His Captive

By: Cassandra Dee

I gasp.

“To pretend I’m you?” I ask disbelievingly. “Really?”

“Yeah, sure, why not?” replies Ann-Marie, waving her hand airily. “I mean, everyone wants to be me,” she continues, as if that were obvious. “Especially you, Anna. I’m just a little younger, a little taller, and god knows, a lot lighter. Guys ask me out whereas you’ve just got your make-believe boyfriends in books,” she says with a pitying look. “The kind that look like Fabio and star in fake butter commercials.”

I literally can’t speak. The words seize in my throat, my mind spinning because my sister’s level of self-absorption is at a new level. I pity whatever poor guy is hanging out with her tonight. I really feel sorry for him because seriously, it doesn’t matter how beautiful a girl is when she’s got the attitude of a thirteen year-old adolescent.

But when I see that my sister’s absolutely serious, I give up. Shrugging my shoulders, I say shortly, “Fine. You’re more than welcome to search my room if you want. I guarantee you won’t find it there, but fine.”

“Fine,” she shoots right back at me, hands on hips. I half-expect Ann-Marie to stick out her tongue, like we’re second graders fighting on the playground but she whirls around instead.

“I don’t believe you anyways,” she tosses off like a queen. “You’ve always been good at hiding things. Remember those candy wrappers mom used to find under your bed? You were always so sneaky.”

While the memories cause her to smile, they twist a painful dagger in my chest. My eating habits have always been an issue, and as my sibling, Ann-Marie knows exactly what buttons to push. Back then, I ate a lot but it wasn’t healthy stuff. Ding-Dongs, Snowballs, and of course, Little Debbie chocolate cakes were my drugs. It was a problem, but then again, that was when I was fifteen. Now I still eat a lot but it’s all organic. Now it’s about fresh fruit, whole grains, and lots and lots of veggies. But Ann-Marie’s words sting anyways.

She drops her hands at her side and smirks at me derisively.

“Besides, where would a chubby stick in the mud like you be going anyways? It’s not like you ever leave this dump except to work and buy more of your precious books.”

The way she says makes it sound like a bad thing, but I enjoy my simple existence. Although, I must admit my couch isn’t the best place to meet men. Or anybody for that matter.

But fine. There’s no sense in putting up with another second of this bullshit, and finishing my meal, I throw the packet in the garbage and walk over to the sink to wash my lone fork.

Ann-Marie is still standing there with that godawful smirk and I wanna grab that long red hair and make her squeal with pain. But that’s for kids, so instead, I take a deep breath.

“Would you like some tea?” I ask, expression calm. “I’m putting some water in the kettle.”

Dismissively, she flings her glorious hair over one shoulder and marches back to her bedroom grumbling incoherently under her breath, probably to tear the place up looking for that damn dress.

Happy that the exchange is over, I fill my favorite blue tea kettle with water and turn on the ancient gas stove.

Deliberately, I thumb through my case of specialty teabags in search of a particularly calming blend. Deciding on chamomile, I place the tea bag on the counter and open the cabinet to retrieve my favorite mug.

But out of nowhere, guilt begins to nag. Oh god, it’s terrible. It’s the big sister blues, the sense of obligation that starts and won’t stop until I solve her problems. So like they’re magnetized, my feet start walking down the hall, stopping only when I’m at the doorway of Ann-Marie’s bedroom.

I’m not sure why I feel compelled to help her find the stupid dress, but I do. Chalk it up to my need to please everybody. I’ve spent my whole life trying to make sure others are happy and it’s probably not gonna change anytime soon. And standing in the doorway of her room, I see that Ann-Marie’s already made a huge mess.

She’s in the huge walk-in closet throwing things left and right, creating even more chaos in the usually messy space.

“Did you need help?” I ask from my post at the door. I’m not going to enter unless it’s absolutely necessary.

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