I Love You

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It didn’t matter what kind of death or danger was on the line, the job of a lioness was to protect her cubs. A mother did anything to ensure that her children were safe, to ensure that they learned all the lessons that life held and that they were prepared for the world. For thousands of years this had been the way things had worked. And for thousands of years it was to remain this way. But not this woman. This woman was the devil in human form. She was pure evil.

There she sat, legs crossed and hands folded neatly on her lap. Her eyes stared straight ahead to the priest, who spoke words meant to heal. The woman wore all black, the color of mourning. Her eyes would occasionally water, and she would dab them with a tissue and receive a comforting hand on the shoulder from her husband, who seemed just as distant as she was. However, the girl did not blame her father for this. She blamed her mother for everything. The town had believed her lies, her excuses. Only Rachel saw them for what they were.

“Now, Rachel Austin has some words to say,” the priest said, gesturing to Rachel, who nodded and stood. He left the pulpit, allowing Rachel to make her way towards it. It was most definitely the longest walk she had ever taken before. She would not look back to the audience on her way, knowing that it would only cause her to run to the restroom and cry for the remainder of the service. Unlike the rest of her family, she despised being the center of attention. It was a perk she’d never been given before, and receiving it for the first time was rather strange. All eyes were on her. Her mother’s eyes were on her.

She gulped, hoping that no one noticed as her eyes went wide at the realization that the entire town had showed for the funeral. The mayor’s daughter died, she reminded herself with a slight nod that was more for her own reassurance than anyone else’s. Seated in the front row were her parents, her younger brother and sister, her grandparents, her cousin and best friend, and the other, much-disliked cousin. Seated behind them were the other more important members of society, and on the left sat Rachel’s friends. In the very back sat the few friends that Caroline had had and the other members of town who had simply shown up out of politeness. At least a thousand people, almost the entire town’s population.

Her mouth opened a few times to speak, but the words on the paper in front of her would not come out. Perhaps it was because they were not her words. Her mother had written the speech, insisting that it would be much better that way so Rachel would not have to go through the pain of writing one herself. After these few instances, she turned towards her mother with widened eyes. Her lip was quivering, and it was then that she noticed her hands and body were shaking. Her mother nodded her on, not even offering a smile. It was an insistent nod, a ‘you better do this or else’ kind of nod. Rachel glanced back to the crowd and then back to her mother, and gave a slight, barely noticeable shake of the head. The woman frowned, her eyes narrowing in a glare. ‘Go!’ her mother kept mouthing, her looks now becoming more persistent. She was done playing nice.

To Mrs. Austin, society meant everything. Her husband was mayor, after his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, his great-great-grandfather and so on and so forth. A death in the family was manageable, and would bring the family much needed sympathy. But a suicide? That would kill the family’s reputation. Therefore, the woman had come up with a story. Her plans were to never be tested, not even by her husband. They were irrefutable in her mind. So she had somehow managed to bribe the doctors who had declared the girl dead and the police officers who had been present to say that Caroline Austin had been killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver. No one would know the truth, and the whole thing would be declared over within a month. The family would move on as if Caroline had never existed. The rest of the Austin family seemed comfortable with this, especially her younger siblings, who were eager to move on from the memory of their sister.

Rachel was different. She was the eldest. Caroline had been more than just a biological sister to her. They had been the best of friends. They had been like lovebugs, stuck together permanently. The idea of a ‘secret’ had been preposterous between the two. They shared their tears and their thoughts. Caroline had suffered through being raised by the same terrible tyrant of a mother. At first Caroline had done the same as Rachel, who had tried to be the best at everything there was to be to gain her mother’s attention. When that had failed, Caroline had gotten herself into loads of trouble, and even that didn’t seem to work. In the end, there had only been one way to gain the attention of their mother. Death.

And even that had failed. Their mother was simply waving the death off as if nothing had happened, as if Caroline had never existed. Caroline had died in vain, and Rachel was the only one who realized this.

Her mind ran through these thoughts as she watched the woman encourage her daughter to speak, hoping not to deal with yet another public embarrassment. Her fingers clutched to the podium, clinging to it as if for dear life. Her teeth clenched together and her eyes began narrowing as they glared towards the woman. She was thinking, and thinking hard.

Did their mother really not see what this was about? It was a cry for attention. For sixteen years Caroline had worn a sign that read ‘NOTICE ME’ and it had been unnoticed. Did the woman really regard Caroline as nothing more than a McDonald’s billboard as she drove by at the speed of light? All of her children were treated this way, as if they were unimportant. Her daughter had killed herself, and she didn’t even bother to stop and think that this was maybe about her? No, she hadn’t bothered to speak to Rachel about this, to ask what might have provoked the tragic incident. And then Rachel would offer no information.

Her mother could lie, her mother could cheat, and her mother could act like her own children were useless. But these were all things that Rachel could and would not do. Her mother was forcing her to stand up in front of an entire town and lie about the death of her sister, to do the same thing and act as though Caroline was irrelevant.

It was while Rachel was contemplating this when she realized if she was to lie, she was letting her mother win. She was becoming a liar. She was making Caroline irrelevant. She was allowing Caroline to die in vain. She was becoming her mother. She was becoming the woman that she hated the most, the woman who she thought was the devil. It didn’t matter how many times Rachel said she didn’t care about her mother, but she was only lying to herself. She worked harder than anyone else just trying to gain her mother’s attention only to be brushed aside. She had the mindset that if she worked hard enough she would finally get a hug with a kiss on the forehead and hear those three magic words.

But what if she were to never hear those words? Caroline had died to simply hear those words, even if her mother would be saying them to a corpse. What if her mother would never change? If death could not change her, then why would winning the state basketball tournament change her? It was dawning on Rachel that from her mother’s lips, the words ‘I love you’ would never be heard.

She paused, unclenching her jaw as she turned back to the rest of the town. She was not about to let her mother win. Then Caroline would’ve really died in vain. Her eyes glanced down to the sheet of paper that her mother had typed, finding that it was simply a page of made up stories that she and her sister had never experienced together. Happy memories. Rachel was not happy, and saying something happy would only make her less happy for it would be lying about the true nature of Caroline’s death.

There was the longest pause from the moment when Rachel’s mouth opened and words actually came out. “I found my sister’s body. I’m not going to lie to you like other members of my family and certain law enforcement officers. Who to believe is up to you, but the truth must be heard one way or another.” The words were not slow and they flowed freely from her lips as if she had rehearsed them many times before. They were words of passion. “Caroline Austin was not killed by a drunk driver against what most of you believe.”

She paused, and then began to recount the tale of how the myth of the life of Caroline had been woven. How the lies had been spun with ease to form a beautiful thread, one that was flawless, but strangely shorter than most other threads of life. The false thread had been spun from silk, and there were few complications. However, the real one, was rough and messy and nowhere near beautiful. And seeing as things that weren’t beautiful did not appeal to the town, the false one had been given to them.

“It was Christmas morning, and my mother asked me to go check on Caroline, who was late for breakfast. When I went up to her room, I noticed the bathroom door was halfway open. So I went and opened it. That was when I found her.” This time her words were rough and broken up. Occasionally her eyes would begin to water, but Rachel would not wipe the tears away. Let them flow, that’ll show the witch, she would remind herself as she forced herself to continue. “I screamed, and within thirty minutes there were doctors everywhere. When they carried the body away, I didn’t see the Caroline I knew. Instead I saw a girl with cut wrists who looked absolutely miserable. Her death was officially ruled as a suicide.”

These words brought fiercer tears to the girl’s eyes, but she pressed forward, making sure that the truth was told. “I loved my sister, and I’m not going to allow her story to become nothing but another lie and a cover-up. I want her to be remembered for who she was. A girl who was desperate for attention, who wanted nothing more than to hear the words ‘I love you’ from lips other than mine. And that is who Caroline was,” she said, leaving the podium and, without meeting the eyes of anyone in the audience, walking down the aisle and out the back door.

A murmur began among the crowd, and when it was suggested to the girl’s mother by her father that she comfort her, the woman shook her head. “No, let her learn a lesson,” the woman responded in a cold voice. That was when the tears came, and they looked real to almost everyone. But they were tears of ice. The woman gave her speech, an apology of lying. Saying that the death of her beloved daughter had been too much to handle and that it had crushed her, that she had no idea her daughter had been so depressed as to take her own life. And the audience was sympathetic, murmuring agreements that they would have done the same thing and that it was perfectly a perfectly reasonable thing for a grief-stricken mother to do.

Rachel, however, who was listening with head in her hands, did not buy the story. She was thinking, wondering if her mother had ever said the simple words ‘I love you’ if it would’ve changed anything. Funny, how only three words could change a person’s life. They would’ve changed Caroline’s, she knew that. But she had to hear it from a mother, not a sister. Rachel had said the words to Caroline many times, but they weren’t good enough for her. Nothing was good enough for her. Wasn’t that was everyone wanted, to be loved? Would anyone ever think that anything was ‘good enough’ and that they didn’t need more? That they didn’t need love?
She was crying alone, without the comfort of the town, and realized that her attempt had failed, that Caroline’s death would never be avenged, and that the real murderer would never pay.





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