This is the first chapter of a biography I am working on. I would love any feedback please
My little sister Lena was finally coming home.
We were halfway to the airport. Father was driving. The air was musky with his scent. His flannel shirt was drenched in sweat and his sleeves were rolled up, exposing his hairy muscular arms. There was nowhere he didn’t have hair. Even his ears had hair coming out of them. My sister Olli sat in the passenger seat. She was staring out the rolled down window and the wind blew her long black hair back to where my brother and I sat in the back seat. We didn’t have much of a choice, really. My brother looked at me mischievously as the ends of my sister’s hair were whipping at his face. We didn’t need to say anything further. Very gently I grabbed a chunk of my sister’s hair, cautiously weary of her feeling a pull. My brother grabbed some hair from the other side of the head rest and passed it to me slowly. I was good at containing my laughter. My brother however was biting into his bottom lip with his two buck teeth, desperately trying not to let a sound out. I managed to get a very light knot in before my brother jerked her hair a little too roughly and ruined everything. Olli spun around with her eyes bulging out.
¨Don’t touch my hair you idiots!¨ she hissed out.
Malik finally burst out the laughter he very poorly tried to contain. He held onto his stomach as he heckled with laughter. In truth, I didn’t actually find it that funny but seeing that I helped my big brother laugh made me smile.
¨That´s enough,¨ father said sternly and at once the laughter in the car disappeared.
¨You are not a boy anymore. Act more like a man for once,¨ my dad said glaring at my brother through the front mirror.
Malik looked shamefully out the window, lips sealed shut.
¨You hear me¨ my father thundered. There was no question in his voice. That was his way. He always needed to know that he was heard even if it was certain the whole world could hear him. There was a long empty pause in the car before Malik mumbled “yes” under his breath.
When I looked at Malik, both his fists were tightly rolled up under his crossed arms. I winced seeing him like that. I was nine years old and my brother was sixteen, and he wasn’t allowed to have fun anymore. During the summer my dad brought Malik to the store with him where he made him stock shelves, and act like a grownup like himself. But my brother wasn’t an adult yet and he had the rest of his life to learn how to do adult things. My dad spoke to me about my brother a lot. He wanted Malik to be stronger, faster, and bigger. The good thing though was that my mother really loved Malik. Her and my dad often get into fights over him. My dad was a disciplinarian. My mother was too, but not for my brother.
I reached into my nap sac and pulled out two granola bars and silently dropped one on my brothers lap and then I stared at him, and waited for him to smile. I didn’t like to see anyone sad. It only made the sadness inside me grow. I loved my brother. Adored him. Worshiped him. And when my dad was harsh on him, I looked to my father with resentment. But unlike my father, my mother believed my brother to be the greatest thing that happened to her. My brother and I were both my mom´s favorites. Most parents never spoke about who their favorites were but my mother was always open to that discussion. ¨The Golden children¨ is what Olli disdainfully called us. My brother and I had light brown hair and fair skin. We looked like my mother with her angular face and big almond shaped eyes. Perhaps that was what bonded us. We looked at one another and we could see ourselves. The only difference was in the brows. I took my dad´s thick rounded brows and my mother and brother had wisps of thin hair as brows. I thought of Lena then. And I wondered what she would look like, or rather who she would look like. We were on our way to pick her and my mother up from the airport. My little sister Lena was finally coming home.
I was four years old when my mother went to Pakistan with five month old sister, Lena. I didn’t remember much during that time but I remembered the painful jealousy I felt when my mother was leaving with Lena and not me. I remember wailing at the airport when I realized I wasn´t joining the trip. On the floor hugging her luggage, I was begging her not to leave me behind. “I will be back in a month,” she assured me.
And so I counted down the days until she would be back with Lena. And after a months time, she did come back as she said she would. Only she was alone.
She had left Lena there with my grandmother. When I asked my mother why Lena didn´t come back she told me grandma was bored and lonely. And now five years later my mother went to bring Lena back. I had spoken to Lena on the phone but she did not speak English very well and I did not speak Urdu very well so the conversations didn’t last long.
We were waiting outside the terminal gate. The airport was filled with Italians, and they were hard to miss with their loud voices, quick words, and flying hands. When they greeted their loved ones everyone shrieked at their highest pitch, and I jumped.
“Sounds like someone is being murdered,” Malik scoffed.
As I watched the people exit through the gate I could feel a tingle in my stomach. I felt light and nauseous, unable to take the wait. I looked around and saw a lady holding her baby and her eyes were filled with tears as she waited. Another family stood holding a bunch balloons and a bouquet of flowers. I looked down and stared at our empty hands with disappointment. My hands were getting sweaty and I rubbed them against my frock which was now filled with wrinkles. I tried to straighten them out but to no avail. Olli had helped me get ready in the morning. As she did my hair, pulling at my strands until it felt like they were ripping out of my scalp she told me ¨Mother only likes pretty things.¨
¨There they are!¨ Olli shouted.
My head snapped up and my eyes instantly found my mother. She looked like she lost weight. Her face was more bony and hollow but she still looked beautiful. She wore a dark green dress and a white scarf hung loosely around her head. She was trotting along a big carry on bag. And Lena was scurrying right behind her. She stood up to my mother’s hip. She had a head full of curly black hair, and her skin was golden brown. I could see even from afar that she had big full lips like my brother. Our eyes locked and her mouth opened into a wide smile, flashing her big teeth, and that’s when I saw how alike she looked to him.
¨Eva!¨she shouted loud enough to echo. Her voice was high and scratchy. She ran passed my mom and came straight for me. I stood stunned and still as she came running. She swung her arms open and grappled me around my waist. Her force was so strong it almost knocked me down. I shuffled my feet for balance.
¨Hi,¨ I said with a smile.
¨I’m so happy. I told everyone about you. And now we are sisters again,¨ she spoke in Urdu. My Urdu was more broken but I understood it better than I spoke it.
¨I’m happy,¨ was the only thing I could remember to say in Urdu that suited the moment.
My mother pulled Lena off me and tightly hugged the breath out of me. My face squished into her breasts. I hugged my mom back and felt the love rush to the surface. She then pulled away and pulled my chin up, inspecting my face.
¨You´re skinnier than before. Did you not feed my sweetling, Olli?¨ my mom asked. And before Olli could answer she went to my brother next and showered him with kisses. He pretended to be annoyed and squirmed under her touch, but I knew he had been waiting for this kind of love since she left. When my mom went to greet Olli my brother turned to me and crouched down at my ear.
¨Looks like you aren´t the baby anymore,” he said and nudged my shoulder.
I knew I wanted a little sister but I had grown comfortable being the baby of the family. No one expected much from you and you were loved by all. I looked at Lena and wondered how the dynamic of the house would change. Was I going to be loved less now because I had one more person to share the love with? Of course, they would. They would now fill her with all the love to make up for the five years. I knew I had to fight for love now, otherwise they would all forget about me.
We arrived home and pulled up into the driveway.
¨Wow. Can-eh-duh house is big¨ Lena said in English with her thick Pakistani accent.
The house was two years old now and it was as Lena said, big. It was two stories tall and had four bedrooms in it. When I got off my school bus the kids would stare as I walked towards the house. I pretended not to notice or care but I loved being the girl living in the big house. My dad thought it was rude to bask in attention but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy it a little bit, as my mother would say.
I showed Lena the bedroom we were going to share. My dad had moved an extra bed in the day before. Lena threw her backpack on the floor and climbed on top of the bed and began to jump.
¨You shouldn´t do that. Dad doesn’t like it if anyone jumps on the beds,¨ I said in my broken Urdu. Lena giggled and continued to jump for a moment longer before stopping. The bed I had perfectly made earlier now looked like a tornado had come through. And restless Lena was that tornado. I was amazed at how much energy she had. How full of life she was.
It’s so nice here, ¨ Lena said.
I only smiled and began unfolding my bed.
¨You don´t talk a lot, ¨ she said.
¨And you talk a lot, ¨ I replied defensively. I felt bad as soon as I said it. But Lena didn´t seem to be bothered, or she didn’t understand.
¨Do you miss your friends? ¨ I asked her.
¨Not at all. I am here with my sister and family¨ she said in Urdu and then ¨living in American dream, ¨ she said the last part very proudly.
¨America is different from Canada, ¨ I told her and then her face dropped and she looked disappointed at getting it wrong and I felt bad like I always do.
¨It´s okay though. I can teach you English, ¨ I told her
¨You can? ¨ her face lit up again in excitement.
¨Sure. We can start tomorrow.¨