Joel’s arrival was never an expected occurrence of my life.
On that Sunday whose date, month and year I had long forgotten, a skinny-looking, dirty child with her head held as low as possible stood in front of the gate of my house. Another beggar, I guessed after shooting her a look of disgust. Perhaps her pathetic appearance had won over my mother’s soft heart, for immediately she felt sorry for her and took her in. My mother bathed her, clothed her and fed her warm, steamy meals as if she was truly her child. I watched from a distance with blatant disdain written all over my face, hoping my mother would send her away after showing a speck of philanthropy. But no, God didn’t answer me this time. My mother gave her the name “Joel” due to her boyish look; I knew she always wanted to have a son. From that day on, Joel was my little sibling.
Though I was the only child who at times felt lonely in my large house, I didn’t want Joel. Joel, the sweet, nice and obedient child who always tried her best to please others, mother told me. Since Joel started staying in my house, every single thing I did was compared with her and I was, most of the time, a sore loser. Everyone, the cook, the doorman, the gardener, the maids, warmed up around her while they often kept a distance with me. I didn’t care though. What I couldn’t stand was mother’s growing affection toward Joel. Joel wasn’t her child; she was merely an orphan to whom mother had had enough mercy to give a shelter. It was me who was her flesh and blood, I tried to remind her but she seemed to have forgotten such fact. Much to my despair, mother would take her side whenever we got into a quarrel. So I was the spoiled, bully sister to little sweet Joel, huh?
I knew Joel had a secret box which she, almost desperately, tried to hide it from anyone in the house, mother included. I knew of its existence by a mere coincidence. One night, in a fit of mischief, I peeped through the tiny hole on her door and saw Joel pull out a strange looking box from under the bed. I couldn’t see what was inside since Joel was having her back at me. But I knew it had to something she couldn’t afford being caught possessing; otherwise she didn’t have to be so discreet about it. I remembered Joel had come to my house with nothing except her torn clothes. Then, could it be something she had stolen from mother? From me?
I spoke my suspicion to mother, who, in turn, told me to stop spying on Joel’s business. What I had done was very unlady-like; besides, none of her things had gotten missing yet.
That didn’t erase my thought. The urge to see what was inside the box became stronger and stronger and before I knew, it was the only thought reeling in my head.
I waited patiently and at last, the chance came: mother took Joel to my aunt’s house for the tea party. Rather than anger, I felt a sudden joy as I finally got to do what I had been yearning to do. I sneaked to her room and pulled out Joel’s box, my heart thumping wildly in my chest. Why feeling anxious, I wondered. This was my house after all.
The box wasn’t locked, a sign which indicated the things inside weren’t very valuable. They weren’t, indeed. One ragdoll, a handful of used buttons, plenty pieces of fabric; all of them were neither mother’s nor mine. So it was just a toy box, nothing special? Grunting, I put my hands in and rummaged through the content. There had to be something else than these trash, something worth being discreet about.
A sharp pain.
I pulled out my hands and nearly cried out to see they were all bloody. With a harsh movement, I turned the box upside down, emptying its bowel on the floor. There they were, carefully carved at the bottom of the box and well hidden beneath layers of fabric, several razors. Their tongues glinting, the deadly blades seemed to be mocking at my ignorance.
As I examined the cruel wounds on my hands, my blood ran cold at the imagination of Joel’s sweet, modest smile.