As she surveyed her sister’s new house, Anne’s green eyes – eyes as clear as jade one moment then turbulent as a stormy ocean the next – glittered darkly with barely suppressed emotion. Her perfect forehead hardly moved at all as neatly trimmed eyebrows arched steeply over them; her regular visits to an exclusive clinician for her ‘pampering’, as she liked to call the Botox treatment, made sure that her skin didn’t betray any of her forty one years of life. Getting old she could deal with, after all there was no other choice, but looking old – that would never, ever, do.
Tugging at her long, red hair – as she always did when anxious about something –Anne’s manicured fingers twirled a lock of hair in ever tightening circles. The nail of each finger mirrored the same shade of red as her lips, each one exactly the same length, as always. Catching herself, realising that she was making a mess of the neatly coiffured hairstyle that had take nearly two hours to get just ‘so’, her frown deepened. With precise motions she patted the hair back in place and then, as she picked off non-existent piece of lint, she smoothed down the sleeves of her pinstripe jacket.
The double door of the house opened as she approached it and there, standing in the warm glow of the interior lights, stood her sister. Smiling. Fixing a smile on her own face, having to work hard to force her lips to obey and relax from their tightness into an approximation of warmth, Anne walked forwards.
Their parents had named her, and her sister Shirley, after the title character in ‘Anne of Green Gables’. It had been her mother’s favourite book, one that she had read over and over while confined to bed during her difficult pregnancy. A twin pregnancy was like that, she had been told, difficult. What the doctor’s couldn’t have told her, couldn’t have known, was just how ‘difficult’ at least one of those twins was going to be; Anne. From birth she had been the one that had demanded constant attention – crying through the night to simply be held to her mother’s breast regardless of how often she fed. Shirley, of course, was content to sleep the night through or even just lie in her crib, awake but quiet, and watch. To outsiders the girls were identical – both tall and slim as they grew, both with fair skin, luxurious red hair and sparkling green eyes. To Anne, though, Shirley had the clearer complexion, the longer hair and even the greener eyes. Shirley always had, in Anne’s mind, everything that Anne wanted.
Holding out both arms in a welcoming embrace Shirley smiled warmly, the twinkle in her eyes reflecting the smile. Her hair hung loose and natural, her skin unadorned with any make-up but still, despite the faint network of lines on her forehead, glowing. The house beckoned and, Anne sighed to herself; it was going to be a long night.