Dr Daisy Rivers knew she had to find more time to spend with her little sister. Monja was lonely in the big house and while she had tried to not work from home, she had isolated herself. Even when Daisy did extra hours at the university, she took the time to come over to the big house, where Monja wrote all her textbooks. Daisy didn’t like coming back to the house, but it was worth it for seeing her little sister smile. She arrived later than anticipated that day, but Monja didn’t seem to mind. The door to the old mansion opened long after Daisy made it into the Daisy was greeted by a pale woman in a silk rope with uncombed hair that was several kilos lighter than her sister had been the last time Daisy had come by. Only when they hugged, Daisy recognised her sister. She still wore mother’s perfume.
’Hello Daisy, I’m so glad you could make it.’ Monja’s voice lacked any emotion.
She didn’t even seem to be glad that Daisy had made it, regardless of the fact that it had been Monja who suggested that they should meet up again. Daisy wanted to turn around and leave. If she went back to the university now, she could forget who her sister had become. There was nothing let of the cheerful young woman that used to organise parties in the garden. She moved one sandy strand of hair out of Monja’s face. They used to have the same hair colour, but Daisy had been in the sun so much that her own hair had become much paler, just like the contrast of her own tanned skin against Monja’s pale forehead. She didn’t want to bring it up, but the situation was getting too dangerous for Monja. If she let herself go further, there might be nothing of her left the next time Daisy came by.
’You look pale, sis, and you’ve lost weight. When was the last time you went on an excavation?’ Daisy asked.
Excavations were the only thing they both liked, though they were interested in very different aspects of it. Where Daisy only cared about bones found under the ground—ideally fossilised bones—Monja was often happy with finding a stupid shard. Any of those that the museum wouldn’t take was displayed somewhere in the house. Daisy had to remind herself, not to chuck them out every time she came by.
’I don’t think, I’ll be going on any excavations soon,’ Monja said and lit herself a cigarette.
She offered the pack to Daisy who just frowned at her sister. This happened every time Daisy came over. Monja chain-smoked and Daisy had to explain again, that she no longer smoked. She hadn’t smoked in almost ten years. Monja exhaled the smoke and Daisy was wrapped in a cloud of toxicity.
’Archaeology isn’t what it used to be. There is no more funding for going to Europe. If I want my group to be able to go to another site, I need to sell more books. All my books now are basically making big papers available to the students. And then I have to update them all the time.’ The designation in Monja’s voice was sad to hear.
It didn’t sound healthy and it definitely didn’t sound like the Monja that Daisy knew. Something had broken in her sister and she didn’t know how to restore it. Monja shouldn’t be looking older than Daisy. She was the baby girl amongst them and Daisy was the oldest.
’Maybe, you should take up teaching again. You used to enjoy it so much. When did you last go to the university?’ Daisy asked.
It was a long shot. Some years ago, Monja had taught a class to first year archaeologists and ever since, the university asked her to do the same every year. Monja looked at Daisy as if Daisy had suggested for her sister to put a bullet through her head.
’I don’t know.’ She didn’t look at Daisy when she answered.
Something was lost in Monja and Daisy didn’t know how to get her sister back. So instead, she opened the cookie jar and handed Monja one of them. There wasn’t much else she could do.
’We should have some tea.’ It wasn’t a question.
Daisy knew that Monja would have gotten the idea to eat or drink anything on her own. When Daisy got to the kitchen, she noticed a mouldy sandwich. She made a mental note to hire a new household help for her sister. Monja must have fired the latest one. This time, Daisy would make sure, that Monja had no power to fire the help that she provided for her.
’Have you ever travelled back for your research?’ Monja asked as Daisy returned with a tray.
’Are you insane? Of course, I haven’t. Just to remind you: I mainly work on dinosaurs. Going back would be too dangerous.’ Daisy snorted. Time-travelling wasn’t something you did because you felt like it and Monja should know that.
Precambrian Accidents is the first instalment of Principles of Palaeontology. The Story is still a work in progress. Add it to you reading list and be the first to hear about new chapters. If you want to read about more women in stem, check out Ethics and The Hyperspace Hypothesis.