She was not pretty or attractive, but she had an impressionable face; frosty eyes, at times blue, and at times almost white – crystal like, as if they’d break if one looked at them longer than she allowed. Her upper lip was thin and small, while her lower lip was a bit wider and thicker, giving her an expression of contempt, which wasn’t understood the first time one met her, but created confusion and a bit of distrust. Her hair was long, but very thin and rare. She always kept it in a small bun behind her head, which looked like an iron ball, shiny and metallic, stretched on one side and broken on the other, where her face was.
She had beautiful teeth and a sweet smile, which covered up all her imperfections, and won one the moment that her lips got lost in that stretch of happiness… come to think of it, I’m not sure if it ever was happiness, but it was a smile, nevertheless. She wasn’t very tall, although she would have loved to be. She wanted to be a model and claimed in her headshot that she was 5 foot 9 inches.
She was 5.7 at the most and she did not have a model’s body. She was elegant and had a nice waist, but her legs were without that feminine curve and appeal and looked like two long branches that were too close to each other, so they had grown straight and long out of adaptation to the conditions in which they found themselves.
But she hid her awkward features behind a proud walk, in which one could easily notice her high breasts; perhaps because she kept her shoulders so straight, that her neckline created an almost straight angle with them. She was a perfect geometrical figure, with almost perfect corners and straight lines, and no curves. She did have a sweet voice, which at times was hallow and at times deep, and other times distorted from her thick Slavic accent.
I had known her for about two years, when she first told me about her sister; “I hate her!” she said in that hallow voice that startled me, for I had not thought that she could hate anyone, let alone her sister. We had spoken so many times about family, friends, acquaintances, people, but always with the understanding that humans are difficult to be loved, yet impossible not to be loved.
“What do you mean?” I asked and felt my face take the expression of one who pretends not to have heard. Strange reaction, but I did not know how to show my disbelief.
“Since she was born, I lost everything. I lost my parents. I lost their love. I lost my place in the family.”
“I’m sure you don’t mean that,” I said while also trying to hush myself so that the words came out with breaths in between.
“No. She never loved me. She never cared about me. I’ve been away for more than a decade, and I have not spoken with her – not even once.”
I looked at her hoping to find a trace of pain and longing, but instead I found regret. Her voice did not change its determination in its hollowness, her eyes remained icy as she spoke, and her lips seemed to taste the bitterness that each word held, as they opened and closed. “I’m really sorry,” I said, knowing that she thought I felt sorry for her misfortune of having a sister, but in fact I felt sorry for her regretting her sister.
“Since she was born, I became invisible. My parents would always put her before me, especially my mother. She favored her in everything and spoiled her. My sister doesn’t care about anything but getting her way. She took everything from me, my parents’ love, the attention they gave me – they never loved me the same.”
I could not believe my ears. I had known her for two years and had thought her to be compassionate and loving. She had done so much for me, had arranged for the baby-shower of my son, helped me at work anytime I needed someone to cover for me, was my friend at every moment and listened to all the wise and stupid words I said – and now, I felt I was with a complete stranger. I realized that this was the first time she was talking to me about her sister. Up until then, I only knew a bit about her parents, and very little about her boyfriend. I realized how little I knew her and decided to let her speak. I had to understand, and I had to know who she was – who she really was. But as she spoke, bitterness was so concentrated, that I felt dismayed.
“My mother told me that she’s getting a divorce.” Her eyes gleamed and I froze.
“Who’s getting a divorce?” I asked, not because I didn’t understand, but because I didn’t know what to say.
“Mathilde. She’d gotten engaged to her professor. She had him cheat on his wife and now of course, she’s cheating on him. That’s the kind of person she is. She takes and never gives. But he’s such a good person.”
“You know him?” I was surprised.
“Yes, I know him. I’ve spoken with him. He’s hurt and I wanted to tell him that I feel his pain.” Her voice became deep, and her lips smiled.
“How do you know him?”
“He happened to be at home some time ago, when I called my parents, and I spoke with him then. I plan to go to Belgium and meet him. I know he’s going to be there in the fall.”
“How do you know that?” I asked as I felt even more incredulous.
“He’s a professor. His schedule is posted.” She spoke as if saying the most random information.
“You’ve searched him?” I said while thinking the word, “stalked”.
“Yes, I wanted to see who else my sister destroyed,” she said almost triumphantly; “I will go to Belgium and meet him. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get something of hers for once.”
I did not speak. I remembered. She had told me only a few days before, that she had broken off her relationship with her boyfriend under the pretext that he had gotten involved in some shady dealings. I remained silent for I felt I was losing a piece of myself. My lunch time was over, and I had to go back to work. Since that day, I avoided her for I could not have more lunches with her, I could not speak on the phone with her – I could not be anywhere near her.
When I changed my job, I lost all contact, and only recently heard that her father had died. She had lost her job and was God knows where. I thought of her and pitied her. I knew she would not have forgiven her mother for loving her sister, and as far as I could imagine, she would never manage to not hate her sister. I felt sorry for her and nauseated at the same time. She was all alone and yet, fully justified in her own determination. But what she did not comprehend was that self-righteousness, often, comes with the price of destruction.
Aida Bode is an Albanian poet and writer, whose works have been published online and in print. Visit her website www.aidabode.com for her extensive publications. Aida is a Pushcart Nominee.