“Oh, the turkey is nicely cooked, James,” Mother said, chewing on the soft strip of meat. The room was lightly lit with candles from the chandelier. The warmth of the fire was comforting for each family member.
“Thank you, Mother,” Smiled James.
There was a silence in the room. Tonight was a night for talking with family, but there was nothing to talk about. The sadness was unbearable. It weighed in their throats, filling their hearts. Instead of having a real conversation, they stuffed their mouths with the rich foods on the table.
Father stared down at his plate as he picked through his green beans. “It’s cold outside, isn’t it?” He mumbled.
James cleared his throat. “I think the snow’s never going to stop,” Then he added a little laugh.
His parents gawked at him, causing him to stop instantly. The laughter was so foreign. It was too strange to bare. It seemed too soon without her presence.
“The mash potatoes are delicious, Mother,” James remarked, eating a scoop of the white mush.
His mother shook her head. “I didn’t cook them- it was our neighbors,”
James nodded his head, sighing. He couldn’t take it anymore. It was too quiet. It was too awkward and distant. This was all wrong, and the three of them knew it.
A tear rolled down Mother’s cheek, dropping on her plate. Nobody dared to question her, in any case. Father squeezed his fork as he tried to control his own tears. James distracted himself by shoving too much food in his mouth. He would not show emotion, even though the inside of him was melting with sadness.
Nobody spoke for the next few minutes. Nobody wanted to. It felt like if they did, they’d burst into tears.
Out of nowhere, through the quiet cries and the misery, the candlesticks on the table blew out. They all stared at the mysterious candles with bright eyes. Goosebumps appeared on James’s arms. A knot began to form in Mother’s throat. Father shut his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck.
“This is ridiculous,” Father huffed, standing up. “That was just a breeze from… from the air,”
Teary-eyed, Mother looked up at him. “A breeze?”
James still locked his gaze on the candles. The fortune-teller’s words from the market earlier that day still rang in his ears.
“You are a sad family that needs closure. And closure is what you’ll get,”. The woman ran up to them as they were gathering food for that night’s feast with that message. They didn’t even notice her until she grabbed James’s arm. She had snack green eyes, caramel skin, dark eyebrows, and thick hair that was covered by a colorful scarf. She was Madam Lavinia traveling with a group of gypsies. Usually, the family tries not to pay attention to the beggars. But with her worried exaggerated expression, they couldn’t help but listen to what she had to say. At first, they didn’t know how the gypsy knew about their humming depression. Of course, Madam Lavinia was referring to the death of James’s older sister, Sara. Five weeks ago, Sara drowned in a river. Some of the townspeople said that it was suicide, others said it was murder. The family hated themselves for not being there for Sara. And as Madam Lavinia noted, they needed closure even though they didn’t want to admit it. The woman’s words hunted each of them throughout the rest of the day. When would they get the closure they desired?
The bottle of wine next to Mother fell over, spilling all over her lap. She stood up at once, trying to get rid of the red stain on her white dress. “Oh, no!” She cried.
James started to feel cold. He began to shiver, and he, too, stood up. The three of them stared at each other as a noise began. At first it was soft- barely noticeable. But it grew louder by the second. It sounded like drops of water on the floor. Mother and Father looked up at the ceiling for any possible leaks. James held his arms against his chest, trying to figure out where the noise was coming from. The empty chair at the end of the table moved a little. They all jumped with panic, facing the chair. Tears slipped out of the corners of James’s eyes, for that was Sara’s chair. The dripping noise stopped, and all of the candles in the room blew out.
“AH!” Screamed Mother.
The room was pitch black. James felt the table for Mother’s hand. When he grabbed what he thought was her hand, he squeezed. “Mother, it’s all right. It’s all right,” She squeezed back. But the hand was softer, colder than his mother’s.
Then, the room grew bright as all of the candles lit themselves back. Father stumbled over his chair, falling onto his back. Mother almost fainted, covering her eyes with both of her hands. When James noticed he was still holding a hand, he looked down. And there was a soft, thin hand gently holding his. He followed the hand up a skinny arm, and then… to her face.
Sara sat there, blinking back at him. He quickly pulled his hand free, running his back smack on the wall.
Cursing, the father got up from the ground and looked at his terrified boy. James pointed at the end of the table with a shaky finger. When Father looked up at Sara, he almost fell again.
“Sara?” Spoke Mother as she finally opened her eyes.
The young woman turned her head to her mother. “It is I,” She smiled-- the way she always did.
James took a step forward. “Sister?”
“Yes,” She nodded her head.
“But- but you’re dead!” Father cried as the veins in his neck bulged out. His thoughts scattered across his mind like shredded paper. He was not one to believe in magic or ghosts. How could this be real?
Sara left her chair and began walking towards her father. “You died!” His voice cracked. “I watched you get buried!” Tears were running down his face like rain. When she made her way to him, she hugged him tightly. The scent of lavender burned in her hair. He didn’t know what was happening anymore, so he hugged her back. It was good to be hugging his daughter again.
“Nobody murdered me,” She whispered in his ear. This was a relief to the father. “Stop blaming innocent people,” She pulled out of the hug, turning towards her mother.
Scared, the mother took a step back. Deep inside, she wanted to see Sara, but Father was right. She died. Mother watched her get lowered into the ground.
Sara gracefully walked over to her and gave her a soft embrace. “You know I am not coming back, Mother. You still have a wonderful husband and son to watch over,”
Mother tried to find her words, but she couldn’t.
Lastly, she found her way to her brother. “It’s not your fault,” James held his sister in his arms as if he’d never let go. She was just the same before she was found in the river. “Please, forgive yourself,”
Sara sat back down in her chair again. “I am safe now. Let me go. Move on. Stop holding onto something that doesn’t exist anymore. Nobody did this to me. It’s not any of your faults. I was down at the river picking a bouquet when I saw a cat struggling to keep its poor head up float down the stream,” Her family stood there motionless, watching her. “I jumped in to save it. I directed the cat to shore but got caught in the current. But now I am safe- in the kingdom above,”
After long seconds of silence, the mother formed a smile on her face. James stared at his mother, so happy she was smiling again. It had been too long. The father noticed this also, and he smiled back at Sara.
“You asked for closure, so here I am,” Sara was smiling too. She picked up a bite of turkey from James’s plate. When she swallowed it, she laughed. “Oh, that’s good!”
The family laughed with her, still not finding words to speak. A weight lifted from their shoulders, replaced with happy smiles. It seemed the static painful sadness was gone. Sara was there in front of them. Her words melted in everyone’s ears, warming their hearts.
Mother was crying, but the tears were from joy. “It is good, isn’t it?”
“I was thinking the same thing,” Father laughed, taking his seat.
“Me too,” Said James, as everyone sat back down.
And just like that, Sara was gone. The three of them felt as if they should be sad again, but the lingering happiest of Sara’s closure still filled them. They stared at her empty chair with soft smiles.
“Goodbye, Sara,” He whispered.
The family looked at each other. They all saw her. It wasn’t a trick. Sara was really there. She talked to them. But of course, nobody would believe the family. And because of that, they grew closer.
The rest of the night was full of talking, laughter, and memories of Sara. They finally got what they needed: Closure.
They were no longer a sad family, thanks to Madam Lavinia. Nobody questioned how she did- or if she was even responsible for doing it. They were just grateful. They were closer than ever. They were relieved and happy to know Sara was all right. They were full of joy and excitement. They felt gratitude for one another. And Sara’s presence was always remembered.