Sabhail

September 3rd, 2007

Cara prodded her nails with the red mini-scythe she'd picked up from my desk. I watched her, wishing my problems were as superficial as hers. I turned down the volume of my CD player so I could listen to whatever she needed.

"So? Why do you need to speak to me?" I asked her.

She didn't bother to look up from her nails. "Maybe I just wanted to talk to you, why do I always need a reason? Kids these days…"

I snorted in amusement; she was only two years older than me. "You won't even look at me."

"Alright, to be honest, I do want something from you. Mum and Dad will be out for the evening, right? Could you please just tell them I'm in bed when they come back? I'll make my bed to look like I'm in it, just make sure they don't disturb my room." She glanced up at me from under her eyelashes whilst pretending to examine her hand.

"Meanwhile you'll be…" I trailed off, knowing exactly where she'd be.

"It's the party of the year! If I don't go, I'll miss everything that happens! All the drama, the –" she coughed, "air, the peng posh guys! Please, Cass, just this once?" She looked full on at me and pleaded.

I sighed. "Alright. But what about your dinner?" She got up and walked to the door once she heard my affirmation.

"Just feed it to the dog," I heard her say as she slipped out.

"We don't have a dog." But I was talking to thin air. She'd left, leaving that wafting scent of perfection that stung my nostrils.

I can't blame her for thinking of me as a kid. I am, compared to her. I always have been. When we were little – well, when she was little and flat – people would always smile at her and say 'what a charming young girl'. Then they'd turn to me, and if they'd known us for a while, they'd say 'she's just like her sister was at that age'. That was only because I was always given her hand-me-downs. Really, we never looked anything like each other.

And now, while I stay at home studying to be half as brilliant as her, she is invited to parties where she gets off with the guys I can only dream of talking to.

The worst thing is, I can't hate her. She's always been nice – if you ignore the partying. Even so, just seeing her makes me want to roll my sleeves up. I've never been good enough for our parents because I didn't turn out as popular, pretty or clever as her. She does everything fantastically, and me – well, I'm just average.

Soon my parents had left, lasagne in the fridge for me and Cara to reheat and eat. A car horn beeped and Cara ran down the stairs in shoes that sounded like high heels. She made the routine mirror-check in the hall, yelled something that sounded like a thank you, and exited.

I picked up the blade Cara had been fiddling with and dug it into the skin below my shoulder until it was buried up to where the plastic started. I winced and dragged it through the flesh in a curved line, watching with a blank sort of interest as the droplets of blood ran down my arm.

I wondered how she never noticed the dried blood on it. I hoped she had. That, at least, would give me a reason to hate her.

I took the drawing pins from my board and stuck them in a morbid decoration of the cut. It was my usual therapy. I pulled the pins out and my blood bubbled from the tiny holes.

The human body contains a lot of blood, and as long as you don't lose too much of it, you can just make up for whatever you lose. It's brilliant, really. Makes my life a lot easier, but makes death much harder.

The blood was good, but the pain wasn't enough. I stuck the pins into the open flesh of the cut and bit back a scream. I sighed with relief and sank back into the wall. All my emotional pain turned into physical and poured out alongside the blood.

When my parents came back I was curled up on the sofa, watching Takashi Miike's The Audition with a smile of satisfaction. I had a bandage on my arm, and a red hoodie on to hide it. I paused it at the best still moment to let them talk.

"Where's Cara?" My dad asked, grimacing and trying to ignore the screen.

"She went to bed early." I replied, my eyes wandering towards the TV.

"Why?" It was him again. My mum was turning a slightly green colour and finding it difficult to speak.

"She doesn't like the noises." I nodded towards the television.

"Neither do we, so could you save the rest for another time?" My mum found her voice.

"Sure. I've seen it a few times already, anyway." I smiled politely at them and stopped the film. I busied myself by putting the DVD away and turning everything off, but I still caught the look they exchanged. They thought I was a freak.

That night, I lay in bed and stroked the fresh bandage on my arm – I've never been that stupid, or madly keen to lose an arm, so I change the bandages often – and wondered what it would be like to be Cara.

She's much slimmer than me, in face and body. Yet she has curves. I have the curves of an extremely greedy pregnant woman, and my jaw is square. We have the same small, neat features, but with my jaw they just look shrivelled and odd. Her skin is smooth and soft, mine's spotty and harsh from the many wonder chemicals I've slapped on over the years to treat it. Her eyes are bright green like the back of an exotic bird, and mine are exotic, too – if toads are exotic.

But then, the nights are the worst, I suppose. My mind is left to wonder about other ways she's prettier than me. That can be worse than other people judging me.

I thought about this until I heard the click of the door as Cara snuck back in. The clock on the wall read 4:36. Such is life.