Rosie tucks her feet under her, the nudge to her side with an elbow telling her it's time, break a leg, and get a move on. She smiles gleefully. As she stands, she catches sight of many looking in her direction. Papa, his silvery blond hair carefully styled, his eyes fond, his smile broad and loving. Next to him, his spouse, curls dark, the faintest gray at the temples and his sharp eyes narrow at her, a threat, a caution, a concern. She resists the urge to stick her tongue out at him, choosing instead to tuck it discreetly just under her front teeth where he will see and understand anyway. Laugh lines on both of their faces, her fathers, as they ease back in their chairs, ready.
She could have looked at a room full of other friends, adults, role models, influences from friends of her parents to school mates to neighbours and mentors all along the way. Instead, her eyes light on her brother, who is beaming. She's heard the term before but never seen it. Beyond excited, he is alight with joy from the inside out, and it radiates, casting a happiness about the room.
A microphone is pressed into her hand and she brings it quickly to her mouth and utters the most evil laugh she can make. Mwah-hah-hah-haaaaah. As expected, the room bursts upward with laughter, chuckling, and a ripple of positive encouragement and she responds with a genuine burst of chuckles. She stands tall, ready. She has no notes. She knows exactly what she wants to say.
Most of you already know me, but for those who don't, I'm Rosie, Sam's annoying little sister. Or fabulous, wonderful, amazing, brilliant little sister, depending. I'm mostly okay with either description.
So, me and Sam. Sam and me. Most people would never know that we're related, let alone siblings.
Half-siblings technically, but I've never cared for those terms. Like I've never cared for step-father. I don't really see it that way, so.
I see you, over there, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, cringing a little and worried about what I could say. And with good reason. It's a dangerous thing, my holding a microphone and knowing so much dirt on you. So much, all those stories, habits, secrets. You all laugh, and rightly so. Catch me after my little speech, my toast. Dirty laundry stories will be for sale, so get ready to pay up if you want them.
I'm only partly kidding. The true fundraiser will be how much both of my dads are going to chip in to buy and keep my silence.
Just as I haven't cared for the term stepbrother, or stepfather, I also don't see my family as anything other than regular. I remember nothing else, and family is family. I can call them annoying but you all can't. And I'll defend every one of them to the death, and that is inherited from my genetics as well as my environment. Consider yourselves all warned!
But that is not why we're here, not why we're gathered, not why we are celebrating today.
We are celebrating the marriage of my awesome older brother and his new wife, my new sister-in-law. Welcome to the family, Christine. Hope you're ready for an adventure. It’s so exciting, this day, this life ahead. Have to say, I’ve always wanted a sister. You are just perfect for Sam, you soften out his rough edges, and are not easily intimidated. So kudos to you for holding your own, Christine. Never change! Can you all imagine the stress of marrying into a family like this? I mean, who wants to be in the same room with, let alone have dinner with someone who can deduce your fears and almost read your thoughts. Sam and I had to learn very early that you either had to never tell a lie or get incredibly good and sneaky at it. I'm not telling which one we got better at. Our little secret, right Sam?
But first, growing up with Sam. I was three when we met. He was 8 and known as Sameer then, technically still is of course. And his last name was ...
What was your last name again?
Kidding, of course I remember, but he has always been Sam Watson to me, and I can't recall him as anything else.
I don't remember it, not really, but his first night in London apparently I taught him about napping on the couch, jumping on the bed, colouring, giggling, and not following the rules when it was bedtime.
So yeah, Christine, good luck with that. Or, maybe tonight at least, you're welcome would be more appropriate.
I do remember a lot of other stuff though. I remember hearing him and our papa laughing over Sam's efforts to teach him Dari. I remember his kind heart and sometimes sad eyes in the beginning. He still gets a little mooshy if you find the right blend of atmosphere, words, and sentiment. I remember him arriving with almost nothing, a ratty bag and some clothes. I remember going to the playground, taking walks to the gardens by our flat, of the way he would ask for so little and enjoy everything that we take for granted. I'm probably not supposed to share the story of how when he came to London, he wanted to work in exchange for English lessons. I'm definitely not supposed to tell you all that he offered to sleep on the floor in a corner somewhere if he was just allowed to stay.
Yes, this is why I carried a tissue with me up on stage. Sorry, give me a mo while I ...
This is also the kind-hearted brother who used to smother my face in a pillow when I talked too much and who was known to tickle me almost to tears. And who managed to arrive second and do all the milestones first.
And then he got the bigger bedroom. I mean, talk about my getting a raw deal.
Truth, I wouldn’t change a thing. I regret nothing. Especially that I used to sneak into his room and rearrange his stuff just to be annoying.
I remember when he started school, how big a deal it was to choose sympathetic teachers and worry about translators in the beginning and be concerned about how other people were treating him. I remember him playing football and being really amazing at it. Travel club and being sought after by some of the coaches. Gosh he could run fast. I remember when he started getting interested in the legal profession, and then specifically in immigration law, and in a little bit of government. I know our Uncle Mycroft has said that only someone with Sam's unique background and skill set could even think to combine all of these passions with the effectiveness and the potential to make such a huge impact on people who need help. The language, the birth place, the command of English and the education he's had, have him poised for greatness. I probably wasn't supposed to say any of that either. Sorry not sorry.
Sam and I had other things in common too. We had to live with a consulting detective and all the charms that go along with that. You can imagine what we didn't get away with. Ask me later about the broken window that we actually both did get away with. Sorry papa for the late disclosure.
We both lost our mothers. And only people who have had that happen when they were young know what that's like. It's a terrible club with a very high cost of admission. I don’t say that to be sad but to remind us all that life is precious and things do happen for a reason. And it’s okay. I really think we've turned all right, not in spite of the circumstances but because of them. Because we have each other. All of the things we go through serve to make us stronger, am I right?
We had other things in common too, like learning critical thinking and creative insight, attention to detail. Or what I like to consider that would be how to commit a crime and get away with it. Of visitors in the flat at odd hours. Of not knowing much of what it was like to visit an actual doctor's office, when we had a live-in one. Well, except for that appendectomy, right Sam? We had an honourary grandmama living downstairs, who loved us both with everything she had. And still does. Mrs. Hudson, I heard a rumour that you were going to share that secret family recipe for your ginger biscuits with Sam and Christine as a wedding gift, no? I think they're entitled. And by the way, thanks for all those times you would let us in when we forgot our keys. And for all those times you caught us doing all of those ... oh wait a minute, those stories are actually classified.
Sam, I raise my glass to you, to you and Christine, as you start your new lives together. Sam, you were an unexpected big brother perhaps but I can't remember a time without you really, and I count myself privileged to have survived you, I mean grown up with you. Christine, cherish this man and give him grief every day because god knows he deserves at least a little. May you both be very happy for a very long time. And may I still be able to worry you a little that I'm going to share secrets about your first cigarette at age 14 and your penchant for changing the wifi password without telling anyone and that I know about that time you sneaked out when you were 17.
I want to ask my dads to stand up please. I just can't ... sorry, I thought I could ... I wanted to take just a second, to honour you both, and say thanks for doing such a great job. The verdict might still be out on me - thanks for laughing on cue - but Sam, well ... he’s turned out amazing.
Join me, join my family, all of us as we all raise our glasses to wish this new couple every happiness, every blessing. Truly you both deserve it.
To the bride and groom!