Two Sisters

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A story about two sisters coming to terms about the mysterious death of thier parents.

Two Sisters

Kwanishia Ankamah

Every time she felt an episode coming on, she’d thought it would be the last. Maybe the one that would finally put her out of her misery, although it never happened. As soon as her door clicked shut, she could feel again. She could feel everything, and it hurt. Joanna would swear she could even feel every single one of the billions of cells in her, crawling with activity at that instant. Her mind still raced helping remind her how alive she was and making her more aware of how dead they are. Slowly, the steady pulsing metronome of her heart let her dose between here and dreamland. The mechanical churn of her stomach, helped soothe the pain. The hairs on her arms receded back into place, alerting her body that everything was fine. Death had escaped again. She wondered what it felt like for her parents. Was it long and drawn out, so that you could recount every mistake you ever made? Every joyful moment? Every missed opportunity? Was it quick, painless? Did it hit them like a ton of bricks with more pain than any person can fathom in one second? Or is it abrupt, like taking a pop goes the weasel off too soon? And then your melody is over at the monkey chasing the weasel while two little girls sit quietly still waiting for the joy of the pop?

Requiring just one moment of orderly chaos, Joanna escaped to her room. There she didn’t have to be the adult, the decision maker, the babysitter, or the strong one. She could be the care-free, albeit slightly abnormal seventeen year old that she was before the accident. Nowadays, everything was slowly unraveling before her eyes. Sometimes, it was just too much. At a moment’s notice; her breaths would shorten, her stomach launched a joy ride, and her heart beat violently against her ribs like wild animal trapped in the zoo. Whilst her eyes became cloudy, allowing all the enclosing darkness fall in. Worst of all, she began feeling overwhelmingly alone. No matter what time of the day, or where she was, she’d bolt to her house, leap up the stairs, lock her room door, lie on the floor, and cling to her last memory. The carpet vaguely smelled like the birch she begged to bring home one summer. She’d collected it on a trip to the beach, and her Mother dropped it all right on this spot. Some pieces were stuck there. Rocking back and forth would ease her back to that grey October day when she last saw her parents. She inhaled the scent of the carpet deeply, hoping to travel back in time. She kept a bag in the back of her closet, which was ready for the day she would leave. Because every day, more and more; the world inched a little bit closer towards her. The air was already starting to get a little stifling, if it wasn’t for the serenity of her room, that bag would have served its purpose months ago. But she would never leave Cecilia; because Cecilia needed her to be.

Still lying on the floor, Joanna looked around her room. She exhaled slowly and stood up. The neatness was astounding. The pencils were all sharpened and pointing north on her desk evenly. The books on her bookshelf, arranged one inch from the edge in perfect alphabetical order, looked magnificent. Her bed, looked like something out of a Home and Garden magazine. Her mother made a big fuss about her depressing color scheme everyday. Griping over and over about how it screwed up the feng shui of the house. It made her so mad, that she caved in. Two weeks before the trip to the summer house, the spread appeared. It was everything she hated; pink, flowery, and expensive. Now, For some reason she could never leave the house with out making her bed. Joanna noticed if she didn’t, the episodes occurred more frequently than usual. Pictures hung loosely on the walls, depicting the life of Joanna and her small family. She looked a little bit closer at the four smiling faces looking back at her that were strangers to her now. A handsome providing father, a gorgeous humble mother, an all-American son, beautiful but spoiled-looking daughter, and one who didn’t belong; the ugly ducking. Wearing all black, she exuded the allusion of teen angst. She saw a girl who, for some reason, hated her parents. A girl who didn’t know how good she had it and now regrets it all. But one can’t dwell on the past, what is done is done, she thought. She knew, or hoped they all knew how much she loved them; her chest tightened briefly.

For a moment, she saw her reflection in the mirror and gasped, touching the reminder on her face. A long crooked line going from her left eye down to her chin, disappearing at her regal neck, the skin raised and little brighter than the rest of her face; announcing its presence whenever she met someone. Even though it made most uncomfortable, she could stare at it for hours. Sometimes, when she felt alone she would remove all her clothes and stand in the mirror. No one knew about half the scars she had, she would look at all the bruises and bumps that will never go away. She would touch the three inch one on her side where they put his kidney, to feel Nathan again, living on in her, along with four other people he helped bring back to life. She felt connect to him, all of them, their families and friends, and their friends; the world. He was always the hero, everyone loved him. At the funeral, someone cried out, “Why not her God?“, and Joanna just lowered her head in agreement. The charred flesh on her upper arm and back, reminiscent of the hell she traveled through and back to be alive. The hell she put her own self through. Her legs were big scabs, she threw away all her skirts after the incident. She sighed.

There was a sound of a click from downstairs, Cecilia was home.

Ceci sashayed in with two brand new bags from God-knows-what shop this time. Although the family was never poor, simple necessities are struggle to get for the sisters; well sister. While Cecilia lived lavishly, Joanna paid the cost. Cecilia managed to throw most of the money their parents saved their entire lives away in a couple of weeks. Her particular method of grief caused them to be behind on every possible bill. Gucci this, Prada that. Hats, bags, cuff links, extensions, credit cards; more and more things arrived every day. Even their dad’s complimentary subscription to Narwhals Daily and Other Mythical Creatures stopped showing up. A couple of weeks back, the paper boy started throwing eggs at the house in lieu of actual papers. The mailbox was so cluttered with overdue notices and Cecilia’s magazine’s that the carrier just put mail on top of their mother’s begonias. The weight made them collapse and die. The awful sight of the trampled flowers, mixed with the stench of the paper boy’s eggs, and seeing five more bags being lugged in by Ceci sent Joanna into a massive episode, in which she was sure was the end. Alas, she survived, picked herself up from the floor and repaired the shrine. She made it a habit now to come home the back way and enter through the kitchen.

The sisters never talked about Cecelia’s reckless spending. Joanna would venture from her sanctuary to ask, “Hey Ceci, what you got there?” To which Cecilia would reply quickly, “None of your business. Just stuff I needed.” Joanna would shake her head, retreat to her room and call her job in hopes of obtaining more hours; and that was that. She knew that this was Ceci’s way of grieving, so she left her alone no matter how upset she felt. After all Ceci felt guilty for not being there. It played all over in her head over and over. The annual family trip, and Cecilia decided her friends were more important. It paid off for her that time; she didn’t die or become disfigured. There parents didn’t plan on dying and weren’t prepared. Everything automatically went to Ceci’s name; it was rightfully her money to spend. Maybe they wanted that way. Nothing for Jo, the problem child. Ever. Especially since it’s all gone now. If only it had been one more year later, she thought.

Jo stood at the door and smiled at the rhythmic tapping of Ceci’s heels on the linoleum. Cecilia used to dance, she missed that. Everyone would pile into the auditoriums at school to see her dance; they all knew she was going to make it. She was the most graceful person that Jo would ever know and her first role model. Jo wanted to see her name in the blinking lights on Broadway more than Ceci did. The whole world should know the greatness of the beautifully talented Cecilia Percival-Penn, she wrote in her diary after every show. When they were younger, Jo thought of different names Cecilia could use. For serious roles, Cecilia Penn. Broadway would know Ceci Percival-Penn. Her first album would call her Ceci Percival. Her alter-ego, as some stars have today, would be Ms. Percival-if-you’re-nasty. Then when she makes it to the greats, she’d just be Cecilia; Joanna’s, just Cecilia. That was the best about having two last names, the variety. For Joanna, she was always just plain Joanna Penn.

She opened the door to greet Cecilia and the world went dark. Jo knew this was it, she’d died. She imagined her brother’s burly arms enclosing her in a cocoon of love like he always did. His blinding smile wiping away all the darkness and she would be home. Her father forgiving her for smoking, her mother welcoming her with her kind eyes. She thought she smelled a little bit of Axe in the air. Just a whiff of citrus was a lullaby of release. Joanna smiled, death was easy. The dark subsided, she turned, Cecilia held a candle. “The lights are out.”

“Oh.” Was all Joanna could say. “Is it raining?” she hoped.

“No.” Cecilia breathed.

“Oh. Okay, did you pay the bill? I gave you the money last week for it.”

“I don’t remember that.” She lowered her head and looked down at her new leopard printed shoes; Jimmy Choo fall collection. She flashed back to an open catalogue she found while cleaning, the page was turned down to the enchanting pair. Joanna never wanted anything, but those shoes were gorgeous. She could imagine herself as she was before she was so enwrapped in teen angst. It was time that she had a desire to have anything. To be alive. A pair of shoes did that. She only had one pair to begin with. But she put the magazine down, the light bill was due, they cost the same; $375 big bucks. That was 41 grueling hours at her job. Forty one hours of wiping snotty noses, bleaching puke off the floor, disinfecting toys, wiping butts, and performing mundane tasks were displayed flat out on Ceci’s feet. Forty one hours of her life that she would never get back. Forty-one hours. Forty-one hours.

Joanna lunged at Ceci knocking her over where she her head on the wall. The candle fell floor, dying on the carpet, reclaiming the darkness. Her eyes spread wide-eyed with terror as Jo took out two months of pent-up frustration on her face. All the panic attacks, having to live beyond her years, not being able to feel to make Cecilia happy, had finally caught up with her. She pulled herself away, panting like a wild animal. One of Ceci’s extensions was caught in her blouse. The faint ticking of the hair, brought her back to reality. It surprised her more that she could actually feel it, rather than what she had just done. Standing, she looked down at her bruised sister, feeling like a monster again. Crimson regret trickled down her face. Her mothers face took Cecilia’s place, when she died, it was just like this. Out of the darkness, she heard her mother say through the flames, “No Joanna, turn away! Run the other way, save yourself, your brother is coming to get us. You‘ve done enough.” She didn’t tell Cecilia what happened. She wanted to save them, she tried, but they didn’t need her. Nate ran past her to their parents in the house, smiling and smelling of citrus. He went in, and didn’t come out. The roof fell in so suddenly, that all Joanna could do was watch as the flames roared on louder with more fuel to feed on.

Cecilia looked up, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Joanna, I wasn’t there.” Tears streamed down the face of one or the other, it was not clear who. Cecilia never shed a tear at the funeral, but was bold enough to wonder out loud why God had not taken her bothersome sister . Twenty-two and burdened with a murderous teenager is not the trendy thing to do. She didn’t even know how they died, or cared to say the least. The summer home was gone thanks to Joanna.

“No you’re not. Grow up, I am done with everything.” She turned away and ran to her room. She didn’t need lights to see what she wanted to get. She felt the cool leather handle in her hand with no regrets. Her heart pumped violently; it was time. Cecilia wiped her face while someone knocked at the door. She was terrified, but knew she deserved it. The knocking got louder, she stumbled in the darkness to find the door. She tripped once or twice on all the boxes in the house, it was so cluttered with unnecessary items. Did she need a hand massager? She bought it three months ago, but never used it. Maybe Joanna would want it, she thought. Cecilia heard some rustling up stairs, she wondered what Joanna was doing. It was time to talk; explain everything. She opened the door, not ready to explain her raccoon eye to anyone just yet. There was and overwhelming glow of red in the doorway, Sandra, their neighbor. Sandra’s eyes lowered sadly, she hadn’t been over since Nathan died; Cecilia looked just like him. Tears streaming down her eyes, Joanna shuffled down the stairs quickly carrying a small bag, shocked to see Ceci at the door. Sandra smiled warmly and asked, “Hey, the whole blocks out. My parents are gone for the night. You and Jo want to play black-out Jenga?“ Ceci turned around, looking as if she had seen a ghost. Their eyes met and Jo just stood there, breathing loudly, clenching her chest.


Submitted: November 21, 2010

© Copyright 2022 Kwanishia Ankamah. All rights reserved.

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