It Is Right
It is right. It is right that Pretty should work and that I should not. She is younger after all, and I have my aching feet, my fatigue, and the days I can barely get out of bed.
“Pretty!” I shout from my sunk-in cushion on the living room couch. “Pretty! I am hungry! Where is my supper, o sister?” It is right that she should wait on me, her elder. I call and cry but no one comes. Now I am both hungry and angry. Why is Pretty being so slow? How can she be so mean as to make me wait to eat? I get up and walk to the kitchen. No one is there. Pretty is not in her bedroom either, but I find her in the bathroom, wiping at her face.
“Are you sick, Pretty?”
“Where is my supper?” I moan. “My stomach hurts and I feel weak and dizzy! I will surely faint if I don’t eat something!” Pretty looks at me steadily.
“You will have to make do.” She says. “I need to rest.” My first thought is to stamp my foot and demand that she cook the supper, but I in all my long years have learned better ways.
“Yes, Pretty. Of course you should rest. I will––I w-will fix myself a peanut b-butter and jelly sandwich!”
Once in the kitchen, I know what to do. I bumble and stumble around, spoiling and breaking dishes that she will have to clean up later. Her abandonment does not come without a price. I always make sure of that. “Pretty, oh, Pretty! I can’t find the bread! Where is it? Where is it!”
“Near the microwave on the counter.” She croaks from her room.
“But which counter? There are too many! I––I don’t see it, P-pretty! I can’t do this!” I weep and throw our parents’ wedding platter to the floor where it smashes satisfactorily. She will come. It takes exactly two minutes.
Calmly, my younger sister walks into the kitchen. She would first like a glass of water, but I insist on the sandwich. She points to the bread bin. I grant her this small concession and take the bread out of the container, rip the bag apart and spill all but two slices on the floor. Pretty does not pick them up.
“Where is the peanut butter?” Pretty is about to say something, but thinks better of it. She goes to the cupboard, pulls out the jar, and hands it to me. Then, Pretty quietly picks up the bread slices from the floor and tidies up the kitchen. I look at her shrewdly. “I have no knife. Am I to use my finger to spread the butter, little sister?”
Pretty pulls open a drawer and takes out a butter knife. Very nearly knocking me over, she edges me aside so that she herself can spread a thick layer of peanut butter on the bread. “Anything else I can do for you, dear sister?” She asks.
“Where is the jelly?” I watch while she crosses to the fridge, stopping for a moment as a wave of nausea overcomes her. “What’s taking so long?” She looks everywhere: no jelly in the fridge, no jelly in the cupboards. “I have to have jelly!” I yell. “I’m hungry!”
On the way to the store I keep the bread and peanut butter in my purse and munch on it while Pretty is not looking. Her driving is terrible and I yell at her that isn’t my heart weak enough without adding to the trauma? In the store, Pretty looks even worse. Her skin is an appalling shade and she weaves back and forth as she walks. I yell at her to come and hold me up, but really it is I who hold her up. A twinge of fear pulls at me.
“Perhaps, Pretty, the jelly is not so very important.”
“No, no,” She says. “You must have what you want, older sister, or you say you will suffer. Don’t you want the jelly?”
I feel as if I am losing my footing.
“Y-yes, but, perhaps…let us rest on this bench.”
My sister puts a hand to her throat. I sit her down and she slouches against a row of tomato soup cans.
A strange sentence works its way out of my mouth: “Maybe…maybe I could go retrieve the jelly…while you wait here.” Pretty is perfectly in agreement with that suggestion, and I notice upon returning that the color has come back into her cheeks. I do not mistake the feverish gleam in her eyes. With fear now clawing at my throat, I help her to her feet.
“What a good and helpful sister you are,” She murmurs.
“I think, Pretty,” I say as I help her into the passenger car seat, “that as you are unwell, it is only right that I watch over you this night.”
Modified from a story I wrote in 2010. ––Pixie Beldona