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You're Not Going Anywhere
You’re Not Going Anywhere
By Jackie Katz
Sage jumped off her bed when she heard the sound of her mother’s voice pierce through the intercom into her room. She had just been reading Romeo and Juliet, the Shakespearian play that every seventh grade student was required to read. And Sage was thankful for the interruption—it wasn’t exactly her kind of story. Especially when she hardly understood the words.
Sage skipped down the grandiose, white marble, swirling staircase that led her into her mother’s room, where the intercom message had been blasting from.
“Sage, sit down on the bed. We have to talk about something.” Sage’s father, Gerry, patted a cushy looking spot on their king-size bed. Sage didn’t know what this impromptu meeting could possibly be about. She thought they were going to discuss her upcoming 13th birthday, but she didn’t think that anymore judging from her parents’ solemn faces.
“It’s about Violet.” Sage’s mother, Lisa, sat down by her vanity, and ran her fingers through her perfect, brunette bob to relieve the stress.
Sage felt her heart drop to her stomach. What news could possibly be so serious regarding Violet, her six-year old, carefree, life-loving sister? The worst things that ever happened to Violet were punishments of no T.V. for a week, or the dog chewed up one of her Barbie dolls. Sage knew that this had to be serious news.
“Remember how she has been complaining of headaches recently?”
Sage recalled one time overhearing Violet tell their mom her head felt like it was exploding, but she thought her kindergartener sister was exaggerating.
“Well, we finally took her to the doctor.” Sage’s mother couldn’t keep speaking, for whatever reason, so Gerry took over.
“The doctor told us to go to a more…specialized doctor, for brain stuff,” Gerry tried to use words Sage would understand. “And this new doctor told us some bad news.”
Out of nowhere, Sage burst into tears. She knew what was coming. Well, not exactly, but where could this all be going? A brain doctor telling her baby sister not so good news. This was more serious than Sage had thought even when she knew it was bad. It was life-threatening. And that life was her baby sister.
Lisa plopped down and stuffed her face in Sage’s sweatshirt. They sobbed together, until Sage opened her blood-shot eyes and faced her father.
“Violet has a brain tumor.” Gerry now, too, broke down in tears.
“Where’s she now?”
“How?...Why?...What?” Sage had so many questions. But she knew there would be no logical answer. Still, she had one most important. What was going to happen to Vi?
“There’s pancakes! Pancakes! SAGE-Y! Wake up!” Still in her Barbie pajamas, Violet bounced on top of Sage in her bed. Sage sat up, grabbed Violet, and squeezed her tight. When she let go, she stared in her sister’s eyes. They were the most light, piercing blue, almost Violet, hence her name. Plus, Lisa wanted to name her kids after colors.
Violet cocked her head, wondering why her sister was staring at her. “C’mon, Sagey!” She dragged Sage down to the kitchen, where sure enough, Lisa was making chocolate-chip pancakes, Violet’s favorite.
Sage didn’t want to say, but she knew why her mother was making pancakes. Lisa usually doesn’t cook any breakfast on a school morning, but now things were different.
“Here you go, Vi.” Lisa put a short stack with syrup and strawberries in front of Violet.
“’Welcome.” Lisa turned so she didn’t face her daughter. Sage suspected that she couldn’t bear to look at Violet right now. She wondered if Violet even knew the seriousness of the situation.
“Vi, remember we’re going to the doctor tomorrow.”
Violet picked up a strawberry. “But momma, tomorrow’s still school.”
“Uhm, we’re going to fix the headache problem tomorrow. We’re going to Dr. Sherman.”
“O, mmkay.” Violet swished the pancake around in Mrs. Butterworth. She put her hand on her head and massaged a spot near her forehead.
“Honey, don’t touch.” Lisa snapped.
Violet started crying. Sage wondered if she knew the degree of the headache.
Sage pulled her sister onto her lap and squeezed her tight again. The sisters walked to the school bus waiting outside the house. They sat together upfront. Sage didn’t let go of Violet’s hand the whole way.
During school, on the way to math class, Sage walked past Violet’s class walking to the art room.
“Is that your sister? She’s adorable.” Sage’s friend Terry admired the kindergartener.
“One second, Ms. Brinzac.” Violet ran across the hall to Sage and hugged her tight. “I’m scared for the doctor tomorrow.”
Where was this coming from? Sage didn’t know how to answer. “It’s okay to be scared. But, you’re not going anywhere.” Sage tucked her face in Violet’s Juicy sweatshirt
“What?” Violet was confused.
“Never mind. Just don’t worry bout’ it. We both have to go.” Violet ran to catch up with her class.
“Vi! Let’s go! Doctor’s today.”
Violet ran down the stairs in tears.
“Momma, why are we bringing my Barbie suitcase to the doctor?” Violet sniffle-spoke.
“Yea seriously, Mom, why?” Sage was also curious.
“It might be awhile, Vi.”
Violet turned to head back upstairs.
“Not so fast. We really have to go.”
“But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Sagey said I’m not going anywhere.”
Lisa turned to Sage and gave her a Why-are-you-putting-those-ideas-in-her-head? glance. It was a typical glance for older sisters. But this was all-too different.
“You’re not. It won’t be long before you’re home and everything’s fine.” Sage tugged at Violet’s light brown, curly pigtails.
“Good. Because I want to play Barbie’s with you, only there’s not enough time.”
“Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of time.” Lisa picked up Violet off the high bar stool. “Say goodbye to Sagey. Daddy’s in the car.”
Sage tried to hold back her tears, for Violets’ sake. They hugged and before they parted ways, Sage whispered in Violet’s ear, “You’re not going anywhere. Because you can’t. I love you too much.”
Violet pulled away confused. Lisa gave Sage an angry look. Even though she didn’t hear the exact words, she knew the gist.
The school bus was here. Lisa, Gerry and Violet pulled out of the driveway around the same time.
On the way to math class, there was someone missing from Ms. Brinzac’s class going to art. Sage held back her tears. She told herself Violet would be fine. People survive brains tumors nowadays, although in music class, they had just done a unit on George Gershwin, who died from a brain tumor.
For the next week, things were pretty normal. The house was quieter without the screaming six-year old, but everything seemed that it was going to be okay. Lisa and Gerry took trips back and forth to the hospital. They really didn’t talk about what they were doing there much with Sage, but Sage assumed nothing could have gone wrong if they weren’t telling her.
An America’s Next Top Model marathon was on T.V. all Saturday long, so Sage was psyched to cuddle in bed and watch the trash reality show with a bag of Cheetos. Until she heard the intercom.
“Sage, come here please.”
Her mother’s voice sounded shaky and broken. Sage didn’t want to go down. As long as she didn’t go down, she knew nothing. As far as she knew, Violet was fine. She would think that as fact until she went downstairs. So she decided she wasn’t going.
“Sage!” The intercom still squealed. But Sage was busy. She was looking at the iPhoto of her MAC laptop. She sometimes took pictures on her silly computer camera with the funny effects. Most of the time, she took them with Violet, the only one in the house who appreciated such goofiness.
Sage put iPhoto on slideshow mode, and instantly, pictures started slowly flashing across the screen. There was one of the sisters in stretch mode. Violet’s eyes looked bigger than her face. And then there were some in sepia, or black-and-white. Sage put her face in her hands and sobbed.
“Vi? Where are you? You’re still here right? I told you not to go anywhere.”
“Sage, who are you talking to?” Gerry walked into the room, with puffy eyes.
“Violet. She’s not…she’s not at the hospital anymore, is she?”
Gerry slowly shook his head. “No, she’s not with us anymore.” His voice cracked.
“Daddy!” Sage ran up to her father and squeezed him tight. She imagined he was Violet.
Sage got to miss school for the next week. Normally, not being sick and not going to school equals the recipe for awesomeness. But Sage wished everything were so different. Why her sister? How could this happen? In such a quick time, her baby sister was just a fading memory, a part of her life that was no longer there. A part of her heart that was missing.
Despite the age difference, Violet and Sage had a very special relationship. They loved each very much. They hung out together, like friends. Sage was just starting to baby-sit. Without an adult in the house, they would go crazy, watch movies with tons of candy, have massive pillow fights, and then snuggle reading books. Everything used to be blissful. Used to be.
The funeral was the most painful part of all. It meant it was all real. No going back, no pretending. Seeing, “Violet Gold” on a tombstone with the years, “2002-2008” was heart wrenching, not to mention, stomach wrenching. Sage barfed right after the service. Neither her nor her parents could speak. It was too unbearable, too hard to even put in words.
Violet was gone. Sage heard her adorable giggle in the background, but tried to push away the memories. She felt Violet wrap her arms around her leg and beg Sage to move, but Sage desperately wanted to throw out the past. It was too difficult to know she once had a sister and now she didn’t.
Sage didn’t know what she was doing. But it helped just to say it out loud.
“Poor thing!” Sage heard her mother’s friend say, but she ignored it.
“O Vi…where are you? You’re not going anywhere! You’re right here.” By now, Sage was in tears in the grass. Her head was spinning with images and memories of Violet. She couldn’t take it. Why did she lose her only sister? Someone so special to her. So close. Did brain tumors run in the family or something?
Sage wandered around the cemetery, escaping the sympathy from the mass of people. Violet’s kindergarten class was there, and so were most of Sage’s teachers. Tons of her friends’ parents were there, too. They all came up to her with words such as, “We’re so sorry for your loss,” or “It was her time.” But it wasn’t Violet’s time to go. She had just lost her first baby tooth, for Christ’s sake!
Sage found her parents sitting on a bench alone, also away from the crowd. They were huddled into each other, silently crying and praying for Violet. Sage climbed onto her father’s lap and dug her face in his suit.
She heard her mother softly whisper-singing Violet’s favorite song, “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles. “We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, yellow submarine…”
“Good morning class.”
“Good morning, Ms. Rollins.”
Sage was back at school, and she couldn’t think of a place she would rather not be. It was horrible. The teachers singled her out and drew attention to her in every single class. For instance, Ms. Klein said, “No homework,” and then in a sad voice, “On account of…Sage’s tragedy.” It was the most ridiculous thing she ever heard.
But the hardest part about school was when she passed by Ms. Brinzac’s kindergarteners on the way to math. “Hi Sage!” squealed a couple of Violet’s friends whom she met when they came over for play dates.
“Hi.” Sage whispered back. Where was her sister? She thoroughly searched the class to make sure that this wasn’t a bad dream she woke up from this morning. But nope, it was real. Violet wasn’t there. She saw Ms. Brinzac, who was also Sage’s kindergarten teacher, blow her a kiss from the front of the single-file class. Sage barely nodded as a response.
“Sage, is everything alright?” Mr. Beckerman had a concerned face once Sage walked into the classroom. Why wouldn’t he? Sage’s red eyes, frizzy hair, slovenly clothes, and crinkled forehead essentially cried for help.
“Can I go home?”
Mr. Beckerman was one of the few teachers who apparently did not receive the news about Violet, which was strange, since the school obviously notified every teacher. In fact, it was the first death of a child the school ever had to deal with. Then Sage remembered. Mr. Beckerman was the most unorganized teacher on the planet. He came late everyday, so he never checked his mailbox, and never checked his email. And apparently, never read the local newspaper.
“Well, what seems to be the problem, Sage? Maybe we can fix it together.”
This was one problem that couldn’t be fixed. Sage didn’t bother to answer, or even to look back at Mr. Beckerman. She just ran out of the classroom to her locker, got her things and turned on her cell phone to call home.
“Sage Gold, please report to the principal’s office.” Normally, when Principal Meyers made announcements on the loudspeaker like that, he used a stern, angry voice, but this time he used a gentler one.
Reluctantly, Sage walked ashamedly to the principal’s office, where she saw Mr. Beckerman. He obviously had just been informed of the news, because his face drooped down.
“Do you think you can make it through the rest of the day, Sage?” Principal Meyers seemed concerned, but determined to keep Sage in school.
“I really want to go.” Sage twiddled with her thumbs.
“I think you’ll be happy to know that periods 7 and 8 have been cancelled, and are dedicated to an all-school assembly regarding…Violet.”
This was exactly something Sage did not want to attend. Why should she willfully participate in an assembly dedicated to her sister? Nobody else could even imagine what kind of anguish she was going through, and she didn’t care to watch people try to pretend they were in mourning, or some crap like that.
Since Sage didn’t respond, the principal continued. “The school decided to build a memorial in the playground for Violet. There will be an area with benches, and a plaque. Around the plaque will be framed pictures by Violet’s kindergarten class of Violet or things they remember about her. I think it will be meaningful, especially for you and your family. Your parents are aware of this, and are coming to the assembly this afternoon, too.”
Meyers couldn’t be serious. First, who in the world thinks a stupid bench in the playground is anywhere near memorializing the value of Violet’s life? And who will even sit there? No one. And that will be even more depressing, an ended life and an empty bench in that life’s honor. This was absurd, and Sage couldn’t believe her parents were supporting this. But now, she couldn’t even go home. She would have to stand with her parents, holding back embarrassing tears in front of the whole school, while Principal Meyers opened the ridiculous bench and plaque.
“I guess…I guess I have to stay then.”
“I’m glad. And Sage?”
Sage turned around.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
Sage slightly nodded and speed-walked back to math, dreading 7th period.
During 6th period, Sage was trying to plan something to escape the dreadful, ridiculous assembly. All through English class, she used her Composition notebook to plot her schemes. Here’s what it looked like:
Plan 1: Pretend to throw up in bathroom. Claim it was from tuna sandwich. Mommy will have to take me home.
Sage figured this plan wouldn’t work, though. There was no way to fake the hideous smell of vomit.
Plan 2: Call mom and tell her the truth. Say that this is the most stupid way to honor the life of Violet.
But she didn’t want to upset her mother, so Sage gave it one last shot.
Plan 3: Pull the fire alarm so everyone has to evacuate the building. While everyone is out of the building, rip off the stupid plaque and take away the bench.
But this, too, was unsuitable. She would obviously be caught. Sage guessed that there would be nothing left to do but face the assembly. Unless…
Plan 4: Plain and simple. Lock self in the janitors’ closet.
That was it! No body would find her there. Not even the janitors; Sage rarely even saw them, which might explain why the school was so dirty. It was the perfect plan.
“Where could she be?” Lisa furiously asked Principal Meyers. It was almost time for the assembly to start, but one of the most important attendees, Sage, was not there. How could Sage do this to their family, after everything they just went through?
“She’s not in the bathroom.” Gerry reported after thoroughly searching each stall.
“Maybe it’s best if we start, and she comes in her own way.” Principal Meyers offered, desperate to start on time.
“Ok.” Lisa gave in. “I still can’t believe she would disappear like this.”
Between 6th and 7th periods, Sage had snuck into the janitor’s closet. Thankfully, the door hadn’t been shut, and she was able to stick her finger between the wall and the door in order to quietly slip in unnoticed. There was barely any room for her with all of the mops, cleaning equipment, ‘Caution’ signs and buckets. Sage swiped a few bottles of Tilex off one shelf, and placed herself there snugly in their place.
It was…boring. Sage twirled around her hair, trying to do anything to keep her occupied but to be quiet at the same time. Plus, she couldn’t move an inch without having the whole shelf unit topple over.
Sage wondered what was going on at the assembly. She wondered if her mother and father though it was stupid, too. They couldn’t possibly want to be there. And if they did, she didn’t think they’d be mad that she’d skipped it. It was her sister, too.
Lisa and Gerry solemnly smiled when Principal Meyers removed a cloth covering and revealed the plaque. It read: “Violet Gold. Beloved daughter, sister, and kindergarten and student.” All around it, Ms. Brinzac’s class had drawn pictures with stick-people, most likely one being Violet. Some pictures simply had words saying, “We miss you.” Lisa and Gerry were happy that their daughter was so loved in her class. When the presentation was done, the whole school planted purple flowers around the benches in honor of Violet.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Meyers.”
“Please, call me George. And you’re very welcome. I can’t say it was ‘a pleasure.’ I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Lisa and Gerry nodded sympathetically, like they had been ever since Violet died in the hospital and the doctor told them the news that the tumor was incurable.
Just then, Lisa realized why Sage wasn’t there. She didn’t know where she was, but she knew why she wanted to escape. Talking to all these people all the time was extremely difficult. They all properly sent their sympathies and regards; it would be strange if they didn’t. But truly, what did Violet mean to them? Other than another student in the classroom, what effect did Violet have on Principal Meyers’ life? None. And that’s why Sage wasn’t there. She was sick of the weeding through, having to pull it together in public and cry alone.
After the ceremony was over, Lisa and Gerry tried Sage’s cell phone one last time to tell her it was okay to come out from wherever she was hiding.
Sage had turned off her phones ringer in favor of a silent vibration. She had seen the phone vibrate five times about an hour and a half ago. It was vibrating again, but this time she answered it, knowing that the assembly must be over.
“Sorry Mom. Sorry for not being there.” Sage decided it was better to come clean, instead making up some lame excuse. This wasn’t like skipping school by faking being sick. This involved Violet, and Sage guessed that anything regarding Violet now was a serious matter.
“Where are you, honey? Come to the parking lot. We’ll go home.”
Sage agreed and came out of the closet and walked to the parking lot to find her parents leaning against their Toyota Hybrid car. Sage ran up to her parents, said sorry again, and they drove home. Sage looked to her left at the empty seat next to her. Violet’s booster seat was gone now. The car felt off balance with her joyful sister around. In the car, Violet and Sage would play hand games or “I Spy” and things like that. It was weird being quiet, and having to look out of the window for entertainment.
Sage rested her head against the cold window. Her eyelids became too tired to stay open, so she fell asleep.
“Sagey? Sagey, wake up! We’re almost at Ralph’s ices!”
Sage turned around to find Violet sitting in her booster seat. She was struggling to unbuckle herself. Her face lit up when she saw Sage was awake.
“Sagey? What’s wrong?”
Sage’s face must have looked sullen, because Violet cocked her head to the side and pouted.
“We at Ralph’s ices! There’s nothing to be sad about, silly!”
“Honey, wake up! We’re home.”
Sage felt her mother’s pink Kleenex wipe tears from her face.
“You were having a bad dream.”
“Oh.” Sage remembered most of her dream, but didn’t want to talk about it any more. It was too painful that that was her dream and this was real life, because real life now seemed more like the nightmare.
Lisa looked at Sage with concern and sadness. She knew Sage’s dream obviously had something to do with Violet. This was one problem a mother couldn’t fix. In fact, Lisa firmly believed this was a problem no mother should have to face.
It was now exactly 2 months since Violet’s death, and Sage was starting to worry she would forget her. Everyday, Sage did something to remind herself about Violet, like looking at her iPhoto pictures or listening to “Yellow Submarine” on her iPod. But Sage was worried that photos and old songs were not enough to bring back the spirit of Violet. Sage knew nothing could do that, which was the worst part. Nothing could truly hold the essence of her sister, her laughter, kindness, free spiritedness, cries, complaints. Nothing.
Sage walked by Ms. Brinzac’s class every Wednesday and Friday, and it pained her every single time more and more. She desperately searched the crowd for her sister, but only saw the rest of the class.
“Stop right there.”
Sage whipped her face around to see what was going on. She was simply on her way to the bathroom, hoping to take a break from the boring science class.
“You’re not going anywhere, young lady.”
There it was. It was what Sage had said to Violet. But Sage only remembered that just now. She started to bawl.
“Sorry, hon. Didn’t mean to come off that harsh. But you don’t have a hall pass.”
Sage quickly ran her fingers under her eyes to rid of the tears, wanting not to look like a freak who cried when being stopped in the hall. “Sorry. It’s not you. I mean, the reason I’m crying. Something else…it’s bugging me.”
The security guard recognized Sage and knew. “Ahh. Well, in that case, I’ll let you off the hook. Just remember to grab a hall pass the next time you leave the classroom.”
“Violet. Violet. Violet?!?!”
Lisa and Gerry rushed to their now only daughter’s room. It was 4 am, and recently, Sage was sleep-talking, screaming for Violet in the middle of the night.
“Violet? Is that you?”
“No, I’m afraid not. It’s Mom.”
“O. Why??” Sage burst out crying. She was obviously still part asleep, but part awake.
“Because, because Violet’s gone, honey.” Gerry thought it best to just say it like it was, even though what it was wasn’t so nice anymore. Gerry flicked on the light to fully wake Sage. He went and sat down at her desk, where he found her computer flashing images of Violet and Sage. He also found Violet’s old clothes piled up around the windowsill.
“Lisa, this is unhealthy. For Sage.” He pointed to all of Violet’s belongings. Lisa held back the tears welling up in her eyes. It was still hard for her to believe.
Gerry took Violet’s things out of the room one by one, intending to pack them in boxes for saving. He also switched Sage’s screensaver to ‘Flurry’ instead of ‘Photo Slideshow.’ Sage protested, but Gerry was firm.
“It’s time…to move on. For all of us.” Gerry was determined to get his family back up and running. Although he didn’t yet know that that was impossible.
Lisa and Gerry had been notified by Principal Meyers a few times over the past few months that Sage had been failing her classes, going to the bathroom more than normal, and dozing off. It was time for the meeting.
“Mr. and Mrs. Gold. How nice to see you. Please sit.” Principal Meyers offered them the two cushy chairs in front of his desk. “This is awfully hard for me to do, considering Sage’s circumstances. But I don’t want to see an excellent student failing in her studies because of them.”
“We understand. We just don’t know what to do.”
“The school board has decided that it would be beneficial to Sage to maybe see the school’s social worker, Ms. Levine. She is extremely kind and helps tons of kids with a variety of problems. I think Sage needs an outlet to express her emotions.”
Lisa and Gerry agreed, and set it up so that Sage would go to Ms. Levine every Friday at lunchtime, instead of to the cafeteria.
“No! Absolutely not! I don’t need a shrink. Nothing can help me. I am fine, anyway.” Sage’s parents just told her the news about going to Ms. Levine. She really did not want to go.
But Sage went. She had to; Ms. Levine was expecting her, and would probably notify Meyers if she were a no-show.
“You must be Sage Gold. Hello, I’m Ms. Levine.” Charlotte Levine was a woman in about her 50s, with brownish-red short hair, dark red lipstick, and great pantsuits.
“Yea.” Sage decided she would prove to this shrink that she was A-OK and that nobody could help her, unless they knew how to bring Violet back.
“Tell me a little about yourself.”
Sage was vague. “I’m in 7th grade.” And that’s an understatment.
Ms. Levine chuckled. “Yes, I’m aware. But, I mean, do you have any interests?”
Sage shook her head. “The only thing I love to do is cook with my dad, sometimes.”
“Aaah. Sounds fun. Do you know that the school offers an after school cooking program?”
Sage hated when adults tried to talk her into taking “extra-curricular.” She knew it was their way of saying, “Move on! Your sister’s dead.”
“Yea, I know. I’m not interested.”
“So, what do you do after school?
“I go home. Sometimes, I go grocery shopping with my mom if she picks me up.”
“What about weekends? Any sleepovers, play dates?”
Sage nodded. “Usually I just stay in my room. Watch TV. I’m tired out from the week.”
“Why are you so tired? Do you play sports?”
Sage nodded again. “No, I just don’t get much sleep?”
Sage shrugged. “I’m not much of a sleeper.”
“Aaah. I see. Not everyone is. But, how so? Nightmares?”
Sage really didn’t want to get into this with a middle school social worker, who was most definitely informed about Violet. “Can I go?”
Ms. Levine looked shocked. She was just getting somewhere with Sage. “I would prefer it if you stayed until the end of the period.”
“That’s in about 20 minutes.”
Ms. Levine nodded.
“But, as you can see, I don’t have that much to talk about with you. I’m perfectly fine.”
Ms. Levine laughed again. “I can see that. But even perfectly fine students come to me. If you come to me, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It’s just nice to talk about yourself, without seeming like you’re bragging.” Ms. Levine patted herself on the back for a good joke.
“Nobody I know comes to you.”
“Who do you know? Maybe they do; they just don’t tell you.”
“Well…I, uhh, know Georgia Harrington. And Marcia Potter. And Dana Stead.”
“What a lovely group of girls! Are they your friends?”
Sage shrugged. “We used to be. In 6th grade we were. This year…not so much.”
“Why is that?”
Sage shrugged for what seemed like the billionth time. “I don’t know. I guess BFF is a lie.”
And Ms. Levine laughed for what also seemed like the billionth time. “Sometimes it is. But was there a fight between you four?”
Just then, the bell rang. “Oh, we’re out of time, Sage. See you next week. It was great talking to you.”
Sage barely nodded on her way out. She didn’t need some middle-aged woman telling her how to live her life. She stormed out of the office, in search of…anything.
Sage called her mom right when school ended to ask her to pick her up. She didn’t feel like taking the smelly old school bus, waiting around for half the bus to get off before she could actually be home. Besides, Violet had once been on that school bus with her, right next to her. But there was no escaping that.
When Sage got home, she found her father in their parents’ bedroom, blasting “Yellow Submarine.” But when Sage walked into the room, she saw that the music was coming from the T.V., from an old home video.
There was Violet speak-singing in her two-year-old voice “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine…”
Gerry was rocking back and forth on the king-size bed, clutching a pillow for what looked like dear life.
Lisa rushed toward her husband and got him off the bed and out of fetal position. Now it seemed to Sage that their family truly was broken; the one who had been trying to pull them together was falling apart.
School was over. May and June went by in a flash. Sage only went to Ms. Levine a couple more times, skipping it other times in favor of the bathroom stall or janitor’s closet. The little sessions she did attend were basically the same as the first; Sage was resisting opening up and Ms. Levine trying to dig deeper. They were pointless.
On the last day of school, it seemed to Sage she could finally breath. After the last half day full of goodbyes and h.a.g.s.’s (have a good summer’s), Sage took the school bus home. She lied down horizontally on the worn-down seat, pretending to hold a spot for Violet. But truly, Sage was covering the spot, so she wouldn’t have to see it empty.
When Sage hopped on the bus, she swore she saw her. She saw Violet riding her tricycle in circles on the driveway into the community’s street. She told herself to snap out of it, but there she was. Riding along.
But for once in all of Sage’s minor hallucinations, Violet didn’t answer. She was in her own little world, content, as she zoomed around the dead end street in her Barbie bicycle gear.
Sage walked toward the image of her sister, but every time she got closer, Violet seemed to move farther away.
“Where ya going, Vi?”
But Violet still didn’t answer. Sage watched as she rode her bike past the last house on the street, and into the messy ramble of trees and grass and dirt. Sage rubbed her eyes to check that she stopped seeing Violet. She did.
Sage didn’t know what to make of her hallucinations. In one way, she liked them. She liked being trapped in this fantasy world, where what she wanted to see, she saw. She liked that it brought Violet back to life in her mind. On the other hand, she didn’t want to go crazy either. But for the time being, they were nice.
When Lisa got home at 6 and Gerry at 6:30, the family gathered round the table for their housekeeper’s home-cooked meal. Violet’s old chair had been removed, so it wouldn’t be too sad to look in that direction. Too sad.
The family was quiet. They all had a mutual understanding now of the others’ grieving patterns, and were accepting them. Gerry got angry fast, but became a child when he was alone, and tried to hold it together in public. Lisa tried to hold back tears, but truly was always crying on the inside. And Sage was losing it, losing her grades, losing her mind, losing her friends.
“Honey, how was your day?” Gerry asked with a gleaming fake-smile.
Sage nodded. “Blah.”
Gerry became agitated with the dysfunctional family. “Why can’t anyone in this house be happy anymore? Like Violet was.”
He brought up the name. The single word that forced memories, tears and emotion out of the eyes and noses of Lisa and Sage.
“God damn it!” Gerry slapped his hand on the table, almost causing the crystal wine glass to topple over.
“Honey, please! You can’t yell at us for tearing up!” The understanding of others’ mourning processes’, yes, they had, but Gerry’s process involved pushing the buttons of everyone else.
“Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry.” Gerry sat down and put his face in his calloused hands.
“May I be excused?”
Lisa and Gerry both looked over at Sage with sympathy and love. “Sure, sweetie.”
Sage got up and walked outside into the driveway. Neither Lisa nor Gerry asked her where she was going or tried to stop her, because it didn’t matter. They were now each individual units.
“There you are, Vi! I’ve been looking for you.”
Sage stared at Violet circling the dead-end street on her Razor scooter. She heard laughter.
“See, you’re here, Vi! I told you, you’re not going anywhere.”