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Black is an awful color on me.
I don’t know why, but that was all I could really focus on as I stared at the open casket, sunflowers crammed into every space. Even between her fingers.
Yes. Black was a terrible color on me.
“Jasmine,” an arm prompted me to stand, to make my way over to the microphone set up on the rocky road bending towards our house.
She loved to walk that lane.
I could tell that the few people sitting in the wooden chairs, me and my sister were mostly recluses, were disappointed when I started speaking. I told them all about her. But where were the tears? To be honest, I don’t know. Everything seemed frozen in time. It was like I was staring down at a girl that was nothing like me. Where was her smile? The crown of daisies she always wore? Her yellow sundress?
Gone. Just like Thyme. My sister.
I gave the closing words, “May her spirit soar with the eagles she so loved, “ and then made my way to the burial site, striding beside the boys carrying her now closed casket.
What a waste of a Sunday! Is what I imagined Thyme would say if she had been striding beside me.
But she wasn’t.
I straightened my mourning dress and an image of that brass bangle always secured around her ankle flashed in my brain. I felt my stomach contract, my Intuition was making my head pound again. Thyme would have scoffed at that, too. She didn’t believe in what our Hippy Father did. But I knew I had a special way to sense something bad coming. I had been indisposed with aches and pains the day she died at our flower shop, The ThistleBell.
I sighed and watched as she was lowered into the ground. I knelt, knowing what was expected, and scooped up a fresh patch of dirt that smelled earthy and fresh.
Without a word, I let the dirt slip through my fingers to land softly on the sunflower engraving on the top of her casket. In less than an hour, I rubbed the remains of dirt between my fingers and stared at the fresh mound separating my sister from me. Someone, I don’t know who, had tried to get me to eat, but everything tasted like ash and made me sick. I hadn’t eaten in two days since my sister’s death.
I had grown to like the distraction of gnawing hunger.
I closed my eyes and let an image of her pierce my thoughts. Round face, rebellious brown eyes, and that silly pink hair with beads strung through it. For some reason, this caused me to snap; my knees gave out and I let out a piercing wail of raw pain. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I began to claw at the mound, scraping large chunks of dirt off of the pile.
“Jasmine, stop!” Someone grabbed me around the middle and pulled me away.
I clawed and kicked as soon as I saw that I was going to be torn away from her, “No! You don’t understand! She’s afraid of the dark!” I scrabbled at the large hands pulling me away, scratching deep grooves in the skin with my dirty fingernails.
They still didn’t let me go.
I was driven home by one of Thyme’s friends that I was never told about. His name was Puck, and he was a tattoo artist that practiced on my sister’s back. I didn’t know about that either.
“Listen,” he rubbed the back of his neck, regarding me carefully. I noticed that he winced every time he took in my frizzy brown hair, dark skin, and dotting freckles. I looked nearly identical to Thyme. “If you need anything; just give me a call. Okay?”
I didn’t say anything, just turned and pushed open the wooden door to our cottage. No. My cottage. Thyme was gone. I had to remember that.
The first thing I did was tear my black dress off and throw on a blue sundress with pearls around the waist. It reminded me of the dresses Greek women used to wear, with its long flowing train and off-the-shoulder sleeves. Thyme loved it on me.
How are you still single?
I would always laugh and shake my head, You know why!
Then stop being so shy and snare yourself a man! You’re already in your twenties, Jas, you don’t want to be an old spinster.
I blew air out through my nose and the brass bangle coated in dried blood flashed to mind. My headache worsened.
I rubbed my temple gently, eyebrows furrowed, and made my way down the hall cluttered with aloe plants and dying sunflowers to her door. I hesitated, hand on the knob. Thyme forbade me from ever entering, and I always tried to clamp down my curiosity in respect for her. But I felt that it was time. I turned the golden knob slowly, watching the dreamcatcher nailed in the middle sway from the movement.
I pressed my lips thinly together and shook my head; Thyme’s voice wasn’t real. My hunger was starting to get to me, that was all. I disregarded it and strode into the room. It seemed much darker now that she was gone, and the desk drawers bulging with fabric, the sewing machine sitting atop it, and the orange walls were lifeless. I whimpered slightly, tears blurring my vision, and sat down at the edge of her rickety bed. It made a loud groan of protest, as if to say: You promised never to come in!
“Quite,” I whispered, “she’s gone, you know.” My voice came out as a croak, the result of my loud wailing and sobs at her gravesite.
I curled the rainbow blanket around me and imagined it was my sister, holding me gently as the sun slipped beneath the rolling hills.
It still smelled like her; like summer rain and days spent wandering the woods till nightfall. I opened my eyes and flung the blanket away, nausea gripping me as the tears built up. It wasn’t good to dwell. I needed to take my mind off of her. Maybe I should go down to the flower shop? I hadn’t watered the flowers and cacti since…
I let out a choked sob; the movement making the bed groan again.
“I said quiet!” I spat, rising to my feet and kicking at the desk, “just shut up!”
A crack went through my head, and I cried out, falling to my knees in pain. The ache had begun to thrum louder and my vision was scarlet. I had never had such a strong feeling before. What did it mean?
As if in answer, one of the bulging drawers, one that had been teetering on the edge, clattered to the ground, spewing out buttons and random scraps of silk and chiffon. The pain let up some, and I stood slowly, rubbing my head and staring at the mess. It felt like every insignificant item within Thyme’s room was glaring at the disruption of her organized-chaos. Under the eyes of the bed, pink curtains, and boy band poster, I shoved the items back into the drawer as messily as possible so the room wouldn’t be so tense as it was. I squinted around, feeling as though I had left something out of the bulging drawer, and spotted a corner of a postcard peeking from under the bed. I pulled it out, smudging the dusty floor underneath the bed, and studied the picture.
My head screamed again, and I closed my eyes, huffing through the pain. Once I felt it dull, I turned the card over to read the inscription; Delaney, you have to visit when the carnival is in town! Jas hates the Gypsy women who visit, but I adore hearing them get my fortune wrong. How many times have I heard that a man is going to come into my life when I’m so obviously not into dudes? Ha! Visit soon and we can laugh about them together! Love, Thyme.
I curled my nose; Cousin Delaney never returned our postcards or letters, which was probably why thyme had never sent it. But something else was bugging me. The word “Gypsy” carved a memory out of my head.
I remember a woman wearing a veil of black, her seemingly bright orange eyes boring a hole in my head. Thyme convinced me to sit and pay the fee to hear my fortune.
I was battling a headache. I had brought along our Collie, Judo, thinking that my Intuition was related to her; our last dog had died of a hunting accident and my elbow had ached the whole day when she died.
But this felt different.
The woman had refused to tell Thyme’s fortune and instead took my palm, feeling out the lines and callouses from so many days spent gardening.
Her orange eyes seemed to glow, and I thought she was a tricky old woman wearing contacts. But her fortune wasn’t about a man. And that made me think again.
“I see pink hair,” she said, and I fought not to snort; I didn’t have pink hair and never would. Thyme’s hair was a lighter shade of mine back then. “And a brass bangle speckled with blood.”
My laughter had immediately faded and my eyes widened, “Blood?”
“An ankle. Brown eyes.” Her burning eyes dimmed, and she smiled like she hadn’t said anything about blood, “I trust my fortune was good? Perhaps there is a lover?” She acted as though she hadn’t been in control of her tongue.
I was speechless, but Thyme had eased my fear, “She’s just a con artist. Forget her. I want some cotton candy!”
I had nearly forgotten that day. And the woman that had predicted my sister’s death.