All of Ashele’s friends had big brothers.
The trend when they’d been born was to select for a son first, and then a daughter, and then chose the third based on either the stars, one’s profession, or, least likely, one’s personal choice.
Ashele’s parents were Small Landers and Blue Hats – but not Les Chapeaux Bleus, or Ashele wouldn’t have been able to go to a normal school or have mostly-normal friends – and they’d gone natural on gender choice, leading to first Ashele and then one younger sister, Katina. This left both Ash and Kat at a decided disadvantage in dealing with, well, everything.
When the bigger boys bothered Jacque or Bradelli or Miko, their big brothers would jump in. When they needed help with homework, their big brothers would be there. When they needed inappropriate advice for dealing with authority figures, Gary or Deandro or Eder would be there to do whatever needed doing.
Ashele did everything she could do help Katina out, to be her little sister’s big brother. She got pretty good at fighting, punching, and, most of all, running away. She got even better at homework, and okay at bad advice. But she always wanted a big brother to help her with all that stuff.
She couldn’t have one – her parents weren’t willing to adopt one, and they couldn’t turn back time and do things properly – so she starting making one up.
Tall, taller than Gary or Deandro or Eder. Strong. Sports type. Able to block punches like in her favorite kung-fu movies.
Handsome. Other boys’ little sisters would want to date him. They’d be nice to Ashele to get closer to her brother. She could handle that.
When she got her nose broken defending Katina, she pictured him holding the hanky for her, instead of Eder. When she lost a shoe running away from another bully, she pictured him catching up with her and giving her shoe back. First dance, she imagined what he’d tell her in place of her parents’ awkward advice. When the boy got too annoying, and she had to punch him, she imagined her brother punching him instead.
And so it went. On her graduation day, when her parents were busy with a Blue Hat rally and couldn’t make it, she imagined him sitting there next to Katina, cheering for her.
She’d pictured him for almost ten years now, but when she looked up and saw him there, it was still a shock. Tall, handsome, hugging Katina close as he waved at her.
The principal caught her as she tripped. She was pretty sure nobody else noticed the brother she wasn’t supposed to have, but the principal, Mr. Ankay, whispered something in her ear as he passed her the diploma.
“You and I need to have a talk.”
The big brother was gone by the time she got off the stage, but Ashele had a feeling things had only started getting weird.
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