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Mist placed her hand under her chin and tried not to fall asleep as Ms. Wundin, her philosophy teacher at Middle Creek High, droned on and on about the mysteries of life. Her eyes began to close and she struggled to keep them open. She stared at the chalkboard behind Ms. Wundin's head and focused on the dark blue color.
"All of you will be doing a project on your own personal purpose of life. You may choose to give a speech or type up a report. You will present it to the class on November 8th, two days from today. Any questions?" Ms. Wundin looked at the class through narrowed eyes as a collective groan spread through the students.
The bell rang suddenly and Mist quickly shuffled all her papers into an acceptable pile and stuffed them into her backpack. All the students rushed out of the classroom, eager to end the day. Mist stood up and joined them when someone bumped into her from behind, hard enough to make her drop all her books. As she stooped down to gather them, she heard a giggle.
"Oh, sorry, Mist. Didn't see you there. It was like you were totally invisible," Alicia hid her laugh behind one delicate, manicured hand. Bree and Crystal joined in on the laughter as the threesome brushed past Mist out the door. Mist sighed heavily, picked up her books, and left the classroom. She trudged down the stairs and accidentally stepped on someone's foot. Said somebody turned around and angrily murmured, "Watch it, freak." Mist mumbled an apology, pushed open the heavy glass doors in the lobby and walked outside, relishing in the feel of the gentle breeze caressing her face. She walked to the bus stop and stood on line, waiting for it to come.
"Why me?" Mist muttered quietly to herself. "What did I ever do to anyone?" Nothing. Perhaps that was the problem. Mist did fine academically, but her social life was basically nonexistent. No one liked her at school, and she never made an attempt to make friends. She had known the people in her class for three years, starting in 6th grade, yet no one warmed up to her, and she was the single person in freshman year that had no friends.
The bus came and shattered Mist's little bubble of self-pity. She followed the people in line and swiped her Metro card in the slot and sat down. She pulled the hood of her gray sweater over her head and stared at the ground between her feet. She got off at her stop, quietly thanking the driver and stepping off the bus. Mist walked along the path that would lead to her house. The trees were in full autumn foliage and their beauty took her breath away. She just stared, reveling in the splendor of nature. Among the trees here, it was the one place where Mist could relax, where she could let her worries and problems float off her like a forgotten dream. The small clearing was utterly silent, not one sound to be heard. Mist smiled softly and walked to the small, old house that peeked over the trees. Mist took out her keys and went inside.
"Mom, Dad, I'm home!" Mist shouted. Her voice reverberated off the thin walls. Her mother barely looked up from her work and acknowledged her with a tiny indifferent nod. Her father ignored her completely and walked past her without a sound to close the door, which she had left wide open.
"Don't leave the door open like that, Mist. You know better," her father gave her a disapproving look and sat back down on his chair to resume his work. Mist could feel the tears burning at the back of her eyes and furiously wiped them away. Every day was like this, why should today be any different? She was left out at school and left out at home. She shook her head and walked upstairs into her small, closet-like room. Throwing her backpack on the bed, she took out her philosophy homework and sighed. What was her purpose of life? She had no purpose. Her life was one miserable disappointment after another.
Sadly, Mist turned on her computer with a crestfallen look on her face. After it started, Mist typed in her password for her account and waited. She went on the internet and also set up a word document. At Google, she typed in 'general purpose of life.' This project was supposed to be a personal presentation, but Mist had nothing to write about from her own life. She would just search up what other people defined as their purpose of life and use it as her own. Even if she was caught for plagiarism, her parents wouldn't care. In fact, if she got sent to juvenile jail, they'd be happy to get her out of the house. As she started her report, Mist heard a loud crash and then a soft moan from outside her window. She rushed to her window and drew back the curtains. Peering outside, she saw nothing but trees and was about to turn away when she saw a flash of white against the orange and red hues of the trees, followed by another moan. Mist gasped and ran down stairs, hurriedly pulling on her jacket and shoes before rushing out the door. She ran into the trees and stopped when she saw the flash of bright white again. Her hands flew to her mouth, barely suppressing a scream.
A young girl, about 6 or 7 years old, lay on the ground amid the fallen leaves. With her pale blond hair and her white dress, she looked like a miniature angel come to life. Mist rushed to her side and knelt down. With trembling fingers, she felt for the girl's pulse. There was nothing there, no beat, no sign that the girl was still alive. Mist's heart pounded, and she was consumed by fear. Gently, Mist put her hands under the girl, and lifted her up. She was surprisingly light, almost like a feather. Mist brought her inside the house, and avoiding her parents, brought her upstairs to her own room. Mist took an old blanket and smoothed it out on her bed, then laid the girl softly on it. She stirred and Mist started. The girl moved her arms and sat up slowly, blinking sluggishly. Mist backed up against the wall, trying not to draw the girl's attention toward her. The girl yawned softly then turned her head to look at Mist. Mist sighed and walked toward the bed and knelt down so that she was eye level with the girl.
"What's your name?" Mist inquired.
"Name?" the girl stared at Mist. "Name. I... am... " she spoke slowly, as if coming out of a trance. "Cara."
"Cara, do you know where your parents are?" Mist asked gently.
"Parents? I don't know. I don't know anything." Cara sobbed.
"Don't cry. Cara, calm down. What's your last name?"
"I don't know. I don't know anything," she repeated, large round tears rolling down her cheeks. Mist sighed. It seemed the girl was suffering from amnesia. She didn't remember anything of her old life.
"Cara, I'm Mist." She told the girl.
"Mi-st," Cara repeated, a look of wonder on her face. "Mi-st! Sister!"
"Um..." Mist was at a loss for words. She didn't want to tell Cara that she wasn't her sister, not when she was smiling for the first time. "Alright. Sister." Cara's smile was radiant and it lit up the room. She opened her arms and Mist picked her up and somewhat awkwardly hugged her. Cara giggled and squealed after Mist set her down.
"Mist, what is going on in her-?" Mist's mother stared at Cara openmouthed. In a trembling voice, she pointed at Cara, "Who is this?"
"Um... Mom, this is Cara. I found her outside, and she doesn't know who she is. I think she has amnesia or something like that. I was thinking maybe we could try to help her find her home?" Mist diverted her eyes and twisted her dark brown hair nervously.
"Mist. You know better than to let someone inside the house. Seriously, do you even pay attention to us when we tell you about this?" Mist's mother gestured at Cara, who was oblivious to the tension in the room and jumping on the bed. "Whatever. She can stay, but I expect you to take full responsibility for her. It's none of our business who she is." She turned on her heel and walked out of the room with her nose in the air.
Mist stood gaping at the spot her mother had just vacated. She didn't realize just how cruel her mother could really be.
"Mi-st? Are you okay?" Cara padded up to Mist and stared into her face with concern in her eyes.
"Yeah." Mist shook her head. "I'm fine." Silence stretched out and filled every corner of the room. Cara smiled.
"Here, let's find out who your parents are, alright?" Mist patted Cara's soft blond hair. She walked over to her computer and abandoning her project, searched up 'missing child.' "Cara, are you sure you don't remember anything? Even the slightest thing could help. I bet your parents are very worried by now."
"I don't know. I don't remember." Cara looked down sadly. "I don't think I have parents." Sympathy for this girl gripped Mist's heart. Another lonely girl, with no one to love her and no one to care about her. Mist never knew the meaning of love, and Cara didn't either. Perhaps they could both teach each other something. Mist looked back at the screen. There were no recent reports of a missing child; the last one was almost a year ago, and it was a boy. Mist's heart sank.
"Well, Cara. It seems as if you're going to be staying with me for a while." She smoothed Cara's hair.
"Yes, Mi-st. You're my sister!" Cara beamed and her easy going manner was infectious. Mist grinned and gave Cara her ear buds and her iPod.
"Here. You can listen to the music here. I need to finish my homework but you can just tell me if you need anything, 'kay?" Cara accepted the electronics and put in the ear pieces and was swaying to the music. In no time at all, she fell asleep, her hair a curtain around her face. Mist smiled and resumed her philosophy project. She took passages from here and there and translated them into her own words, so that she had a detailed, perfect essay. Mist frowned. It was perfect, and that was the problem. None of the words were her own; the feelings were all from other people. It would be a wonderful sample, and there was no doubt Ms. Wundin would take her report as an example for the other classes. But it was lying; it was unreal; it was purposeless. But what choice did she have? No one had shown her anything so that it could qualify as a purpose of life. She was an empty shell, void of any real feelings. Mist put her head in her hands and sobbed quietly. Her tears splashed onto the deep mahogany wood of her desk, staining the dark red perfection. She stared at them and took a shaky breath. Once she had calmed herself, she rubbed her cheeks and printed out two copies of her report, one for handing in, and one for Ms. Wundin, for she would use it as an example.
Cara stirred at the mechanical sound of the printer. She sat up and rubbed her eyes and yawned widely. Her face had lost that deathly hue and took on a more rosy shine. She glanced at Mist's tear-streaked face and asked, "What happened?"
Mist shook her head and forced a smile while reaching for the cookie box. "Do you want one?" she asked, hoping to distract Cara with the idea of chocolate. Cara ignored the offering and stared intently at Mist.
"What's wrong?" Cara hopped off the bed and climbed into the chair next to Mist. Then Mist's eyes flooded and she unlocked a dam. She sobbed uncontrollably while Cara climbed into Mist's lap and tried to comfort her. How pathetic. She was crying like a 6 year old in front of a 6 year old.
"Why are you crying?" Cara asked gently.
Mist sniffled and replied peevishly, "I have no friends. I have no family."
Cara smiled and shook her head. "No, you have both. You have me." Mist stopped crying and stared at Cara. Then she cried even harder, but this time hugging Cara and with a smile on her face.
"Cara, you are the sweetest person I have ever known." Mist squeezed Cara and smiled.
"That's what sisters are for," Cara grinned and giggled.
"Yeah." Mist stared at Cara's giggling form. "Sisters." Mist rubbed her cheek against Cara's soft hair and smiled. "Sisters."
(The Next Day)
Mist woke up and saw blond hair everywhere. She sat up quickly and was about to scream when she remembered what happened yesterday. Cara was sleeping next to her but due to Mist's sudden actions, sat up and yawned. Mist playfully poked her nose and it immediately scrunched up. Mist laughed.
"I gotta go to school now, Cara. I'll see you in the afternoon, 'kay?" Mist hurried to change and get ready for school, then rushed back into the bedroom. "If you need anything, you can ask my mom. I think she'll help you. Hopefully."
Mist endured another day of school, but this time in a much better mood. The day flew by and the insults rolled off her without effect. She was oblivious to all of it; none of it made a difference. She had Cara now, and that was all that mattered. Her teachers had to call her name twice when they called her, and Alicia's invectives had no effect on her at all. Mist simply smiled politely and walked away. It was amazing how much better it felt; she should have done that ages ago. After her last period of the day, philosophy, Mist rushed home, impatiently running down the path. She pushed open the door and ran upstairs.
Bursting into her bedroom, she shouted, "Cara, I'm home."
Cara turned around, a smile on her face tinged with a little sadness. "Hey Mist." Mist stopped in her tracks. Cara hadn't said her name in two syllables like usual. She seemed more mature, less of her innocence remained on her face. Mist shrugged, thinking it was her imagination.
"Hey. Come. I want to show you something." Mist dropped her bag on the ground and grabbed Cara's hand. They ran downstairs together and burst out the front door, which was still left open. Mist pulled Cara over to her favorite spot, in the small clearing by the trees. They sat on a rock that was strangely shaped like a large couch. "Look." Mist pointed all around them. "Do you see it? Nature's beauty, this is what it looks like."
"Yes. I see it. Everyone's souls. Poured out here." Cara whispered softly. Mist peered at her curiously. A single fat tear slowly rolled down Cara's cheek, then dropped to the ground amid the green grass streaked with yellow.
"Hey." Mist lightly grasped Cara's arm. "What's wrong?" Cara took a deep shuddering breath and let it out slowly.
"I remember, Mist Evie Merange. I remember everything." Cara looked down and Mist's heart stopped. "I am Cara, dream spirit. I represent dreams and wishes, love and hope. I'm not real, and I never was, at least not according to your understanding of the word. There are many spirits up there, all of us representing a different aspect of the world. Lately, the spirits with the most authority decided that I wasn't necessary; that what I represented wasn't important to the world. So they decided to delete me, remove me from the spiritual world, since I was taking up space. I didn't argue with them. Spirits never argue. I just asked them for one more quest. For me, a quest is when I go down to Earth to find someone who needs my help, someone who lacks love or hope, dreams or wishes. Once my job is done, I simply fade away, and return to the spiritual world. They allowed me the quest, and I found the perfect person in need of my help. You." Cara looked up at Mist with her big gray eyes, as round as the sun above them. Mist just stared, completely shocked, and wasn't able to make even the slightest sound. "There was just one catch for this last quest. I wouldn't have any memory of my former self; no memory of my work as a spirit, what I represented, and what I was here for. I was supposed to help you with everything I had, purely. And that's why I didn't remember anything. But now, my quest is completed. You feel love now. You feel hope. You can dream, and you have wishes of your own. Now you have a purpose for life."
"How-" Mist started.
"Spirits know everything, Mist. And now, since I finished my quest, the spirits will delete me. I'll fade away, just like with every quest, only this time I won't return." Another tear rolled down Cara's cheek, following the same path the other one had, landing in the same patch of grass. Mist gasped.
"No, you-u c-can't," Mist's voice trembled. "We just started living together. Why do you have to go?" Mist could feel the frustration building up inside of her, like an angry dragon clawing its way up to the surface.
"My time has finished. Even spirits have a death." Cara smiled, tinged with grief and regret.
"No." Mist shook her head furiously. "You can't go." She leaned forward and squeezed Cara tightly. Cara hugged her back, and then laughed quietly.
"It's ironic. After all this time..." Cara smirked.
"What is?" Mist's face was puzzled. She didn't understand how this could be funny.
"You'll see. Soon enough." Cara frowned. "Good-bye, Mist. Have faith in love, and know that dreams always have an edge of truth." Cara's form began to become transparent, until Mist could no longer see her outline. Slowly, her body began to vaporize, and disappeared in a cloud of mist. Now Mist understood Cara, the irony of her name and the mist that was once Cara. Mist sat there, crying silently, staring at the empty seat next to her, the tears rolling down her cheeks without a sound.
"Sisters forever." Mist heard Cara's voice on the wind and sighed. Her last words.
"Sisters forever." Mist agreed. She rubbed her eyes and moaned. She finally had found one person in the world to care about her, and now she was gone too. Mist dragged herself inside the house, slammed the door, and ran upstairs to cry. Tear after tear just gushed out of her, showing no signs of stopping. She couldn't control herself. She just let it flow out, releasing all her pent-up sadness and frustration. She just let it go. Mist threw herself on her bed and slowly cried herself to sleep.
(The Next Day)
Mist sat up in bed, rubbing her arms. She had forgotten to use the blanket last night, and now her skin was ice-cold. Her mother hadn't bothered to check in on her to make sure she was all right. Mist sighed. Some things never change. She pulled herself out of bed, changed clothes, and ate her breakfast slowly. She moved deliberately, as if moving in honey. At school, she made it through the day with no show of emotion or feeling at all. She was nearly given detention twice for her bluntness with the teachers.
At the last period, Mist stared at the clock, watching the minutes tick by. Her philosophy report was due now.
"Miss Merange, would you come up here and present your assignment to the class?" Ms. Wundin stared intently at Mist, who nodded methodically, retrieved her report and went up to the front of her class.
"Alright. You may begin. What is your purpose of life?" Ms. Wundin sat back and looked at Mist expectantly. Mist glanced down at her paper, skimmed its contents again and opened her mouth to begin reading. She froze, realizing something. Cara wouldn't have wanted her to go back to her old life. She wouldn't have wanted Mist to become what she was before Cara. And Mist decided, she would start a new life, change her outlook of the world. Then slowly, she folded the report twice in half and put it in her pocket. A small smile began to creep onto her lips, the first time she had smiled since Cara died.
"I live..." Mist stared at each of her classmates in turn, ending with Ms. Wundin. And with the peculiar smile still on her face, Mist finished, "For Cara."
The End of the Beginning