She was always the invisible one in the family. Nobody noticed her until the day she died.
Ironic? Not really. It is ordinarily how these things go. Life taken for granted. You just expect people to be around because they always were, and then one day they aren’t and your entire world caves in.
Actually, it was more subtle than that. I would have embraced the chaos and shock waves that should have followed in the aftermath. Instead, I got artificial silence carefully constructed whenever I entered a room. It was as fragile as a soap bubble, popping with the slightest whisper or pitiful sigh.
I hated her for what she did.
And then I would hate myself for hating my dead sister for being dead.
I had never treated Amelia as different or a lesser because she shrunk away from people and hid from the world while I danced in the sun and bathed in attention. As twins we were like magnets; opposite charges inevitably drawn together. I let her be who she needed to be and kept eyes away from her and deflected questions that no one had any business asking.
I started to dread all that attention I had once craved. I was suffocated by the inquiries about my welfare in hushed tones like I might shatter like she did. Then they stopped whispering to me and began whispering about me.
My own parents didn’t know what to do with either of us. Amelia was resurrected in our home like a patron saint. Portraits of her hung everywhere and my mother prayed to them like a devout worshiper. I was a puzzle they were missing pieces to. They couldn’t understand how I could continue on when half of me had died.
So I became what they wanted. I de-evolved into the vacant eyed, sorrow laden girl they expected me to be. I turned into Amelia. In return, they treated me like her, giving me a wide berth because they couldn’t handle seeing her ghost.
I grieved for her then I grieved for the pieces of myself that I had to bury with my sister.
And I hated her a little more each day.
She made a choice for both of us that night. A choice I never wanted, but soaked in consequences that only one of us had to endure.
She killed the pain that was inside her, but she also killed the joyful, life filled girl I had been. She was a murderer twice over and I would not pity her when I was the only one that understood how cruel she was.
Another gray Tuesday. Another day of mope, sigh, eye roll, repeat. I passed Mom on the stairs on my way to school. She barely glanced my way. Didn’t bother to ask if I needed money for lunch or why I didn’t carry a backpack full of advanced course books like I did before. It’s amazing the passes you get for having a dead sibling.
I spent my free periods, or even most classes, hiding behind the auditorium. No one looked for me. They didn’t bother to stop me when I resigned from my throne as Student Body President. Not a single “are you sure?” only lots of “understanding” and “respect” for my decision.
I don’t know how anyone could respect or understand my decisions when I couldn’t begin to rationalize what was happening to me.
“So this is where the mighty go when they have fallen.”
My head snapped to the direction of the voice. Rick Chaconne stood over me with a smug grin and a pack of cigarettes. He popped up one of the cancer sticks with a flick of the wrist and held the pack out as an offering.
I could only glare at him for being arrogant enough to disregard my super power of invisibility. He retracted his arm and helped himself to the smoke. “Aren’t you supposed to be prepping for an AP exam, or feeding orphans or some shit?”
I decided ignoring him was my only weapon. I returned to counting squares of concrete that composed the sidewalk around the building.
“Ah, so it’s like that? Still too good to socialize with the low life population of the school? Then tell me princess, what are you doing everyday hiding out in my ditch spot? ” He laughed to himself and took a long drag off his cigarette. “I mean, you aren’t even bothering to do anything worthy of my hiding place. You could sit and mope anywhere.”
“I’m not moping.” The words spat from my mouth before I considered them.
Rick grinned at his small victory. “Do you prefer sulking? Throwing a pity party? Another term, perhaps?”
An indignant huff compressed my chest and escaped my lips. “My sister killed herself.”
He only raised an eyebrow. “So?”
So? Didn’t he realize that was everything? “My sister. Killed herself. Dead.”
“What does that have to do with your foray into the darkside?”
“What the hell are you talking about? I tell you my sister commits suicide and you act like she borrowed a shirt and forgot to return it.”
Rick sighed and stubbed out the cigarette. “I’m not saying it doesn’t suck. I just don’t understand what that has to do with you now.”
An horrible familiar sensation of tears filled my eyes. “It has everything to do with me. Nothing is the same.”
“Didn’t you decide to change most of it yourself?”
“You don’t know anything.” I was terrified he actually might. Why was he still talking? He wasn’t supposed to even see me, but he kept pressing on bruised memories and tender subjects like a sadist.
“No one made you turn in your title of Campus Princess. Nobody chased you out of all your clubs and roles. Rumor has it you broke up with Trevor Wilson not the other way around, so from where I sit, you have decided to be exactly where you are. Sitting behind a building, hiding from school authority and smoking with a known degenerate.”
He lit another cigarette and I couldn’t resist inhaling the acrid smoke. He noticed and offered it to me. This time I took it, but only so he would stop calling me princess.
“So, what’s the real deal, Princess?”
“Smart, pretty, popular girls don’t just wake up one day and decide to tell the world to go to hell. Amelia would be pissed at you.”
“Don’t say her name.”
He shrugged, not intimidated or sorry. “It doesn’t make her any less dead, and it doesn’t bring her back. Neither does dressing like her,” he added as he flipped the hood of my sweatshirt.
My jaw had clenched tight enough to crack molars. “I’m not dressing like her and don’t say her name.”
“Alright, Princess. Have it your way.” He rested back against the wall, but he was still too close.
I didn’t want to move away and let him know he bothered me. He didn’t seem to care that he was breaking all the rules. He was looking at me, talking to me and even saying her name.
“Just one question. How much longer until you decide to take after her completely and I have to go to a second funeral?”
The delicate stick in my hand snapped at the filter and sent flakes of tobacco and sparks in a flurry down the sidewalk. “Stop it. Stop it! STOP! I’m not like her!”
My own words punched me in the face. I wasn’t like her and yet I was exactly like her in every way that mattered. I had let the world get inside me and hurt me enough that all I wanted to do was keep it out.
I had only wanted to be invisible until everyone stopped looking at me like the girl with the dead sister, but there was no other option.
“I’m not like her,” I whispered to confirm the concept.
He smiled without the nasty sneer to his lip and lit a new cigarette to replace the one I broke. “No, Princess. You’re not, and that’s not such a bad thing.”
The alternate story I wrote about the same prompt can be found on my other blog http://mycaffeinefueledmuse.blogspot.com/2014/03/fragile.html