Jodie. It was the first word she ever said. Most kids lisp Mamma, Dadda, Drinkie or Dolly. Maybe everyone's first word is the thing they love best. Pearl said Jodie. Well actually she said Dodie because she couldn't say her Js right, but I think she knew what she meant.
She said my name first thing every morning.
'Jodie! Jodie! Get up you fag!'
I'm absolutely hopeless in the mornings, fairplay. Pearl always woke up first. Six o'clock, sometimes earlier. Don't know how she does it. When I was little, I'd delve around my bed until lunchtime with my three sleep-time teddies, and take them for a morning stroll up and down my bedsheets. I'd put my knees up and they'd climb up one side of the steep hill, and slide down the other. Then they would frolick all the way 'home' to tuck in to their weetabix and "extra sugar" for breakfast.
I sometimes got up too late to have breakfast and just had a big dinner to make up for it instead. (I'm a LOT better at it now though, and sometimes if I do get up too early (doesn't occur very often) I can get through a whole book before Mum and Dad's alarm goes off.) I'd lie and stare at my room and the shadowy objects around me until I got called for lunch and to "Get Dressed quick, dinner's ready!" I'd wait for a while until I heard Pearl padding across the hall to check on me and I'd close my eyes and pretend to be asleep. She'd gracefully clamber into my bed and then all of a sudden;
'JODIE! Get up. NOW! I'm hungry!'
To change the subject, I'd tell her about the book I had been reading, or, (usually) the dream I just had and sometimes I would make up little parts, changing it so it's about two sisters. A big man would come and take them to a magic school where there were floating candles and talking pictures. Or they went through an ancient wardrobe to a land of snow with turkish delight and an evil ice queen. Or, we'd wake up one day, and have to move into a children's home because our 'famous filmstar Mum' is too busy to look after us.
It was always hard for me to wake up properly. I think Pearl just assumes that I've fallen down a big black hole in the night. Eventually I'd open one eye and automatically put my arm round Pearl who would clamber into my bed if she was tired. She would blab on about what she did and where she went with her friends last night. She would prod me and nudge me every so often and ask if I was still awake, or "Wake the hell up I'm trying to tell you something 'ere!" as she would say. When I finally was awake, knowing how predictable my sister was, I would be able to tell her the exact things she'd done last night, (usually incuding meeting friends at the park, going bowling, eating at that pizza place on the corner, or out shopping, late.) Whatever she did, I know she'd come home late. She always seemed surprised when I told her what she'd done. We'd start making up plans to go to exotic places like Hawaii and Crete and the Carribbean. We'd go swimming and sunbathing and surfing, just the two of us. They usually ended up becoming another one of our silly morning story games. Pearl's stories were amazing, but I knew she couldn't be bothered to write them down. I tried to bring it up,
"You should write this stuff down little sis, 'cos you know your stories are like LOADS better than my rubbish." I knew it would be no use though.
"Nah, can't really be bothered to be perfectly honest. I tell you what, I can give you ideas and you write them down. I want to illustrate them." she encouraged, doing quotation marks whith her hands while she said this. It was good enough for me.
"Okay, as long as you don't colour our faces purple and our hair green!"
"When have I ever done that?!" she laughs. She had a tendency to colour stuff in whatever colour she wanted. Once, she'd even drawn a lovely picture of a dog and then gone and coloured it bright orange with pink spots, a purple stripey tail and green ears. It was quite a worrying sight- as you can imagine. I just gave her a look.
"Alright Miss Picky, I'll behave." She smiled."But there's no way it'll be my real job, I'm gonna be an actor!"
"Actress! Okay smarty pants, no need to rub it in! Anyway, you know it's what I really wanna do"
"Yes," I sighed, "I do. I get enough of it round here, hey you should make one of your stories into a film-"
"No you should, you could write them for me 'cause you wanna be a writer. You would give me the starring role and I would become an overnight success-"
"Yeah, with everyone hanging on your every word!"
"Don't be so sarcastic mun, I was really on to something then!"
"Okay okay sorry.. so you were saying?"
"I'd become an overnight millionaire! Think about it! Red carpet events, winning 'Best Starring Actress' and 'Best Film'! It would be bliss! I would bring you everywhere with me as my P.A.-"
I frowned, "Whoa whoa whoa stop. When did I have a say in this?! I have my own life to live too you know."
Pearl ignored me and carried on, picturing. "We'd end up living in a huuuuuge mansion."
"And what does this mansion look like then?"
"Well it has lots of floors and a big tower at the back, which would be our special room, even though they would be all our rooms, but anyway, only us two would be allowed in it though, and theres no way I'd let you in there if you grew your hair any longer," exclaimed Pearl, tugging at a piece of my hair.
"What, because I might let it down and let a handsome young prince climb up and whisk me away?!" I asked, relating to the well known fairytale, trying not to laugh.
"No, in case any wicked old witches try to." Pearl nudged me. She had started to have a lot of arguments with our Mum. She called her a witch, or worse, often- but only under her breath.
"Oh, okay then, no access for any wicked witches then," I laughed, feeling a little mean towards Mum.
"Yeah, so it'll be just you, and me in our 'Tower Heights,' living happily ever after."It was just our silly litle morning game that we played, but i think I took it a little more seriously than Pearl. Even though I was quite happy I had finally got completely through to her soft side.
In my little sketch book, I drew our mansion with it's tall tower, often cutting the rooms up into little square like boxes, that resembled a doll's house, making it easier for me to illustrate each and every room. I gave us a big pink fluffy sofa, with a cuddly red plush heart at either end.
We had our own pets too, I had Patch, a cream-coloured hamster with a round blob of ginger across his left eye, and Pearl had a brown sausage dog, called Frazzle- quite ironic really. Patch happily ran around the mansion in his pink ball, while Frazzle snoozed, all curled up nice and warm in his basket by the grand fire place, with a real wood burning fire. We had black and white ponies too, out in the back garden the grazed and cantered all day long, the white one called Salt, the black one, Pepper. I penciled in each strand of hair in their tails with the utmost care, I really wanted this to look good, and it did, even if I say so myself, it was all coming together. In our bedroom I gave us a gigantic Queen size bed, with maroon curtains and a black diamond chandelier, and one part of the room was our own, Mini Theatre, with red curtains and lights and everything. We had a hot tub and jacuzzi, steam room and sauna all in the basement, making it the best place to relax after a hard days' work on the film set. We also had a rooftop garden with beautiful flowers, one of every kind you could possibly imagine, in every colour of the spectrum.
I wrote each title of each of our books in our lovely library in teeny-weeny writing and drew every ounce of food and drink on our kitchen shelves and cupboards.
I gave us a big playroom, with games consoles, the latest gadgets and loads exciting stuff, even a proper, original, retro jukebox- with all of our favourite CD's playing at full blast, just how Pearl liked it, I even drew little musical notes, floating through the air to set the scene.
I did talk about this to Pearl, as if we'd really live there one day. Sometimes I'd imagine it so vividly that it seemed like a real place, I'd simply have to remember which road to take out of town and then I'd head for the so called 'dead end' and I'd be there, at Tower Hights. I'd march straight up to the beautifully carved wooden gate and let myself in, and trundle along the winding gravel path right up to the modern white front door. I always kept my key under the third of five little garden fairy statues we kept outside the door. I'd go inside and see Pearl there waiting for me.
I wasn't stupid, I knew none of this was real, but it felt as if it might- and should be, all the same.