“You’re not my real father.”
“That is not an appropriate answer, young lady.”
Hunched over the dining table, I coughed into my apple juice, pretending to work on algebra homework while listening to my parents discuss with Jess why she hadn’t come home from school until after nine o’clock at night, way past curfew.
I knew the reason.
My sister was possessed.
I know, all younger siblings think it at least once, if not hourly, about their blood-bound tormentors, but I really meant it. Something had got to Jess, gotten in, and now controlled the body currently lounging in the living room, saying weird stuff to my parents and silently scaring the hell out of our cats.
Growing up, Jess had always been a little off. Nothing textbook diagnosable, of course.
For example, she usually kept her sickeningly natural blonde hair extremely hippie-esque by using only earth safe shampoo that smelled like overcooked herbal tea. Unforgivably chamomile. And whenever asked if she would try meat products again, Jess always responded, “This is my time of adjustment.” Whatever that meant. She never wore jeans and detested alcohol, so in my parent’s eyes she was the perfect daughter, the very essence of a pleasant oddity. Fodder for polite dinner conversation at the neighbor’s house.
But to me, Jess was always the queen of left-handed compliments, of non-sequiturs, and eating all but the crumbs of my cookies, yet still returning the bag to the shelf as if it was full.
Last Sunday things took a turn for the worse after the minor earthquake, the one that shook our house so hard grandmother’s antique mirror fell to the floor and shattered.
On Tuesday, she stole the last of my hair gel to slick back her mane into a ridiculously tight ponytail. Mom didn’t notice at first, but my poor out-of-control curls sure did.
And on Wednesday, I saw her sneak a stick of bacon at breakfast, sipping regular milk, not soy, with her cereal. Dad saw it, too.
Little things like that, little but very telling things, continuing all the way through the week until now, when the three of them sat together to finally discuss the, “recent developments in her behavior.”
From my vantage point, I could see poor Mom and Dad were obviously unnerved by my sister’s kohl-rimmed eyes and chipped nail polish tapping out a Morse code symphony on her sandblasted denim. Jess didn’t say a word the whole time. Totally weird.
Finally, forty minutes and no response later, my parents sent Jess to her room and then, for no good reason, said I had also better get to bed.
Unfair. I had been the good daughter all week, finishing my schoolwork, avoiding possession.
When I walked past Jess’s door, I couldn’t help but peek in to see the disgraced angel. She had a single lamp on, barely enough light to fill the corner of the room, and sat pouting into her shell pink vanity.
The reflection staring back was not my sister. Or human.
It grinned at me with too many teeth and waved.
I ran to my room and slammed the door shut. No use. No lock. I shoved my hope chest over as a barricade and hopped in bed, fully clothed, clutching my sheets clear up to my nose, wondering what I was supposed to do next. I held my breath, straining to hear movement from my sister’s room. Nothing but silence answered.
I didn’t remember falling asleep.
“Abbey, I think it would be nice if we spent more time together. I really think it would be nice.”
I opened my eyes. My door was ajar, the hope chest pushed aside. Jess sat just outside, in the hallway. The nightlight haloed her blonde mane.
“Sure,” I mumbled, mouth void of comebacks and saliva. It must have been near midnight, hours later. My parents were probably asleep.
“Abbey, I think it would be nice if we started sharing the same room again,” she hummed, crawling on all fours into my room. "Like we did when we were oh-so-little."
“I dunno…” I didn’t want to piss it off, the thing controlling my sister. Her demeanor was definitely not of a friendly spirit possession, more of a soul-sucking-spitting-bones variety.
“Abbey, I really think it would be nice if we started sleeping in the same bed together again,” she said, pulling her way up and onto my sheets. Then she snuggled her overheated body next to mine and started eating my hair.