By C. E. Pereira
THE light was fading. The sun was almost setting. She sat near the window reading, not wanting to get up and switch on the table lamp. So engrossed in the book that she didn’t hear the door open and someone come in.
“Did we forget to pay the electricity bill?” Hitting the switch, the light came on. With a smug look on his face, Jack watched the emotions that passed over his sister’s face, from annoyance at being disturbed to reluctance from drawing her attention from her book.
Reluctantly she pulled her eyes away from the book and looked up. A smile tugged at her lips, seeing that it was Jack. “Didn’t realize that it’s almost sunset.” Tamara closed her book, yawn and stretched to get the kink out of her back.
Tamara Quinn’s nose was always buried in some book or other. If Jack didn’t pester her now and then, Tamara wouldn’t even see the outside of the house. Jack usually worried about his sister’s shyness, always trying to get her to invite her friends for sleepover or trying to get her outdoors to have fun. But, it wasn’t easy, like now finding her alone in the almost dark room reading, not outside where the party had already began.
“You do know the party’s started, don’t you? Everyone’s having fun. What are you doing hiding in the dark?”
“Jack, you worry too much. I am not hiding. I was just passing the time reading while waiting for our guests to arrive. I didn’t hear the doorbell.” Tamara smiled at her big brother, loving him for just caring.
“Since when did you hear anything when you’ve got your nose buried in a book. Come on, you should be out there entertaining. It’s not going to do you any good trying to get out of your responsibilities young lady. Now, come on, your guests are waiting.” Jack held out his hands and gently guided her towards the door.
Tamara walked with a slight limp that was not very noticeable unless she was tired. For a moment Jack’s eyes filled with sadness remembering how he nearly lost his sister ten years ago. He was in college when he received a phone call from the sheriff’s department. There had been an accident. The car carrying his parents and sister was in a head on collision with a lorry. The lorry driver escaped with minor injuries and he later learnt that the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. His parents had died on the spot but his sister had barely survived. He will never forget how she looked that night. She was bruised all over, her head was bandaged and there were tubes all over her. Her right leg was crashed in so many places that doctors thought she might lose it. She endured the dozen of operations and the pain like a little soldier, never giving up.
Shaking himself out of those sad memories, Jack jokingly told his sister, “You won’t find a boy if you keep hiding behind a book. There’s a queue outside waiting to dance with you.”
Blushing, Tammy glared at her brother. Thinking quick, she moved nearer and linking her hands with his she purred softly, “Jack, I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a woman if you haven’t noticed and I’ve set my eyes on men not boys.”
The emotions running across Jack’s face was priceless. Looking at him Tammy couldn’t help laughing. Taking pity on him while still laughing she said, “Relax big brother. I’m only pulling your legs.”
Mentally kicking himself for being tweaked, he managed to retaliate. “You try to flirt with the big guys and I’ll ground you till you’re thirty.”
“Who said anything about flirting? I’ve already set my eyes on someone and if I play my cards right, he won’t know what hit him.”
“And who might that be, young lady? I could ask him if he was free next Saturday for dinner.” Jack went into his lecture mode voice, while searching Tammy’s face for any clue on who the guy was.
Spluttering, Tammy turned and looked at Jack with eyes wide with disbelief. “Don’t you dare try to arrange any kind of date for me. I am not going to tell you who it is, so you can just forget about pulling any kind of ‘I’m your big brother’ attitude. Jack, promise me you won’t, please.”
Laughing at his sister whose face was turning different shades of pink, he said, “OK, Kiddo. I promise.” But silently he decided to observe his sister closely tonight. Not any guy will do, no sir.
Still linking hands both of them strolled out to meet their guests. The Quinn’s had always played host to the annual BBQ party which was started by their grandfather. Tamara was fifteen when Jack told her it was time she learned to be hostess for “Double Creek Ranch”. She had stared with big frightened eyes at her big brother then, remembering how she pleaded with him but he was firm in his decision. Now, three years later, she still tried to slip away from her duties as hostess. And Jack had always come in search of her.
“Jack, I’m sorry for letting you down. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being a social butterfly.” Tamara’s sigh was so forlorn that for a moment Jack didn’t know how to answer.
“Tammy, you have never let me down. You have always given your best. And that is all anyone can ask of you. Don’t ever think that I’m disappointed with you.” Jack pulled his sister into a hug praying he’d said the right thing. His sister had been through so much in her young life that it was a daily battle to fight off her fears.
He looked at his sister as she took a deep breath; straighten her shoulders all the while looking like she was going into battle. Knowing her, that was probably what the party was to her, a battle ground. He watched her for a while as she mingled with the guests, laughing at something that was said. She looked over to him and their eyes locked for a moment conveying a promise not to run again tonight.
Go to Chapter 2