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Coming Back Home
“I thought you were dead.” Her voice was cold and she stared at me with horrified eyes that filled with tears the more she stared. “You let me believe that you were dead.” Her voice cracked. She took a step closer to me, pointing her finger into my chest. “How could you let me think you were dead?” She choked down a sob.
I just kept staring at her. My mouth opened to offer her some words of comfort, but I couldn’t say anything.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” She exclaimed, bewildered by my return.
“I-I,” I pursed my lips. “I’m sorry.” I let the words hang in the air. She didn’t say anything for a little while and leaned against the door frame. She let out a sigh—the sigh of a woman who has been through hell and back, the sigh of a woman who holds years of stress on her back.
“Mom’s dead,” She mentioned plainly, as if it were just a sidebar in our conversation.
I stumbled backwards, horrified. “What are you talking about?”
“She died last year.” Gianna’s eyes were blank, as if she’d lost all her life. Under her eyes were dark circles.
“No,” I was finally able to utter after searching my sister’s face. Maybe she was just playing a sick joke on me for leaving; maybe when I said I was sorry enough she would burst out laughing and say that mom was upstairs in her room sleeping. It’d be one cruel joke.
She met my eyes, staring at me levelly. “I thought you were dead,” She repeated herself, hoping to get some reaction, an explanation, from me.
“She was in remission,” I wailed. “What the hell happened?”
“We searched for you for months. Mom never rested. George started skipping school. He almost had to retake his senior year.”
“Gianna, how did she die?”
“We have a gravestone for you out by the church, right under that willow tree we used to climb after Sunday school. Remember, when Mom used to scold us for scuffing our shoes?”
“Gianna!” I screamed, tears raining from my eyes.
“What?” She snapped her head up to stare at me, eyes blazing with the fire of hatred.
“How did she die?” I repeated. I started to reach out to grab her, but she flinched away from me. Her hand rested on the door; she was ready to shut it on me at any moment, leave me out in the cold.
“The cancer came back. It went to her lungs. She spent months on so many machines that I couldn’t even count all the tubes.” She shook her head, laughing a little bit. “She couldn’t even eat.”
“Oh, Gianna—” I swallowed and bit my lip so hard that it bled. I reached toward her, grabbing onto her hand. She swiped it away, disgusted by my touch.
“She kept saying to me: ‘I want to make it until the day Sarah comes home.’” She looked at me as if I were the dirt that she walked on.
“Gianna—” I wailed.
“Why did you run away?” She snapped, “Was it her?”
I averted her eyes and wiped my tears with the sleeve of my sweater. “No.”
“I don’t believe you.” Her voice was nasty. She truly hated me.
“She has nothing to do with this, Gianna.”
“What are you talking about? She has everything to do with this! She is the reason you left home!”
“No!” I burst with anger. “She is not the reason why I left. You are!” I was left panting out of rage.
She was stunned, “You’re mistaken,” she shook her head. “You left with that...that…”
“I mean, you don’t have to fear the word,” I clenched my fists. “The gay monster isn’t going to come bite you. It’s not an infection.”
She rolled her eyes, “You’re not—”
“You don’t get it!” My whole body heaved with each hysterical sob I emitted, “My whole life I’ve known exactly who I am. I’ve known that I like girls and I denied it for so long, just to save you from the torture of having a gay family member. I kissed girls behind closed doors, always in fear that Mom could come in and tell me that dinner was ready—I tried to change who I was just for you and it still wasn't good enough. When I...when I left, I was sick of pretending to be someone that I’m not. I was tired of letting every single one of you deny me of myself. And that’s why I left. No girl could change me— we left because we were tired of people like you tormenting us.”
Gianna’s face fell. “We never meant…”
“Yeah, well,” I shook my head, “it still happened.”
“Mom died while you were gone!” She cried, “How could you leave when she was sick?”
“She was in remission!” I fired back, “How could you treat me like I was less of a person because I kissed girls?”
“I don’t know!” She screamed, burying her head in her hands. “I’m sorry that I was such a horrible sister, that we were such a horrible family, that we just drove you away! I’m sorry that we caused your life to be such a living hell that the only thing you thought was necessary was to run away! And when George needed you? When mom needed you? When I needed you? You don’t think that I beat myself up on the daily for your leaving, how mom and I prayed that you were okay, that you were alive and well, that—?” She burst into sobs and couldn’t finish.
My heart broke, watching her weep. Even after years of her wrongdoings, I couldn’t bear watching her in pain. I stepped closer to her and wrapped my arms around her.
“I’m home now,” I promised, burying my head into her neck, “I’m here.”
“You left me,” she whimpered. “Mom died.” Her knees almost buckled.
“I know,” I whispered into her ear, petting her hair gently. “I’m sorry.”