Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The sisters in Tasmania

She saw now that the couple at the next table had left a single oyster untouched. She wanted it. Suddenly. She wanted to stand up and walk over to their abandoned plate and eat that last oyster. She wondered why they had left it. She calculated the cost of a plate of them. That oyster was the price of a bus fare. Sometimes at the end of the week she walked to work because she didn’t have the bus fare. Lucy licked her lips. Tasted salt.

She noticed the little cracks in the makeup, tiny little lines at the corner of her sister’s eyes. Lucy often felt that she was getting old, which meant her sister was getting even older. Somewhere under that makeup was skin as tired and patchy as her own. Her sister was thin now, but she was large once too. A fat girl squeezed into this tight new body. It was good to see Rachel looking so fit, but Lucy couldn’t help feeling that they were the same, despite their differences.

She smoothed her skirt down over her legs. For some reason, sitting here with her sister made her self conscious. People would be comparing them. They were obviously related, the same round face, the same short legs, the same accent, almost but not quite English. They had both overcompensated for their accents, stretching their vowel sounds, mimicking an Australian drawl.

“Well, cheers”

Lucy clicked her glass against Rachel’s and tried to smile as naturally as possible.

“Great to see you.”

“Yeah. Great.”

They sipped their drinks and stretched their smiles at each other until they could no longer hold them and Lucy looked back out at a sky that had darkened significantly.

“I knew Tassie would be cold but I didn’t really expect…” she indicated the squalling wind outside the window, the choppy bay, the first spots of rain on the wide expanse of glass.

“You should have brought an overcoat you know.”

“I don’t own one.”

“But you should have bought one. You’ll get sick.”

“I didn’t really think that…”

“You were always hopeless like that.”

“I’m just not used to - look, it’s still pretty warm up north at the moment.”

“Except this is Tasmania.”

“Yes. I suppose.”

They sipped their drinks in silence. Lucy glanced over at the plate with the oysters. She should just order some oysters. But that would be a waste. That last oyster stared up accusingly at her from the next table. She was almost close enough to reach out and pick it up off the plate. It bothered her that humans were so polite about these kinds of things. A bird would have pecked it up and moved on. Any other animal would have taken this opportunity. One lone oyster, some tobasco, some lemon juice.

Lucy sipped her martini and stared out the window in what she hoped would seem like a comfortable silence until her sister shifted and cleared her throat.
“You know, I got someone in last week to do the lawn. I usually do it myself but there are all these little flowerbeds now and it is difficult to navigate the ride-on?”

“Oh. Okay.” Lucy had never seen her sister’s lawn, never having been to her house. She didn’t know that the lawn would be big enough to need a ride-on mower and she didn’t particularly care.

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