The Good Sister

Diana Diamond

St. Martin's Press

Chapter One

Why would I want to kill my own sister? I don't think it was because I hated her. Hatred is too strong a word. We fought a lot as children. Name-calling, nasty tricks, lies that would get each other in trouble. But if hatred means wanting the other person destroyed, then I don't think I hated her. So why would I want to kill her?

Maybe just to get rid of a rival. Rivals would be a better description of our childhood: bitter rivals. We competed for everything. If we were drawing a picture with crayons, we'd race to see who would finish first, then run to our mother to see whose picture was best. Neither of us would settle for "They're both lovely." We had to have a winner, so we would demand to know who had the prettiest sky or whose tree looked best. And we weren't satisfied if one of us had the best sky and the other the best tree. All we'd do is change the argument to who had drawn the best barn.

I remember staying awake a whole night because I was sure my sister was going to sneak into my room and tear up a picture I had drawn. We were still just little girls, my sister and I. No older than six or seven. She did a picture in school, and our mother oohed and ahhed as if it were a Picasso. So I did the same picture, only better. She was angry because I had copied her picture, and I just knew she would try to get rid of mine. So I hid it under my mattress, and then I stayed awake the whole night. She must have known I was waiting for her, because she never came. The sun was coming up, and I couldn't stay awake much longer, so I went to her room and found her picture right on top of her desk. I colored a little yellow over her blue sky so that it took on a green tint. I rubbed some black into her blue water. Nothing terrible. Just enough so that her picture looked a little silly. That way, no matter what she did to my picture, hers wouldn't be any better.

All children do things like that, don't you think? But that isn't hatred! It's just sibling rivalry. Silly, I suppose. But certainly not cold-blooded hatred.

There was another time. We had both gotten dolls, so how old could we have been? Certainly not more than first- or second- graders. They were absolutely identical. Curly blond hair. Deep blue eyes that closed when you laid them down. Tiny red lips with open mouths for play nursing bottles. Pink cheeks. The only difference was the color of the dresses. My doll wore pink, and hers wore yellow. The pink was much prettier, but my sister said she liked the yellow best. You can see what I mean about our being rivals. She couldn't even admit that my doll was prettier than hers.

I knew she would try to change the dresses. And if she did, how would we have known which doll was hers and which was mine? I mean, if she started changing the dresses, then maybe my doll would be in yellow and I would think it was her doll. There had to be something I could do so that they couldn't get mixed up.

She was playing outside with a friend from down the road, and there, right in her doll carriage, was the one in the yellow dress. I knew it was hers because I had hidden mine away in the basement where she couldn't find it. So I took the doll into my room and used a pencil to poke out her eyes. The little glass eyes fell into the doll's head, where they rattled around. You could see them inside if you looked through the gaping holes in the doll's face.

My sister had a crying fit when she found her baby blinded, and Mother held her, and rocked her, and promised to have the doll fixed. When my parents couldn't get it fixed, they bought another doll. But the new one wasn't nearly as pretty as mine, so no matter what my sister did with the clothes, I would always have the prettiest doll. That's the way we were! Just rivals. Believe me. If I hadn't hidden my doll, she would have done something to steal the pink dress.

As we got older, our competition moved to other playing fields. In junior high it was field hockey. Even though we were a year apart, we both made the team, and both of us at the same position. Only one of us could start, and the other would be a substitute. You can imagine how that turned her on! She would have done anything to see me on the bench while she was making all the plays, and I didn't care about any of the other positions as long as my sister wasn't starting ahead of me.

You know what she did? She started sucking up to the coach. How do I handle this situation? When do I pass and when do I shoot? Dumb questions just so the coach would know she was a serious jock. And it was working! In scrimmages, she was with the starters, and I was with the scrubs.

We were both going for the ball, each of us with an equal chance. She had her stick ready, and I pulled mine back, legally, no higher than my knee. We both swung, and she was first to the ball. I missed the ball completely, but my stick smashed into her ankle. She went down with a broken something-or-other, so it turned out that I had the starting position and she was on the bench watching me. All her brown-nosing didn't buy her a thing.

Did I cripple her on purpose? Absolutely not! It's just that she was first to the ball, and I had to do something. I couldn't just pull away as if we were playing hopscotch. Field hockey can get pretty rough, and she should have been watching out for herself. Besides, she got all sorts of sympathy. Mom and Dad helped her with her therapy. Teachers let her out of class early. And the kids on the team voted her an honorary captain. She got a lot more out of the season than I did.

But you can see what I mean. We were rivals, just like most sisters and brothers. Kids have accidents. That's not what you would call hatred.

In high school we were rivals over boys. We were close enough in age, just a year apart, so that we were in the same crowd. Sometimes we would talk about the boys we liked and the ones we thought were jerks, and about the other girls who were chasing after them. We knew which guys wanted action and which girls were giving away the store just to get dates. Neither of us had any thought of being easy. We both had high standards that we wanted to maintain, or at least that's what I thought.

There was this basketball player who was coming on to me, a big-man-on-campus type the girls were crazy for. He played the field and talked to everyone, but I could see that he had the hots for me. My father hadn't yet made it big, so my sister and I didn't even have cars. But this guy would manage to be on his way out the door just when we were leaving, and he was always anxious to drive us home. We were all in the front seat, usually with me closest to him and my sister next to the door. But sometimes she'd jump in first and sit between us. He wouldn't say anything. He was too cool to be obvious. And I wasn't going to kick up a fuss. I really didn't care that much about him, and I certainly wasn't going to make the first move.

Then, out of the blue, the two of them had a date for the movies. Behind my back, my own sister had put a move on my boyfriend. I confronted her and demanded an explanation. I mean, friends don't do that to each other, much less sisters. And she played innocent and hurt, just as she always did. She had no idea that he and I were an item. I'd never said anything. Like I'm supposed to tie a ribbon around any man I like. And he just asked her, she didn't do anything to encourage him. That was her answer. A bunch of barefaced lies.

They became quite a pair, with him hanging around her locker and her turning into a gym rat to watch him at practice. They sat alone together in a corner of the cafeteria, away from the rest of us. She even talked him into leaving at different times so that they could ride home without me. "Oh, were you waiting?" she'd say to me. "We thought you had gotten another ride." More of her damn lies!

They were dating every weekend. If it wasn't a movie, it was a concert. And if they couldn't find a better excuse, it would be just a walk in the park. But they always lingered in his car before they said good night, and sometimes good night extended to the living room sofa. A couple of times I walked in on them by accident and found them inside each other's clothes. "Oh, I'm so sorry," I said, when really I was wondering which one of them I should kill first. Him because he had switched to her just to get into her pants. Or her because she had thrown herself at my boyfriend.

She was like that with boys, a pushover, so they were all sniffing around her. Not that I was a prude! I knew my way around the backseat of a car, and I always had a date for the prom. But I drew the line. And you could tell by the way the guys were lining up that she wasn't quite so fussy. So it wasn't really a fair competition. It was like a kid having a birthday party, but everyone goes to another party because that kid is having clowns and a pony.

It was the same way with our father when he left the phone company and started the satellite business. He was traveling all over the world, and we wouldn't see him for weeks at end. Of course we were thrilled when he finally came home, but to see little Miss Goody Two-shoes, you'd think he had come back from the dead. She sat at his feet like he was Jesus, listening to all the miracles he'd worked. This or that company had signed on to send him their video programming. Or he had talked some Greek tycoon into bankrolling his research. Our father liked to brag, and my sister was a great audience. She'd sit there openmouthed, lapping up all this hype as if she actually understood what he was talking about. And our father fell for it! I mean, I was the one who had the higher grades in science, and even I didn't understand escape speeds and parking orbits. At least not then. But she was some actress. Do you know that she even kept his mailing lists on her computer!

And just like with the boys, it paid off. Daddy always brought us gifts when he came back from a trip. Perfume when he was in France, or jewelry from Italy. Little things, although they became very substantial once his first satellite was up and the money began rolling in. But after a while it was no secret that she was getting the better gifts. I remember when he came back from Central America after one of his trips, he brought us each an Aztec bracelet. Soft silver with very intricate patterns of pre-Columbian figures. And would you believe that hers was much wider? He said he thought I would like the more feminine look of the thinner bracelet, and of course I was gracious and agreed completely. But hers was twice as heavy and you could tell that it had cost a lot more. She played it cool. I remember her telling him how he had picked exactly the right bracelet for each of us. And then she was all ears waiting to hear about his latest miracles.

Then there were the gold chains. He had been to Milan and stopped in Florence on the way back to get Mother a leather bag. In the market, he spotted these gold chains that were in style at the time and brought one back for each of us. But this time we both liked the thinner, more delicate design. Strange that I got the thinner bracelet but wasn't given the "more feminine" chain, don't you think. Instead, he had to flip a coin to see which one of us got to pick first. And I don't have to tell you who won the coin toss.

Believe me, I had no trouble with competition. It was natural that my sister and I would compete for honors, and awards, and even the favor of parents and friends. Someone wins and someone loses, and I can be just as gracious when I lose as when I win. But that doesn't make me a pushover. When people decide to walk all over you, you're not supposed to take it lying down, are you? You fight back, don't you? Does that mean that you hate the other person? Does that make you some sort of psychopath?

What was I supposed to do, just let my sister steal my boyfriends? And turn my own father against me? I had to do something, and that's what the Internet thing was all about. Sure, you can make it sound like I was some sort of fiend for even thinking of such a thing. Now, when we're all older and more experienced, it's easy to make childhood mistakes sound sick and depraved. But back then computers were toys, and everyone was playing computer jokes. It was only a dirty trick. Not the big deal that some people make it out to be.

My sister and this jock were sending each other e-mails before they went to bed. Little "thinking of you" notes and greeting cards that they downloaded from one of those free birthday-card services. I found one of the cards from him in her printer, and the one she was sending back still up on her screen. Then I realized that if I had her password, I could look in on their breathless conversations. That's all it was. Just a bit of teenage curiosity. I thought if he called her something endearing--love lips, or pussycat, or something--I'd let it drop some night at the table and watch her face hit the floor. Or maybe she'd say something equally ridiculous to him, and then I'd get someone to use it in front of him. If she called him "hunky," then I'd get the girls to start calling him that and see how red he'd turn. Childish, I admit. But we really were only children, and a kid's prank is a long way from fiendish hatred.

But I couldn't find the damn password. And when I did find it in her school notebook, all I got were her homework assignments. She had set up a personal address with a separate password for the drivel she exchanged with Hunky! As if anyone would be interested. But she was like that. Secretive, paranoid.

You know, maybe she's the one you should have writing out her life's story. I'll bet it's a lot more warped than anything you're going to get from me.

I tried everything that she might use as a password. Her birthday, his birthday, the day they met, the day I first caught them on the living room sofa, her jersey number, his jersey number. One of the nerds at school had an algorithm that ran combinations of numbers by the hour, and even that didn't work. And then, one day in our bathroom while she was taking a shower, I spotted an ankle bracelet that he had apparently given her. ``In love at last'' was engraved behind her name. And when I put that into the computer, I had their whole correspondence scrolling in front of me.

Most of it was stupid, even for high school kids. But some of it was very graphic, particularly the Monday exchanges after their weekend dates. As far as I could tell, they weren't sleeping together, but they had pretty much perfected the art of foreplay. Great reading, I thought, for the gang at school, so I spent a few days editing the old stuff and then selectively adding the new material that was showing up every day. In a little while I had a ten-page document that would make them a laughingstock. Once it got around, he wouldn't dare show his face around our house. Heck, he'd probably have to drop out of school. Sure, my sister would guess who had done it. But she could never be sure. Anyone who got hold of her password or his, and knew the address that went with it, could have dialed into their love life. Either one of them could have made a stupid blunder.

So that was it. Just a joke! And maybe a payback for the both of them. As I said, I didn't know which one I wanted to kill first. Both of them had treated me shabbily. I never planned the rest of it. It just happened when my father put up his first satellite, and suddenly we were rich.

It was high school graduation and we both got sports cars. Mustangs! Convertibles that had recently come back on the market. It was the dolls all over again. Mine was red with a black interior; hers was green with a tan interior. No contest, right? I mean, Ferrari red! At last I had gotten the better of her. But wouldn't you know it--she comes up with a book about the great age of English road racing, and aren't all the Coopers and Lotuses painted in her green with tan interiors.

I admit it. I was furious. Probably stupid, because by then you'd think I would have gotten used to her being Daddy's little girl. But as I say, when people are walking all over you, you can't simply lie down and take it. At least not if you have any self-respect. And I couldn't put the doll's eyes out again. If I had keyed the paint or taken a razor to the leather, the insurance would have covered the repair.

That's when I remembered the mailing lists she used to keep for my father. He didn't use them anymore because he had a promotion department now, with much more sophisticated lists than the early ones. But still, most of his important colleagues were still in my sister's file. So I took her panting e-mail correspondence and sent it all out over the list. For weeks my father and his little favorite were the jokes of the business world, not to mention our entire community. One of the business writers even took to calling my father "Hunky."

I know it went too far, but you have to admit that it was a stroke of genius. I got her for pushing me aside to get closer to my father. And I got my father for liking her more than me. And the best part of it was that she took all the blame. The list was in her computer, so it stood to reason that she must have put the wrong address code on the wrong correspondence. For the whole summer you didn't see her smiling when she tooled around town in her racing-green Mustang!

But it wasn't as if I set out to destroy her. As I say, we were just rivals, and one thing led to another, and maybe once or twice things did get out of hand. But I never hated her. That's not why I helped to kill her.