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Lark sat on the stairs, silent in despondency as she listened to the muffled yells of her bickering parents. All week they had been like this; nonstop fighting erupting against the house while the neighbors listened intently. In the living room across the hall, her little sister played her endless array of video games, deafened by the regular outbursts of Mario and Guitar Hero. She huddled close to the television, and kept safe by the bright colors and fantastic worlds inside the monitor.
She paused the game and swung her pretty head to face her sister.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice flooded with contempt.
Lark dropped her head, her gaze averted to the floor.
Her little sister’s nose wrinkled.
“Then why are your eyes red?”
Lark leapt from the stair in an instant, sucking back her tears as she marched toward her inquisitor defiantly.
“I’m sick, okay, Madison?” she roared. “I’m just f***ing sick! Can’t you people just give me a break?”
Madison flinched while Lark stood over her, her face red with rage and her fists clenched. However, her fury faded as she stared into her sister’s swelling eyes and quivering bottom lip.
“I’m…” she whimpered. “I’m…”
“Go away!” Madison screamed. “Go away!”
There was a jolt against the bedroom door which sent Lark darting up the stairs in a frenzy, fearing the worst. She ran inside her bedroom, reaching for her favorite novel before she dashed into the closet and shut the door.
Textbooks dappled the floor while papers fluttered from scattered files on the shelves. Dirty and clean clothes alike acted as a mattress in the corner, above which was a tattered blanket. She crawled onto the mound of laundry and tucked her legs out of sight. She switched on her flashlight to reveal To Kill a Mockingbird and began to thumb through the pages to find where she left off.
“Chapter Twelve,” she sighed, wiping away the tear that trickled down her face.
“What a lovely ceremony,” they all said softly, their cold faces impenetrable by the misery that surrounded her.
“Yeah,” Lark muttered, her eyes low. “It would have been better if my parents had been to the service though.”
“They were just busy, dear,” one of them assured her. “They just had some work to take care of.”
“What work could they possibly have to do today?”
“Your mother will be here in a moment. Just be patient.”
She loomed across the room in a haze, unable to respond to any of the condolences from her parents’ fake friends, and distant family members from half-way across the world. Trapped inside her head, she didn’t see any of themâ€”none of them at allâ€”but rather, the l little girl sitting in front of the television. She saw her tightly wound golden ringlets and pink pajamas, her pitiful expression and menacing sister standing over her.
She whirled around to face her mother, a smile botoxed across her weathered face. Her hair was beautifully twisted in a knot and her dress was as blue as her narrowed eyes.
“Lark, I’ve missed you so,” she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around her daughter.
“I wouldn’t know,” Lark hissed. “You haven’t called.”
“Hush!” she snapped. “This is not the time or place for a scene.” She paused and pulled her away from the crowd, her hand tightly clasped around her arm.
“It’s a little hard to pick up the phone when your daughter moved to live with her grandmother without a word!”
“That’s it?” Lark demanded. “That’s your excuse? Your pride is the reason you never called, or asked to see me?”
“Eileen?” yelled out one of her mother’s friends. “Eileen, can you come over here, dear?”
“One second,” she replied with a coquettish laugh.
“It’s nice to see you so happy about this,” Lark rasped, narrowing her eyes in disgust. “I can’t believe you missed the service. What do you think this is? A social engagement? Did you arrive late for appearancesâ€”so they wouldn’t have to see you cry over your own daughter’s dead body?”
“Shut up!” she snarled. “You have no idea what I’ve been through! And you have no right to insult me when you haven’t seen Madison since you were thirteen! You think you know better than me just because you planned her funeral?”
Lark gave up, heaving a pitiful sigh as she stared at her unmoved mother.
“He’s in France for work, darling. You know that.”
“What do you mean he’s not here? It’s his daughter, Mom!”
“He has other daughters that he has to look after, Lark,” she said, a hint of disdain in her voice. “Now, stand up straight. Like I said, we don’t need a scene here. Let’s be respectful for your sister.”
With that, Eileen left to join the crowd of gossips and schemers, determined to be just as pleasant and beautiful as she would be at a ball or charity event. She blended in seamlessly with her friends with her artificial smile and pale, callous expression.
Lark turned to the stairs and placed her hand on the rail, taking one cautious step after another as she recognized old photos hanging up on the wall. They were all of her parents, with the occasional baby pictures of her and her sister. Nothing had been touched since she was last here. Reaching Madison’s room, she gently twisted the knob and pushed open the door, breathing heavily before she finally stepped inside.
The pink that once covered the walls was plastered with band and movie posters, most of which Lark had seen with her friends just last year. The once-flowered bed was wrapped in tousled, filthy red sheets that hadn’t been washed in months due to negligence, and dirty clothes spotted the unclean, ugly carpeting. The shedding light from the window was concealed by black plaid curtains, severing all life from the bedroom.
It was unreal.
An laptop rested on her desk, and was still open to show a kind of word document. Lark sat down next to it and peered closely.
To who may read this,
Hopefully, you did not know me. To tell you the truth, I don’t think anyone will read this except the police, or S.W.A.T. team, or whoever does this kind of sh**. And if you do, please don’t remove the computer from this desk. I want it to stay on until someone does read it. Someone who loves me. My mom probably won’t read this. My dad…well, let’s just say, he has better things to do with his time. If I’m lucky, my sister won’t even pick up the phone, because this will just bum out the college experience, right? I just want this to stay on the desk so I stay on earth in some wayâ€”whether or not anyone noticesâ€”because that’s how life’s been for me. And I don’t want to live another day without being noticed. I just want whoever to know that I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this because it’s what I want. What I actually want, for once.
I love you Mom, Dad, and Lark.
And I’ll miss you, just like I always have.
Lark re-read the word document over and over, covering her mouth while her eyes widened in horror. Tears rand down her face and her hands shook under gravity’s pull up against her.
“Madison,” she struggled, touching the computer screen. “Madison…I’m so sorry.”
She melted into the desk, burying her head into her arms as she cried desperately, the sudden pang of grief stabbing her heart. She couldn’t take it anymore, and despite her sister’s plea, slammed the computer shut and ran out of the room. Her feet trailed down the stairs to meet the reception, pushing and shoving to reach her mother.
“You read it!” Lark yelled hysterically. “You…you read itâ€”I know you did!”
“Lark Josephine!” her mother erupted, as if speaking to a child. “What did I say about scenes? For your sister’s respects, let’s be decent, shall we?”
“How can you act like this? How can you do all this when you read that document?”
Eileen pursed her lips and cocked her head innocently.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she insisted.
“You know what the hell I’m talking about!” Lark roared, her body trembling. “Your daughter committed suicide and you act like it’s a party? Like nothing ever happened? She left a f***ing letter for you, and you read it!”
“Lark, calm down…please.”
“When have you ever done anything for her? When have you ever once paid attention to her?”
“I have given her everythingâ€””
“You give her video games, laptops, and designer clothes; whatever she wanted…so you don’t have to deal with her.”
Her mother was nearing the edge of sanity, her shoulders twitching and her nostrils flaring. If there wasn’t a crowd, she would have backhanded her daughter in an instant at her words. She would have cussed and yelled, and lost all composure and lifelessness if she was alone.
“Go to your room!” was all she could say.
“I’m not a child,” Lark muttered grievingly, closing her eyes as she turned and bolted back up stairs to obey her mother’s command after all these years. She paced back and forth across her room, a million thoughts racing across her mind at once as she continued to cry. When her woeful eyes rested on the safety of the open closet, she walked inside and closed the door.