Janet walks into the bedroom and heads to her side, the clean portion with everything put away and schoolbooks alphabetized on the shelf. She sighs, looking at Michelle’s mess. What’s that expression Aunt Bess always uses? Ah, yes: making the best of a bad situation.
Pulling out her desk chair, Janet tries to study for tomorrow’s chemistry test. At least if Michelle kept her clothes on her side, instead of on my desk … She picks up her sister’s sweater, folds it neatly, and leaves it on the other bed.
Michelle runs in, out of breath, earbuds so loud that noise reverberates around the room.
“Please, Sis, could you turn those down a little? I’m trying to study.”
Michelle holds one earpiece away from her head. “Studying? Of course!” She gestures wildly to enhance her annoyance, her lanky body moving slightly to the beat that can still be heard from the headphones now hanging around her neck.
“You always study! Isn’t there anything else you care about??
“I’d like our room to be neater. That makes it easier for me to focus. Please. I don’t want to have to complain to Mom.”
“Go ahead. Call her. I don’t care. It’s my side of the room.”
“Really, if you could just…”
“Just what? Be a suck up like you? Mom likes you best anyway. We both know that!”
“I don’t want to get you in trouble,” said Janet. “I’m just happier if the room’s neater.”
“Then fix it yourself. I have other things to do. I’m meeting up with Carla. I have friends, unlike you.”
Janet sighs. “Stacy and I study together. And sometimes we go to the mall.”
“Sometimes we go to the mall? La-di-da. Aren’t you special, then? And I bet you don’t buy anything. You just look. Saving for that stupid science camp you want to go to next summer.”
Sitting on her hands, Janet replies: “Yeah. I would like to do that. Then you could have the whole room to yourself, for two entire weeks. Mess it up all you want. That would be perfect for you.”
“Fucking right. I could turn the music up, sit around in the nude…”
“Oh, please. Don’t tell me.” Janet’s hands move to her lap, but she wrinkles her nose and closes her eyes.
“No one to holler at me or tell me what to do!”
“I don’t yell,” Janet says quietly, looking down at the floor. “I ask you nicely. I request.” She turns back, reaching for the pink lamp on her desk. “I just thought…”
“Yeah, I just thought too. Maybe a different sister would be good ...”
Janet lowers her voice. “Yeah, maybe that’d work for me too. But the grass isn’t always greener…”
“Jeez. You’re not going to use Grandma’s favorite saying on me now, are you?”
“I just thought … You know. It could be worse. We could try to get along a little.”
She turned to Michelle. Her earbuds were already back on, her body moving to the loud rhythms inside her head.
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