This flash fiction was published in the international e-mag, The Wise Owl, in September, 2023.
You always enjoyed doing that to me, didn’t you, Scarlet? My little sister, blessed with a stunning face – the toast of the town’s literati! Leaving me in the shadows – lonely, diffident – your thirty-year-old, overweight nerdy elder sister, who was always the third standby for prom nights? Who, all the guys would bet on, to find out if her cup size was a C or a D?! Sporting freckles and eyeglasses didn’t help my self-esteem either. But heck, who cared?
You knew exactly which dress to pick that would highlight your svelte body and creamy complexion. Along with a hint of lavender, your chosen fragrance. Congeniality was your middle name, while I begged…nay, screamed…for attention. Look at you — just how did you manage to come up with a ready repartee, an interesting trivia, or a discerning argument every single time. Tossing your head back with those Rapunzel tresses, flashing your million-watt smile – no wonder they all made a beeline for you. While I tried to merge with the wallpaper, typing imaginary emails furiously on my mobile, just so I looked fruitfully occupied. And valued.
Remember your graduation, Scarlet, when Ma gifted you grandma’s heirloom brooch? She never let me wear it even once – I had asked for it so many times. How I had cried myself to sleep that night! Oh, come now, don’t give me that baleful look – as if you didn’t notice, sleeping right next to me, smelling of lavender!
What could I do, Scarlet…you left me with no option, sis. The family picnic in the hills was a godsend. For once, the universe connived with me! One nudge was all it took to send you hurtling down the cliff into the deep, forested gorge below! The grey-and peach gloaming provided the perfect backdrop for your selfie, only if you hadn’t accidentally toppled over – both the cops and the omniscient onlookers averred. I kept peering below and screaming in panic – my amateur theatre workshops did have some use, after all! Though back then, they did nothing to enhance my personality or likeability quotient…eye rolls!
But Scarlet, you were brave…you chose to hang on by a thread. At the ICU when you kept uttering my name through your distended, fissured lips, twisted teeth and grating voice – that was when I almost lost my mind. But fortune favoured me, yet again – the thread snapped! Only, there’s this voice buzzing ‘traitor!’…‘murderer!’ relentlessly in my head now, like a worm. I cup my ears and scream out loud, but it doesn’t drown the buzz, or the whiff of lavender…
“Sister, please get the shot…fast!” Dr Trevor, the new HOD of Psychiatry, sounded concerned. “And why is she screaming and peeping down from her bed? What’s there to see underneath?”
“She saw her sister fall from a cliff, Doc…never quite recovered from the shock, poor thing.” There was a flurry of activity as the medicos got around to securing and sedating her. Outside, the janitor nonchalantly mopped the floor with a lavender-scented, antiseptic cleaner. It was just another day at the sanatorium.
PC: Dimitri Iakymuk on Unsplash