“Quit looking at me,” Mindy said from her side of the couch.
“I’m not doing anything,” Kris replied defensively. She sat on the opposite end of the couch, as far from her big sister as possible.
At 17 years old Mindy had never needed much inspiration to find her 13-year-old sister Kris annoying, but lately life had been generous enough to provide the siblings extra grist for their sibling rivalry.
“You are too,” Mindy said. She was a high school junior, with long brown curls over an especially pretty face that of late usually wore a pouty frown. “I saw you trying to eyeball measure me when I came in, and you keep peeking at my skirt length.”
“I was not,” Kris said. Despite her newly granted status as a teenager she still had a baby face, not helped by her propensity to giggles and love for anything cute. “Wait, did you get smaller?”
Excitedly Kris pulled her legs up onto the couch and turned to Mindy. “Oh my god you did, didn’t you? How much did you lose, an inch? Two inches? Three?”
“Not three inches! I mean…I didn’t shrink at all, you’re imagining things. Just stop looking at me you little creep.”
“Girls, that’s enough.” Looking at her daughters from a reading chair across from the couch, Margaret sighed. Weeks earlier when Mindy had been diagnosed with the shrink virus she had hoped that it would bring her girls closer together, but instead Mindy seemed to tolerate her little sister less with each lost inch.
Kris was right though; Margaret could tell that her eldest daughter was a little shorter than the day before. Three weeks earlier she’d been a healthy 5’7, but today Margaret would estimate her at about 5’ even. Still taller than Kris’ 4’5, but Margaret’s youngest was still a growing girl.
“I didn’t bring you down here for more fighting. Honestly it would be such a relief if you two could get along. You were such lovely little girls, I don’t know when all this fighting started but it has to stop.”
“Sorry mom,” Kris said sweetly.
“Sorry,” Mindy mumbled, crossing her arms and looking away. “But she keeps trying to measure me like I’m a science experiment. It’s none of her business how tall I am.”
“Now Mindy, you have to know that watching their only sister shrink would be fascinating to anyone. It’s not Kris’ fault that she’s interested, you should be glad that your sister cares about you.”
“Well she can stop caring. And besides, I’m not shrinking anymore. I read that most people lose five to twelve inches, and I’ve already lost seven so I’m probably done.”
“So you did get smaller!” Kris said excitedly. “Yesterday you said you were 5’2, that’s the most you ever lost in one day.”
“Well it was just the virus finishing up. And I’m still taller than you shrimp, and even if I’m short at least I don’t look like I’m 8 years old. You’ll probably look like a kid until you’re an old lady.”
Kris’ face crumpled and turned away from Mindy, hugging a couch cushion to her flat chest.
“I give up,” Margaret said and reached into the bag at her feet, pulling out a manila folder. “I just hope that one day Kris gives you a chance to apologize for the things you say, Mindy. But I called you from your rooms to talk about more than my crushed dream of daughters who actually get along.”
“What is that?” Mindy asked curiously. “Is that folder from Dr. Stephan’s office?”
Margaret placed the folder onto the coffee table that sat in between her and her daughters. “Yes dear, they were sent over this morning. They’ve finished analyzing your tests and…well there’s no good way to say this, but…the concentration of the virus in your system hasn’t reduced, it’s actually gotten stronger. Dr. Stephan says that you’ll likely shrink more than the average case.”
Mindy’s jaw dropped open, lost for words for possibly the first time in her life. Fortunately, Kris was ready to fill the void like any good sister. “Oh my god how small is she going to get? There’s a boy at my school who’s only two feet tall, he’s so cute and he lets the girls carry him like a baby. Could she get that small?”
“Kris, give Mindy a moment to process her feelings.”
“Ok ok ok ok,” Kris babbled, a giant smile forming on her face. “Hey, if she gets shorter than me do you think people will think she’s my little sister when I get older? If she gets down to four feet I won’t even be able to stand it, she’d be so cute oh my god!”
“Moooom, why is she even here?” Mindy whined, secretly relieved to be able to distract herself from the news. “Just go to your room Kris, the adults are talking and we don’t need any babies.”
“Nooooo, I want to hear how wimpy you’re gonna get! OWWWW— “
Fed up, Mindy had reached across the couch and punched Kris in the arm, right
in the secret soft spot that all big siblings are taught to hit for maximum effect. Kris nursed her arm as tears welled up in her eyes. “Owwww, I was just teasing,” she whined in a little girl voice.
“Oh Mindy, I truly wish you hadn’t done that. I would have liked Stacy to remember you as a better big sister. Kris is here because this news affects her as well, almost as much as it affects you. Dr. Stephan says that the viral concentration in your system is higher than he’s ever seen, it might even be a new strain. He can’t say exactly where you’ll end up but he’s definite that the shrinking won’t stop until you’re under one foot tall, likely even further.”
Mindy gasped, while Kris looked up from her tears in curious wonder.
Mindy leaned forward, snatching the test results from the coffee table. “No…no that’s impossible. There’s only like 10 people in the world who’ve gotten that small, and no Americans. He’s wrong, the stupid doctors did the test wrong.”
Frantically, Mindy paged through the results, searching for some proof that this was all a sick mistake. Instead she only found page after page of arcane terminology and numbers, what little she could understand confirming her mother’s claim.
“Now I know this must be quite a blow, but try to look on the bright side Mindy. You’re not dying, you’ll still be a beautiful, healthy young woman. You’ll just be a little one, that’s all. And I’m sure your sister will forgive you for your less than charitable moments and be a wonderful owner.”
Kris gagged a moment. “Owner?”
“Well yes, the Shrink Act is very clear. Any persons who reduce to under eighteen inches lose their rights as individuals for their own protection and are assigned to a guardian. That way they’ll have someone who can be responsible for making all the big decisions and keeping them safe. I’ve been reading articles all morning, it’s really much safer this way, without an owner most shrinkers wind up injured or even kidnapped sometimes.”
“But..but owner?” Kris worked her mouth around the word as if she had never heard it before.
“Well Kris, what else would you call it? Mindy won’t be able to have any kind of job, she’ll need your help for meals and clothing and just about every facet of her life. She won’t even be able to use the toilet without you giving her a lift.”
“MOM!” Mindy protested, her attention pulled from the test results by her mother’s reference to her future bathroom needs
“Oh don’t be shy sweety, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You know, I think you and your sister are going to grow a lot closer from all of this, so let’s look at that as the silver lining. Plus you might become a little celebrity, I know you always wanted more followers for your Instagram account. I suppose Kris’ Instagram account now, but I’m sure she’ll let you use it.”
“But why is Kris going to be my owner…guardian? Can’t you do it mom?”
“Now Mindy, do you really want to spend the rest of your life living with your mom? No, you’d be bored to tears, and it would be so embarrassing. With Kris you can see the world, have fun, go to college.”
“I…I can still go to college?” Mindy said hopefully.
“Well…I mean, Kris will go to college and she can take you with her. You’ll get all the fun of being a college girl without having to take the classes, lucky really. Now the matter is settled, the legal papers are being sent over in the morning for you to sign.”
Margaret stood and wiped her hands. “I’ll leave you two, I imagine you have some things to discuss. Now Mindy, don’t look so glum. Just because you weren’t the best big sister doesn’t mean that Kris won’t do a better job, although I’d suggest you start treating her a little nicer. Who knows, maybe it’s not too late to get her to look up to you before that’s not really applicable, you know?”
Gingerly Margaret left the room, satisfied that she’d done her motherly duty. She’d never been the warmest parent but she was actually quite proud of herself as she went upstairs.
Slowly Mindy turned toward Kris, who was staring back at her with wide eyes and a giant grin. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
“Stop it!” Mindy warned.
“But…but..you’re…ohmygodohmygod…” Kris practically hyperventilated, waving her open fingered hands. “What if you get small enough for Barbie clothes!?”
“I said stop it!” Mindy balled her fist up to give her little sister a second whack to the shoulder, then froze her hand mid-punch. Kris flinched and buried her head in the couch cushion, then slowly peeked when the promised pain failed to arrive.
“You don’t want to punch me,” Kris said with the fascination of a scientist who just cracked the formula. “You’re AFRAID to punch me. Because if you do, I might get even with you when you’re teeny tiny!”
“Nuh uh, I just…just decided that it’s not nice to hit someone smaller than me.”
Kris leapt off the couch and pointed at Mindy. “You are too, you’re scared! Oh my god my big sister is scared of me! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!”
“Stop it,” Mindy whined.
“And you’re right, I’m gonna be able to do anything I want!” Kris seemed to be speaking to herself more than Mindy, the light of realization in her eyes. “I can…I can pick out your clothes, and I’ll probably need to keep you in some kind of cage so that bugs and stuff don’t bother you, and maybe when you’re good I’ll give you a treat and spank you when you’re bad! Oh oh oh! If you get down to a few inches I could keep you in my pocket, then you can come with me to school and I could show you off to the other girls!”
“You…you can’t…this isn’t fair!” Mindy yelled and started bawling. She hadn’t cried since she was eleven years old but she cried now, hot ugly tears backed by a phlegmy croak.
“Oh no,” Kris frowned, unsure what to do. Mindy never cried no matter how much of a brat Kris was, she was always too tough for that. Kris looked around for help but found herself alone in the room with her sobbing big sister.
“Hey…hey, it’s ok,” Kris said gently and patted Mindy on the shoulder. Carefully Kris sat down on the couch next to her sister and put her arm around her, feeling Mindy’s body go rigid as soon as she was touched. But to her surprise, instead of shoving her away, Mindy turned and buried her face in Kris’ neck, drenching her hair in warm tears and hot snot.
“It’s ok sweety, I’m here,” Kris cooed, hugging Mindy tight. “I’ll…it’s all gonna be allright, no matter how little you get I’ll take care of you, ok?”
Embarrassed but comforted Mindy slowly regained a little control of herself. “You…you promise?”
“Yeah, I promise.”
“And you won’t get revenge for me being such a crummy big sister?”
“If you start being nice to me right now then I promise to be the best big sister ever.”
Mindy smiled. “And you won’t dress me up in doll clothes or make me do anything embarrassing, or let your friends see me?”
Kris frowned. “I won’t…I mean I probably won’t…Oh c’mon, I’m definitely going to do that. You’ll be so cute I won’t be able to resist, you know me!”
“Uggghhh,” Mindy huffed and pushed Kris away, then stood to her feet and marched off. Moments later she returned to grab the folder of test results off of the table, shot Kris a confused ‘angry but I want another hug’ glare, then stormed to her room.
“And we were having such a nice moment,” Kris said to herself as the door slammed in the distance. Relaxing she pulled her phone out of her pocket and keyed up a group text with her friends.
OMG, best day ever! getting a new baby sister! Anyone have an aquarium I can borrow?