If you haven’t noticed by now, I enjoy writing about relationships that are a little off kilter. I don’t necessarily intend to write that way, it’s just how things end up. This story is no different, examining the relationship between two sisters, one of whom clearly needs help. As it is a long piece, I have chosen to serialize it. It dates back to July 9, 2009. And before you ask, no, Caroline is not me!
This is for Darla (@punkswife) for all the support she has given me.
Caroline sat at her desk, in her room looking out of the window. It was open, not fully, but enough for a strong breeze to blast its way through the gap and upset her Sarah McLachlan poster, sending it rhythmically slamming against her book case. The chiffon material that draped from the curtain rod was alternatively blown away from and sucked to the window. It was only for decorative purposes, so it did little to reflect the glare of the next-door neighbour’s kitchen window awning. The red geranium outside the window was deceptively still. Only the breeze touched the very new growth. She watched the red flowers sway gently, mostly protected from the breeze by the eaves of the house.
Pictures and photos adorned the green spark walls of her room. There were photos of Ireland, her Border Collie, friends, friends’ children, a verse by Dorothy Parker – significant things, and insignificant things. Cluttered by a computer desk and chair, books and book shelves, three guitars on a small guitar stand, photo albums, drawers, wardrobe and bed, sound system, TV, video and DVD, CDs and DVDs, shoes and clothing, it was her sanctuary. It almost seemed impossible that anyone could actually move through the small room without falling over something. But it was possible to move, and it was just how Caroline liked it. Her life in one room. Everything at fingertip access. No complications, nothing out of place.
From the window there was not a particularly great view, but it was enough. When she slid down in her chair at the computer desk, and looked beyond the fence and the roofline of her neighbour’s house, Caroline could see the sky. Today there were a few clouds but the breeze, exposing the bright blue sky beneath them, was rapidly moving them along.
She particularly enjoyed the view at night when she could see the stars and often, the moon. She liked nighttime the best. The blackness of the night sky, the twinkling stars, the white disc of a full moon. The dark held all sorts of possibilities. Good and evil. Today Caroline felt evil. She thought about this as she sat and watched the sky.
By her own admission, Caroline was not very interesting. Although, again by her own admission, she knew some interesting people. Many of these people she met through her job. Caroline was once a high school teacher. Eight years ago she had left teaching and began working in a liquor store. After four years at the liquor store, having worked her way up from store casual, to part-time employee, to store manager, she packed her bags again and returned to teaching. This time in the capacity of relief teacher at the local primary schools. Teaching was not something that Caroline particularly enjoyed, not any more. There was no specific reason why Caroline didn’t like the job; she simply thought she was in a different place these days from when she had completed her studies.
The ringing of her mobile phone stole her attention from the view outside of her window. She let it ring four times before she answered. That was one of the compulsive behaviours Caroline had been trying to break for a number of years.
She slid the phone up, “What?”
The voice on the other end was instantly recognisable as that of her older sister, Julia. “Are you coming over tonight, or am I coming to you?”
Caroline responded without thinking, “You’re coming to me. I have something planned.”
“You know Caroline, it wouldn’t kill you to be nice to me once in a while. I mean, one day you may need my expert veterinary assistance, and I might remember back to all the times you’ve been rude and horrible to me and tell you to get stuffed!”
“You exaggerate, Julia. When would I ever need your assistance?” Caroline had heard Julia’s argument many, many times before. It was old.
“I’m sure there’ll come a time. Anyway, I’ll see you at seven, and I’m bringing the scary movies, so you provide the pizza and snacks and lots and lots of fizzy drinks!” Julia sounded excited.
“Done,” Caroline said as she terminated the call and returned to her sky view.
Seven o’clock arrived and so did Julia, B-grade horror movies in hand.
“Hey smiley, what’s got up your goat today?” Julia spoke as she threw four DVDs onto Caroline’s sofa.
“More than you know big sister,” Caroline replied as she embraced the older woman. “You know what Jules? I don’t really feel like movies tonight.”
Julia looked concerned. Caroline had never turned down an offer of B-grade horror movies before. She was a slasher junkie.
“What’s up Carrie? I brought four, your lucky number.”
Caroline smiled a pathetic, half-hearted smile. It made her look as if she was going to throw up.
“We need to talk, Julia,” she said. She continued as if anticipating Julia’s next question, “About Penny.”
. . . To be continued . . .