My older sister was always a bewildering creature,—at least, to me. I was sure that to my mother and father, she was just Delilah, just like I was just Willow. They never blinked when Delilah waltzed around the house, humming tunes from a time before she was born, or when she buried herself beneath wool blankets, so deep that I was surprised she could breathe. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to breathe, but then again, Delilah was a different species.
Delilah was older than me by seven years, which might have been part of the reason that we lived in two different worlds. She didn’t attend school like I did, which was fine, but it was just another area where our paths diverged. Most days, I never saw her. When Delilah did surface from her room, she wore her hair braided down her back, and a yellow sundress, no matter what season it was. I didn’t understand how she wasn’t cold, but for all I knew, her skin might have been immune to the icy air. From the way everyone treated her, the idea that her skin was made of porcelain, was entirely plausible.
The strangest thing about my sister though, was not her mood swings or the distance she kept from me. It was her favorite activity, which she found time to do, even when she was having one of her “rainy days,” as mother liked to call them. Delilah liked to pick the petals off daisies and paste them to her skin.
I’d watch her do it, when I could. Father always kept a bouquet of daisies on the kitchen table, and whenever they’d disappear from their green, glass vase, I’d start searching. When the sun was warm, I’d find her in the garden. If it rained, she would be in the living room. When the wind blew, it was the front porch. It had taken me a while, but I had memorized each of the spots.
She always had a tin, full of some type of paste, and a bristled paintbrush, that she used to smooth the paste over her skin. Sometimes she put the petals on her arms, and often her shins. It was rare, but I once saw her press one of the yellow petals against her cheek.
Delilah would cry while she worked, or if it was a “sunny day,” sing one of her songs. Whether there were tears dripping down her cheeks or a grin spread across her face, she was meticulous as she worked. Once she finished, the petals would remain on her skin, until they turned from yellow to brown, and finally crumbled into dust. Then, Delilah would paste more on. I was fascinated by the whole process; I found it beautiful.
So, on an October day, when the sun peeked through the clouds, I pulled the daisies out of their vase, and headed out to the garden. I didn’t have Delilah’s special tin or the paintbrush that she used. They were both hidden in the most forbidden area of the house, her bedroom. But I was determined to wear the petals on my skin, so I held a bottle of Elmer’s glue in my grubby, little hand, and the daisies in the other.
I knelt on the stone pathway, and began to pluck the petals from their stems. I tore the first few, not realizing how gentle I needed to be. Some of the petals blew away in the wind, and others slipped between cracks in the stone path, but soon I had a small stack, ready to be used. I slathered my arm in glue, and was preparing to lay the first petal down, when I heard a scream.
I looked up and saw Delilah standing close by, her yellow dress billowing in the wind. Her skin looked ghostly against the blue sky, and for a moment, I believed she was a figment of my imagination.
“What are you doing?” Delilah cried, as she ran and knelt next to me. She yanked the daisies out of my hand, and in my surprise, I didn’t protest.
My sister never spoke to me, whether she was happy or sad. It was part of what had made her into such a mystical being, and even now that words had spilled from her mouth, the spell was not broken. I felt as if I should run away and hide, rather than remain in the presence of the strange creature that was my sister.
“What are you doing?” Delilah asked again, this time with more force.
“I wanted to put the flowers on,” I spoke quietly; refusing to stare into her icy, blue eyes. “Like you do.”
“You can’t,” she insisted. “You can’t ever, ever, be like me.”
Instead of responding, Delilah looked to the ground, and began picking up the scattered daisy petals. Her lips were pressed into a thin line, and I knew that I should leave before she began to cry. But at the age of nine, my curiosity was too much for me to walk away without my questions answered. So, if Delilah wouldn’t tell me why I couldn’t have flower petals, then I wanted to know why she could.
“Why do you always wear the petals?” I asked.
Delilah looked up, seeming almost as surprised as I was, that I had the courage to speak again. I found myself staring at the freckles on her nose, as she turned my question over in her mind, hopefully forming an answer.
“The things I feel sometimes,” she said slowly, as if she were tasting each word carefully on her tongue, “I can’t ever explain them in words. It’s hard for me to remind myself that I ever felt different. That I can feel different again.”
I nodded my head, though none of her words made sense. All I knew was that my sister was talking to me. My sister was talking to me, and I wasn’t going to stop her.
“When I put the petals on my skin,” she continued, “they represent happiness, and when they crumble to nothing, they represent sadness. But the thing is, there are always more petals. There is always more happiness, no matter how many times it turns to dust.”
She finished collecting the petals, and stood up, walking back towards the path. She didn’t say goodbye, or invite me to follow her, but I didn’t need her to. On that day, the strangest part of her, the obsession with daisy petals, had made her seem more human.
Caitlin Roberts is a young author, born in California and raised in Alaska. She enjoys all types of writing including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Her other activities include dancing, playing piano, and spending time with her wonderful dog, Tess.