Runner Up: Amanda Pettit
Amanda Pettit is a devoted enthusiast of hot beverages, classic literature, and close friends. She divides her time between her family, her writing, and the management of Sanctuary Home For Children, which has taken her to India and back and given her an ongoing mission to improve the lives of street orphans. When she's not busy with the big stuff, she also enjoys sewing, video games, football, and shopping. Amanda lives in Texas with her husband Ray and their children Virginia and Edward.
Visit her blog at http://thislittlepig73.wordpress.com/.
Over a warm cup of sweetened decaf and a grande vanilla espresso, two sisters sipped, eyed each other, and smiled comfortably before either began to speak. There was no rush. The weekly ritual was almost twenty years running, eight o'clock pm, always in the same little corner of the bustling downtown cafe that was so conveniently halfway. Neither had wanted to be the sister who couldn't get along with the other, and here they still were.
"Love the uppity business suit—new?"
"Love the stained sweats—old?"
The conversation always started the same way between the executive and the housewife, each a caricature to the other for so many years. Tonight neither was wearing what had so often been the attire for those early meetings, when one was juggling clients and assistants and accounts and one was juggling babies and laundry and cooking. Many a night had passed with snide cuts, meant to judge and wound with a smile, saved all week as the best way to express disapproval. Later, many nights had passed in silence, few patrons noticing the unlikely pair who avoided making eye contact and might as well have been strangers. This evening found them looking rather alike in many ways, not just in physical features but in the carefully chosen casual slacks and sweaters, although if one looked closely there was definitely a difference in the quality of the clothing, the handbags, the low pumps.
"What will you do now?" they asked each other, almost in unison. Neither responded right away, but smiled wistfully in contemplation of what had passed. For the older sister, it was a life dedicated to four beautiful children, to feeding them, clothing them, tucking them in, fixing their hair, kissing their hurts, school programs, Little League, ballet. It was saving and saving so they would have safe cars to drive and then money for college tuition. For the younger sister, it was twenty years of service in her prestigious company, always the one who brought in the big clients, closed the deals, ran the most innovative programs and worked the longest hours. It was loyalty and expectation and expertise and professionalism.
"Will you look for another job?"
"I don't know. It was such a shock, even to me, to be let go after the merger. I think I'm too old to find something else. Too hard to work my way up again. But I don't know what I'll do with myself. I have nothing else."
A sigh. Another sip.
"Have you heard from her yet?"
"No. It's so strange to have them all gone, all grown up. I don't know what I'll do now. It was okay even when she was in college, being in the same town, living at home, because at least I still felt connected to her...but now that she's taken that job, and it's so far away...the house is so quiet. I'm trying not to call her—any of them. They have their own lives."
A sip. Another sigh.
"You know, I thought you made such a mistake staying home to raise your kids, wasting your talents." A laugh.
"Yes, I know. And of course I thought you were missing out on real life in your corporate world, not where a woman should be anyway."
"I want to say that I admire you deeply and I am sorry I spent so many years being critical." A tear wiped away.
"We've said it all before. We proved each other wrong. Now what?"
"Who are we now? Who were we before we embarked upon these lives? Do you remember?"
A hand reached across the table and the sisters touched, and it was like they were under the covers with flashlights, whispering secrets, giggling, all of life still to be lived and relished.
The conversation soon turned to childhood summers, pet cats, porch swings, grandma's house, old boyfriends, and their own parents long gone. And for the first time in almost twenty years, neither one of them had to get up early the next morning. No more waking up a child, even a college student child, and making biscuits. No more walking into a business meeting at eight o'clock sharp to give a presentation to the CEO, a big name client, or anyone.
With the ordering of a second cup, and the possibility of a third, came the hope of rediscovery and the promise that life goes on.