Great job with this, Rose. The relationship between sisters, even those from other worlds, runs the gamut of emotions. Regardless of what planet they're from, there's still the 'mother always liked her best' concern. Does that prevent a really healthy relationship between the two of them? Possibly, but they're trying, each in their own way, just like we humans.
My Perfect Sister
Another week, another prompt from Black Ship Books and F3. This time, we're exploring the relationship between sisters. This is also the first outing for the MC from my Nanowrimo for this year, Security Chief Sharmia Langley. Please let me know what you think!
A small light flashed in the corner of Security Chief Sharmia Langley's wristcom. “Incoming call,” announced her deskcom a moment later, and rather redundantly, “from Doctor Danielle Langley.”
Sharmia's heart sank. She really was in no mood for a chat with her sister. Her older, prettier, cleverer, more successful, married with children, multiple Doctorate earning, multi award winning sister. Actually, a call from Danielle was better than a call from their mother, she reflected as she leaned forward and pressed the “Accept” button. Her sister's face filled the screen in front of her.
“Hello, Danielle!” she did her best to sound cheerful. “How're... things...?” Her voice trailed off at the sight of her sister's tear-stained face. “Gods, Danielle! What's the matter?!”
Some idle part of her mind tried to remember the last time she had seen her sister cry. It came up blank.
“It... it's Bandu. He's left me. Left us! Said he didn't want to see the kids again...” fresh tears spilled from her eyes as her voice caught in her throat.
“I don't know what to say! I always thought you two were the perfect couple...”
“We did a good job of pretending, didn't we? Even had you fooled.”
“Well, I didn't really see you together very often after the wedding.”
Danielle nodded. “You know I really told him off for what he said to you.”
“It's OK. Cultural differences and all that.”
“Growing up on a different planet is no excuse for ignorance. We grew up together, after all. If he thought that about you, why not me?”
“I bet he said he didn't 'think of you as human',” suggested Sharmia.
“Words to that effect. Anyway, I put it behind me, although now I wonder if I should have realised then that something wasn't right. But it was our wedding day. I put it down to a combination of nerves and old attitudes dying hard. Mum put her oar in, too.”
Sharmia gave a wry smile. “I bet she did. Anything to keep you as 'Little Miss Perfect'.”
“Sharmy – you know I don't...”
“Yes, I know you don't see yourself like that, but Mum does. She always has. I wasn't supposed to happen, remember?”
“For what? It's hardly your fault I was born, Dani!”
“I know, but I've always felt guilty for the way she treated you.”
“We've had this conversation before, Dani, a hundred times. Mum's issues are her own. You really don't need to take them on yourself. By the way, have you told her about you and Bandu?”
“Not yet. I thought I'd give you the chance to gloat before I had to put up with her blaming herself for making some mistake in my upbringing.”
“Gloat?! Dani, that's not fair!”
“I'm sorry. It's just, after everything you've had to put up with from him and Mum, I would have understood if you had felt a bit smug.”
Sharmia leaned back in her chair, studying her sister's face. Her eyes were downcast and it seemed as if her thoughts were far away, perhaps remembering some other sadness that she had never shared with her. “I'm not feeling in the least bit smug. I am very concerned about you, and about the children. How are they taking it?”
“Thankfully, they're both too young to really know what's going on. Shalstana keeps asking for her daddy but Fentu only cares that he's been fed.”
“But what exactly has happened? Why has he suddenly left, now?”
Danielle gave a short, bitter laugh. “Oh, he's fallen in love! Someone from his work, another accountant. So, I'm sure they have the most riveting conversations. She isn't human, which will no doubt please his parents no end, but she isn't Brekkian, either, so maybe they won't be that happy after all. Can't remember what species she is, though. But what does it matter, really?
“Do you know the last thing he said to me? 'You'll be able to get a quick divorce on the grounds of desertion.' Seriously! That was all he was worried about. I guess she's pregnant and he doesn't want the kid to be a bastard. Not that things like that matter much these days.”
“Maybe they do to Brekkians.”
“Hmmm... maybe. It's probably something to do with that cult – sorry, sect – his parents belong to. They thought his marrying me was a mortal sin, which was why they weren't at the wedding.”
“Dani,” Sharmia leaned forward again and placed her hand on the screen, “I don't know what's been going on the last few years but it really does sound as if you're better off without him.”
Her sister also placed her hand on the screen and for the first time in a long time, Sharmia wished they could actually touch. “I couldn't tell you everything; it would take too long.”
“Dani! I'm your sister. I'll listen as long as it takes.”
“I know you would. I didn't mean the length of time. I meant trying to sort my thoughts out, get things in the right order. And working out which things really happened and which I imagined...”
Sharmia frowned. “Which you 'imagined'? What do you mean?”
“I have memories of... things... but I don't know if they're real memories or if I dreamed them. When I asked him about them, he denied they ever happened.”
“Well doesn't that suggest that they did happen and he's lying?”
“Brekkians can't lie. I mean, they are psychologically incapable of it. Their brains just aren't wired for telling anything but the truth.”
“In that case, why has it taken him so long to tell you about what's been going on at the office? If he has to tell the truth, shouldn't he have told you as soon as it started?”
Her sister shook her head. “It doesn't quite work like that, either. I... I can't explain it. But if I asked him outright if such a thing had happened and he said, 'No', then... I have to believe him.”
“But what does that mean for you? Are you...”
“Crazy? I don't think so. I mean, the fact that I'm even asking the question makes me think I'm not. Maybe I've managed to create these memories in some way?”
“Dani, I'm no psychologist, as we both know. I think you need to talk to someone more qualified.”
“You're probably right but it's really the last thing I want to do, right now. Right now I'm stuck between wanting that quick divorce just to be rid of him and wanting to make him and Miss Office Affair wait. It may sound petty but I want some revenge.”
“It's not petty. Well, maybe a little,” Sharmia grinned, earning a genuine smile from her sister in return, “but it's understandable. Keeping him hanging on isn't going to do you any good, though, and it'll only provoke him. I suggest you cut your losses and start again.”
“Thanks, Sharmy. You always did talk a lot of sense.”
“Well, I'd better get myself psyched up to speak to Mum. Thanks for listening.”
“Any time. Give the kids a kiss from me.”
“Of course. I'll give you a call later, let you know what Mum said.”
“I can't wait. Speak to you soon.”
They gave each other a final smile and wave, and then signed off. When Danielle's face had disappeared, Sharmia tried to feel glad that her perfect sister's life was not so perfect after all but she could not. Instead she found herself wishing that she could be with her sister when she told their mother what had happened, just so that she could offer some moral support. Her relationship with her sister was the most enduring, and the most complex, that she had ever experienced. Something told her that it was not about to get any simpler.