It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister's BoyfriendBy: Sophie Ranald
I was sitting on the sofa watching Newsnight with Ben when my sister brought home the man I was going to fall in love with. I’d like to say I had a sense of portent or something when I heard two sets of footsteps on the stairs outside. But instead I took another gulp of my tea and carried on half-listening to Jeremy Paxman savaging some Lib Dem MP, and said to Ben, “Sounds like Rose has a bloke in tow.”
We’d been sharing the flat for four years, and generally we got along pretty well – Rose and I, that is, not me and Ben. Rose has what I suppose you’d call an active social life – she often has crowds of her rah friends over for dinner parties or ‘kitchen sups’ (of course I rip the piss out of her mercilessly for thinking she’s the next Nigella Lawson, to which she responds that Nigella’s so last decade – last century, last millennium even, and it’s all about Lorraine Pascale now. And she’s probably right – what would I know?). Anyway alongside the friends there’s been a pretty steady stream of what Rose calls ‘chaps’.
When we first moved in here Rose was going out with Danny, who she met in her final year at uni. He was an upper-class twat and I couldn’t stand him. I still don’t know what Rose saw in him, although he did have a fantastic body, apparently from playing polo. Polo! I ask you. Danny was actually the Honourable Daniel Someone – his father was an Earl (our Dad, who’s a real old socialist, bless him, literally choked on a chickpea when Rose told him this and I thought I’d have to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre, but he recovered, which is lucky, because I’ve no idea how to do it). Looking back, it’s possible that the Earl thing is exactly what Rose saw in Danny.
In due course Rose kicked the Hon Dan to the kerb, or the other way around, I’m not quite sure. He was followed in fairly short order by Neil, who’d been to Harvard Business School and was actually Neil Marshall III and the heir to an enormous oil-based fortune. When Neil pushed off back to America Rose started going out with Aiden, who was something in finance, then there was Mark, who was something else in finance – in fact I think he may have had a hedge fund, but I could be imagining it. You get the picture – there were lots of men in Rose’s life, although to be fair never more than one at a time, that I knew of. After a while they all merged into one, and a river ran through them, so to speak. So I wasn’t at all surprised that Tuesday evening to hear two sets of footsteps on the stairs: the click of Rose’s high heels and the heavier tread belonging to the latest chap.
I heard the front door open and the rattle of Rose’s keys as she put them in the little dish on the hall table as she always does, which is handy for me when I can’t find mine, and then her voice saying, “Would you like a whisky, Ollie? Or shall I put some coffee on?” and a man’s rather nice, posh-sounding voice saying he’d love a whisky.
“Ice?” Rose said.
“No thanks,” said the gentleman caller, and then they both came into the living room.
Rose and I do look alike, really. If we were in a room full of other people and someone asked you to guess which of the women there were sisters, you’d get that it was us, if the light was dim enough and there weren’t identical twins there too. We’ve got the same bone structure, the high forehead and high cheekbones and slightly beaky nose I see when I look at photos of Mum, and the same rather wispy dark blonde hair and hazel eyes, and we’re both average height, not tall and not short. But that’s where the similarity ends, and why when people who know one of us well are introduced to the other, they invariably say, “This is your sister?” in tones of horrified amazement, or just amazement, if they’re my friends meeting Rose for the first time.
Because Rose has done what used to be called ‘making the most of oneself’, or what I call scrubbing up well, on the rare occasions when I do it. Rose does it all the time. She has her hair highlighted at some swanky salon in Chelsea, so instead of being mousy like mine, it’s pale gold, but looks really natural, and she straightens it every day, so what’s limp and shapeless on me is a smooth, shining curtain on her. She never, ever leaves the flat without having a shower, curling her eyelashes and putting makeup on – not even to go down to the corner shop for bread and Marmite on a Saturday morning with a hangover, which of course means I get sick of waiting for her to get ready and go myself. She always wears high heels, so instead of being an average five foot five, she’s an elegant, slender five foot nine. And she wears really expensive, designer clothes. And did I mention the slender thing? I don’t want to give you the idea that I’m some kind of lumpen heifer – I’m a perfectly ordinary, healthy size fourteen – but Rose is a size eight and puts herself through hell to stay that way.