BUW: Ten Years Old

Monday, 10 December 2007

Rosa brandishes the frying pan and pancakes spin into the air like Catherine wheels. They slip back into the pan to sizzle and hiss. She loves to cook American-style food, which is practically Australian-style nowadays. We hardly ever get her Mediterranean dishes, drenched in olive oil, even though we learned in Home Science that this diet is one of the best. But it’s the taste that counts and it really doesn’t matter what Rosa cooks because it’s always delicious. Especially pancakes. We sit at the table, armed with knives and forks, waiting for the first batch. Pina stabs a fork at my hand viciously and for no reason at all. My face heats up and I ignore her.
“En garde!” Marco twirls his butter knife and Pina giggles, so I hate her more.
Lara cuts the air with her knife, Pina crosses it with hers, and metal clanks against metal. “Thrust!”
Clank clank clank and Pina squeals. They try their hardest to leave me out.
“Who’s first?” Rosa booms, and the pancake sails over our heads, landing flap! on Marco’s plate. He beams and slathers on butter. Lara dribbles. Then her and Pina carry on until pancakes come flying through the air onto their plates and the table is a frenzy of arms and lemon juice squirting in eyes. My eyes sting but not with lemon juice. Lara stuffs an entire pancake in her gob at once. Butter dribbles onto her chin and she smiles at me broadly. She gets her tongue behind her teeth and squeezes mashed pancake through the gaps.
The last pancake is mine, but I’m no longer hungry by the time it arrives.
Lara eyes me suspiciously. Her eyes trail down to my concave belly and then back again. Then she looks down at her own pudgy belly and shifts uncomfortably.
I leave the table and curl up on the couch with a book. I can see Lara watching me from the table. After another pancake or two, she saunters over. “I’m puttin on weight,” she suddenly announces.
“No you’re not,” I mumble.
“Look at me!” she pulls out the front of her elastic-waisted pants.
“So what?” I look up from my book and squint at the gap in the waist. I think I need glasses. “I think I need glasses.”
“Well, yes. You obviously can’t see that my pants are getting too small. The gap is closing in the waist!”
“Yeah. Right,” I say, wanting to get back to my book, wondering why she’s talking to me at all.
“The gap used to be huge!” she declares, her voice rising to a cry.
“It still is.”
“Yer just sayin that.”
“Am not.”
“Are so.”
“Ars... hole.” I mimic.
“Shit head.”
“Pooh teddy with crap sauce.”
“Piss sauce, stupid.” and Lara lets go of her pants with an elastic snap. “Don’t you know anything?”
“More than some.”
“I doubt it.”
So do I. I feel so dumb. I know they hate me - the stranger. The intruder. They make me feel so alone. Lara flicks her long hair and struts out of the room looking dramatic.
Pina comes in and sits on the couch. She scowls at me all the time. She sets her haunting black eyes onto me and scowls until I feel she’s looking right into me and watching my nerves jump about. She’s like a little apprentice witch. She twirls a long dark strand of hair around a finger and continues to stare. I try not to be intimidated by such a child, but they hurt, those stares. They burrow into me where it’s empty, and echo in there. I have a constant emptiness. And it’s worse when it’s full of Pina’s nastiness.
She unfurls her legs from the sofa and struts out of the loungeroom. I close my eyes in relief. She keeps strutting on into the room she’s sharing with Lara because I’ve taken over her space. Lara was well established in the room so she can boss Pina around when she’s not busy making my life hell. Strange that Pina blames me for this. I didn’t ask for her stupid bloody room. I didn’t ask for anything. I didn’t ask for my Mum’s head to bleed inside. I didn’t ask to come here. It’s not my fault Rosa and Marco are my Godparents. I hate Godparents.
Pina starts chattering to herself in the bedroom. I snarl. Weirdo. She whispers to herself a lot and has a fascination with the medical profession. She has two nurses outfits, a doctor’s kit and a real stethoscope. She operates on her Barbie dolls and spatters them with tomato sauce blood after their unfortunate bungy jumps from the back stairs. She takes the temperature of everything, documenting the numbers in an exercise book that she then hides somewhere impossible. She also talks to the vacuum cleaner, which she’s named Aldo. It sucks up her clothes and gobbles down her long black hair and she talks to it rationally and tells it not to be such an angry vacuum cleaner and that it really should think about going into therapy. She’s been watching too many movies again.
Rosa has been trying to get Pina away from the television since she was a tot. She’s an addict. We go to the video shop and hire five movies a week and Pina devours them all in silence, even the ones eight year old kids can’t possibly understand. Perhaps one day she’ll make movies. Lara the show-off can star in them and I’ll paint all the backdrops. Monet-style, of course.

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