Jeremy couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, just because his older sister Michelle was probably about to get married. He was, of course, glad in a way, because it meant he could have her room. Also, he had hopes her future husband would be like a brother to him. Jeremy needed that. He felt like he’d been dominated by women and girls his whole life. He was the youngest and the only boy in a family of four girls. Michelle, the next youngest, was five years older than he was and had been his chief baby-sitter as he grew up.
There was a time when they hadn’t gotten along. It began when Jeremy was eight years old and lasted for five years, until Michelle went off to college. During that time, Jeremy resented being ordered around by Michelle. “You’re not my mother,” he used to say.
After Michelle left for college, Jeremy and Michelle didn’t see each other much. But at least when she came home for Christmas her freshman year, she was sort of nice to him. That was a big improvement over what it had been.
Now, after two years at college, Michelle was about to be engaged. When she brought Christopher Kent home to meet the family, Jeremy had never seen her act so strange. When she saw Jeremy, she tousled his hair like they were, … well, brother and sister, which, technically of course, they were.
“Christopher Kent, huh?” Jeremy said. “Are you any relation to Clark? Are you like Superman in disguise? Can you leap buildings?”
“Don’t mind Jeremy,” Michelle said quickly.
“That’s all right,” Christopher said. “People say that to me all the time.”
Jeremy felt bad for Christopher because he could tell Michelle was putting on this big act to make him think she was a nice person. But Jeremy knew better.
“Has she ever grabbed your ear and pinched it when she wants you to do something?” Jeremy asked Christopher.
“Well, no, actually she hasn’t,” Christopher said slowly.
“She used to do that to me all the time. It really hurts.”
“I used to baby-sit Jeremy when he was little,” Michelle said with a pained smile on her face.
“She was really mean to me,” Jeremy added.
For one brief instant the old fire returned. “You deserved it, Jeremy.”
“What did I do?” Jeremy asked, trying his version of an angelic smile.
Jeremy was baiting Michelle to see if she’d lose her cool. He wanted Christopher to see the mean Michelle who had tormented him so much when he was younger.
Fortunately for her, Michelle displayed unusual self-control. “It wasn’t much, really, just little things,” she said with a kindly smile.
“You mean like the time I reset the timer when you were in the backyard trying to get a tan, so you got a real bad sunburn just before the junior prom?”
For Christopher’s benefit, Michelle smiled and said, “Jeremy always liked to play little jokes on me.”
For the rest of the evening, Michelle kept Christopher away from Jeremy. But Jeremy had a plan. He waited until Christopher had gone to the guest bedroom for the night, and then he went to the door and knocked.
Christopher opened the door.
“We need to talk,” Jeremy said.
“All right. Come in.”
“Actually, I was thinking maybe I could talk better if you took me out and bought me something to eat.”
“Really? Well, all right.”
“I’m kind of in the mood for pancakes,” Jeremy said.
It was not until he had finished one stack of pancakes at the all-you-can-eat pancake house that Jeremy began to talk seriously with Christopher. “Are you going to marry my sister?”
“Yes. We’re going to announce it in a couple of weeks, so don’t tell anyone. Okay?”
“That’s what I thought. See, the thing is, I don’t understand why you’d want to marry Michelle.”
“I’m in love with her.”
Jeremy shook his head. “That is so weird. Why would you want to marry Michelle? There’s lots more girls out there.”
“She’s beautiful and talented and …”
Jeremy stopped Christopher. “Hold on. You think she’s beautiful?”
“Yes, don’t you?”
“She used to spread this gunk on her face at night. I think it was made from guacamole. And she used to hang all this stuff to dry in the bathroom. It was like I had to hack my way through a jungle sometimes just to get in there to brush my teeth.”
Christopher laughed. “Really? You know, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be happy we’re having this little conversation.”
“Do you think she’s a nice person?” Jeremy asked.
“She’s not, not really. Oh, sure, she puts on this big act for you, but you should have seen the way she treated me when I was little. She called me a little brat.”
“And you never did anything to earn that title?”
Jeremy smiled, “Well, maybe once or twice.”
“I thought so.”
“You’re a normal guy, aren’t you? I mean, you like football and basketball and pizza, right?”
“Did you play any sports in high school?”
“Really? I play soccer.”
“There you go then.”
“Did you go on a mission?” Jeremy asked.
“That’s good. I’d want the guy who marries Michelle to have served a mission.”
“Are you going to serve a mission?”
“I guess so.”
“Good for you. It was the best thing I ever did.”
“Are you going to marry my sister in the temple?” Jeremy asked.
“Do you know what getting married in the temple means?”
“It means forever.”
Jeremy paused for a minute trying to let his mind grasp the concept of eternity. “This is so weird. I don’t understand any of this. I mean one day she goes off to college, and the next she’s back here about to get married.”
“People change,” Christopher said.
“I guess so. I just wasn’t ready for it, that’s all.”
They had finished eating. Christopher paid the bill, and they walked out to the car.
“Can I ask you a question?” Jeremy asked as they pulled onto the street.
“You will treat her okay, won’t you?” Jeremy asked.
“I will, Jeremy, I promise.”
“The reason I asked is … well, even though we didn’t always get along, she is my sister, and she wasn’t mean to me all the time. Sometimes she helped me a lot. Like I could ask her questions about things that were happening in school. She’d gone through it all before, so she knew a lot of things. She helped me know what teachers to get, and what to say when people were trying to get me to make some bad choices. One time she went to one of my games, and I really messed up and lost the game, but she stuck up for me in front of the whole team. Then she took me out and bought me something to eat, and we sat in the car and talked, and she said I’d done my best and that’s all that mattered. One time when I got kicked out of class for talking back to one of the teachers, she came to my room and just listened to me, and she didn’t say I’d done wrong. She just listened to me. That meant a lot to me, but I never told her … but I should’ve … and now you’re going to take her away … just when we were starting to get along. But see, the thing is, I still need her.”
“I’m not taking her to Mars. She’ll still be around. You can still ask her advice.”
“But she’ll be an old married lady.”
“She’ll still be your sister, no matter what. She’ll still love you.”
Jeremy gasped. “You think she loves me?”
“I know she does. She talked about you on the first date we ever had.”
“What did she say about me?”
“She told me about the time in high school when she had a date, and you went out and changed the number on your house, so the guy drove around for an hour trying to find your place.”
Jeremy smiled, “Yeah, those were the good old days.”
“Jeremy, I think you need to tell her how much she means to you.”
“I could never do that.”
“She’d have a heart attack or something,” Jeremy said.
“I think you ought to risk it.”
“What would I say?” Jeremy asked.
“Just tell her what you told me.”
Jeremy thought about it. “I guess I could do that.”
They drove back home.
“Do you think I’ll ever be like you?” Jeremy asked.
“I’m sure you will.”
“This is so weird.”
“It’s not weird. It happens all the time. Let’s go in and get Michelle up so you can talk to her.”
“Tonight,” Jeremy asked, feeling himself getting panicky.
“It has to be tonight. We’re leaving in the morning.”
Jeremy felt nervous. “I’m not sure how to do this.”
“Just do it the same way you did with me.”
Fifteen minutes later, Jeremy and his sister left to go get some pancakes. After that night it was months before Jeremy could look another pancake in the eye.
But at least he finally told his sister he loved her.