That’s What Sisters Are For
“Sisters make the best friends in the world.” – Marylin Monroe
“I am so sorry I’m late!” I let out in one breath, pulling the chair back and sitting down.
Megan and Taylor were both already seated inside the restaurant with a pitcher of Mimosas in front of them, each nursing a glass. When they saw me, they each gave me a confused look.
“I almost thought you weren’t going to show up,” Taylor smirked. Her curly brown hair was tied in a messy bun, and despite her best efforts to conceal the dark bags under her eyes with make-up, they were still prominent. “Ms. I’m Never Late Anywhere.”
Taylor Nelson was my freshman year college roommate. The two of us immediately clicked, and we quickly became best friends. She and I continued to live together even after our freshman year, and we remained friends well into adulthood. Megan and I do coffee or brunch almost every Saturday like clockwork – barring that we’re both in town – and Taylor joins whenever she visits her parents. She’s a psychology researcher at the University of Michigan at Ann Harbor and only comes to Chicago about once or twice a month to visit her parents.
“Shut up.” I felt a blush creep up my neck. “I had a late night at work last night.”
Megan nearly choked on her drink while Taylor just shrugged. I had kept Megan in the loop on the whole Ethan situation, and she no doubt knew what late night at work was code for. There had been plenty of other times when I stayed late and still showed up to brunch on time the very next day.
Just then, the waitress came back to our table to take our order.
“Double espresso and the French toast, please.” I was the first one to answer, handing the waitress back the menu I had glanced through earlier.
Today I was in the mood for carbs, and carbs I was going to eat.
After everyone else had ordered as well, Megan gave me a puzzled look. “You’re not drinking?”
“Maybe later,” I replied. “I need to wake up first.“I barely woke up this morning, hitting snooze on my alarm three times. After spending half an hour in the shower trying to wake up fully — I ended up running even later.
By the time I went to bed last night, it was well past one in the morning. When my alarm rang this morning, I may or may not have seriously considered throwing my phone across the room.
I contemplated canceling altogether, but I knew that Taylor was in town this week. That, and our Saturday brunches were sacred — you had to either be in the hospital seriously ill or dead for it to be considered a legitimate excuse to not come.
Hence why I’m here instead of sleeping off my current body ache.
“So, ladies,” Taylor said just as our waitress brought out our order. “I’ve got news.”
Both Megan and I perked up. “Do tell.”
“I’ve been offered an associate professor position at U Chicago starting in the fall to teach a few intro psychology courses.” She hesitantly replied.
“What? That’s amazing!”
“Tay that’s freaking awesome!”
Taylor had been offered the research position at the University of Michigan right out of college, and that was a little bit over six years ago. Despite being the queen of her studies, Taylor and I got up to some pretty crazy stuff. Especially during our junior year of college when we spent a semester in London. Every weekend we went to a different city and drank more than our weight in margaritas and wine.
It’s safe to say that I missed having my best friend in the same city as me.
When I first introduced Taylor to Megan, I was hesitant at first because the two of them are polar opposites, but they surprised me when they immediately hit it off. Now, the three of us were inseparable – and quite possibly insufferable to others – every time we were together.
The three of us were idly chatting, listing the pros and cons of Taylor’s new position, when Taylor finally brought up the inevitable. “So Kenz,” She quirked an eyebrow leaning back in her chair. “Have you started seeing anyone?”
“I’m testing the waters.” I shoved another forkful of French toast in my mouth, trying my best to avoid her intense gaze.
While Megan tried to stifle her snort, Taylor gave me a weary look but nevertheless dropped the subject.
Megan, Taylor, and I were arguing about who was going to pay the bill when my phone started ringing. Pulling it out of my back pocket, Zoey’s name and picture lit up the screen.
It is never good when she calls me.
“What did you do now?” I answered, a hint of annoyance in my voice. Zoey is the type of person who will wait for your call to end, and then text you to ask what you wanted. Over the years, I quickly learned that the only time she ever calls me on the phone is when she’s having trouble with school or mom.
I’m willing to bet money it’s the latter this time.
“I didn’t do anything!” She snapped. “Can you come pick me up so I can stay at your place for a while?”
“Why?” I asked, snatching the bill off the table while Taylor and Megan were digging through their purses. Putting my credit card in the black leather pouch, I handed it to the waitress before either of them had time to process what happened.
“Because mom thinks she can dictate my life.” Zoey gritted out. In the background, I heard mom yell something along the lines of “I am your mother and I do dictate your life.”
With a deep sigh, I replied, “Don’t kill each other until I get there.”
After hanging up, both Megan and Taylor were looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to tell them what was going on. “Mom and Zoey.” That’s all I needed to say before they both nodded in understanding.
Signing for the bill and taking my credit card back, I ignored both of my best friends’ glares and quickly waved them goodbye.
Because today was Saturday, traffic on the highway was unbearable and a trip that would have normally only taken thirty minutes ended up taking me a little bit over an hour.
Pulling into my parent’s driveway, I noticed Dave’s gray pick-up truck was parked next to Zoey’s car. Shifting the car into park, I turned off the ignition and made my way up the stone path leading up to the front door. The closer I got, the louder mom and Zoey’s voices became.
As soon as I walked through the entryway, I was hit with the loud yelling. “Well excuse me for not being perfect!” Zoey shouted. It sounded Iike they were in the living room but as soon as I stepped on the hardwood floor, I only saw Dave lounging on the sectional, flipping through the TV channels.
“Hi, Dave.” I greeted. He was in his late fifties, fairly short and sporting a pretty hearty bald spot. After years of working for other people, about ten years ago Dave finally started his own business and since then his beer belly had become exponentially bigger with each year that passed.
When he heard my voice, Dave glanced up, pushing his glasses further up his nose, and gave me a tired smile. “Hey sweetheart. I see Zoey called in reinforcements.”
I nodded. “Where are they?”
“They were upstairs about twenty minutes ago, but I think they made their way downstairs and into the kitchen.” He replied. “Although I haven’t heard any glass shattering so that’s good – I think.”
I gotta give it to him, it takes a special type of personality to be able to be so carefree and not give a fuck. Sometimes, I wish Dave was my biological father so that I could have inherited that from him.
“If you would have just studied harder, then you wouldn’t be in this position.” Mom’s voice boomed.
“Well – I’m off to do damage control,” I informed Dave as he went back to flipping through channels. In the kitchen, Zoey was furiously stirring a cup of coffee while mom was on the other side of the kitchen island mid-rant.
“I’m going to have to start charging you guys for my services from now on,” I yelled over their bickering.
“Of course you called your sister!” Mom mumbled bitterly.
“Who else was I supposed to call?” Zoey retorted.
“You don –”
“Enough!” I yelled.
It was like dealing with two grown-ass children.
“You.” I pointed to Zoey. “Shut it.” Then I turned towards mom. “Can’t you two ever argue like normal people? I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood can hear you.”
“Why don’t you ask your sister why we’re arguing in the first place.” Mom replied, folding her arms in defiance.
“Well?” I raised an eyebrow towards Zoey.
“Some of college acceptance letters came out this morning.” She mumbled. “Or rejection letters rather.”
“It’s a no from Stanford and U Penn. I got accepted to Loyola and Penn State. And I’ve been waitlisted for Northwestern and University of Michigan.” Zoey solemnly replied, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
“That’s what you two are fighting about?” I glanced between the two of them, completely dumbfounded.
“Yes!” They replied in unison.
“You’re both fucking crazy,” I muttered.
“If she had just studied harder and spent less time hanging out with those friends of hers, it wouldn’t have been a no from Stanford.” Mom continued.
Zoey looked like she was about to say something back but I shot her a look. “Go pack a bag,” I told her.
“She can’t just come running to you every time.” Mom said once Zoey was out of earshot. She walked around the kitchen island and opened the cabinet above the sink to grab a mug. “Your sister needs to learn to deal with the consequences.”
While she had a point, situations like these are exactly what older sisters are for.
With mom working at a school, she had very high expectations of us growing up. Well, Zoey more so than me because she quickly realized when I hit high school that my grades had always been, and always would be, mediocre.
Zoey on the other hand had been a straight-A student for as long as I can remember. Mom had basically been grooming her for an Ivy League school since before she could walk. However, now that the official verdict was out – it looks like the prodigal daughter wasn’t going to an Ivy League school either.
Don’t get me wrong, Zoey was smart and dedicated to her studies, however, she was not a great test taker which ultimately hurt her in the long run. She got a 30 on her ACT and 1250 on her SAT, both of which were still very good scores and definitely better than I did, but not good enough apparently.
“Instead of lecturing her, you should be happy for her.” I shot mom a look, leaning against the counter. “A lot of people don’t even go to college.”
“She’s not a lot of people.”
“You’ve always been hard on her, give her a break. There’s still a chance that Northwestern and Michigan could offer her a spot in the fall.”
Mom snorted. “Not likely. There are thousands of people waitlisted each year and only a few hundred – if even that – get off the waitlist.”
“You’re such a negative Nancy.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m sorry to break it to you mom, but you’re a literal pain in the ass when you want to be. If you don’t cut the crap and just accept Zoey the way she is, you’re gonna be in for a shock when she does go off to college.”
Mom looked taken aback by my words, but she didn’t say anything. “The only thing you’re doing with the constant pressure and nagging is pushing her away. She’s not fucking perfect, and that’s okay. Just deal with it.”
I think deep down, Mom knew I was right. I wasn’t saying this to be a bitch, I was saying it because she had done the exact same thing to me and it’s probably why we’re not as close as some other mother-daughter duos are.
“Just let her stay with me a few days until the both of you have calmed down.” I sighed, leaving her standing there while I went in search of Zoey. She was just descending the stairs with a duffle bag and her backpack when I entered the living room again.
“Let’s go big mouth,” I said.
“Have fun girls!” Dave waved us goodbye, briefly glancing up from the college football game that was on.
Once in the car, I turned to Zoey and smacked her arm.
“What the hell?” She shrieked, rubbing the spot where I had hit her.
“Stop picking fights with mom!” I let out an exasperated sigh, pulling out of the driveway.
I was starting to sound like a broken record, and I was even starting to annoy myself.
“She started it!” Zoey defended. “Excuse me for not being the Einstein she wants me to be.”
“You don’t have to be Einstein, dumbass.” I scolded. “But she’s still your mother, and you need to respect her.”
“But – ”
“No buts!” I cut her off. “I would hope that by now you’ve come to realize just how difficult mom can be. It’s best to just keep your mouth shut sometimes and let her rant.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Zoey let out a defeated huff as she leaned back in the passenger seat.
When it comes to these two, I always find myself playing the devil’s advocate.
“Now –” My voice took on a much friendlier tone of voice. “Is there anything in particular you would like to do today?”
“Can we stop at the Apple store?” She turned in her seat and gave me a sheepish grin. “I need a new charger.”
“And I need a new pair of shoes,” I smirked, knowing that right next to the Apple store there was a Nordstrom.
“May I please try a 7 1/2 .” I smiled politely at the sales clerk as I handed her the beige ankle strap sandal back. Once satisfied with the way the new size fit, I grabbed the box and began wandering around the store waiting for Zoey to text me she was done.
I was passing through the maternity section on my way to the dress section when a familiar face caught my attention.
Hoping he hadn’t seen me, I turned around to go back where I came from but it was too late.
“Kenzie?” He called out.
I hadn’t seen him since I abruptly packed up my stuff and left, and I was hoping to avoid an awkward encounter altogether. But, no such luck.
“Justin.” I forced a smile. He hadn’t changed much since the last time I saw him, except maybe he had gained a little weight. Other than that, he still stood tall at 6′1" with warm brown eyes and olive tan skin.
He was attractive, no doubt, but he had nothing on Ethan.
Shut up brain! Now is not the time, I thought.
“What are you doing here?” Justin asked, scanning the surrounding area.
“Shopping.” I held up the box of shoes I was holding.
“Right.” He let the words trail off.
Talk about awkward.
I was just about to make up some lame excuse that my phone was ringing and I had to get it, but before I could even make a move, a very pregnant figure came out of the dressing room holding a stack of clothing.
“Babe, I’m too pregnant for this. I swear next time I’m just staying home naked.” The blonde trailed off when she saw me standing there. “Oh...”
It took me a minute to realize who the girl was, but once I did, I felt the color drain from my face.
“Hi, Kenzie.” She gave me a small smile and an awkward wave.
“Erika,” I replied, my tone clipped. Erika James. My ex-husband’s office manager. His very pregnant office manager.
You didn’t need to be a genius to figure what was going on. I don’t know very many bosses who take their employees’ shopping, and who let said employees call them babe.
There is a very marginal chance that I could be very wrong about what was going on here, but I had a feeling I was spot on. “I see congratulations are in order.” I motioned towards the two of them, trying my hardest to keep my voice level.
It shouldn’t bother me, but it did.
Erika smiled brightly, rubbing her swollen belly. “Thank you! It was unexpected, but we both feel so blessed.”
My eyes flickered between the two of them. Justin looked three shades paler than usual, and I can’t say I wasn’t enjoying his discomfort.
Serves the bastard right.
From the looks of it, Erika was at least eight months pregnant and if my math was right – which it always was – Justin had gotten her knocked up right around the time I left.
Seeing the recent development between the two of them made me wonder whether all those late nights when he would come home and tell me there was a patient with an emergency filing, were all a lie.
He and Erika had plenty of time to get to know each other during all those late nights.
“As much as I’d love to stay and chat,” I said, feeling my heartbeat quicken and my mind begin to spin out of control. “My sister is waiting for me. Congratulations again.”
I didn’t wait for either of them to reply as I spun on my heel and walked towards the escalator. Along the way, I had discarded the box of shoes somewhere in between the racks of clothing – my desire for a new pair of shoes long forgotten.
It wasn’t until I finally exited the store that I felt like I could finally breathe again.
Dun dun dun! This is only the beginning of some of the drama that is yet to come :)
To everyone reading along as I write this book, thank you a million for being so patient with my weird update schedule.
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