It hadn't been like this before Cordelia had disappeared. True, it hadn't been the greatest, and Jackson had still been miserable most of the time, unable to hold a candle to her older sister. Cordelia had been perfect- beautiful, with long blonde hair, huge blue eyes, small and willowy with a figure Jackson could only dream about. Her smile had been warm and sincere; anyone who saw it automatically smiled back. Not only had she been beautiful, she had been smart; valedictorian of her senior class, planning on going to Yale. And as if brains, beauty, and boyfriends galore was not enough, Cordelia had been nice, a rare quality in such a blessed girl. Everyone, from the hottest boy to the most homicidal Goth, had been treated by her as if they were the same in her eyes. She had even been sweet to Jackson, though she was three years younger than her and hopelessly a misfit in all situations.
Could Jackson wonder at the fact that Cordelia had been her parents' favorite child? How could she, with her rather ordinary looks, C's and D's, an tendency to withdraw from social groups and make no friends at all, possibly compare? If Cordelia was a Hope Diamond, Jackson was a cheap imitation birthstone.
Hell, even her NAME showed the difference between the sisters. Cordelia had been named after a sweet, lovely Shakespearean character. Her name was pretty and feminine, like her. Jackson hadn't even been given a girl's name. Jackson had been named after Michael Jackson, who had since then bleached himself white and been arrested for molesting little boys! Kind of shows you what her parents had thought about how she'd turn out.
Cordelia had called her Jax, knowing she hated her name. She'd always been nice like that. Jackson knew she had pitied her. Cordelia had always defended her when their parents had gotten on her case, asking her, ' What is wrong with you, Jackson? Why do you have to dress like the walking dead? What is with those godawful screeches you call music blasting from your radio? Why can't you act more normal? Why can't you be more like Cordelia?'
Cordelia had always stuck up for her, saying, ' Leave Jax alone, she's doing the best she can. She's just different. She's not me. She's Jax. She's an artist.'
Jackson had known she was trying to be nice, but she had hated when Cordelia had defended her. It had made her feel helpless, and she hated felling like she needed her older sister to stick up for her. The one thing she prided herself on was being able to take care of herself. She didn't want Cordelia to feel sorry for her. She only wanted to show her, to show her parents and everyone else, that she was not Cordelia and never would be.
Jackson had known all her life she would never be as good as Cordelia, no matter how hard she tried. She had set out to be as different as she could. Though she was smart, she knew she would never do as well in school as Cordelia, so she purposely didn't hand in assignments and only did what she had to to pass. She knew she could never be as pretty as Cordelia, so she made herself look as unattractive and odd as possible with Goth makeup, punk clothes, and badly dyed blue hair. She knew she could never have as many friends as Cordelia, so she avoided everyone, rebuffing anyone who was friendly. All of this she had done to show she was not Cordelia, and she had suceeded. The one sucess of her life, and it only made her miserable.
But if Jackson had been unhappy then, it was nothing compared to her misery when Cordelia was gone.
Cordelia had disappeared one day when she was 17 and Jackson was 14. She had gone out to run some errands and never returned. Search parties had been sent out, missing posters placed up, to no avail. Cordelia's picture had been on the news and in the paper for weeks- her disappearance was big news in their small town. But three years had passed, and Jackson was now the same age as her sister had been when she'd disappeared. There had been no news at all since that day. The police had found nothing, had no leads. Though foul play was suspected, without a body, nothing could be was as if Cordelia had simply vanished.
Jackson's parents, as well as the rest of the town, had been devastated. They had gone hysterical with grief, barely able to function. They had refused to consider the possibility that Cordelia was dead and paid a lot more money than they could afford to hire a private investigator. They had been forced to give that up when the high bills yeilded nothing. But three years later, Jackson's parents still expected Cordelia to one day walk into the house like nothing had happened, for life to return to how it used to be. Three years had passed, and they still grieved her loss as though it had been three days. The only difference was now they bickered constantly, on the edge of divorce. Jackson was so used to hearing it now it rarely bothered her, or at least she could convince herself it didn't.
She could hardly blame her parents for reacting the way they had. She knew they wished it had been her, not Cordelia, who had disappeared. She saw them looking at her every day, she could read their thoughts, though they said nothing: ' Why Cordelia? Why, if we had to lose a daughter, couldn't it have been Jackson? Why our Cordelia?'
Jackson often asked herself the same question. Why did it have to be her sister? Why NOT her? if it had been her, everything would be okay for her family now. No one would miss her. There certainly wouldn't be any new shows about HER, no teary teachers saying what a great student she had been. No one would care. Well, Cordelia might miss her screw-up kid sister a little, but she'd get over it. Everyone would. Jackson knew it should be her, not her sister, who was gone. She was the one who deserved it.
And yet despite feeling sad and guilty that she was still here, Jackson was also angry at Cordelia, for vanishing, for leaving her alone to cope with her parents and their devastation, their bitter disappointment in her, their screaming and crying and loss of control. Jackson really and truly had no one left to stand up for her anymore, the incompetent sister. Teh other daughter, Jackson,the one who will never measure up. Sometimes, when Jackson felt really mad at Cordelia, she thought that Cordelia was really okay, really alive. Sometimes she was sure no one had kidnapped or killed her, that she had just taken off, ran away to live alone, away from their parents and their suffocating pride and love for her. It made her furious to think that Cordelia could be alive, causing thier parents such grief for no reason and making Jackson's life hell. But for some reason, she also liked this fantasy. Not because in it Cordelia was okay, but because it pleased her to think of Cordelia as capable of such cruelty. Jackson liked the thought that maybe Cordelia was not perfect after all, that maybe she wasn't as nice as she seemed. She liked to picture her as so completely selfish.
But Jackson knew this daydream wasn't true. Cordelia would never do that. She really was too sweet to do such a thing...
Jackson's music pounded in her ears; "Everybody's Fool," by Evanescence. How appropriate, she thought humorlessly. She could still hear the raised voices of her parents, even though she had turned the volume all the way up. She closed her eyes, wanting only to sleep, to escape from her dreary life, no matter how briefly, but sleep would not come. She was not surprised. Ever since she'd turned 17 a month ago, she'd suddenly become more screwed up than ever. She rarely could manage to fall asleep, and when she did, she had nightmares, so bloody and terrifying she'd wake up screaming. Jackson had tried to stay awake, afraid to have more nightmares, but she was so tired, all the time, that sometimes she couldn't help it and fell asleep. But right now she was so depressed, so tired, that she felt like even risking a nightmare would be worth a chance to be oblivious to everything.
After several minutes, Jackson knew she would not be blessed with sleep today. Sitting up, she trudged slowly over to her dresser, sitting at its little stool. She stared into the mirror, hating the pale, gaunt face staring back at her; her blue hair hanging lifelessly in her face, hiding the smudged makeup on her eyes. This was another thing that had surfaced suddenly at 17; staring into the mirror. Jackson had always spent as little time in front of the mirror as possible before, not needing a visible reminder of what everyone around her's eyes said: She was a freak, she was not and never would be as pretty as Cordelia, she was ugly. But now she stared into it obsessively, sometimes for as long as an hour, looking hard, intently, as though searching for something hidden in her features. Jackson could not explain why she was doing this. she knew only that, repulsed as she was by her image, she felt drawn to the mirror, compelled to stand before it.
As she sat there, despairing thoughts ran through her head. Here she was, 17, the same age Cordelia had been before she disappeared. Had she done anything worthwhile by this point? Anything to make herself successful, likeable? No, she had not. She was just taking up space.
As she thought this, she suddenly saw, in the corner of her eye, a movement in the mirror. She looked over quickly. Nothing.
You're losing it, Jax, she told herself, unconciously calling herself Cordelia's name for her. But a few seconds later she saw it again. Looking over sharply, Jackson watched in shock as a cloudy image appeared behind her in the mirror. It began to change shape and take on the form of a person. The shape- of a girl. As the cloudy image grew clearer and sharper, finally stopping, finished, Jackson realized she was staring at an image of her sister.