welcome to this week’s #WeekendWriter Challenge, courtesy of the ever lovely Aisling Weaver over at Swirling Currents.  this week’s challenge was a tough one, but i surprised myself with the amount of words that poured out of the prompt, which was:

instructions as follows:
Combine the cards on the left to make one character
Let the cards on the right lead you into a story
And the rules, are simple:
Your main character must change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story.
Do not kill your main character.

 

as you will see, i cocked up a bit, and ended up with two characters from the white card but…  well – the story’s the thing, right?  😉

A Sister’s Love

One long-ago day, I learned what it was to be a grownup.  I learned what it was to sacrifice, and to protect.  And I learned the true meaning sisterly love.

I had just moved school.  Well – I say school.  I had actually been transferred from one foundling facility to another – it just made it easier sometimes, to think of them as just another school.  My sister Evadne had been here for several years, and I was delighted to finally be attending the same “school” as her again.  I had missed her in the intervening years.  I had missed her comforting arms when I fell over and scraped my knee.  I had missed them, too, in the dark, when they would wrap around me and chase the monsters away.   Alas, the Foundling Institute did not take account of filial connections when placing its charges in its facilities, only their age.  So for three long years, Evadne and I had been separated, only connected by the papery words we exchanged on an almost daily basis.  Oh, happy day when we were reunited!  She was there to greet me at the gates as I dragged my small bag through.  I was shocked, when she hugged me, to see how small she had grown.  I said as much to her, and she laughed.

“Oh, Belle!  It’s not I who’s shrunk, it’s you who’s grown.  Look at you!”

I looked down at my body and, in a disconcerting flash, realised she had the truth of it.  I was still little more than a girl, yet already, here I was; growing into my long-limbed and modestly curved woman’s body without even noticing.  I flushed with embarrassment, then, and Evadne laughed with warmth and affection that I had so sorely missed.   Wrapping her arms around me once again, she whispered in my ear “All will be well, sister, now we are together again.”

Later that day, having been sent to and settled in our new dormitories (to my delight, this facility had a sympathetic matron who had allowed us to move into the same room), I bade my sister goodbye and joined the new intake thronging down the stairs to the gathering hall.  There, we were seated and spent some minutes shuffling, fidgeting, and whispering to our friends, whilst assessing the strangers that had been taken from other facilities than ours.  Eventually, finally, the Master appeared on the dais to address all of us new girls.  As he strode up onto the raised platform, there was a little gasp and ripple through the crowd.  Everyone sat very still and polite, as we had been taught, but the tension in the room rose.

Here was perfection made flesh.  The beautiful bright blue eyes shining out past long, sweeping lashes set in a perfect sun-kissed complexion, the broad shoulders, the neat suit and neater hair…  This man, this Master of the facility, immediately caught the schoolgirl dreams of almost every fluttering heart in the room.

I confess, I was no exception.  In the following days, my heart leaped a little every time I caught a glimpse of him in the corridors, or on the lawn.  My world brightened a little every time he appeared in a classroom.  On the day he actually spoke to me?  Well.  I could have died right there and know that I had reached the pinnacle of attainable joy in the world.

He approached me one morning whilst I was enjoying the unexpectedly warm sun on my face.  I only heard his footsteps approach when he was almost upon me, since my face was lifted to the sky, and my eyes closed.  They flew open, though, at the sound of his voice and there, eclipsing the sun with something infinitely brighter, was my Sun.

“It’s…  Belle, isn’t it?

I stammered a barely coherent reply, and his beautiful smile widened a little.  “Belle, every year, I single out a student for special tuition. I will take one girl on for special, daily tuition, supplementary to her lessons.  The student has to be very, very special. This year, I have narrowed the field of potential candidates down to two.  You and one other.  I would like you to attend me in my office at two o-clock this afternoon, so I can make my final selection.”

I could say nothing.  Much to my humiliation, could only gape like a fish.  To spend some time every day with the man who was beginning to dominate my dreams in a way that was almost disconcerting?  A man who clearly thought I –I!- was special.  My heart was doing a giddy dance of joy as he left me there, glued to the bench, still unable to speak a word.

Just before the Master had left, he warned me that I must keep our appointment a secret, for fear of jealousy should I be chosen, or ridicule should I not.  It was not a difficult thing to do.  I hugged the knowledge to myself all through morning lessons, all through lunch and the first part of the afternoon.

Finally, the dawdling clock dragged its lazy hands around its face to five minutes to two.  I scurried along corridors, dodging other girls standing in gossiping groups or carrying books and equipment, climbing stair after stair, until I reached the very top of the building.  Doing my best to compose myself and control my breathing, I knocked on his door.  The door was opened by a bulldog of a woman, and I recoiled slightly as she gave me the fiercest once-over I had ever experienced.  Snorting in derision, she jerked her head and opened the door wider.  I slunk past her into the antechamber.  Once there, I was unsure what to do, so stood in the middle of the rug fidgeting, until the Bulldog (I assume his secretary), true to her looks, barked at me to cease my mindless jigging and be seated.  Shortly afterward, there was another knock on the door.  A very unhappy and serious-looking Evadne was ushered in, and when she caught sight of me, her face filled with horror.  I was somewhat taken aback for several reasons.  Firstly, I had completely forgotten that I may have a rival for the Master’s special tuition.  Secondly, I never would have dreamed in a million years that said rival might be my own sister.  Neither had Evadne, by the looks of it.  And thirdly, I was hurt by the horror and dawning anger I saw in her face.  I was not old enough when we had been parted to know anything of sibling jealousy.  But I began to feel the first stirrings of that terrible slimy and insidious creature in my gut.  We barely had time for a whispered exchange of “What are you doing here?” before the door to the inner office was thrown open, and all thought fled from my mind for a while.  The sight of the man my girlish heart yearned for drove all from my mind.

The interview itself was short and to the point.  It was barely even an interview at all, really.  He had us both stand before him whilst he sat behind his broad desk and scrutinised us in minute detail.  I blushed furiously throughout the whole ordeal.  Once, I stole a glance at Evadne, to find her standing still and pale-faced, staring straight ahead.

“So, Belle,” his voice startled me from dreamy contemplation of the way his shirt collar caressed his neck just so.  “What kind of student would you be?”

I knew this was my one chance to shine and somehow managed to swallow my nerves and make myself speak.  “Sir, I would be the most diligent student you ever had.  I am so honoured to be given this chance, and I really, really want to get started!  I’d work so hard for you, sir – harder than I ever ever worked before, and…”  I babbled a few more sentences, and then beamed desperately, hoping I’d done enough to secure my daily place in his tutelage.

Face filled with amusement, he allowed me to trail off, and then turned his eyes on my sister.  “Well, Evadne, what do you have to say to that?  It sounds to me like I should pick your sister for my special lessons.   She sounds like a keen and enthusiastic learner.”

I nearly burst with pride, and almost failed to see the look of pure hatred that flashed in my sister’s eyes before she composed herself, cleared her throat, and stuck daggers in my heart with a dead voice.

“My sister, sir, is nothing but a liar and a lazy fool.  She won’t work for you.  She will not learn your lessons well, and you will be disappointed.  I know I am a little older than you normally like your…special students to be, but I assure you, I will be most diligent and…  discreet.”

That she had almost spat the word “special”, that she thought discretion was required?  These things were lost on me as my soul began to crumble under the weight of my beloved sister’s betrayal.

As his beautiful lips pronounced the phrase, “Well, Evadne, my dear – I think you may be right.  Please be aware, though, that should your diligence falter in any way, your sister will take your place.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

Shortly after that, he dismissed us.  We walked through the outer office in silence, but when we reached the corridor, and the Bulldog had shut the door behind us, Evadne turned to me, starting, “Belle, I’m so sorry I had to do that to you.  I know what you think, and I…”

I didn’t let her get any further.  “How?  How can you know that?  All of these years, I thought you loved me, and now I find out you’re just a snake in the grass.  You’re a bitch, and I hate you!”  I took off at a run back to our dorm, there to sob out my broken heart.

In the following days I wouldn’t speak to Evadne.  I couldn’t even look at her.  She had taken my girlish dreams and stomped all over them.  She had betrayed me with her cruel words; I no longer had a sister.  I registered that she now went about the school white-faced, withdrawn, and mostly silent, but I could not find it in my heart to pity her, nor worry for her.  Indeed, I took it as a sign that she was struggling, and wished she would struggle more so that I may take my rightful place with my beloved.

I became obsessed.  Following them whenever I could – figuring out his schedule so I could watch him form some concealed space, eyes filled with burning hatred when they would disappear together into his office for those coveted special lessons.

Then, one day, the bulldog fell ill.  No-one could understand what it was that had laid her up in bed groaning, only to rush to the toilet every half-hour or so.  No-one but me, that is.  Determined to find out what delights I was missing out on thanks to my treacherous sister, I had spiked the bulldog’s evening cocoa with enough laxative to fell an elephant (which I had stolen from the school sick room in an opportune moment).  Uncaring of the consequences, I snuck through the deserted outer office, through the hallowed inner office (pausing only to take great lungfuls of his heavenly cologne), and concealed myself in his personal apartments.  I knew the hour of their lessons, and I intended to watch through the keyhole.

Before long, they entered together.  Evadne pale and silent as usual, the Master somewhat brusque.

“Now, Evadne – you remember yesterday’s lesson, do you not?”

A silent nod from my sister.

“Good girl.  We’re going to try that one again, but this time slower.  Remember, chin up, open the throat, and eyes.  I want to see your eyes as you perform.

A whispered “Yes, sir,” from Evadne, and I blinked.  Eyes?  Performance?  Was he giving her singing lessons?

Well.  I was puzzled, but prepared to be entertained.  Evadne had, after all, the voice of a frog.

What happened next, though, turned my whole world on its head, and taught me far more than I ever wanted to learn.  As Evadne fell to her knees and my hearthrob dropped the zipper on his trousers, I suddenly understood.  Through my pounding horror, during Evadne’s gross parody of worship, I heard my fallen idol utter with dark amusement, “Now, remember, Evadne – do your very best, or I will see to it that your sister replaces you.”

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