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She was eighteen when she left, her long hair hitting her back as she took her suitcase and ran towards the truck that had been waiting for her. To this day, I don’t know if it was her boyfriend, or her best friend who was in the driver’s seat. All I know is that I stood there in the hall with a confused look on my face, as my sister yelled out words of hate towards our mother, her face filled with fury, and her eyes holding so much hate that it hurt to look in them. Our mother was on the floor, begging and pleading for Ava not to leave, begging her to come back so they could try and fix what had been broken so long ago. It was too late though, and as Ava took her bag and walked out; my mother curled up in a corner by our staircase and let out something that was a cross between a cry and a scream. I walked over to her, holding out my bunny, the one with the yellow hat and blue dress that she had gotten for me when we went to New York last spring. I pretended like it was giving her a kiss on the face. My mother looked up at me, her eyes filled with tears, and for the first time in a long time, she began to smile as she engulfed me and the bunny in a long hug.

Fast forward ten years later. I am sixteen, and Ava is twenty eight. She has come back to us, yet she’s still so far away. The girl who used to play dolls with me, and who used to put make up on my stuffed animals is long gone. She is now a woman who has seen more than she could take, and who hasn’t let out the anger that she holds deep in her heart. I remember her once dreaming of being a dancer, and going to New York to perform on stages with famous singers and bands. Now she sits in bed all day, alone and fed up with her children who want a mother that their other friends have, the one who takes them to soccer practice, the park, and who reads to them every night before they go to sleep. Long ago she thought she was going to marry her boyfriend, and that they were going to run and live off happily together in a world filled with no rules, just love. Now her boyfriend spends his days with other woman, her apartment being the place where he could drop his laundry off, and maybe even get a few kicks for the night. The apartment is dirty, filled with trash and old laundry, the floor is sticky with the grim of fallen food, drinks, and cigarettes. In the middle of the kitchen is the television, and in the middle of the living room is the microwave. This is where my niece has to try and do homework, and where her brother cries and yells for her to call “Grandma!”

Recently I went to visit my sister, the first in about three months. I had her Christmas gift wrapped in wrapping paper covered in pandas with Christmas hats on. The door was open when I drove up, so I walked inside. Ava sat on the couch wrapped in blanket, the room dark, and the blinds drawn.

“Your door is open,” I said, resting the present on the kitchen counter.

“I know, I needed fresh air,” was her reply.

“So….where are the kids today?”

“Vanessa picked them up. She’s taking them to get pictures with Santa.”

I edged up to the couch next to her. Her big brown eyes looked so sunken in, and her hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in a week.

“Um…Mom wanted to know if you were going to spend Christmas with us this year?”

Ava shook her head and mumbled “No.”

“So you’re spending it with Keith again?”

“No. I’m not spending it with anyone. Tell mom she could take the kids all day if she wants…..I need some alone time.”

I looked at my sister, and around at the messy apartment. Nina’s broken toys were on the ground, along with the fake makeup set that my Mom had ordered for her a month ago. The patio plants looked as if they were begging for warmth and water, and the carpet looked as though it needed to be washed. Without realizing it, I let out a heavy sigh.

“I make you sad don’t I?” Ava asked right out of the blue.

I was startled, but then I began to laugh. “Dude, what are you talking about?”

Ava turned to me, her eyes serious. “You do you remember career day? And how all the kids in your class thought I was pretty and smart, and how all the other girls wished they had a pretty and smart older sister like me?”

“Yeah….but Ava that was like…..when I was in first…..”

“And you don’t remember this, but a few months before you were born, Maria and I performed at the school’s jazz concert and got first place! And we thought we weren’t going to win. And then Mom took us out for pizza afterwards and told us how good we were!”

“I didn’t know you played…..”

“There was also that time when we all drove to Disney, and you and I kept fighting in the backseat, and Mom told us that she would leave us at a gas station if we didn’t stop, and Jason started to laugh, and you started to cry, and I started to get mad because you were crying…..”

“AVA! Ava….what….chill. Is this what has been on your mind all week? Memories of the past?”

Ava sighed, and then began to smile. “You know, for most people, it’s so easy, just letting go of the past, moving on to the present, and finding their future.” She turned to face me, and quickly grabbed my hands. Taken aback, I looked down, and realized how cold they were.

“No matter what happens in this life, no matter what people do, and no matter how hard life may seem…..never…..promise me NEVER to run away from it.”

I didn’t know what to say, except to just nod my head. Ava went on.

“I thought Mom owed me something. For what I don’t know? I thought she owed me something for Dad leaving. I thought she owed me something for marrying such a great guy like Jason. Would you believe I thought she owed me something for getting pregnant with Nina?” Ava’s eyes filled with tears.

“I thought….I thought I had everything figured out. I thought I was heading towards something….important. Want to know where I reached instead? This freakin hellhole!”

Ava got up and walked towards the broken toys on the floor. She began to pick them up one by one as she kept on talking rapidly. “I can’t even get my daughter to put my daughter in ballet, I can’t afford my son the karate lessons he wants. Ha. I can’t even get their father to stay here and live with them!”

Ava’s hands wrapped around the toys, and she closed her eyes. At first I thought she had really and truly lost it. Then she opened her eyes and began to smile, a genuine smile that showed all across her face.

“Believe it or not, there is one thing that I’ve always been proud of. One thing that….that I’ve always believed in. And that’s you. Sometimes…..okay maybe all the time, I may not treat you the best, I may act like I don’t care….but the truth is….no words can ever express how happy I am that you….YOU are my sister.”

Now usually, I’m a talkative person, the one who always has something to say. And I can be honest and say that for the first time in my life, I was truly speechless. I got from the couch and walked over to my sister. We hugged each other tightly for a long time. Finally, I looked down at my watch and noticed the time.

“I’m going over to Vanessa’s to help bake and stuff for the Christmas party this evening. Want to come? I’ll drive you.”

Ava shook her head. “You go ahead….I think it’s just better for me to be….alone.” She grabbed my hands and smiled.

As I headed out the front door, I pointed to the kitchen counter. “Don’t forget….your gift is there!”

“You better not have bought me anything cheap!” Ava shouted, but I could hear the joking laughter in her voice.

I stuck out my tongue and closed the front door. The temperature had dropped, and whether or not she was still wanting fresh air wouldn’t be the case if she happened to get pneumonia . As I drove down the crowded streets filled with Christmas shoppers, and families, I couldn’t help but think about the past events that had occurred before this day. The fighting, the stealing, the screams, the tears, and most of all the hurt that we had endured. However, I realized something that day. No matter how much my sister may tend to never seem to care about anyone but herself, no matter how much pain she may bring to herself and our family, she would always be my sister, and I would always be there for. I may never agree with the choices she makes, or what she does in her life, but no matter what I would never stop being there for here, and at the same time, she would never stop giving up on me. Out of all the past stories she related, she forgot to mention another one that was important. Long ago, our mom took us to a restaurant where a band had been playing. Without thinking, we both ran up and started dancing and singing with the band; completely carefree of anything that was going on in the world. My sister doesn’t know this, but every time something bad occurs in my life, I always go back to that day. It was one of the happiest days that I remember being with my sister and it’s also a day that gives me hope, that somewhere deep down inside of her….is that same carefree girl she once was so long ago.



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