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Wishes We Never Meant to Take

The word hangs on my tongue, tasting like vinegar. I wish I had water to wash down the rancid feeling in my mouth.
“I guess you’ve won, haven’t you?” you whisper, smiling. “But you don’t know….”I don’t understand the rest of your words.
And you walk away, leaving me there. “I’m not coming after you!” I want to shout, just to make you come back. But I don’t, because the vinegar is gluing my mouth shut. You keep walking; father’s perfect child; your fragile body swaying to the breeze just like you’ve always walked. Perfectly perfect.
Perfectly perfect hair, perfectly perfect smile…perfectly perfect tears falling from your perfectly perfect eyes, breaking your perfectly perfect heart.
***
I didn’t go after you. Maybe I should have. But I hated you and you hated me, and mortal enemies don’t go chasing the other. It’s just not what keeps the world spinning.
Dad left after the news came, and I didn’t even care. I would’ve cared if I had been surprised…maybe. But he always loved you the most. I was always second best to you, Sissy, wasn’t I?
“Did you know anything?” they ask me now, and I feel like they’re pulling the good-cop/bad-cop routine on me. “Did she tell you anything?”
“No,” I lie smoothly, just like you taught me when we were kids. Keep it simple and short, and they won’t suspect a thing.
“So all of this came as a surprise to you?” the man asks, his big, bushy eyebrows furrowing deeply, a troubled look crossing his wrinkly face.
“Of course,” I supplied mechanically. Force tears, my mind says, so I do. “I just don’t understand it.”
“You may go,” he says instead, and I try to keep the relief off my face. When I know he can’t see me anymore, I smile, because I know I did it just like you told me to when we were six. I kept my lies short and simple, and I know he believed me, because lying was the only thing I was ever better than you at.
Mom is waiting outside, and when she sees me, she starts to cry.
I wish we were fraternal. That way, when she sees me, she won’t cry and cling me to her chest and call me your name. Whenever she sees me, she starts bawling like a six-year-old.
I hate being reminded of you just as much as mom does, but for different reasons. She misses you, and I don’t want to ever think of you again.
“Did everything go well?” she blubbers, straightening out my hair. I pull away and start walking towards the door, and she comes next to me and puts a thin arm around my shoulders.
After we make our way outside, I fall into the front seat of the car. Hah. I finally get to sit in the front, even though you always did; because you were always favored. But now, it is just me.
***
Do you remember when we turned sixteen? You wanted to go to that stupid party in Waverly. Of course, Dad was all for whatever you wanted to do, because he was always wrapped around your finger.
And then Mom told you that in order to go, I had to go, too. Even though I really didn’t want to. I knew what she was trying to do; trying to bring us “closer together”.
So I went with you. You didn’t even look at me when we walked in, and as soon as one of your cheerleader friends walked up, you left me in the front hall.
I didn’t know anyone, and since it was too far to walk and I didn’t have the keys, I was totally alone.
You didn’t care about where I was when you were drinking, you didn’t care where I was when you were smoking, and you obviously didn’t care about where I was when I screamed for help.
And you know what really sucked about it more than anything?
What sucked was that even though I was the one who had been violated, I was somehow blamed for you being drunk. And even when you were back to your arrogant, righteous self and could’ve taken responsibility for what you did on your own, you stayed quiet and let me take the punishment—even though you knew what happened to me, because your stupid friends told you about it.
I won’t ever forgive you for that.
***
Now, Mom is sitting the dining room at the table where you used to sit every night at dinner. She’s on the phone, trying to contact your father. He’s not my father, though. He’s never been my father.
“Jon,” I hear her say, and I lean my head against the railing of the staircase. I wonder if she knows I’m eavesdropping.
“We need you home.”
I don’t need him! I want to yell, my face scrunching up in anger.
“I know you loved her, but we all did…”
Not true. Not true at all.
I hear a raised, muffled, deep voice from the other side of the line from where I’m sitting. It sounded something like “spoiled brat didn’t,” along with a string of curse words.
Funny how after eighteen years of not knowing me at all, that man I have to call my father actually knows what I’m thinking.
***
He came home—totally and completely wasted. Are you happy? You’re ruining our family.
***
I thought about what you said the night you told me. It’s all I’ve been able to get through my head anymore. I don’t really understand, though.
“You’ve finally won, haven’t you? But you don’t know… It’s not suicide if you’re already dying.”
Won what? What don’t I know?
Suicide is suicide, not matter how you say it. You’re taking your life away. One second you’re alive and the next you’re not. It’s not complicated.
At least, it shouldn’t be.
But you always had a knack for making things more dramatic than they needed to be.
***
People are looking at me like I’m nuts, because I haven’t even shed a tear.
But they don’t know. They don’t know what I’ve been through, what you’ve been through.
What we’ve been through.
We.
The word tastes even worse than suicide. I didn’t think it was possible.
***
The funeral was yesterday. The tombstone was big and ostentatious, which reflected your pretentious personality perfectly.

Katelyn Ann Haroldson

June 1st, 1992—July 8th, 2010

Beloved sister and daughter
Mom cried. Dad cried. And I sat there, feeling sorry for the man who had to lower the casket into the ground under the pouring rain.
A breeze rocked through suddenly, making the leg of my black pants whip against my shins.
I started wondering if maybe the wind wasn’t the wind at all—just your fingers running through our hair from wherever you are.
***
I’m thinking back to when we were eleven, and I was talking to mom. She took the golden opportunity to make one of her poetic speeches. “You know,” she told me seriously. “I’ve found out that you can really only break down in front of a total stranger or someone you love.”
I didn’t really understand what her motives were for telling me such a random bit of ‘valuable information’, so I shrugged it off.
But now, I’m thinking back to when we were fourteen—three years from that particular day. I was in our room, staring at the window, and when you finally got just bothered enough to ask what I was sulking about, I started crying.
I’ve been thinking, Sissy.
I broke down in front of you. Mom said you can only break down in front of two kinds of people—those you care about and those you don’t even know.
When I say now that I don’t know if I loved you like a sister should or not, I think back on when I cried and you sat there, listening to me in silence.
But you weren’t a stranger…
Were you?




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