S-t-e-p-h-e-n

October 25, 2012

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Lauren Ballantyne

22 March 2005

They sat at the kitchen table - mother and stepfather on one side, 13-year-old daughter on the other. Silence suffocated the room as the girl wondered what she had done to prompt so stern a look on her parents’ faces. Her mother sat, her soft hands together resting on the table as she watched her daughter carefully. Her stepfather leaned back in his chair with his arms hanging casually at his sides. She watched them and waited, waited for something, anything to be said.

“Laurell, honey, we’re going to have a baby,” the mother said. Her serious look melted into one of joy. It must have been nervousness the girl had misread on her mother’s face, not anger. She now saw her mother’s eyes bright with excitement. She watched her leaned forward in her chair. “You’re finally going to be a big sister.”

The girl said nothing. She couldn’t absorb the idea. A big sister. A big sister? How do you become a big sister after thirteen years of being alone? After thirteen years of being an only child? She would have to learn.

“The due date is in May. A couple weeks after your birthday.” Her mother paused. “What do you think?”

The girl thought for a moment. What did she think? What would it be like to have a sibling? This might actually be interesting. Did she want a little brother or a little sister? A brother. Definitely. She warmed to the idea and excitement began to churn in the pit of her belly. She smiled and laid down two “rules” for her parents: it had to be a boy and it couldn’t be born on her birthday. Although she knew they had no control over it, she felt that after thirteen years of sharing nothing she didn’t want to share her birthday.

Her parents laughed: “Right. We’ll see what we can do.”

* * * *

Two days after her fourteenth birthday, her little brother was born. On the 7 th of April, at 7:37am the little boy came into the world weighing in at 7 pounds and 1 ounce. He was her lucky little brother.

She was in the delivery room the entire time. She hated watching her mother as she went through the contractions, as she heard her cry and even scream. Her stepfather calmly held his wife’s clenched hand and stroked the sweat off her forehead. The sister tried not to watch, tried to keep looking at the pink floral patterns covering the wall in front of her. She kept her Spice Girls’ CD playing as loud as it would go in her silver portable CD player. Every time the song “Mama” came on she would skip the track. She didn’t want to think of her mother and the pain that she was in. It was terrifying.

Her brother was born as she held her mother’s left hand, her stepfather held the right. The boy screamed immediately and there was a sigh of relief throughout the room at the sound. The girl craned her neck to catch of glimpse of her brother as the doctors cleaned him off. He was very small and very red. His face was squished with anger as he squalled loudly, filling the entire room with his voice. How could such a little thing make so much noise?

The doctors gave her brother a quick examination and cleaned him off on a small table they had wheeled into the room; they wrapped him in a soft blue receiving blanket and covered his small, bald head with a little blue beanie to help keep him warm. The nurse brought him to her parents and they each held him, kissed him, and loved him. The sister stood close to the bed and looked down at her brother. He looked so fragile with his tiny fingers and even smaller fingernails that she thought he might break if she touched him. His face was slightly squished looking but she thought he was beautiful. Later her family would joke that he had big lips that made him look like a monkey. She secretly thought they were amazing. His eyes were squeezed shut – they told her that he would open them in a day or two. When she first saw his eyes she was amazed at the deep blue that they were and hoped that they would stay so beautiful.

The first time she held him was that day in the hospital room. She was terrified at first and refused to hold her brother. She would rather admire his miniature body from a safe distance but her mother insisted. Safely seated on black swivel chair next to her mother’s bed she took her brother from her stepfather, carefully cradling his head and neck. She looked down into the face of her brother as she held him in her arms for the first time and she cried.

This is my brother. My brother. This is my Stevie.

She talked to him softly as she held him. Her voice was low and soothing, barely above a whisper, as she introduced herself to him, “Hi, Stevie. I’m your big sister; my name is Laurell.” She stroked his warm cheeks with the back of her fingers. “I’m going to take care of you, you know. Because that’s what a sister does; it’s my job. I’m gonna teach you everything you need to know, little man. We’re gonna have fun, you and I.”