Martha Marie

Marie sagged against the doorframe to the small college apartment bedroom she shared with her younger sister Abigail and sighed quietly. It had been a long hard week, and a long hard day, and she was very tired. She wondered if Abigail had heard her come home and make dinner, and if she was waiting for Marie to come tell her it was ready or if she just had not noticed. Abigail lay flat on her stomach with her hands propping up her chin, reading on top of her cheerful blue and yellow bedspread, with her feet waving gently in the air, and humming to herself, looking absolutely oblivious to the world; Marie doubted Abigail had even noticed Marie, five feet in front of her, let alone that Marie had come home and made dinner.

Marie stood there for a moment, resting her aching head against the doorframe, then knocked on the open door. "Dinner's ready," she said, her voice flat in her own ears.

As she turned away she saw Abigail roll off the bed in that singularly fluid motion that Marie had tried and failed and tried again to imitate until she had given up any hope of being half as graceful as Abigail. Still, Marie felt her jaw clench at the natural show of grace.

The kitchen was small and unfriendly. Even after a year of living in the apartment, the bland browns and cold fluorescent lights irked Marie. She did not love bright colors quite as much as Abigail, but she still loved color and beauty. The only thing she did like about their décor was the painting of Christ with Martha and Mary which hung over their small table. The table was set with mismatched college-apartment dishes, both plates already full. Marie grabbed the water pitcher from off the dirty counter which she had just cleaned that morning, and a moment later thudded it down on the table. With a small groan she sank into her uncomfortable chair.

She heard Abigail singing as she came down the hall and into the kitchen. Abigail almost always could be found by sound. But the singing was doing nothing for Marie's headache, and she scowled.

Something like surprise flashed across Abigail's face, and she slipped into the chair next to Marie's.

Marie gestured to Abigail, and Abigail said the prayer. Marie's thoughts strayed to the library where she had spent the day struggling with a frustrating Physics assignment. As she was leaving, just before she'd left the building, she'd run into a friend, and he'd said, "Hello," and "How's Abigail doing?" She scowled again. "How's Abigail doing?" that's what he said, not "How are you?" or even "How's your sister?" no, he asked about Abigail. She had been friends with him for a year before Abigail had moved in with Marie, and Marie had liked him. But no, Abigail was magnetic, and everyone loved her. Now that she thought about it, he'd been at the party her roommates had held a few nights ago, and she remembered he'd seemed interested in Abigail. If the sun had just come out for a few minutes then as she'd walked home things would feel so much more hopeful, but no. It was gloomy.

Quiet filled the kitchen. She looked up, blinking, and saw that Abigail was frowning concernedly at her.

Marie turned away, and picked up her fork. They ate in silence for a few minutes. Marie twirled her spaghetti around her fork longer than necessary as she stared dully at the fake flowers on the table. Back home Abigail had frequently raided the garden for the most beautiful flowers, the lush roses, the cheerful snapdragons and daffodils, the hyacinths, and others to fill vases for the table. The dining room would be filled with good smells and good color, cheerful and peaceful. Not that there would be many flowers even now, it was February, and February was a horrible cold, dark, and gloomy month. She sighed. Abigail's staring made the hairs on the back of her neck twitch. She smiled a tiny bitter smile in irritation and a small amount of amusement. Abigail did not normally pay that much attention to Marie, since Abigail had so many other friends to spend time with she always put off talking to Marie. They only ate together, and slept in the same room, but they were rarely both home and in the mood to talk. Abigail usually listened to music during dinner, though Marie guessed that her scowl at Abigail's singing before dinner had prevented her from turning it on this evening.

Only a few bites later, Marie's amusement had faded and her irritation did not.

"Will you stop looking at me like that?" she snapped.


She glanced at her sister, huffed, and looked down at her plate.

"Marie," Abigail's voice was gentle but insistent, "Marie, look at me."

Reluctantly, Marie looked. Her eyes met Abigail's—lovely jade green eyes that Marie had always envied—which today were narrowed in frustration and fixed on Marie.

"What's wrong?"

Marie dropped her head into her hand, and massaged her temples, pointedly ignoring Abigail. A minute passed. Marie moved her hand to her forehead and finished clearing her plate slowly and methodically, trying not to think about Abigail's concern, or Jeb, or her Physics homework, or the weather, or her throbbing head.

Abigail's sigh snapped Marie out of her unsuccessful not-thinking and back to the present. With a small scraping noise Abigail pushed her chair back, rose, and took her dishes over to the sink. Marie's little bitter smile was back. As much as she disliked Abigail prying, she did to some degree appreciate her concern. But she was fine, it was just the weather, and Jeb, and her homework, and everything. No, it was just the weather; she certainly did not care that everyone, including Jeb, and even Marie herself at times, liked Abigail more than they liked Marie. No, really, she was fine.

She listened for the Abigail's usual humming, stretching her back and rolling her shoulders to relieve the tension that somehow had settled into them. The last of her dinner was getting cold. She picked up her fork absently, then paused, and tilted her head.

Abigail still wasn't humming.

Marie turned. Abigail stood still by the sink, her hands on the edge of the counter as if she needed the support. She looked sharply at Marie. "What aren't you telling me?" Her voice was sharp too.

Marie frowned at the demand. What exactly was going on? Was Abigail really that worried about her? She hadn't done anything so very unusual, and since when did Abigail notice anything outside of herself anyways?

Abigail stalked over, gesturing with her hands as she spoke like she always did when upset. "Marie, I know something's wrong. You're never quite this quiet unless something's wrong. You didn't ask for me to do anything to help make dinner, like you usually do. And you've been scowling all evening. What is it? What did I do? What is wrong?"

Marie looked up at Abigail's intense stare, and a hundred memories—of Abigail singing with her beautiful voice, playing the flute, talking comfortably with strangers, getting good grades, making everybody love her, and moving with a grace that Marie could never manage through a hundred situations, while Marie followed behind cleaning up, and struggling with words and and the world—swept through Marie's mind. The weight of her stress and jealousy made her headache throb. She closed her eyes and rested her head in her hands, cradling it gently. None of it mattered, none of it was really Abigail's fault. It was just Marie. She sighed heavily.

"Nothing." She looked up, met Abigail's eyes, and smiled. "Really, Sis, I'm okay. It's just been a hard week."

Abigail nodded, her expression softened. She smiled and rubbed Marie's shoulders for a moment, and Marie felt the tension ease out of her back, and out of the room.



"I love you, ya know?"

"I know."