Sibling Artists

She wouldn't sit still. Every few seconds, she'd sway a little to the left. Or a little to the right.

It only made it harder for the sister beneath her, her shoulders acting as a makeshift chair. The headphones over the ears of the girl above would make it hard to grab her attention. She always had those things blasting at near-max volume.

"Don't move!"

The sister beneath slapped the sister above's leg. The girl floating on a pair of shoulders was thrown off by this light smack. The startle of it all was enough to lose her balance, and she reeled backwards.

What followed was a crash loud enough to wake the entire floor. And it probably did, though no one dared to complain. Rather, they didn't have the heart to. After all, these two girls were living together in a room barely large enough to accommodate one. Which would explain one sister riding on the shoulders of another to access her computer on the top level of the shelf.

All manner of bottles, trinkets and ointments scattered about the cluttered room as the table they used to sit upon was flipped over. Once the initial noise settled, the elder sister rushed to the aid of the younger one.

"Are you alright?"

The only thoughts racing through her mind were what she'd do if something happened to her sister. Fortunately, her fears were laid to rest as the younger sibling groaned and picked herself up from the ground.

"Yeah, but I think I broke something."

The younger sibling reached behind her, and produced a broken container. It used to have some kind of lotion inside, which was now plastered all over the younger girl's yellow shirt. As well as the mat on the ground.

"Don't move."

The typical message the elder sister delivered. She scurried out of the room and down the hall towards the washroom. Along the way, she stopped dead in her tracks and turned around. Ducking into their shared room, she swiped her sister's towel and made for the washroom anew.

After soaking it in water for a moment, she returned to the room to find the girl standing on the chair and back on the computer. It seemed she had no problems continuing her work while covered in lotion. Rather than scold her for disobeying an order, the elder sister merely sighed.

"Take off your shirt."

She instructed. The younger sister paused whatever she was doing on the computer and complied. Her torso exposed to the chill of the night, she looked for a new piece of clothing. Instead, she got the cold, soaked towel thrown in her face. Hot water was a precious commodity for the residents of this building, so the younger sister would have to suck it up and wipe herself down with the cold garment.

"Can you pass me a shirt, sis?"

Once she was done wiping herself down, the younger sister was in desperate need of a new shirt. Unfortunately for her, most of her clothing was in a hamper on another floor of the building.

"Sorry, you'll have to borrow one of mine. Or wear your uniform shirt."

The elder sister held out both choices for her. The younger sibling wasn't fond of her sister's choice in apparel, but anything was better than her school uniform. She took the spare garment and slipped it on. Once her body warmed up again, she awaited the return of her sister's shoulders on the chair.

"I have to clean this up, so use the chair yourself. Just be careful, okay?"

The last thing they needed was another tumble. This time a lotion container had been damaged. Next time, it could be something far more irreplaceable.

So the evening came to a close. The elder sister finished cleaning up the mess she indirectly caused. The younger balanced herself on the desk chair as she mashed away at the keyboard. It was just another day for these two siblings.

Another sad and lonely day.

~o~

Mornings were just as hectic for these two siblings. The apartment wasn't in the best location, meaning longer commutes to and from school every morning. However, that was the cost of the relatively low rent they paid for the place. Or someone else paid for it. The neighbors wouldn't know for sure, seeing as how both girls left every morning dressed for school.

The younger one wore the traditional sailor uniform; expected, since she was about ten years old. The elder sister wore a more formal outfit consisting of a blazer and plaid skirt. One neighbor or another speculated she went to a high end high school. However, interactions with the two girls was always kept to a minimum. This isolation wasn't out of fear or disdain for the otherwise innocent children. The two girls simply kept to themselves, and never asked a thing of anyone in the building. And while they did make a bit of noise or fuss every once in a while, the neighbors chose never to raise a complaint. They wouldn't want the eviction of the girls on their conscience.

Since the commute was longer than typical, they always rose before the sun itself. The apartment's public kitchen was a place of silent, invisible rules. One of which was "first come, first serve". While the younger sister washed up and prepared to depart, the elder sister prepared their breakfasts and lunches. She would eat first, then return to the small room they called home to prepare herself for school. In her place, the younger sibling would make for the kitchen, enjoy her meal, and clean up after both.

By this point, both were dressed and fed and out of the building. They shared a train for two stops, wherein the younger sister would get off. Her school was a block away from the station, near a public park. Not a day went by that the elder sister didn't harbor a secret fear that something might happen to her sister. But her being on time required that she trust in her sibling's ability to make it to school without incident.

Don't talk to strangers.

Always stay in open, lit areas.

Never travel alone, if possible.

In case of emergency, yell "fire", not help.

Simple enough instructions even a toddler could follow. And while the younger sister was generally out of it (thanks in part to the headphones she kept over her ears most of the time), she never forgot these rules. She was out of it, but she didn't want to suffer or die, either.

Meanwhile, the elder sister rode the train two more stops. From there, she had to take one other train in a different direction for one stop. Finally, a short hike up a hill and around a corner to the school. It was in an ideal spot for those that lived in the vicinity. The sisters had lived in the area at one point. To the elder one, it seemed so very long ago.

As the day crawled by, the elder sister would sometimes drift in and out of daydreams. She wasn't a bad student; far from it. However, her mind did tend to wander at the most inopportune of times. She'd fantasize somewhat of the easy life her sister probably lead in her own school.

"Must be great to be a kid like her," she'd sigh.

This would usually draw the attention of the students around her. She'd then apologize and turn her attention elsewhere.

The younger sibling's daily school life wasn't that different from her sister's imaginations. Once in a while the headphones over her ears would be removed to listen in on a lecture. Most often they'd remain, blasting music of all genres imaginable. Her teachers had come to accept it, as the younger sister was seemingly a prodigy in every sense of the word.

Not a single assignment nor test came back with anything lower than 95%. And all this while she generally ignored the mediocre lectures and dedicated herself to the notebook before her. A notebook filled with drawings.

Teachers would often speak to each other of the shame in letting such a student "go to waste" when her passion was art and not academics.

During lunch hour, the elder sibling would sit with one or two other girls to eat together. They would exchange idle chitchat while consuming their respective meals. Sometimes, they'd even share amongst themselves.

Other than that, it was just another routine to go through.

The younger sibling sat alone for five minutes as she wolfed down her lunch. Then she'd sit alone for the next fifty-five minutes listening to her music while scribbling something in that same notebook. She had no friends to speak of, nor did anyone else want to get to know her.

By the end of the school day, the elder sister was on her way back home. There was always too much to be done at their home to invest time in a school club of any kind. The worst days were the ones where she had to remain after school to help clean up. After all, it was her job to do the shopping and prepare dinner for herself and her sister. Fortunately, that day she was allowed to leave as soon as the final bell rang.

There were groceries to be bought.

The younger sibling would usually remain at school for another hour or two everyday. The computers at the school were somewhat as good as the one she had at home. This meant she could drain the school's electricity and not their own. Anything to save a little more money.

She even made it a habit to bring her drawing board peripheral with her to use at the school.

The elder sister always helped out for an hour or two at a local supermarket. Their family was a close friend of the owner, and it was their only way of making a bit of extra money to cover their personal expenses. Since her sister had carried along the drawing peripheral, she figured she had an hour to spare for some part-time work. The pay wasn't much, but if it was just enough to buy a sweet treat, it was worth it.

After work, she'd pick up what was necessary (and on sale) and make for the apartment. If she didn't set herself up to cook early, someone else would hog the kitchen.

Around the corner, down the hill, riding two different trains. The apartment was finally in sight.

By this point, the younger sibling would be on her way back as well. The school usually asked her to leave when it was time to close the building down for the day. She cleaned up after herself as slowly as possible. This was so that her sister could get home and prepare something with enough time to spare. She didn't mind eating slightly cold food. Better than waiting.

The downside to this was walking back to the station alone. Few times anyone else remained in the building as long as she did. This meant she would consciously disobey one of the rules her sister laid down. But what her sister didn't know wouldn't hurt her, she figured. She was still walking in sufficient sunlight, even if it was close to setting.

She'd board the train, ride two stations down and get off a short ways from the shabby apartment. But it was home, and there was bound to be food waiting for her inside.

And food there was.

The sisters enjoyed their final meal for the day together. One of the other tenants was making use of the kitchen in the background, but it didn't matter. Especially since the elder sister had brought a dessert this time for them to enjoy later that evening.

From there, they would prepare the bath and share it. Because most of the other tenants arrived later than they did, they were usually the first to enjoy the bathwater. And being considerate, they never took too long or used too much of the hot water.

Then it was back to their rooms and computers. For such a small place, and with the few belongings they shared, the two computer towers were the oddest things. If you didn't count them, the worth of everything else in the room probably wouldn't reach the triple digits.

Hand-me-down books, a white fan that had turned slightly yellow with the years, book bags that had seen at least four years of use each. They were surely scrounging by on the barest of essentials.

Yet here were two whole computers, just slightly out-of-date thanks to the ever-marching advancement of technology. Where these two girls got them is a mystery to all, but to them it was life as usual. Since there was only one desk, the younger sister set up her computer on the top shelf of the desk. And since there was no way of reaching that high on a chair, she'd sit on the shoulders of her sister.

It wasn't the most comfortable of positions for either of them. It was also pretty hazardous given the various tumbles over time. But they were making due with what they had.

Only today, something would be different.

It was a small change, hardly noticeable at first. But when the younger sister began to shift a little to the left, then a little to the right; the change became known to both.

"Don't move!"

The elder sister below slapped the younger one's leg.

This time, the younger sister held onto the desk carefully. She even opened her mouth to answer.

"Sorry."

She had lowered the volume on her headphones by a level or two.