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An Open Book
She was a very fast learner, from the day she was born.
She always knew how to avoid trouble. She always knew who would really be her friend.
She cheated on nearly every assignment and test. But as much as people suspected her, never could they find proof.
When she graduated, at the top of her class, her friends said they would keep in touch. She knew they were lying.
She didn't go to college. Instead, she made millions from gambling.
She bought an extravagant house, from a salesman whom she knew was not ripping her off.
And then, finally, she was blissfully alone.
But as fulfilled as she was, it couldn't end there, no. Her sister always had to get involved.
She received a call only a few days later. "Wendy?"
Prior to buying the house, Wendy lived in an apartment, as far away from her sister as she could manage, yet still had to endure the occasional visit.
She had not told her sister about the new house, and had done everything in her power to hide it. She hoped that would delay her, at least until the next time she dropped by the apartment.
Alas, her sister knew her too well. Though she couldn't imagine how that
Wendy knew she would have to take this call eventually, so she figured she'd just get it out of the way. "What do you want, Megan?"
"Did you move out of your apartment?"
"That's a crazy idea, Megan. Why would you think that?"
"Because there's some other guy living there now."
So she had
come by the apartment earlier than usual. But why? Wendy shook her head. "Fine, yes, I bought a house." She quickly added "You aren't invited."
"I'm standing outside, if that makes a difference."
Wendy got up and ran to the window. There she was.
"Who told you?", she reflexively asked, then realized she had talked to the landlord, and mentioned off-hand where she was moving. Stupid. Careless.
"Sigh. Come in, Megan."
Megan was uniquely annoying to Wendy.
Because, unlike everyone else she'd ever met, Wendy never knew was Megan was thinking.
"It's very quiet here, Megan," Wendy said almost wistfully as she dropped onto a couch. "I was enjoying that."
"But I'm not as loud as others, am I?", Megan asked as she sat, curious.
"Well, it's... no, it's like... Ugh, it's hard to explain. You would never get it."
"I feel like I should
get it, though," Megan replied, her head lowered. "We're sisters. We should understand each other."
Wendy didn't want to understand Megan, though. Not really
Megan continued. "It's just, I'll be going to college soon. And I feel like we need to talk about things. Even if it might be years late."
"There's nothing to talk about, Megan," Wendy insisted.
Megan looked pained; there was, to her, lots to talk about. "I know it must be hard to understand, since it's always been easy for you. But I'm... I'm just worried about our futures."
futures?", Wendy asked incredulously. "I don't know about you - never
know about you - but my future is plenty secure."
"Is this really all you want out of life?", Megan asked, suddenly speaking louder. "Just... sitting around, alone?"
"That's all I've ever wanted. But don't worry. I'll call you like usual if I ever change my mind."
"You've never called me," Megan almost wept.
There was a long silence, during which Megan wondered if she should press the subject further.
Finally, Megan spoke. "To be honest, I don't think it's very fair. ...But I'm not going to blame you."
She stood up and went to leave. "I just... hope you can change soon."
Wendy never knew what Megan was thinking.
This was no exception.
Wendy had another week of silence.
Then, one night, she heard a knock on the door.
She heard nothing else, so she figured it must be Megan. In which case not opening the door was certainly an option.
She lied down listening to the varied rhythms of her knocking for several minutes before deciding she'd at least see what she wanted.
Wendy opened the door and found Megan. But Megan didn't say anything.
The two of them sat down inside, both still silent. A few more minutes passed before Wendy gave up.
"Okay, I lose," she sighed. "Say something already."
But Megan still would not speak. Somehow, the silence Wendy had been enjoying was now aggravating. Megan really was uniquely annoying in that way.
Finally, Megan spoke. "I knew it," she choked out. Wendy was startled by her voice - doubly so, actually.
Because she had failed to notice that Megan had been crying the entire time.
"Hey, why are you crying?", Wendy asked, herself aware that it came out sounding more accusative than concerned.
Megan tried to wipe away her tears. "I was on my way here anyway. And I was thinking about it, and realized... you probably wouldn't even notice if I came in crying. And that just..." She swallowed. "Made me so sad."
"Well, um... I-I guess you were right," Wendy stammered.
Yes, she knew the kinds of things which someone who was sad thought. And she could hear sadness in a person's voice.
But it had never come up before. It had never occurred to her that she overlooked...
...well, she wasn't really sure what she was overlooking. Something to do with the face?
Wendy quickly regained her composure. "So, what kind of point are you trying to prove here?"
"I wasn't really trying
to prove a point, but... I guess I did." Megan wasn't sure what words to use. "That you can't really... understand people, in normal ways."
"Understand people? I think I understand people better than anybody," Wendy retorted.
"Well, I'm not saying you don't manage in your own way," Megan sighed. "But it's different with me, because you... you know."
Wendy knew she was right. Unlike with everyone else in the world, she never knew how Megan felt unless she said it outright.
Wendy's solution to this problem was to not care.
"I'm sorry if I probably seem like an annoyance," Megan said quietly. "But I feel so bad for you. You've been lucky in a lot of ways, but... you've missed so much about what makes life what it is."
Megan walked off, but not toward the front door. "Megan!" Wendy got up and followed her.
She found her lying down. "Hey! That's my spare bed."
"Until I can leave without feeling guilty for you," Megan replied, "it's my bed."
Wendy let her stay for the night. But she spent hours thinking about how she could get her out tomorrow.
"Megan doesn't understand," she thought. "What, she feels bad for me because I'd rather be alone?"
"She doesn't know people like I do. They're all dishonest. Liars. Self-centered tricksters."
And if only she could know Megan's thoughts, she believed she would find the same.
Only... could she really be sure of that?
After all, it sounded like Megan intended to help Wendy somehow. Could that be in self-interest, as Wendy believed all people ultimately acted in? She couldn't figure it out. She also didn't know what kind of personal business Megan might be forgoing, seemingly for Wendy's sake.
She tried to think. How could she identify selfishness, without knowing Megan's every thought? How could she identify selfless
"Nuts to that," Wendy muttered as she drifted to sleep.
Megan, who had not been driven out of the house that morning, told Wendy they were going to the library.
Wendy shuddered. She did not like the library.
That's not to say she didn't like to read; she had quite a book collection at home which she made sure to transport in its entirety during the move.
But while most readers enjoy the atmosphere of a quiet library, libraries were not quiet for Wendy. It was impossible for her to concentrate on what she was reading instead of what everyone else was.
"How many times have you been to a library?", Megan asked on the drive there. Wendy's answer was a blunt "enough."
"Well, we'll find a good book for you to get absorbed in, so you can get used to tuning people out." Wendy couldn't believe Megan had the audacity to say something like that would work with absolutely no basis.
Wendy visibly recoiled just after entering the library. She knew it made her look strange, which made her want to leave that much more.
Wendy sat at a table, very displeased, while Megan looked around. She eventually returned with an armful of books.
"How about this?"
"I've already read it."
Megan offered her another. "Read it." And another. "Read it." And another. "Read it."
"This is a potty training book," Megan said, puzzled.
"Yeah, and I've read it." She didn't need to look at Megan's face to know she didn't buy that. "Okay, fine, I'm just saying I did so you'll stop," she admitted. "I really have read a lot of these, though."
Megan put the books down and sat with her sister.
"This isn't a reading place, Megan," Wendy sighed. "Not for me. Yeah, I know, obviously it's supposed to be and it is for... normal
people," she mumbled, loath to say it. "But there's no point in conforming to that just for the sake of it."
Megan was clearly disappointed, but seemed to understand. Wendy could at least tell that
without needing to read her mind.
"Well, I just thought it might help if you tried to get accustomed to it... but I won't make you," Megan conceded. However, she hadn't quite given up. "I was just thinking, though. You can focus on my voice, right?"
"Yeah, I guess," Wendy nodded. Come to think of it, the drone of the readers seemed to die out slightly when Megan spoke.
"Well, I could try reading to you out loud, and we could see how that goes," Megan said, getting a little excited at the promise of progress.
That didn't sound like a terrible idea to Wendy. "Hmm. What do you want to read?"
"How about the potty -"
Wendy was already gone.
Megan did, eventually, get Wendy to come back and did, eventually, find some more suitable books to read to her.
It was a more enjoyable couple of hours than Wendy had ever expected to have at the library, and it was more fun and bonding than the sisters had probably ever had together. But by the end of it, Wendy wasn't so sure it had the effect Megan desired.
Unless, of course, those aforementioned results were the effects she really
desired. She couldn't say. She didn't know.
Back at home, Megan wanted to talk with Wendy some more.
"I know you've used your talents to do... a lot of things that other people wouldn't be able to do. And if more people than me knew how you were doing it, I'm sure they'd say it's... unethical."
Wendy shifted in her seat, expecting to get a lot of flak. But that's not where Megan was going. "But I never tried to stop you when we were kids. Because... that's all you knew, and I didn't know how to teach you anything else."
"Sooo... Now you do?", Wendy asked, with a middling amount of skepticism. Megan was quiet.
"Maybe... not," she finally said. "I just feel like now is a good time to start trying."
She wouldn't elaborate why. Wendy hated how vague she could be sometimes.
Megan spent about a week more with Wendy. After being told that the library expedition didn't seem to accomplish much, Megan claimed to be thinking of other things they could try. But nothing came to mind, apparently.
Wendy didn't really appreciate having Megan to tend to, being accustomed to only taking care of herself. Not to mention she was no good at knowing Megan's needs. Fortunately, Megan seemed fairly capable of handling herself as well.
Still, when Megan said she would have to go back for a few days, Wendy was surprised at her own sadness to see her go.
"I'm guessing you still "feel guilty for me," I think you said?"
"...Yeah. But I'll be back. We just need time."
Wendy wondered if Megan honestly believed that it was just a matter of time, and wondered how much of it she expected to need.
She couldn't say. She didn't know.
In Megan's absence, Wendy thought about the role Megan played in her life.
Whenever Wendy talked to anyone but her, she experienced an echo: she would first hear what they were really thinking, then what they wanted her to hear.
It was, in general, an awful, hated echo. Because it was hardly ever a real
echo; it was an echo that distorted terrible truths into happy lies.
She had met only a few who tended to say what they thought. These were typically who she chose as her friends, yet even they could still manage to pull surprises on her.
Megan was completely different. Wendy only heard what she said
. And knowing what she knew about others, she could only assume the worst.
Wendy had always avoided her sister for this reason. She didn't want to be betrayed by her. She wasn't prepared for that.
Yet when Megan recently became intent on changing her sister's ways, Wendy began to realize she may have been wrong.
She started to figure out how normal people viewed things. How they always
had to deal with opaque Megans, despite their knowledge - often learned the hard way - that not everyone is trustworthy all the time.
And she always knew, somewhere inside her, that she wasn't doing the right thing. Every time she eluded punishment for cheating, every time she made another "lucky bet."
Taken all together, she started to feel terrible about it. And she could only imagine how poor, neglected Megan felt about her actions. (As usual: couldn't say, didn't know.)
And she decided, to make up for all she had done wrong, she would have to trust Megan, no matter what.
She would have to hope her words had been echoing true.
Wendy intended to call Megan that night.
Megan got there first.
And, as Wendy this time recognized, she was crying.
Megan was doing terribly in school. Because she had left without warning to visit Wendy, she missed quite a few classes, wrecking her already-precarious grades.
Megan blamed herself. Wendy blamed her
self. But that wasn't what was important right now.
She didn't know if she could make them up. She had no idea if the college she had miraculously gotten accepted at would take her anymore.
She was lost.
Wendy listened carefully to her every word. This, she realized, was not the face of a liar.
But she didn't want to say it would be okay. She didn't know
So she hugged Megan, and said the only thing she knew for sure.
"I believe in you."
And they both cried it all out.
Megan told Wendy a lot of things which she hadn't told anyone before.
She had always felt pressured to do better in school because of Wendy, even if she knew her sister's success was not wholly legitimate.
But that did more bad than good. She would get straight A's in some classes, yet nearly fail easy ones simply because the stress was too much.
And more than just grades, she didn't know what she wanted to do in college, if she even made it that far. She didn't know what she wanted to do after
college, if she made it that far.
Wendy felt helpless, having no concept of so many of the things Megan had to deal with. But Megan knew she wasn't necessarily asking Wendy for help. She just needed to say it out loud.
"There's not much you can do, I know," Megan told her. "I hope
there's something I
A smile showed through her tears. "But even if there isn't, I know it's not the end of the world."
Wendy nodded. It certainly wouldn't mean Megan couldn't do something worthwhile with her life. Of course, Wendy hadn't considered doing something worthwhile with hers until very recently.
"I'm pretty sure, for the longest time, I've known at least one of my purposes in life," Megan said. "Because, well, my sister is a mind-reader, and she went and took advantage of that. But what about me? What can I do that's as amazing as that?"
Wendy hazarded a guess. "Not have your mind read?"
"Exactly," Megan beamed. "That must be my gift, and why we were born together. My purpose is to keep you grounded, and make you realize what kind of power you really have."
Wendy frowned. "That just seems really unfair to you, though."
"What, having a psychic sister?"
Megan gestured at the expensive house surrounding them. "I think not."