My morning beauty routine took, on average, an hour or so.
A thorough shower, styling my hair to perfection, getting my make-up just right, and then finding a great outfit for the day. Granted, today’s combo was just a simple skirt and tank top. I didn’t need to try as hard around family. However, I still wanted to look my age, and Kate managed to ruin an hour’s work in a matter of minutes. My hair was tightly braided into pigtails, and now my freckles were a lot more prominent than they were when my make-up masked most of them and diminished the others.
Little by little, she was stripping away my mature enhancements. Obviously, on purpose. Since I was wearing pull-ups that were soaked by her Gatorade, Kate clearly thought it was amusing to make me appear more like the kind of girl who needed such embarrassing underwear. Childish freckles, juvenile hair, and a frustrating nickname I was about to be reminded of all over again.
“Annie, you look so CUTE.” Kate said. Her tone was friendly, but her lips were slightly curled upward as she scooted back over to her side and casually dropped the used make-up wipe onto the car’s floor. She was always a little messy and careless, in that ‘I’ll deal with it later’ kind of way.
Scowling, I replied, “Now, make-up?”
“Don’t be silly. We’re going to stick with a more natural look today. You’re fine just how you are, sis!”
“No. Kate, you said-”
“I said I’d give you a make-over. And, voila! All done. Just try it out for a while, okay?”
No. No way. I’m well aware of how youthful I look without make-up, because I see myself in the mirror every morning. It’s bad enough with wet hair after a shower. With pigtails? I almost didn’t want to look at the damage, but I couldn’t help it. Curiosity, and all. “Kate, either give me a new braid or I’m doing one myself.” While demanding the redo, I pulled my phone out of my purse to see just how awful the current style was.
Before I could check myself out in selfie mode, however, my phone was plucked right out of my hands. Since I didn’t expect anything like that, my grip hadn’t been particularly tight. “Ah, ah, ah. This is a family trip, Annie. No cell phones!”
“Hey!” I exclaimed. She did not just do that! My phone is personal, which is true of most girls, and seeing it in my sister’s hand was not a pleasant image. “Kate, give it back.” I reflexively reached to take it out of her hands, but got caught halfway on the seat belt from my jerky movement.
“No. You’re acting like a brat, Annie.” Like it was any old trinket, she dropped my phone into her purse. “I’ll give it back once you’ve earned it.”
“Kate.” This was over the line. I was in fucking college, and she had barely graduated high school. Our size difference didn’t give her the right to be so overtly patronizing, especially not with my personal possessions in the mix. If I had to give her a lecture as her older sister, so be it. “You can’t-”
This time, it was our mother who interjected. Again. “Annelise. Please keep your voice down.” She had turned around to look at the two of us, and Kate was once again sitting across from me without a hint of a smile on her face. “Is there a problem?”
“I took her phone,” Kate said. She was confessing? That wasn’t her style. Normally she just acted all coy and innocent about everything. Once again, my time away at college left me unprepared for the way my younger sister developed her manipulative games. “She’s just been on it for, like, the whole drive! Isn’t this supposed to be a family trip?”
Once again, she was echoing our parents’ phrase from over the years. Because apparently, a family trip means even the downtime shouldn’t be spent reading, or on screens, or whatever it is when suddenly we’re expected to be paying attention with no warning. And, just like before, Kate was blaming me for being on my phone too much when she was equally as guilty of doing the exact same thing.
And, as always, she got favorable treatment by playing her cards just right. “Annelise, why don’t you let your sister hold onto your phone for a little while? It’s fine as long as she doesn’t use it, right?”
No, it was not fine. While she was at least touching on the point that my phone should only ever be in my hands, it didn’t change the fact that Kate was going to be allowed to keep it. “No. That’s not fair.” I replied. The moment the words passed through my lips, I could feel a light blush appear on my cheeks. Full of regret at using the same response I used when I was a teenager, I instantly tried to course correct. “I mean-”
“Life’s not fair, sis,” Kate said, “Besides, it’s not a big deal. Just pretend that it’s in your backpack or something.”
“That’s not the same, and you know it.”
“Well, tough. It’s not really your call, is it?”
“Girls,” our mother said, “Be nice.”
“Sorry, Annelise,” Kate said. Ever the little actress, she jumped at the chance to feign maturity about this whole thing. “I’ll give your phone back soon, okay? Let’s just spend a little more time together first.”
Great. If it was just the two of us, I could give her a piece of my mind. But, with our parents listening, I was trapped. Playing nice meant letting Kate have my phone. Arguing would just make me look worse. I barely even had a choice. “Fine,” I muttered, still bitter about this whole thing.
Just like that, we were left alone again.
Lesson learned. The radio doesn’t tune out everything. We can carry a conversation in the back seat just fine without being overhead, until one of us raises our voices. So, moving forward, I would have to avoid snapping at Kate. If it happened again, it would be a pattern, and she would once again make me look like the less mature sister. Unbelievable. I was so ready to get back to school, or perhaps for her to head off to college and grow up a little more.
“So, Annie,” Kate said. Ignoring my narrowed eyes at the continued use of the nickname, she leaned forward to speak a little more quietly, “If you do something fun for me, I’ll give your phone back and leave you alone for the rest of the drive.”
“Oh?” I asked. At this point, I didn’t trust her in the slightest. The rest stop dare led to the soaked padding between my legs, and agreeing to a make-over led to my entire image being messed up. No matter what she was offering in exchange for my phone, I was pretty sure it would be worse than the device being stashed in her purse. And I was right.
With a tiny glance towards the front seat to make sure no one was listening, Kate lowered her voice even more. “You should use your pull-ups.”
“You know. For what they’re designed for.”
She couldn’t possibly be serious. But, when her facial expression didn’t change, I just rolled my eyes and shot back, “Umm, no. How about you give me my phone because it’s fucking mine?”
“Language, Annie. And why not? They’re already wet from your first accident.”
“That wasn’t an accident.”
“So, you did it on purpose?”
I shot her another glare, but couldn’t help but blush again at the insinuation. We were both there, and yet she was trying to change the story? Bullshit. “You know what I mean, Kate. That was your fault. Not mine.”
“Mm hmm. Says the one in wet diapers,” she winked.
“They’re pull-ups,” I hissed back. This time, it was my turn to glance up front to make sure no one overhead what she just said. If she ratted me out after I kept them on and got in the car, I was going to be furious. But also, I was still nervous about what would happen if she did. Kate was a lot more manipulative than I was, and my current underwear situation would look pretty bad.
And she knew it. Fully grinning at my nervous glance, she replied, “Wet pull-ups. Because that makes it so much better?”
“Just drop it, Kate.”
I had no idea. Being older may have given me leverage back in our tween years and earlier, but not now. We were both technically adults, and I had nothing on her any more.
“That’s what I thought.” Her grin faded into more of a smirk as she looked me over. Pigtails and freckles, courtesy of her. And babyish underwear that was only hidden because of how carefully I was seated. “So, Annie. Let’s talk.”
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