A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life. -- Isadora James
Zoe is in the backyard, sitting under the big gum tree. I've been watching her for awhile now. Almost definitely long enough to be considered creepy. Not that she knows I'm looking at her. No, Zoe hasn't noticed my eyes boring into her. She's far too engrossed in whatever book rests against her knees. I'm going to guess it's Alice in Wonderland. She's read the thing so many times, it's become worn to the point where half a dozen pages are falling out. Of course from my place inside the house, I'm too far away to see if the book she's reading looks particularly battered.
It's a known fact that Zoe loves to read. The first time we met, she had her head in a book. She stopped reading long enough to look at me and say hello. Then she went back to her book, completely absorbed in whatever world existed within its pages.
I feel jealous of the things that fascinate her sometimes, though on some days it's been me. Every now and then she'll suddenly act interested in what I'm doing, or she'll play with my hair in an absent-minded way, me sitting there with wide, excited eyes though I know she's just doing it to be friendly.
I suppose I sound like a creep. Fair enough. I've pretty much accepted that as my [secret] title thesedays. As long as she's there, sleeping in the room next to me, sharing my house, my space... I won't be forgetting her soon.
She comes inside when it's around lunchtime. She smiles when she sees me. I notice the grass stains on her very white dress.
Zoe goes about making a sandwich, all the while pursing her lips together in what can almost be described as a self-satisfied smirk. I notice her Alice in Wonderland copy on the counter and shake my head.
"You've read that way too many times."
She doesn't look up and spreads vegemite over a loaf of bread.
"I haven't read it enough," she says with a giggle.
I roll my eyes. "I'm guessing you've read it about four hundred times now." I pause, staring at the grass stains on her butt for a moment before asking, "What's it like outside? Nice?"
She chortles, and throws me a glance over her shoulder. "Hence me being out there, dipshit."
I nod, even though she's not looking at me. "Cool. Maybe I'll come sit with you."
She turns around, sandwich in one of her hands. She doesn't bother getting a bowl for it. She stares at me as she licks vegemite off her finger.
So we go and sit under the gum tree together. Having grabbed her copy of Alice, I flip through it while Zoe eats her sandwich. Each single page is filled with nonsense, though I'm not going to pretend I don't know that's what Lewis Carroll had in mind when he wrote the thing.
"You like it?" Zoe asks, her mouth full of food. Normally I'd find the sight of someone opening their mouth with half-chewed food in plain view disgusting, but on her, it really doesn't bother me.
"It's a bit weird," I shrug.
Zoe holds her sandwich out in front of my face. I look at her quizzically.
"Take a bite," she says, smiling a little.
"You never get yourself lunch. How are you not hungry?"
I shrug. "I'm just not. I never really bother with lunch."
She pulls the sandwich away and bites into it herself.
"Well then maybe I should start fixing you lunch."
I laugh because the idea of my step-sister making me any kind of meal is just weird. I'm not sure why, exactly, it just is.
"Don't worry about it. I'm never hungry at this time."
She shrugs, then stuffs the last of the sandwich into her mouth. Nothing is said for a moment, so I start reading Lewis Carroll's bio at the back of the book.
"Can't say I blame you though," Zoe says a minute later. "Vegemite sandwiches get a bit boring after awhile." She tucks a loose strand of hair in behind her ear. Her hair is a sort of golden, not-quite-blonde colour. It sparkles in the sun. I can't help thinking that with her white dress on, she looks sort of angelic. Pure...
Though that's a laugh, given the stories she's told me.
"I used to cook sometimes," she is saying, a wistful look in her ocean-coloured eyes.
"After my mum left, it just sort of become my job. Dad was a sucky cook and kind of just thought of cooking as a 'female' thing."
I scoff. "That's stupid." And I genuinely mean it.
She shrugs. "I guess. I was okay with it though... cooking was kinda like an escape for me, for awhile there..."
I stare at her, wondering what she needed to escape from. I want so badly to ask her-- that, and all sorts of other things. Mostly I just want to be near her, like I am now.
"You were right," I say after a moment of silence. "It's nice out today."
"It's nice out everyday," she says with a sigh, and to my surprise, lies back on the ground resting her head on my lap.
"Even if it's raining?"
"Mmm. Especially if it's raining."
I laugh at her. "What does that even mean?"
I feel her shrug against me. "I just like it I guess. Don't you love singing and dancing in the rain?"
I shake my head though she isn't looking at me. In fact, her eyes are closed.
"No. Not really."
"It's the best."
I grin. "I'll take your word for it."
I struggle against the overwhelming urge I'm having to reach out and touch her hair. Her feminine scent teases my nostrils, and I wonder what I ever did to deserve this. To have this beautiful creature who seems to genuinely like me, in my life, but as someone that is labelled as 'wrong' for me to have. There are so many things I hate about it. For one thing, our parents don't even seem to get along as they once did, which is natural after more than a year of marriage, I suppose, but it makes me think, couldn't they have just kept dating? Why did they have to marry and make me and Zoe 'siblings?'
I'm over feeling disgusted with myself at this point. We don't share blood, we didn't grow up together. I want to think that if I'd known her in some other capacity, we'd have hit it off and started going out but in reality, she probably only gives me time of day because I'm her 'brother.' Though that has at least given her a reason to get to know me.
Zoe doesn't say anything for a very long time, and I figure she's fallen asleep from the warmth of the sun's rays. I pick up Alice in Wonderland and have another read. Maybe I ought to give this 'escaping into fantasy' thing a try.