Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane

Names My Sisters Call Me

Courtney, Norah and Raine Cassel are about as different as three sisters can get. Norah, the oldest, is a typical Type A obsessive who believes there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. She maintains a constantly-updated spreadsheet of slights and alliances, and six years later has not forgiven Raine, their middle sister, for ruining her wedding day.

Raine is Norah’s opposite – wild child, performance artist, follow-your-bliss hippie chick who fled to California after the wedding fiasco. The only thing the two sisters have in common is their ability to drive Courtney, their youngest sister, crazy.

When Courtney’s long time boyfriend proposes, she decides it’s finally time to call a family truce and bring the three sisters together. After all, they’re all grown ups now, right? But it turns out that family ghosts aren’t easily vanquished, and neither are first loves. Reconnecting the sisters also means re-examining every choice Courtney has made in the last six years, right down to the man she’s about to marry.

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When Lucas went down, right there on the sidewalk outside my sister’s place in Chestnut Hill, my first thought was: ice.

It was February in Philadelphia.  Ice was everywhere, along with slush, grey skies, the threat of more snow, and my personal and only slightly hysterical worry that this would be the year that winter refused to give way to spring, leaving us stuck in some Narnia-ish winter forevermore.

Lucas and I had skidded along down Germantown Avenue, from the train toward my sister’s place, using our boot heels as impromptu ice skates.  We’d attempted to avoid careening into the cute little shop windows, and I’d shared my fears of Narnia with Lucas, complete with my suspicion that the White Witch could be played to perfection by my sister Norah.

My boyfriend had just hit the concrete right in front of me, and this was what I thought about?  Narnia and a mixture of frustration with my sister combined with guilt about my frustration?  What if he required medical attention?  I felt ashamed of myself.

“Oh my God,” I said, throwing both hands out as if to catch him, though it was already too late.  “Are you okay?”

Which was when I noticed that he was grinning up at me, which was a good indicator that hospitalization wasn’t required after all.

And that he was actually on one knee.

“Oh my God,” was my brilliant response.

“I love you, Courtney,” Lucas said, as if I’d said something brilliant.  Or even coherent.  “I’ve loved you since the day you sat next to me in that café and made up better headlines for theSunday New York Times.”

“That was three months after we started dating.” I pointed out, as I had many times before when he brought up that morning in Center City near my old apartment.  And I continued with the usual script, despite the clearly unusual circumstances.  It was habit.  “What was I before that?  Just a fling?”

It felt strange to stand there towering over him, when it was normally the other way around, so I knelt down to face him, expecting the cold and wet to seep through my jeans in seconds.  The funny thing was, I didn’t much care when it did.

“I suspected I loved you before,” Lucas continued, only the slightest hint of long-suffering-ness in his voice—for effect.  “But that was when I knew.  Kind of like right now, when you’re interrupting me in the middle of my romantic proposal.  Moments like this make me realize not just that I love you, but that we must be perfect for each other, because first of all, I think it’s cute, and more importantly, I knew you were going to say that.”

“Yes,” I whispered, reaching over to hold his face between my mittened hands.  I thought about the years we’d been together, and how bright they seemed when compared to the years that came before.  How bright everything seemed when he was near. “Yes, I will marry you.”

“I haven’t asked you to marry me,” Lucas retorted.  His grey eyes were calm and gleaming, all at once, and I wanted to look at nothing else, ever again.

“Well, hurry up then,” I said.  “Any minute now Norah’s going to look out the window and assume we’ve finally gone crazy.  Because most people don’t propose on the street five seconds before an annoying family dinner, you know.”

Lucas laughed, and then took my hands between his.  He kissed each one and then let them go.

“I wanted to do this right smack in the middle of our life, because I love our life,” he said.  “I want our marriage to be a celebration of our life together, not something outside it.”

He reached into his pocket and drew out a small box.

And that was when everything got real in a hurry.  I was aware of a hundred things, all at once.

I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.  As in, to me, right then and there.  I felt my heart thump against my ribs as I stared at the box in his hand, small and black and shaped to contain only one possible item.

I wasn’t sure I was breathing.

In my fantasies, and I’d had a lot of them, this moment was usually accompanied by cinematic landscapes, orchestras, and possibly choirs of angels.

I’d seen so many films, and read so many books, that I felt sort of flung out of my own body as I stared at the velvet box Lucas held out to me.  As if I was sitting in a theater somewhere watching this version of The Proposal. Except the role normally played by the wispy Hollywood actress du jour was now being played by me.  Instead of the romantic, gauzy sort of dress I’d imagined wearing while being knelt in front of, I was dressed to battle the Philly elements in jeans, boots, and a warm pea coat.  To say nothing of my hat, scarf, and mittens.  I’d imagined a rolling summer meadow with an orchestra of songbirds.  Instead, there were minivans swishing along the suburban street, an obviously mentally-challenged jogger in far too few clothes, and the general grim winter cacophony of the East Coast all around us.  A cold street below and the threat of freezing rain from above.  It was the last place in the world I would have expected a marriage proposal.

It was perfect.

“Courtney,” Lucas said, never looking away from me.  “Marry me.”

I reached past the velvet box and the glorious, gleaming ring nestled inside it, and kissed him on his delicious, perfect mouth.

“I love you,” I whispered.

“I know you do,” Lucas replied in the same whisper.  “But now is the time to say ‘yes.’  There’s a whole set routine to these things, Court.  You’re messing up my flow.”

I loved his teasing tone, and that tilt of his head.  As if he was proud and serious and thrilled, all at once.

“How would you know?” I teased him right back.  “You’ve never proposed to anyone else.”

“I might have.  I’m very mysterious.  You don’t know everything.”  He tugged my left hand mitten off.  Then he slipped the ring from the jeweler’s box and very carefully slid it onto my hand, where it fit perfectly and sparkled, brightening the dim afternoon all around us.

“It’s perfect,” I breathed, and then we were beaming at each other and kissing.

I eased back from a kiss and held him close in a hug that felt like it should go on forever.  Like it could somehow encapsulate everything that had happened since that fateful night at a party I hadn’t really wanted to go to in the outskirts of Philadelphia, and found him there, almost as if he’d been waiting for me.  Like it could embrace all of our past and the future we’d already started knitting together between us.

It was a really good hug.

Which only ended when the door at the top of the steps opened and we both turned, still grinning foolishly at each other.

“Why are you causing a scene outside my house?” my sister Norah demanded, in the same slightly-scandalized, authoritative tone I’d heard her use on her university students when they asked stupid questions.  “Do you want someone to call the cops?”

“Oh,” I said, gazing up at her, and then back down at the ring, cold and resplendent on my hand.  “Um.”  It was like I looked at the ring and became hypnotized.  I knew the appropriate words to use, but couldn’t seem to form them on my tongue.  I looked at Lucas for help.

He seemed to glow as he helped me to my feet.

“Courtney and I are getting married,” he told Norah, his voice sounding almost formal.  I felt myself flush.  Married was such anadult word.  It carried so much weight.

“Well,” Norah said, her voice much smoother.  Maybe even pleased.  “That’s wonderful news.”  She smiled, and then looked at me.  “And about time, if you ask me.”

“No one did,” I muttered, immediately reduced to behaving like a child.  It took exactly one sentence from my bossy big sister.  But Lucas squeezed my hand to keep me quiet, and we walked inside.

Norah led the way into her house, calling out the news like the town crier.  And suddenly there was commotion, as my family crowded around us in the living room.  I was still tugging my arms out of my coat sleeves as my mother rushed up to embrace me.

“I’m so happy!” she cried, and I breathed in deeply as her familiar scent enveloped me, a combination of shampoo and cold cream, and, sometimes, the faintest hint of perfume.  “My baby’s getting married!”

Across the room, I heard Lucas talking about his secret ring-buying excursions with Norah’s husband, Phil.

“I actually cut the piece of string, and measured her rings,” Lucas said, demonstrating with his hands and catching my eye as he said it.  “Just like they tell you to do it in the magazines.”

“So it’s a surprise?” Phil asked, smiling in his affable way.  “Norah and I picked hers out together.”

“It’s a complete surprise,” I said, fanning out the fingers of my left hand.

Which wasn’t entirely true.  I would have had to have been asleep in my own relationship not to know how serious it had been for some time, and I hadn’t been asleep.  But I hadn’t known Lucas was involved in clandestine ring measurements of my costume jewelry, either.

“The thing about Courtney is that she doesn’t wear any particular jewelry all the time,” Lucas said.  “She has lots of rings she wears sometimes, but she likes her hands the way they are.”

I had never paid much attention to my jewelry preferences, I realized then.  But I made my living with my hands.  I depended on them and enjoyed them.  I wouldn’t have known how to go out and choose something that would sit on them ever after.  I was kind of amazed that Lucas had given the entire process so much thought.

Norah reached across my mother and picked up my left hand.  She held it to the light, turning the whole hand this way and that as if examining it for flaws.  It didn’t seem to occur to her that it was still connected to my body.

“You’ll really have to concentrate on your manicure,” she told me in a low voice, as if she didn’t wish to embarrass me in front of everyone else.  “Your hands are going to be the focus of a lot of attention, and the last thing you need are scraggly, dirty nails.”

I tugged my hand out of her grasp.  My hands might not be confused for a hand model’s, but I thought scraggly and dirtywere taking it a step too far.

“Nobody cares about my nails, Norah,” I told her, feeling defensive.

“You wouldn’t believe the things people care about,” she retorted.  Because she, as ever, knew best.  “I’m going to get the camera.”

Norah was about control and had always been this way.  When she was a kid, her control issues generally involved the sanctity of her bedroom and her refusal to lend out her toys and dolls.  These days she thought a bit bigger.

She insisted that she was not in any way OCD, a laughable assertion, but one she felt comfortable making because, she would tell me, there was a right way and a wrong way to do things.  She chose to do things the right way.  End of discussion.

The right way meant that we had Family Dinner every weekend at her house, and she always used linen napkins.  The right way meant that she and Phil refused to allow a television to pollute their home, preferring to read the newspapers from a selection of Eastern Seaboard cities, peruse the most esoteric literary fiction, and engage in stimulating intellectual debates concerning international politics and ethical dilemmas over fine wine.  When Lucas and I expressed our preference for the SciFi Channel, anything on Adult Swim, and classic DVD marathons, they both pretended not to hear us.  When it was pointed out to them that Eliot, their two year old son, might one day face ridicule in school for being completely out of the pop culture loop, Norah actually sneered.

She’d practically raised me, she would say. And last she’d checked, I was doing fine.

Someone had to step in and take charge after Daddy died, she would say with a sniff, and I was the only one who could.

Because she was the only one capable, was the subtext.  Mom had been lost in a haze of grief.  Our middle sister, Raine, had been acting out since she was a toddler.  By the time I was ten, Raine had distinguished her sixteen year old self in our prudish Pennsylvania Main Line town by being wilder than all the other bad seeds put together, Mom had parlayed her grief into a continuing life choice rather than a debilitating incident, and Norah already had her first PhD.  In bossiness.  At eighteen.

“So,” Norah said then, studying me across the roast chicken she was serving up onto her best china plates.  “You’re finally engaged!”

That finally was because Norah felt grown-ups shouldn’t a) date for longer than six months without Knowing Where the Relationship Was Headed, b) live together under any circumstances before marriage because They Still Don’t Buy The Milk No Matter How Feminist It Might Be To Give It Away For Free, And You Know How Liberal I Am, Courtney, and c) continue to date after a year without being engaged, because You Either Know Or You Don’t.  She and Phil got engaged on their first anniversary, married on their second anniversary, and that, as she’d told me many times, was the secret to their happiness.  No “waffling,” as she put it.  The fact that Lucas and I had been together for three years without so much as a shared bank account confused and annoyed her.

I thought that the fact Lucas chose to attend these weekly dinners with me was proof of love far above and beyond the gorgeous ring he’d just put on my finger.  The ring was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen, but Family Dinners were tests of strength and will.  Norah maintained a constantly-updated spreadsheet of checks and balances, slights and alliances, and was always waiting to pounce.  I assumed this spreadsheet existed only in her mind, but sometimes I suspected the existence of a hard copy, too.

“I’m so happy for you,” Mom was saying.  “I remember what it was like to be young and in love.”  She beamed at me.  “And what fun we’ll have, with a wedding to plan!”

“Remember, Courtney,” Norah chimed in, frowning at Mom.  “Your wedding is about you.  Not about some fantasy wedding Mom wished she had with Dad.”

Twenty-eight years had passed since my father’s death, and yet I winced a little bit at Norah’s tone.  Lucas reached over to grab hold of me, his hand warm and reassuring on my leg.

My mother didn’t respond, a well-honed battle tactic, though I could swear I saw her lips tighten.

“You’ll have a summer wedding, of course,” Norah said, wresting back control of the conversation as she served me a plate of drumsticks and stewed carrots, both of which I hated.  But I didn’t say anything.  About the food, anyway.

“We haven’t made any plans, Norah,” I told her.  “We got engaged fifteen minutes ago.”  Lucas squeezed my leg a little bit, and I felt a rush of giddiness.  Engaged.  We were engaged.  To be married.

“It’s never too early to start making plans,” Norah said, frowning slightly.

When she got engaged, if I remembered correctly, she’d allowed seven point three minutes for weeping and excitement, and had then proceeded to book her venue, photographer, and caterer before the end of the day.  Because Nora was nothing if not prepared.

“Eliot can be your flower boy,” Norah continued, handing out plates to Mom and Phil.  “Or your ring-bearer.  It’s up to you, of course.”

I felt the strangest urge to apologize for the possibility that I might want control over my own wedding.  But then, hers had turned out to be a disaster, despite the kind of planning that would have done Napoleon proud.

“Everyone will tell you that the process is scary, or stressful,” Mom told me.  “But I think you can decide how it will be.  There’s such a thing as too much planning, you know.”  It was a gentle dig, but Norah stiffened.

“Not everyone is satisfied with stopping by the courthouse on their way home from work,” Norah sniped right back at our mother.

“Everyone is not you, Norah,” Mom said in the even tone she used when she wanted to prevent an escalation.

“Mom, please,” Norah said crossly.  “Courtney doesn’t want to elope!”

“I don’t know what I want to do,” I offered up into the tension.  “I guess Lucas and I are going to have to think about it.”

“But I’m betting you’re not going to elope,” Norah retorted—more to her plate than anything, and, obviously, to make sure she got the last word.  We all knew better than to engage.

“While you’re thinking about it, the first thing to plan is the engagement party,” Mom said, using a getting-down-to-business tone.  “Lucas, you’ll have to invite your parents to come down.”  She made it sound as if the party was already planned, and happening the following week.

“I can’t have any parties until the season’s over,” I told her, after sharing a dazed look with Lucas.  The season in question was not winter, which was likely endless, but the more finite Philadelphia Second Symphony Orchestra concert season, which finished in late May.

“Then we’ll do it this summer,” Mom replied.  “How about July?”

I couldn’t answer her for a moment.  An hour ago I’d been skating on Germantown Avenue with my boyfriend.  Now I was discussing my engagement party and feelings on elopement.  I wasn’t sure I could keep up with the life shift.

“Wow,” I said, feeling panicky .  “I mean, this is really nice of you, but I’m not sure we…”

“I would be thrilled to throw it for you,” Mom said, inclining her head at me as if that settled the matter.

“Um, great,” I said.  “Thanks.”  But something occurred to me.  “Is the engagement party where we all sit around and play those weird games with the ribbons?”  I made a face.  “Because I don’t think I can handle that.  With a straight face.”

“That’s a baby shower,” Norah told me.  “Like mine, which I didn’t realize was so difficult for you.”

Terrific.  Another black mark next to my name in her mentalslights column.

“An engagement party celebrates the engagement,” Mom told me.  “It can be a cocktail party, a lunch, whatever you like.”

“We don’t have to talk about it now,” Lucas said smoothly, with another squeeze to reassure me.  Possibly he’d glimpsed the look on my face and feared, as I did, that I might succumb to dizziness in some eighteenth century swoon.  The thought was appealing.

“The sooner you get your plans set, the more you can enjoy the engagement year,” Norah said, contradicting him.  She was sliding into full-on lecturer mode.  Sometimes I forgot she was only thirty-six, a mere eight years older than me, because she could sound as old as the hills.

“We’re in no rush,” Lucas told her, still smiling when she handed him a plate piled high with potatoes.  Lucas hated potatoes.

“You’ll be surprised how quickly the time goes,” Norah assured us.  “You have to get out in front of it, or the next thing you know, it’s two weeks before your wedding and you have nothing.”

“I’m sure Courtney will do just fine,” Mom said then.  Norah looked dubious.

“When has Courtney ever done something of this magnitude?” she asked.  With unnecessary derision, I felt.  “You don’t have to listen to me, of course,” she continued.  “But I am the person at this table who was married the most recently.”

“If by recently you mean six years ago,” I pointed out.

“I know how long I’ve been married, Courtney.”

“We all know how long you’ve been married, too,” I retorted.  “We were all there.  I’m pretty sure we can all remember it as the last time anyone spoke to Raine.”

Norah gaped at me.

“Are you saying you think we should have continued to speak to her?” she demanded.

“That’s not what I—”

“Because I was sick and tired of rewarding her behavior, especially on the one day in my entire life that was supposed to be about me and not her!”

One of Norah’s hands had crept over her heart, as if I had broken it with my careless words.  Or stuck one of the serving knives into her.

Next to me, I could feel Lucas’s interest flare.  Having never met my colorful, estranged sister, he was intrigued by all the drama that was kicked up any time her name was mentioned.  As was I, to be honest.  Raine was nothing if not fascinating.

“I don’t think we should go down this road,” Phil piped up from his end of the table.  Phil never said much, so we all stared at him and took in the uncharacteristic outburst.  He was thoughtful and quiet, a professor of Physics at Temple and some fifteen years Norah’s senior.  He was as likely to be considering the effects of gravity as he was to be thinking about whatever was going on in front of him, but even he had a strong opinion about Raine.  Everybody did.

“Apparently,” Norah snapped at him as if he needed a recap, “Courtney feels we were too hasty.  The fact that Lorraine—” Norah deliberately used her full, hated name—“ruined our wedding reception is no big deal.”

“That’s not what I said,” I told her more firmly.  “I was just pointing out that we all remember your wedding vividly, becauseof Raine.  And no one’s saying what happened was no big deal.  None of us have spoken to her since, have we?”  I used my most placating voice, the one I’d learned growing up in this family but had honed to perfection in orchestra pits, dealing with overwrought conductors and prima donna first-chair cello players.  Norah seemed to deflate.  She cut a piece of chicken, and then toyed with it on her plate.

“I’ve spoken to her,” Mom said.

Her voice was calm, but her words crashed down in the center of the table and rippled outward, almost as if she’d thrown a plate.

“What?”  I stared at her.  I heard Norah’s fork clatter against the china plate, and knew she was staring as well.

“I speak to her once a week, usually,” Mom continued, seeming completely oblivious to the tension all around her.  She forked up some stewed carrots, and chewed them with every appearance of calm.

“Mom, you have to be kidding me,” Norah snapped.  “How could you?  All this time, I assumed none of us even knew where she was!”

And she, of course, had taken a certain satisfaction in that.

“She’s my daughter, Norah, just as you are,” Mom said, sounding completely unruffled.  She didn’t quite smile.  “Of course I know where she is.”

 

We left Norah’s house shortly after that—because really, what could follow my mother’s pronouncement?  Certainly not dessert.

“That wasn’t really how I saw this all happening,” Lucas confessed as we made our way down the dark street, easing carefully around the patches of ice.  His words turned into puffs of smoke against the night air.  “I thought there might be a toast or two.”

“When Norah could make it all about her and her pain?” I scoffed in pretend astonishment.  “Silly man.”

“Next time we get engaged,” Lucas said, reaching over for my left hand and fiddling with the ring through my mitten, “I’m rethinking the whole ‘let’s celebrate our actual life’ part.”

“I liked that part.”

“Sure, but I could have done it after Family Dinner.  We could have celebrated ourselves and then called everybody, like everyone else in the world. But no, I had to be different.”

“I liked it,” I told him, kissing him.  “It was perfect.  You’re perfect.”

“That’s true,” Lucas agreed, smiling at me and pulling me close.  “I am.  For you.”

 

Later that night, Lucas was asleep in the big queen bed that took up most of the bedroom in our cozy two-bedroom apartment, and I got up to feed our obnoxious matching pair of tabby cats, Felix and Felicia.

Yes, despite Norah’s warnings, Lucas and I had moved in together after dating for about a year and a half.  And it had been another whole year and a half before he’d proposed.  No wonder she’d been concerned.  At this point in her relationship she’d already been married to Phil.  For a year.

I shoved Norah and her pronouncements out of my mind as the cats rushed at me and twined themselves around my ankles.  They were a brother and sister we’d happened upon at a curbside rescue right after we moved in together, and had been conned into taking when they were tiny four-month old kittens.  They were always up to something, and were often completely psychotic for no apparent reason.  Which was to say, they were perfect little cats.

I laid out some wet food for them—after listening to them yowl and carry on as if the last time they’d been fed was months ago, instead of that morning—and then headed back toward the bedroom.  Before I got there, though, my eye was caught by my cello and stand in the bay window of the living room.  I flexed my left hand a little bit, and felt the familiar wash of guilt and panic.  I should have spent the day practicing instead of celebrating.  I knew my performance suffered if I didn’t put in at least a few hours every single day, and I couldn’t afford to let my performance suffer.  Lucas, who worked at home, running his Internet Security business, claimed he loved listening to me practice while he put out fires and slapped down hackers.  Which was good, since I did so several hours a day.  I would have to buckle down the next morning, which meant I should get to sleep.

But my mind was too riled up to rest.

I was engaged!  After all those years of wondering if it would ever happen, it had.  It had been a confusing night.  In the movies or on TV, engagement scenes were followed by musical montages and champagne toasts.  Not tense family dinners and hours of telephone calls.  Lucas had ended up calling every family member he had, and half of our friends.  I’d been responsible for the other half.  Once the ball started rolling, we’d had to keep going so no one would feel left out or slighted.  It turned out that telling the same story over and over again was kind of exhausting.

But it also put the glaze and polish on the way we would tell the story.  That was the strangest part.  By the final couple of phone calls, we had it down to a few glossy sentences.  I wondered if those sentences would be what survived the evening—like a photograph.  A snapshot version of what had actually happened.

Maybe that meant I’d forget about the less pleasant parts, like Norah trying to micromanage my wedding within minutes of the proposal.

“She’s overbearing,” Lucas had agreed when we’d been peeling off our winter coats near our hall closet, “but she’s only trying to help.  I think this is her way of showing interest.”

“She drives me insane,” I’d retorted.  “She’s this almost impossible mixture of incredibly confrontational and completely oversensitive!”

“And that,” he’d agreed.

After which, we’d had better things to do that psychoanalyze Norah.

I told myself to stop doing it now, in the dark, where it could easily be mistaken for brooding.  Anyway, there were more pressing things to brood about.

The truth was, I was completely thrown by the fact Mom was in touch with Raine.

My sister Raine was almost as much of a myth to me as the father I’d never known.  Even before she’d disappeared six years ago, she’d been larger-than-life.  She’d been the fun one.  That sounded like such a small thing, but it had been almost incomprehensibly huge when I was a kid.  Our whole family life was arranged around one central, sad fact: my father’s absence.  We were all sad.  Except for Raine.

While Norah stressed and fussed and bossed, Raine snuck out on the roof to smoke joints or danced by herself in her room with her eyes closed.  Norah was the one who lectured me about my class schedule.  Raine was the one who explained to me that boys who were really mean to you probably liked you, and it was okay to be mean right back.  And then she’d showed me how.

The fact was, I’d always hero-worshiped Raine and only tolerated the more officious, busybody Norah.

They even looked like polar opposites.  Raine was always dying her hair this color or that, wearing outrageous costumes, and engaging in performance art in the middle of family functions.  Norah, on the other hand, had been preppy before she discovered business attire, and was a natural blonde, which, she claimed, had forced her to be serious and combative from an early age.

Blondes are treated like idiots, she’d told me more than once. You’re lucky your hair is red.

It’s titian, actually, I’d replied, because I was all of eleven and was addicted to Nancy Drew.

I have to prove I’m smart the moment they see me, she’d said.

And she’d been doing it ever since.  She wore black-rimmed glasses and kept her hair in a bun.  She refused to suffer fools, preferring to gut them and hang them out to dry.  She’d spent her thirty-six years being fierce and uncompromising.  She’d be the first to tell you she was the brains in the family.  She’d known from a very young age that she wanted to dedicate herself to academics, and so she had.  She’d charged right through her undergraduate and graduate degrees without pausing for breath.  She’d married Phil in the middle of her post-doctoral study, and hadn’t let Eliot’s birth get in the way of her work at several different universities in and around the greater Philadelphia area.

And yet, Norah was the one who took care of our cats when we went away.  She cleaned out the litter box and never complained about it—which was more than I could say.  She was the person to call if I had to go the doctor or dentist and needed a ride home afterward.  She would rearrange her schedule to take me to the airport, even if it was in rush hour.  She must have driven down to Baltimore to pick me up or drop me off a million times when I was at the Conservatory, and she never appeared without some form of a care package.  She was dependable, available, and always conscientious.  She was also the first to tell me so.

God, I loved her, but she was a pain in the ass.

Raine, meanwhile, had always seemed so free, so alive.  She didn’t claim to know anything—in fact, she’d spent her early twenties flitting from job to job, and city to city, without seeming to care much where she landed.  She told epic stories about our lost father, and made him sound even more marvelous than Mom did.  I held on to those stories, ashamed to remind them that I had no memories of him.  Only tales they told.

I had adored her, and then I’d been so angry at her when she’d gone, and then, for much longer than that, I’d missed her.

And I knew that no matter what Raine had done to Norah’s wedding, to all of us, it didn’t matter.

I still wanted her at mine.

End of excerpt

April 11, 2008

ISBN: 0446698563

Names My Sisters Call Me

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Names My Sisters Call Me

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- Reading Group Guides

In Names My Sisters Call Me, Megan Crane takes an honest look at the way family, both fiercely loyal and deeply flawed, affects how we see ourselves and who we choose to love. Using humor, warmth, and a great eye for the intricacies of life, Crane draws you into this funny, charming, and ultimately touching story of being lost in the midst of family confusion then finding oneself despite the mess.

- Heather Swain

NAMES MY SISTERS CALL ME is a funny, smart rendering of the exquisite tenderness that sets in once the engagement’s announced. Everyone’s telling the bride-to-be this is the happiest time of her life and instead she’s racked by questions, playing peacemaker between her sisters and re-examining all her previous romantic errors with a microscopic lens. Megan Crane’s newest book is just plain fun, for all of us looking back and for the legions of young women who’ve not yet had the pleasure of full-throttle wedding jitters.

- Sheila Curran, Diana Lively is Falling Down

In this witty novel by the author of Frenemies, Philadelphia cellist Courtney Cassel decides the occasion of her engagement is the perfect time to heal family wounds. … Crane’s brisk voice and knack for finding the humor in Courtney’s angst keep the mood upbeat all the way to the rosy resolution.

- Publisher's Weekly

[Courtney’s] innocence, sincerity and sense of humor will keep readers entertained. An inviting take on universal themes.

- Kirkus Reviews