The front door swung open behind her but she didn’t bother looking up. She assumed it was her beloved, home early from work or perhaps taking a long lunch. With no touch of concern, she continued washing the fruit she would use for her after-therapy smoothie. Just as she began slicing the fruit on the wooden cutting board, she heard the footsteps draw closer.
“Hey babe, I’m glad you’re home early!” Jordan spoke happily without looking up from her task.
“Thanks sugar lips! Me too!” A feminine voice replied that definitely did not belong to her fiancée, Kurt. She spun, knife in hand, to see her sister leaning against the doorway of the kitchen. “Easy with the knife, sugar lips!”
Jordan laughed and placed the knife on the counter, surprised to see her little sister as they had no plans to do so that day. Or had they? Jordan’s schedule had become very complicated as of late with physical therapy, regular therapy, doctor’s visits, parent teacher conferences, work and wedding planning. It would have been quite easy for her to forget about any ‘sister activities’ they may have planned.
“Nona! What are you doing here? I didn’t forget you did I?” Nona could see the panic creeping into her sister’s expression and rushed forward to set her at ease.
“No, no…” she stepped into the kitchen, placing a light kiss on her sisters’ cheek since Jordan’s hands were full. For her part, the older girl didn’t flinch at the affection, having learned to appreciate her sisters’ need to express it. “I was just finishing up some packing and needed a break so I thought I’d stop by real quick. We haven’t seen each other in a few days and I … I kinda missed you, okay?” That last statement brought another smile to Jordan’s face.
“I missed you too. So what’s new?” She asked cheerfully as she continued preparing her snack. Nona plopped down at one of the kitchen’s bar stools watching her sister work. Jordan had her hair piled up in a messy bun and her skin was flushed, obvious signs she had just come back from a workout.
Nona filled her in on the move, affairs at the shop and how Hendrix had taken a shine to a little girl in his class. The sisters laughed and chatted for a few more minutes while Jordan cleaned up the mess she had made preparing her snack. As she turned to grab something from the sink, Nona had to suppress a gasp. Jordan was wearing a black workout tank, which exposed most of her back. Her sister could never have imagined the multitude of scars it contained. Nona had never seen them with her own eyes, the entire area having been heavily bandaged for months now. There were deep red lines crisscrossing the entire upper portion of Jordan’s back as well as a puncture mark nearly the size of Nona’s palm where CLU’s tendril had punched through her left shoulder. So mesmerized was she by the carnage, she didn’t notice her sister was once again facing her.
“It’s not your fault. They don’t hurt anymore… at least not a lot…” Jordan could tell from the look on the other girls face what she had been staring at; that she wanted to take the pain away. “I’m okay Nona, really…”
Nona found herself nodding in agreement even as her eyes were affixed to the angry red mark on the front of Jordan’s shoulder where that evil tendril had made it’s exit. She couldn’t stop herself from reaching across the counter to gently brush the area, concern plain on her face as her sister tried not to flinch. Jordan placed her hand over her sisters to reassure her, yet as Nona turned her palm over, the gesture had the opposite effect. She ran her fingers over that raised area, marveling at how much damage Jordan had truly sustained. It had taken nearly a month just for the swelling in her sisters’ hand to go down enough to fit her engagement ring.
Nona wondered why she hadn’t noticed the scars when she’d arrived but it occurred to her that over the past few months her sister might have gotten quite good at hiding the damage from prying eyes. The two women locked eyes and the real reason for Nona’s visit hit her like the most brutal gut punch. She couldn’t do this to her, not again. Jordan noticed the change in her sister’s disposition.
“What’s wrong? You didn’t just come by because you missed me did you?” Nona shook her head slowly, still tracing the scar with her fingertips. She knew she couldn’t just keep sitting there like an idiot, rubbing her sister’s scar but she found it impossible to utter the words. “Nona…” Jordan was growing more concerned by the minute.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” Her sister’s scowl grew deeper, as she couldn’t understand the change in subject.
“Of course I remember. How could I ever forget?”
Jordan had been 12 years old at the time, raised by a single father on the reservation. Her mother had left them almost immediately after her birth, finding life on the reservation too hard for an outsider to acclimate to. For his part, her father refused to let his only child be taken away so a lax custody agreement was reached, though her mother rarely utilized it. That year, as she was entering the 7th grade, Jordan found out that her mother had re-married and she now had an almost 8-year-old sister.
When Nona walked into the room, small and afraid, clutching her doll like a life-vest Jordan knew she would never let any harm come to her. From that moment the two girls behaved as if they’d always been together, sisters and the best of friends. Not long after their initial meeting, the home Jordan shared with her father caught fire, severely injuring Jordan. She had not yet discovered her powers and spent the next six weeks in the hospital. During the entire time, Nona insisted her mother bring her EVERYDAY to see her sister. The two girls would laugh, chat, and play board games when Jordan was feeling strong and when she wasn’t, her little sister would sit dutifully by her side and read her favorite books out loud or watch their favorite movie.
“Do you remember our vow?” Nona asked in a pleading voice. Jordan seemed reluctant to play along but answered when she saw the emotion on her sister’s face.
“We vowed to protect each other… ALWAYS, no matter what. Nona you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”
“Vasquez came to see me today,” she began shakily. Her sister stood still, waiting for her to continue. “She came to tell me something… something none of us ever wanted to hear.”
“Just tell me.” Jordan’s frown deepened ever further and she pulled away from Nona abruptly. With a sigh Nona did the very thing she had chastised Vasquez for and blurted out the information.
“No, that’s not possible… he can’t be…” Jordan’s whole body grew rigid and the dishtowel in her hands burst into flames! Both women were surprised, as Jordan had never lost control of her powers before.
Nona jumped down from the stool and rounded the kitchen counter. Quick thinking made her throw the flaming towel into the dishwater, putting out the small fire. She wheeled around to face her sister. She needed to be near her when she said this, needed to hold her. She pulled Jordan into the tightest embrace she could muster and confirmed, “I saw him, I’m so sorry.”
She felt the shudder tear through Jordan, and then was nearly pulled to the floor when her sisters’ knees began to buckle. She gripped her even tighter as she pushed her backwards towards one of the chairs at their dinner table. When the back of her knees hit the chair, Jordan sat stiffly. Nona knelt in front of her, holding her hands, waiting for her to say something, anything. But she didn’t. The only sound in the kitchen was her rapid breathing and the soothing sounds Nona was making in an effort to combat the burgeoning panic attack.
Jordan’s eyes stared straight ahead, unseeing. She felt like she was back in that dank, dusty cavern. Bleeding, suffering, knowing she would never see the sun again. Her chest tightened and her vision narrowed to a pinprick, eyes fluttering shut. She was about to pass out when she felt a warm hand on the back of her neck and a soft forehead pressed against hers. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” her sister kept chanting to her over and over. Jordan opened her eyes to stare into her sisters.
“Why now?” she asked, her voice broken into a million pieces. Nona pulled her sister’s head to her chest, slowly rocking her.
“I don’t know, sweetheart, I don’t know. But I’m gonna take care of it! I’ll never let him hurt you again.” She promised even as her sister’s hands dug desperately into her shirt. “NEVER.”
Nona’s vow hung in the air between them. She had promised to protect her sister many times before and when she needed to fulfill that vow the most, Jordan had still nearly lost her life. She knew she had to make good this time; there would be no more tries. The two women sat in silence, clinging to one another when they faintly heard the front door opening again. Jordan lifted her head quickly at the sound; eyes red with unshed tears.
“You can’t tell him”, she whispered.