The Missing Piece This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

My life is like a puzzle. I have edge pieces that enclose the inner ones, the funny-looking jigsaw pieces with five or six knobs apiece, and the corners that limit its sprawl. But as I grow, pieces of my puzzle come and go. Sometimes I am missing an edge piece and feel melancholy. Or maybe two pieces fit together exactly, and then I am out of sorts and full of anger. When my sister left home for college last August, the center piece of my puzzle was gone.
In a way, I left first. I went to camp the Sunday before her departure, as I had in
previous years. I’d always said good-bye before I left, but this time my good-bye would have to last. Even so, her hug wasn’t any stronger, nor was her smile any warmer. Amanda and I parted as if we would see each other again in a week.
Of course, she wasn’t home when I returned. She was many miles away in her new room in Virginia. It didn’t register that she was really gone because I never made a “final good-bye" like my parents did when they got in the car to drive home without her.
To tell you the truth, I don’t even know when or how it occurred to me that Amanda wasn’t living at home anymore. I think her absence made itself felt in an accumulation of many smaller absences: hearing songs we both loved on the radio, making fun of my parents all by myself or not having to plead with her to get my turn on the phone.
All I remember is that I despised the sight of her empty room. I still do. Even though her room has her dressers, bed and bookshelves, it is bereft of her personality. The smell of her peach spray and all her girly cosmetics has escaped through the cracks in the windows. Yes, the room is still there, but there is no sign of Amanda.
I tried to keep her door closed the first few weeks. That made it seem as if she were inside, still there changing her outfit for the 800th time or taking a nap. And for the first week of school, I didn’t even play my radio in the morning as I got ready because I still felt like she was in there sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake her.
On the other hand, her departure did bring some welcome benefits. The phone was now mine to use at my leisure. I could play video games whenever I wanted, and I wasn’t forced to watch “Felicity" every Wednesday night when all I wanted to do was watch “Celebrity Deathmatch."
But the funniest part of Amanda’s absence is that I started to watch “Felicity" when she left. I started to use the phone less, even though I had it to myself. Even the benefits of her departure came to seem less special. There was really nothing good for me about Amanda leaving our cozy house, but I tried to steer away from being selfish by reminding myself that Amanda was becoming an independent woman.
The first time we spoke on the phone was after my first day of high school. She asked about my teachers, my friends and, of course, about how annoying Mom and Dad were getting. We laughed most of the conversation, like we usually did. As we finally prepared to hang up, I blanked. Normally I would say, “See ya later, Amanda." It was different now. We both paused, speechless. Finally, she broke the silence. “I love you, bro. Call me anytime you want."
My mom has always said, “People are irreplaceable." I used to just nod, but she is right - there’s no substitute for my sister. Although Amanda comes home regularly, our lives have changed forever. In a way, this is a good thing. The distance between us has strengthened our relationship. We even talk more about our problems and adventures than we ever did.
I’ve never told her that I watch “Felicity" now that she’s gone, though. I don’t think I will, either. Because it isn’t about TV shows anymore. It’s about being a brother and sister, and becoming closer than ever before.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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