XLIV. Bare Minimum of Love
“What are you going to do now?” Nina asks me.
I shrug, “I don’t know.” I exhale lightly and stir the cup of ice-cold fruity drink, “I’m still trying to process everything.” When I hear screams, I turn my head to see Crystal and Dustin playing with their cousins in the backyard. Right now, we’re at Nina’s house while Matt and Jackson went to work.
Nina holds my hand, “We’re here if you need anything.”
I grab the straw and lick off the wet content, “Can you invade an evil organization?”
“Matt said he looked into it. The organization had been gone for a long time. They don’t exist anymore.”
I gave her a side-eye glance, “And Makena?”
“I don’t know why she said those things.”
I dip the straw back into the drink, “Can I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
I lean in closer, “During the meeting, doesn’t Matt look weird to you?”
“I...How do I say this...He looks like he is hiding something?”
Nina chuckled, but it wasn’t one of those you’re-joking chuckle, but an uncomfortable one.
“Why are you fake laughing?” I call em’ as I see em’.
Nina stops laughing.
“You don’t believe him,” I said.
Nina’s fingers curl into her elbows. “It’s not like I don’t believe him.”
“But you think there is more than what he’s telling you.”
“Matt has always been the type to tell half of the truth.”
“You can just say it.” Her eyes waiver towards me, “You don’t trust your husband.”
Nina bit her lower lip for a moment before her eyes went around the room. The maid finishes decorating the flower vase before she left. Nina got up and settle beside me, “Look. I do think there is more than what Matt is telling me,” she whispered. “When I talk to him about this whole fiasco and mention Alice-”
“You think Alice has something to do with this?”
She nods, “He kept brushing me off. I wanted to talk to Makena alone, and he told me no. How the case is close.” Her teeth ground against one another, “Then, he had the nerve to have the guards drag them out of the room. He’s fucking hiding something from me, and I’m pissed.”
“Then, why aren’t you saying anything?”
“I did,” she responded viciously. “He told me to stop over-analyzing everything. He fucking brought the therapist.”
“You have a therapist?”
"You have a therapist,” she rebuttal.
I raise both hands as a form of surrender. I do have a therapist, but it’s more for Crystal. Once in a while, I would talk to him.
“The damn therapist said I’m overthinking things and how the pregnancy may cause me to go-” she swirl a finger around her head. “You don’t think I don’t know who’s side the therapist is on? It’s not the one who isn’t writing his paychecks, that’s for sure.” Nina brushes her hair back and leans against the edge of the chair.
“I am under the assumption you’re upset.”
“Why would I be upset? I get the whole bed to myself.”
I cover my mouth with a hand and watch as Nina shakes the floor with a single leg. “What are you going to do about it?”
“I’m going to find out what he’s hiding.”
“Oh? And how will you do that?”
Nina releases a short breath that almost sounds like a chuckle, “You don’t believe I can do it.”
I stay quiet.
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking you won’t like what I’m thinking. I’m thinking how you shouldn’t ask me to say what I’m thinking.”
“Will I be hurt?”
“You won’t get what you want from Matt. He’s a dead end. Save the stress and give up.”
Nina straighten out her back, “What? Shouldn’t you want me to press him?”
“As much as I would love to watch you two bicker. I know what will happen already. You will pester him. He will tell you to let it go. Then, you’ll pout like you do now.”
Nina’s brows crease together, and her jaw tighten. She’s trying her best not to lash out at me.
“He’ll give you a few days to pout then apologize. You will pester him again while crying. Then, he will coax you for the week. He’ll give you whatever you want except what you really want. Eventually, you’ll forgive him. Particularly after the fantastic family vacation, he set up for you and your children. You’ll see how happy the boys are and drop everything. During vacation, if you aren’t pregnant, you’ll get pregnant.”
Nina didn’t respond because she knows its the truth.
“You’ll be upset, but not enough where you will divorce him. Maybe, at the most, you’ll fly back to California and pout some more.”
I grab the drink and sip on it. I know I’m cruel, and I know I shouldn’t have said those words. Maybe it’s the stress, or perhaps it’s the ugly jealousy that swirl inside me since I saw Nina’s house. Here she is, sitting at home in the middle of the day, sipping on a fancy fruit drink. Right now, I would be in my little square cubicle with only the cactus plant as my only ally. I shouldn’t be jealous of my sister. After all, I had already chosen my path. I choose to leave.
But maybe it wasn’t the house that got my jealousy.
Her existence itself can leave a sour taste.
It’s not because Nina is a mean person; she nice.
And that’s it.
She’s everything I’m not.
Throughout my life, I’ve always lived in my sister’s shadow.
Most of our siblings live in her shadow.
And maybe, that’s why they rarely visit her.
“You’re right,” Nina said.
I wish she would scream at me - pick something in my life and criticize it. That way, I wouldn’t feel bad as I do now. This is me; I’ve always said stuff I shouldn’t. I should’ve kept my mouth shut and went back with the kids.
Nina grabs the drink on the table and sips on it. She’s not happy, but she won’t fire back. Nina had always known her boundaries. For me, it’s different. If anyone were to say those stuff to me, I would fight back - mentally and physically.
But that’s what makes me weak.
It’s a defense mechanism.
Inside, I’m afraid.
I know everything, but I still can’t change myself.
But, maybe that’s it.
Maybe, I’m simply an ugly person.
Then, the memories return. It was when I was in the break room with my co-workers. We were talking about something, and everyone would laugh. Then, we would complain. We would talk about everything that co-workers typically talk about. Somehow, one sentence after another, someone would say: “I heard people who bathe in hot burning water are usually people who grew up receiving none to the bare minimum of love. They say the hot water is like a warm hug they never got when they were a child.”
Maybe people like bathing in hot water because it’s comfortable.
But then the thought arrived.
Did my parents ever hug me?
I remember pondering about that thought the whole day.
Did my parents ever kiss me?
Did they ever tell me they’re proud of me?
Did they ever tell me they love me?
They love me. I know that.
But, I require confirmation.
And the deeper I thought, the darker the memories seem to become. I was never that child they hug, kiss, or praise. I was the child that would stand in the background with her B+ spelling test, while Nina was the child that held the large gold trophy. People would surround her and tell her that they’re proud of her.
I shouldn’t be mad at Nina.
She worked hard to be where she is.
I was there to see all the hard work and long hours.
But still, it left a sour taste to know that despite staying up as many hours as she did - to work as hard as she did. I could not achieve the same standard as she did.
So, in the end, I gave up.
There’s no point in chasing a rainbow.
I should apologize for what I said, but I couldn’t find it in me to apologize despite knowing I hurt her. Perhaps, there’s a sick part of me that enjoys seeing Nina in pain - to stumble her way out of perfection. She isn’t perfect. But she’s so damn near perfect that it makes me sick.
To weigh in, though, my actions made me even sicker.
Now, there’s an awkward silence between us.
Nina is here to help me, and instead of returning the favor, I show her my ugly side. I wouldn’t blame her if, one day, she decides to stop talking to me.
Nina runs her fingers through my hair and tucks it behind my ear, “Don’t look at me like that. You’re only telling the truth. I need it.”
I’m disappointed...in myself.
No wonder why Crystal turned out this way. It’s because of me. She has someone like me as her role model.
“In this type of environment,” Nina said. “Where everyone only kisses my ass. I need someone willing to tell me the truth.” Nina holds my hand again, “And I would love it if my sister won’t stop seeing me.”
I had always known that Nina felt lonely here. Everyone she knew and love is halfway across the country. Here? You don’t know if people like you because of you or your status.
“No one ever comes anymore,” she mumbles.
Because your life isn’t something, anyone can get used to. It’s nice at first, but then it would become overwhelming. All our siblings couldn’t handle it, so they would rarely fly here.
Then again, who would have a few thousand layings around to simply fly across the country for a visit?
“Forget that I said that.” I wish that would come out as an apology instead.
But, no matter what I said, Nina would always respond the same way - she smiles.