Emotional Outbreak: Envy

by Brandon

The next story in the Emotional Outbreak Marathon is by Jake Phillips. Jake chose envy as his emotion (if you’re curious about the theme for this marathon, you can read it here). Thanks for submitting, Jake!

Folks, enjoy!

EAT YOUR HEART OUT

By Jake Phillips

It was always Cherry. She knew she could never catch up, never be even with Cherry…

Cheryl McKenzie was only a year (well, a year and a few months) older than Pam, but the younger sister knew that the difference between them was more like centuries of time, light-years of distance.

When Pam was in middle school, she had read some article suggesting that no children are ever born to the same family. Firstborns are born to new parents, younger siblings to a grouping that already included another child. Something like that. In Pam’s case, she knew she had been something of a surprise. Maybe that’s why she didn’t fit in. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t love her; she knew better than that. It was simply that their experience had grown while their patience had worn thin. Mom was especially impatient anymore. Mid-life crisis or something.

It didn’t help that Cherry was a tough act to follow.

Both McKenzie girls had light skin, red hair and blue eyes, but the similarity ended there. Cherry had gotten the looks. It would be nice to think that Pam got the brains, but she knew that wasn’t fair: her big sis was smart as a whip. And funny, AND good with people. Pam was frumpy. Her mother told her she was just at an awkward age, but when Cherry was fifteen, she’d been gorgeous. Of course. Cherry’d never HAD an awkward age – she’d been graceful in diapers, Pam figured.

Even their names! Cheryl is a classy name, really. And that nickname? Cherry. Cherry Mack! Pam had herself to blame, she supposed: at first, she couldn’t say her sister’s name, so it came out ‘Cherry’. It stuck. Who knew that had such a sexy connotation (connotation being the kind of word Pam could think of easily, but she was far too self-conscious to actually talk that way)? Meanwhile, Pam was short for Pamela. As a name, she thought, Pamela sucked. Pam wasn’t much better, but it was infinitely better than ‘Pammy’, which drove her nuts. Of course, Cherry called her Pammy. She always had.

So on one hand, Cherry McKenzie, honor student, head of the cheerleading squad, prom queen (Twice!) and all around perfect in every way. And then Pamela Mckenzie, who was, well, NOT, except for the honor student thing. Cherry seemed to shine, while Pam was always in her shadow.

Boys never noticed Pam. Not when Cherry was around, which was irritating, but not even when she wasn’t, which was depressing as hell.

The only comfort she’d had was that her sister was supposed to have been leaving for college in the fall. And now, it looked like that was no longer an option.

Nobody knew what this disease was, where it came from, certainly not how to stop it.

This was supposed to be summer vacation before Pam’s junior year. Time off. What it had turned into in just a few days was a full-time job.

Apparently, the hospitals were full and nobody was showing up to work anyway. Pam couldn’t believe doctors and nurses could just up and stop doing their jobs. She knew they were people, too, but didn’t they understand how hard it was to deal with sick people? If the medical folks stopped helping, how was anybody ever going to find a cure?

Meanwhile, it was up to her. Fifteen year old Pam, taking care of her seventeen year old sister.

Mom wasn’t getting out of bed anymore. She wasn’t infected – apparently you had to be bitten – she had just given up and decided to pop pills and veg out.

Pam wasn’t sure where Dad was.

It didn’t help that there was nothing on TV anymore. It was either static, those colored bars or some station logo; been that way for days. The Internet wasn’t doing much better – just crazy stuff. And not much of it. When it worked at all…

The streets were empty. Pam wasn’t sure what would happen if they ran out of food. Or the power went out.

One thing for sure: Cherry wasn’t the pretty one anymore.

She hated herself for such a mean thought.

Her sister had been feverish for days, ever since she came home nursing a wounded hand, raving about being attacked. By then, it was starting, whatever “it” was. Pam was starting to wonder if “it” might be the end of the world.

And she was stuck taking care of her older sister!

Cherry’s skin was as white as a sheet. Here eyes were runny, bloodshot. She was so hot, Pam could feel it baking off of her. The room was like an oven. She hadn’t spoken since the day before, and none of that had made any sense.

Pam had no idea, really, if this was the end of the world or not. She hoped not, of course. They’d boarded up the place like the reports said to do, but what she could see outside looked pretty normal, except deserted.

She shivered. Odd, it was so hot in here! Especially with Cherry -

Wait.

Cherry wasn’t moving.

Pam crept to her sister’s bedside.

They shared a room, of course. There were only two bedrooms in the house. Cherry took FOREVER in the bathroom every morning; Pam couldn’t imagine why. Cherry barely needed makeup – no zits there. And she always used all the hot -

Cherry wasn’t throwing off heat anymore. That’s what Pam had noticed. She wasn’t moving and she wasn’t hot.

Gathering her nerve, Pam reached over and touched Cherry’s forehead. She was ice cold.

Pam didn’t know if this was normal. It was possible no one knew. This virus or whatever, nobody seemed to know ANYTHING. Maybe her fever had broken.

She was not breathing.

Ridiculous. Cherry couldn’t be dead. Pam did not realize she was crying. Her denial was only skin deep.

In this moment, she knew she should be thinking of how much she loved her sister. And she did, of course. That was a big part of it: Cherry was impossible not to love. Despite all her advantages (perhaps because of them), Cheryl McKenzie didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was the exact opposite of the popular girl stereotype: not stuck-up or catty or mean. She was perfect. There was no way she could be dead.

Pamela McKenzie wondered if, when your heart broke, you always felt it happen in your throat.

She didn’t know when it had happened, but Pam realized she was holding her sister in her arms. The horror came when she noticed Cherry was holding her, as well – very tightly.

She might have said, “Pammy.”

Soon, it was all over. In a very real way, from then on, Cherry and Pammy were more alike than ever before. They went in to Mom’s room and stopped her from worrying about anything else. Then the three of them went out into the world. It was their world, now. They never saw Dad again, but they stayed together. Mom got shot by some survivor one day, but Cherry and Pam didn’t mind that. They stayed together. They fed on whoever they found and they stayed together. Now, they were even.

 


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Richard September 24, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Very good.

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