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Love Like an Ocean
Love Like an Ocean
I paced back and forth, positive I had begun to wear a rut into the stained wood floors of the living area. Restlessness occupied my mind and body, making the thought of staying in one place incomprehensible. Where is she? I thought hysterically. My eyes darted about our family room, taking in the smooth leather couches and elaborate fireplace. Memories of us on cold, Christmas nights gathered with warm cups of liquid chocolate clutched in our hands flashed across my mind. My stomach lurched, causing me to pace faster.
“Amber, will you please sit down?” my mother begged as tears streamed down her gaunt face. She looked a wreck. Black smeared under her red and puffy light blue eyes. A heart wrenching pain stabbed my chest at the sight of her. I longed for her comforting touch, but I desperately needed to keep moving.
“I can’t Mama. If I sit, I will go insane,” I responded miserably. Oh, where is she? My legs, now void of feeling, kept me erect despite my constant motion.
My sister failed to return the night before. Thirty hours of sleepless torment began taking its toll on me. The clock read 4:30 a.m. Normally, when Ashley attended late-night parties, she always managed to arrive home just before her 1:00 a.m. curfew. Her abnormally extended absence forced my entire family into a panic. She was younger than me and strong-willed, a free spirit that liked to party. I always warned her of the dangers of such a care-free demeanor, but after each lecture she somehow shook me off lightly, claiming that I worried too much. Do I worry too much now? I loved her with every fiber of my being. We stuck to each other like glue, breathing fire on all that dared to threaten the other. Even though I just entered my sophomore year of college and she her senior year of high school, she remained my baby sister. Consequently, I knew deep down that her irresponsibility would lead to her downfall.
Like a tidal wave, flashbacks of our childhood came crashing down on me. When we were younger, before I went off to college, we spent long nights braiding each other’s hair and laughing about the oddity of the male species. Ashley possessed the ability to melt a guy’s heart in the palm of her hand within seconds. The memories stole the air from my lungs, bringing fresh tears to my eyes.
I refused to believe anything bad happened to her. Excuses raced through my mind: she fell asleep at a friend’s house, time escaped her, or she was on her way now.
Deciding to settle on the latter, I nodded my head vigorously in an attempt to generate some reality and truth to the idea while glancing repeatedly at the front door. She is almost here, I thought frantically. The pacing started the previous night around 3:00 a.m. and continued on even after the police involvement. My nails transformed into jagged, bloody stumps from excessive biting, and my hair knotted into an impossible rat’s nest.
My father came up behind me, placing his strong hands on my shoulders.
“Come on, Sweetheart. Please sit down,” he pleaded quietly. I stared into his soft brown eyes, and seeing my rock, my one true constant, crumbling in pain right before me caused something in me to snap.
“Where is she? Why isn’t she here yet, Daddy?” I gasped as sobs wracked my body. My legs turned to jelly, weakened physically and emotionally. He gripped my elbows as I swayed slightly.
“I don’t know, Darling. Hopefully she’ll be here soon,” he answered, trying to stay strong, but the quiver in his voice remained evident. He gently wiped away the tears that began to cascade down my cheeks, and I placed my head against his chest. The smell of soap and wood filled my nostrils, my father’s signature scent. I closed my eyes, reveling in the comforting combination.
The cry of the doorbell caused all of us to jump, and I pulled away from my father’s embrace, racing to the front entryway. Wrenching the door almost clear of its hinges, I called out “Ashley!” and expected to see the dark brown waves and penetrating green eyes that defined my younger sister. My heart plummeted when I saw the crisp, blue uniform of a police officer.
“Hello, ma’am,” he greeted politely, despite my obvious disappointment. Both of my parents appeared behind me, and I knew they held the same crestfallen expression. The officer nodded at their appearance.
“I just came by to tell y’all that we’re continuing our search and that y’all should get some sleep,” he continued, empathy apparent in all of his features. I wondered vaguely how many times he dealt with situations like this.
“Thank you, officer. We really appreciate everything that y’all are doing,” my father replied.
With another nod, the officer turned on his heel to leave, and we returned to the living room. My mother took her seat on the couch, and I sunk down next to her.
“You really should get some sleep, baby,” she spoke softly, smoothing my hair as her eyes brimmed with tears.
“I can’t Mama. I won’t be able to,” I whispered, leaning my head on her shoulder.
“Take a sleeping pill. You really need to rest. You shouldn’t beat yourself up and make yourself go crazy by over thinking,” her tone informed me that the subject lacked disputability. With a slight push, she directed me to the kitchen that held our medicine cabinet.
Snuggled in the large blanket I retrieved from the hallway closet, I gazed around our wide living room. My parents decided to go upstairs, but I refused to chance missing Ashley in case she returned. Pictures of us as young children that decorated the mantel above the fireplace caused my vision to blur. I allowed the tears to pool silently on my pillow as I memorized every feature of the photograph that detailed me and Ashley on a small beach in Hawaii, our heads thrown back in obvious, infectious delight. Unable to bear the pain that suddenly invaded my chest, I turned away sadly before finally slipping into a restless, nightmare-ridden slumber.
A sharp rapping at the front door, as well as the thundering footsteps of my parents, jolted me awake. I glanced at the clock: 6:45 a.m. Flinging the blanket aside in a daze, I joined my parents in the front entryway. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up suddenly as my back stiffened. Something wasn’t right. My mother began sobbing uncontrollably as my father clung to her tightly, his face a grief-stricken mask. What the heck? I stared at them, confused. Looking at the visitor that stood in our doorway, my eyes rested on not Ashley, but the officer from earlier. A sickening feeling spread like poison through my insides as a chill settled in my bones.
“You found her?” I questioned, still groggy from the sleeping drug, but quickly gaining alertness. He glanced from my parents and back to me, a pained expression stealing over his pale face. No. I refused to accept the realization that struck me hard. The news I suddenly understood my parents received gripped my heart, ripping the organ clean out of my chest.
“No!” I screamed as I fled up the stairs and away from them, the word, murdered, echoing nauseatingly behind me. Jerking the door to my sister’s room open, I collapsed on her bed. I screamed until my voice turned hoarse, my heart breaking into millions of pieces. The room began blacken as my world came crashing down around me, and I welcomed the merciful darkness.