Shea smiled as he caught sight of his sister emerging from the front entrance of her college dorm building as he waited for her in his car. As she began to walk towards him, he leaned his elbow casually on the horn. When she jumped, then scowled at him, he grinned.
"About time, Em," he said as Emmelyn rolled her eyes, getting in on the passenger side. "Were you doing the usual Emmelyn Carson primp thing, or were there more pressing reasons for the hold-up? Should I be checking for lipstick smears and undone flies? The correct answer is no, regardless of any opposing truths," he added hastily, seeing the wicked gleam show itself in Emmelyn's eye.
"Oh, ha ha, what wit, Shea," she said, "although you did manage to mention sexuality and your baby sister in the same sentence without blanching. I'm impressed, man."
"What can I say, I'm maturing," Shea smiled back. "And speaking of my sister, sexuality, and blanching, you do realize we're going out in public, right? Wearing clothes might be required," he said, nodding at Emmelyn's micro-mini-skirt and tight top that displayed a good deal of cleavage. On other girls he might have found this exciting, but on his sister, it made him want to hand her his jacket and button it to her throat.
"Ooh, Shea, two witticisms in two minutes! You are in rare form tonight, bro," she said in affectionate good humor as she tugged her skirt a quarter of an inch further down her thighs. "As for the maturity comment… isn't that coming from the man who still thinks fart jokes are funny?"
"Well, of course they're funny… they're fart jokes!" Shea said. Both of them laughed, for they knew in a way that he was serious too.
It was a Wednesday evening, the day during the week that Shea dropped by Emmelyn's college so they could go do something together. Usually they ate or went to see a movie; sometimes they just hung out in Shea's rental home or Emmelyn's dorm. They'd joked about their "dates" before, and it was true that a few times strangers or acquaintances had mistaken them to be a couple. However, despite their bantering, and maybe even because of it, Shea and Emmelyn always looked forward to Wednesdays. Even if they didn't do or say anything particularly exciting, they enjoyed being able to spend time together for a few hours.
"So how's your internship going, Em? It was your first day yesterday, right?" Shea asked her as they slid into the restaurant booth, reaching for their menus and silverware.
"Kind of disorienting right now… new girl who knows nothing and all. What about you, how goes the management's life? Still dull and stuffy?"
"Except for those very non-frustrating times when someone flips over a minor, insignificant issue and expects me to give myself a hernia rushing to resolve it for them, yep, pretty much. So, how are the grades, Em, still hanging in?" He glanced up at her as he opened his menu.
"What is this, the dad drill?" Emmelyn laughed, shaking her head as her eyes drifted down to her own menu. "No, not even, Dad is much cooler and more subtle than that. You pulling the grandpa drill on me, Shea?"
Shea smiled back, but there was a sudden sharpening in his eyes as he watched her, his hands on the menu stilling. "You avoiding my question, Em?"
Emmelyn sighed exaggeratedly, rolling her eyes. "Grades are fine, Gramps. Now can I have a cookie?" She softened her sarcasm slightly with a grin. "Don't worry, Shea, I'm fine. You're supposed to be asking me gossip, who I'm dating and stuff. When are you gonna date again, by the way? Is marriage anywhere on your agenda at all, because for someone so concerned about me following the conventional path of life, you're spending a lot of time sowing your own wild oats as far as dating goes."
Shea gave her a mock-harsh look, but he was unable to repress a smile. "Get married? And risk infecting an innocent baby with genes in any way connected with yours?"
His grin broadened when Emmelyn reached across the table to slug him in the shoulder. No matter how many years passed, she never learned to hit so that it hurt. He really should teach her… on other hand, maybe he'd rather not.
"All right, all right, I'll go to the Emmelyn-approved big brother conversation topics. So… who're you dating? You know the rules, say the word and I break his legs for you," he said, only half joking.
"Who says it's a he?"
Seeing Emmelyn's sparkling eyes and barely restrained grin, Shea's suddenly rapid heartbeat slowed, and he let out a relieved breath.
"Yeah, yeah, nice try, Em." He shook his head ruefully. "Makes no difference, anyway. He, she, it, they hurt you, I break their legs. Got it?"
"Oh, sure, Shea, you who stopped lifting weights two years ago," Emmelyn rolled her eyes. "Really, I'm a big girl now, in case you haven't caught on, you don't have to threaten with physical harm every guy that accidentally steps on the back of my foot."
Emmelyn's words were facetious, her tone gently mocking, but there was some seriousness behind what she was saying as well, and she watched her brother carefully. Shea just smiled back at her, matching her in tone and meaning when he replied.
"Of course I do, Em," he said. "That's a brother's job…"
As the waitress approached and smilingly asked for their orders, addressing them as if they were a couple, they corrected her, amused.
"Kind of creepy how many people seem to get the romantic vibes off us," Emmelyn pointed out. "What's with that, anyway? Do brothers and sisters never hang out anymore?"
"Sure they hang out, Em," Shea said straight-faced. "But in most cases, this is not done literally, as in the sister's anatomy, from her three inch skirt. Generally brothers and sisters don't spend time together in half nude states…"
He cut himself off when Emmelyn hit him again.
As Emmelyn smiled across the table at him, Shea found himself thinking that he could still see pieces of her childhood self in the curve of her upturned lips, and he wondered if she could see the same in his own face, his own features, at times. It was in those small moments, the brief glimpses of the past, still present in the present, that he could fully feel content and optimistic of what the future might bring them.