Sarah Roland was very competent at Geography, my favourite academic subject. Sarah Roland was brilliant at Graphics, my favourite creative subject. Sarah Roland loved swimming, and could swim just as well as I, if not better—and swimming is my passion.
It took mere days for me to be completely and utterly consumed by jealousy. She was better at me at everything I liked, but moreover, she shared my name, and, seemingly, she had been at this school first. She thought I was new. But I wasn’t. I was old. I was the only Sarah, the Sarah who mattered. She was just the new Sarah, the shy Sarah, the trivial Sarah. That was the way it should be.
But it wasn’t. Sarah Roland already had her own friends, her own identity. True; I was returning to an old identity, and so did not have to create one as do newcomers, but I had few close friends besides Lalla Fortescue.
You see, most people lose interest in a friendship if that friendship gives them little attention or satisfaction over just a short while—six months being substantially longer than a short while, and people can change drastically in less than half a year. Lalla is loyal whatever the satisfaction or dissatisfaction she finds in her friendships; and she never seems to change. She is always five foot and one inch, and she never gets any taller or shorter.
I was the outcast, and I was dreadfully conscious that it should not be that way. I had Lalla and Felix to call my own—and precious little else for which I could claim precedence, compared with the other Sarah. She had superiority in lessons and a group of friends with whom she got on so well and so easily. I only had to hear sounds of mirth and amity emanating from her wider-than-mine circle to feel smitten with jealousy.
And finally, Sarah Roland had a normal family. She had a mother and a father and a big brother and a little sister—yes, a big brother to protect her and a little sister to admire her. She lived in one house and her parents always got on well. She was settled in and happy and she did not have to fear another move in a hurry.
I may have had other friends whose family structure is similar to hers, but they I did not envy. Why? Because I was myself: the only Sarah.
And then this other Sarah comes along with things I don’t have and things I want so much. And I felt heartily jealous of her; I coveted her life of safety, her complacent existence free from fear and repulsion. I am twisted into the devilish heart of this perpetual cycle of uncertainty, repugnance, travelling to that other home which I dread as much as the present home, this horrible knowledge of my unknown sister.
I discovered the role of Bridie Domaille in this revolting mix-up just a few weeks into the term.
“You know my sister Bridie, don’t you?” I asked the other Sarah, my voice so warm that I could only inwardly abuse my insincerity. And yet there was an undercurrent of cool familiarity, which, though Sarah Roland’s answering voice was as warm as mine, had surely been detected and acknowledged.
“Of course,” Sarah Roland replied sunnily—oh, that sunniness grates on me! How I hate it!
Sarah Roland was too kind to let me feel justified in hating her. So I felt only guilt. And we contrary human hypocrites seldom love those who cause us guilt, warped as we are in the habits of shifting blame and blinding ourselves to our own part in causing these vile proceedings. Or maybe it is that the conscious knowledge of our own imprudence has this hatred towards making amends.
Why others should suffer for our own treachery I do not know; I only know that it is so. And yet the evil-doer is always the one who is most hurt by the deceptive pantomime.
“I’ve been quite good friends with her,” said Sarah Roland without a second thought. She didn’t know how much pain those words caused me. She never even guessed how they grappled my throat, pummelled me to the ground, choked me and strangled me till I could only splutter and retch.
Oh no! Her life, her family, her thoughts, her hobbies, they are far too smooth and prosperous for her even to perceive the trauma pulsing through the creature who stood so straight and stiff affront her.
“Did she never mention me?” I inquired.
Sarah Roland frowned. “I don’t think so; I don’t really remember. She mentioned a sister and that she was going away. I’m not sure; she never really talked much about her home and stuff.”
Of course she didn’t. I didn’t mention Tony or Colton or Jean or Elspeth if I could help it. And if I did, I never spoke their names in couples. Nor did I speak of Bridie very often.
–And yet I couldn’t help feeling obscurely wounded by the fact that Bridie, my ‘beloved’ sister, had never even mentioned that her new friend had the same name as her ‘beloved’ sister. Certainly I did not want our names to be conjoined or associated in any way; why, I was the dominating Sarah, wasn’t I? And as an additional insult, this odious girl Sarah Roland had not bothered to find out about her namesake.
How unjustified, cruel and unreasonable was I? Can I even permit myself to judge my conduct? All I can say is that I hated Sarah Roland as perversely as I hated the way my four parents exploited me.