‘How am I supposed to look after that?’ Pip hissed. She had dragged her sister, Becky, into the hallway so that she could snap at her without anybody else noticing. One of Pip’s hands clung to the front of Becky’s t-shirt, her fingers digging into the material, so tightly that her knuckles had turned white. Becky showed no sign of being apologetic.
‘You saw how Paul’s face lit up when he first laid eyes on it. I know he’s been going on and on about getting one for a while.’ Becky’s shoulders were relaxed, her posture easy, but her eyes presented Pip with a clear challenge. ‘Don’t deny it.’
‘That’s not the point! He might want one, but he’s only seven! Who’s going to be the one who actually has to look after it, who has to train it, who has to feed it and take it out for walks? Me, that’s who!’
‘Oh, come on, sis, I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to take it out for a walk –’
‘And you’re trying to teach him what? That he can have anything he wants? Is that it?’
‘Pip,’ Becky said, her voice as smooth and calm as ever, one hand reaching up to touch her sister’s lightly, ‘relax. He’s been through so much in such a short life. This year has been tough on him, but he’s doing so well in school despite all the pain and visits to the hospital. Let him have this. I know the real reason you’re annoyed, and if you need some help to pay for it, then –‘
‘I don’t need financial aid,’ Pip replied. She released Becky’s top, and their hands fell back down to their sides. Despite the haze of conflicting feelings that buzzed through Pip’s mind, she forced herself to regain her composure under her sister’s watchful gaze. A sigh escaped her lips. She walked over to the door to the living room, and Becky followed; they stood there leaning on either side of the door frame, and looked in.
Paul was sitting on the rug in the middle of the room. His tiny frame, too small for his age, was quivering with excitement as he rolled around with the new puppy that was darting around him. The bandana that Pip had taught him to wrap around his head to disguise his lack of hair flapped around at the back with his sudden movements. The bruises from his IV seemed to have no effect on him in those moments – he would normally complain that they were sore and visible this recently after treatment.
Then Paul spotted them in the doorway, and in one movement he rolled over and caught the puppy, landing on his knees facing the door. He raised his head and looked up at the two women with a wide, toothy grin.
‘I love the puppy, Aunty Becky!’ he said. Becky turned to Pip with a victorious smirk.
‘All right,’ said Pip. ‘Maybe it’s the best Christmas present ever.’ She paused, as the puppy wriggled out of Paul’s skinny arms and bounded over to the pile of used wrapping paper, which it proceeded to pee on. ‘Maybe.’