When she was six I came home one afternoon early and found her in my room with my box of art supplies upside down and my collection of long peacock feathers glued to her belt to make a lackluster skirt. The feathers were longer than her legs so when she backed away from me, surprised that I had come home, she tripped and smacked her head against my desk. There was an orange half moon on the horizon of the wood always after that. The funny thing was, I hadn't been angry in the first place. Seven days later she told me she had stolen the peacock feathers because she'd been learning about them in school. Her teacher had told her that peacocks were the most beautiful of all of the animals, and she told me that she wanted to be beautiful too. That night I'd tucked her quilt around her, kissed her sore little forehead and told her; you are already beautiful. I understood how she felt.
When she had just turned seventeen I caught her again. It was Christmas and I had come home a day earlier than planned when our parents had mentioned she planned to drop by for a few days. I took some overdue leave at work and thought how nice it would be to do those childhood things again with her. On the train I had let the shudders of the tracks lull me to sleep, and dreamt of old happy memories of dressing the tree, lifting her high to place the angel on the top. Buying chestnuts... opening presents. When I got home that evening, two boys were wrapped around her - and in the shock of my arrival suddenly three pairs of hands covered her breasts. Ten days later, New Years Eve, I slipped her a little of my champagne as an apology. Once tipsy she whispered to me that she just wanted to be loved. She fell asleep before midnight so I put her in the spare room of the house we were at, put my coat over her, kissed her soon-to-be sore forehead and told her; you are already loved. I understood how she felt.
When she was twenty-eight I found her the last time. She had asked me to visit her but I had been unsure, Gracie was teething and I didn't like to leave Martin to deal with her as he was as sleep deprived as I was, but in the end my conscience got the better of me. My sister never asked me for anything and she often dropped by just to see how I was and check on the kids, so I went. I had a key to her house and thought nothing of using it, despite telling her I wasn't coming over. Wrapped round her this time, not feathers or flesh; a threadbaring rope that would snap too late. Far too late. The note said 'I need the pain to stop, I just want to be gone'. Nineteen days later, I tucked a feather in her pocket and kissed her never-to-be-sore-again forehead, and I told her; you were already gone. I understood how she felt.