Cotton Candy Clouds

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I loved when we spent time together. I loved the sound of your voice when you were talking to me. I even loved it when you yelled at me, when you whined and complained and made fun of me. I loved your laugh, when you were trying to sound cooler than you are, when you were with your friends, when they were better than me. I loved when you were you, just you, exposed to the world, when you could be yourself, with me, when you could be Izzy Marie.
We had the same hands. Our fingers were long, they were bony and slender. Fingernails with chipped faded polish, pale blue or deep red or magenta. Our eyes were the same, deep hazel, flecks of gold and green, like a storm stirring up debris. Our noses were different, our faces were different, but at least there were the eyes. And the hands.
Another thing we had in common: Jazz music. The saxophone and guitars and keyboard, the percussion rhythm, the slow or fast syncopated beats. We loved jazz, the sound of it, the feel of it, the beauty of it. We loved the way it made us feel.
We loved the shapes in clouds, all the patterns and textures and white marshmallow wisps. We loved lying together on a summer afternoon and looking up at the sky, watching the shapes, the sun on our faces, the grass tickling our bare legs. We loved listening to birds in the summer, lying there on the grass feeling the sun warmth and watching the cotton candy clouds drift by.
We both loved white chocolate. It was our favorite. When we were little we tried to convince Mom and Dad to buy us white chocolate chips at the grocery store, to put in the big cart that we fought over riding in, with the pears and milk and bacon, the crackers and rice crispies and potatoes. And at those times when they consented and bought us chips of white chocolate we ran to the car after shopping and we took out the heavy paper bag, spilled its contents onto the stained backseat. We would munch on artificial white chocolate together, our special treat, all the way home.
I loved the time we stood on the rocks together and looked out into the ocean. I like when you grabbed my hand and laughed and screamed Come on! and we ran together down the hot packed sand. When I tripped on a rock and I fell down, down, and I crashed and I cried you sat with me and told me It will be okay. And then, we sat for hours and talked and laughed and cried and held hands while you waited for me to feel better. And though we never spoke of it, I never forgot.
I loved the Thanksgiving after Mom and Dad got separated and we ate take-out food from the Chinese place downtown, because Mom didn't know how to cook turkey and we didn't want to go to Dad's, even though he made terrific turkey dinners. I loved when we sat down together in front of the TV and I sat on your lap and you yelled at me for it, and Mom said 'Be
quiet, girls, I'm trying to hear the weather report.' And we looked at each other and I made a funny face and you laughed, and we didn't stop laughing until we both thought our sides would explode.
I loved your thick dark hair and the way it curled when you didn't have time to straighten it in the morning. I always wished I had your hair. Did I ever tell you that when I was a little girl, I used to pretend I was a faerie princess and I grew long dark hair exactly like yours? And I put that tiara we always played with on my head and looked in the steamy bathroom mirror while Mom was taking a shower, and it was almost like I had your beautiful hair.
I have something to confess. I stole your makeup one time, it was last year. A boy asked me to be his date to the school dance, and he was cute and nice and so I said yes. And I wanted to impress him so I took mascara and eyeliner and purple eyeshadow, and foundation to cover up my heinous freckles. The ones you always said were cute. And I used my cherry lip gloss with the sparkles in it, and I looked in that very same bathroom mirror, foggy because you were taking a shower that time, and I thought for the very first time that I looked pretty. And the boy told me I looked pretty. In my head right then, I thanked you.
Dear Izzy, I truly do have so much to thank you for. The clothes you let me borrow, the candy you gave me when Mom wasn't looking. Your smiles. Your laughs. Your teasing loving voice. Trips to the beach, your kind words and your hugs. Knowing glances that speak without words, reassuring that yes someone does understand. Chinese food and cumulus clouds and jazz music, together. Your violin when you practiced, still learning to play, squeaky earsplitting sounds that made me cringe. Trips to the grocery store and playing with tiaras and being faerie princesses together.
But best of all was you.
The day I found out was a blur, it was the week before last. It was a Thursday and you were visiting a college with Mom. You and her left in the morning after you dropped me off at school, and I left school early because I was sick. But I wasn't really sick. I was tired and had cramps because my period was starting, and my best friend Ellie was ignoring me and hanging out with the popular girls, and I could hardly stand it any longer, so I said I was sick and went home.
And then I got the phone call.
It was Mom and she said she heard I was sick and 'Can Dad pick you up? Because the tour hasn't even started yet.' And I told her no, Dad couldn't pick me up, because I was tired and sick and starting my period and Ellie was abandoning me. Except I didn't tell her all that; I told her I was sick. And when she asked why Dad couldn't pick me up, I told her I was too tired and ill to have the energy to deal with his bulls***. And I couldn't stand his company Right Now. And she heard the sorrow and the tiredness and the fed-up-ness in my voice, so she hung up and she came home. She came home with you.
The next phone call gave me a scared feeling in my stomach. It was a racing heart butterflies in your belly upset kind of feeling. A nervous kind of feeling. A guilty kind of feeling. Because There's been an accident, and Your Mother and Isabelle are hurt. And I have to come pick you up because the police called me, and they're going to the hospital. So that's where we're going, because I am not leaving my eldest daughter at the hospital alone with her foolish mother that can't even stay awake in the car to protect her from crashes and accidents and hospitals.
And I Hate You. I Hate You for leaving Mom. I Hate You for calling her foolish. I Hate You for trying to talk to me and coming to pick me up. So I Am Not going to the hospital with you.
So I walked home.
And I never saw you again.
I never heard your laugh or saw your smile. I never looked into your eyes with their flecks of green and gold. I never again saw the desert storm rising, fast, with specks of debris everywhere, all in your eyes. I never listened to jazz with you and laughed about stupid things that only sisters could laugh about. I never heard your horrendous violin skills. I never looked at shapes in the clouds or ate white chocolate with you, not ever, not alone, never without you. I could never look at the clouds again, not without you.
Because I miss you.
And Izzy: I will never, ever, forget.





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