A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art

You Can’t Choose Your Fake Family

kids whale watchingBY LALE CEYLAN

I don’t like Ella.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to spend my entire childhood with her because my dad’s Turkishness and my mom’s love for inviting people for dinner every Saturday night has blessed me with the sister I’ve never wanted.

In Walton, NY, home of the Delaware County Fair, three hours outside of Manhattan, there is a small community of Turkish weekenders. We all know each other. We eat with each other. We spend summers with each other. We warn each other when some of our pyromaniac neighbors start burning down local churches.

Enough to say we’re pretty close. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Among these Turkish friends there is one family that has the same structure as we do. One dad, one mom, one daughter. The fathers call each other every day, the mothers raise their children together, and as for the daughters, we spend our time ripping each other’s throats out.

That’s what sisters do right? That doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. Unfortunately, that’s where it starts getting complicated in this case. Siblings are in this world to drive you crazy, but you can’t hate them because family obligation dictates that you have to love them.

I don’t have this obligation towards Ella. I have no blood ties forcing me to deal with her and forgive her, and this is the only freedom I have in this family friendship. If I am going to be forced to be part of this family fusion at least I’m free to let my hate for this girl flood through my mind every time I see her stupid, annoying face.

I really don’t like Ella.

Surprisingly enough, she doesn’t feel the same way. Despite all my efforts she has somehow gotten in her head that we are really related. When someone would ask us if we were sisters, I would answer with an icy “No,” and she would calmly explain, “Well, our moms are like sisters so technically we’re cousins.”


We are not technically cousins. In fact, we are not cousins at all. We have absolutely no family ties whatsoever. None of this person’s genes resembles mine in anyway. Really.

When I was six I invited Justine, a friend from school, for the weekend, and my mother hosted yet another dinner gathering. Naturally Ella and her parents were there as well, which meant that I had to share MY friend with her, which was so unfair.

So after dinner, while all the adults drank tea and pretended to be be smart and interested in politics, Ella, Justine, and I went to the den to play. At some point the girls asked me which one of them I liked better. Making a person choose between two people is probably one of the cruelest things a six year old can do. I was uncomfortable, so I tried to get out of answering the question by blabbering some lame diplomatic explanation:

“You’re my friend here, and you’re my friend from school. I like you both!”

If you have ever had two little girls standing in front of you, both with their tiny fists on their hips, demanding an answer, you know that you are not leaving until they get what they want. Knowing that I wasn’t going to make it out of there alive if I didn’t choose, I rose a trembling finger and pointed to Justine.

In just that one second, Ella’s confident smile melted from her face.

I felt bad, but what was I supposed to do? Justine and I were just starting to become friends, and she was my guest. Ella was sure to get over it, so I didn’t think about it too much. We continued to play and when it was time to go home, we said goodbye, and that was it.

A year or two later Ella and I were talking, and the subject of that night came up.

“You know,” she told me, “when you chose Justine over me, I cried after that. I thought you didn’t love me.”

Now, it was my turn for my smile to melt off my lips.

I always knew Ella thought more of our relationship than I did, but I had no idea that she would be so hurt because I didn’t point at her.

People will surprise you. They’ll spend their entire lives driving you crazy, making it impossible to really understand what you mean to them. How are you supposed to know how they feel about you? What do you do when those feelings aren’t mutual? My feelings for Ella were pretty clear to me, but apparently not to her. All those times we fought, she considered it to be a simple argument between sisters. For me, it was an opportunity to express my genuine dislike for her. She assumed that I loved her just as much as she loved me, but I believe she still was somewhat doubtful. Unfortunately, I think that on a certain level Ella wasn’t entirely confident and must’ve known somehow that I didn’t want her as my sister. When I pointed at Justine instead of her, she probably realized that I didn’t have an unconditional love for her and that all this time, it was all in her head.

My relationship with Ella is a lot more peaceful now. We stopped biting each other’s shoulder and pulling each other’s hair, which is nice. It does helps that we only see one another once every two months. There are times however, when she will feel the need to bring up the old days, and she’ll say things like, “ We used to be so close when we were little, do you remember?”

It’s in those moments that I turn six years old again, and I want to return her comment with my icy “No,” but then I imagine her hiding in the bathroom with tears running down her face while Justine and I are calmly playing in the other room.

So I ignore my distaste, slap on a fake smile, and answer, “ Yeah, we really were.”

About the Author

Lale Ceylan lives in New York City and attends the Lycee Francais de New York. She is currently in eleventh grade and is fifteen years old.

Photograph by Bella Muntz Kirchner


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