3. The Last Straw
When Ellie came home from school, crying because the kids made fun of her for bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch, I knew that something had to change. Geena claimed to be making lots of money, but if she was, we'd be able to afford more than a mere sandwich for Ellie's every lunch. This was the last straw.
"Katsie, why do I always got to eat the same thing every day?" Ellie complained, bursting into tears because of the bullies' remarks.
"Why don't you ask Geena that?" I asked, glaring at Geena, who had come downstairs to grab a drink of water.
Geena smiled. "Sweetie, you know it's all we can afford. You should be grateful. There are lots of children who don't get anything to eat for lunch." She winked at Ellie.
Blood boiling, I clenched my hands into fists.
"But they make fun of me! They say we're poor," Ellie sniffed, wiping her nose on her sleeve.
"Ellie! How many times do I have to tell you that wiping your nose on your sleeve is rude?!" Geena exclaimed, slapping Ellie. A dark red mark formed across Ellie's cheek.
Shocked by Geena's behavior, I caught her arm and twisted it so that she was completely under my command. Yelping with pain, Geena tried to free herself, but I was much stronger than she had ever been. "I suggest you stop viewing Ellie as an obligation and start viewing her as your little sister," I muttered angrily in Geena's ear.
"We can't have her acting like some blubbering two-year-old!" Geena shot back.
I wrinkled my nose. "I was right about you. You're just white trash."
Eyes wide, Geena was about to speak, but Ellie cut in.
"Stop fighting!" Ellie screamed. "I'm sorry I made you mad! I don't need another lunch!"
In that moment, I knew I had to get Ellie away from here. Away from this unsafe neighborhood. Away from poverty. Away from a sister who didn't hesitate to abuse her.
Geena went back upstairs, muttering to herself. I turned to Ellie. "Ellie," I said slowly, "this wasn't your fault. Geena isn't very happy right now because she isn't a very nice person. Ever. Even though it might have seemed like you started the argument, Geena was in such a bad mood that she would've fought with me, anyways. Okay, honey?"
Ellie was still crying. I pulled her near to me and held her tightly in my arms. "Oh, Katsie, I'm so scared," she sobbed. "I don't like living here. Why can't we moved? Tony just moved last week. He likes his new house better."
Cradling Ellie gently, I considered telling her that I wanted to fly away, too. Instead, I rubbed her back reassuringly.
Ellie took a deep breath. "I'm really sorry. I didn't want Geena to be mad."
I shook my head. "I already told you - it's not your fault."
Something had to change.