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Echo of Memory

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July 7th, 2003

A playful breeze danced through ten-year-old Eva’s hair as she raced down the path, her shadow keeping pace beside her in the last fading lights of the evening. One small hand clutched the three treasures to her chest as she ran, keeping them close to her heart. They’re going to love it, she thought. It’s perfect for the three of us.

The hill loomed ahead of her — intimidating any other day, but today resembling a high, mounted sanctuary, with its long, wild grasses bending towards Eva as if to beckon her. She followed the path carefully, for even if you knew this route by heart, it was easy to become lost among the wild fauna as night fell. Eva was far too excited to be tired, though as the ground sloped sharply upward she kept her smooth, fast pace.

Soon they were in sight, and Eva felt a thrill of joy. Mara’s pigtails flew out behind her as she darted across the field, leaping into the air as if to touch the clouds. A few feet away, Lily sat calmly amongst the wildflowers, tracing a lazy hand along their petals and watching Mara’s antics with a tiny grin.

“Hey!” Eva called as soon as she was within range. They had seen her before they heard her and flew down the hill, meeting her with a bright smile. “I hope you guys weren’t waiting too long!”

“Nah, you’re right on time,” Mara assured her as she clung to Lily’s arm. “What’s the big surprise you were talking about?

Eva shot her best friends a mischievous grin. “Let’s go back up to the top of the hill. I’ll show you there.”

Filled with curiosity, Mara and Lily followed Eva up the slope. The sun was now sinking below the horizon, slowly but surely, casting its final rays across the landscape. To the east, Tokyo rose in all its glory, an oasis of light in the growing darkness. It was hard to believe that just a few miles from here, a humming, jingling, buzzing city dominated the skyline wherever you turned when here, with its wild grasses and hidden life, was a peaceful paradise.

They reached the top of the hill within the minute, and Eva reached behind her back as if she was about to unveil something spectacular. “Are you ready?”

“Come on, show us already!” Lily was squirming with impatience, a disparity from her normal temperament, but understandable all things considered.

“Okay. Here goes. Close your eyes, “Eva told them. “No peeking.”

They obeyed. Eva slipped her hand through one of the treasures and promptly bestowed the other two on her friends, who opened their eyes and gasped.

“It’s so pretty!” Mara yelped, examining with minute care the ornate bracelet on her wrist.

“They’re friendship bracelets, see?” Eva said proudly. She pointed to the web-like works of art in the center. “And these are dreamcatchers — they keep us connected even when we’re not together.”

“So as long as we have these, we’ll always be together,” Lily smiled.

“Right.” Eva placed one protective hand on her bracelet. Then, in an unspoken act of unison, all three lifted their wrists high above their heads and brought them together so that they were touching. The dreamcatchers glittered, catching the light.

July 23rd, 2003

“It’s so hot!” Mara complained as they walked down the sidewalk. “I feel like I’m about to explode!”

“My mom said it’s one hundred degrees, almost,” Lily told her, and Mara groaned. “I wish it were cooler.”

“Well, I wish it were winter!” Mara cried, and the three girls giggled as one.

Over two weeks had passed since Eva had joined her two friends on the hill that summer evening, and since then, they had spent every spare moment with each other; jogging to the park, holding bike races, and visiting a natural spring in Hokkaido were just a few of their endeavors. And even if it were silly, Eva gently stroked the dreamcatcher on her bracelet every night before she went to sleep. It’s true, she thought to herself. We are connected.

In front of her, Mara and Lily were still talking about how hot it was. “Even though it means school, I can’t wait for fall,” Lily admitted. “It’ll be cold, and so much nicer!” She flung her arms out wide, and before Mara could react, one of them hit her in the face.

Eva stopped. Mara was looking down at the ground in silence. “I’m sorry,” Lily began hesitantly, but just then, faster than she could see it coming, Mara jerked her head up and pushed Lily, hard. The other girl stumbled into the curb and nearly fell. “What was that for?” she cried. “I said I was sorry!”

“You still did it!” Mara protested, as if this would justify her act.

“That doesn’t mean you should retaliate!”

“But you still did it!”

“Are you gonna say that for everything?”

“Why do you have to be so mean, Lily?”

Back and forth, back and forth. Eva was reminded of a ping-pong match. Mara grabbed Lily’s arm; Lily shoved her away. It was in the midst of this that a tiny sparkle caught Eva’s eye — Mara’s friendship bracelet, flying through the air as she pulled her hand away sharply. It landed with an indiscernible pat in the road, barely visible against the gravel.

Oh no. This was more than simple clumsiness to Eva. If the bracelet was gone, so was their friendship. It was as simple as that. Taking a deep breath, Eva left every safety rule she had ever learned on the sidewalk and darted out into the middle of the road, leaving her friends to bicker. The bracelet lay vulnerably in front of her, glittering in the sunlight. She scooped it into her cupped hands and held it to her chest, letting out a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness,” Eva breathed. A chill scurried down her spine.

And faster than the human eye could blink, whiteness obliterated Eva’s vision, and the last things she heard were the roar of an engine and one horrified, shrill cry, from the mouth of Eva herself.

The coffin was masterfully placed, casting a shadow across the room as its true centerpiece. Lovingly set on the its lid was Eva’s school picture, nearly obscured with white lilies that seemed to sprout from the dark wood and send their ominous message to all in range. Below it, carved letters read,

Eva Malik, 1993-2003.
May you always remain in our hearts.

Standing before the coffin, half-concealed in the shadows, silent tears traced down Mara’s cheeks and fell to the floor. Next to her, Lily’s wide eyes seemed to fill the space with naïve confusion. What happened? she wondered. Why is Eva gone?

“It’s your fault.”

“Huh?” Lily glanced at Mara, who was staring at the ground.

“It’s your fault she’s dead.” Mara’s voice was stark cold, with a maturity she shouldn’t have been able to muster.

Lily’s mouth went dry. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Mara, I don’t understand. She’s my friend too.”

“Was!” Mara shouted, and the sound echoed high up into the arching rafters. “She was our friend, and we’ll never see her again! It’ll always be was, and it’s your fault!” Swiping a hand across her face, Mara took to her heels and fled the room, slamming the door behind her.

“But…” Lily’s voice trailed off as she stood at the altar in her black dress, clutching the peonies Eva had so loved. Her shoulders slumped and she let them fall to the floor, sank down beside them and began to sob, her tears falling onto the peonies like a harsh summer storm.

August 13th, 2023

The doctor strode along the walk, checking her watch and wondering when the day would come when time would cease to cheat her of relaxation. A lone asagao flower whisked past her on the last of a warm breeze as the seasons shifted, abandoning lazy summer afternoons in favor of brisk, cool mornings. The thought depressed the doctor, but she brushed it away and bit her lip firmly. Don’t be so gullible, she scolded herself. Life happens. You’ll survive.
Laughter carried through the air as she passed a park, where children were sprinting through the grass and daring each other to see who could climb the highest cherry tree without falling. The doctor felt a wave of nostalgia towards them as she stopped and watched their play, smiling faintly. They were so innocent, so naïve. I hope they stay that way, she thought. A chill crept down her spine as she recalled the day her childhood had left her. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, she shuddered.
With a loud, annoyed beep! from her watch, the doctor was jolted back to the present. She shook her head with a sigh and continued down the sidewalk, wishing she could hit herself.
The research society was located next to a quiet university, which, in the doctor’s opinion, was an ideal location for an office building. She slipped through the rotating doors, adjusting her lab coat with efficiency. The receptionist checked her in with a near-silent voice and informed her that her office was located on the fiftieth and highest floor, and that the doctor’s new secretary would be waiting for her. In wordless acknowledgement, the doctor left the desk and strode to the elevator, wondering who her co-worker would be. She usually preferred to work on her own and wondered if this secretary would feel the same.
With an all-too-cheery sound, the elevator doors slid open, leaving the doctor to walk out onto the fourth floor. She ignored the dizzying view high above Tokyo and started towards her new office, listening to the sharp, clear sound of her recently acquired pumps. Watching the labels as she passed, the doctor soon came across a door with her name —Doctor L. Fields — stamped across the middle. She took a deep, calming breath, smoothed her lab coat, and opened the door.
The woman standing at the window wasn’t as young as the doctor had anticipated — rather, she seemed about her age. Light-colored hair hung in pigtails that brushed her shoulders in a neat style, giving the usually youthful look a strangely mature quality. She was dressed rather casually in a skirt, blouse and cardigan, and had pretty, delicate features accented by wide blue eyes that grew ever wider as she turned around and spotted the doctor in the silhouette of the doorway.
“Oh, no.” The doctor turned pale.
“Lily?” Mara said in a whisper of a voice.
Lily turned and fled, ignoring a broken heel on one of her shoes. Tears streamed down her face, and she wept as she ran, wanting for once to end it all. She had thought more than often about what to do with her life after Eva’s death. Now it seemed frighteningly clear.
A desperate hand grasped Lily’s and she jerked to a stop, shaking with fear and sadness. Mara stood behind her, her breath coming in light gasps as she fumbled for air. The two women stayed frozen in that way for a few moments, and then Lily turned around, slowly. Mara’s shimmery eyes held equal sadness and something more—was it hope?
“I…” Mara began in a trembling voice. “I’m sorry, Lily.”

Lily stayed silent and shifted uncomfortably.

“After Eva’s death, all I could think about was, it’s my fault,” Mara said. “I thought that she had died because of me. Somehow, that was all I could think about in the months after the funeral, and at one point I was ready to kill myself.”

The air was heavy with silence.

“But about a year after Eva died, I looked down,” continued Mara, realizing how ridiculous she sounded. “And I saw my friendship bracelet on my wrist—I had never taken it off. It was a sign, Lily,” she said, unable to hold back tears. “I looked down and it was like Eva herself was speaking to me, telling me that there was still hope. That’s when I knew I couldn’t give up on us,” Mara sobbed. “And I just wanted to tell you that I’m so, so sorry!” She dropped to the ground and buried her head in her hands.

One full minute passed, and a single tear landed with a pat next to Mara on the floor. Lily fell to her knees beside her, shaking. “No, I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I never should have run away. It’s all my fault.” The two women kneeled together and Lily gripped Mara’s hands tightly. Their shadows were cast onto the floor beside them, indiscernible from one another in the light of the afternoon sun.

Lily and Mara walked side by side along the edge of the park. Evening had begun to fall, and now everything was bathed in the same golden light as the sun sank behind the horizon. For Lily, this used to be her least favorite part of the day — for her, it was like the death of the sun. But now, she realized it was more like rebirth: Then another side of the world would get to see the sun for themselves. Maybe Eva’s not gone, she wondered privately. It’s just that we’re letting her illuminate another place. That view brought peace to Lily.

She and her friend strode along the walk, watching the children run amongst the bare trees, their shouts of mirth echoing through the glade. It was at that moment Lily realized that she never could have given up life, for moments like this were too sweet to leave forever. Plus, I have Mara, she thought, grinning. She would never let me.

As these epiphanies unfolded in Lily’s head, she noticed a young girl of about ten lingering by the boundary wall. She nudged Mara and pointed to the girl. “Do you see her?”

Mara’s brow furrowed. “I wonder if she’s lost.”

As if she had read their minds, the girl spotted them watching her and tentatively approached them, nervously combing a hand through her brunette hair. “Um, excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me? I don’t know where I am.”

“Of course.” Mara smiled kindly. “What’s your name?”

“Eva,” she replied confidently. “My name’s Eva.”


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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

BeastlySage said...
May 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm:
Hey, I made a character on your RP. I don't have time to read the story, but I will read it if you let me roleplay as my character in the RP. Deal?
TessaM. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm :
Hi! I replied to you, but I'm not sure if you got it. If you didn't, I said that your character sounded great and you were welcome to join! :)
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