‘Read-aloud”

“Stop it, Sia. You are talking too loudly.” The stuffy room hissed with the humidifier huffing and puffing.

“Well, it is called read-aloud for a reason. In case you were not clear.” Kavya reached for the teacup perched on the nightstand. The bedroom they still shared as young teenagers living separate lives conjoined at the hip.

“Haha! You are hilarious. I mean use your indoor voice. I am sick, not hard of hearing.” Sia adjusted her tired head on the pillow hoping to feel comfortable.

“Oh!”, Kavya sheepishly smiles and continued, “I’m an orphan. Sai whispered to herself, resting in the infirmary. My parents are dead. I am an orphan.”

“Wait, we already read that page. I thought we were reading about Jemu leaving for England. Are you reading it right? You know it is impolite to read the wrong pages to a sick person. It is downright cruelty.”

“Shut it! We were on page 31.”  

“No, we were on 41. Are you kidding me, you have gone back? We will never finish the book. I have to write a book report, Sia. And submit it next week. Like for real.” Sia rubbed her forehead with the tip of her fingers trying to smooth out the aching nerves.

“No, we were on 31 when you started screaming at me.”

“Nooooooo.” Followed by a loud dry cough. A cough that could break the zeal of any existing virus. “Show me the book. aaarrgghhh, I hate being sick.”

“No way. You are touching the book with your virus-infected hands.” Kavya’s naïve expressions turned raw and stern clutching the book to her chest like it was her baby being snatched by a stranger.

“We are literally sitting together. I literally have my virus-infected head in your lap, Sia. What about you?”

“Well, my clothes get washed regularly. Do you remember the woman we call MOM? She washes everything. We cannot wash a book.”

“We can use a disinfectant.”

“No way.” The look of fear on Kavya’s face surprised Sia, a little.

“How about a cleaning wet wipe?”

“Not even baby wet wipes. The feel and smell of the book will disappear. What is wrong with you? You know all this. Is the virus affecting your brain now?”

“Shut it. We will just spray with a sanitizer. Or we can sterilize it with hydrogen peroxide. The book will not stay infected with my virus.”

“Viruses eventually die, but using cleaning wipes or disinfectants helps fasten the process. So I assure you the book is safe. Now give it to me.” Sia’s hands were shaking but she was determined to prove her big sister wrong.

“Aaarrrghhg..then why am I sitting next to you?”

“Because you offered to read me the book so I can write my book report. And believe it or not, because you love me.”

“Oh ya! So where were we? Page twenty…”

“Wait a minute. Did you pay the bill for Netflix? It was supposed to be on automatic payment. Did you sign up for that? We were still on season 1 of ‘Dark’. I don’t know if we will ever finish that show. It is soooooo good but so slow.”

“Just like kissing! Slow and smooth. So good that you don’t want to stop. But then you have to because mom keeps calling asking where you are? And you are unable to concentrate on the act of kissing.”

“Oooohhh……Kavya and Dev sitting in a tree..Ki S S I N G.”

“Excuse me, sitting UNDER a tree. We are not monkeys.”

“The way you kiss, you both look like monkeys.”

“Yuck! Pervert, when did you see us kiss?”

“I am your sister. I know you look like a monkey in sneakers.”

“Dev says I’m the best kisser. And so is he. We are perfect together.”

“He is the only one you have ever kissed. So …it does not matter what you both think. Idiots.”

“And how many have you kissed to know who the best kisser is?”

“Enough to know that none of them are good kissers. I am too good for them.”

“Fine, then I won’t be performing the act of reading aloud to you anymore.”

“Nooooooo. Please I have to finish it and write my book report.”

“Wait I thought it was a book review.”

“Just read. And don’t let me fall asleep.” Sia snuggled under the blanket closing her eyes.

“Nope, I won’t.”

“Please, Kavya! I need you.”

Kavya was quiet and angry. The kinds when she shuts down for hours with no profound words to be heard.

“Kavya, did you know, no one knows for sure what color dinosaurs were.” Dinosaurs was the safest topic when it came to getting Kavya’s attention. Her childhood obsession was still intact turning her into an adorable nerd.

“I told you that.”

“See, I need you, Kavya. Please do not stop reading.”

Fine, so where were we? Page thirty one…”

“NOOOOOOOO”

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