It’s been closed ever since I can remember.
And that, my friends, is a long, long time.
“Mina! Stop it!” I shriek, dodging another water balloon as it whizzes past me.
My sister Mina squeals with joy, and produces another red, translucent water balloon. She takes careful aim at my stomach, and pretends to throw it so I jump, but doesn’t throw it, and fakes me out. Then, when I least expect it, she hurls it at my stomach, drenching me in lukewarm water that soaks through my T-shirt, making it cling to my fur.
I had always hated Mina with a passion. She was my older sister by just barely four minutes, but she never let me forget it. She was also bigger than me, and a lot stronger, seeing as she had been playing Yooyuball and running track at school, while I preferred the safety of my room and a nice book to curl up with. And she pretty much hated me back. She would torment me if she found me reading, or take my glasses away and pretend to grind them under her heel and make me beg for them back. We had never gotten along. And, I presume, we never will.
“Come back here, you little Slorg! You’re nothing but a coward, a slimy, gross little twerp! Come take it like a man!” she calls, taunting me. She already has another balloon out, and she is tossing it up and catching it with one hand, and perching the other on her hip, a look that screams "sass." “You poor little unpainted!”
I always hate when she calls me "unpainted." Just because I am a plain, boring green Lupe and she is a beautiful pink Lupe doesn’t mean I’m not special.
I shake off as much water as I can as I think of that. Grimacing, I pick up my thoroughly soaked book about arithmetic and shake it out. Little water droplets cascade down the hard cover and onto the grass.
“Mina, I don’t wanna play anymore.” My mumble must have been incoherent; she hurls the water balloon at my face, this time knocking me over. My glasses fly askew and land on the grass on front of me. Dripping, I reach over to pick the blurry black shape up, but Mina is too quick. She storms up and crunches the glasses under her big feet, and a sickening feeling invades me, like I just swallowed some sort of rotten fruit.
“You’re a loser, little brother,” she sneers, making sure the glasses are good and useless. She kicks the mangled frames away from me, and pokes a miraculously unbroken lens with her toe. “You never wanna play. You just sit and read, like the little loser you are. You little twerp. Helpless little teacher’s pet, doesn’t know what to do when big bad ’ol teacher’s gone and can’t protect you. How does it feel to be vulnerable, little Jerad?”
“Mina,” I croak, shaking on the inside. “Mina, Mom and Dad are going to ground you for eternity! They told you never to mess with my glasses!”
Mina sneers again, a devious, ugly derision showing clearly on her blurry face.
“Jerad, how will they know I did it? You’re not ever going to tell them, are you? ‘Cause if so, I will see to it that the next few years of your life are just as miserable as mine. Got it?” She kicks me hard in the stomach, and I curl up into a protective ball. “Got it?!”
“Got it...” I weakly whimper, and she laughs like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard. She picks up her box of water balloons and flips it over on top of me, pelting me with at least twenty giant balloons. She turns away, still laughing, and trudges into the house.
I lie in the surrounding ocean of lukewarm water and await help.
But help doesn’t come.
“Oh Mina, why do you have to leave so soon?!” my mother wails, clutching full-grown Mina’s shoulders.
Mina delicately brushes her off. “Mom, this is an amazing opportunity that I can’t pass up! I mean, I could be famous! Mina Lucas, right forward for Kreludor! Or Mina Lucas, goalkeeper for the Lost Desert! Imagine!”
“Oh honey, this is amazing, but promise me you won’t let that Yooyuball celebrity stuff get to your head! We’ll miss you so much! Come back and visit us as soon as you can! We’ll be rootin’ for ya! Won’t we, Jerad?”
I pretend to wave a flag as I glumly stir my cereal. “Go team,” I mutter in a monotone voice. Always Mina. Mina gets everything.
“Jerad! Show enthusiasm!” my mother commands. “Mina’s going to be gone for a long, long time, and she needs her family’s support!”
Every speck of jealously I have for my sister vanishes at that point, and my face brightens considerably. No more Mina means no more pain, or suffering, or tormenting! I’ll be a free man!
“Congrats, Mina! I hope you make a good team captain for Krawk Island! Roo Island’s going down next year!” I exclaim, a big smile on my face.
“Ew, Krawk Island. Gross. I’m trying to get away from this place, not go back toward it.” She wrinkles her cute little nose and turns about-face, both of her bags clutched in her grip. She stalks to the door, opens it, and is gone.
I will never forget those words, those last words she spoke to me.
"Ew... Krawk Island... Gross... Get away, not toward it..."
It rained today.
Not a light, gentle drizzle, but real rain, real dark grey, thunderous storm clouds and whipping wind and pounding drops and all.
I watched from the window in the parlor, my old, weary eyes still straining to see out of thick-rimmed glasses. No matter how many times I cleaned them, or got them checked, they were always blurry, always unfocused. Nothing had ever compared to the first pair of glasses I had, the ones Mina smashed.
Mina. I hadn’t thought about Mina in years. I never went upstairs anymore, never passed her room. Everything that reminded me of her had been taken down nearly fifty years ago. Mina was just a ghost of a word, come back to haunt me when I least expected, like all of her surprise invasions when we were kids. Mina was just a word, a word that I hadn’t heard from again since the day she had left.
I attempted to focus my eyes back outside--but failed miserably. I could, however, see faint shapes moving against the gloom; more than likely just old seadogs heading home before the storm gets really bad. I watched another shape, which must be a ship (the white globs that must be sails gave it away) dock in the harbor.
Somehow, Mina’s name kept coming back to me. It marched throughout my mind like little Meridellian troops, blocking out every other thought. Mina... Mina... I said her name out loud. The word tasted funny on my lips, a tingling sensation, like I’d just eaten a sour lemon.
Creakily, I stood up and stretched, my long robe trailing, sweeping across the ground. I almost smiled. Take that, Mina. Long robes. Royal is ten times better than pink. I stroked my long, bluish-grey moustache just for the fun of it. I left my cozy chair by the fireplace, and for the first time in years, I tentatively placed a foot on the bottom step.
I stood there for an immeasurable moment. A million times I had passed these stairs, and had not once even touched them. I thought it ironic; in my younger years, I could have climbed these steps with ease, but had no need to. Now, in my old age, when I wanted to, I quite possibly wouldn’t have the strength left to.
But I did anyway.
The going up part was almost easy, but when Mina’s door appeared in my line of vision, my steps slowed and dragged. A weight descended upon me, and as I placed a withered hand on the door handle, I almost couldn’t do it. To anyone else, it would have been just a plain door, chipped and peeling in places, with a tarnished silver handle. Nothing special, nothing important. But to me, this was Mina’s lair, the place where her confounded pranks and inventions and evil plans were thought out. Would it be like a dungeon, with skeletons and cobwebs and torture devices? I had no other way of finding out other than going inside. Shakily, I opened Mina’s door.
Her room... was pink, with little Snowbunnies painted onto the walls. Not dank, damp, and depressing torture devices or weapons, but pink... and girly. The only girly thing about Mina that I had ever noticed was her pink color, which she claimed to have been painted against her will. Posters of old rock bands at the Tyrannian Concert Hall covered her ceiling, and tons of pillows and plushies littered the floor.
But what really surprised me was that there were tons of journals and books on her desk, thousands of pens, quills, and pencils, and many erasers. Puzzled, I scratched my head. Mina never told me she liked to write. Hesitantly, I stepped inside her dusty room and wandered to her desk.
I picked up a book, which turned out to be some sort of diary. It was locked, but when I fingered the clasp, fifty years' worth of sitting untouched made it crumble off and onto the floor. I flipped open the pages, but all were blank. Disappointed, I threw the book back on the desk, and milled about her other papers.
A pink sheet of paper caught my eye, so I picked it up.
"Look in the bottom drawer," was all it said.
I set the paper down and pulled out the bottom drawer of the desk. Whatever it was scratched around on the inside, and for a second, I was frightened. Nevertheless, I stuck my hand inside and felt another sheet of paper.
This one read:
Judging by your inexplicably dull sense of adventure, by the time you read this, I will probably be long gone. But, seeing as you’ve found this, I congratulate you and your newfound bravery!
I looked up from the letter, chuckling. Same old Mina.
As much as I hate to admit this, I am sorry for anything that I have ever done to you. I’m so sorry I "accidentally" ran over your Slorg on my bike. I’m so sorry for ratting to Mom that you broke that vase. I’m sorry for crushing your glasses. Everything.
“No, you’re not,” I muttered aloud, thinking back to all those times when she’d caused me to suffer.
This may not mean much to you now, but as a token of peace, I sorta fixed something for you. It’s in the back of the next drawer up.
All my love and best wishes,
Your loving sister Mina
“Oh, goody,” I muttered. “Another surprise. What is it this time, a stink bomb?” I angrily pulled out the second drawer and rummaged around. There was nothing inside. I dug back as far as my paw would go, and was shocked when I brushed across something smooth and plastic. I gently lifted it up, and my jaw dropped as I examined it.
They were my old glasses, still a little crooked and taped together, but whole and intact. Both lenses were put back into the frames, and they were polished. I took my new glasses off and put the old ones on, and nearly fell over from the difference.
Everything was sharp, crystal clear, not blurred and frayed. I could actually see. Colors danced before my eyes; things had outlines and didn’t blend into each other. I could see the difference between a silk pillow on her dusty bed and a furry one, something I might not have noticed before.
Eventually her room blurred away, but it was not from my poor eyesight.
“Thank you, Mina,” I whispered, tears brimming over my eyes.
With a new confidence, I stood, surveyed the room one last time, and gave my sister another silent "thank you" before I turned around and shut Mina’s door.