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Jade steeled herself, getting ready for the barrage of heckling that was sure to come as she walked down the stairs to the kitchen. “Get dressed, Jade,” and, “We know you’re not coming to church, but why can’t you make yourself presentable, Jade,” and, “Stop being so pathetic, Jade.” But as she descended the stairs, clad in a black Apes of the State tee and her pink pajama pants, no such criticism came. Through the archway to the kitchen, she could see her father and sister seated at the breakfast table. They both looked up at her, and her father quickly and sheepishly looked away with an awkward smile–Cleo, however, wore a sympathetic expression for her older sister, and she pulled out a chair for Jade as a symbol to come and join them. Confused, Jade walked cautiously to the table before taking her seat.
“Good morning,” her mom cooed in an out-of-character singsong voice from behind the counter. Jade hadn’t missed the disapproving once-over her mother shot her, but it was much less judgmental than she’d come to expect. Plus, her mom was cooking… French toast? French toast was only for special occasions. What was going on? Why was everyone being weird?
Oh. Cleo must have told everybody. That’s why they were all being extra nice to her. “Guys–” she started to say.
“We know,” her mom interrupted. Jade waited for more, but the breakfast that followed was eerily quiet, and Cleo kept looking over to her with that sorrowful expression. Oh, please, Jade thought, I don’t need your pity. Her face must’ve betrayed her thoughts, because Cleo looked a bit taken aback and averted her gaze, focusing instead on the breakfast in front of her.
“It’s a shame,” her father said after a few long minutes. “We all really liked Paige.” Her mother glared at him. “What?” he asked.
“Okay, yes,” Jade said, trying to relieve some of the awkward tension, “Paige and I broke up yesterday. But it’s fine. It was a mutual thing. We’d just been growing apart. I don’t need you guys to baby me.” This must have come out more curtly than Jade intended, as her mom looked a bit hurt and–surprisingly–kept her mouth shut. “Um, the French toast is really good, though, Mom,” Jade added in a softer tone. “Thank you.”
As their parents were getting ready to load into the van, Cleo lingered in the foyer for a minute, looking at Jade with that same sad expression. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to make it weird. I just didn’t want them picking on you this morning.” She left, locking the door behind her, and Jade had the house to herself. She couldn’t help but soften a bit–as irritating as her little sister’s big mouth could be, it was a nice gesture.
They had always looked out for each other like that, even though they were about as different as two siblings could get. Jade had quit going to church over a year ago, while Cleo co-led the church’s choir. Jade buzzed her blonde hair and wore a lot of denim, while Cleo was the picture of femininity–lace and bows frequently adorned her slender frame and long, dark hair. Though they were only two years apart, Jade’s tall stature and stark features had always made her pass for older, while Cleo’s freckled face and big eyes gave her a more youthful beauty.
Their interests differed, too; while they often bonded over music, Jade was much more worldly than her 19-year-old sister. Cleo never stepped out of line–it was unlikely that she’d ever had even a sip of beer–while Jade had experienced more than a few different kinds of highs. Still, as different as they were, Jade and Cleo had always had something of an unspoken pact to be there for each other in a household that was strict and unyielding.
Jade needed to lie down. She made her way back upstairs to the room that she and Cleo shared. Why the hell not, she thought, fishing a pre-rolled joint and lighter out of her top drawer before stepping out onto their mini balcony. The weather was grossly cheerful–a light breeze settled in to accompany Jade as she slowly inhaled. The world, she supposed, was reminding her that it didn’t care about her shitty little life. If Paige were here, she’d probably say something about the poetic irony of it all. Paige was like that: smart, but she leaned into it a little too heavily.
Just as she started down the long, pathetic road of reminiscing about her now-ex, Jade was startled by a tap-tap on the sliding glass door behind her. As quickly and surreptitiously as she could, she flicked her joint through the balcony fence and into the bushes below before turning to face whoever had caught her. Luckily, the face behind the glass door was Cleo’s. Jade nodded for Cleo to come join her, and the younger sibling slid open the door and stepped out onto the balcony, taking the other seat.
“You’re not going to church?” Jade asked, genuinely curious.
“I thought you could use the company today,” Cleo answered.
“I bet that took some finessing.” This was met with a yeah, tell me about ultrabet yeni giriş it look from Cleo.
“So, what were you doing out here?”
“Uh, just getting some air.” Cleo looked disbelieving, but didn’t push.
“I’m really sorry about Paige,” she said. Jade shrugged. “No,” Cleo continued, “she’s a real b-word if she doesn’t see what an awesome person you are.”
“Whoa-ho-ho!” Jade laughed. “Little sis gettin’ serious!” Cleo blushed. “No, I… I appreciate it. Really. And thanks for telling Mom and Dad. I wasn’t looking forward to that conversation.”
“You’re welcome,” Cleo said quietly. They sat in silence for a few moments. Jade felt the absence of her wasted joint. Then, she got an idea. Holding up one finger to Cleo, Jade walked back into their room and fished around in her top drawer. She brought back two joints and sat down with a curious look on her face.
Cleo, on the other hand, looked terrified. This prompted a hearty laugh from Jade. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. I just thought it would be polite to give you the option.”
Closing her eyes, Cleo shook her head quickly and raised her eyebrows. “Um, no, thank you.” Jade nodded. “But–” Cleo added quickly, “I don’t mind, um, if you want to. Really.” Jade’s eyebrows went up. She considered for a moment before shrugging, sitting back, and lighting up. It felt funny to be doing this in front of her perfect little sister, but Cleo had given her permission. They sat like that for a few moments, Jade taking the occasional puff and Cleo sitting way too stiffly. As Jade felt the high come on, she couldn’t help but chuckle at her sister’s innocence.
“Nothing,” she said to Cleo’s curious look. “Just… surprised by you.”
“What is it, um, like?” the younger sibling asked. “Weed, I mean” she added in a whisper.
Time to play the older sister role. “It’s fuckin’ awesome.” Oops. Oh well. “It’s the opposite of stressful, and it makes everything feel interesting and funny. At least, that’s how it is for me. Some people just get drowsy.” Cleo stayed seated stiffly, but her brow furrowed and her eyes focused on the fresh joint on the table. Jade saw an opportunity. “It would probably be too much for you to handle,” she said with just a hint of teasing in her voice.
Cleo–defiantly, slowly–reached out toward the joint as if it were a wild animal poised to bite. Jade looked on, smiling in disbelief, as her goody-two-shoes younger sister slowly picked up and inspected the piece of rolled paper. The older sibling held her lighter out, and Cleo cautiously put the joint to her lips, letting Jade light the end for her. “You have to breathe in,” Jade said, watching the end glow red as her sister followed her instructions. Not two seconds later, Cleo erupted in a fit of coughing. Jade chuckled, patting her sister hard on the back. “See?” she said, “I knew it would be too much for you.”
Cleo’s eyes narrowed. “I know what you’re doing,” she said. But she put the joint back to her lips anyway, looking at Jade expectantly. The older sibling relit the end for her sister, who managed to take in a sizeable hit before coughing again. There they sat, passing Jade’s lighter back and forth, and the situation was hilarious to Jade. The more she smoked, the funnier it became. The more she laughed, the more her little sister wanted to prove that she could hold her own. As a result, Cleo burned through her joint rather quickly. Noticing this, Jade leaned over to inspect Cleo’s eyes. This led to another hilarious realization: her sister was stoned.
“What are you laughing at?” Cleo asked.
“Nothing,” answered Jade. “You did good, sis.” Their parents would be pissed if they found out, but Jade didn’t really care. She decided that she wasn’t being a bad influence, not really. That brainwashing church their family went to wasn’t any better, and it was time her sister started to experience some of the real world. “You can say it, by the way,” she added. Cleo looked confused. “The… b-word,” Jade whispered teasingly. Cleo flushed.
“Paige is a, um… biiiitch.” It was the slowest and most awkward cursing Jade had ever heard, and she loved it.
“Paige is a bitch!” she replied, chuckling.
“She’s a total… bitch,” her sister answered, more confidently this time.
“Bitch bitch bitch!” Jade yelled out to the open sky. Cleo started laughing hard. Her laughter led to more coughing. “Let’s get you some water,” Jade suggested, moving to get up. Her sister started to protest, but Jade nodded c’mon, and Cleo stood to follow.
After a brief excursion to the kitchen, the sisters settled back into their room with water, coffee, and snacks. They loaded up Mario Kart and were soon teasing each other about who was winning.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Cleo?” Jade chuckled. “You keep running into walls. Even more than usual, I mean.”
“Shut up!” Cleo retorted. “…I’m just a little dizzy.” Jade’s smile ultrabet giriş turned into a look of concern.
“Are you uncomfortable?”
“No,” Cleo replied, “it’s just that everything looks… extra 3-D. You know?” Jade smiled, relieved. She knew exactly what to do. She cut off the game. “Hey!” Cleo said, but Jade just held up a finger as she pulled something up on her phone.
“Here we go,” Jade said, and she broadcast her phone to the TV. Blue filled the screen, accompanied by slow, mystical music. A school of fish came into focus.
“What is this?”
“Blue Planet.” Before long, David Attenborough’s lilting baritone voice joined the soundscape.
“Just below the surface of the great Atlantic Ocean lies a thriving, yet delicate, ecosystem…”
“Whoa,” Cleo said, staring at the screen intently. Her eyes were bloodshot, and her mouth lay slightly agape. Jade smiled. She felt proud of her little sister for breaking out of her shell.
“This is your first time ever doing anything like this, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Huh?” Cleo replied. “Oh. Yeah. Although, I have tried drinking before–I just didn’t like it very much. It made me feel like I couldn’t think straight. But right now, I feel like I can think of a bunch of things all at once.”
“–these ten thousand eggs will soon become tiny fish–“
“…Is this what you do every week instead of coming to church?”
“Most weeks, yeah.”
“How do you not get caught? I mean, how do you act normal when Mom and Dad come home?”
Jade smiled. “It comes with practice. And it’ll wear off, don’t worry. Drink your water.” Cleo did as she was told, and Jade grabbed a blanket from her bed. She wrapped the soft fabric around Cleo’s shoulders.
“Thank you.” Even just sitting there wrapped in Jade’s blanket, high as a kite, Cleo looked effortlessly beautiful.
“–all the way down on the ocean floor, camouflaging itself to avoid predators–“
“You know, sis, you didn’t have to stay home with me today,” Jade said. “I’m sure they’re missing you at church.” It took a few moments for the words to register with Cleo.
“I wanted to be here,” she assured her big sister. “I know that you act all tough, but it really sucks when relationships end.”
“Yeah.” Jade’s brow furrowed. “…Yeah? You have your own experience with that?” Her sister stayed silent, but nodded after a few seconds. “Shit. Who was the guy?”
“Gabe, from church.”
“What happened?” Jade asked. “Did he hurt you?”
“No, nothing like that. I just… had these… feelings, about somebody else. And I couldn’t shake them. It felt wrong to be with Gabe while I was thinking of another person all the time.”
“That’s really noble of you, sis.”
“–sticking together gives them a better chance of survival in the shark-infested waters–“
“…Do I know this other person?” Again, Cleo silently nodded. “Who is he? C’mon, you can tell me.”
“It, um. It isn’t a ‘he,'” Cleo mumbled. Jade’s eyes opened wide, but she caught herself. This was a big moment. It was important that she stayed calm and showed acceptance. She nodded.
“Damn, look at me being heteronormative. Thanks for telling me.”
“Please don’t tell Mom and Dad.”
“I would never.” Jade walked over to her little sister, knelt down, and gave her a hug. “I’m always here for you,” she said. Cleo’s arms slowly found Jade’s back as the younger sister joined in the embrace. She tucked her face into Jade’s chest.
“It just feels wrong, you know?” Cleo said after a moment. “I’m not supposed to think of her that way.” Jade put her hands on Cleo’s shoulders and pushed herself back a bit to look into her sister’s eyes.
“Hey. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that,” she said. “Who you think of that way is not a choice.”
“Well, I know, but I’m really not supposed to, because–“
“There is no ‘supposed to.’ You love who you love.” After Jade said this, Cleo was silent for a few moments. Then she nodded.
“Okay. Thank you.”
“–and while many fish eat their younger siblings for survival, the gilt-head bream will devour its older brothers and sisters as well.”
The next few weeks were more or less normal–Jade fielded a few intrusive questions from her parents about Paige, but they mostly left her alone to play video games and sulk. She knew that it was only a matter of time before they got on her case about sitting around the house all day, so she tried to milk the post-breakup leniency for all it was worth.
One thing, though, had changed: Cleo was hanging on Jade like a puppy. Sure, Cleo tried to act like it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but Jade could tell that something had changed since the day they’d smoked together. It made Jade question her role as a big sister–was it her job to be a good role model? What did that even mean? Maybe teaching Cleo to rebel a healthy amount was the “good” thing to do. Whatever; she ultrabet güvenilirmi tried not to let it affect her behavior too much. Besides, it was sort of cute that her sister was looking up to her like this. Her parents had always made Jade feel second-best in comparison with her perfect sister, so the change of dynamic was, she had to admit, refreshing.
The two started staying up late into the night from time to time, talking about everything and nothing. They’d lie in their beds, lights out, trading off questions and answers, stories, observations about the world. Occasionally, Jade tried to glean more information about Cleo’s mystery girl, but any time she broached the subject, Cleo would shut it down immediately. Jade could tell that with that particular secret, her sister, even with this new dynamic between them, wasn’t going to budge–at least not without a little help.
“So, you wanna smoke?” Jade asked her sister one night during a lull in conversation. There was a breath in, but no response. “I’m gonna smoke,” she continued.
It wasn’t long before the glass door slid open and Cleo joined her sister on the balcony. It was a bit chilly, but Jade had brought blankets. The sisters got bundled up, and Jade lit her joint. After taking a hit, she held it out to Cleo, who took it hesitantly.
“You know,” Jade said, “you don’t have to do that.”
“Pretend like you don’t want to hit it. There’s no one judging you here.” Cleo looked pensive, but eventually she nodded. She hit the joint. “No coughing this time, look at you!”
“I’m a quick learner.” Jade laughed at this.
“You most certainly are, sis.” They passed the joint back and forth for a few minutes, enjoying the crisp air. Then, Jade piped up. “So… truth, or dare?” Cleo gave her a come on, really? look. “Truth or dare?” she asked again, smiling. Cleo rolled her eyes.
“Who’s the mystery girl?”
“Ugh….Dare.” Jade laughed.
“Okay, I see how it’s gonna be. Alright, hm… I dare you… to send a winky face emoji to anyone in your contacts list.”
“No!” Cleo protested. “No way!”
“Okay, then you have to tell me who the girl is. Those are the rules. Truth, or dare.” A moment passed, and Cleo’s face was screwed up in indecision. Her eyes flickered back and forth. It was hilarious and adorable.
“I… fine. Just a winky face? To anyone in my contacts list?”
“Anyone but family.”
“Shoot,” Cleo sighed. She took out her phone, and Jade leaned over to see.
“Ooh, Mary Beth? Spicy, sending a winky face to your best friend.”
“Shut up. I’ll just explain it to her later.”
“Fair enough.” So, Cleo was comfortable sending a winky face emoji to Mary Beth with no context. That meant that Mary Beth couldn’t have been the girl Cleo was hung up on. Then who?
“And done. Now you. Truth or dare?”
“Okay….Um, okay–I dare you…” Cleo snickered, “to shout the p-word.” Jade racked her brain. What was the “p-word?” Cleo saw her sister’s confusion, and she leaned over to whisper: “Penis.”
“Are you five years old?”
“Oh, um, I mean I’m sure I can think of a better one if you give me a minute–“
“No, no, this is the game. Okay.” Jade looked hesitantly in the direction of their parents’ bedroom. Surely they were asleep by now. “Penis!” Cleo snickered again, but she looked unsatisfied.
“Nuh uh–I said shout it. That was barely as loud as your speaking voice,” she chuckled. Jade’s sister really could be immature sometimes. Or maybe it was just that they were stoned. Probably both. Jade looked around and took a deep breath in.
“PENIS!” she yelled, loudly enough to produce an echo.
“Oh my gosh!” Cleo laughed, and Jade couldn’t help but join in. They both shushed each other between giggles. Eventually, their laughter died down.
“Okay, Cleo, truth or dare?”
“If I say ‘truth,’ are you going to keep asking about the girl?”
“Mm, fine. No, I’ll drop it.”
“Okay, then truth.”
“Hm. Okay. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try but never have?”
“Sure. Is it skydiving?”
“No, actually I’m terrified of heights.”
“Okay, then what?” A moment after Jade asked this, Cleo blushed. “C’mon, what is it?”
“I’ve, um. Never had my… first kiss.” Jade’s eyebrows went up, but she remembered to monitor her reaction. In moments like these, it was important to show acceptance and not to judge.
“That’s okay,” she said. “Lots of people haven’t.”
“Lots of people my age, though?” Cleo asked quietly. “All my friends seem to be so experienced, and it makes me feel like, even if I got the chance, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d be bad at it. It’s like a catch 22.”
“Have you ever practiced?”
“You know, like, kissed your hand and stuff.”
“I mean, sure, but it’s not like my hand can tell me whether I’m doing it right.”
“Hm.” They sat in silence for a couple of beats. “Wanna practice right now?” Cleo turned beet red.
“What… do you mean?”
“I mean practice with me. It doesn’t have to be weird. I can give you feedback and help you make sure you’re ready for when the time comes.”
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