It was raining. Again. Outside the building, the street lights traced half-hyberbolae through the falling rain, while the trees lining the street swayed in the gusts blowing down from the north. Clouds slid across the sky, alternatively revealing and hiding Orion's Belt. Through it all, the freeway's hum could be heard, rising and falling as the occasional truck sped down it.
Inside the house, Sylvia heard nothing, because she was asleep. At least, that's what her parents thought. In fact, she was reading, sheets slipped over her head, curled around the precious book she'd taken from her father's library that morning. It wasn't that the book was particularly interesting to 11-year-old Sylvia. And it certainly wasn't on her school's reading list. But she was reading it, all the same.
In the room next to hers, Alexander, her brother was studying, yellow light shining from under his door. From time to time, Sylvia could hear him yawn, stretch, and move quietly about the room. He did this so softly that his motions soon faded into the white noise of the storm. But when a bump and quiet cursing came from the next room, Sylvia quickly hid the book under her pillow, and sat up. She heard his door open, and she stepped out of her warm cocoon to see where he was going. Opening her door, she saw Alexander disappear down the stairs, carrying some package under his arm. This did not particularly surprise Sylvia, because for years Alexander and her father had carried out similar nocturnal trips.
Alexander had always been their father's favorite: When he had returned from the wars, Alexander was 8, and Sylvia was already walking. After the initial joy of homecoming, Father had withdrawn from his wife, taking only his son into his sanctuary, the library. From that time, Alexander and Father had been inseparable. He had carefully instructed Alexander in politics, mathematics and science, fine arts, and the use of weapons. When he came home from his club, he always had time for a brief romp with Sylvia, but he'd never stay for long, and would retire to the library very soon after.
Her mother was a good wife, a good homemaker, and a good business woman, but unfortunately, never a good mother. She had high hopes for Alexander, and hoped that he would become a fine man of distinction. When he was young, he always knew there would be a sweet of some sort waiting for him with his mother. But when little Sylvia would toddle behind him, there was never anything for her. Mother compensated for her lack of discipline in one with over-discipline in the other. If Alexander pointed out a tiny bluebird in a tree, he was a very clever boy, but if Sylvia presented a flower, she was noisy, inconsiderate little girl. She quickly learned to stay out of Mother's way, and keep her mouth shut.
There was never any lack of encouragement in Alexander's life: He had an adoring mother who would bend over backwards to help him, and an affectionate father to instruct in all of life's mysteries.
So Sylvia stayed put after Alexander left, only closing the door quietly when he left the house. She crept back into the pages of the forbidden book.