Hoping to catch up with her sister, Lily broke into a run once she passed the playground gates.
“Petunia! Wait!” She shouted, hoping her sister would slow down enough for her to catch up. They could walk home for tea, together.
“Go away, you freak!” Petunia shouted back at her, pausing for a bare moment to turn back towards her. “Leave me alone!”
Lily stopped dead in her tracks. Her sister – her only, but still favourite sister – had called her what?
The word reverberated in her head. Like a bell, tolling the hour, ‘freak-freak-freak.’
The letter. That letter that came through the letterbox yesterday. The letter that changed what school she would be attending next year. She would not be going on to Avondale School for Girls. She would not be applying for a scholarship at one of the more prestigious girls’ boarding schools her parents wanted their girls to attend.
Petunia hadn’t wanted to attend boarding school. Not because she feared homesickness, she said, but because she was so devoted to her younger sister, and her parents.
“There’s plenty of time for me to live away from home when I’m married,” Petunia had said when she was close to finishing primary school. Lily had always thought that it was because she hadn’t been accepted to Avondale School, nor had she managed to achieve grades to secure a scholarship spot. But Lily kept her mouth closed on that, and had been honored by Petunia’s choice to remain at a local school. Lily, on the other hand, worked harder to secure the right grades, and couldn’t wait for the application process to begin. She wanted to go away to school. She loved her sister, she would do anything for her sister and had always looked up to her sister. In her eyes, Petunia was perfect, even when she didn’t get accepted to Avondale. They didn’t know what they were missing in her sister. Better that she stayed home until Lily went away to school.
And then that letter came. Delivered, not by the postman, but by an owl. And her parents had been so delighted.
“We always knew you were special, Lilykins!” Her mother had squealed.
“Well done, Popkin,” her father had beamed.
“Petunia, congratulate your sister,” her mother had admonished, and through clenched teeth and clenched fists Petunia had turned on her sister.
“Good luck,” was all she’d managed.
‘Freak-freak-freak-freak,” the word kept bouncing in her head. Lily started walking towards home again, no longer trying to catch up to her sister. That letter had changed everything.