I look like Medusa, I admitted to the mirror. My head was half-covered in pink foam curlers, but it was the only way I could get it to do anything other than hang there in limp blonde strands.
My sister Raquelle poked her head into the bathroom, tilting it curiously. “Hey Lenny, is it school picture day tomorrow?”
“No.” I hated that nickname – having the given name of ‘Lenora’ was bad enough – and she called me that just to annoy me. “Go away.”
But she wasn’t going anywhere, not when she had her older sister to torment. “Then why do you look like you’ve been attacked by baby pool noodles?”
I pursed my lips in annoyance and began wrapping another strand of hair around a curler. “Because I have a date tomorrow.”
“What?” She stepped into the room, her eyes wide in amazement. “Our seventeen-year-old ‘sweet spirit’ is finally going on an actual date?”
She’d hit a sore spot, and we both knew it. I took too much after our father – flat hair, flat chest, flat personality. Raquelle took after Mom with her dark, perfect curls, her hourglass figure, and her flock of friends.
“I’m still sixteen,” I sniped back at her.
“For another two weeks.”
The spirit of contention is not of me. But the whisper in the back of my mind wasn’t helping – I could feel the tension in my hands. Determined to ignore her, I set my jaw and reached for another curler from the basket on the bathroom counter.
She was grinning now. “Which Boy Scout needed more service hours for his Eagle project?”
I grabbed the basket and threw it in her face, roaring, “I hate you!” Feeling the tears pricking at my eyes, I pushed past her and marched toward my bedroom, determined to not give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
I hesitated in the dark outside my sister’s bedroom door. I didn’t hate her, not really, and those horrible words just wouldn’t let me sleep. I’d rehearsed the apology in my head a dozen times, but conversations with Raquelle never went how I planned. That was why I was standing here in my pajamas and curlers, well after midnight, trying to work up the courage to knock.
If I wanted to get any sleep tonight, I needed to just spit it out. Taking a breath, I turned the door handle and stepped into the room. “Raquelle, I’m…”
I stopped mid-sentence and stared at my sister who was straddling the ground-floor windowsill. She was in skinny jeans and makeup with high heels in her hand, and she swore as she fell the rest of the way out the window. “Raquelle!” I shouted, running to her.
She glared at me from where she’d rolled off a juniper bush. We could both hear our parents’ bedroom door slam open. “Lenora?” Mom shrieked, her footfalls racing down the hall, “what’s wrong?”
“You’re a jerk,” Raquelle said, throwing her heels at me.
I dodged and then poked my head back out the window, unable to resist a smirk at her expense. “Oh, come on. You know Mom and Dad won’t actually ground you ‘til the Millennium.”
I slammed the front door shut and kicked it once for good measure. I was never going to be able to show my face in school again, not after our family’s black sheep ruined everything. My best friend’s brother admitted today that a “boyfriend’s eyes only” photo of Raquelle was making the rounds at school after she and her boyfriend had broken up.
Raquelle was giving me the silent treatment and wasn’t even responding to texts. Dad couldn’t answer his phone at work, and Mom hadn’t picked up when I called, but there was going to be the mother of all shouting matches when we were all in the same room again.
Then I noticed Raquelle’s backpack in the entryway – she must have skipped class and come home early. I stalked toward her bedroom, ready to tear into her and shouting the whole way. “You are in so much trouble! Mom and Dad are going to take that phone away and ground you ‘til the end of the Millennium!” I paused for breath outside her door and let it out in a surprised whoosh.
Raquelle was sobbing.
Mourn with those who mourn…
I gritted my teeth against the unwelcome thought. There had to be an out, a caveat that let you off the hook if they were mourning their own wickedness, right? I thought through all the scriptures I’d memorized – comfort those who stand in need of comfort, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the peacemakers.
But she was the one who had left the ninety-and-nine! She was the one who’d landed herself – and the whole family – in this mess.
Who is without sin…cast the first stone.
I remembered again throwing the basket of curlers and those hard, hurtful words, “I hate you.”
Really, God? It was the most irreverent prayer I’d ever even thought.
Feed my lamb.
I was more lion than shepherd at the moment – I wanted to tear her limb from limb. Claws in, I told myself and then knocked. The sobbing abruptly stopped and she screamed, “Go away!”
I opened the door anyway. She was curled up on her bed, her makeup smudged and tear-streaked. “Go away,” she weakly repeated, throwing a damp tissue at me in emphasis.
I almost did, but she was His lamb – and my sister. I swallowed hard against the surprising lump in my throat at the thought. We used to be friends, back before I grew up and she grew curves.
With God, nothing shall be impossible.
Hope made my eyes swim, and impulsively I lay down facing her. How could I even begin to undo so much hurt? “I’m so sorry.”
She collapsed into sobbing again, and as I pulled her into a hug, something in my own heart finally gave.