Assignment for Open University
- Make a summary of what the character is like.
- Show him or her through appearance.
- Show him or her through a habitual or repeated action.
- Finally, show him or her through a speech in a scene.
Yesterday’s story from the other sister’s perspective. Amy’s feet were throbbing, but her shoes were killer. She felt faint from the constricting bright blue bandage dress that seemed to be cutting off her source of oxygen. Her hair fell in loose, auburn waves over her bare shoulders. She was hyper aware of the men walking by, taking in the hard-earned, pert curves of her body as she perched on the bar stool.
Beauty was pain, and work. Everything was work. Nothing was fun and easy and natural. There was no such thing as a natural beauty. There was no such thing as love at first sight, or a perfect marriage. In any so-called happy marriage, there was a woman who spent two hours in the gym six days a week, routinely skipped meals, spent an hour a day on hair and make up and had a dresser dedicated to nothing but lingerie. Their husbands bragged on them to their friends; their friends envied them. The ones with the wives who’d let themselves go after the babies and mortgages and 401Ks.
“Amy’s holding up,” she’d heard one of Steve’s friends whisper to him as she’d slowly walked up the stairs from the basement on Steve’s poker night. She’d smiled secretly to herself. That’s why she spent an hour making her sister beautiful that afternoon. If she’d left it up to her she’d have shown up in a pair of ripped jeans and a Nirvana tour t-shirt from 1993. She made no effort and it was embarrassing. Happiness was work too. Just like beauty. She’d found the man who would make her happy and she made him love her. Made him her husband. It hadn’t been easy.
Steve was clearly out of her league from the beginning, she’d known that. She was a lower middle-class townie with a state college degree, he was an Ivy League investment banker that just happened to be a friend of a friend of a friend that she’d met at a group hang out thing one of her friends had arranged. But being married to Steve meant happiness. So she reinvented herself into a woman he would marry. And it’d worked, in six months flat. Much quicker than any of her girlfriends would have guessed.
Her mother had never been happy. She was too afraid. Never asked for what she really wanted. She’d settled for a man who adored her, but was beneath her. Weak. Unambitious. They still lived in the same shabby starter house they’d bought right after Amy was born, the only empty-nesters in the neighborhood surrounded by singles and newlyweds with fat, cooing babies. Her mom had told her what she really wanted when she was a kid. Secret whispers laying side by side on her parents’ bed while her father was downstairs, watching some sporting event or game show, cheers erupting from far away. She’d wanted a house on the lake with windows that faced east. She would sit on the porch next to her husband with a cup of tea and watch the sun rise. She wanted to write novels, she wanted to have more children, she wanted to go hiking in Europe, she wanted, she wanted, she wanted. But they were just whispers.
She couldn’t stand to think of her mother in that sad house, watching the reflecting lights of the television in her husband’s blank face, a husband that she desperately wanted to love, thinking of trips untaken and the one page of the book saved on the computer upstairs that she knew she would never finish. She loved her mother dearly, but she was lazy. She wasn’t depressed, or defeated, she was just lazy. She could finish her book, she was in good health, she could go hiking anywhere, her father would follow her wherever. It was easier to complain about the things she would never do than try. That would never be Amy’s life. And she was going to make sure that it didn’t happen to Sara either.
Amy wound a fat strand of hair and smiled as Sara approached. She was stunning. Much prettier than Amy when she was all dressed up, Amy was confident enough to admit. It was such a rare treat to see her that way, a bubble of pride expanded in her chest. Chet was a lucky guy. And he was smart and ambitious and handsome, a great father to his son with his ex-wife. Amy had always thought guys who’d been married before made the best husbands, contrary to popular belief. They’d gotten that first disastrous marriage out of the way and were ready for the real thing. But Amy was shocked that he was going to be so late for the date; it was the height of rudeness. She wouldn’t let on to Sara. Sara was too much like their mother. Aimless, no plan, bouncing around wherever the wind blew her. If she didn’t nudge her in the right direction every once and a while, she stood still. Sara greeted her and Steve with a hello that was a bit too chipper, refusing to remove her coat. Maybe she was waiting for Chet to arrive before making the big reveal. She knew the dress she was wearing underneath was stunning, but she was hiding, just like their mother.
When Sara found out Chet was running an hour late because he was at spin class, she laughed like it was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard (and it sort of was) deposited Amy’s $500 shoes on top of the bar and practically ran out the door, five inches shorter. It was as though she’d been freed from some sort of oppression. Spending the evening with her sister and her brother-in-law was oppressive to her. And that’s when Amy started to get angry.
She downed the rest of her wine, and without a word to Steve, she stormed out of the restaurant into the cold night after her, catching up with her on the corner. She was so angry she didn’t register the cold or the fact that she’d left her coat inside until she was standing face to face with her sister, who was standing under a street lamp, waiting for the traffic light to change. She’d already wiped off most of her makeup with a towelette, back to regular Sara. Under the lights, she looked so young. Her baby sister. Despite her anger, she felt a wave of affection. Sara stared back at her, unintimidated, with a tiny spot of red still left on her otherwise bare lips.
“What do you want?” Sara demanded. “Did you really want me to sit and wait an hour for that douche-bag? Do you really think I’m that desperate?”
Amy shook her head, crossing her arms against the cold. “I just wanted you to meet someone new…I mean….when have you even been in a relationship..?
Sara threw her arms in the air in frustration. The light changed and the other pedestrians pushed against them as they made their way to the crosswalk. “You know nothing about my life. You’re too busy trying to get me to become you.”
Amy tugged at her hair and flipped it behind her shoulders. “And what’s so wrong with that. Having a happy marriage…starting a family?”
“Nothing, if you’re really happy.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
Sara sighed. “Come on, Amy. You and Steve and your whole fake Stepford Wife thing you have going on…that’s happiness? Wearing designer shoes and going to dumb pretentious restaurants and talking about….investment portfolios and overpriced preschools or whatever with your ridiculous friends? That’s what you call a life?”
Amy stumbled back, as though Sara had punched her. “It’s better than sitting in some crappy apartment with boxes and clothes and trash everywhere cause you’re too lazy to clean. You’re 30 years old, Sara. Grow up already.” She maintained her angry stance, but she was losing steam.
Sara stepped closer to her, smiling, looking more at peace than she’d ever seen her. “I love my life, Amy. As hard as that may be for you to believe. I don’t need your pity, or your set ups, or some pretend version of your life. I’m actually happy. I’m not pretending. And I think that makes you a little crazy.” The light changed again and Sara darted across the street, blending into the crowd of other pedestrians. Amy stayed on the street corner and watched her sister start to skip down the street away from her in her ballet flats like a little girl, until she couldn’t see her any longer. Her heart began to slowly crack, and she wondered if she’d ever known anything at all.