Jess took a deep breath as she stared out the car window. You can do this. Just open the door and walk to the café. It's not that hard, just unlock the door. Unlock the door and get out. Move. Frustrated, she leaned back against the leather seat, clenching her fists. Why was this so hard? Oh, she thought with a bitter laugh, your only about the meet the sister you haven't seen in eleven years. Jess had been dreaming about this moment for as long as she could remember. She would lie there in her room listening to the drip-drip-drip of the old boiler and the sound of Kaycee's snoring in the bed across from hers, thinking of Marnie. She wondered about her adoptive family, what they were like and who they were.
It had been hard at first, adjusting to the foster home; there were so many kids. As it turned out, she only stayed at that first foster home for a month and before she knew it she was on to the next place. Weyword was the only place she had stayed at for longer than six months. Jess had been to so many homes that she had give up counting, after a while they all just merged into a big bundle of loneliness. That was all behind her now though and she sat up in the car seat. She was ready.
Locking the car, she dropped her keys into her old satchel and crossed the road. It was windy today and her short hair flew around her like rippling ribbon, as gusts of wind sent it flying. Hugging her cardigan to her body, she berated herself for not wearing her coat. She quickened her pace and was glad when she reached the big, warm looking building.
A chime greeted her as she stepped into the café, the warmth instantly engulfing her. The bitter-sweet smell of coffee filled her nose and she breathed it in gratefully. It was reasonably quiet with only a handful of people sat at the tables, most opting for the counter. Her eyes quickly scanned the faces, looking for the one that would jump out at her immediately, but didn't see it; Marnie wasn't here yet. For an unexplainable reason Jess exhaled a sigh of relief. She should be excited, but the butterflies in her stomach felt more like dread. Of course she wanted to see her sister, but she was nervous. What would she say when she saw her? Would they spot each other at once and begin running until they met with a gigantic hug, like in the movies? Probably not.
Looking around, Jess decided to choose the table by the window. She set her bag down and sat awkwardly on the chair. Waiting. There was a clock above the signs for the bathroom and she kept glancing at it, only to see a minute had passed since the last time she checked. Once her neck began to feel soar from looking she gazed out the window instead. Jess could faintly see her reflection in the glass and wondered if Marnie would recognise her.
The last time they had seen each other, Jess had had pigtails and permanently scabbed knees. When she was at Weyworth, as soon as she had turned fourteen, she had began sneaking bottles of bleach from the kitchen cupboard and dyeing her hair. But she didn't stop there. On her sixteenth birthday, she had woken up and was staring at her reflection in the mirror on her bedroom wall (by then her hair was ruby red and trailed all the way down her back). Without having time to change her mind, Jess ran to the bathroom and seconds later returned to the mirror. Scissors in hand, she began chopping her hair, watching in satisfaction as long chunks fell to the carpet. When she was finished, she stared at her new chin-length hair and grinned at her reflection.
Of course, when she came down-stairs that morning all dressed in her uniform, Margo gave her a disapproving look. “You had such pretty, blonde hair before you went and dyed it every colour under the sun. Now you've just gone and hacked it all off! Honestly, Jessica!” Jess had just rolled her eyes. Margo was one of the foster carers at Weywords and she was always giving Jess one of her 'disapproving' glances and shaking her head sadly, as if it pained her greatly- or more specifically- as if Jess pained her greatly. Which she suspected she did.
Since then she had kept her hair to just above her shoulders, but instead of red, her hair was now a candy floss pink. Kaycee, her room-mate at Weyword, said she looked like an extremely tall oompa-loompa and announced she could no longer look at her without feeling hungry. Although she now made a point to wear a hat whenever she saw Kaycee, Jess thought it suited her. It made her eyes look the colour of chestnut, a hint of green visible in summer.
A high chime sounded and her head snapped up. A girl was standing in the doorway. She was turned away so Jess could only see the back of her golden, blonde head and her tall, slim figure. Her heart was hammering in her chest like it was trying to escape. Was this Marnie? Mind racing, she let every thought slip by, her focus on the girl. Slowly, she turned towards Jess. Then she was walking towards the table she was sat at.
“Jess?” It sounded like a question in her velvety voice. Jess was frozen. All she managed was a small nod as she drank her sister in. Their eyes were the same, hazel and round, giving them a doe-eyed look. As they stared at one another, Jess realized that was where the similarities ended. Marnie was tall and practically exuded warmth with her easy smile and kind eyes. Her skin was bronze and smooth, not a blemish in sight. She couldn't help but feel a tingling of jealousy as she stared at this beautiful, sun-kissed girl. Before the feeling could show on her face, Jess smothered it. Marnie was biting her lip and she could tell she was nervous. She took a step forward and Jess thought she would bend down and hug her. She didn't.
Marnie's ponytail swished from side to side as she went to sit in the seat opposite her.
“So... this is weird, right?” Marnie said after a few seconds of awkward silence.
“Yeah,” Jess agreed, grasping for something else to say. “How are you?” Marnie smiled.
“I'm good- great actually. How are you?” she asked enthusiastically as she shrugged off her red coat and put it on the back of her chair.
“I'm fine, everything's... fine.”
“Well, that's good! How's school?”
“I graduated last year-” I started and saw Marnie's smile falter.
“Of course, sorry, I forgot you'd finished. So, you must be sixteen?”
“Seventeen,” Jess corrected. “How is your job?”
“Good,” She answered, her face lighting up. “Pam gave me a job at her hairdressers. Just sweeping up, making coffee's, answering phones, that sort of thing. But I'm doing a hairdressing course, so she says I'll be able to start with customers soon.”
“Pam and Harry are the people who adopted me. They're really great.”
“Oh,” Jess didn't know what to say. It was strange hearing Marnie talk about these strangers who were her family. She and Jess were sisters, but they didn't really know each other.
Something buzzed and Marnie reached inside her coat for her phone.
“Sorry,” she apologised, putting it back in her coat without checking it. “So, are you at college?”
Jess wondered how much to tell her. She didn't want her to know that only a few months ago she had been kicked out. Not before a few words from the Dean about her 'irresponsible' and 'thoughtless' behaviour. It wasn't like she had meant to start the fire. It kind of just... happened. And anyway, she was always being warned about her attendance, but the times she did come in, she spent her time getting shouted at. In the end she couldn't see the point any more, so she got kicked out.
Thankfully, Marnie's phone buzzed again and she was spared of answering.
“You can answer that you know.” Jess laughed nervously as the phone continued to vibrate, making the table shake.
“No,” Marnie said firmly, “I'm with my sister, whoever it is can just wait.” Jess smiled at her and she smiled back, a perfect dazzling smile. Marnie reached across the table and grasped Jess' hand gently. An overwhelming feeling of safety washed over Jess like a tidal wave and she was suddenly reminded of when they were younger.
This was the sister that had climbed to the top of the highest tree when she was seven because Jess' kite had gotten caught in the branches. Marnie had taken one look at her sister's tear stained face and off she went. This was the sister that had argued with her over a big, stuffed bear and then snatched it away from her, accidentally ripping off it's leg. Later, Marnie had brought it back to Jess, the leg sown back on with bright pink thread. Jess hadn't cared that it was sown on backwards and most of the stuffing had fallen out. She only cared that Marnie had fixed it.
Looking into Marnie's deep brown eyes, Jess knew it was still the same Marnie that had rescued her kite and mended her bear. Tentatively, she gave her sister's hand a squeeze. Marnie's phone buzzed again and both girl jumped. Marnie pulled her hand away and stared at the screen. Jess thought she saw something like panic fill her eyes but then she was smiling an apologetic smile.
“I'm sorry, Jess, is it okay if I...”
“Yeah, sure.” She said, managing not to sound too disappointed. Marnie threw a quick grin over her shoulder before disappearing outside. Jess fished through her satchel for her own phone. She opened up her messages and saw a new one from Kaycee.
Hey, just checking how sisterly bonding is going! Call me when your done
Jess smiled before flipping the phone shut and tossing it back into her bag. She would tell Kaycee all about it later. A smile played on her pink lips; she wondered it Marnie remembered the bear.