I have always been different from my 5 younger sisters. Even though I am the oldest, they have always been the pretty girls, the popular girls. I am not the cheerleader, or the comic, or the student body treasurer. I am the wallflower.
It doesn’t bother me anymore, like it used to. You could say that I have gained much more confidence in myself, and I do think that is part of it. But I also think that my sisters have reached out to me. We have become friends because we have learned to depend on each other. To trust each other.
One night, last year, I just could not seem to get to sleep. It was a weekend, so I wasn’t too worried about staying up late. After hours of tossing and turning in my bed, I had somehow ended up downstairs, sitting at our kitchen table and looking through the pictures on my parents’ digital camera.
Suddenly I heard someone stomp down the stairs, and five seconds later, my 13-year old sister appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, her body trembling and her eyes wild. She saw me, let out a dry, strangled sob, and then sprinted the distance between us. I felt my chest compress as she secured her arms around me.
“Caroline!” I cried. “Babe, what’s wrong?”
She was screaming and crying hysterically now, and wouldn’t answer. Her face was buried deep in the pit of my neck, and the feel of her hot breath made me tingle. Something was seriously wrong. It wasn’t unusual for Caroline to have nightmares. She had always had them ever since she had been a little girl. It was quite normal for our family to wake in the middle of the night and find her running around the house, shrieking as though an ax murderer were chasing her.
But tonight was different. She seemed fully awake right now; she wasn’t sleep walking like was usually did when she was running from those ax murderers, and I had never heard her cry the way she was now. There were no tears on her face. Her sobs were strange and……ugly.
I was terrified now and a giggle escaped through my lips. I bit down hard on them to stop myself. Whenever I panicked, I always started to laugh.
My sister began to dig her fingers into the flesh of my arm. I took a deep breath. “Caroline, come over to the couch.”
We walked across our shaggy rug and sat down on the couch. Caroline lay her head on my lap, her back trembling under my fingers.
“Caroline,” I said again. “What is wrong?” In response, she started sobbing even louder.
I felt myself begin panic. Tears were welling up in my eyes. Something horrible has happened, I thought. Caroline has been hurt, and she’s finally opening up about it. She’s either been raped or beaten-
I didn’t finish that last thought. I shook my head, as if trying to knock the tears right out of my eyes and make them bounce away like marbles. “Shhhhhhh,” I whispered. “You’re okay. You’re safe. Just tell me what’s the matter.”
This time she stopped crying. After a few minutes, she whispered, “ I don’t know.”
I was taken back. “What?”
“I don’t know,” she trembled. “I just woke up and was scared. I don’t like the dark…..” She trailed off and looked up at the ceiling where her room was. “I can’t go back up there right now. My room……it’s suffocating.”
I nodded and blinked several times. I wanted to laugh again, but this time for joy not fear. She was okay! My sister was okay.
“So you just got scared?” I asked again, just for confirmation. “You haven’t been hurt in any way?”
Caroline leaned up and shook her head. I nodded again and squeezed her hand, giving her a light smile.
“Can I stay down here with you?” she asked.
“Sure, babe. I was just looking at some pictures. Come see this one of us at the lake.”
We spent the next hour looking through the pictures, talking about boys and school as we went along. But it didn’t feel like an hour; it only felt like 5 minutes. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.
Or when you’re bonding with your sister.
After a while, Caroline was ready to go back upstairs. We had decided that I was going to sleep on her floor. I was getting some extra blankets from the laundry room when I heard her behind me. I turned around, and soon found her tightly latched onto me again. But this time, it wasn’t a frightened hug. It was a warm, sisterly embrace. I smiled.
“Thanks for helping me through this emotional crisis,” Caroline said in that tiny sarcastic voice of her’s. “I’m glad you were here. I mean, can you imagine what would have happened it you hadn’t decided to stay up late? Talk about major problems!”
I laughed at her choice of words, but also breathed a silent sigh of relief. She was acting normal again, her funny, goofy self.
“Caroline, I will never let anything happened to you. I promise.”
A promise is a special and sacred thing. It is meant to be kept. The promise I made to my sister that one late night was not empty. And, from the way her chocolate eyes moistened when I said that, she knew it too.
I did sleep on her floor that night, but I didn’t mind that it was hard and uncomfortable. Caroline had come to me. In her hour of need, she had come to me. She had trusted in me to protect from those bloodthirsty ax murderers and those scumbag rapists. Even though maybe I had never been as cool or as pretty as she was, she still loved me. She still believed in me. And that meant more to me than popularity ever would.
I believed that sisters are truly your best friends.
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