I felt her hands trembling as she reached towards me. She had dark circles around her eyes and even as child I could tell my sister had been crying. I watched as she opened her enclosed hand and laid her warm hand on top of mine. I felt something cold fall into my palm and clutched it so hard terrified to know what she had given me. The tears continued to stream down her porcelain face. I looked into her eyes I could see the real sadness, the terror, and the emptiness she felt. I reached out towards her wanting her to share her pain. I wanted my small 11 year old hands to wrap around my big sister and tell her everything is going to be okay. I finally opened my hand and looked down at the shiny piece of silver resting in my palm. I shut my eyes briefly holding back the tears. I watched her bury her head in her hands before standing up and placing her hands gently on either side of my face. I shivered slightly before looking up at her. She was no longer fighting back tears but letting them flow down her face. She looked deeply into my eyes and knelt down in front of me so we were at eye level. I couldn’t help but feel scared. I was a child. An innocent child who wasn’t aware of what was going on. I watched, waited. She was shaking all over now and it wasn’t until she begun to whisper something that I regained eye contact and looked up from her trembling arms. Her mouth was moving, only slightly but enough for me to understand what she was trying to say. There was no sound but I nodded expressing my understanding to my sister’s quiver. ‘I love you,’ she once again whispered. I stood up and hugged her tightly, scared to let go. She nodded and kissed me gently on the forehead and I once again looked down at the shining piece of jewellery resting in my small cold hands. It was her favourite necklace. One that I admired ever since I can remember. It was nothing spectacular but it was her’s. The one thing she couldn’t live without. I stood in the middle of my bedroom with confusion. I placed the small heart shape charm on the chain in my pocket and went back to reading. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see my sister. The last time I would look into her eyes. The last time I ever hugged her.
I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat. My whole body was trembling, shaking fiercely. My heart was beating rapidly, thumping in chest as I recounted my dream. It had scared me, frightened me, terrified me to the point that I wanted to cry. The details were foggy but I could still feel the emptiness through my body as there was something missing. It was early as I could see the sun creeping in through the window. I felt safe wrapped up in my blanket in bed, it was just a dream I kept reminding myself. I felt my whole body lurch forward as a crash came from downstairs. I could hear yelling and filled with curiosity as I dragged myself out of my cocoon towards the stairs. I stopped dead the top of the stairs. I didn’t even begin my descent before I was looking into my mother’s crying eyes. My eldest sister was standing next to her holding her hand tightly. Dread once again set in and I begun to panic. I didn’t know what was going on and it was causing my heart to race. From the corner of my eye I noticed my father creep into the main room of the house. He too had rings around his eyes but unlike my mother was trying to hold in the tears. My father believed to shed tears was to show weakness. My eldest sister made me jump as she ran up the stairs and placed my head onto her chest. I could feel her heart beating and was using that as a steady rhythm to slow my breathing. I looked up at her and demanded to know what was going on. My family stood there motionless, my parents sharing a quick glance before looking down at the floor. I looked around and suddenly noticed something missing. My middle sister who had come into my room last night was not standing by my mother nor my father. My mind was racing trying to come up with an explanation. I was brought back to reality when my eldest sister begun stuttering before pulling me in closer. Tears were streaming down her face onto my shoulder as I could feel my own eyes beginning to water. I pulled away and looked straight at her. She was once again attempting to make a sound but nothing but whimpers came out. Her lips were trembling and her arms were beginning to shake around me. I grasped for my sister’s necklace, which was now hanging around my neck. I didn’t understand, I was a child, the baby of the family who was drowning in confusion. My mother turned sharply towards my father urging him to say something. “She’s gone,” he stated with a catch in his throat. I looked up at my eldest sister’s crying eyes as she nodded slightly at me. Her arms around me were no longer warm and comforting. It was cold and empty so I pushed her away. I sat down on the top step and listened for what felt like hours as my mother and father explained what happened. My sister was crying behind me with her hand resting on my shoulder. I was not listening to my parents. I couldn’t, this wasn’t real. She wouldn’t do this. My mind was racing and trying to understand why she would do this. I though back to last night and a shiver ran down my spine. This shouldn’t be happening. She had been saying goodbye and I didn’t realise. I was filled with guilt, life had pushed her over the edge and I had done nothing to stop it.
Time stopped after my sister’s death. It was silent around the house. No one spoke and every night I would fall asleep to my eldest sister’s crying in the next room. She tried so hard to keep it together, for me. But like everyone under this roof, it had pushed her over the edge. We were no longer a family. We were all distant from each other, too frightened to speak in case we said the wrong thing. My parent’s relationship was now fractured. My father spent most nights on the couch and they could barely be in the same room during the day. This was taking its toll on my eldest sister as she was trying to keep the family together. I spent my days locked in my room reading. I was always buried in a book, shutting out the world, pretending to be anywhere but here. My father began disappearing at night and returning the next morning not himself. It scared me. I felt like I didn’t know my father anymore. He was someone else in disguise. I wanted him to wrap me in a big bear hug and tell me everything was going to be okay. But as weeks went past my dream faded as I realised it was never going to be okay. My mother spent her days cooking and cleaning. She didn’t stop. This I understood. It was her way of grieving, she knew once she stopped it was real, she was gone. I didn’t feel myself and I felt myself constantly putting on smile for family and friends. Part of me hated my sister. Why would she do this to a family? If she would of pushed through it instead of destroying our family. After those thoughts I find myself crying for hours. I was selfish and stupid. I was a child that was dealing with something most adults don’t have to face. But as time wore on I felt less like a child. I was no longer the baby. I was just a reminder of what we’d lost. My innocence had been destroyed as I would watch my friends playing out in the street. I wanted to go outside but couldn’t. It was like it was too bright out there and I wasn’t allowed to feel the happiness. Why should I be happy, when my sister obviously wasn’t. My mother and sister stopped wearing makeup beacuase it would be washed away by lunch time. We couldn’t do anything in the house without it remindeing us about her. She had now become ‘her’. We stopped using her name because if we did someone would break down. Our family lived in our dark bubble and barely left the house. If it wasn’t for school I probably wouldn’t leave at all. My mother never did. My sister was no in charge of shopping and driving me to school. She had been place with this huge responsibility as my mother felt apart. After a couple of months it began to scare me. I didn’t want to lose my mother as well. My father had finally gathered the courage to leave, well that’s what he told me, maybe to protect his already fractured pride. He had told me that he had done some stupid things and that he didn’t want to hurt us anymore. I respected him for that. I was sad to see him go but it was chilling watching my parents live in silence. My eldest sister was sadder to see him go. She begged him to stay and every night she would call him and try to get him to come home. He refused and it crushed her. After that she began crying herself to sleep again. It scared me to hear her quivering all night until I heard the silence and I knew she had fallen asleep. It had been months but our family was damaged, possibly beyond repair.
8 months and 9 days after my sister passed I turned 12. It felt like I was turning 22. I felt I had grown up 10 years in the last couple of months alone. I hadn’t been counting down the days like past years. I didn’t cross off the days on my calendar and wait in anticipation for my birthday. Unlike normal I didn’t awake to the smell of pancakes, French toast and every possible breakfast food you could imagine. It was like any other day. My mother had wished me a happy birthday and kissed my forehead but it felt cold, distant, and emotionless. This saddened me. My sister had bought me a birthday present and baked me a big cake. I smiled for the first time in months when I saw the effort she went to. She wanted to make my birthday as normal as possible. I didn’t feel special like most kids do on their birthday. It wasn’t a whole day all about me, it was just another day where my sister wasn’t here. My father visited for lunch, but that too felt like an empty visit. I saw the pain in his eyes as he wished me happy birthday and watched me open my presents. My sister had bought me a simple elegant bracelet with a locket clasp while my dad bought me a whole ton of books. Enough to shut the world out for another year. He stayed for dinner but I really wished he hadn’t. This had reminded me why he had left in the first place. I hated the silence between him and my mother, and all the fake smiling that was happening around the table. It would of been easier if they had just forgotten my birthday all together. I stared at the bright flame on the candles. My sister was urging me to make a wish but I continued to stare blankly into the flame. I didn’t know what to wish for. I took once final glance at the candles and blew them out. I had made my wish. To me it was simple but would make everything better. I had wished for my family’s pain to go away. I wanted them to be happy to smile and laugh again. I wanted my mother to be able to leave the house for more than an hour. I wanted my father to stop drinking, to be himself again. But most of all I wanted my sister to be relieved of the burden of looking after the family. I wanted her to live her life, and let go of the distress she felt for all of us. I wanted her to be free.