She had no business being out at night, but what are big sisters for?
I was twenty and she was barely sixteen, just coming into her own, curly strawberry hair hanging down to her waist and pale blue eyes flashing with excitement.
She'd almost given us away when our parents dropped her off, her cheshire grin far too devious for a quiet night watching videos in my tiny apartment, but she managed to pull it together until the tailights of Dad's station wagon disappeared around the corner of Maple and Elm.
We were forty minutes down the road when she stripped off her sweatchirt and proudly showed me the Playboy tank top she'd borrowed from the friend of a friend who's parents were obviously a lot more lenient then ours.... and I raised an eyebrow but stayed quiet.
This was our adventure after all, and you just can't lecture someone during an adventure. You save it until after you get home and then you throw statistics and self-respect speeches at them to your heart's content.
Besides, this was her night. Who was I to rain on her parade?
The crowd was thick when we arrived and I grabbed her hand to avoid losing her in the dark arena, both of us wincing at the deafening noise as we stumbled up to our seats.
They were nose-bleed, but we didn't care because the energy was just as real in the bleaches as it was on the floor. She grinned at me, bopping up and down the way teenagers do, her voice overloud and practically begging for attention.
I grinned back... it would have been impossible not to.
Kid rock came out, yelling lyrics that I couldn't follow but that she knew by heart. "Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy".. whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. Must not have mattered much anyway because the crowd was up, screaming along and dancing...
And she was right there with them. So different from me. Taller and blonder. Reckless and outgoing.
If we weren't sisters we probably wouldn't have been friends, but it was the week after her birthday and this was my secret gift to her... so I let her coax me up to stand on the metal bench beside her, raised my arms and shouted that I wanted to be a cowboy with the rest of the crowd.
This was her element, not mine. The lights that blinded me loved her, streaking jewel tones through her hair and turning her pretty face into something beautiful.
Ten years later the strobe lights have been traded for laundry, and she's settled into who she was probably always meant to be from the start... a good wife and a great mother.
She's still taller and blonder, still has that cheshire grin when she's up to no good.
But sometimes when I see her sitting at her kitchen table, writing out grocery lists and scribbling little league practice times into her day planner, I wonder if she remembers that girl standing on the bleachers as clearly as I do.
And part of me can't help wondering if she misses her, too.
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