Beloved Enemy

     My mother had three children, one boy and two girls. I am firmly in the middle. My birth came as a great surprise to my older brother who assumed, I believe, that he would always be the one and only. Upon my arrival, though he had reached the venerable age of 18 months, he once again took to the bottle and his pram. It was not a huge inconvenience to my mother given that my brother had, at that stage, become a quiet wanderer. During nap time, which she enjoyed as well, and in the evening when he was to be fast asleep in his crib, he was often AWOL. In desperation she had taken to covering his crib with chicken wire, caging him in to stop him from wandering off. Immediately after my birth, his jealously kept him close at hand. He could be found as near as the pram or only as far away as the green eyed monster would let him wander. He eventually got over it and we settled into an uneven constantly broken and renewed truce that would last as long as convenience allowed.  

     When my sister came along several years later I reacted to the usurping of my title of Darling Baby with the same grace as my brother before me. Although I’d been allowed to name the baby, I promptly decided I hated her and set out on a mammoth campaign to make sure she knew. As she grew she learned to give as good as she got. The pitched battles in our shared room and the sharp cruelties of girls were so much more vicious and coldly dismissive than anything our brother could have thought of. His forays were all brute strength and oafish bullying. My sister and I were skilled surgeons. Our battles were built up in scalpel sharp incisions of disdain, delicate balances of power and emotional distance. Our contention was so great, our abhorrence so pure, it does not surprise me, that such strong emotion brought about a closer friendship than that uneasy truce with my brother could ever have accomplished. There were signs that we would be good friends but the seeds did take a long time to grow. As long as we did as a matter of fact but that in itself is not unusual.

     And so we are now friends, not my brother with us, but my sister and I to each other. My brother has chosen to walk apart from all of us but we two walk more and more together. Looking back over the years now the bloodiest of our skirmishes are the ones we bring out to parade around for the amusement of ourselves and others. Our greatest battles have taken on the sepia toned patina of nostalgia. I maintain that my victories were the greatest in number and the most definitive in nature. I’m sure, if asked, my sister would say the same. But I can not deny that there was one moment that must live on in infamy in the pantheon of sisterly rivalry. On that day, my sister, through luck or chance, stood supreme.

     She must have just turned 10, which would have made me 13.  There had been tragedies in our family and we were much on our own in those days. She was just starting to come into her height at 10 with maybe 8 more inches to go. She was thin with dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair, all flash and temper. At 13, almost 14, I was an inch short of as tall as I was ever going to be with stick thin arms, fair skin and strawberry blond cold disdain.

     Our white stucco house was bustled in the backyard by a raised stone patio (those being in fashion then) which in turn was sheltered by a large oak tree. The ground between the tree and the patio was rutted and bare. The dirt had been scraped and flattened by the feet of innumerable neighbourhood kids who’d taken a ride on the tire swing hanging from the lowest branch. The end of the yard was marked by an old battered metal shed. We had avoided the shed since my sister’s birthday when my mother had managed to step on a rusty nail while playing hide and seek. The nail had passed through the bottom of her foot and out the top necessitating a break in the festivities and a hospital visit. No one had gotten around to moving the offending board and nail and so the shed sat abandoned with its motley collection of bikes, croquet mallets, horseshoes and lethal metal tipped lawn darts.

     On any given afternoon any of us usually could be found throwing those deadly projectiles straight up in the air and then running like hell to avoid being impaled by the rapidly descending death spear or trying to hit each other with croquet balls or mallets if we thought we could get away with it . But given the recent threat of the rusty nail I had opted for a reclining ride on the patio swing instead while my sister turned slow circles on the tire. My sister had wearied of swinging on her rubber perch and was ready for a ride on the patio swing. I was comfortable, lying fully reclined and stretched out to my full 5 foot 4 inch length, and had no intention of accommodating her.

     Vitriol began to flow and the curses flew back fast and hard. All those arguments and we never raised a hand to each other, but this day was a day the line was almost crossed. That was something we would try on briefly years later but as children physical pain was our brother’s territory. Ours wasn’t the way of force or the fist. We fought dirty and pummeled each other with words.

     My sister’s frustration began to mount and I felt that victory was at hand. Still lying down on the swing I opened my mouth for one more cutting remark and she leaned forward and spit at me. It might have been the wind, it might have been fate taking a hand or it might have been pure luck, who knows? Whatever it was, it sharpened my sister’s aim and my cutting crow of victory became a nauseous gargle as her glob of saliva plopped into my mouth.

     Shock on her part and spit in mine silenced us both, but only for a moment. In a frozen plateau we paused while both of us absorbed the act and its consequences. If I hadn’t been lying down I would have caught her. I still don’t know what I would have done if I had. She made it into the house and up the stairs in record time. She hit the bathroom door a split second before me where she locked herself in until the coast was clear. And really even if I’d caught her what good would it have done?

     On that day, nothing could have been more perfect than that one moment. All the forces had conspired and there was no offensive I could have mounted to equal that one magnificent act. I tried. Later on that night I brushed my teeth and spit my toothpaste into the tub while she was having a bath but it was an empty gesture. She knew it and I knew it. On that day, I had to concede the field of victory to her. But I did live to fight another day, many other days as a matter of fact. I had my own victories just as complete and undeniable but those I will save for another time.

     She was to me, as I was to her, my most esteemed and beloved enemy. We are still soldiers of a sort but life and time have made us allies. As an adult I don’t know if I could love her as much as I do if I hadn’t hated her so completely as a child. I know the depth and breadth of her. We have passed through the fire and have come away tempered, annealed and strengthened in ourselves. I know some of her sins and all of her foibles as she knows a measure of mine. We have warred and like old campaigners we share a past that binds us together. Once my enemy but always and still beloved, she remains ever my sister and finally, my friend.




20 thoughts on “Beloved Enemy

  1. I was oldest of 9 and I don\’t think there were ever any lasting enmities of any sort, because alliances shifted so easily that if you picked one to stay enemies with, you might find all 8 arrayed against you in no time.  Or maybe I don\’t remember it all that well.  My next oldest brother and I fought nearly to the death at least every other day, my mother would be so alarmed at the array of weaponry we would use that she always stopped the fights, often being wounded herself in the process.  One day she\’d had enough and left us outside to fight to the end.  The fight lasted – off and on – all day – we bashed each other with vaarious objects and broke all of each other\’s things. It ended a draw, and after that I don\’t believe we ever fought again.  But no matter what, NONE of us ever joined with outsiders against another sibling.  Family, bruised and battered, is still family…


  2. You are an incredible writer, Lorna Doone (and I want a cookie, as usual)…
    This reads like a short story and well could be \’turned\’ into one —
    I shouldn\’t tell writers to try to publish, because it makes it seem as if that\’s what I think validates us, makes us "real " -like the Velveteen Rabbit whose fur is rubbed off– but I think you could certainly publish if you wanted to….
    Damn fine writing.
    I never had a sister-well, I have a "half sister" in WVA – half, shounds as if she\’s been cut in half or born half – anyway- I never knew that dynamic of sisters….I had four brothers…and I learned to be tough! But in a different way.


  3. What a wonderful story!!  The evolvement of being sisters .  I am so glad to hear that you are so close now, and expect you are right…  it took all of what proceeded to make what is today.. hugs, lottiemae


  4. Family! What more can be said.
    Regarding your comment. Limmericks are by far the simplest, funniest of poetry! Easy to rread, easy to right, easy to remember!
    There once was a man from Nantucket…
    There once was a lady from Venus…
    Ahhh…sophisticated humour!
    As for the Royal Rectum…I already have a couple in mind!


  5. That was the best story in the whole wide world!  ALL ABOUT ME,ME, ME, why, I\’m QUEEN of the World",  or well, at least I\’m Queen of the mouth spitters!  But, seriously, I\’m glad I got you Babe. You\’ve been alot of fun, (since Ronnie came along!)  and support through the years.  You\’ve made quite a name for yourself around here, -THE ANTI Lori! And me and the boys, Ron and Charlie included, LOVE you muchly.  You maybe wife, mother, daughter, Lorna to some, but to me, you\’ll always be  Sister-Golden-Hair.


  6. Great story ! My younger brother and I are just 14 months apart and could be pummeling each other one minute and jumping in to save one another the next .


  7. Oh we were terrible.  There was never any silence in our house.  There were 5 of us all a year apart other than the youngest. Brusies, spitting, yelling, tricks, cheating, you name it.  There was just no end.  There was absolutely no parental interference and I am surprised one of us did not die. 
    It taught us to survive and not be thin skinned…Yep we have lots of memories and laughs about it all.


  8. WOW AMAZING writing!
    I am the oldest of 5 girls and we are all not too far apart in  age…I am 38 and the youngest is 31 ( My mom was busylol) so I can definitely relate to this.
    There was a lot kicking, screaming, hair pulling and this was just to get to the bathroom each morning…5 girls and 1 bathroom!!!
    We are not a huggy-kissy lot but I can tell you this we all have each others . Even with all that fighting…it didn\’t matter, it was ok for me to say that my sister was a pain in the neck but don\’t you dare say it LOL!
    I love your MSN!


  9. Ths reminds me of my own sibling rivalry, and of my own brother, 2 years younger than me. Worst of enemies 10 years ago, living together now. Time is a great healer and that must be the only cliche that rings true.
     But what I never worked out is why the bathroom, the porcelain palace, the place where the nastiest of human functions are carried out, is the refuge of the pursued child….. Take care, Craig xx


  10. @Craig
    In my old house the bathroom was the only room that had a lock on the door. It was the best place to skulk until my mother came home. None of us would have ever risked damaging the lock or the door in any way. There would have been hell to pay!
    How goes the life of a brand new home owner? I hope all is well. =)
    Isn\’t that funny. I know exactly what you mean about the loyalty of family. We could say the worst things to each other but bottom line blood made allowances that acquaintance never could.
    One of my favourite quotes by Linda Sunshine sums it up perfectly… "If you don\’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child."
    I know if I could have had my way my sister would have suffered a long and painfully torturous death on many occasions. I\’m pretty sure she had a special hell in mind for me as well…It certainly is easier looking back isn\’t? 
    I\’ll bet you dollars to donuts those were some of the best times of your life! =D
    Of course it\’s about you. It\’s always all about you because you ARE The Queen of the World! AND what do you mean "I\’VE" gotten better.. There was never anything wrong with ME!!!!!! LOL
    You know I love you too….even if Matt the Brat and Dan the Man do smell like POO. Mwahahahahahaha the ANTI AUNT strikes again 😉
    I was sure you\’d have someone in mind. If there\’s one thing this world is never short of is royal asses!
    Lol, I agree, you can\’t have the sweet without the bitter.
    I LOVE the Velveteen Rabbit…actually children\’s literature and illustrations are of special interest to me.
    It doesn\’t bother me that you\’ve mentioned publication. I don\’t see it as a "validation" issue. Coming from an art school background I appreciate your feedback in a creative context. I live a somewhat solitary existence and for me, my space has been an opportunity  to interact with creative  people, something that is missing in my day to day life. The act of creation is a private pursuit but art (writing, sculpture, painting, music) itself does not exist in a vacuum. As I\’ve said before I do think that I might have something to say, that I\’m going somewhere (it might be only as far as this page but that\’s okay)…it is encouraging to know that someone else might think so too.
    And for goodness sake HAVE A COOKIE! =)
    Ah the golden oldest sibling…I walked in my brother\’s shadow most of my years of high school. He probably didn\’t know it either. lol
    I know we reduced my mother to tears on more than one occasion. It was my brother though who came close to inflicting the most physical damage but I know I left him with a scar or two as well.
    My mother was the oldest of 13 (not all are still living) and the ties that bind are blood red. Friends come and go but family is forever.


  11. Oh yeah, she was the big winner that day! hahaha   But ewwwwww, you poor thing.It\’s interesting how time and circumstances changes how we feel towards people. My older brother and I never got along growing up. I still have a hard time with how predjudice he is – but it is a part of him – and I know if I ever needed help, I could count on him.


  12. Very sweet! As you know I have two sisters and one brother.Ages are Mel 31, Me 27, Bill 26 & Tina 22. So I can totally relate. And EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!! @ the spit!! EWWWW!!


  13. @Pepp (Lisa)
    Ewwww I know… even now I can remember how totally gross it was! I\’m sure that you have a story or two that would sound similar to this one!;P 
    Yeah I had to give her that one! What can you do? You\’ve got to let them win some. lol


  14. I LOVE this..the overall feeling and SO MANY memorable lines within.  One of my favorites, "Our battles were built up in scalpel sharp incisions of disdain, delicate balances of power and emotional distance."


  15. Lorna, a beautiful and articulate tribute to wonderful friendship you have with your sister.  I have never understood why women can be so catty to each other, but I suppose I understand a little better now that it is a test of psychological metal, for I imagine they seek to find a personality with the strength and constitution to lean on and perhaps help them through the hardships of life\’s greater torments and upheavals.  It is good to have such bonds and friends of such strength and character.  We should all be so lucky.
    Have a most excellent day, o\’ gifted muse.


  16. @Indigo
    I think that all sisters have nursed those bloodless but endlessly deep wounds. We always hurt the ones we love. Cliched but true. ;P
    I think to truly love someone you have to know and accept the bad along with the good. I think my sister and I have achieved that. It may sound sexist but I do think that women are creatures of extremes. We hate deeply but we love deeply as well.
    Speaking of love….how are you? ;P 


  17. Lorna, I would agree with your characterization about the extremes.  As far as your question about me and love.  Let\’s just say that particular rascal and I are not on speaking terms at the moment.  I\’ve always suspected Love\’s had it in for me, so I\’m trying to be especially guarded these days. 🙂  But thank you so much for caring enough to ask.  You\’re a gem, Lorna (if that is your real name. hehe *snicker*… you let it slip in the last comment you left me.  LOL Nice to finally know it though, and  I shall try and practice the utmost discretion when leaving you comments. :D)
    Much love.


  18. @Simon
    I saw it as soon as I hit the publish icon but it was too late. You know that\’s the first time in the year I\’ve been around that I\’d actually forgotten. Oh well…I know my secret\’s safe with you. =)
    As for love being a double edged sword, I think we\’ve all been there. It is like everything else though…hard work and perseverance make all the difference.


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