"Sarah! Wake up!" she could hear her mom's distant voice but her body failed to respond.
"Sarah!" her mom shouted, shaking her shoulders with extreme force. Sarah's eyes flew open and she stared at the ceiling, beads of sweat trickled down her face. Her mom sat there beside her, quiet as a church mouse. Sally, Sarah's mom, stood up and left the room giving her sixteen year old daughter space.
Sarah sat up on her bed and looked around her room. Everything was still the same, the dirty blue curtains, the old wooden dresser, the white paint and all the pictures she pasted on her wall. Everything was still there but it felt like her whole world had tilted upside down. The cold water hit her face immediately as she climbed into the shower. She stood there, eyes closed, letting the water run down her body.
Sarah stared at herself in the mirror, she looked the same but yet so different. Her blue eyes that were always full of joy were clouded with grief, sadness and fear. Her light brown hair that she spent hours straightening everyday sagged down her shoulders with the weight of the water. Her skin that always looked healthy and pink now looked pale and ghostly reflecting how she felt, dead. She felt like all the happiness had been sucked out of her and the empty soul had been put back in her body. She changed into her black t-shirt, her father’s favorite shirt because of the butterfly printed on it. She slid into her blue jeans and put on her brown sandals and made her way downstairs.
Her mom sat in the kitchen drinking coffee from dad’s favorite mug that she had gotten him for his birthday. Sally looked like she had been crying for days; her brown eyes were puffy and red with huge dark circles under them. Her skin had lost its glow over the past months and looked almost translucent. Her normally shiny brown hair, which was packed in a bun, looked dull. Sarah had to keep reminding herself that she and her mom were going through the same grief.
Sarah stood there waiting for her mom to smile, motion her over and play with her hair like she did everyday but her mom just sat there playing with the mug in her hands. Sarah could feel the tension radiating from her mother.
"What's wrong?" she asked, slipping into the seat beside her. Placing the mug on the marble table, she stared straight into Sarah's blue eyes. Something was definitely wrong.
"Sarah, I know you feel like your whole world is torn apart," she started, "but it’s not healthy for a teenage girl to sit around in her room all day and refuse to talk to anyone. Your school won't start till next month, you've stooped going out with your friends and you won't even let Amy talk to you. She is your best friend and you have to stop shutting her out. I know that I haven't been the best mother these past months but your father’s death took a huge toll on me and I'm sorry. I have a business meeting coming up and I have to be in Germany tomorrow so I've talked to Uncle Jerry to let you spend a couple of weeks with him. I have talked to Amy's parents and they are okay with Amy going with you to Jerry's. You're leaving first thing tomorrow and you don't have a choice."
Sarah just sat there processing all that her mother had just said. Sally stood up and without another word made her way to her room. A thousand and one things were running through Sarah's mind. The familiar sound of the doorbell interrupted her train of thoughts.
"Sarah! It's so good to see you," was what greeted her when she opened the door. Amy stood there looking gorgeous as ever. Her black hair was tied back in a ponytail, she wore a cute blue sundress that looked beautiful with her slightly pale complexion and her hazel eyes danced with humor. It was one of the things Sarah missed that about her best friend. She was so positive and she always made you look on the bright side. Without warning, she hugged Sarah with so much force that she thought her lungs were going to fly out from her body. Amy pushed her at arm’s length and studied her and suddenly Sarah felt self-conscious. She hadn't brushed her hair this morning and probably looked like a mess.
"You look horrible," Amy laughed, touching my messy hair.
"I know," Sarah laughed along. It had been so long since she had laughed a simple laugh of pleasure.
"I am not travelling with you looking like that, you'll make me look bad," she smirked, "you need a makeover."
"No, you are not giving me a makeover. I object ..." Amy cut her off and dragged her all the way upstairs to her room.
Sarah sat down in front of her dresser and stared at herself in the mirror. She did look like a mess. Her best friend opened up her drawers looking for Sarah's makeup and hair products.
"It's going to be so fun, just me and you like old times," Amy said as she applied one of the products on Sarah's hair.
"This wasn't going to be fun. Is Amy forgetting that they were going to Brant Manor, the same place dad died?" Sarah asked herself.
"I'm not forgetting anything. Your dad wouldn't want you to sit here and mope around. I know you're afraid of going back there but you have to face it," reading her mind.
"I'm not afraid, I'm terrified," Sarah clarified, "it's not as easy as you think."
"I know but someday you'll have to, so why not now," she objected.
"Done," Amy declared after some time, pointing at the mirror. Sarah looked over at herself in the mirror and was surprised by what she saw.
"Amanda Winston you are magical!" she announced. Sarah's hair was combed back and looked so neat and shiny. A beautiful emerald and diamond studded owl barrette held back the hair from her face. She looked fresh. She looked happy. Sarah smiled up and Amy, who was beaming down at her.
"Now, time to pack!" she shouted, swinging open the doors of Sarah's closet.
They spent hours packing and catching up. Amy told Sarah about everything that had been happening and then they laughed and talked till it was time to go to bed. Amy called her parents and told them she was staying over. Amy made a comfortable bed out of duvets on the floor. Sarah lay down on her bed staring at the ceiling.
"Goodnight," she heard Amy whisper.
"Goodnight," she whispered back. Tomorrow she'll have to do it. She'll have to face her fears. Sarah took a deep breath pushing the dread and fear away for now. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Sarah woke up to silence. The silence she was not familiar to. She was used to her mom waking her up. She sat up and saw Amy quietly sleeping on the floor. It hit her. She didn't have nightmares last night but why? She always had them ever since her dad died. She was worried by the sudden change. She looked up at the clock over her television. It was almost time to leave. She woke Amy and they stared getting ready. Neither spoke during the drive to Brant Manor. Uncle Jerry's house was a block away from where Mr. Johnson, Sarah's dad, had died. Sally had left earlier that morning so she wasn't able to see them off.
Uncle Jerry was an old man. Some would say he looked like a lumber jack. He had a pot belly and a huge messy beard that hid most of his facial features His eyes were a light brown shade. He welcomed them with a huge smile.
"Haven't seen y'all in three months. Sarah, you've grown and Amy, you haven't changed a bit," he commented in his raspy Texas accent. He took them into the house and went on and on about the latest news. He didn't seem to notice the discomfort in the atmosphere. He showed Amy and Sarah their room and immediately the door closed behind them they burst out laughing.
"He hasn't changed a bit," laughed Amy.
"You think," added Sarah, rolling on the floor with laughter.
The room was painted white with two beds placed side by side with about three inches of space between them. The dresser was made from a neat polished wood and the curtains were plain white. There was nothing much that decorated the room apart from a couple of pictures on the wall of rock stars.
They spent the rest of the day unpacking. Uncle Jerry came in a couple times to ask if they needed anything.
Sally called by around seven o'clock and blabbed nonstop about her business meetings. Sarah was glad she didn't have to talk about how it was here. She listened to her mom for about an hour. After the call, she joined Amy and Uncle Jerry downstairs in the kitchen.
"I'll be out for most of the day tomorrow so feel free to roam around the town," he said, taking out a drink from the fridge. They just nodded in response. Sarah didn't think she was going to leave the house anyway.
Amy went off to bed and was later joined by Sarah. They spent a while talking and laughing before drifting off to sleep.
Sarah woke up the next morning to the same silence. Amy was already awake and making breakfast.
"Good morning," she greeted, tossing Sarah a bottle of milk.
"You're up early," Sarah mentioned. Amy just shrugged.
"I got the keys from Uncle Jerry and I was thinking we could drive to the mall. I didn't bring a lot of clothes," she said, taking a bite of her toast.
"I'm really not in the mood," Sarah countered wiping milk from her face.
"I don't care. You're going," she said, not leaving any room for argument.
Despite all of Sarah's pleading and objections, Amy got her into the car and drove off. After ten minutes, the car stopped in front of a house that looked really familiar to Sarah.
"This isn't the mall," Sarah said and then realized where they were.
"Come on," Amy called climbing out of the car. Sarah remained seated.
"You have to face it," Amy groaned, pushing Sarah out of the car.
"Not today. Let's go back, please," but Amy refused to listen. With a little more effort she had successfully dragged Sarah out of the car.
She stood there looking over at the pile of rubble and concrete on the floor opposite the house that their car had stopped in front of. The air was cold and still. Sarah could feel the weight of the cold air around her ankles and on her shoulder. Dread and fear washed over her as she remembered the day her father had died right where she stood.
"Dad!" Sarah shouted and was answered by silence. She walked deeper into the building looking for her dad. The building was shaking but she didn't care. She shouted for her dad and this time heard a loud grunt in response. She moved towards the sound and found her dad lying there with a huge chunk of the concrete pillar on his leg. He couldn't move. Sarah ran towards him.
"No! Run!" he shouted from his position on the ground.
"But dad what about you?" she asked frozen in place.
"Go, find your mom. I love you kiddo."
The house trembled again.
"Go!" he shouted. She ran without looking back. She ran out of the house and found herself wrapped in her mother’s arms. She cried.
"Dad," she whispered through tears.
"I know. It will be fine," her mom said, hugging Sarah tightly to her chest. She was afraid to cry for Sarah. Through tears they watched the house collapse to the ground. They cried, helpless.
"They could have helped him. There was time," She cried against her mother on his burial. Her mother just sat there, arms wrapped around her daughter. The daughter that was now her life.
She stood there as the memories of that night washed over her, as the feelings she had kept locked up inside her broke loose, as the tears she had held for three months ran down her face. She felt Amy wrap her arms around her as she fell on the floor. She stared at the pieces of rubble, the pieces that had killed her father. She let the tears flow. She let the memories come. She could hear her dad’s voice in her head.
Amy was right; her dad wouldn't want her to lock herself up. He would want her to be free. He wouldn't want his daughter to be consumed by the fear of facing his death. He would want her to embrace it, to be brave.
Sarah stood up and walked deeper into the pile of concrete, she could hear her father screaming for her to go but she won't run away. This time she won't listen to her father. She won't let the fear eat her up, she'll face it.
She stood there in the center of it all and closed her eyes, letting it all out. She could see her father smiling at her and she smiled back.
Amy caught up to her and put her arms around Sarah.
"Are you okay?" she whispered. Sarah wiped her tears looking over at her best friend, who also had tears running down her face.
"Yes, I'm fine." For the first time in three months, she meant it. She was fine, she was happy and she was relieved.
"I love you," she whispered to the air knowing that her father would hear it. She walked back to the car with Amy by her side. She looked at the ruins one last time and smiled to herself.
She had faced her fear and she had accepted her father's death.
It was going to be okay.
BY: MUSFIRA AFZAL
15 YEARS OLD