Winsome stands at the end of the alley, near the Methodist chapel, in a shaft of pure light, as though she is a creature in constant need of repair. She turns in a blizzard of tinsel and writes everything she sees down in her little blood-red notebook. I observe this from my hiding place in the doorway to the butcher's. When she writes I write. I insinuate myself into her mind, bully her thoughts into being conjoined with mine, such is the bond between us. I am the thug and she is the sugar. Still, I believe I love her best of any other living thing in this world. She is my trump card in a life of double-dealing. If I feel competitive, I hide it deep in my suffragette heart, and I kiss her each night just as though I have never wished her dead at all.
Truth, to be understood, must first be believed. I think Voltaire said that. But when I consider how I love my sister, I think that proves him wrong. I love my sister like an old man loves his young mistress. It is humiliating, excessive, exhausting. I love the crinkle in her hair, the threads of blood that surface under her skin as blue seams. I experience loving her as if it were a trauma, my heart falls for her, like a car twirling off a cliff into a sea of oblivion. I long to be with her, to take her from this alley and lead her into the forest. But Winsome is slow. She looks at me, blinks, smiles sweetly as she hands me a jam-jar of fireflies, tipping out its contents, a shower of dancing lit sequins. She pulls me into the chapel, and we are back where we were, biblical siblings, lost beneath the vast coloured window and the Independent Order of Rechabites and Suffragettes, standing together like the radiant ghosts of ourselves.
I am the wren and Lusome is the alligator. Sometimes she terrifies me, but she tells me she loves me best of all, as she hands me a sugar basket dripping with the thrown out bits from the butchers. She is devoted to curios and I am her most curious of curiosities. We lie together under the apple tree, in the white light of the full moon and I like to look up and see an apple and a moon hanging there together in the dark sky. The she loves me most fiercely. But the bond between us is volatile, electric, given to stammering passages of on-offness. She whispers into my ear: where is mother? and her hot breath sets fear twisting in my heart like the knotted ribbons of ballet pumps stained with blood. I want to scream then, to stifle the nonsense noises of her: now she is whistling, now she is yawning, now she is imitating the cuckoos lament. She hands me the torn out pages of books with all the words blacked out except for her promises: I promise to return; I promise never to return; I promise to be faithful; I promise to visit. Each time she passes me one I feel more afraid, and the pain in my chest is like a broken memory, with its irreparable shards, its spilled sequins, its alley of blood.
She begs me to dance. We are at the jackal's wedding, she moans into my neck, and I fall into the pond of her longing and am covered in toads. She drags me, dripping to the pristine table, which is set with jam and silver spoons. Luscious jewel colours, plum and peach and nectarine. The guests are all laughing silently. She sits me in the golden chair, hands me her tattered fan, which I open and let fly a storm of wasps. I scoop the jam into my gaping mouth, as though I were a magpie, flipping the buckles on the rabbit's back, opening his red corset and bloodying the jewel of his heart. Sometimes I even terrify myself.