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Excerpt from 'Frenching My Sister' by J. Boyer


June 02, 2010

My sister is fast approaching thirty. As near as Moira has ever come to holding a job was one my father secured at Manufacturers Hanover when she got herself in a pinch. He’d sent her off to boarding school in Switzerland believing she might find her footing if only she were left on her own and far enough from home. She lasted less than a term. There were reports early on of what sounded to me like harmless, rich-girl mischief and then Moira had one of her spells. What finally got her bounced was kiting checks on one of our father’s Zurich accounts.  She managed this swindle with surprising aplomb; it was only bad luck that she got caught, and our father (a Yankee, and a pragmatist to boot) took this to mean that since she had so little interest in anything else, it might signal an interest in finance.

The country was in a recession and Manufacturers Hanover had created a division specifically designed to deal in its hardship cases, writing down bad debts while going after their assets, foreclosing on family mortgages. It was here that Moira took hold. My sister is slender and she has always carried herself like someone older and wiser. Thin-faced, with soft brown eyes, she acquired at an earlier age than most women skills at using those eyes to get her way. Most men are stupid where women are concerned. She’d acquired this knowledge as well, and so, doubly-armed, she assumed — and pretty rightly, I have no doubt — that she could out-maneuver all but the most aggressive of customers, virtually all of whom were male. They were prone to have emotions that were dangerously near to the surface, having watched their families put out on the street and their businesses pulled out from beneath them like a cheap department store rug. This was where my sister came in. They still had their health and so did their children and wives. A vegetable could be a full meal if you knew what you were doing with simple foods. Maybe she just reminded them of the cool nights of summer and the warm afternoons when the leaves were turning those first days of autumn. She probably said something about how one door never closes without another door opening, about how they were probably going on to better things, without speaking to what those things were, much less how, under the circumstances, they were likely to be better. What did it matter?  It wasn’t what she said. It was the hope they must have seen in Moira’s beautiful, teenaged eyes.

You have never seen more animated eyes than those of my sister Moira. That’s all it ever was though, animation. There was always something missing. It was like a heavy, velvet curtain had been pulled that blocked out the sun; my sister was like a movie camera that hadn’t been loaded with film. Nothing got through that might make an impression. That can scare the be-jesus out of you when those eyes belong to your sister. It proved a major plus when a client was arguing over collateral however. How are you going to tell them their credit line’s kaput, now it’s strictly cash and carry?

My father enrolled her at Spence at the beginning of the new year to keep her close enough to watch. Before he could get her back in school, she went from clerk to teller to becoming the personal assistant of one of the bank’s junior officers, the head of this division, and I’m recounting that story here for two reasons, first, because I realized over lunch that Jeremy and that junior officer were one and the same, and second, Moira’s eyes had changed.