Summertime was sister time. My sisters and I, we used to wear thin clothes and walk around barefoot in the warm splendor of the sun. Our skin easily browned with the hours we spent together outside. We danced along fields, looking for beauty, escaping pain and memory. We slept in the light of the moon.
As girls, we promised to spend every summer together. And after the year Mallory had just spent in college, the first year we’d begun to grow apart, the year we should have stopped, we kept the promise.
The sun is high in the sky as we work in our garden, our hands in the cool earth, the air sticky, and my sister’s voices high with excitement.
He watches us from his second-floor bedroom window. I can see the daydreams behind his eyes. It would be lying to say I didn’t find him attractive.
“Come down and talk to us, Rapunzel,” Mal shouts up to the boy, “Unless, of course, you’d rather stalk from afar.”
Allison, the youngest of us, still caught up in Mallory’s games, laughs, “Funny, Mal.” I casually smile with her.
“My name isn’t Rapunzel,” the boy claims.
“Then come down and introduce yourself, not-Rapunzel,” Mallory teases.
“Fine, I will,” the boy in the window shouts down to us.
When he disappeared, I turn to Mal, “What are you doing?”
“Just having some fun, Tay,” she smiles her classic Mallory smile, the one that made her look so devious.
The boy sat on the porch steps across from us, not so far we couldn’t hear each other, but far enough not to be a part of the garden party. Maybe he didn’t like dirt. Maybe he was afraid of us. “Hey,” he greeted us.
Allie giggles, “Hay is for horses.”
“Oh,” he said, slightly flustered, “Sorry.”
“Are you new around here or something?” Mal asked bluntly, like usual.
“My family and I moved in a few months ago. So, sort of,” he replied.
“That’s exciting,” I say, smiling, “I’ve never moved, not in my entire seventeen-year-old life.”
“What’s your name?” Allie asked the boy.
“Oh, right. I’m Jacob,” he blushed a little bit, “I’ve heard about the three of you. They call you ‘The Sanguine Sisters’?”
Mal smiled her smile, “So, you’ve heard of us. Did you hear about all the trouble we cause? Mothers guarding their children from our wild child antics?”
“The hearts I break?” Allie chimed in, “Mal’s stolen kisses? Tay’s fleeting heart?”
“The midnight dancing and singing?” I add, playing along.
“What have you heard about us?” Mal asks.
Jacob swallowed, “I’ve heard a few things about the three of you. But, want to know: why do they call you The Sanguine Sisters?”
Mallory looked at me and then at Allison, as if asking Who’s going to say it this time? Allie volunteered and straight-faced answered, “Because we collect blood.”
“What?!” Jacob exclaimed and leaned in, believing our old joke, “Really?”
We explode in laughter, “No!”
“We’re called The Sanguine Sisters because we made a blood oath when our mother died, to always be close and always be sisters. Our mom would’ve wanted it.” I proudly claim.
“But why blood?”
Mal sighs. I knew her thoughts: He asks too many questions. “Well isn’t blood thicker than water?”
“I-I guess,” he shrugs, “Do you three really do all the things people say about you?”
“Would they be telling stories if they weren’t true?” Mal asked sharply.
“I mean, do you think people are so rude they’re making things up about us?” Allie added, feigning insult.
“No,” Jacob shook his head.
“The truth is, we like to push the limits,” I spill secrets. I ignored the death stare Mal gives me, Enough, it said. “The rules we made for ourselves, they take us back to our girlhood. There is no shame when you’re not afraid of anything, like our mother was.”
Jacob nodded and moved closer to us, wanting more. He looked at us like strange creatures he’d never see again: young, skinny, dirty blond, mysterious, fearless. The sisters who made promises in blood. “What rules,” he asked, looking at me.
He was too curious, and I knew it. I liked it. My sisters were never curious enough, they always followed the rules, Mallory’s rules.
“I’m hungry,” Mal interrupted. This was not the ‘fun’ she had planned. We had found someone to question her ways.
“Famished,” Allie agreed with Mallory, like always. Her eyes poked me like daggers.
We reconvened around the porch table with pretzels and lemonade. I got Jacob to stay, which enraged my sisters even more. Mallory pretended to focus on her sewing and Allison was on a braiding spree. “I’m sorry if you think we’re weird,” I say to Jacob.
“No, it’s fine,” He sipped his lemonade, “You make your lives interesting.”
I asked, not sure if I agreed, “Really? You think so?”
“Of course,” Allie interrupted bluntly. Her eyes were still angry at me. I was letting in a stranger.
Jacob smiled, nodding, “It does. There aren’t a lot of people who would do the things you do.”
“We know,” Mal threw down her sewing, “That’s why we do it.”
“That’s why you do it,” I say to Mallory.
“We promised Taylor, don’t you remember?” Mal angrily said.
“Yes, Mallory, but I’m much too old for this foolishness anymore,” I snapped.
“Whoa guys,” Jacob tried, “Calm down.”
“Like that’s not sexist,” Mal grumbled.
Jacob was still confused, “Did I say something wrong?”
“Yes,” Mallory and Allison say, while I say “No.”
“Anyone not like us is boring,” Mal said, quoting the rules, “And anyone too curious is even worse.”
“Don’t even bother trying,” Allie agreed.
“All I wanted to do was meet the mysterious Sanguine Sisters,” Jacob accused.
“And you did,” Mal says, “Goodbye.”
He got up to leave, “Wait!” I said, standing up with him. We reached out for each other and somehow, our lips met. There were no more rules to stop me.