Gideon finished his prayer and smiled down at his plate, ready to eat. But his sisters sitting to his left and right just stared at him with a pair of hard gazes that could turn a man to stone. He seemed to feel this and nervously glanced to the side and then, with a sigh, he put down his fork and folded his hands in front of him.
“Okay, what?” he said as if he really didn’t want to know. “What is your problem?”
The two girls looked at each other. Their eyes played a game of paper-rock-scissors to find out who was going to confront the little waiting man.
Lydia won. “Gideon,” she said, leaning down so she could look directly into his eyes. “Who would you say… is your ‘other sister’?” she asked.
The boy furrowed his brow and ignored her for a long moment. I could tell he wanted to just pick up his fork and start eating, but instead, he had to deal with whatever this nonsense was first. So, he kind of closed his eyes and accepted his fate. “Okay, what are you talking about?”
Clara spoke this time. The girls had somehow silently agreed to play good cop, bad cop, and it seemed Clara was going to be the good one. “Gideon. Brother of mine. In your prayer,” she explained, stroking his shoulder. “In your prayer, you said ‘thank you God for ‘My sister AND my Other sister.” She grinned at the boy in a sinister sort of way and continued to rub his bony shoulder.
“Okay?” he said, obviously uncomfortable.
“Well,” Clara continued. “I just think Lydia and I want to know who you meant.”
Gideon put both of his hands on his head in frustration. “I meant you and Lydia of course. I have two sisters. Clara,” he pointed with his hands, “And Lydia,” he pointed the other way.
“Yes,” Lydia nodded, “We are not stupid, Gideon. We know we are your sisters and we know how to count. But who is ‘The Other Sister’?”
“Oh…” He shook his head, “Oh! Um, what do you mean?” he swallowed. He obviously had just realized what they meant and now was stalling.
Lydia made a fist around her fork and shook it in the air. “What you said implies that one of us is your sister, and the other one is your ‘OTHER SISTER’,” she pointed the fork towards him like a spear. “So, who is it? Which one of us did you call your sister and which one of us do you think of as your ‘OTHER SISTER’?”
Clara cleared her throat and smiled again. She now had her arms all the way around his head and was pulling him off his chair, towards her. “It’s okay, Gideon. We are not going to be mad. We just want to know. This doesn’t have to be difficult.”
His eyes were frantic now and he looked to me for help, but I casually pretended not to notice what was going on and crushed some salt onto my dinner. He brought this on himself. And I am the wrong person to ask for advice on how to deal with sisters.
“It doesn’t MEAN anything though,” he said with a quaver in his voice.
“Sure it doesn’t,” said Clara. “It doesn’t mean anything so just tell us and we can move on.”
“Okay fine,” he was now leaning 45 degrees and his head was being cradled up to Clara’s chest like a child might hold a ball just before they dropkick it over the neighbor’s fence. “When I said that, I… I was meaning that Lydia was my sister and…” He trailed off in a sort of gag, like something was squeezing on his neck.
Lydia suddenly jumped onto her chair and raised her fork in the air like Excalibur. “Oh! Oh oh oh! Wait!” she cried. “Wait wait wait, so CLARA is your ‘Other Sister’?! Really?! I’m your sister and she is the other one?”
He kind of squinted at her as she said this as if he were already regretting his decision. “That’s just how I thought of it, you know, at the time. You are both my sisters.”
“Yes, but it is CLARA that is the OTHER ONE,” she pointed her fork at him again and I reached up to take it away from her and motioned for her to sit down.
“No,” Gideon stammered, “I mean, yes. I guess.”
Clara was dumbfounded. She spun Gideon’s little head around in her hands and pressed his forehead to hers, “I’M the OTHER SISTER?” She shook his head like an empty piggy bank. “I’M the OTHER ONE! Gideon, I was here FIRST!”
“Actually,” he shrugged into her wrists, “You were both already here when I arrived. So, you were both kind of my sisters at the same time.
“Clara’s jaw dropped. “But… That’s not…” She took a deep breath and patiently guided his head and body back into his chair and left them there like she was putting a dirty antique back onto the shelf after finding out how expensive it was. “Well,” she brushed off the front of her shirt in case there were still parts of him left there. “I understand then.” she nodded, “I see.”
Lydia was holding her hand up for her brother to give her a high-five, but he did not return it, so she turned this into a sort of dance with her hand wiggling above her head as she made up a drumbeat with her mouth.
“Okay, stop,” Clara said, looking down at her food. “Like he said, it doesn’t mean anything. Let’s just eat now.”
“But I. Am. I am his SISTER!” Lydia added to the beats of her song. “And you. Are. You are his OTHER SISTER.”
“But,” Gideon interrupted. “I am thankful for you BOTH,” he said, a bit sheepishly though. “You are both… fine.” He rolled his eyes and buried his face in his hands with a groan. It seemed his opinion on the matter might be wavering.