The door was locked. Nathalie’s fragile body was no match for the solid metal. Each little grain that it was made of stared into her reddened eyes. Darkness seeped through the creases from the unknown world. She was fearful of the thought of what was on the other side. A tear escaped her watery eyes when she thought she had exhausted them all. Screams hurled from her mouth. It was from deep within and came with a powerful force that ached the lining of her throat. The roughness of the rug touched her delicate skin as her body rolled back and forth. I watched it on from the other side, and that was all I could have done. Two weeks ago, she was full of life, accompanying Annie to the beach.
“You need not come with me every time,” Annie said. She soaked her feet into the sand, feeling each particle between her toes. It was the gentlest hue of caramel that tamed the sun, which shone over the blue water. She loved being there; it bared the restfulness she longed for and hoped one day she would find. A few years back, it was our usual weekend hangout spot. I can hear the faint laughter amongst the crashing waves and chirping birds.
“I need to, Nathalie replied. You haven’t been the same since last year.”
“I can take care of myself!” Her voice echoed in the distance, sending the resting birds along the shore into the air. She paused, digesting the misery she had blasted upon the calm shores. A place where we cherished happy memories became a dark core of hell.
Nathalie stepped back and allowed her to leave. Annie’s white silk skirt was the last we saw. Her slim body disappeared into the horizon. She walked like our mother, with a springy step. It was almost a year since she went away, but the grief was the same as the day she left. I remember her fetching the basket of blueberry pie and pastries she baked for us. Annie would beg her to help carry it, but she would always resist. Mother said she was here to take care of us, but now she’s not; who will take care of us? We would sit and look upon the sunset until the sky turned dark blue. Sometimes we would stay longer and dance under the stars. Certain things we don’t do anymore; eat blueberry pie and dance.
Our lives changed when the water came in and took us. I do not remember everything, just the water angrily aggressing mother and me. During the hurricane season on Harbor Island, everyone knew not to go by the seashore. They were to stay on the hills in their homes. Everyone knew except me. I wandered my way, and Mother followed me. I couldn’t understand why the water was so angry; I couldn’t understand how a place we loved so much took us away.
After that day, our lives changed. Annie was on the verge of losing her mind, and Nathalie was trying to bring her back to sanity, even though she too would fall apart. At nights when she thinks everyone is asleep, she finds her way to mom’s room and cuddles between her sheets. Her cries are silent, but I see the tears amongst the fog. I see her pain beyond the smile.
Tonight, she was crying for everyone to see. Annie had locked herself in mom’s room, and there was no response after we heard a scream. Nathalie rushed upstairs, almost tripping over the stairs. She shouted for our beloved sister, but there was no answer. I never imagined it would end like this, and I am the one to blame. If only I had stayed home that day, Mother would still be here. In that moment of grief, I lost myself to a world of condemnation and ridicule. My blue skies turned into dark clouds–the light turned into shadows.
We waited at the door, and after a while, I thought Nathalie fell asleep on the floor. But when the door squeaked, she rushed to her feet. I, too, became alert. Nathalie couldn’t stop herself from nudging the door until it swung open. Annie was absent from the doorway, and this frightened Nathalie. Her muscle became rigid with fear as her body made its way to the entrance. She paused when she was about to enter–bending her head down, she whispered. My eight years on earth, I had never seen Nathalie afraid, except now. I ventured behind her as she proceeded. In my little heart, I knew Annie wasn’t dead. I would have felt her presence.
She was sitting at the edge of the bed with Mother and a duffle bag. Nathalie ran over, her body pinned against Mother’s. Their faces were wet, and, as for me, I stood in the corner.
It all became clear to me. I wasn’t alive–mother didn’t get to save me. I did not know where she was for all these months until I saw her release papers from the All Saints Asylum. They stayed in her room all night, and after many tears were laughter. Mother went down to the kitchen at dawn and baked all our favorite goodies. Annie joined her, and later Nathalie. She was always the late sleeper. I was so happy to see them all together, smiling in each other’s arms. I was at peace and could finally take my place in my new home.
Later in the day, they went down to the beach. Mother and Annie fetched the basket of goodies. They ate, played, and danced in the sand. After they rested, Mother took out a bottle with many papers wrapped inside and colorful rocks at the bottom. She told them they were letters to Johanna that she had written. They shared a forced smile as they walked up to the shorefront. Mother, Nathalie, and Annie held onto the bottle, then placed it into the water. They stood embracing each other with Mother in the center. I watched them as they walked home, then I went on my way. For, I was no longer within the doors of earth. I was free to go on–my letters and I.