Friday 9th January 2009by Tina
The frantic knock came on Ruth’s door near midnight, when she was just about to go to bed. It had been a long day at work and grad school and she was really looking forward to a good night’s rest, until that knock came, of course. She knew there was only one person who’d come at that time, and she knew well enough that it wouldn’t be for nothing.
At least, she hoped not.
‘”What is it, Naomi?” Ruth asked as soon as she opened her door. There stood her younger sister, nibbling on her nails the way she always does when she’s nervous.
“I need your help, Ruth,” Naomi whispered, glancing behind her furtively as if there might be someone watching her. She hurriedly went in the room and grabbed the knob from Ruth to close it behind her.
“Dad’s asleep,” Ruth said with a yawn, following Naomi who had sunk down her bed, wringing her hands. “What’s your problem?”
“I am in such big trouble! I really need your help, Ruthie.”
Ruth sighed. Naomi was eleven months younger than she is, and because of the less than a year gap, Naomi never called her “Ate”. Sometimes, though, Ruth feels like she’s eleven years older than Naomi, especially when she had to bail her out of the scrapes she gets into. Ever since Naomi turned twenty-three, Ruth promised not to bail her out anymore and that she had to start standing up for herself. However, it seemed like Naomi was still having a hard time being grown up, like now.
“Why? What did you do this time?”
“It’s not my fault!” Naomi cried defensively. “I didn’t know, okay?”
“Whoa, hold it! What did you not know?” Ruth asked, startled by her sister’s outburst. Naomi rose up from the bed and started pacing nervously. Ruth could see the panic in her eyes, and felt her stomach sink. Naomi was usually emotional, and sometimes she uses her emotions to convince people around her to take her side. Either Naomi was starting to become a better actress, or her panic was really true. Ruth caught her by the shoulder and stopped her from walking, then led her to a chair. “Take a deep breath, and tell me what happened.”
Naomi did just that. “Well, you know how we were issued checks at work?” she said, avoiding Ruth’s eyes.
“Yeah?” Ruth remembered the booklet of blue and white checks that Naomi had proudly shown her a week she started working for their Dad’s office. Their Dad thought Naomi needed a job while she was still deciding what to do with her life, so he got her in, with complete benefits so she can experience how to work. Naomi, even if she’s never really had a good relationship with her dad, was excited to be doing something.
“Well…what happens if a check is issued and there’s no sufficient cash in the account?” Naomi asked feebly.
“The check bounces. Meaning there’d be a penalty charge from the bank, and they might call depends on how much is on the check.” Ruth answered. It took her a while to realize what Naomi meant. When she did, her eyes widened. “No, you didn’t!”
Naomi still avoided Ruth’s eyes, but she nodded slightly.
“Why did you write a check? Why didn’t you just withdraw?” Ruth asked, rubbing her forehead wearily.
“It was…an investment,” Naomi said slowly. “Well, okay, I was actually just supposed to pay my credit card bills, and I thought I can use my checks to pay for that, but I didn’t get to check my account before I paid for my bill.” The words tumbled out like a river, and Ruth just listened without a word.
“Oh Naomi,” she said finally, shaking her head.
“I didn’t know! And payday isn’t until next Friday, and the check clears tomorrow!” Naomi wailed, nearly in hysterics.
“Shh, Naomi, it’s okay,” Ruth put a comforting arm around her sister. She paused before she asked the next question.
“And Dad will definitely know,” Naomi continued. “Since he told me that he’d be monitoring my payroll account every now and then, because he opened it as a shared account between us! I’m so, so dead.” She buried her face in her hands.
Ruth sighed again. It was just like their dad to do that to Naomi.
“Come on, Naomi,” Ruth said, hugging her sister from beside her. She could feel her sniffling slightly. “Shush now. I’ll help you.” Ruth did not want to do it, but she knew there was no way her sister could get out of this one without her help, and Ruth doesn’t want to hear another round of yelling and arguing with her dad and sister.
“You will?” Naomi looked up at her, and Ruth saw her tear-filled eyes.
“Yeah, I will,” Ruth nodded. “Tell you what, I’ll lend you some money to deposit in your bank so you won’t have to pay any extra charges. If Dad asks where that came from…well, tell him you just sold some of your old clothes or something.”
Naomi brightened. “I will! You will help me, promise?”
Ruth nodded and raised a finger at Naomi. “But you will pay for it on your next salary. I’m saving up to buy something on my birthday.”
“I promise!” Naomi nodded eagerly. Ruth stood up to her desk to get her checkbook and a pen. Her sister gave her the amount she needed and Ruth slightly cringed when she wrote the amount down. After she had signed it, she handed it to Naomi.
“Now don’t forget,” Ruth said, when Naomi held the check carefully in her hand. “I’m going to expect a payment on Friday.”
“I will pay you, promise!” Naomi repeated, and then leaned over to kiss Ruth on the cheek. “Thank you so much, Ruth! You saved me.”
“As always,” Ruth said, smiling in spite of herself. “Now deposit that first thing in the morning tomorrow and you should be safe.”
Naomi nodded and hugged Ruth one more time before leaving her bedroom. Ruth watched her leave and close the door behind her. She was relieved to be able to help her sister, but she had a sneaking suspicion that Naomi would not be able to pay her back at all.