My life has been average at most.
I lived in a family of two girls and one boy. There was my older sister, Jenny, me, and my younger brother, Alex. We had a typical childhood, I guess. Jenny was popular, with her blonde hair, blue eyes, and skinny frame. Alex, early on, showed a penchant for sports and became the star athlete of the family. But myself, just like the rest of my life, was very… average.
I wasn’t overly smart. I wasn’t ugly but I didn’t stand out. I had a small group of friends.
I was average.
But I idolized my older sister.
Jenny was everything I would never be. She had friends, upon friends, upon friends. She had a string of boyfriends starting from the time she was 11. There was always some boy, some drama. She grew tired of it, but I loved it.
Jenny loved me, too. We were really close as children. Mom and dad loved me, sure, but they didn’t notice me like they did Jenny and Alex. Because there was nothing special about me, not really. But Jenny didn’t see it that way. See, she paid attention to me. She gave me makeovers and taught me about makeup. She used to take me shopping even with her popular friends and show me the best clothes to wear for my body shape. She would tell me all about her amazing, glittering life and she would listen if and when I found some small contribution to make to our conversations.
She was my role model.
But sometimes life isn’t average. Sometimes it isn’t typical. When Jenny was 16 and I was 13, she was found in her room, a bottle of pills spilled out next to her. I don’t think they even bothered with much of an investigation. It was clear what she’d done, although no one really knew why. Life can be funny that way. Sometimes it’s the ones who seem happy who are struggling the most.
It was a very difficult time for my family.
But life went on. As I grew older, I grew to love my average life. My parents paid a little more attention to me, with Jenny gone. I went to a state university for journalism, where I met my husband, Alan. We got married right out of college. I worked for the local paper and he had an office job at a company just a few blocks down the road. Our life was blissful, beautiful, and unremarkable.
Until, that is, I became pregnant.
It started when I was about two weeks late. I’ve always been as regular as a clock, but at this time work was pretty hectic and I wasn’t really paying attention.
Then, one night, I had a terribly real, terribly strange dream.
In the dream, I was in my old childhood room, sitting on the flower-patterned comforter on my twin-sized bed, playing with a pacifier for God knows what reason. In walked Jenny. She came and climbed on the bed. She was toying with an empty pill bottle. She looked into my eyes.
I don’t know why, but I woke up screaming. To be honest, I hadn’t paid much thought to Jenny in years, and I’d never had a dream like that. My husband woke up to comfort me, but I was already on my way to the bathroom. I vomited into the toilet for about twenty minutes, thinking of missed periods, pill bottles, and Jenny.
I took a pregnancy test that day. It came out positive.
My husband and I were overjoyed. We celebrated with a nice dinner. We called our parents, who were both incredibly excited. We talked about baby names, nursery, and all the things you associate with babies. We got to bed late, exhausted but happy, cuddling together like newlyweds, dreaming of little cherubs dancing in our arms.
I woke up to see my sister standing next to the bed.
If the night before had been frightening, you can’t imagine how this felt. Here she was, Jenny, the real, not so alive Jenny. She stared down at me. I reached out, I almost felt as though I could touch her. But she turned and walked out of the room.
From that day on, Jenny was always there.
She was standing next to the bed when I woke up in the morning. She followed me to work. She watched as I picked out baby clothes, occasionally fingering one or two items that she particularly liked.
She was always there.
Sure, I thought about telling my husband. But what would I say? That his average wife was about to disturb his average life with her newfound ability to see the dead? Unlikely. Rather, I considered it a strange and extraordinary experience in my otherwise unremarkable life.
Besides, I enjoyed it, in a way.
Here was my long-lost sister. My ages-ago best friend, the one person who I looked up to. The person I wanted to be when I grew up. She was back again. It was comforting to have her there as my stomach grew fat and round, and I began to waddle back and forth, trying to control my deranged hormones.
Sometimes, she would put her hand on my stomach to feel the baby. When she did, the baby would start to kick. How comforting to know that my baby would share a special connection with Jenny.
Jenny was there when my husband drove me to the hospital, crying in the back through the pain of my contractions. She followed us to the maternity ward and stood calmly next to me as I pushed, pushed, and pushed. She kept her hand placed on my stomach, and it was a comfort.
Then it was over.
They placed the baby into my arms. A girl! A wonderful, plump little baby girl, whose cries were the most beautiful thing in the world. Alan and I played with her tiny, curling fingers. When I looked to the bedside, Jenny was gone.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I have always missed my sister, she was very important to me and I miss her still. But I was somewhat relieved to see her gone. I missed her, but she could never be a part of my life again. Now I could return to my happy, typical life. My happy life with my happy baby and happy husband.
I was happy for a few weeks before I noticed it.
I was playing with little baby Ellen when she looked up at me and I noticed them. Her startling blue eyes. The eyes that neither her father nor I possessed. She looked at me with an eerie calmness.
When I looked into her eyes, I saw Jenny.
And so, tomorrow morning, I will fall to the floor in an outburst of tears and screams. Alan will frantically dial emergency services as I will clutch at the body of my child. When the EMTs arrive, they will pry the cold, lifeless body from my embrace and I will collapse into Alan’s arms.
I will be sad. I will miss her, just as I missed Jenny. But Jenny can never be a part of my life again, no matter how much she wants to be.
After all, it took me years to be rid of her the first time.