I don't appreciate what we've become; Isabelle says to me, picking crumbs off the corner of her lower lip, idly, not paying attention to anything. We are a bit oblivious to the outside world, to things passing us by. Occasionally, we partake in activities that aren't considered sound by others' standards. Once I blew my nose openly, as I have to because I have some kind of chronic issues not resolving, thus bearing a sort of winter cold all year around, and this middle aged lady passes me by loudly uttering ew. Sometimes I don't want to understand people, or understand the importance of their ignorance on everything and everyone else.

This is what Isabelle and I discover by walking through streets, merely leaving our apartment, having people see us. I mean, Isabelle loves this pink dress, slightly puffed arms and shoulders, a relic from the early 80s, carry over from the 70s. It has white stripes and white buttons and is absolutely adorable, but it's unique. She wears this. People stare. We walk on.

And I mean, we don't pay the slightest notion of respect to concurring fashion or beliefs, we don't move with the waves. The two of us, a quiet ocean roaring somewhere in its depths. The two of us, crazies and lunatics and proven certified sane by clinical personnel. Sometimes life is a joke. We're the joke played on all the others.

Like Isabelle, sweet, endearing, a beautiful little duckling who wants nothing more than to never grow up in the manner of an arrogant swan. She likes the old pictures dad took of us, her green dress with the big dog print in front, the dog with the ball. She likes the blackberries in the big wild garden dad used to take care of; of course, this was way before he sold the house. Isabelle remembers our older brother; he was about 10, naked in the dirt playing with cars. It was a wonderful summer. All the summers at dad's place were like that, even the rainy ones. She hasn't forgotten. Isabelle doesn't forget. She takes care of the bad as well as the good, and she keeps diaries, lockets, hair, teddy bears and my ancient drawings. When it's dark and we stay up till 3 am, Isabelle clings to my side and whispers circles into my neck by soft fingers.

I keep order in things, I keep our clothes clean, wash the place, cook the meals, dress the pretty lady, write the stories, design the poems, buy her new stuffed animals. I stand in the dark, long after I have tucked her in to bed and she snores lightly, just as her damn ex boyfriend claimed she did, as he would push her about in bed, trying to keep her from being close to him. But if he needed her, he'd just use her. My fists tighten, but there's nothing to hit here. Just dead, barren walls. Nobody's listening.

Nobody's listening when Isabelle wails because of nightmares and ugly old men who make her play words and buck about like an old, hurt horse. She's not the snake, I am. She's just the apple. Forbidden to touch, forbidden to pluck, forbidden to taint.

Isabelle says she's the most beautiful when with me, in my arms, through my eyes, her hair entangled, messy, in my rough fingers. She says this when I listen, and I do not blink an eye.

At night, when she's whisked away to somewhere else, I finally cry. I dare to stand where she stood.

Forward to "the difference has blurred" 2. story-part