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This Is Why I Bite My Nails

Eve Rae Rotman

 

"Stop picking your nails," my mother hissed, keeping her eyes on the road. I watched her as she drove, her two recently-manicured hands clenching the steering wheel. The crimson red that had been lacquered onto her perfect, acrylic fingernails matched her lipstick, dress and pocketbook perfectly. Her nail polish always matched her outfit.

I quickly glanced back down at my own hands, with their chewed-up fingernails and picked-at cuticles. Frankly, I didn't see what the big deal was. Rachael never picked at her nails, of course. My G-d, she didn't even like to use nail clippers! I went back to studying my mom. I wonder if she was thinking about Rachael, too.

Over the past few weeks, I had become more and more aware of how I was reminding others of my little sister through our similarities and differences. Sucks for them. We weren't twins, obviously, but if you had ever seen Rachael, you could immediately tell we were sisters. Dark hair, dark eyes, etc. Well, actually, if you had looked really, really closely at her eyes, you might have realized that the left one was a slightly lighter shade of brown than the other. I don't think anyone had ever noticed this, not even my parents. A part of me relishes the fact that I was the only one that knew about this small, fabulous idiosyncrasy of my sister's. But then another part of me wishes that more people could have known how unique and wonderful her eyes were.

My mother also had dark eyes, but just simple, plain brown ones like mine. Filled with sadness. Her eyelashes were thick with mascara. Rachael had these beautiful, long lashes...

"I'm not going to say it again," my mother warned. She took a mean swipe at my hands. I had absentmindedly resumed my nail-biting. Whoops.

"You're really late," she began. Oh, great, here we go. "Look, I'm not going to do this again. You better come down at seven-thirty in the mornings, or you're not getting a ride to school! Get it? Come down at seven-thirty, or you're not getting a ride! You'll have to take the bus!"

"Okay."

"So, you have to come down at seven-thirty, or you're not getting a ride! Sandra's not giving you a ride! I'll tell her that she's not allowed to drive you to school!"

"Okay."

"If you come down after seven-thirty, you're not going to get a ride! That's it!"

"Yeah, I heard you the first three times you said it, Mom."

But she kept on going, repeating the same phrase over and over like my scratched-up Green Day CD. Needless to say, I found this extremely annoying. But she did have a point. It wasn't like I could get my dad to give me a ride. He had moved to Brooklyn right after the separation in November.

I missed him.

As our car neared the front lawn of the high school, I glanced at my watch. Eight o'clock on the dot. Oh, I guess I would be late to Chem. But it wasn't like my Chemistry teacher would mark me "TARDY" or anything. Perks of having a dead sister: teachers go easy on you, no questions asked. Even if she had died months ago. Nearly eight months, to be exact.

Eight months.

"Okay, so I'll pick you up at four today. You have Dr. Stein, remember?" The car was stopped right next to the curb.

"I know," I replied, opening the car door. I grabbed my bulky backpack and petite piccolo case and hauled myself out of the minivan. "See you then."

"Bye," she said with a half-smile.

"Bye," I said, slamming the door shut.

Then she drove off.

I made my way down the concrete path to the school's front doors. And the moment I stepped into the building, I raised my fingers back to my mouth. That's where they belonged, anyway.


Eve Rae Rotman is an aspiring young writer with a fervent passion for contemporary fiction. This fall, she will be attending Barnard College of Columbia University. Her vignette, "This Is Why I Bite My Nails", is dedicated to her sister. Eve thanks Rafi Zabor for his continuous support, encouragement and guidance.