The narrow staircase near the master bedroom led up, up, up to an old wooden door. It opened onto the roof to reveal a small railed off deck that overlooked the ocean.
Up until a few years ago the widows walk was in disrepair, but Carlos had it fixed up as a surprise. Whether the surprise was for Grammy or for me, he never said, but I’m fairly certain no one uses the walk except me.
I stepped up onto the wooden surface and shut the door behind me. I couldn’t count how many times I had disappeared up here. It was my escape. My hideout. I sighed and walked up to the rail. The view up there really was spectacular. They say sailor’s wives would stand on these decks and scan the horizons, hoping to see their love sailing home.
I worked on calming myself down. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the feel of the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair, the smell of the sea.
“Never would have pegged you for the type who ran away from her problems. But I guess I don’t really know much about you, do I sis?”
I turned to see Althea leaning against the closed door. Her arms were crossed, her body tense.
“Everyone’s worried about you down there you know. Freaking out,” Althea continued, “because Grammy’s precious bambino is upset.”
Subconsciously I mimicked her body language, my arms crossing over my chest on their own accord. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you sounded just a tad bit bitter, little sister.”
“You shut up,” she hissed.
“Go back downstairs with our mother.” I turned my back to her.
“Don’t just dismiss me,” she said behind me. “You think you’re so special, don’t you?” I felt her step closer to me. “Everyone’s favorite little girl. It’s no wonder though, with that perfect little attitude of yours. So cheery and smart and just so damned cute.” She yanked on one of my curls.
“Hey!” I slapped her hand away. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m so sick of your fucking superior attitude. You’re not better than me. I’m my own person! And I will not,” her fists clenched, “just be a mini version of you. I am so sick of constantly being compared to your flawless self. I don’t need to be anything like you.”
I looked at my sister. Once again I marveled at all her anger. Where was all this coming from? I had a flash of a giggly little girl, full of life. That was a long time ago, but still. My little sister was a stranger to me now. An angry stranger who seemed to blame me for whatever problems she thought her life had.
“Is that what you think?” I asked. “That I’m prefect and everyone’s favorite and you have to be just like me? Who ever said anything about you having to be like me?”
“It’s what they think. Mom, Grammy,” she paused, “even Dad thought that way. He loved you best. Everyone loves you best.” Angry tears were squeezing from her eyes, her voice steely. “You’re their perfect Iuliana.”
“Bullshit. Don’t blame me for the way people treat you. Maybe if you smiled once in a while and stopped scowling, people would actually enjoy your company.” Now I was angry. “And don’t you dare say Dad didn’t love you. Or that he preferred me over you. That’s bullshit Althea.” I jabbed my finger at her. “You were the one who never wanted to come to lunch with us. You never wanted to stay over or answer his calls. You never wanted anything to do with him!” Tears were welling up in my eyes. “You broke his heart every day.”
She looked away, arms still crossed.
I wiped my tears away and turned toward the ocean, trying to compose myself. Althea could never justify the way she treated our father, but I never knew she felt second best. That was an awful thing to feel. And I felt sorry for her.
I turned back around. “Althea -”
But the deck was empty. Below me I heard the deck door slam shut and I watched as Althea made her way through the grass down to the beach. I watched until her retreating figure disappeared and then went back downstairs to join the family, and say goodbye to my father.