My sister was born under a dark star.
I’ve heard people talk about ‘sibling rivalry’ before, but if such a thing ever existed between us, I don’t remember it.
My earliest memory was of her, tucked under covers with flashlights reading fairy-tales to me while our parents slept. She would sit with one knee on either side of me, with the book held out in front, holding me closely. I never felt safer than when I was in her arms. “I hope we’ll always be together,” she said one night. I wondered what made her think we would ever be apart.
Sometimes our mother would discover us the next day, a tangle of limbs and blankets. I heard them fighting soon after that. One of the words she used was “filthy”.
We stopped reading under covers.
They would pick her up from our house, in cars that I heard before I saw them. I would answer the door, wanting to see what her taste was. They were all different versions of the same guy, but I never saw the same one twice.
She would come home with messy hair and clothes unkempt after those nightly excursions. We never talked about where she went, or what she did, but she would always come into my room afterwards and crawl into my bed.
“I hope you never treat a girl the way I’ve been treated,” she would say, in a voice that didn’t sound like her.
Then there were the parties. Every weekend, it became a ritual for her to call me into her room and help her choose what to wear. She would carefully apply makeup to her face for hours, trying to perfect what she didn’t already know was perfect.
I would wait up nights for her to open the door when she came home. After I opened the door, she would stumble to the bathroom and begin throwing up the contents of dinner. I would carry her to bed, where she would pass out with all her makeup and clothes still on, and sleep until the afternoon.
“I think your sister has a drinking problem,” our mother said the next morning.
That night, I heard shouting, the sound of glass breaking and a door slamming. I didn’t see my sister for a long time after that.
A few weeks later, I came home to discover her in her room, packing a suitcase. “There you are,” she said, as if she had been looking for me all this time. “You were the only thing I missed about this place,” she said, walking over to give me a hug.
“Where are you going?” I asked her, my voice breaking a little as I said it.
“I’m moving overseas,” she replied, not meeting my gaze. “I haven’t decided where yet.”
“Is it because of Mom? You don’t have to leave the country. If you’re going to move out, I could go with you.”
“I just want to get away from here. I’ve never had much luck,” she said, wiping away something in the corner of her eye. “Maybe I was born under a dark star.”
“I don’t want you to go. I’ll never see you.”
“I know. But we both know that it’s better if we’re apart.”
That moment was the first time I discovered what it meant to get your heart broken. She walked over and kissed me for the last time, before walking out the door.
Several years passed. I got older and taller, and before I knew it, I had a girlfriend. I still carried around the wallet that my sister had given me, and one day my girlfriend saw the picture in it.
“Who’s that girl? She’s pretty,” she said, grabbing the wallet off me to look at the picture intently.
“That’s my sister,” I said, taking the wallet back and putting it in my pocket.
“Oh,” she sighed. “I thought it might have been an ex-girlfriend. You two look so close.”
Her comment brought back painful old memories that I had struggled to keep away. Not long after that, we broke up. No matter what I did, or how hard I tried, nothing could make me forget the dull ache I felt whenever I thought about her. I kept myself busy, going through the motions of every day life, but I could never shake the feeling that my life had lost all meaning since she left.
A year later, I got a telephone call from my mother. It had been some time since I had heard from her, and I was surprised that she was calling.
“What’s the matter?”
“Your sister’s getting married.”
“To who?” I asked. I began gripping the cup I was holding so tight that my palm burned.
“She didn’t say. I suppose it’s a whirlwind romance, you know what she’s like. She just called to invite us to the wedding. It’s in a month.”
“In Tokyo.” I held the phone away from my ear, wishing I wasn’t hearing this.
“Are you still there? I’m really glad that she’s getting married. Things weren’t going well for her for a long time. And you two were just too close for your own good,” she mused, as if she were talking to herself.
I didn’t remember hanging up the phone or what I said after that.
The next week, I was on a plane to Tokyo.
I showed up at the address she had given me, clutching my bag tightly. It had been such a long time, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if things would be different between us, or if we would pick up where we left off. I got off the subway and walked down streets for what felt like an eternity, until I arrived at her place.
There were plants and trees all around the building, and white pebbles on the ground around the footpath, which looked as if they had never touched dirt before. Everything was pristine, and perfect, and I felt as if I was dirty, disturbing the clean, quiet perfection of my sister’s residence.
A few moments after I pressed the doorbell, an elderly woman came to the door. She looked confused to see me, and started asking me something in Japanese. I heard another female voice, followed by footsteps, faint but sure.
“There you are,” she murmured when she saw me, as if she had been waiting for me all this time. “Well, give me a hug,” she said, opening her arms.
As she let go of me, I finally noticed my surroundings. Natural sunlight was streaming in through the skylights. The room was filled with white, minimal furniture. Everything about this place screamed money, and lots of it.
“What did you do?” I asked her. She knew what I meant, because she blushed and turned away from me. “I met someone here. He’s a bit older than me. I just decided to marry him because it seemed like the kind of thing people in love do.” Her voice sounded strange as she said the word ‘love’ like she was going to choke on it.
“You don’t know what love is. You’ve never been in it.”
“Don’t talk to me about love,” she said, in a tone so cold it could have turned the room to ice. “I’m going to get ready for dinner. You can come, or you can stay here alone.”
A man in a suit drove us to a restaurant in a black sedan that had a fresh, just-bought smell. The restaurant was quiet, and we were taken to a private room in the back. There was a man and a woman waiting for us in the room with a bottle of sake. They looked old enough to be our parents.
She greeted them and introduced me in Japanese. The woman smiled at me, making me uncomfortable. It was the kind of smile that someone uses when they want something. My sister and the man looked awkward together, they didn’t match. There was something improper about the way he stroked her shoulders, and I didn’t like it.
After drinking, the four of us returned to the house together. After that my sister and the man disappeared, and I went to another bedroom in the house. The woman from dinner followed me into my bedroom and began to remove her clothes.
“I’m not interested,” I told her.
“She’s not yours anymore,” she replied, getting into bed. “You have to forget about her.” Drunk, and too tired to protest, I let the woman do what she wanted, before I drifted off into a heavy sleep.
I was woken the next morning by the sunlight drifting in through the skylight. The woman was gone. I went downstairs and found my sister by herself, a cloud of white material covering the floor.
“Zip me up, will you?” Her skin was smooth and white, like alabaster, the skin I hadn’t touched in years.
“You slept with that woman last night, didn’t you?” I didn’t reply, and my sister took my silence as a yes. “She’s disgusting. Preying on little boys.” I could have said the same thing about her fiancée, but chose to remain silent.
“You don’t have to get married to that man,” I told her, spinning her around to face me. “We could leave together and go somewhere we don’t know anyone”.
“You know we can’t,” she said, looking at me properly for the first time since I got here. “What happened between us that time- it won’t happen again. What we have between us is unnatural, and it’s dangerous. You’ll understand what I mean someday.” She turned back around and looked at my reflection in the mirror as she spoke. “Zip up my dress and then we need to leave.”
We got into a black car outside which whisked us away to the future. We didn’t talk at all the whole way. When we got out, she turned to me and pleaded “just do this one last thing for me.”
Without waiting for a response, she linked her arm through mine and I automatically did what she had wanted me to all along. I walked her down the aisle, both of us with smiles plastered to our faces, making believe that we were happy.