I knew that something was amiss the moment that I showed up at my house, which might have seemed small to some, but was mine free and clear (no mortgage BS, thank God!). There, sitting on my front porch, was a woman that I hadn’t seen since she was a little girl, but she was unmistakable: Carly, my own sister. I stood, stunned really, at the sight of my ravishingly beautiful sibling, before reminding myself that she was one of THEM. Yes, she was part of the family who had disowned me and kicked out when the moment that they could get away with it. She never objected to my expulsion, never spoke up for me, and near as I can tell, probably benefited from suddenly being an only child, despite how kind I had been to her.
“Oh, it’s you,” I finally spoke, my tone very cold and curt with her, which prompted a very surprising reaction: she was actually hurt by my words.
“Yes, brother, it’s me. Your kid sister. Remember me? You took me for my first ice cream cone. You read me bedtime stories when Mom and Dad sometimes had better things to do. You took me to soccer games and cheered for me. Yes, bro, I remember what all you did for me. You were a great big brother. I haven’t forgotten. What happened to that brother? Where did he go?” Carly asked me with a very pained and saddened voice right then.
“He was disowned by his parents, betrayed by his sister, kicked out of the house, cut off entirely, and pretty much treated as a non-person. Did you forget already?” I reminded her, causing her to sob and shake her head in pain, “That man is dead and gone. Buried by heartache and loneliness long since.”
“You really think that I betrayed you? Turned against you? Rejected you as Mom and Dad did? I’m your sister! I’m your baby sister! I would never do that to you! Not in a million years! Don’t you get that I was only 11? You were 18! I’m fucking sorry that Mom and Dad discarded you like garbage, but I had nothing to do with that! Please, bro ... please understand that I do care about you and I have cried night after night these past 7 years, I swear to God! This was the first time that I could come to you and speak to you in more than half a fucking decade, Reuben! Please,” Carly begged me to accept her explanation.
“Not one card. Not one letter. Not one postcard. Not even a secret text or note or anything. No phone calls. No contact on social media, sis. Yes, I thought that you were done with me, that you felt exactly as they did, and that you were glad to be rid of me, so you could inherit their money,” I told her bluntly, making her cry some more.
“I know ... I know! I was scared! Scared to be next! You at least were old enough to survive! What would I have done as a preteen girl? Sold my body? Gotten raped night and day? Got hooked on crack or heroin or crystal meth? I was terrified to learn that our parents didn’t love us unconditionally after all. The lesson that I learned was that they loved a certain ideal or dream of us, but not the messy reality. Once their illusions were shattered, we were both doomed. I lived in dread, every single fucking day, both of them kicking me out onto the streets and of learning that you had died violently somehow. I cried repeatedly to think of what you must think, how alone you must feel.
“Please, bro. Please understand. I. AM. SO. SORRY. I beg you, please forgive me for hurting you! I was scared, but I obviously hurt the hell out of you! I didn’t know how much, but I do now,” Carly pleaded with me for mercy, the same way that I had begged my parents not to kick me out (hey, I was a very scared young man right then).
My heart broke. No matter how angry I was, no matter how bitter, I hadn’t seen Carly in seven long years and she bawled her eyes out right in front of me, tearing me up inside all over again. I couldn’t bear to cause her the same pain that Mom and Dad caused me. I reached out to Carly, pulled her close, and embraced herself, letting her cry on my shoulders. I held her tight in my arms and stroked her hair, letting her sob as much as she wished while I did so. I cried at last, myself, after years of fighting back and curbing all human emotions as tightly as I could. I wept as I held my sister in my arms, my baby sister who needed love and acceptance, too.
“Come on inside, in case the neighbors get the wrong idea. Let’s have a stiff drink and something to eat. You like whiskey?” I offered my sister, not caring about the drinking age right then.
“Whiskey sour, if you can manage it, bro. Yeah, I’ve drunk a bit now and then, mostly to dull the pain. You have no idea what it’s like to be the only one in my household who remembers my brother’s birthday and wants to celebrate it, to see it dismissed as yet another day of the week. It hurt like hell whenever my own birthday came around and it felt as if I were getting your presents as well as mine. Same with Christmas! How could anyone celebrate Christmas and have no empathy or compassion for their own flesh and blood? What kind of Christmas spirit is that?” Carly ranted, even as I poured us both drinks, mine a highball with Mountain Dew.
“Baby girl, it’s okay now. At least for now. For now, let’s just drink, eat, and catch up, okay? I want to know what my sis has been up to, anyway,” I told her as I handed her the cocktail.
“Well, I’ve been trying to survive, honestly. The wheels of karma are a funny thing, bro. Mom and Dad have lost everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING! They’ve even lost their freedom. They’re in prison, bro. Jailed for tax evasion, embezzlement, and securities fraud, among various other offenses. The IRS put a lien on the house, the car, the whole enchilada. It turns out that Mom and Dad owe roughly 4 million dollars between them in back taxes. It’s all gone, bro! All of it! We’re as poor as you became, if not worse now. You got lucky in that sense. The IRS knew of you, but as you haven’t lived there in seven years, it was obvious that you were an innocent party, though I had to make it clear, just in case. Of course, I was a minor, so they can’t go after me,” Carly fought back bitter laughter as well as tears.
“Do you at least have a place to stay?” I asked her, now quite worried for her welfare.
At barely eighteen, my kid sister was on her own just like me, except with the advantage of an older brother who was still hurt and angry with her, but loved her nonetheless. Was she still in high school?
“I’ve been ... staying at a homeless shelter. After all, I am homeless now. I catch rides to high school whenever I can or otherwise get up early enough to walk there. I don’t even have my bicycle anymore, bro! They even took that!” Carly started crying again.
I put my arms around my baby sister yet again and smelled her ... she was sweet as ever, so evidently the shelter must have showers ... well, of course, they did. Well, she wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore. I was going to take her in as long as she needed. She was my sister. She had hurt me, yes, but she was my sister and now I understood the fear, the abject terror at the root of what I had thought of as betrayal. I was able to forgive her, because she had just been a little girl at the time. I refused to do to her what our parents had done to me.
“Well, from now on, you’re staying with me, okay, baby girl? You don’t have to leave at all. I own this house free and clear and you’re free to stay with me, to finish high school, and to work once you graduate. I wish I could afford to put you through college, but we both know that’s not practical. I will ask you to get a job once you’re out of high school, but for now, your job is that of a student in my book. I’ll keep a roof over your head and we can be roommates as well as siblings. We can try to repair our relationship as brother and sister. If I had the money, I’d take us both to a therapist or something. Instead, we’ll just have to work it out among ourselves,” I told Carly as I held her tight.
“Reuben ... I ... don’t know what to say! Once again, you’re there for me. I only hope that someday, I can be there for you, too. That’s all I got to say! I don’t even know how to cook. Mom and Dad never showed me how!” Carly cried as I held her close.
“Shhhh ... just let big bro handle that, okay? How about we order some pizza for now, though? You still eat pizza, right?” I asked her and she nodded as she rested her head against my chest.
“Same ol’ bro, same old Reuben Rabinowitz, generous, kind, protective, and always hungry!” my sister added a little teasing at the end, “Of course, I enjoy pizza! What self-respecting teen doesn’t?”
“Same ol’ sis, same old Carly Rabinowitz, sweet, mushy, clingy, and bratty!” I replied as I ruffled her hair, “I love you, sis. Just the way that you are.”
“Don’t mess up my hair! Oh, who am I kidding? I’m already having the worst hair days ever since I moved to the shelter! I don’t have a boyfriend anymore, since it all happened, either,” Carly pouted, “Can I have Veggie Lovers?”
“Of course, you can, sweetie! As for the boyfriend, what happened there?” I asked her, truly concerned as I dialed the numbers for the pizza delivery, “Did he dump you because of all of this? If so, he’s no great loss, anyway.”
.... There is more of this story ...