by Mathilda Reading Wheeler
It’s hard to move around Lindsay when she’s stretched out in the middle of the narrow hall. She’s playing dead again. As usual, my younger sisters screech and wail in alarm.
I pause and give her a little kick in the ribs. No response, just a little jostle where the pressure of my foot wiggles her middle. Lindsay is good.
But I am better. I put my bare foot on her face — against her cheek, across her mouth.
“She’s dead,” I say. “She won’t mind KISSING MY FEET!”
“Aaaggh!” Lindsay erupts off the floor, catching my foot in her pointy grip. Her talons dig into my ankle. It’s worth it. I lean into the pain, lean into her, and land heavily across her shoulders. I have more body mass than she does and she has to struggle out from under my weight.
I am laughing hard. She is no longer dead and I won.
She lashes out, nails scraping against my jaw. I try to catch her fingers in my teeth, but she’s too quick. I grab her hair instead. Fine strands tangle in my fingers and I twist and yank.
She’s fights. I feel her power against my body, fierce and strong. I grit my teeth, taking the bump of her shoulder into my breast and the sharp bite of her nails into my forearm. She presses down.
“Stop it,” I hiss into her ear. Her scalp is stretched back because I’m pulling her hair so hard. I can see where the dark strands grow along the side of her face. The skin is pulled up from the bone, white.
As I pull harder, she digs harder. Has she drawn blood yet?
“You let go,” I say. A pause as we hurt the other as much as we dare. We don’t move, don’t shift, just press harder, twist harder. We’re breathing at the same time.
Maybe I’m going numb, but it doesn’t hurt so much now. Her nose breath warms my cheek. My fingers have cramped in her hair. I relax my grip just a bit. My knuckles creak loose. She pulls her nails off my arm. There’s almost a sucking feel as she lets go.
“Hold on,” I say. “I’m caught.” She droops her neck towards me. I glance at the four fingernail welts — purple-red battle wounds — on my forearm, and I slowly untangle her hair from my fingers.
We stare into each other’s eyes. Tears brighten the gleam in hers. She’s got a really gross pimple growing inside her nostril. I don’t mention it.
“You want to play gin?” she says.
We just stand there, face to face, letting the air settle around us.
Annie and Lizzie sidle up, cautious. They’re sizing up the situation together on the sidelines. I can see them wondering, Are these two safe?
Lindsay and I roll our eyes at each other.
“Can we play, too?” our little sisters ask.
“No,” Lindsay and I say together. It makes us laugh. Lindsay’s eyes go crinkly wicked.
I rub my arm absently as we go hunt up some cards.
Lindsay and me are a team.