The Almost Sisters Page 1

Author: Joshilyn Jackson

Genres: Fiction


My son, Digby, began at exactly 3:02 in the morning on the first Friday in June. I don’t mean his conception or his birth. I mean the moment he began for me, which happened between those two larger events. It was a start so small I almost didn’t notice. I was very, very busy panicking about my job.

I’d finished penciling and inking a limited series for DC Comics, the last contract standing between me and the prequel to my own graphic novel, Violence in Violet. Every word and every line of Violence in Violet had been written and penciled and lettered and inked and colored by me. I was proud as hell of it, but I hadn’t continued it as a series. I couldn’t. V in V ended in a full apocalypse. Literally nothing could happen next in Violence’s world, because there was no next. Everything was over, and it stayed over until Dark Horse Comics came to me with the offer for a prequel. They wanted Violence’s origin story.

Every superbeing has one. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, Bruce Banner is caught in a blast of gamma radiation. Dark Horse wanted the story of how Violence came to be.

I said yes near instantly, excited at the prospect. It was a backdoor route into my own invented world, the chance to work with my own characters again. For the first time as a professional, I’d have full creative control over the script as well as the art. I was thrilled, even. Right up until I actually had to do it.

I loved Violence—as much as anyone can love a sharp-toothed, purple, vigilante cannibal—but I’d never explained what she was or where she came from, even to myself. She was simply a busty force with crazy eyes and silver thigh boots, acting out a bloody revenge fantasy that spoke to anyone who’d ever had their heart jerked out and stomped flat. Now I had to know how she began. I’d signed a paper promising I’d know, and comic-book artists don’t miss deadlines.

I always got my best ideas at bedtime, drifting in and out of sleep, the membrane between my conscious mind and the black and salty marshes of my undermind grown thin and permeable. In my industry, pictures shaped story, and pictures were my jumping-off point. I closed my eyes and waited for colors that had no name to splash into shapes on my inner eyelids, forming images that would become the panels. But I couldn’t fall into that deep green swampland of near sleep where all the best ideas were born. When I closed my eyes, all I saw was my deadline. It felt like it was coming way too fast. Coming at me, even, and with bad intentions.

I thumped my pillow and rolled onto my side, and there he was. He started. Digby.

I knew he existed before that middle-of-the-night in June, of course. Intellectually speaking. I’d had a small, almost casual suspicion back in March, when my period pulled a no-show. That was a couple weeks after I’d been a featured artist at a comic-book convention in Atlanta and that whole debacle had happened with a Batman. So, technically speaking, it was possible. Barely.

But I was thirty-eight years old, not some hyperfertile twenty-something who could catch pregnant like it was a cold. Skips and late starts are my new normal, I told myself when I hit ten days late. I had to stop by CVS for razors anyway. I threw a Coke and a pregnancy test into my basket. I drank the first on the way home, where I used the second.

I leaned against the sink, waiting out the timer. The test itself was resting on the back of the toilet, in plain sight, on top of a tissue. I didn’t peek, though. I kept my gaze trained on the pair of steampunk fishes I’d hung up on the wall over the tub. A local artist had made them out of “found objects,” which was art-fart talk for trash. Chipped and rusty gears, nails, springs, and bits of broken tools had found a second life as fishes on my wall. I’d always liked them, but now it felt like they were staring back at me. They had very round eyes made from bits of vintage telescopes and fat rubber-tubing mouths that turned down.

“Oh, shut up,” I told them. I’d never realized that fish were so judgmental.

Two minutes later I was looking at a pink plus sign.

I stood there squinting as if my eyes had gone wonky and were seeing wrong. I was in the outsize master bathroom that, along with the skylight studio upstairs, had made me fall in love with my funky Georgian house. Now the room seemed cavernous; if I yelled, it might echo. The test’s pink packaging looked frivolous sitting on my sink, much too silly to be the bearer of real tidings.

I didn’t want to go to my regular lady-parts doc, as if I had a UTI or needed to schedule a Pap smear. Instead I called my friend Margot Phan.

“Can you give me an emergency appointment? Now?” I asked. She and her husband had been in my tight-knit clot of Tuesday gamers for twelve years now, but I’d never been to see her as a doctor. She was a pediatrician.

“My waiting room is stuffed with snot-filled toddlers. I’m on yellow alert here, Leia,” she told me.

“I’m past yellow. This is a big, fat, blaring red,” I told her. “You see teenage girls, right? You can check for if I’m pregnant?”

“Oh, shit!” said Margot. “Batman? Are you kidding me? Come right now.”

Margot installed me in a tiny exam room with puffy cartoon forest animals all over the wallpaper. She did another pee test, which was positive, and then at my insistence took the world’s most awkward look at my cervix.

“Leia, honey. You are knocked up,” she told me.

“All the way up?” I asked, even though Margot was one of my closest friends. She wouldn’t screw with me on something medical. But this still felt like some elaborate prank, as if she were about to pop up between my thighs while my feet were in the stirrups, holding a waffle iron and saying, Look what I found! “Maybe you should do a blood test?”

“That would be gratuitous. Much like this,” Margot said, standing and heading for the door. I sat up, clutching the sheet around me. “Get dressed and then come to my office, okay? Let’s talk. You’re not in this alone.”

I was so gobsmacked that for a second I thought she meant that I had Batman on my side. The real thing. Not a one-shot superhero in an Etsy cowl named Matt or Mark. Or Marcus. I couldn’t quite remember.