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This story was conceived and is set prior to 2020
I got a call one evening from my sister, Mia. “Hey, Jackson! Congratulate me!”
I couldn’t help smiling at my sister’s exuberant voice. “Congratulate you for what?”
“I’ve been offered a new job! An analyst position for a big corporation. Their building is only a few blocks from yours.”
“Well, congratulations! Tell me all about it.”
Mia told me about the job, which sounded like a big step up over her current job. She was very excited about it, but then again Mia was the sunny, easily excited type.
As we talked, I wondered why she had called me to tell me that she had been offered it. We weren’t that close. She was three years younger than me and had annoyed the hell out of me growing up. Once I had a job and permanently moved out of the house, we had gotten along better but we mainly communicated with each other through Mom.
I asked, “So, are you going to take the job?”
Mia’s voice turned serious. “Weeelll, it depends on you.”
“I don’t like driving in heavy traffic. I don’t know how you handle driving downtown every day like you do. Driving down for the interview, I almost turned around because I hated the traffic so much. But after the interview, I realized your building is close to theirs. Would you be willing to drive me to and from work?”
This floored me. My sister taking a much better job was dependent on me?
I asked, “How would this work?”
“I’d drive over to your apartment in the morning, arriving when you’d normally leave. You’d drive us downtown, then drop me off at my building on the way to yours. Reverse in the evening. I’ll pay for half of your commuting costs.”
That sounded reasonable. Still, I didn’t want to be responsible for getting my sister to work every day. “You live a good thirty minutes from me.”
“My lease is up at the end of the month. Nathan doesn’t care much for my apartment.” Nathan was Mia’s boyfriend, and they had recently started living together. “We’ll find an apartment closer to you.”
“What if I have to work late? I work late once every week or two.”
“Then I’ll work late too. Or I’ll walk around downtown for a while. Just call me in the afternoon if you have to work late.”
I didn’t want to say yes, but I felt like I’d be a total dick to say no. “Okay. I’ll drive you to work.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, Jackson!” My sister sounded over the moon. “You don’t know how happy this makes me! You’re the best brother ever!”
I smiled. It warmed my heart to make my sister so happy. “And you don’t have to pay me anything. It’s not like taking you to work will cost me anything.”
“Wow! I really appreciate it. I’m going to go call Nathan and then Mom. Thanks so much! You’re so wonderful!”
* * * *
Monday a few weeks later, my sister was waiting for me when I got to my car. I had never seen her dressed for work before, and I was struck by how professional she looked. She was wearing a white, button-down-the-front cotton blouse and gray skirt that came down to her knees. Very basic and simple, flattering her slim body without overly emphasizing her curves. Her three inch heels cut our height difference almost in half. With her pretty, smiling face and her short, dark blond hair, my sister looked like the stock photo of a young businesswoman.
I unlocked the car, and we both got in. Once we were seated, Mia handed me a brightly wrapped box and said, “A thank you for driving me.”
I smiled, strongly suspecting what she had given me. I collected Pez dispensers, mostly Star Wars and Marvel. They were what my family gave me for my birthday and Christmas; it beat getting a gift card or a sweater.
When I started to open the present, Mia slapped my hand and said lightly, “Not now. We’ve got to get to work. I don’t want you to be late because of me.”
I gave my sister a questioning look, but she seemed to be serious. I handed her back the present and started the car.
As I backed out of the parking spot, Mia said, “Besides, I want you to spend all day wondering which one I got you.”
* * * *
We spent the whole hour-long drive talking. Mia told me about Nathan, and the apartment they were going to move into. I told her about the girl I had just started dating, Ginny. It felt like we hadn’t driven very long at all when I pulled up in front of Mia’s building. I was surprised at how much I had enjoyed having my sister ride with me.
* * * *
Over the next three months, carpooling with Mia worked out better than I expected. I really enjoyed talking with her. When I had to work late, Mia found things to do until I was ready to go. Given how well we were getting along, I happily volunteered to help her and Nathan move into their new apartment.
Every week, Mia gave me a gift of some sort as a thank you for taking her to work. After I helped move her and Nathan move into their apartment, Mia insisted I give her a key to my apartment. The gifts became a casserole in my refrigerator or Bahçelievler Escort a cleaned bathroom. Mia never told me what the gift was. If it was a present, I had to wait until I got back home before opening. If it was something she did in my apartment while I was out with Ginny, I’d have to wait until I got home to find out what it was. Her love of surprising me was ironic as she didn’t like surprise changes.
And then both our lives fell apart. I got a new boss, Janice, and she was the Boss From Hell. She worked long hours and demanded all of her employees do the same. Suddenly, I was working late every night, and many weekends. At first, I tried to keep going on dates with Ginny during the week, but it super pissed her off that I was constantly late or had to cancel. Nathan didn’t like Mia getting home late. Mia tried commuting by herself a few times, hated it, and told Nathan he’d have to accept that she’d be home late, and he’d have to make his own dinner during the week.
A few months into Janice’s reign of terror, Ginny broke up with me. A month later, Mia broke up with Nathan. I helped move Mia into a two-bedroom apartment that she shared with a woman named Maria. Whatever furniture Mia didn’t take with her, I wound up buying from her and Nathan. I felt guilty about being the cause of their break up. Mia said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s better I found these things out about Nathan before we got too serious.”
“I don’t want to discuss it. It got scary, and I had to get out. I still don’t want to think about it.”
* * * *
A week later, Mia was waiting for me by the car with one of the boxes from her recent move. It was taped shut. I asked, “What’s in that?”
“A surprise.” Mia put it in my back seat. “Take it to your office. I’ll open it for you tonight.”
Mia had made a habit of getting us dinner before coming over to my building. I’d sign her in, we’d eat dinner together in a conference room close to my office, and then she’d hang out there until I was ready to go. So, I’d have to have the box in my office the whole day with no idea of what’s in it.
Mia also put in the back seat a big, insulated lunch box. It was about half the size of the moving box. I asked, “Another surprise for tonight?”
Mia gave me a smirk. “You got it.”
I shrugged. Whatever the surprises were, I knew they’d be good ones.
She also had a small bag. I asked, “Is that a gym bag or another surprise?”
“A gym bag. My company has a five-thirty aerobics class. I thought I’d start attending now that I know I’ll be staying late almost every night.”
I wasn’t very talkative as we drove downtown. Mia asked me, “You’re so quiet. What’s bothering you?”
I had been kind of hoping she’d ask. “A friend called me last night. He had seen Ginny at what had been our favorite restaurant holding hands with some guy.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Mia said in the perfect way, full of caring and not condescending. She gave me a small pat on the shoulder and said, “It’s been a while, but I’m sure it still hurt. I miss Nathan at times.”
“Thanks.” I meant it. Mia had made me feel a lot better. “And thanks for not giving me a you’ll-find-a-new-girl-soon speech.” To inject some levity, I added, “If Janice is going to have us work all these hours, she should do things to encourage office romances.”
Picking up on my new tone, Mia grinned and asked, “Such as…?”
“She should set up a cube with high walls and a door that two coworkers could slip into for a little fun. I might get some action if we had one.”
Mia giggled. “And do what, put a ‘Janitor Closet’ sign on it? With a little sign you could flip over that says, ‘The Janitor Is In’ when you’re using it and ‘The Janitor Is Out’ when it’s free.”
I chuckled. “Maybe ‘Presentation Supplies’ instead of ‘Janitor Closet’.”
We discussed different possible room labels and their corresponding signs to indicate if they were in use or not. Mia did a lot of giggling. My mood brightened considerably.
I’ve known a few women who were nervous gigglers. I found them so annoying. My sister’s giggles weren’t like that. Her giggles were her way of saying she was having fun with me; they were an encouragement to continue being silly or witty. When I heard her giggle, I couldn’t help smiling.
Mia changed the subject by saying, “I was always disappointed your Ginny didn’t have red hair. I think there should be a law that all Ginnys have to have red hair because people can’t help picturing them as redheads because of Ginny Weasley.”
I laughed. “I suggested to Ginny several times she dye her hair red. If you’re going to use the name ‘Ginny’, you should look the part.” I chuckled at the memory. “It pissed her off every time.”
Mia cracked up. When she was done laughing, she asked me seriously, “What would you think if I dyed my hair red?”
I shot my sister a questioning look. “You don’t need to.”
“But I want to. My hair color is so boring. I’d think it’d be fun to be a redhead. At least for Bahçelievler Escort Bayan a while. See if it gets guys’ attention.”
“If you want to get guys’ attention, start wearing shorter skirts.”
My sister shoved my shoulder. “I don’t want that type of attention. I want guys looking at my face, not at my legs. Or my butt.”
* * * *
Around seven, Mia surprised me by suddenly appearing at my desk. I asked, “How did you get past security?”
Mia smiled and then gave me a saucy look. She was clearly pleased with herself. “I’ve been buying a cookie when I buy us dinner and giving it to the security guard when I arrive. Today, I gave him two cookies I baked last night. He told me he’d sign me in, and I could go up.”
I couldn’t help chuckling at her latest victory over life’s little challenges. “You’ve got him wrapped around your little finger now.”
Mia put her hand on the back of her head and struck a pose. “Men are suckers for pretty girls bearing cookies.” She dropped the pose and laughed with me.
I thought it might have been Mia’s clothes that got her past the guard. She was wearing a gray t-shirt, gray shorts and long black leggings. Not a lot of skin exposed, but her clothing was tight enough that you could see all of my sister’s curves. Definitely eye catching.
When she was done laughing, she walked over to the box she had given me in the morning, which was on the edge of my desk. She said to me, “Scissors, please.”
As I opened a drawer and got out my scissors, I said, “Several people asked me what was in the box.”
“What’d you tell them?”
“That my apartment complex has started charging for trash pick up, so I decided to bring my trash to work instead and I’ll give it to the janitor when she shows up.”
Mia giggled. “And did they believe you?”
“No. But it was my story, and I stuck to it.”
Mia cut through the strapping tape she had put on the box, opened it, and took out a big, stainless steel electric wok. She reached back in and pulled out its cord.
“A wok?” I asked in amazement.
“Yes. I’ve gained enough weight since I began having fast food almost every work night that some of my clothes are getting tight. I decided to start cooking my dinner here instead of buying fast food.” She held up her insulated lunch box. “Dinner ready to be cooked.”
I thought for a moment and then said, “Let’s go up a floor and use the break room there.”
My sister gave me a confused look as I stood up, but she didn’t say anything. I put the wok and its cord back in the box, and we walked to the elevator. Once we were in the elevator alone, Mia asked, “Why go up a floor?”
“I don’t know if it’s okay to cook with something besides the microwave in the break room. Everyone in my department is still here, so someone might complain about us cooking. Hopefully almost everyone on the next floor is gone.” The elevator doors opened, and we strode towards the break room. “So, what are you going to cook?”
Mia gave me a smirk. “You’ll see in a minute.”
When we got to the break room, Mia plugged in the wok. She then unzipped her lunch box and pulled out a big storage container. “Stir fry vegetables.” She pulled out a container that was full of a dark liquid. “Sauce.” She pulled out a small container. “Oil”. She pulled out one more container. “Tofu”.
“Yes, tofu.” She poured the oil into the wok and then added the tofu. “Someone at work has been eating vegetarian for a year now. She’s been telling me she’s lost a lot of weight since switching to vegetarian and she feels so much better.” Mia moved the tofu around in the wok.
The tofu looked very unappealing to me. Like cream cheese trying to pretend to be meat. I said, “What if I don’t want to eat tofu?”
Mia shrugged. “I’m making my dinner. I’ll make enough for two. If you don’t want to have some, you can have something delivered.”
Mia was acting nonchalant, but I suspected she really wanted me to eat the tofu and veggies. She didn’t like eating alone, and I didn’t want to abandon her by ordering dinner.
“I’ll give it a try. No promises.” Mia gave me a guarded smile. I decided to change the subject by asking, “How was your day?”
“Great!” said Mia enthusiastically. “Deion showed me how to use slicers in Excel. I had never used that feature before.” Mia explained what slicers were and how they would make some of her work so much easier, and then about how helpful Deion and the other people in her department were. My sister loved learning new job skills. In her prior job, she had felt like a glorified data entry clerk. Mia was very career oriented and had told me during our commutes about new positions she was going to pursue at her company once she had more experience and skills.
Eventually, Mia put the tofu and vegetables onto two plastic plates. She gave me one and a fork, then took a bite of hers. I steeled myself as I took my first bite.
After a couple of bites, I said, “This is good.”
Mia gave me an unconvinced stare.
I Escort Bahçelievler said defensively, “All right…it’s okay. I like it enough to finish it.” I added appreciatively, “It’s nice having a home-cooked meal, and it’s much better than something I could microwave here.”
That got me a warm smile.
We didn’t say anything more. Once I cleared my plate, Mia asked, “Do you think I could store my wok here?”
“If we can find an empty space, I don’t see why not.” I opened a cabinet above the counter and the top shelf was empty. “Let’s store it there. If someone pitches it, I’ll buy you a new one and keep it at my desk.”
“Sounds like a plan. Now, go back to work while I clean up.”
* * * *
Mia was all giggly when we started driving home. Finally, she said, “I can’t believe I got you to eat tofu. Eat it and like it.”
I shrugged defensively. “It wasn’t on my list of things I wanted for dinner, but I was willing to give it a serious try because it had a secret sauce.”
“A secret sauce?”
“That you had made it. I know you’re a great cook, and I trust you.”
After a few moments, Mia said a heartfelt “Thanks.” Then Mia added lightly, “I never would have gotten Nathan to eat tofu.”
“I appreciate you choosing to cook for me. Beggars can’t be choosers. If you want to go vegetarian, I’ll suck it up and eat vegetarian even if I’m not thrilled about it. It’ll still be much better than eating some microwave meal like my coworkers do.”
Mia was quiet for a while before eventually asking, “How was your day?”
“Bad,” I said bitterly. “Stupid bad.”
I shook my head in disgust. “We had a departmental meeting today. Last month’s metrics were down. They had gotten better each month since Janice took over, and she was upset about the backslide.”
“She wanted to know why our metrics were down.”
“And did someone say everyone was burnt out from working long hours?”
I smiled at my sister hitting the nail on the head. “No. But someone did suggest hiring one or two more people to help with the workload.”
“What did Janice say to that?”
“We don’t need more people. We just need to work smarter.”
Mia asked cautiously, “What did you think of her answer?”
“I found it insulting. Like I was intentionally working dumb before and needed Janice to prod me to work smarter.” A bad taste rose in my mouth. “Some suggestions were made, and most of the meeting was squabbling about whether they were good ideas or not. And at the end, Janice said she wants us to work more hours.”
* * * *
From then on, Mia would text me when she got to my building, and I’d meet her in the break room on the floor above.
One Friday night, I walked into the break room as Mia was unloading the items for dinner. I asked, “How’s it going?”
Mia was wearing her usual post-workout clothes. At some point, I had started checking out my sister’s body when I joined her in the break room. Her back was always to me. I wasn’t checking her out like I’d check out some woman walking down the street. I mean, she was my sister. I was just keeping myself appraised as to the results of her exercising and eating vegetarian. And the results were very, very nice.
When Mia turned around, she asked, “Do you like it?”
“Like w—” I suddenly noticed that my sister’s hair was now a dark red. I embarrassingly realized that my eyes had never made it above her waist.
Mia’s face fell. I could tell that I hurt her by not noticing her new hair color. I tried to cover my screw up by asking, “Were you asking about your hair color or your hair style?”
Mia’s face brightened. “Mainly the color. The style didn’t change that much.”
“I like it.” I moved around to look at my sister from several angles. “The color is very vibrant and really brings out the blue in your eyes.” I looked a little more. “Your hair has enough color variation to look natural.”
Mia gave me a grateful smile. “Oh, great! I did it at lunch today.” She gently touched her hair. “One of the many advantages of working downtown is that the top-notch hair salons are close by.” My sister looked uncertain. “It looks so different. I’m not used to it. It looks so wrong to me when I look at myself in the mirror. My female coworkers loved it, but they could have been just being nice.”
I gripped my sister by her shoulders and held her at arm’s length. “It looks wonderful on you. It really suits you. Before, you were pretty. Now, you’re a heartbreaker.”
I let go of my sister. She looked down bashfully for a few moments, and then returned to cooking. I moved to her right and was looking at her side as she cooked. She said, “I was really hoping the man in my life would like it.”
That was an odd phrase. I bent forward so I could see her face as she cooked. “The man in your life?”
“You’re my brother and all that, but you’re also the guy I talk to the most.” She paused there, and I felt like she had more to say so I stayed bent forward. Mia also bent forward as she stirred the contents of the wok. As I waited, my eyes were drawn to her chest. Mia was wearing a polo shirt which was tight enough on her that it emphasized her tits, and she had enough buttons undone at the collar to show an appealing amount of skin. If she bent forward a little more, I’d be able to see her bra.
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