Baths haven’t been allowed for a long time ‘cause there isn’t enough water. But I’ve been saving my rations a whole year for a real good cause.
My sister, Sana.
It’s not that she’s dirtier than the rest of us or anything. We’re all yucky and smelly and hungry. It’s more ‘cause the stuff she’s had to deal with from Mama now she’s 13.
I didn’t drink any of the water Mama gave us to celebrate that birthday. Not with Sana using her share for tears in the next room while Mama scraped.
The water I’ve got is dirty and kind of smelly, but also soft and sorta shiny. It’s hiding in the barrel under the old flour crate in the corner of our room. I could uncover it with a sheet when she comes in, like a magician would. Sana’ll be so happy she’ll get right in, and sit for as long as she wants, and be clean. I’ll wash her gently all over with a scratchy sponge, even in her belly button. We’ll be real quiet, and we’ll smile super big at each other, and even laugh a little, ‘specially if Mama’s snoring-
“Watch the fire. I’m goin’ out. Don’t waste any of that food on yurselves.”
If Mama’s got a customer… we’ll have the house to ourselves tonight.
Oh! Sana is going to be so excited she’ll show all her teeth!
I’ll make the bedroom all pretty too, put the pillows all around like this. Or this way… I could even heat the water in our big ol’ pot! Just a little bit. Sana won’t be home for another hour… there’s time.
Everything’s all ready and so exciting I can barely keep quiet with Sana yelling my name. I’m already smiling when she finds me beside her gift.
“It’s a bath! For you!”
Her eyes. There’s something different with her eyes. Like they’re all dead or something; not grateful at all. Kind of like Mama’s when I bruise my skin, or do something else that makes it no good for selling. I’m almost 13 too, after all.
“How could you betray me?” she yells, coming toward me with scarred palms meant for slapping.
And there’s slapping. Over and over.
“I. Have. To. Stay. Dirty!”
Two tears on my cheeks.
“She doesn’t take as much when I’m dirty!”
Footsteps, a great splash, and a slamming door. And me, a little older, wasting my own share alone on the floor.