I PUSH HER INTO THE BASEMENT. Slow and steady, her weight shifts, dramatically folding and unfolding herself with each smack of the cement stairs. An occasional limb strikes the moldy wooden wall to the left; falls into black nothing on the right. They pull away with a drop of blood or patch of red along the skin, contorting once again to fall ahead of the next appendage. She wears a horrified expression, grunts escaping her mouth, her energy too busy concentrating on where the force will land next, a gymnast's last practice fading to black.

I'm about to close the door when I catch a glimpse of her frilly slip - my frilly white slip - now gray from collected dust and dirt.

She tore her slip two nights ago. She escaped from her bedroom window, probably ripped it on the nasty spines of the bougainvilleas. She went to meet Jimmy down the street, see a movie, so she said. I might have believed her if I didn't find a suggestive love note from Jimmy forgotten in one of her pockets in the laundry basket.

Mother found the slip and scolded her. She pointed towards me, said it was mine. I tried to look for my slip, but couldn’t find it. It was when she flashed a wicked grin and a cute little curtsy did I notice she was wearing it. Hers was a bright white; mine a muted beige. She left the house to attend a piano lesson. Mother proceeded to scold me.

Mother found her cigarettes. I opened the sock drawer for her to see. I cleaned the shredded slip to show its brilliance after a good cleansing. I pointed out the absence of the lace edges I loved so dearly on my own I didn't care about its matronly appeal. I escorted Mother to the treaded trellis, branches bent and folded into a clear path from the roofing underneath the bedroom window. I gave her Jimmy's lovely note, watching her eyes bulge the further they read down the page.

I was in the garden when my sister returned. I heard nothing but the slam of the back door, her figure stomping down the porch steps screaming, damning me to hell as she got closer. Now she'll never see Jimmy. Go out with friends. Participate in her recital.

My eyes and hands reverted to patting the dirt around my chrysthanthemums. I waited for her to finish.

"Maybe you shouldn't have taken my slip," I said over my shoulder.

I felt the hard, firm plant of her shoe on the left side of my waist. I fell back, noticing the brown footprint on my new white shirt. Then a pair of knuckles knocked against my collarbone. Next my arm, then chest and breast. She kept going, her knees digging into my stomach. The hedge shears were a few inches from my hand. I twisted my body making her knees slip beside me, taking pressure off my stomach. I felt her grab my arm and throw me back. I watch her fist come down on the jaw. Sounds of cicadas and crickets vibrate in my ear. She clocked me again on the side of my face while I was busy staring at the tools. I taste blood in my mouth. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

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About Daryn Houston

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Daryn Houston hopes you enjoy her stories and feels bad if you didn't. She lives and writes in Los Angeles with her cat even though she's allergic to Los Angeles and cats. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside's low-residency program.
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