My sister Georgia likes to smile with all her teeth barred, although she has not grown all of them. The widest smile I have ever seen in a person, also the most genuine. She hardly cries, she does not lose her temper, she is patient and talkative. My sister Georgia, the sunniest girl on earth.
That is why it is strange that she starts banging her fist on the wall lately. She has tantrums that begin with bad dreams and a screaming fit that pierces through the quietness of the night. She no longer smiles, very so often a tear streaks her face and she does not stop for a long, long time. Our mother does her usual ways of calming her down – hot cocoa with roasted marshmallows by the fire, a fairy tale from a hardbound children’s book, a goldfish from the night fair, or a pretty hairclip made of burnt copper. None of it works. Our stepfather yells impatiently from his room at the attic upstairs, and that is always when
“I have a secret, Russ.” She tells me one night as I stay on the lower side of the bunk bed just so I can hear her breathe steadily in her sleep. She is not moving, so I have thought she is already asleep. “I am not sure if I should tell you.”
“You know you can tell me everything,” I reply.
“I know,” she whispers, and does not say anything else.
The tantrums get worse. She cries loudly at night and refuses to eat her food. Our mother sighs and helps her get dressed every morning, making sure she eats at least a little bit of something. Before going to school this morning, mother pats on our heads and tells me something important, “Take care of your little sister, Russel darling.” I nod, and we ride our bikes to school.
But that sentence ends up being the last I will hear from my mother. When I get home that afternoon, I find
“What happened?” I ask, feeling weird.
And then I see her. A body wrapped in white linen blanket, ushered with a straight board bed.
“She burned herself. There was nothin’ left of her,” I hear somebody says, but I am not sure who. “She might’ve wanted to kill herself for a long, long time.”
And then it is gone, empty just like how the rest of us feels.
“I saw him, Russ,”
“Who?” I ask, used to her little anecdotes and strange speech. She often talks about anything, also about nothing. The best thing is to sort out her meaning of words.
”I can’t tell you yet.” She folds her legs underneath her and glances at me with sad, sad eyes. “I miss mother, Russ.”
“I know,” I kiss her on the temple and smell the sweat. “I miss her too.”
A week later
But she is always there.
“Why are you following me?” I ask her.
“I want to stay here with you.”
“I’ll be home by supper.”
“Leave me alone, Georgia,” that is the first harsh thing I have ever said to her since our mother dies. “Please,” I add, so she does not cry.
“I am scared, Russ.”
“What are you scared of?” I challenge, beginning to get annoyed. John is calling me a good distance away, wanting me to hurry up and join him. “One hour. I promise I will be back by an hour.”
I leave her before she can say another word, and disappear in the tracks of the forest so she cannot follow me. A game of hunt is for boys, and sometimes she embarrasses me.
“Come on, Russel. You can live without your sister for a few hours,” they like to mock me so. And it is true. They are right.
By the time I step on the front porch, it is already late. Dusk has hit climax and now the sky is dark grey with little golden stars. I sit on the wooden stairs, fingering dust with my sweaty fingers. It is unusually quiet here. The light is turned off so unusual darkness lingers.
I stand up, brush the dirt off my pants, and open the door. The creaking sound makes me nervous.
I walk to the kitchen to find food. I know there is soup on the stove and some slices of bread with butter on the table. But again, it is unusually quiet. I cannot hear the usual scratches of
What I see brings terror to my heart. Little footsteps tainted with dried blood makes their trails to the backyard. Golden curls are scattered with the mess, and I recognize
The sound of the drop of an axe makes me look up, surprised that there is another person in the dimly lit room with me. The scent of fishy blood suddenly makes me sick, but I can still see him. My stepfather stands with both hands soaked in blood, the expression on his face shocked, as if he cannot believe what he has done.
I remember what
“I have a secret, Russ.
I saw what he did.
I saw him.”