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Illustration by Chelsea O'Byrne

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Above me the leaves flicker and curl against the wind, their song the anthem of my childhood. I am about 10-feet up, bark presses into my back, creating a pattern in my skin that I know will be there long after I climb down. I am careful; I can’t let my legs dangle or she might find me. She’s looking, I’m hiding. And this time, I’m going to win.

I never win; the year-and-a-half she has on me is always the determining factor to my failure. She’s too good at looking.

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At least, I think she’s looking. She’s supposed to be looking.

Like us, time is playing. Slowing and then speeding up, running around until I can’t tell if it has been five minutes or 20; until I don’t recognize the clouds in the sky any more. Eventually, my sister passes under me, the crunching gravel my warning signal. I hold my breath, steady myself and watch her from overhead as she walks by. I don’t breathe until she is long gone.

Determination keeps me up there. Well, that and the view. The world looks so different from only 10-feet up. I sit up there for so long that the animals take me as one of their own. A bird perches next to me helping to keep watch. I stay quiet waiting for the crackle of the gravel, waiting for my sister to come back, to double check that I’m not over here. But she doesn’t. And I begin to wonder if she has given up. But I stay, because if she hasn’t given up then coming down will mean losing. And, this time, I’m going to win.

I figure hours must have passed and, somehow, I know that I have won. The sun, morphed into a low afternoon simmer, is ready to set and I jump down from my perch, a new-found sense of calm radiates through me. I know she will be sitting at the TV with her search long forgotten. She will look up as I open the sliding door, but only briefly. And I will walk by her, not even a little bit mad to have spent the better part of my afternoon watching the world pass by from above, because of her.

No matter how old I get I will always be younger. That’s how sisters work: one older, one younger. One wiser, only because of age; the first teacher the younger sister ever has. The younger sister, never having lived in a world without the older one, will cling onto her words as if they are a life raft and she is lost at sea. They will become her bible; words to live by.

Like all sisters, there were times when we would fight. My sister would sharpen her words into knives, use them to carve out my heart and then hold it in her hand just for the fun of it. But injuries inflicted by words are rarely fatal and it was never long before harmony was restored.

As we grew older the arguments became shorter and less frequent. Somehow, the time we spent together began to increase. Many hours were spent bonding over our love for Harry Potter. Sometimes, we would have sleepovers in each other’s room, our whispers filling the space until the early hours of the morning, talking about anything and everything. Our giggles sharp and sudden, trying not to wake our parents.

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Despite how close we were, it wasn’t long before I was no longer allowed to hang out with her and her friends when they were over. They would bolt themselves in her room, their laughs barely making it past the door. However, much to my dismay, my friends loved my cool older sister who seemed to have all the gossip going on around our school. They would cackle, heads hanging back, at her stories while I watched from the sidelines, merely an observer.

With her high-school graduation creeping closer and closer, my sister began applying to schools away from home. I trailed behind on the tours wishing that, when the time came, I could go with her. I knew that our house would feel enormous and quiet without her in it. She would no longer be there to help me with my homework, bake cookies with me or share the couch for one of our movie marathons. The house would feel hollow.

When the day finally came and my older sister left home to pursue a higher education, to chase new and bigger dreams, we both cried. Being the younger one, I had never lived in a home or a world without her. Growing up, we had always been partners in our adventures, side by side through it all. But now it was time to go it alone. Along the way, and with the help of each other, we had moulded into our own people and our adventures would now become more individual, each to be conquered alone. Just like that day up in the tree, we would both need to learn to find peace in our solitude.

One of the first things I did on the day that my sister left for school was raid what was left of her closet because, hey, that’s how sisters work.

Dessa Douglas is from Sarnia, Ont

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