Do you want to know how to completely ruin someone’s week? Tell her that you’re going to be $400 short on your part of the bills that month, and then sit back and watch what happens. It’s a game my sister seems to like a lot lately.
I love Arianna dearly… most of the time. The times when she’s acting like an irresponsible teenager are not among those when I love her. So this week is not going on the list of favorite sister moments… or this month… or this year even.
I don’t know how much money she thinks I make or what my bills are… what I do know is that she just assumes that I will make everything okay. So she tells me that she’s not going to be able to make her portion of the bills this month and expects me to take care of it. And usually I do. Unfortunately, after a year of carrying her, I’m tapped out and extras are not a possibility. In other words, big sister cannot be the hero this time.
I don’t think I’ve ever resented her more than right now. For the most part I’ve convinced myself that I don’t mind that she took a pay cut to do her stint as a student teacher. In the long run it’s going to benefit the entire family, I say to myself. And on most days I believe it. Except when her “sacrifice” cuts into my nonexistent personal finances, which seems to be always these days.
I covered her car payment for her new car over the summer (she bought it just before the floods in June). We made an arrangement when she bought the car, something we negotiated carefully at the car lot as she salivated over the car of her choice. I had already been covering her insurance since she took the teaching job, just over a year ago. So I agreed to pay her car payments and the added insurance on the 2000 Ford Mustang convertible she bought over the summer. In return she was going to give her 1992 Ford Escort to Juan. Because, essentially, I was using money from my saving account to cover her car bills. That money was put aside to buy Juan a car. Juan turned 16 earlier this year and needs transportation.
Anyway, all this was done with the understanding, talked to death understanding, that she was going to take over the bills in September because I wasn’t going to be able to keep paying for them. Because I knew that by September my savings would have run out and there would be no way I cold continue to pay, much as I would like to. And she knew that… SHE KNEW THAT. And, of course, that’s why she tells me that she can’t cover her bills this month.
I just love the way she does it too. On her way out of the house, her car keys in her hand, my mother waiting outside for her, she tells me, with that practiced casual tone of voice, that because she was off for a month because school was out and she’s not getting paid as a full-time teacher yet, that she’s going to only be able to give me half of her part of the bills this month. Anyway, I could pay her part of the rent or her car, but would have to make up the money for the other part. OK? And then she left me standing there, in shock, while she went out with my mother.
I have to hand it to her, she really knows how to make an exit. Arianna doesn’t like confrontations that might show that she’s actually wrong. Don’t get me wrong, she loves a good fight, but only if it looks like she might actually win. This was one fight she would not have won, mostly because she was acting like a selfish brat.
I was so mad I thought I was going to burst a blood vessel. By the time she made it back in to the house I was beyond livid, having sat there and fumed for so long I couldn’t even think straight.
I knew, however, that a full-frontal assault was not the way to go. The last thing I needed to do was make Arianna defensive. If I did that we would never get anywhere. What would happen was she would get mad at me and use that as an excuse to justify her behavior while I still had to make everything work out.
What I did is approach this the way she would… that is, being devious and manipulative. Which meant that I had to calm down and make sure that I didn’t look like I was mad at her. And I had to create a situation where she wouldn’t be in control. Which meant only one thing… I had to get her out of the house.
So I’m driving myself, my mother and Arianna to Wal-Mart, under the guise that I needed to buy nylons and hair spray and other stuff, and I casually ask my mother if Linda had school on that evening. To which, of course, my mother remarks that she does. I knew that, I just needed an intro to the conversation. And I say nothing more.
Arianna being Arianna has to ask why I wanted to know if Linda was at school. She can’t stand not knowing something – it’s just the way she is. And I know that too. To which I reply, still calm and too casual, that I had something to ask her, but would call her the next at work or maybe email her during the day. And say nothing more.
At this point Arianna asks me what I needed from Linda. I mean, what cold I possibly need from our other sister that she doesn’t already know about? Which she doesn’t actually say, but I now that that’s what she’s thinking. At which point I sigh, frustrated at her not dropping the issue, and tell her that I wanted to see if she could let me borrow some money. But I wasn’t really sure if I was going to ask because it would probably be several months before I could pay her back.
And Arianna stays silent. I don’t’ know if she understands that she’s been set up at that moment. What I do know is that she sees that she just dropped a $400 debt on my lap and a few hours later I’m talking about getting a loan from Linda – one thing leads to another. I don’t have the money and she’s just given me another burden.
That’s the last I heard about it. Until much later that evening when my mother came in to my room and let me know that Arianna asked Linda for a loan to cover her expenses that month. Linda can actually afford it because she just got a big settlement from her home insurance policy and has money to burn for a little while. And I didn’t have to figure out what to do and how to do it.
Arianna didn’t broach the subject with me again. But I have a feeling that she’ll be making her payments from now on, or die trying. Subterfuge is such a great thing sometimes.