thoughts. My cousin might be a little obnoxious and rude, but she is not cruel.
I take two deep breaths and stride over to her. She looks up and asks what is wrong. Realizing I am frowning, I change my expression into a smile and hand over my paper.
“Hope you like it,” I say over my shoulder as I step to the couch and sit down, waiting, watching, and wondering. My cousin murmurs something unintelligible for a reply and starts to read my paper; her face is a stony, blank mask, devoid of all emotion.
My hands start to sweat; my cousin is going to hate my paper! She is absolutely going to hate it! More than hate, because my piece is going to be so terrible! Why did I even show her my English assignment? I wonder. Well, it's too late now to take my paper back, as that would be really rude. Oh, I really, truly, dearly want to know what my cousin is thinking right now!
As if she can read my thoughts, my cousin glances at me and smiles a broad smile that is as radiant as the sun. “This is really, really good,” she exclaims. “Where the heck did you learn to write like this?”
I reply shyly, “I don't know.” My anxiety starts to fade away as I realize my cousin actually likes my story. “I have to finish this paper soon, but afterwards, do you want to see more of my writing?”
My cousin is ecstatic. “I would love to!” she answers and runs over to me before giving me a big hug. “But why didn’t you show me your piece earlier?”
This time, I answer: “I wanted it to be a surprise.”
My cousin, generous and encouraging, understandingly responds, “I’m glad it was. I’m sorry I got mad at you.”
“It’s okay,” I tell her, because really, it is okay.
Lilly, my favorite cousin, stands next to me as she reads the final copy of my paper over my shoulder. She has scarlet undertones in her snazzy Italian hair, and loves to be complimented and read stories about herself, which makes my English assignment a two-for-one deal. My paper is the story of an 11 year old, plum-nailed girl from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She makes friends easily, has to get her way, but also cares about her family. She has a strong bond with a cousin of hers, and encourages this person greatly. Whenever the girl sees her cousin, she belts out a cheery “Hey, Sista!” because they are more than just cousins, they are sisters.