Drink a bunch of water and take off my padded bra? Or wet myself, as a nineteen year old girl.
Little by little, Kate had set things up in a way where it felt like those were my only two options. The obvious answer was ‘neither,’ but I was caught in a situation where it really felt like I had to choose. She was holding onto my phone at the moment, and there was also the secret of the Gatorade-yellowed pull-ups I was stuck in. The only way to get things back to normal and avoid any more embarrassment was to dig myself a little deeper first.
My younger sister really was an artist. For all her little taunts and threats, she never actually blackmailed me or forced me to do anything. It tended to feel that way in the moment, but that was never really the case. It was knowing smiles, and pointed suggestions, and framing things in a way that nudged me onto the path that she wanted me to take. But at the end of the day, everything was my choice. At any given moment, I could have stood my ground and said ‘no.’ But I didn’t. Instead, I reluctantly played her game.
“I’ll drink the water,” I mumbled. Ugh, two full bottles? I was going to feel so bloated for the rest of the day. Even though a good amount of the first bottle ended up spilling all over me, I had at least chugged half of it before Kate got impatient.
“And?” Kate asked. Speaking of knowing looks . . .
Feeling committed to option one, as the second was absolutely not going to happen, I agreed to the rest. A small part of me had hoped that maybe she’d be happy with my partial acceptance, but that clearly was the case. “I’ll take off my bra.” Did I really just say that?! It was one thing to mentally accept that I was going to go through with it, but saying it out loud was something else entirely. Aside from the embarrassment, I was also sealing my fate. It wasn’t a promise, which would have carried more weight, but it could still be twisted into me ‘giving my word’ and then trying to backpedal.
Now that I had agreed to her terms, Kate jumped right on it. “Okay, bra first.” After a second of gauging my reaction, she explained, “What? Annie, it’s wet. It’s healthier for your skin if we take care of it right away.”
“My tank top is wet, too. So, by your logic, I should be topless.”
“Actually, yeah. That would be best. Well, changing would be best, but too bad. Look, your tank top will dry a lot more quickly than your bra. I should know; I was a Girl Scout!”
“For all of three minutes. Kate, I don’t think-”
“Come on, sis. Bra off!”
If it were anybody else, I would have outright refused. Thanks to having a younger sister who constantly flaunted her better curves, I had never really gotten over the fact that I hadn’t grown in the slightest since middle school. My nineteen year old self was often mistaken for a high school girl, and that was after going through the trouble of giving myself a boost in a few places. For example, wearing a push-up bra with extra padding.
The reason this was tolerable, however, was because it was Kate. It’s not like I had anything to hide from her. Just a year ago, we were still living under the same roof before I left for college. While I typically made a point to bring my outfits with me into the bathroom before a shower, there were still a few times where she saw me in nothing but a towel and wet hair. In other words, she knew how much work I put into my image in the morning. Chest included. This wouldn’t be a mortifying reveal; instead, it would just be another way for her to mess up my mature physical facade.
My short-sighted plan was to act like none of this bothered me. Kate would get bored, eventually, and I’d get my phone back and earn some peace and quiet. What I failed to focus on, however, was the fact that we’d be arriving at our cousins’ place soon enough. Hair and make-up was one thing, but this was going to make their first impression of me even worse. It had been nearly ten years since we last visited, and I was looking less and less like the college girl I saw in the mirror this morning.
Reaching back and shifting forward in my seat, I unclasped my bra.
Normally, I’d just slip one arm free and pull the undergarment out the other side in a matter of seconds. It’s what I usually did at night when I wanted to get comfortable while keeping the same tank top or t-shirt on. Except this was the middle of the day, and I was planning on putting the bra back on at some point. So, in order to keep the padding more or less in place, I went through the more arduous task of freeing each arm from its strap while making sure the tank top stayed mostly in place throughout my shifting and wriggling. And, when the bra wasn’t supported by either shoulder, I made sure to fold the cups together before reaching under the hem of my top and pulling it out altogether.
If the visual of my bra in my hands wasn’t enough, the sight of my chest made things even worse. Not only were my small mounds way less existent than they were a moment ago, but the tank top didn’t do much to stop my nipples from poking through the light material. And, since the tank top was also slightly damp, it did very little to hide my form either. Not that there was much to hide.
“You’re smaller than I remember, Annie,” Kate giggled. Then she held out her hand, palm up, getting right to it. “Okay, sis. Hand it over.”
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