In The Genes

AN: Something I, for one, never expected; it's a story with no visible slash! Still, the angst is there, along with the monologue form that I've come to love. Thanks for reading, and please REVIEW if you like it, or especially if you have any constructive criticism.

NOTE: Seeing as the story made my friends all give me funny looks, I must declare: THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. Thank you.

You know, you did cry an awful lot when you were seventeen.

What, you thought I didn't notice? I even asked you about it, remember? But you were always fine, or busy, or whatever. I didn't ask you about it after that, not even when your eyes were so bloodshot that I was surprised that even Mum didn't catch it. I'm a practical girl. I'm not going to offer my help if it's not going to be taken.

You were throwing up a lot, too, but I didn't even wonder about that one. Bulimia does kind of run in the family. Some kind of genetic predisposition to a lack of will power, simultaneously leaning towards the kind of perfectionism that leads to self degradation, perhaps?

Or maybe we're all just fucked in the head.

Yeah, even I've felt the urge a time or two. When I'd eaten a bit more than I should have or even wanted to, and felt kind of greedy, a bit sick, and maybe just a little self-loathing. I didn't actually do it - too cowardly, I guess - but I've come too close for my own comfort. I think I know too much about it. I know that the fingers down the throat doesn't work so easy, and I know how much water you have to drink before it'll all come up.

...What, you think I'm perfect just because I'm Mother's little darling? Like hell. You saw to that.

Shit. Sorry. I know you hate it when I blame all my problems on you. I don't mean to -

What am I saying? Of course I mean to. It is your fault. You had me convinced I was adopted for six fucking years, you bitch.

What, would you rather I blamed Mum and Dad for not noticing my little insecurities? Yeah, you probably would, actually. You were always on at me to kick Dad in the shins when he got our names mixed up, and shout at Mum when she accused me of lying. You said I was too spineless, too sugar-sweet.

The fact of the matter is, I just don't want to be like you.

I thought long and hard about telling you that, you know. I wondered, would you put your nose in the air, and say that that was a good thing, because I'd never be able to match you? Would you smile that mysterious, inscrutable little smile of yours, and tell me that I obviously didn't appreciate your truly incredible nature?

...What do you mean, what smile? Don't give me that, you know the one I mean. That one where you make your mouth into a little bow shape, and look so coy - no, not that one! No, I can't show you, my mouth's the wrong shape. What? No! I have not tried to imitate it! No, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery! You see, this is why I don't talk to you more often!

Anyway. Lately, I've been wondering - if I told you now that I didn't want to be you, would you maybe agree with me?

...Don't worry. I wasn't expecting an answer, anyway.

You weren't smoking, either. I didn't really think about it. Knew a girl, once, had to go on a school trip for a week, and didn't want her classmates to know she was bulimic. She started smoking to stop herself getting restless and fidgety. Guess smoking was the lesser of two evils, huh? Yeah, so I just figured that if you were chucking up in the bathroom, you didn't need to be hanging out of your window and smoking at the same time.

I didn't ask when you started crying more and more - although I think even Mum and Dad were wondering why you spent so much time in your bedroom, and why the amount of make-up you used was gradually increasing. I didn't ask when the vomiting stopped, and the smoking started again, more than ever before.

...Yes, of course I knew. You're not half so subtle as you think you are. You're just lucky Mum deemed the corner under your bedroom window too dark for gardening, or even she, the permanently naive, would have figured out why half the dirt was made of ashes and cigarette butts.

I didn't ask when your grades went down the tube and the school started writing letters home - although that really pissed me off, you know? Mum and Dad were so freaked about their delinquent daughter that they practically chained me to my books, in some kind of bizarre see-saw of compensation.

Yeah, yeah, complain all you like that I'm blaming you again. So what if I got all As? I could have anyway. I'm not stupid, just because we like different things.

And you've got to credit me with some incredible curiosity control, here; I didn't even ask about that letter with the South African stamp that came, months later. Not even when paper ash joined the cigarettes in your little garden, and your eyes turned red again.

I didn't ask when Mum found your earrings in the back-yard, the silver ones that your boyfriend had given you. Oh, don't feed me that line. Of course it was a boyfriend, because it wasn't family or a friend, and you'd never have bought them yourself. They were tasteful. Mum, naturally, was all wide eyed and Oh, darling Joyce must have mislaid her earrings, tra la la! I figured that he'd cheated on you, and you were a mite irritated.

Point for me, I was closer than her. Not that it's hard, most of the time.

You say I'm apathetic. I just don't like to interfere is all. Like that dinner we had, at the nice Chinese restaurant. What were we celebrating? It might have been your birthday, but I doubt it. We never go out to celebrate your birthday. You say that you're fucked up because Mum and Dad don't love you. I say you can hardly blame them, when you had the bad taste to be born on the anniversary of your older brother's death.

Maybe it was for Christmas. Yeah, it was, I remember. Dad was going to be in America on business for the whole holiday, so we thought we'd do something as a family first. The way I see it, the only thing we need to be doing as a family is visiting a therapist. And even that doesn't appeal - my plan is to sue them all blind when I'm eighteen, for emotional damages.

...No, that was not your plan first! You were going to change your name and never speak to them again, remember? And you didn't even do that. Nearly nineteen, and still living at home...

Alright, fine. I will allow that the being a penniless student is a worthwhile excuse.

Anyway, we were having this dinner. And of course, Becca couldn't keep her mouth shut - can she ever? God, tactless does not begin to describe her! - and she let it slip that the friend Hannah had stayed the night with was - horror of horrors - a man. Still, it was funny how shocked everyone acted. They're moved out and all - although Hannah can't cut the familial ties and still lives in our guest room half the time - but their good little eldest daughter isn't allowed to be anything other than a vestal virgin.

Hannah, of course, immediately decided to pass the buck. Can't tolerate little sister Becca being an upstart, and has to reassert her authority by pecking down on someone else. She picked you, unsurprisingly - you've got to admit, you're an easy target. Asking what the marks on your arm were from was a low blow, though, even for her. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Yeah, all three of you are. Must be something in the genes. What the hell, I'm probably a bitch, too.

At least Mum and Dad didn't care enough about you to wonder about the scars. Negligence is a beautiful thing.

...Like I said, it's in the genes, my dear sister.

Anyway. While the three of you were busy trying to kill each other through sheer force of glare, I was finishing my dinner. I love Chinese.

...Oh, fuck off, Joyce. It isn't apathy; it's common sense. If I stay out of the way, I don't get hit when the insults start flying. Also, it reinforces the image of the perfect daughter. The sweet, saintly angel, who shall be the delight of their twilight years, never makes trouble... Although I suspect the blonde hair may help. Nothing makes you look innocent better than wavy golden locks.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of looks, I'm taller than you. Say that you're bustier all you please: I wouldn't want to be a double-D anyway, it'd be hell to buy clothes. Anyway, you may be big in the chest department, but you're also fat.

Yeah, you heard me.

...Oh, for Christ's sake, don't look so upset. You're not as plump as Hannah and Becca are, anyway, and I'm no wraith myself. It's just the genes. We're the type that's made for wearing aprons, being generously dusted with flour, and making cookies. The farmer's wife look. Face it, we're all just predisposed to be the plump, bustling mother-of-three type.

Shit. I didn't mean to say that, honestly. Shit, shit, shit.

...Oh, come on, like you wouldn't be walking on eggshells after what you told me!

...Of course I'm bloody uncomfortable with it!

I don't want to know! Jesus, Joyce, I'm sorry you had a miscarriage when you were seventeen, but I'm your little sister, not your shrink! It's not my business to care that you were in love with some doctor ten years older than you, and that you were thinking about moving with him to South Africa and having the baby. You probably would have aborted anyway, you said yourself that you didn't want to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen at seventeen. And I know it must hurt to know that he married some girl and knocked her up too after you lost the baby and couldn't hack it anymore -

...Oh, Joyce... He must have wanted that life, really wanted a wife and a kid, really wanted you. He just found it in someone else. But it isn't my fault that this Marie girl has your life, and I don't want to know.

What really bothers me about it? Fuck it. Fine, I'll tell you. Why did you have to tell me about having to be drunk when you slept with him at first? Why did you dump that emotional baggage on me? And what really bothers me is, I even know why.

...No, I didn't read it!

...Hang on, you keep a diary?

Fine, I'll jog your memory a little bit. You were fifteen, I was thirteen, you'd been at a party, I was home alone. You came home smelling of smoke and sweat and alcohol, and ran straight past me up the stairs. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that something's happened when all the buttons are ripped off your blouse and you have streaks of mascara down your face. Plus, when you got out of the shower, you'd just about scrubbed your skin raw. And I walked past your bedroom door and heard you crying.

...No, I didn't tell anyone. You guys trained me out of that long ago. I didn't really appreciate being locked in the cupboard under the stairs whenever Mum found out something she shouldn't have.


All right, all right, no need to bite my head off. I just wasn't expecting an apology after all these years.

Don't sweat it, by the way. It wasn't so bad. Quite cosy, in fact, after I stashed a blanket and a couple of pillows in there. I even had a torch and some cookies hidden away after about the fifth time. You can't ever say I wasn't a cunning child.

...You just said that to be perverse.

...Yes, Joyce, I really have known all this time.

...Because you're two years older than me! You're meant to be the one looking after me! You're meant to be the one giving me advice! Because it's not my problem! I don't need your help, why the hell do you need mine? You didn't take my help when I offered it the first time, so don't ask for it now. You didn't even want my help when it was actually happening, it's just now that it's over that you decide to fuck up my life by making me worry about you!

You've always been so good at making everyone focus on you. Like when you were thirteen and took a razor blade to your wrists. Mum was crying everywhere, and didn't so much as listen to anything the rest of us said. She said that if you died, she wouldn't be able to live! I was eleven, and you were making my family collapse around my ears.

I hate you sometimes, you know? Always so intelligent, always so messed up. I never got to be the special one. I just got to be the good twin. And now I can't stop being the good one, because if I do, maybe everything will all fall over again.

Don't ask me to care! We've all got our own lives, and we all deal! Who made you the most important? Who said that you were the centre of the universe? Because you're not! Not nearly. Nobody is the centre of my world but me, and I won't let you take that away from me!

...Oh, shit.

I'm sorry, Joyce, so sorry. I really am.

I didn't mean to make you cry.

I'll go get you a tissue.