When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?
It was fun to sleep in. Not five minutes, of even ten, but hours, mainly because the night before it had been fun to stay up. I could smell food, though, and my stomach said I should investigate. It was the middle of the afternoon, and my brother had cooked breakfast. Five years my senior and he had decided to be responsible by frying some eggs, for himself. I pouted at him, honestly pouted. Why hadn’t he cooked me any eggs. He just grinned and pointed to the kitchen.
I huffed and returned to the living room a few minutes later with the last of the cookies and cream ice cream. I didn’t try and steal the remote from my sister, two years my senior, who was engrossed in another of her teen soaps. Girl loves boy, boy messes up, oh look random new character for girl to obsess over. Not my thing, I like cartoons. Yea so sue me.
We didn’t really do the talking thing. Brother napped on the sofa, taking up the entire thing, Sis was making goo-goo eyes at the latest heartthrob from mom’s seat and I was in dad’s chair one leg over the arm and wishing I’d thought to bring a soda through. At some point sis had made us put our dishes in the sink, although none of us would put them in the dishwasher. Mom and Dad were out of town.
It was thrilling. We were old enough to be considered responsible, we weren’t, not really, but we also weren’t likely to burn down the house and were clever enough to call 911, or one of the many ‘adult’ friends and family that were conveniently listed next to the phone should anything happen. Anything at all, Mom had stressed.
This wasn’t we’ll be out for the night or we’re just going to spend the weekend at the cabin with some friends, this was legit out of town stuff. Out of the state, several states over in fact, some business trip turned, “we have got to get out of the house without kids, because we have three and haven’t had a moments peace in 17 years!” two week getaway.
So we didn’t do the dishes, we knew the drill, make as much mess as you want but the afternoon, or more probable as soon as they call from the airport, we will freak out and clean. As a team even. We might not do a lot together but making sure Mom doesn’t freak out and start cleaning, although we know she will no matter how clean it is, the moment she arrives home. Then when she does, Dad will roll his eyes with us and very obviously ignore any signs of insanity that may have happened while they were away.
We spent that day like we spent most of the two weeks, watching TV, bickering lazily, hanging about, generally making a nuisance of ourselves, and occasionally my siblings, would go out with their friends, none of mine were able to drive though so I was pretty much stuck. That night we decided to order in pizza. We had enough money left that we could do this a couple times and none of us wanted to defrost any of the meals and actually cook. So that night’s dinner, which arrived around eleven-thirty was pizza. Greasy goodness that was pretty fantastic.
For some reason none of us slept in the next morning, well we were all up while it was still technically morning. I was in the living room watching cartoons, Brother was through on the computer blowing things up and Sister was upstairs talking on the phone. At least that’s where I thought everyone was. I was pulled out of my cartoon induced haze by an awful noise though.
It was visceral and sent chills up my spine. I was up on my feet and running before I even processed what the noise was, a choking retching sound that had me skidding to a stop outside the bathroom, feet going further than my torso in my fuzzy socks. Grabbing the doorframe to steady myself that awful noise, so much louder, closer, more painful than before gripped me and I could see my sister. My big sister collapsed in the bathroom, holding the toilet for support, her face red and wet with tears, snot slimy on her upper lip, jaw trembling and hair stuck to all of it. She heaved again and my brother was behind me.
He stayed well back though. Unsure how to help his little sister, knowing damn well she would shove him away, no girl wants a guy to see her looking like that, not even a guy who doesn’t count like your brother. Or maybe especially not your big brother who can’t beat anyone up for you for this, and honestly wouldn’t be very helpful at all. None of this mattered though. My sister was in pain and mom wasn’t there to make it better.
I didn’t realize I was on the floor beside her in minutes, dodging the first incident which hadn’t made it into the porcelain bowl. Hand on her back I flushed the first of it, then pulled her hair out of her face when it became imminent she was about to need it again. She was shaking and crying and generally a mess. I snapped at my brother to fetch water. Someone needed to act and he seemed frozen with inability, the moment I snapped at him though he jumped into action, he desperately wanted to help, and muttering “are you okay” from a safe distance wasn’t going to solve anything.
It seemed the attack was over. I wet the hand towel with cool water and handed it to my sister so she could wipe her face as she sat back against the wall, one arm still propped on the toilet. She got her sobs under control while I took the glass from my brother, still hovering just beyond the doorway. Instructions, he needed instructions. Get a bucket, put it by the sofa and then go to the store for sports drinks and crackers. We already had crackers, that didn’t matter at the time, it was instructions and he followed them.
Brother successfully diverted I had to get my sister off the bathroom floor where she sad feeling miserable. Carefully we negotiated the first incident and got her to the living room. She sat propped up on the couch, glass of water clutched in shaky hands occasionally sipping it. When I heard the car start up I fetched a clean shirt, hers had evidence of the bout of sickness, and had to be uncomfortable. I let her change by ignoring the living room and started boiling some water for some herb tea. Mom always makes herb tea when we’re sick.
Tea set next to the water, sister half dozing with her favorite teen drama playing on the TV I move onto the gross stuff. Someone has to clean the bathroom, and there is no way my brother who stood back unable to even move close to that scene is going to do it. I choke slightly at the smell of it but then block it from my mind. Someone has to do this. Working swiftly and not thinking about it at all I manage to clean the mess and flush most of it. Wiping the floor then washing it thoroughly I put all the cloths, my sister’s shirt, and a couple towels from the hamper upstairs in the laundry and set it going. I gagged once it was finished and downed a large glass of water. My brother had returned at this point. He had gotten more sports drinks than we could drink in a month and several types of crackers, also some ice-pops that a woman at the store had told him might help. Apparently he had looked so lost the mothers wanted to help him out, which was hysterical and got a good laugh out of me and my sister.
That night I sat in the same place but my brother and sister had switched, he still looked at her wearily, desperate not to have to clean out the bucket, she still looked miserable, and I didn’t blame her. Throughout the day she had been sick three more times and I had had to deal with the bucket. But now it was getting late and she had managed to keep down some soup. Everything seemed to calm down.
We slept in the living room that night. My sister didn’t want to move, I wanted to keep an eye on her, and my brother still felt since he was the oldest he should be in charge. I knew better though. He might be the oldest and legally responsible as the adult, but I was in charge. I was the one who took charge when it was needed. I was the adult. I was also twelve.