Practical jokes were our lives. She put salt in the sugar. I short-sheeted her bed and added un-popped popcorn. She put something nasty in my stage water during our show. I exchanged her shoes for a pair two sizes too small. I called her Bootsie. She hated that named more then anything.
Our jokes were a way of telling each other how much we cared for each other. Bootsie and I were, in every way, brother and sister.
Then she figured out the joke of jokes. The whole crew was in on it. We were getting ready to leave from the railroad station. I went to the bathroom. They all left on the train. She had it all set-up. All I had to do was ask the guy at the desk where the train was and he was going to hand me a first class ticket on the next train. What a gag. It was by far her best, and her worst.
I never talked to the guy behind the counter. In the lobby, I ran into this girl, Anna, who had just dropped off her brother. Ran over her is more accurate. She saw bells from a minor concussion. I saw fireworks. I never even knew something like this was possible.
I picked up my suitcases and left for the hospital. I never went back.
Anna never left my side after that.
Bootsie did everything she could to get me back with the show. They would have welcomed me back with open arms. My heart wasn’t in it.
I married Anna and we had a little girl named Jada.
Bootsie and I talked all the time. For seven years we talked, but we never saw each other. During that time, Bootsie became an international star. And with that came an impossibly busy schedule and no time to see me.
My little girl, Jada, and I created a scrapbook for her aunty Bootsie. Bootsie was her hero in every way.
Then one day, Bootsie showed up at our doorstep, unannounced.
Bootsie had taken an extended break from her schedule. She called it a vacation. She needed to detox. That’s what she said. That’s not what it was.
Bootsie showed up at the front door. She was full of love and hugs and kisses.
Jada was absolutely thrilled. She actually talked Bootsie into putting on a show for us.
Bootsie said that she had a special new outfit that hadn’t even been in a show yet. She put it on. Wow.
Anna said that Bootsie was undeniably the most beautiful woman that either of us had ever seen.
I corrected her and said second most beautiful. Anna smiled.
Bootsie’s show was fabulous. We all applauded wildly. Then Bootsie surprised us even further by putting on a couple of her most famous routines as encores.
Jada begged and begged for another show. But alas, bedtime was at hand.
It was my turn to put Jada to bed. So, we said our goodnights and off we went.
When I came back downstairs about an hour later, I saw Bootsie and Anna sitting close together on the couch. They were laughing and holding hands like they were very old friends. I was surprised. I didn’t even know that they knew each other.
Bootsie told us that she didn’t need to go back right away. Anna insisted that she stay in the guest room.
Anna knew that Bootsie wanted to talk with me alone. So, she said her good nights. Before she left, she gave me a really strange look that I didn’t understand.
I looked at Bootise. She looked at me. It was quiet for an uncomfortably long time. I finally broke the ice and showed her the album that Jada and I had been making about her. It had all the articles written about her. It had all of her pictures. It even had re-created pictures of all of the awards that she had received.
Bootsie was happy and sad at the same time. “That should have been us.”
I looked at her, “Bootsie, you know know how committed to the show we both were. But, when I ran into Anna, everything changed.”
Bootsie looked at me. “Come on. You know why I’m here.”
I had no idea.
Bootsie said, “I will do anything that I can to get you back. You have to know that I never thought of you as my brother, even though that’s what I told everyone.”
Bootsie and I had a long talk. I told Bootsie that I wasn’t going to leave Anna.
We left it at that and I went to bed. Bootsie left. She had a show to do.
Anna was up and waiting for me.