My Stepsister’s Secret
Tanya was late for dinner. Again. My stepmother Jessica and my father fidgeted in their seats as we sat in the swanky Italian restaurant where we ate every weekend. I kept taking surreptious glances at my watch, wondering why the hell my stepsister had to be late for every family function as if time mattered little in her sphere of life.
“That girl,” Jessica said, shaking her head. She placed a hand on my father’s, his own hand balled into a fist. “I’m sorry, Jack. She just has a mind of her own. I tried everything I could to get her to be a good daughter, but she just doesn’t listen.”
My father patted Jessica’s hand. “No worries, sweetheart. I understand you did the best you could with Tanya. I guess there are just some bad eggs out there. Can’t help it, you know?”
I wanted to roll my eyes at them, but what for? They weren’t wrong. Tanya had been a troublemaker ever since high school: she had ditched school so many times that she almost didn’t graduate. She had blamed it on anxiety, but she was such a liar that who could ever know for sure? Jessica had been a great stepmom to me, so it pissed me off that Tanya treated Jessica this way. What kind of daughter hated her own mother so much?
When Tanya finally arrived — no coat despite the dipping temperatures, her hair tangled by the wind — we were already through with our appetizers. Jessica and my father barely even spared her a glance, so I followed suit and said nothing as she sank down into the empty chair.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, her voice soft and apologetic. “I was late at Dad’s again, and — ”
“It doesn’t matter, Tanya,” Jessica said, her tone frigid. “You weren’t missed much at all, so no harm done.”
I thought the words were a bit harsh, but I didn’t remark on them as I finished up my salad. But I could sense something — almost as if it were on the periphery of my thoughts — as if a piece of fine china had smashed against the floor. The next moment, Tanya stood and hitched her purse higher on her shoulder.
“Okay,” she said, visibly shaking. “I guess I shouldn’t come to family dinner anymore then. I know where I’m not wanted.”