I Wish I Was You

Claire. My sister. She was so perfect, so brilliant. The best student, the popular girl, the ideal daughter, the true friend and the perfect sister. But I hated her. I hated that she was so impeccable, that she was better than me in everything. I felt like a nobody around her. And I didn't like that.

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2. Chapter One

Claire. It was the first word I ever said. Claire … my sister.

She was three years old when I was born and, from what everybody tells me, carried me around with her practically all the time. They say she used to sing songs to me just to make me giggle. They say she used to let me play with all her toys and wouldn’t even get mad when I ruined them. They say she would just laugh it off when I threw up on her new dresses. And I believe them. Because I know that was exactly the kind of person Claire was.

When I was little, we used to live in a nice house facing the sea. Claire used to take me out to the beach every day and that was where I learnt to walk, gripping her finger with my whole hand. She used to catch me when I stumbled and told me it was alright, that I was a brave little girl and I would learn eventually. And I did. I learnt to walk, to run, even to peddle my first bicycle on that beach with Claire by my side. I felt like I was in a fairytale, with a perfect sister and a perfect family.

But it was when I was about five that I started realising how wrong I was. I started noticing things that didn’t seem right. Things that seemed to bother my sister and make Mum cry. When I asked them where Dad was and why he never came home even on our birthdays, they used to say he was busy at work. But I could tell by their voices that he wasn’t. He was someplace else, someplace far. And somehow, I got a strange feeling that he was never coming back.

I was wrong. He did come back. He came back on a stormy night, drenched in sweat and rain, staggering and stumbling, smelling strongly of something that was foreign to me – alcohol. He barged through the door of the beach house where Mum, Claire and I were having a nice and warm dinner. He staggered inside and slumped on the couch, his head lolling and his mouth slightly open. I still remember being so scared of him at that moment.

Mum stood up, resignation and worry etched in her beautiful face. “Pierre – where have you been?”

“You,” he slurred stupidly and stood up on his wobbly legs. “You are not going to question me Kim.”

“So you remember my name?” Mum said hysterically. “Why have you come back now, Pierre? After all these years?”

“This is MY house!” he screeched. “I will do whatever I like and you do not question me!”

I trembled violently, hiding behind Claire who looked as shaken and scared as I did. Mum and Dad started throwing insults at each other, screaming things about family and children that I couldn’t comprehend. I just stood there, hiding in the shadows with Claire, too afraid to speak or to cry as Dad started hitting Mum with the table-lamp fiercely, calling her names that I had never heard before. Mum fell over, clutching the top of her head where Dad had just hit her. He aimed a final kick at her stomach before screaming at the top of his voice – “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

And then, a year later, Mum, Claire and I were living in a small but lovely apartment in a faraway town. We didn’t have as much food or money as we did when we were at the beach-house, but we were much happier. Claire and I soon learnt to forget about Dad and took care not to mention him in front of Mum, and found happiness in calling him every horrible name we knew during the night in hushed undertones.

So life went on. We were all happy. Claire and I soon grew much fonder of this town than the beach-house, as there was so much more to explore here. Our favourite haunt was the little wood perched on the cliff-top on the outskirts of the town, where we sat making daisy chains and licking the lollies and other treats that Mum brought from the Café. When we bought an oven, Mum taught both of us how to make brownies and chocolate muffins too. Sometimes we used to pack our own picnic basket and head off to the cliff-top to eat there. Everything was much better now, with our drunk Dad gone and Mum seeming happier than she used to be at the beach-house. Now Claire and I really and truly felt like we were in a fairytale.

But then we grew up, and everything went for a toss.

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