“Bug off,” Aubrey said in a voice resounding menace but just barely audible over the thunder of rain to her left, irritably pushing away her older sibling.
“Come on, Bree, just showin’ you some good ol’ sisterly love,” Caroline announced drawing her sister closer to her chest.
Aubrey retaliated by grabbing her sister’s ponytail. “I’ll let go if you will.”
“Ow, ow, okay!” Caroline whimpered, bending her spine backward as Aubrey pulled downward. Aubrey let go as did Caroline. Without another glance, Aubrey delved back into her book.
“Scoot your butt, Aubbie,” Caroline demanded, wedging herself between the wall and Aubrey’s feet. Aubrey did not move so much as Caroline bodily forced herself in. “Whatcha readin’?”
Aubrey directed the cover at Caroline momentarily before diving flipping back to her page. “A Tale of Two Cities, ay?”
“Yes,” Aubrey replied without intonation.
“They made me read that back in high school,” Caroline said.
“No one has to force me to read,” Aubrey said.
“‘Course, bookworm. How didja think you earned those glasses?” Caroline asked. She reached out and thwacked the pair down Aubrey’s nose. Aubrey pushed them back up without sparing her sister a glance. “Whaddaya think?”
“What do I think of what?” Aubrey asked as she turned the page.
“Of the book, silly brain,” Caroline said. “Redemption, true love, sacrifice, and all that jazz.”
“It seems to rely on an abnormally large number of stereotypes and applies only superficial characterization. The story line relies on the fact that two unrelated males look so similar that they can change places with one another without anyone the wiser. Women are treated as either pseudo-religious objects of innocence or hags of war. I think Dickens could have done much better, especially when discussing such an interesting time period as the French Revolution,” Aubrey explained dryly. “I also dislike the determinism implicit in the story in which the only way Sidney Carton can be redeemed is by dying instead of the far less dramatic manner of changing one’s actions.
“Some of it may simply be regarded as the result of the milieu in the time that he wrote. He was a writer of popular works, so he must have felt the need to bend to match the views of the times.”
“How do you know Carton dies? You’re not done yet?” Caroline asked.
“I like to read books twice. Once for the story. Once for the analysis,” Aubrey returned.
“So, do you eat food twice, once for the nourishment and once for the taste?” Caroline asked. Aubrey did not respond. “Oh come on, Bree-Bree, that was funny. You can smile.”
“I dislike the use of metaphors inappropriately applied,” Aubrey said. “Including but not limited extensions created for comedic purposes.”
Caroline watched her little sister for a long moment. She had wrinkles in her brow like an old woman as she tensely examined each page, eyes jumping from one word to the next. There was determination and militarism, as the young woman fought through the text like a soldier in battle, triumphant in each weakness she found as evidence of her superiority.
“Why are you staring at me?” Aubrey asked.
“I wasn’t staring at you. I was staring at the rain,” Caroline said, hastily averting her eyes.
“You’re lying,” Aubrey said, in an almost sing-song voice that harkened back to the thousand and one arguments they had repeatedly in their youth.
Caroline ignored the accusation, as she was wont to do. “It’s pretty, isn’t it? The rain?”
“It’s precipitation. Gaseous water condensing on particles of dust and soot. It’s probably acidic because of all the sulfur dioxides up there,” Aubrey replied dryly.
Caroline picked up the pillow that belonged to the window seat but had been thrown off by Aubrey hours before. Caroline waited for Aubrey to glance up before she tossed it at her sister’s face.
“Come on, be more poetic. Read some ‘Walden’ or something nature-like,” Caroline said as her sister flustered.
“Have you even read ‘Walden,’ or anything else by Thoreau for that matter?” Aubrey demanded.
“No-puh, but I’m just trying to speak your language, sister dearest,” Caroline said. “Do you remember when we tried to make up our own language?”
“Vaguely. We just jabbered in gibberish to one another for a day and a half to the bemusement of our parents, correct?” Aubrey said.
“Pretty much,” Caroline said, laughing. “That was great, especially since that was when Mom had her book club. So we were shouting to one another babbling nonsense while they were trying to discuss ‘Jane Eyre.’ Didn’t one of Mom’s friends suggest an exorcism?”
“I do not believe she was serious,” Aubrey said.
“Still though, good times. Why did we ever stop?” Caroline asked.
“I think Dad said he would give us ice cream if we would speak English,” Aubrey said, thinking.
“Curse him and the lure of frozen desserts!” Caroline declared dramatically. Aubrey ignored the outburst.
“The strange thing is, from what I remember, I had no idea what you were saying, but I always knew what you meant,” Aubrey said, quietly.
“Yeah, same here,” Caroline said. “Do you remember when we tried to build a pool in the sandbox?”
“I don’t think Dad ever truly forgave us for flooding the basement,” Aubrey said, shaking her head.
“Or when we tried to see who could climb higher up that tree in the park?” Caroline asked.
“I think I still have pinesap under my fingernails from that,” Aubrey said.
“Or when we illustrated all of Mom’s books?”
“If you become an artist yet, they may be worth something,” Aubrey noted. “Although if I remember correctly, you lied and said I was the only one who colored on them.”
“Hey, it’s always better if one of us avoids punishment,” Caroline said with a shrug.
“Mom never believed me when I claimed it was both of us. Perhaps it would have been better if I had been extravagant in my claims as you were, but more likely, we would just be set in a prisoner’s dilemma and punished all the more,” Aubrey said mildly.
“I miss you, when I’m in New York. I mean, I think we both bare visible scars of our sisterly love, but I still miss you,” Caroline said.
Aubrey turned the page.
Caroline laughed and nudged her sister. “Come on, robot, this is where you say that you missed me too.”
“I don’t like lying,” Aubrey said primly. She glanced at her older sister over her book before adding, somewhat laboriously, “But I suppose I missed you a little too.”
“See? That wasn’t so hard,” Caroline announced jovially.
Aubrey gave her an amused look, leading to Caroline exclaiming, “Was that a smile? Hold the presses! Aubrey Norris has finally shown evidence of expressing emotion!”
“Bug off,” Aubrey replied, returning her countenance to an irritable frown.
“I tease, I tease,” Caroline said, pinching one of Aubrey’s cheeks. Aubrey batted away her hand. “And you might as well put that book down because I’m going to annoy you past your refined ability to ignore me.”
“Did you want something from me?” Aubrey asked, not setting her book down.
“Just to chat, you know, sisterly bonding,” Caroline said.
“I thought we just did that,” Aubrey said.
“I’ll give you kudos that sisterly bonding did take place, but it has to be a continual give and take. Like a covalent bond thingamajig, we have to share electrons,” Caroline explained.
Aubrey looked up, mildly surprised.
“Hey, I passed chemistry in high school. I know the science!” Caroline said indignantly.
Aubrey ignored her and turned a page.
“So, do you like anyone?” Caroline egged, with a broad smile that infused her words.
Aubrey scowled, blushing as she dove farther into her book.
“Joking! Joking! Although, I think I might take a line from Shakespeare in that ‘I think the lady doth protest too much,’” Caroline said.
“I didn’t saying anything,” Aubrey said, attempting to regain her composure. “Thus, I couldn’t have ‘protested too much.’”
“What’s his name?” Caroline asked, leaning closer to her younger sister. “And remember your own no-lying schtick.”
“I am not going to dignify this with a response,” Aubrey declared, righting her glasses on her nose and determinedly keeping her eyes to the page.
“Oh my freaking gosh, you so like someone,” Caroline giggled.
Aubrey remained the color of a piece of salmon, but said nothing. She turned the page.
“Once I’m gone again, who’s going to tease you for me?” Caroline asked.
“I go to high school,” Aubrey reminded her.
“Do you get teased?” Caroline asked, accepting a worried expression much more likely to be in place on the younger sister.
“Not so much,” Aubrey said dismissively.
“Breena, you know you can always talk to me, if you need to, even when I’m in New York,” Caroline said.
“Breena? When did I become Breena?” Aubrey asked.
“Bree, Bree-Bree, Aubie, Breena, Breenster, Aubnopolis, Aubocracy,the green, mean, Bree machine. I’m an artist; creativity is in my blood. I can’t control it!” Caroline said, throwing her arms in the air.
“You’re silly,” Aubrey said.
“You’re sillier. And silly billies get wet willlies,” Caroline declared, licking her finger. Aubrey’s eyes grew wide as she rolled off the window seat. Caroline shook with laughter as tears rolled down her cheeks.“I love you so much, Aub-goblin,” Caroline said, reaching down to help her sister up. Aubrey threw the window seat pillow she had tumbled onto at her sister with a victorious smirk. Caroline was about to retaliate before she grasped at her pocket quickly. She removed her cell phone and checked the caller ID.
“Oh, it’s Phil. I gotta take this,” Caroline said. Caroline clicked a button and began to walk out of the room. “Oh, hey, Phil. Um, yeah. I’m not actually in New York right now. I’m visiting my family. And what?”
“Caroline?” Aubrey called softly as Caroline was about to exit the doorway.
“What, Aub Job?” Caroline asked, placing a hand over the speaker on her phone.
“I love you too,” Aubrey said.
Caroline smiled. “I know, Aubie-lou Bree.”