“Surprises are beautiful because they come without waiting.” Not so true for Nancy though. She was sure her sister was planning a surprise for her birthday. Pulling open the pink pastel curtains of her bedroom window, she hungrily drank in the fresh morning air. Her eyes were laced with longing. A soft smile slid across her lips which were otherwise dry with sadness and coated with grief. Nancy was turning 30 today. “Keep calm. It’s only your 30th birthday”. Humming her favourite song in her head, her lips pursed in, Nancy ran her fingers over her thin wavy short hair. No a strand of grey! Many of her friends were already showing mini zebra stripes in their heads. But, not her! Thank goodness for that.
She quickly glanced at the mirror and looked away. She never liked looking at the mirror. It always reminded her of what she was not. “Life is just a mirror and what you see out there, you must first see inside of you.” Wally “famous” Amos. Turning her face away from the mirror like it was an enemy on the prowl, a single glossy tear flowed down her cheek. Clutching the ends of her dress, she poured them back in again. She was not going to think of the past and all that it had done to her. She held her palms up and looked at them. Shrivelled walnuts were what they looked like. Lifeless, yet useful. “Nothing worth having, comes easy.”
All these years she had worked at different factories, clothes, metals, chemicals, shoe, scrubbed the floors at big hotels where perfumed men and women floated easily. Ever since their parents died, her only goal was to educate Kate, her younger sister. Her emotions came running back to the present. Quickly, she wiped her dried tears and rushed some chirpy cheer on her face. She paced to the door and back.
“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” Kate was her dream, her hope, her happiness. The gleam of a thousand stars shone on her face as she thought of her sister. Her precious possession. She meant everything to her. She was all she had. Kate shined liked a diamond in a heap of coal. She was an outstanding student and an obedient younger sister. And today, Nancy was sure Kate would surprise her like she did every year. Nancy’s nostrils swelled open in anticipation of the sweet aroma of the freshly baked chocolate cake that would welcome her. Her tongue was eager to lick up the soft, brown cream and her teeth were ready to bite into Kate’s inviting delicacy. She stretched her ears with her hands to hear the sound of Kate’s footsteps coming towards her. She clapped her hands and giggled at her own act of childishness.
She waited and waited.
It seemed like an endless wait and a tide of emotions were rushing through Nancy. Finally, she heard her younger sister approaching her room. Her eyes lit up, her steps turned into a spring and her heart grew all bouncy. She sniffed the air to catch a whiff of the chocolate cake but it was missing. Maybe it was not chocolate flavour this time, she imagined with pride intruding her thoughts. Her sister was all grown up now. She could surprise her with something else.
Kate walked into her room empty handed. No cake, no flowers, no package wrapped in shiny golden paper, tied with red ribbons. The excitement dissolved from Nancy’s face. Her face looked like a blank, crumpled, white page. Kate was smiling. She could win the world with the radiance of her smile. She gave her sister a tight hug. “Happy birthday” said Kate. Nancy loosened herself from the warm embrace and looked at her sister. “Thank you” she said, smiling coldly. “And here’s your gift” Kate handed her a brown envelope. Nancy’s eyebrows shot up like mountain peaks and her eyes were flooded with questions.
“Sacrificing your happiness for the happiness of the one you love is by far the truest type of love. This is your admission letter to the community college. I want you to pick up from where you left.”
Nancy’s eyes grew moist and her trembling hands were silenced by Kate’s firm grip over them. Nancy shut her eyes tight and let her tears flow as she folded her hands in prayer. Kate’s words sparkled with happiness and shined with guilt as she said “You deserve much more my dear sister, but this is all I can give you.”