by Mimi Wolske, April, 2014
All Rights Reserved
"You're not smarter than me." Beaming with pride, her eyebrows arched, Jen offered Lindsay a smirk.
Lindsay shrugged a shoulder. "I not me, and you could be correct, but I seriously doubt it. Besides, I'm braver and have more muscle," she said, and raised her right arm, bent ninety degrees at the elbow, and flexed her bicep.
Laughing and pointing her index finger at the small bump, Jen said, "Mine were bigger than that when I was two."
Lindsay knew that was probably true. Her cousin had more shape than any girl she could think of, so, it only stood to reason some of those curves must be muscle. She angled her head, looked at the pathetic muscle straining to look larger, raised both arms over her head, performed a cartwheel that ended with a roundoff, she stood straight and said, "Well, I'm prettier than you."
She immediately was sorry she said that. Jen's fat cheeks, chubby arms, and obese belly distracted from a softness and even a prettiness in her face. Her almond-shaped eyes, as bright and blue as the Mediterranean Sea, had the most luscious, thick, and long lashes that could draw a stranger into them—if anyone ever took time to get pass the pudginess.
"Oh! I'm sorry Jen." Lindsay flushed an embarrassed reddish-pink.
"I know I'm portly. My step-sisters are even fatter, but Gail tells me every time we all sit down to eat just what a pig I am."
"Ohhh, what a bitch! You couldn't be more right on about those Precious Princess Pigs."
Jen took one of Lindsay's hands in hers and handed her a carved comb of ivory and boar hair. "Here; I want you to have this."
Lindsay's mouth opened into a perfect O. "Oh, Jen, this is beautiful." Her eyes traveled to Jen's.
"It was my mother's. She gave it to me before she died."
"I can't take it. Here."
She tried to hand it back to her cousin, but Jen shook her head.
"I want you to have it."
"But I can't. It was your mother's, not mine. You can't just give it away."
"Please, Linds, take it. And, I'm not giving it away. I'm giving it to you."
"I'll put it somewhere safe and it will be yours whenever you wish to have it back."
Lindsay shrugged out of the strap that hung diagonally across one shoulder and she opened her leather bag attached to the two ends of that strap. Placing the comb carefully in an empty pocket, she glanced at Jen. She had to be certain her favorite relative was not teasing her. But, Jen turned her back to Lindsay and raised her hand level with where Lindsay imagined her eyes were.
Jen was crying?
"I hate Gail," Jen said as she spun on the heel of one foot and faced Lindsay. "I hate her. Do you wanna know why?"
"Because she wants me to call her mom. I'll never call her mom and I told her that. So, she convinced Dad to send me away to school. Not her girls, though. Oh, no; not those spoiled pigs."
"Is Uncle Dick going to do it? Send you away?"
"The bastard," Lindsay ground out between clenched teeth.
"I hate her. She's like the wicked witch who has so much power that Dad doesn't even know what she's doing to him."
"She only has power if you believe it. It's an ancient trick—a riddle would be more appropriate, I believe—of the power game. You see, there was this a religious leader, a king, and a woman of unequalled wealth. Standing in front of all three was a mercenary. Each of the three commanded the mercenary to kill the other two. Do you know who lived and who died?"
Jen's eyebrows were drawn close together. "I guess it depended on the mercenary; didn't it?"
"Why? He didn't have a crown or any wealth to speak of and he wasn't in any religion's favor or in favor with any of their gods."
"I don't know what you expect me to say, but the mercenary had weapons and he had his own power over life and death."
"Well, consider this. If we are to believe that mercenaries rule, then why do we pretend kings and other leaders of countries hold all of the power?"
"I don't like stupid riddles," Jen complained.
Lindsay sighed and smiled. "Can't you see that power exists where people believe it exists? If you believe your step-mother holds so much power over Uncle Dick, then she does. But, if you don't offer such belief to her, then it is you who holds the power over your father."
Jen stood akimbo and crossed her arms. "I still don't like riddles."
"Then think of it as a trick, Jen. A shadow, the same as Aunt Gail is a shadow of your mom. Aunt Gail has no power and she knows it. You have the power and it scares her. So, what does she do? She convinces Uncle Dick to send you away. She probably had to make some sort of bargain or offer him something she knew he'd really want."
"But I'm just a kid. I have no power."
"Yes you do. You have your father's love and with that love, you cast a very large shadow."