Rose and Her Sister
By: Dawn Debraal
There were never two sisters more different than Rose and her sister. Rose lived in the last house out of town down in a hollow. Her sister Linnie lived eight houses up on the left, in town. Linnie never married, never had children. Rose had a son, though no one ever saw him, and she was on her third husband. Bert was a big loud man with a balding head, surviving cancer on his nose. His left nostril was quite a bit larger when you looked at him square in the face. He also had an eye that was slightly listing to the left, but you only noticed it when Bert looked straight on at you. When Bert laughed, everyone laughed with him. He was the life of the party. Rose would sit back and watch him do his thing. She liked loud men.
Rose had alopecia. In a fit of despair, she shaved her head and found she enjoyed the feeling. When she looked in the mirror, she no longer saw a woman who was going bald. She saw a bald warrior woman. She reminded herself of the breast cancer survivors who proudly displayed their domes, only Rose didn't have breast cancer, so whenever she left the house, she always wore a red wig that was perfectly quaffed. Linnie had the remains of what was once blond hair, shortly cropped. It was naturally curly, or she had a perm. Only her hairstylist knew for sure. The sisters both sang in the church choir.
Linnie sang soprano. Rose was an alto. She liked the extra-long cigarettes. Rose drank Manhattans with a twist. Linnie had an occasional white wine with dinner, never smoked. As different as they were, you seldom saw them apart. Where Linnie was, so was Rose and vice versa.
Bert could be quite mean sometimes, Rose's husband. Her third husband. Late one night, about ten in the evening, Linnie came to the door when Rose knocked incessantly. She turned on the porch light, and there was her sister. Rose's blouse was torn, her wig askew. Linnie quickly opened the door, turning off the porch light pulling her sister in, locking the deadbolt. She ran to the back door doing the same, hoping that Bert was too drunk to go after his wife again, tonight
"What happened?" Rose wiped her tears with the back of her hand.
"He said he doesn't love me anymore and that I should go. When I tried to leave, he grabbed my shirt and tore it. Then, I scooted out the door and came here. I have his keys. Unless he wants to walk down a busy highway, he won't come here tonight. He'll go and sleep it off; I'm sure." Linnie sighed.
"How long will you put up with this? It's happening more frequently. He needs to stop drinking. You too." Rose shook her head in agreement, saying Bert needed to quit his drinking. Linnie knew that Rose had purposely left herself out of the mix.
"You can have the couch. I'm going to bed." Linnie came out with a pillow and a quilt laying the blanket on the couch. "Do you want some pajamas?" Rose shook her head, "no."
Rose was hungover the next morning. She made a pot of strong coffee stretching out after the night on her sister's couch. Linnie needed a better couch. Perhaps she could talk her sister into getting a new one because the old gold floral couch, didn't have it anymore. As Rose looked around, everything in Linnie's house was dated she supposed it was because everything in Linnie's home was at one time their parent's things. Linnie just didn't have the shopping gene in her as Rose did. Rose liked things new and shiny.
Linnie came out of the bedroom; her hair and makeup were fresh, the bed made. She poured herself some coffee and looked at the mascara marks on her sister's face. Being the older sister, she advised Rose to go wash up. When Rose came out of the bathroom, Linnie asked her what she was going to do.
"You know, Linnie. He won't remember anything."
"Do you want a different blouse?"
"No, I want Bert to see what he did last night. Tore my blouse." Rose finished her coffee and decided to do the walk of shame that next morning along the highway. People would know that she and Bert got into it again last night. It was a small town, and everyone knew everyone's business.
A few days had passed when Linnie answered the door in the evening. There was Rose. She had an eye that was turning black. Linnie was mad. Rose didn't drive, so she pulled her car out of the garage and told Rose to get in. Rose stood quietly and got in. Sometimes she just listened to her older sister. Rose didn't know what to do. She hated Bert, but he took care of her. Where would she go? What would she do if Bert wasn't there to take care of her?
The sisters drove back to Rose's house. Bert sat out by the fire pit. A bottle of Chavis Regal half gone stood near a bucket of ice. Bert was mean when he drank straight liquor. Linnie told Rose to pack her things. She then told Bert that he would never go after her sister again.
"You should stay away from us." Bert laughed at his mousy sister-in-law.
"She is the devil. You will find that out soon enough. A devil!!" Bert shouted, then he stood up and came after Linnie, who jumped out of his way. She ran to the other side of the fire pit. Bert picked up a stick. The one he used to poke the fire. One end burned like a torch as he held it up.
"Linnie, mind your own business and go home. I could use this on you, and I will if you don't leave Rose and me alone." Linnie came closer.
"I'm taking my sister with me," she crossed her arms over her belly. Bert looked at his sister-in-law and then bellowed as he charged at Linnie with the flaming stick. He struck her several times. Rose came out of the house, shouting at Bert to put the stick down, but he didn't. Bert was too busy using it on her sister. Rose grabbed another stick from the fire and whacked Bert in the head from behind. His big body fell to the ground. His hand went to his head where the fire had singed his hair.
"Whoa, Rose, you are going to regret that move. Did you pick the door mouse over me? Your husband?" Bert rolled over on all fours looking for something to help him get back up on his feet. He had two bad knees. Linnie came from behind and pushed him forward. Bert fell into the red-hot coals of the fire. He shrieked. The smell of burned skin mixed with Bert's smoking hair was strong. Bert made his way to the chair, pulling himself back up, he stood in front of them.
"Linnie, watch out!" Rose was horrified. The filthy bile that came out of Bert's mouth was directed at her sister. This outraged Rose. All the mental anguish Rose had suffered from Bert's tongue over the years came out in a fit of anger. Rose picked up a log that lay next to the fire, striking Bert unconscious. Bert fell to the ground close to the flames. Uncomfortably close. Rose knew when she turned her back that in a short time, Bert would be on fire. She didn't want to see it. How could it be an accident if she witnessed him on fire and didn't call for help?
"Come on, Linnie." Rose marched stiffly, dragging Linnie to her car. "Let someone else find him."
"Rose, we should call someone."
"Linnie, I will go to jail. Is that what you want? I probably just killed Bert, I bashed his head in. Do you want to see your little sister in jail?" Linnie shut her mouth and drove back home. Rose got the pillow and blanket from the hall closet, hitting that horrible couch another night.
"Linnie, tomorrow, we are buying you a different couch. I swear." Rose tucked herself in for the night. Linnie came out of the bedroom, her face covered in cold cream, part of her nightly regiment.
"What? I don't need a new couch, that one is perfectly fine." Linnie turned off the lights and shut the door to her bedroom.
The knocking was what woke Rose up. She saw the uniform at Linnie's front door and opened quickly.
"Are you Rose McCreedy?"
"Yes, I am. Is there something wrong?" Rose was suddenly aware of her bruised eye. She put her hand up to try to hide it.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. McCreedy. It appears your husband fell into the fire pit and was severely burned."
"Oh, my God." Rose started to cry. "We quarreled last night he was drunk. I called Linnie, and she came to get me. He was by the fire when we left him. What hospital is he in? I don't drive. I'll have Linnie take me." She turned around, calling to her sister. "Linnie!"
"What time was that, ma'am?" The Officer felt Rose was telling him the truth. The poor woman. Everyone in town knew she spent many a night on her sister's couch. Bert was a mean drunk.
"About ten-thirty. I called Linnie to come and get me. She picked me up and brought me here. We left Bert by the fire. Is he alright?"
"I'm sorry ma'am, he didn't make it." Rose put on a show that would have had Olympic judges giving her perfect nines.
Linnie came out of the bedroom, putting her arms around her sister.
"What's happening? Rose? Officer?"
"Bert fell into the fire pit. They say he was badly burned, and he's dead!" Rose sobbed. Linnie pulled her sister close, holding her while Rose cried.
"Officer, what can we do? Do you need us to identify him?"
"No ma'am, the neighbor stopped in and found Mr. McCreedy that way. He heard the fight last night, said Mr. McCreedy was still shouting when he saw your car leave. Rose here, confirmed the time. I will leave you to make plans for his funeral. Here's the undertaker's card, the one we called to pick him up. I didn't know where you were, Mrs. McCreedy, I hope that was alright. He's expecting your call." Linnie thanked the Officer. Closing the door, she guided Rose to the couch. When the squad pulled out of the driveway, Rose turned off the waterworks and looked at her sister.
"Linnie, it's over. Bert is gone." Linnie was quiet for a bit, and then she said.
"They will find out he has a big whack on the back of his head. You should come forward now. You can say you were so drunk you don't remember very much. Everyone knows Bert was mean. You could say it was self-defense, and I'll back you up." Rose looked at her sister.
"Are you nuts? Bert deserved what he got. Don't you see that? He was alive when we left. Didn't you hear the Officer? He said the neighbor claimed to hear Bert screaming after we left. That means he was still alive. He probably woke up when he caught fire. I didn't kill Bert. Bert killed Bert! I am free of him. Finally. And my dear sister, I also remember you got a few whacks in yourself last night." Rose threw her hands up in the air. "I say, Hallelujah!" Linnie shook her head.
"Rose, you can't be serious."
"Linnie, I am dead serious. I could sell the other place we could live together. How about cleaning out that upstairs attic bedroom for me? We can live here together, just like we did when we were young. You got mom and dad's house, and I will get some life insurance from Bert. We could get new furniture, fix the place up. It would be fun." Rose looked at her sister with pleading eyes, and for a second, it looked like Linnie wanted to make her little sister happy.
"I suppose it could work. It's large enough to make it a small efficiency apartment up there. You'd have your own space." Linnie said quietly; she drifted off into thought.
"Oh, come on. Let's go up and see how I can turn that into a living spot for me." Linnie followed Rose upstairs. As young girls, they shared the attic space, which was a large room. They could put Rose's bed up there and make a small living room for her. In talking it over, the girls got caught up in the plan.
"I'll pay half the utilities." Rose clapped her hands.
Linnie said that maybe this could work. Perhaps she and Rose could live together. With two incomes, they could afford the house. It would be less of a struggle for Linnie. She had a small teacher's pension and her social security, which didn't go very far. Linnie hemmed and hawed. Rose got more fidgety when her sister wouldn't commit to having her move in.
"Rose, you can live with me, but we have to tell the police the truth." Rose rolled her eyes.
"It was an accident. You just have to see it that way, too." Rose waited for Linnie to respond. But nothing came out. She knew her sister was always honest, to a fault. "Oh, for God's sake Linnie, alright. Let's go call the police." Rose opened the door standing at the top of the steep attic stairs she pushed her sister down. Linnie tumbled over and over. She never made a sound but for the "ooof, ooof," that escaped her whenever her body hit a step, and the wind was being knocked out of her lungs. Linnie lay at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck.
"Linnie! Oh, Linnie!" Rose screamed. She raced to her sister's side, grabbing the phone, punching 9 1 1.
"My sister fell down the steps from the attic. Please hurry." Rose gave her sister's address, or rather her new address, now that she stood to inherit Linnie's house. She had already thought of what she was going to tell the police.
They had gone upstairs to find pictures for the funeral. Linnie kept everything all the family memories up there. Rose came down, so upset she couldn't look any further. Linnie was still upstairs searching for the box. Rose was in the kitchen when she heard Linnie crashing down the steps.
"Oh my God, my husband, and my sister. What am I going to do? I don't drive. They did everything for me." Rose sobbed, wringing her hands, the same Officer felt sorry for her. This poor woman. The ambulance was getting closer, Rose opened the door and knelt at her sister's side sobbing,
Everyone in town knew how close Rose and her sister were. Where Linnie was, there was Rose and vice versa. The double funeral was well attended. Rose welcomed the guests and cried more tears. They were real. She didn't want to kill her sister, but she knew Linnie would never be able to live a lie, and Rose didn't want to go to jail for murder, so they were at a stalemate. There were never two sisters more different. Rose had quite a windfall that week.