“I hate you. I hate you so much,” I scowled at her, looking directly into her eyes. She taught me not to believe the words of other people if they were afraid to meet your eyes. She said it meant they were lying. I lied.
When she grabbed those car keys, I should have stopped her. If I had known what would have happened, I would have stopped her but, who knows anything? We think we do, and then we realize we don’t know. Not even close.
If only there was a way to go back in time, to prevent me from shouting those words. If only there was a way to prevent the sky from raining down on us so heavily. If only there was a way to unflip the car, to prevent her head from smashing against the windshield so many times. If there was a way to bring her back, I’d do anything.
That was the day I stopped believing in magic. Because she was here one minute and gone the next. She died on impact as her car flipped over and over. It felt like magic. It was the magic that changed my life and not in a good way.
I rid my head of all the thoughts that keep coming back. I have to get out of this place.
I let out a breath. Only five more days to go.
I throw my clothes into my suitcase, forcing it to close. It was moments like this that made me thankful that I had such few possessions. I had packed up my life into this suitcase. Everything would probably have fit if I folded the clothes. I still didn’t.
I’d say the thing I’m best at is running away. I run from everything but, you can’t run from your problems forever.
Emory University is my idea of a fresh start. I had been planning my escape for months now because it’s always easier to run. Mum wouldn’t be proud of me for leaving like this, so I was glad she wasn’t here to see it. But then again, I wouldn’t be leaving in such a rush if she were alive. She’s not. I killed her.
The only person in my family that could stand to look at me was grandma, but she’d be disappointed if I left without sorting things out. She told me all the time, “Stop being a coward. You can’t run forever.”
I had to apologize; I knew that, but it was easier to apologize for something that wasn’t your fault. This was my fault. This was my fault, and I was scared I’d apologize and it wouldn’t fix anything. I was scared that it was already too late.
“Melissa! Come downstairs now!” Mum had screamed. It didn’t matter that the walls were so thin I could hear her when she spoke normally. She never stopped screaming.
We stopped getting along at least three months ago when I started adapting to my new features. Suddenly, everything was too short. Everything was inappropriate.
She was driving me mad. I never asked for new clothes because she wouldn’t get them. She made that clear a long time ago. Dad wouldn’t either. I thought we were on the same side for so long, but he never went against mum. She wouldn’t let me get new clothes yet, it upset her I was ‘modifying’ them. I was growing up, and she wasn’t letting me.
I hadn’t bothered satisfying her with an answer, I just showed up at the bottom of the stairs. My eyes daring. I dared her to comment on this outfit now.
She counted to three. I knew her so well, I could picture her doing it in her head. She always counted to three. It was how I knew she was on the verge of exploding.
“Go upstairs and change now, Melissa. There’s no way you’re leaving this house showing that hideous thing you got tattooed across your torso.”
"Go upstairs and change now, Melissa," I mimicked her in my head.
"Or what?" I felt like asking. What was so wrong with the crop top I was wearing now? There was no hideous thing splayed across my torso, only a barely visible tattoo I had gotten above my belly button last week that said, 'carpe diem.' Last week when she forced me to attend Eliana’s award ceremony.
I hated that she told me what to do. She thought Eliana was better than me because she was her daughter. I wasn’t. I was the daughter of a man who remarried many years after his wife died, my mom.
It was always Eliana this, Eliana that, and then dad started saying it too. “Don’t wear that. Eliana hasn’t started filling out in places like that. You’ll make her feel self-conscious.”
Everyone was always so worried about Eliana. As childish as it sounded, I needed someone to worry about me too. I needed someone to tell me I was beautiful.
Eliana and I had always been close. Her mum was my mum and my dad was her dad. We were both seventeen then, but she was five months older than I was. We did everything together. People always mistook us for fraternal twins because we were so alike but, we looked nothing alike besides the fact that we were the same height.
We wrote too. Everything seemed like fiction. It wasn’t. At least to an extent, it wasn’t. The main characters in the stories were always us. We would write how we felt and read it to no one else but each other, pretending we didn’t know the people in the stories.
The last thing she read to me wasn’t fiction. I couldn’t pretend like it was because she used our names. She looked right into my eyes as she said those words, the same words I said to her mom last week.
“I hate you. I hate you so much, Melissa.”
When she said those words, I felt my heart constrict in my chest.
“You don’t mean that,” I whispered.
“You’re right. I don’t, but I wish I did.”
Somehow that made it worse.
A year passed. A very long year of me avoiding my problems. It was my dream to go to Emory University. It was ours once upon a time, until it wasn’t. She never applied there because she gave up on her dreams. She did because her mum died. She never wrote after what she wrote to me. I killed that part of her along with her mum.
Maybe that was the reason I didn't cry when she died. I didn’t think I deserved to. Because everything the four of us did before she died paled in comparison to the last thing I had said to her, or maybe it was because my grief felt insignificant compared to theirs.
I need to get out of here. The memories are choking me.
“Even if you go, you’ll never be free of it. Your ghosts will haunt you until you set yourself free,” my grandma’s voice reminded me. I couldn’t get her out of my head.
The whispers and everything drove me mad. I only heard her speak to me in my dreams, more like nightmares, but today she was working with my grandma to drive me mad. Their voices had blended and grandma wasn’t on my side anymore. No one was. I used the palm of my hands to block either side of my head, to block them out. It wasn’t working. I was screaming suddenly. It was tearing me apart.
The tears came then, and somehow they were worse than the whispers, than the pounding. I hadn’t cried in over a year. “Please go away. I can’t take it,” I whispered.
“Make things right!” she screamed.
“I can’t,” I whispered, the tears coming in full force now.
“Why?” she echoed.
“Because they won’t forgive me. I remember little of my mum, but I hadn’t ever seen my dad as happy as he was with you. And then I ruined everything. He fell in love again, and then I took you from him. I'm a monster and yet, he never stops looking at me like I'm his world. It isn’t fair.”
I think about how hard it must have been sharing her because sometimes it was hard to share dad too. Every night she’d braid mine and Eliana’s hair, and in the summer, she'd put flowers in it. She stopped doing it two years ago. I never realized how much I still needed it.
She was my mum too, not biologically, but it felt like it. Last year she said something to me, she said, “You’re strong, you’ll be okay,” she hadn’t said it smiling, she’d said it like she was afraid. She was wrong. I’m not strong. Thinking about it made me realize it was bigger than I originally thought. She cared about me and I was being a brat. She was trying to be a mother.
We never agreed on anything after that.
I know she cared. I know both of them did, but they never paid attention. Eliana was the prodigy. Her write-ups were going somewhere. Then she stopped and if dad noticed, he never said so.
I should have been there for both of them, but I wasn’t.
I knew what I wanted. I wanted to grab dad and Eliana’s hands and run back in time, but I couldn’t.
“Make things right,” grandma whispered.
I sighed. She was right. They both were. I had to make things right. I hoped it wasn't too late.
I picked up a pen and some paper, my hands shaking. My essay for Emory was the last time I had written.
Once upon a time, she was the only one I wrote for. Now, I was writing a story I knew so well yet, the words wouldn’t come. I suppressed them for so long, and now they were changing. I knew what I wanted to write, and I had to make things right for both of them. We should have grieved as a family. I should have understood. I should have been there for both of them.
It’s a quote I can never forget because Eliana started everything with it. She said she’d stop when she found the right words. I told her I’d use it when I found the right words.
I wasn’t sure what the right words were, but I thought these were it. They were true. They were a reflection of everything we had been, everything we could try to be.
The first thing I write: “One day, I’ll find the right words and they will be simple,”- Jack Kerouac
The second thing: I’m sorry.
The third: I should have been there when you needed me.
The last: I love you so much.
It’s not everything it should be, but it’s a start. It feels like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I slip to the ground, clutching the paper tightly to my chest. As I look around my empty room, the room I’ll be leaving in five days, I feel it.
I feel the magic, so I make a wish because I don’t know if the feeling will disappear and I’m not taking my chances. I wish harder than I’ve ever wished for anything.