Fiction. The Little Sister, a short story by Adreyo Sen.
The Little Sister.
I never wondered why the only thing in my room was a grimy, stained bathtub, overflowing with black, sulphurous water. You see, I always assumed that it was there so that my brother could shove my face into the depths and watch me with blank pleasure as I came spluttering up.
My brother was Mommy’s son. But I was not Mommy’s daughter. It was very confusing.
“Your real mommy doesn’t want you,” she would say calmly, “So I’m stuck with you.”
I’d watch her as she sat on the floor spreading butter onto hot flatbreads for my brother. I longed to run my hands through her beautiful, henna-stained hair.
If she was in a good mood, she’d let me comb it for her.
Often, after sweeping the room, I’d wander onto the railway tracks and watch my Real Mommy stride to the station in her betel-juice stained coolie’s uniform, twin girls chattering by her side.
I wondered why Real Mommy wanted them and not me.
I woke up one night to find a child in a blue t-shirt and black jeans running a plane up and down my arms.
“Who are you?” I asked her shyly.
“I’m Sinbad,” she said in a sweet, grave voice, “I travel the seven seas.”
She’d often toddle in after that.
One day, I sat her down next to me as I wrestled with pages I’d torn out from one of the magazines Mommy filched from the house she cleaned.
“There,” I said happily, “One more plane for you to play with.”
But she had gone.
“I’m not tame you know,” she rebuked me sternly the next time I saw her, “I come and I go.”
But she came often, sometimes condescending to snootily fall asleep in my arms. And she’d bring me strange little gifts. A miniature dollhouse. A golden beetle. A little paper fan.
“Where did you get these from?” Mommy would ask me severely. And she’d give them to my brother.
It didn’t matter. Sinbad kept bringing me new gifts. A little fountain pen fashioned from the tears of ravens. A scrap of fabric from the Angel of Death’s black gown. And then I didn’t see her for a while.
One day, I wandered heartbroken into Mommy’s bedroom. She used to let me watch her as she lay on her string bed, singing and laughing.
There was a child in her arms. “Sinbad!” I said in delight, “There you are.”
But the child only wailed in agony, its grave, sweet face red and cross.
“Sinbad,” said Mommy indolently, “That’s a nice name, whatever it means.”
And she inadvertently flooded me with some of the immense love she felt for the child.
I knew why little Sinbad was crying.
I’m going to stitch her a new blue t-shirt and black jeans.
And then she can go wandering into the world again.