Author's note: I dedicate this story to the sister I always wished to have.
Part 1: Unshed tears
The day was hot. Or at least it felt so to Roselle. No matter how many times she washed her head it still seemed hot. Yeah, it was her head that was hot, not the day.
Roselle was alone at home, thinking. Her mind was wrapped around Russell. All she could think about was him. Everything she thought about him pointed out to her that her restlessness was pointless. That only made her head to grow hotter. Why ever did Elisa fall for him?
Elisa, her elder sister, is getting married to Russell the next day. Roselle never felt anything about it. But the moment she got to know about the decision of their engagement, she realized that her sister was going into her own life, away from her. And this struck her quite hard.
Since the day Roselle was born, Elisa had taken great care of her. Being ten years older gave her much responsibility which she fulfilled to the letter. She was a wonderful sister. Their mother had been a working woman and couldn't always pay attention to little Roselle. Roselle had been born in her late age. She never neglected Roselle but she didn't have enough time to mother her. She took an extended maternity leave but after that she had to go back to work. Elisa was the one who took care of her from the moment she came back from school till their mother came back. Their father returned home later than their mother. Their maternal grandmother had stayed with them to help out. Few weeks after Roselle's sixth birthday she had passed away.
By then Roselle had started school and Elisa picked her up every day. The two sisters were inseparable. Elisa never went out with friends on weekdays only to look after her dear little sister. She went out on weekends but always came home early. Their mother was much relieved for having such a responsible elder daughter. Had Roselle been the elder one then she couldn't have been at peace of mind for a minute because Roselle was careless in every way. She always lost her pencils, water pots and even hair bands! She would sit by the window in her room and stare up at the sky, lost in her thoughts, and completely forget about home work. Elisa always had to watch over her studies as well. But Roselle was her baby and she never thought of it as any kind of burden.
Elisa couldn't look after her so much when she started working right after graduation. But by then Roselle was fourteen and could spell the word responsibility! But she was always absent minded. Maybe her mother had asked her to clean the house, she started doing it and found some long lost book from under the couch and then she'd forget the whole world and start reading it. That's how she was. She often referred to herself as 'retarded'. But she was forgiven for one reason. She was excellent at drawing. She definitely had a talent for it. Her drawings were mostly designs or patterns. It was first revealed to their parents when she was ten. The two sisters wanted to give their parents a surprise on their wedding anniversary and Roselle had designed a wonderful pattern for a flower arrangement with which Elisa made a bouquet using their parents' favorite flowers. Seeing that their mother had decided to let Roselle be herself and follow her dream, which was then to be an artist. Later she developed a special interest in fashion designing and started in that direction. She had full support of her family.
The one thing Roselle was always confused about was her feelings toward people. She could never express it properly. She was a talkative one and always spent hours with her friends having fun but she could never express herself when it came to emotions. When she first realized that Elisa never spent much time with her friends just to look after her, she felt a little aching in her heart for her elder sister. But she never understood how to define that aching. She could never ever express how much she loved her family even though she felt it greatly in her heart.
And now, here it was, the time when she had to say goodbye to her elder sister. It wasn't like they'd never meet again but it wasn't going to be the same. Roselle knew it and was frightened. Frightened that she was never going to be able to run to her elder sister for comfort whenever she needed it. It was Elisa who always listened to Roselle's daily deeds. Roselle shared everything with their mother as well but sharing things with Elisa was a different feeling for her. She could never again knock on her sister's door at nights when she felt scared after watching a horror movie. And this was driving her crazy.
Roselle had no idea how to express her feelings of love to her sister. So, her mind expressed it in a whole different way. She showed her concerns for Elisa through the only way she could hit upon.
Would Russell keep her sister happy forever? Would he remain loyal to her for the rest of his life?
She was using these questions as shields to veil her fear of missing her sister.
Roselle had her physics book wide open in front of her but in her mind was Elisa and Russell. Then her phone rang. The screen displayed the caller's name- Ray. Ray was Roselle's best friend. She answered in a bored tone, "What's up?"
A question came in return. "What's up with YOU? I don't quite feel good about how you've been these past few days."
"Neither do I." Roselle shrugged.
Ray could see her in her imagination and tried to bring her back to her sense. "Listen, sis is starting her own life, her own family. Aren't you supposed to be happy for her?"
"I AM happy for her." Roselle reacted at once. "But I'm also worried about her."
"You're always worrying futilely." Ray wanted to dismiss it.
Roselle snapped. "Hey. You tell me. What if this guy turns out to be not good for her?"
Now it was time for Ray to sigh. "You have considered this for thousands of times and your parents have done so too. Everyone has. Russell is a good fellow from a good family with a good job. He's the man your… no, OUR sister loves. He WILL keep her happy and you know it too. It's only your complicated mind making you suspicious of him."
She was right. Russell was every inch a good guy. But Roselle was just too stubborn. "That doesn't make me feel any better than before."
Now Ray sounded mad. "You're truly an idiotically stupid airhead. You've been one all your life."
Her comment didn't seem to have any effect on Roselle whatsoever. "And you've put up with this idiotically stupid airhead almost all your life."
There was a laugh on the other side. "Yeah, 12 years with you are more than enough to turn me into one too."
Roselle was laughing mischievously. "So you're admitting that you're also an idiotically stupid airhead?"
"Hell I am. Now please stop this useless worrying."
"No can do. Worrying is in my blood." Then Roselle started singing, "I bleed it out take it deeper just to throw it away!"
"Now don't go using Linkin Park's 'Bleed It Out' as your excuse!" Ray laughed.
Laughter on Roselle's part. It was her habit to use song lyrics to express her thoughts from time to time.
"Where is everyone?" Ray asked.
"Mom and sis have gone to pick up the wedding dress. Dad's doing the final checking with the restaurant where we're having the dinner."
They were gonna do a very, very small celebration of the wedding with only family and very close relatives. And maybe a few close friends. The number didn't cross 70. But the wedding reception was going to be BIG. Family, relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors-all were invited. The two families were sharing the expense so it was easier.
After chatting for a while longer Ray hung up.
Roselle had invited her few close friends to the wedding. There were 4 of them- Ray, Amy, Alex and Carol. They have been friends for a long time. So they were all coming to their dear 'sister's wedding. Yeah, Elisa was the dear elder sister of the whole group. Sometimes Roselle got the feeling that her friends loved her sister than she did.
There was noise downstairs. Mom and Elisa were back. They were calling her. Must be to show her the wedding dress. Roselle got up. What was there to see a damn dress right now which she could easily see the next day? But she knew it was of importance to her sister and didn't want to upset her or their mother. So she quickly went downstairs.
It wasn't like this always. Roselle hadn't been so overly anxious about her sister's marriage at first.
It was a year ago. After Elisa and Russell started dating and realized that they wanted to move further with their life, Elisa had introduced Russell to Roselle first to get her approval. It was a delicious dinner at a good restaurant and Russell was humorous. Roselle had cheerfully said that he seemed nice.
After some weeks the family met Russell. Another delicious dinner at a reputed restaurant and Roselle was more interested in the prawns than in the adults' heavy chatting. She was a carefree girl and didn't like those serious things. Two days later Elisa met Russell's parents and the following weekend the two families met. Roselle paid attention for the first time when they were discussing the engagement and it was then that she realized the full weight of the situation. It was more serious than she had thought it to be and she surely didn't like it. They were snatching her sister away from her.
But when she looked at Elisa's happy face she knew that this was what her elder sister wanted and she didn't object to the final decision. Russell was a handsome guy- tall, good looking- and he had a good job. It could be realized at the first sight at the two of them-Elisa and Russell- that they were in love. But here was Roselle with her complicated thinking. She knew that it was completely her psychological problem. She always worried about things which weren't even there. She wasn't prepared to let go of her sister yet. But she had to. And she didn't like it.
At night when Ray was preparing to go to bed her phone started ringing violently. She hurriedly picked it up and her eyes widened as she heard Amy's trembling voice floating through, "Ray, I can't come tomorrow." Amy was another best friend of Ray and Roselle.
Ray jumped and shouted, "WHAT? What are you saying?"
"I fell down the stairs. I don't have a clue how I fell but in the evening I was walking upstairs and slipped. There is a fracture and I have a plaster round my right foot and I can't surely go out of the house tomorrow." Amy was almost crying. It could be because of the pain in her foot or because of the regret she felt for missing Elisa's wedding.
Actually Amy, Ray and Roselle together formed a trio- TTF- The Three Freaks. This trio of theirs was well known at school too. They have been friends from the first second day of elementary school. Without Amy the trio was definitely incomplete and now she was going to miss the wedding of their dear 'sister'. Amy wanted to attend it and she especially wanted to be there because she knew how agitated Roselle was at the moment. They even had custom made matching dresses. But now she couldn't go. Amy hated to leave Roselle alone so she desperately asked Ray to look after her.
"She needs us badly Ray." Amy sounded worried. "We have to be there for her. But now that I can't come, you absolutely have to take the responsibility alone."
Ray knew all too well. "What gives you the idea that I won't do it? You don't even need to mention it let alone ask!"
But Amy was much too worried. It was something she had in common with Roselle. Only she was never tensed to Roselle's extent.
When Roselle learnt the news she immediately called Amy and told her off for being careless. She wasn't mad that Amy couldn't attend the wedding. But she was thinking how much Amy's leg was hurting her. And so she showed her worries through yelling.
Amy shouted back, "Do you think I fell on purpose?"
Roselle yelled yet again, "But I know it happened because you got careless."
"Think what you want, you freak!"
"Okay! I'll think what I want."
Amy paused for a while, and then said, "Have we run out of topics to argue about so badly that we're shouting over such a petty thing now?"
There was slight laughter on Roselle's end. "Probably. We haven't had a fight for almost months now."
"All right. You finish your responsibilities at the wedding and I get well soon here. Then we'll fish out an issue to argue about."
"You got it! But you do know that I hate responsibilities don't you?"
"Yeah. And I also know that auntie hasn't given you anything serious to do!"
The two of them laughed together and then hung up after a while.
Roselle had absolutely no idea how the whole thing went. She remembers helping her sister get into the wedding dress with their mother's assistance. Two of Elisa's friends were very good with make-up. They did her hair, put make-up on her with more care than any beautician. And when they were finished, Roselle found herself staring at her dazzlingly beautiful sister looking prettier than ever. She looked just like a fairy princess!
Elisa looked at her with smile flashing on her lips and in her eyes, and asked, "How do I look?"
Roselle stared for a while, at a loss of words, and then said with a smirk, "If that Russell guy doesn't faint after catching the first glimpse of you today, then he doesn't love you."
Elisa burst into laughter, "You really want the bridegroom to pass out in middle of the wedding?"
Roselle shrugged and said matter-of-factly, "You look enough dazzling to stun anyone today."
Elisa could read her little sister's mind just perfectly. After all, Roselle was her little baby! She knew it was her way of complimenting her.
Their mother had been silently looking at her elder daughter without a sound all this while. How elegant she looked! Then she walked forward and hugged her daughter with proud tears glistening in her eyes, "God bless you my child! You look absolutely wonderful."
Elisa, the emotional one among the sisters, looked like she was about to cry as well. Just then one of her friends jumped and said, "Sorry to ruin the sentimental moment but if you cry now then your make-up will be done for. We won't have enough time to rub it off and redo from the beginning!" Everyone laughed at her funny gestures and Elisa didn't look about-to-cry anymore. The goal was achieved.
When they came out, their dad stared at Elisa for a few moments and then embraced her. But he said nothing. Absolutely nothing. His little girl was suddenly all grown up and was getting married. He had been playing around with her in that very room when she was no more than 2 feet tall and it felt like that was just yesterday. Then he suddenly let go of her and said looking another way, "We don't want to be late. Let's go."
Elisa knew very well that her dear daddy didn't want her so to see the tears in his eyes. She held back hers as well.
Then as if in a mere blink it was over. Russell and Elisa exchanged vows and were declared husband and wife. Anyone could see that Elisa was trembling. And it was also clear to every pair of eyes how firmly Russell had held Elisa's quivering hand.
Ray had kept a close eye on Roselle all through the time and she certainly grew more and more worried by the second. The whole time Roselle wore a stone face and it was impossible to know what was on her mind. When the newlyweds were receiving the elders' blessings she whispered into Ray's ears, "I told her if that guy doesn't faint upon seeing her then he doesn't love her. He didn't faint."
In reply Ray said with a smile, "Of course he didn't. His eyes lit up when he saw her and he held her firmly when she was shaking."
Roselle looked as if she'd have much preferred if Russell had been out cold although she knew how unrealistic and weird that sounds.
Her friends tried to divert her from killing Russell in her imagination. Alex picked a flower from a nearby bouquet and smelled it saying, "What a great choice the florists made!"
Roselle said haughtily, "Of course! I rampaged through the cyber world in search of the best florists we had at hand and it was I who designed the flower arrangement. I spent hours making the plans for the flower decorations. My sister is the best and she deserves the best decorations."
Carol clapped her hands. "OOOO! Now that's why this party's so dazzling. It was our designer Elle who made the plans!"
Alex grinned, "Of course! It's bound to be a success!"
Roselle rolled her eyes, "Do you wanna get smacked?"
All of them shook their heads harmoniously and Ray was nearly rolling on the ground in laughter.
Then there was the feast.
Then the newlyweds were departing for their new house in their new car.
And then Elisa's mother couldn't help it anymore and started crying. She was letting go of her dear daughter. Elisa was having an emotional moment with both her parents and Russell was waiting for her by the side of the car. Some of his cousins were there standing near him engaged in chatting. Suddenly Russell felt a tornado coming his way and when he looked up he found Roselle stomping towards him.
She was still wearing her stone face. Russell smiled slightly at her. He knew that this little girl had been very confused lately. But Roselle sure looked like she was about kill someone. She had a sharp face cut and big eyes. When she glared at someone with full impact of those eyes, anyone could get uneasy and even scared.
That Roselle was glaring at him. Russell felt she was about to say something very bitterly. He prepared himself for a hurl of words flung at him. Just then Roselle started. She ground her teeth and said,
"You know something? There's a really big knife in our kitchen. My mom and sister both use it to cut meat and fish because it's very sharp and cuts very well. If you ever make my sister cry then I'll come after you with that knife and I promise you, it WILL be painful."
She finished in one breath. Then just as abruptly she had come, she stomped away.
Russell wasn't exactly ready for such a threat. But he felt his lips curving into a smile of amusement. His cousins who were standing just near him had their surprised gaze traveling back and forth between Russell and Roselle.
Finally Elisa managed to walk up to the car. She was constantly wiping her eyes with a tissue paper. Her mascara was mostly gone. Russell helped her into the car. Elisa looked at her parents through the window. Then her gaze drifted to the stone face standing next to them. She waved her hand but the stone face had no reaction. But Elisa knew what was behind that stone face and she smiled.
Then Russell drove off.
Elisa's hands were still trembling. Russell moved one hand from the steering wheel and squeezed hers. Elisa looked up and said, "I'm just worried about Elle."
Russell took a quick look at his wife's face and smiled, "Don't worry. She's strong."
Hours have passed since the whole wedding thing. But Roselle seemed to be in a trance. She went home with her parents. The reception was just the following day and the parents were already paying attention to that. They wanted to finish the whole thing within the weekend.
Alex and Carol had taken their leave on by one. Ray was the last one to leave and all the other two had looked at her meaningfully. They all knew that Ray and Amy were the closest to Roselle and they were the most effective on her. Ray had assured them with a nod.
When she saw the lost look on Roselle's face she knew that she needed something more than words. Elisa's mother and father had cried but her little sister hadn't shed a single tear.
Ray walked up to her and said goodbye. Roselle replied with a nod and said nothing. So Ray turned and headed home.
On her way she had an idea.
At about 10 at night the doorbell of Roselle's house rang. Roselle answered the door thinking that Russell had already done something so terrible to her sister that she left him immediately. But her fears were proven false by Ray's smiling face.
This was unexpected.
Roselle frowned. "What are you doing here?"
"Can I stay the night?" Ray asked with puppy-dog-eyes.
Ray lived in the same area as Roselle but at the opposite end. Her dad had been out of town for the week and her mother suddenly had an emergency call from the clinic she worked in. She had to do an unscheduled nightshift. And so Ray had no problem getting permission to stay over at Roselle's place. Her mother thought it was good that she wasn't home alone all night.
Roselle's parents didn't object to her staying over. The two girls went up to Roselle's room.
Ray came over to make sure Roselle wasn't alone that night. She was going to feel lonely and Ray wanted to make the blow hit her less hard.
After they got into bed Ray suddenly remembered something. "Hey, what did you say to Russell when you walked up to him before they left?"
Roselle provided her the exact same words. And Ray's jaws hit the floor.
"You said WHAT ?"
And then she burst out laughing.
Then the two of them together talked to Amy over phone and gave her a detailed description. When she heard what Roselle had told Russell, they heard her sharp voice screaming through the phone,
"You said WHAT ? Elle have the screws inside your head all fallen off?"
Ray winked and commented, "I think it happened a looong while ago."
Roselle only shrugged.
After talking a while longer they suddenly hit upon a great plan for the next day and then hung up.
The two Rs were lying down on the bed, side by side, staring up at the ceiling. Roselle said, "Sister said that I used to cry a lot at night until I was 1 year old. My parents and she stayed awake countless nights to take care of me."
Ray looked at her. It was coming. 3…2…1…0…and…bingo. It was there. One by one tear were slipping down her temples, over her ears, and soaking her pillow. She really started crying. Ray rolled over and hugged her. "Cry Elle, cry."
It was very rare when Roselle cried. She was so stupid that she didn't even know when it was time to cry.
After some minutes of extreme sobbing Roselle pulled away, wiped the tears and said, "There, I've cried now. Happy?" She knew that Ray had come to make her feel comfortable by talking to her.
Ray laughed at this impossible friend of hers and said, "Yeah, very happy freak."