I was fourteen years old when I realized how different my sister and I were. She was thirteen and was already entertaining boys on the front porch and stuffing her bra. I remember sitting with my ear pressed against the window screen to listen to her giggle and flirt with her latest catch.
“Joe Haynes," Anna said, her eyes batted and her hands moved dramatically with each word that escaped her hot pink lips. "I just don’t know why you think you are the only fish in the sea!”
Even through the checked window screen I could see the tension in Joe’s jaw line. He was a bit of a local legend and had been the first Freshman to make the Varsity Team in nearly three decades. Anna didn’t care if he was well-known and popular, she was still going to tease him and torture him until the next boy came along for her to put her hooks into.
“Anna,” he pleaded. “Just one kiss on the cheek.”
I studied her silhouette against the porch light and didn’t have to wonder what came next. A full night of kissing, giggling, and getting poor Joe all hot and bothered before heading inside to paint her toenails, or do some other girly thing. Same scenario, different guy. To be so bright and scientifically minded, she sure seemed shallow to me.
I looked out into the yard at the fireflies that were doing their nightly dance and knew that part of me was jealous of the attention that having Mama’s beautiful looks could bring. I would have made a handsome boy, but I just made an okay looking girl. Not ugly, not pretty, just somewhere in between like my hair color.
Mama came and knelt down beside me on the floor. “She at it again?” Mama asked, even she saw the humor in Anna's antics.
“Do you even have to ask?” I hissed, puckering my lips and pretending to kiss the air. My own noises blending in with slurping that was happening outside.
Mama laughed and said, “Oh Addy, why do you think we sent you girls to boarding school? All girls!”
I nodded and abandoned my position by the opened window. I had seen enough. “Want to play cards?” I asked, knowing already that Mama never turned down an evening of playing cards.
“Sure.” She said as she smiled her brilliant smile. We headed into the kitchen to eat junk food and play gin.
“Can I play?” Anna asked. We were on our second round of gin when she came in adjusting her clothes, her cheeks flushed red and her hair falling out of the pony tail that she had taken special care to smooth into place only hours before.
“Sure honey,” Mama said, pushing a chair out with her foot.
I set my cards face down on the table and stood to leave. “I was actually about to head upstairs and read for awhile. Have my cards.” I lied. I would have stayed at the table playing cards all night if Anna hadn't intruded on our game. I rushed out of the room before anyone had a chance to protest. I passed Maria on the staircase and shook my head-- no wonder my sister was a lost cause! She was HIS daughter.
“I put your clothes away, Addy.” Maria said, she had never been anything but sweet to me, but that didn’t change my opinion of her.
“Thanks, Maria. Good night.” I said, not even attempting to sound genuine. I wondered if she and my father were still involved with each other? It had been two years since I was nearly blinded at the sight of them together. If they were still sneaking around, they had gotten better at it-- though I had no idea what they did while I was away at school.
I tried to read at first, but couldn't keep my mind off of my sister's endless romances. I had decided that I didn't want anything to do with boys some time ago, but I couldn't help but wonder what I would do if a boy actually paid me attention. Would I change my tune? I imagined myself out on the swing with Joe Haynes and wondered how I would act in my sister's shoes. I wouldn't know where to begin in wooing a boy, and I had a sneaky suspicion that I never would.
I listened to the crickets of summer play their lazy song, my book open across my chest. I kept waiting to hear Mama and Anna head up the stairs and into their rooms, but it didn't take long for the lull of summer’s soundtrack to sing me to sleep. I felt someone take my book, set it down on the bedside table, pull my covers up around my neck, touch me lightly on the head, and turn out the light. I couldn't help but smile. “Good night, Mama.” I whispered as I opened my eyes just in time to see my father close the door behind him.