It was fall, and the vibrant red hues of the leaves matched the shade of Roger's cheeks. It was the third time today that he was going out with Mimi, and I was tired of it.
"Roger, you are spending a little to much time with Mimi," I said sternly, shaking my finger in his face a bit, "Which is resulting in YOU ignoring ME!"
"Chill out Mark," he whispered, blushing at my concern, "You're not my mother."
I laughed, breaking the tension that had been building up over the past few minutes. "I just miss you around here Roger."
"Come here buddy!" he said dangerously soft. Before I could make a noise, Roger had me in a headlock and was giving me a noogie. You know, when you rub a person's head real hard?
Suddenly, a sharp knock sounded on the door. Still laughing, Roger let me go and said, "That'll probably be Mimi!" Happily, he opened the door, but his smile dropped when he saw a little girl standing there.
"Morgan?" I whispered, not trusting my eyes. It couldn't be her…
My thoughts were interrupted when Roger asked rudely, "Who the hell are you?"
The girl smiled slightly. "And may I ask," she said mischievously, "Who the hell YOU are?"
Roger looked stunned and all I could do was laugh. It was her alright; there was no doubt in my mind now. "Morgan, long time no see!" I said, giving her a big hug, "What did you do now?"
Morgan laughed and was about to speak, but Roger interrupted her. "I still have no idea WHO THE HELL THIS IS!" he yelled angrily.
"Roger, Roger, Roger," she said, shaking her head sadly, "Whatever shall we do with you? Don't I look ANYTHING like my big brother, or are you just that blind?"
Roger laughed. "So this is the famous Morgan Mark has been telling me about. I thought you were just a legend. Nice to finally meet you in the flesh!"
"Yes, well. Mark, back to your question! I, well, I set the school on fire."
"Again!" I asked disappointedly and Roger gave me a quizzical look.
"It was math, Mark, MATH! I HATE math," she said, laughing a bit, but then her smile faded and she turned to me solemnly, "But that isn't why I'm here."
I inhaled deeply and looked square at my little sister. At fourteen she had more life in her than I would ever have. She was a handful, but I didn't mind putting up with her. I'd never seen her without a smile, and my heart began to pick up pace. "What happened Morgan?" I asked meekly.
She looked up at me with tear-filled, green eyes. "Mark," she whispered, "Mom and Dad are dead."
I sat down abruptly on the hard floor, my head spinning. But the news continued. "The funeral is this weekend. And, um, Mark, you're my legal guardian."
"Me?" I asked, looking up at her to see if she was playing some kind of joke on me, as she often did.
She nodded solemnly, pulling a paper out of her back pocket.
"Great." I mumbled. I barely had enough money to feed myself, not to mention my little sister! I sighed and pulled a blanket and a couple of pillows out of the closet. "You don't mind sleeping on the couch do you?" I asked, trying to keep from looking into her teary eyes.
"Mom and Dad are dead. Are you getting that?" She asked, tears spilling from her green eyes.
"Yeah, but being sad isn't going to take care of you now is it? Where did Roger go?" I looked around the room; Roger was nowhere to be found.
"I think he went with that slut downstairs." Morgan said, looking though the door.
"Mimi?" I asked, trying hard not to laugh at her previous comment.
"Yeah, her…" She said slyly. Before I knew what was happening, Morgan was standing right next to me, staring into my blue eyes curiously. Shit. She was reading my mind again. You see, Morgan had this 'power'. She was able to read people's 'souls' through their eyes.
I watched as her face paled and her eyes refilled with tears. "Morgan," I said, my voice cracking, "It isn't what you think."
"Oh, it couldn't be much clearer Mark," she stated, her voice cracking as well, "You don't want me here. I understand. You hated Mom and Dad, so why should I be any different? You just wanted to escape us, and you did. No need for me to ruin that for you."
With that, Morgan turned around sharply and left. I hopped up and rushed after her. What had I gotten myself into? I could manage with her, even if we were barely scraping by now. I loved my sister; why couldn't she see, er, read that?
I saw Roger walking out of Mimi's apartment. "Roger!" I yelled frantically, "Morgan. Ran away. Must. Help. Save!"
Roger nodded and ran down the stairs with me. We reached the street, crowded as usual, and scanned the horizon. Morgan was nowhere in sight. I racked my brain for any information. I remembered the time Morgan had come to visit a few summers ago. We had gone to the park every day. I smiled, remembering all the fun we'd had.
"The park!" I shouted, dragging Roger with me.
We had run a few blocks when I didn't hear Roger's footsteps behind me. I glanced back to make sure he was there, but he had disappeared. Sighing with frustration, I was cut short as I ran into something. I looked up, rubbing my sore head.
"I'm sorry," a girl who looked a little younger than me was saying, "I should watch where I'm going!"
"That's alright," I mumbled, standing up and offering her my hand to get off the ground.
"If you don't mind me asking, where are you in such a hurry?" She asked, pushing her choppy brown bangs out of her bright blue eyes
"I was running after my sister," I said anxiously, "She ran away…again."
"Well, don't let me keep you then," she said smiling and stepping to the side, "I hope we meet again…um…"
"Mark," I said, sticking out my hand in greeting.
"Anne," she said "Nice to meet you."
Bidding Anne farewell, I wove my way deeper into the park. There were so many places she could be! I sighed and sat down on a faded bench with peeling yellow paint. What was I going to do with her? Morgan was such a handful, and putting up with her was just about the only thing I envied my parents for.
I looked both ways, making sure the coast was clear, before saying, "Morgan, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. I know I'm not the best big brother, but I'm all you have right now."
"Oh cheer up Mr. Depressed. You're not THAT bad of a brother." I heard someone say behind me.
Smiling, I turned around to see Morgan. No cuts, no bruises, perfectly intact, which was pretty good for someone her age in this neighborhood. Still, I felt a little bad. "Well then little optimist," I mumbled, mocking her good mood, "What's something I have done right as an older brother?"
"Easy!" she stated, taking a seat next to me, "You put up with me every year when I come to visit."
I glared at her. "That doesn't count," I said stoutly, "Name another thing."
"Alright. You came to my bat mitzvah last year, even though it meant seeing Mom and Dad. And you didn't ignore them either. You almost talked to them. You included yourself in some stuff. Heck, you even wrote a speech for me!" she said triumphantly.
I looked down the path, trying to avoid Morgan's green eyes. Surprisingly, this wasn't making me feel better. You put up with me every year when I come to visit. I mentally shuddered. Every year. Now that I thought back on it, I found it was true. I only saw Morgan once a year. I didn't think I could be any worse of a big brother than I was now. Unless, of course, I couldn't feed her. Then people would come and take her away. I tried not to think of it, but I couldn't get it off my mind.
As if sensing my uneasiness, Morgan said, "I can always work. I'm not just an ignorant little kid. I can help you guys!"
I looked into her eyes, which were filled with hope. She wanted to help us so badly, yet I found myself doubting her decision. Actually, as her older brother and now legal guardian, it was MY decision. "What about school?" I asked uneasily, trying to think of her future, "It's a law."
"But Mark!" she whined, clinging to my arm, "School won't help put food on the table."
I knew she wanted to help, but I didn't think she could. I felt like a criminal, but it had to be done. "No Morgan," I whispered, "You need to go to school."
She laughed. "Good one Mark," she said, "Real funny!"
"Morgan," I said stiffly, "I'm not joking. I know you want to help, but we'll get by. I want you to go to school so you can make something of yourself."
"But Mark," she whispered, her eyes now glossy with tears.
"No," I said sternly, "That's my answer. Maybe when you're older."
She gave me a quizzical look before whispering, "You're just like Mom and Dad." Before I could move an inch, Morgan had gotten up and was slowly walking away. I was too stunned to do anything but watch.
I stood up, opening my mouth to call for her to stop, but I thought better of it. She has a key. I thought, gingerly stepping forward. What a great documentary this would make. "How to keep your younger sister alive"