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I was suffocating. My lungs were about to explode. I needed to get out of there.
“Where do you think you're going?” My mother asked, getting up from her chair when I made a beeline towards the door.
“I'm going to walk around the fair,” I replied grabbing a hold of the doorknob. “It can't be that bad.”
“But the gangs----”
“Mom!” I practically screamed. I couldn't breathe. “I have the pepper spray you gave me. Don't worry. Plus I know how to do all those self-defense moves. I'm good, all right?”
But before she could give me an answer, I was out and surrounded by oxygen and air. Exploring was just half of my reason to get out. I couldn't breathe in there. It was like every sheet of paper that blew my way blew away the air to my lungs as well. The reason? Probably because everyone was talking about her.
Talking about her was taboo. A closed subject. Well, among my family it was. But it seemed like these people didn't care that every time they opened their mouths, they sliced part of me away. Bits by bits. Until every part of me was gone. Ever since my sister died, I have never been the same. I know this about myself and so does everyone else. But that doesn't stop them from talking. Gossiping.
It's nonsense, really. Dilly-dallying to make the job less stressful. They find something to talk about and don't drop it until they get bored of it. My sister is not someone they should talk about freely. Not now. Not ever.
She was sacred. She is.
But she had to go and leave me alone. Just like my dad before I was even out of my mother's womb.
She understood my pain and underwent it with me. My sister knew my father. She had spent time with him, shared many talks with him, and had him in her life. But not anymore. My father had gotten tired of us and left. No explanation, no signals, no warning.
She was devastated. Didn't eat or talk for a week until my mother made her go see a therapist. My sister used to tell me all about him. My father, that is. Every detail is clearly imprinted in my mind thanks to her very descriptive description. She told me the stories he used to tell her, she gave me the pep talks that he used to cheer her up, and she told me the jokes he had shared with her.
My father was alive in me when she talked to me of him. But now she's gone. I've lost both of them. And it seems like everything she's said is being scattered away bits by bits. Just like her ashes at her funeral. They were thrown on the earth like she had been a normal chunk of dirt. But I know she wasn't just that. She was much more. So much more.
I crept out of the shadows and walked blindly into the crowd of people who were bustling about to get to the electronic rides. I was shoved, pushed, prodded aside until I found myself right next to a small jungle gym filled with little kids and their mothers watching from a distance. I sat down on a swing, disregarding the size I was compared to the preschoolers and kindergarteners. A fifteen-year-old definitely didn't fit in there.
But I was far from caring. I watched the small children with eyes that weren't completely seeing. The way two brown-haired girls jumped and laughed as they reached the slide reminded me of my sister and I. All our endless playing at the park came flying back. She had me by the hand and we were about to slide down the long slide.
“I'm scared, Maggie,” I had said while clutching her hand until my knuckles turned white. She laughed and smiled saying, “You're going to be fine. I'm right here next to you.” So we slid down. I remember screaming with fright at the speed, but then that scream had turned into a shout of delight as I felt the wind in my hair and my sister's hand squeezing mine with a new assurance. What was there to be afraid of when you had an older sister next to you?
“Again! Again!” I had yelled with ebullience. And we went on the slide until we got tired of it.
Then she led me to the monkey bars. “What are those?” I had asked her. She grinned. “A place only the best monkeys can hang. You'll have to pass the test first to hang around there.”
“What do I do?” I had asked, dreading what was coming up. She climbed onto two bar steps to demonstrate. Then she fixed her palms on the first monkey bar and started swinging like a monkey. One bar, two bars, three bars, and a fourth. At the last one she landed on a platform and turned to me. “That's all there is to it, Lauren. Just swing your body and then move your hands to grab the other. It's easy.” I remember wanting to get it over and done with but when I climbed on the small stairs, I had hesitated. The ground seemed way down there and the monkey bars were too far apart from each other. “You could do it Lauri!” My sister had yelled. “Just keep your eyes on the next bar and swing.” I had tried to do what she said but I forgot to swing. I remember trying to grab the next bar, but only my fingertips were able to reach it. Then I began to fall. I braced myself for the hard ground but suddenly I felt warm, thin arms under my four-year-old body. The realization that I almost fell had me crying even after my sister put me down safely on the ground. She hugged me and I remember as I looked up at her face that she had gotten scared too. Her brown eyes were wide with fear and her arms squeezed tightly around me. We never went on the monkey bars again.
My sister was always like that. Protective and always alert. She was a worrier. I think she had inherited that from my mother because she's like that too. But it has doubled ever since my sister died. It's like the concern she divided between us is now directed entirely on me since my sister isn't with us anymore. My mother doesn't want to lose me too.
“Frida, no!” A shout dismissed my thoughts and brought me out of my reverie and I looked up to see a small girl with pigtails climb the monkey bar steps and touch the first bar. Looking around, I found an older girl yelling at her from the other side of the jungle gym. Her eyes were wide. My sister's eyes had been wide.
It seemed to happen in slow motion. The little girl jumped and grabbed a hold of the first bar and was trying to reach the other but she couldn't. It was too far away for her. Without thinking, I jumped up from my motionless swing and raced toward her. It was a good thing I was close to the monkey bars. My arms caught the small, pigtailed girl just in time. I closed my arms around her just as my sister had done for me. By then, the older girl, who I figured was her sister, came running toward me.
“Frida, I told you not to go on the monkey bars! You're not big enough!” She scolded, then paused for breath and looked at me. “Thanks so much! I told her especially not to go on those but she doesn't listen to me sometimes.”
“It was no problem. Just be more careful next time.” I patted the little girl in pigtails whose name I assumed was Frida on the head and addressed her too. “Listen to your sister, okay? She knows what's good for you.” She was too startled to speak any words. She only nodded and went to her sister's outstretched arms.
“Take care of your little sister.” I told the older one.
“I will.” She smiled and went over to the swings. The way they were clinging to each other made me envious. They were so lucky to have someone to love and care for. I once had someone too but not anymore. Everything always seems temporary. My sudden joys are always overpowered by bad things. I seem to have the worst of luck all the time. I have a single mother whereas many other people in my class have both their two parents. I used to have a sister. But she had to die. She had to go to college and get tricked by her so-called friends. It was just a party, they had said. My sister had no way of knowing there was a drug in her drink. She had no way of knowing she was getting inside a car with a drunk driver. Not when she had taken the drug. Not when she was seeing reality as a dream and a dream as reality.
People say life isn't fair. I think that's an understatement.
Life sucks. Especially for me. My mother can barely afford the rent alone. I have no friends at school. My one and only life line has been stolen from me by death. My father wasn't coming home anytime soon. What was there to live for?