Daciana pits her wits against her sister, pondering the best combination of moves. She studies the pieces, frustrating Luliana. Both knew the loser would have to clean up their toys. Luliana preferred to flip a coin with an equal chance that Daciana would have to clean instead of her. Daciana took immense pleasure in outsmarting her opponent. She was a sore loser, throwing a tantrum until Luliana agreed to help her. The same never worked in reverse; Daciana lounged, pointing to the mess as Luliana cleaned.
Differences between the girls were growing clearer. Daciana struggled, never feeling she belonged. She fidgeted in school, resented doing her homework and had fewer friends. Luliana had her mother’s flair, announcing her social group, “The Power of Friendship”. Luliana decided it was an exclusive club. Daciana, although invited to hang out, would never be an official member. Patrick tried to reason with Luliana, suggesting she was more inclusive of her sister. He knew Daciana did not help matters; she liked to be in charge, bossing the others and in, their eyes spoiling the fun. She sat on the side lines, listening to Luliana and her friendship group laughing in the pool. A girl joined Daciana, helping her build the paper Mache castle. Daciana narrowed her eyes, lips pressed together in a thin line. The girl mentioned her love of fairy tales, the soppy romance Daciana despised. She appreciated the assistance, so Daciana held in her annoyance. Her hands crushed the toilet roll tower to vent. The girl did not seem to notice; she carried on with her joyful description. She glanced up watching Daciana pick paper from her hands asking what stories she would tell.
The scent of barbecued chicken made mouths water, summoning the children. Patrick handed plates to everyone, watching as Daciana slumped on her heels. Food continued to give Daciana a stomach ache; she hated mealtimes. Eating with her family was alright; they knew her struggles. He popped her food back under the barbecue to keep it warm. It was difficult not knowing how to help her. The doctor’s tested a variety of scenarios. They ruled out allergies, disease and other complications. The final solution involved bland food and high-calorie supplement drinks. Daciana would pull a face, sticking out her tongue. Patrick wanted to snatch the drink and pour it down the drain. If he could hold her until the pain disappeared, things could still be ok. Watching his daughter cry tore him up inside, but he had to encourage her to eat something.
After dinner, Daciana watched Luliana and friends do their homework. They were discussing math, Daciana’s favourite subject. They were stuck, but Daciana’s voice lodged in her throat as she listened. She approached, fighting the urge to cry or yell as the other children shuffled away from her. They accepted Daciana’s knowledge with a degree of reluctance. As she settled, they implied her usefulness was complete. She sulked away, her head down and gaze narrowed as they said goodbye.
When the parents arrived, Daciana watched another girl grab Luliana’s homework. She skipped towards the gate, cocking her head and crossing her arms as Daciana stepped in front. The girl had no intention of admitting to stealing Luliana’s homework. Daciana shoved her hard, knocking her to the path. As the girl sobbed, clutching her grazed arm, Daciana grabbed the bag, pulling out the stolen book. Luliana could have all the friends she wanted, but no one could mess with her except Daciana.