"Jared, this is your new sister Cassandra. Cassandra, this is Jared. Jared, Cassandra was involved with the math team at her old school, you two should get along nicely...? "
Those were the few words that pushed me over the edge. I wasn't going to get along with this Cassandra. Ever. And I HATED math. A real mom would know that. I added that memo list of things my mom had screwed up recently. First, she'd dragged us to this place, this god AWFUL house, then she'd decided to drag another kid into the quickly devolving black hole that was becoming our family situation.
Just this morning, a pipe burst, taking us three hours and many soakings to get fixed, then when it was finally done, mom fixed us cold spaghetti from the stash in the pantry, finding a rat's nest next to the shelves of honey. Did I mention it still had the dead rat in it? we fixed that, finished our even colder lunches, thinking it was over, and then mom looks at the clock, realizing that our new sister was due to arrive in a half an hour and the house, including us, was a mess. Then the doorbell rang. She was early.
I made a break for my room while Mom and Mallory answered the door so I wouldn't have to watch the painful adoption spectacle. I secretly hoped that the social worker would take one look at us and take that poor kid away before we damaged it, but I doubted that would work. Chances were that wherever she came from, it was worse than here.
I could hear mom's voice through the paper thin walls of my room upstairs as she blathered on to the social worker. After a few minutes the worker took their leave and Mom took the new girl, Mallory and Simon into the kitchen for some food.
"Hi Cassandra! I'm Mallory!" Mal sounded way too excited.
"And I'm Simon." Simon sounded excited too. Anger burned in my stomach.
"We have another brother, but he's upstairs sulking..." Mallory continued. I could hear the water running in the kitchen and pots and pans being set down.
"Shut up shut up shut up..." I said, squeezing my eyes shut.
"Mallory, I'm sure that Jared is just tired. He was up before all of us this morning..." I rolled my eyes and faced the wall.
After an hour, Simon came to try and lure me down to food. We might be twins, but we couldn't be more opposite.
"Jared, aren't you hungry?" I shook my head and looked back down to my book.
"Don't you want to meet Cassandra?" I shook my head.
"Okay then..." he said, shutting the door behind him.
After about a half and hour, I finished my book and decided I had better get this over with. In the kitchen Mom was washing dishes, Mallory and Simon were working on some schoolwork and Cassandra was still eating.
I went over and took a bite of Mom's casserole right out of the pan, purposefully ignoring everyone. Mom caught sight of me cleared her throat.
I looked over at the new girl, mouth still full of casserole. She didn't look up.
She was pretty... I guess. She had a rat's next of blonde hair that curled all over the place and made the rest of her look tiny.
I shrugged and started out of the room, deciding that I'd had enough social interaction.
"Jared, don't you think you should talk to your new sister a little?" Mom tried. I knew she was fed up with me, but I wasn't about to give any ground.
"No, why would I want to talk to her? She's not my real sister, and she's ugly. No wonder your family didn't want you." It all slipped out before I could stop it. The only movement in the room was Cassandra crumpling her napkin into her lap.
I took my cue to leave, taking a container of apple juice off the counter on my way out. I went up to my room and locked myself in. I would probably get shitstormed for this later.
I laid down on my bed and picked up the book I'd just finished reading, starting it again from the beginning. A few pages in, I heard quiet footsteps on the landing. They paused at my door and then continued into the room next to mine. I heard the bedsprings creak, then the sound of quiet crying. My gut twisted guiltily.
There was a knock at my door. Mom, predictably. I ignored her. I proceeded to re-read treasure island two more times before I fell asleep.
The next morning, I decided to skip breakfast in favor of exploring the house on my own. I explored a couple rooms then got bored and decided to hit up the massive library upstairs.
Unfortunately, the library was already occupied. Cassandra was sitting in the corner with her nose in a book. I frowned uncomfortably and tried sneaking past to the shelf where I'd found Treasure Island, hoping to go unnoticed.
"You suck at avoiding your issues." Cassandra said, making me jump.
"Didn't ask for your opinion." I tossed back.
"You're an idiot."
"I'm an idiot? You're the one reading a freaking fairy book." I replied hotly.
"Yeah? and what book did you pick?" She asked, fixing me in a cool stare. I looked down. I'd picked up the freaking Wizard of Oz by mistake. I flushed bright red.
"Okay, GIVE. IT. BACK." Mallory slammed her way into the room, making me jump again.
"What?" I said, my voice jumping a few octaves unconsciously. Mallory looked between me and Cassandra and advanced on me.
"You stay the hell away from her. Starting by going back into your little rat's nest of a room and finding my fencing medal that YOU TOOK."
"I don't have your stupid medal!" I protested.
"I don't believe you! Give it back! She yelled, taking the Wizard of Oz out of my hands and slamming it on the edge of the bookshelf.
"Mal, I didn't even know you won a stupid medal! If I see it, I'll tell you."
"Hah, you're really funny. Go up to your room and take a really good look at it and then bring it back. I'm not acknowledging your presence at all until you bring it back to me, which means no dinner tonight since I'm the one cooking."
"I DON'T HAVE IT!" I yelled in her face.
Mallory picked up the Wizard of Oz and hit me across the face with it, the sound echoing around the room.
"You know, Mal, you'd have to actually acknowledge his presence to accept the medal from him..." Simon joked.
"Can it, Spock, we know you're the pride of the federation." She said in a deadly tone, never breaking eye contact with me. "Someone needed to put this little punk in his place." She turned on her heel and left, Simon awkwardly following her.
I turned my back to the door, leaning on the bookshelf as hot tears escaped down my already burning cheek.
"Jared..." Cassandra's soft voice came from across the room.
"Shut up." I said, wiping my cheeks and making a beeline for the door. "Just shut up."