I leave it for her, and no one else. It was a mission stuffing the already frayed edges into the capsule, and maybe no one would open it for that precise reason, even if they somehow did find it. But I know that she will, because the pull of a dead sister with her heart in the one place it always was will be too strong. The oak tree branches will cup her with their spindly fingers, making sure her moment was undisturbed. It’ll probably be at twilight; that was our timely ritual. The half lit sky will hold secrets that engulf her, probe her to feel the damp soil. It will probably be damp, because it will probably rain the day before. She’ll feel the urge to experience the petrichor, like always, and she will visit our tree after days or weeks or months. Or even years. Rainbow ribbons will tickle her hands as the prospect of something being left behind permeates her body. She will know, instantly, and the tube will form into a shape under her soft hands. She’ll dig, frantically, eager to memorise the tendrils of my existence. She’ll pull out the capsule after a few minutes, run her fingers over the smooth glass, confused and hurt. And she’ll look up at the knowing sky, and she’ll curse it because she wants to curse me, and I’ll be in the sky. She’ll open it anyway, pull out the plain black notebook, read the title. It’ll make her smile, just for a second, and then she’ll open the first page and start and everything will start from the end. And maybe then, she’ll stop wanting to die.
This is, assuming, I know my sister to a t.
Alternatively, she might just walk around dead anyway.
It had rained the day before Sion decided it was time to dig up some nostalgia. Little did she know that she would literally be digging it up.
She could feel her parents' eyes boring into her back as she made her way towards the door without a word. She wanted to say something, but didn’t want the sympathy or pity or disgust or whatever other futile sentiments everyone had tried shoving down her throat ever since it happened. So she carried on silently, almost tripping over her own feet in the rush. She was too slow.
“Oh, honey! It’s unusual to see you down here this late...are you going somewhere?” her Mum’s voice, trying to sound casual but tainted with a mixture of surprise and concern reached her before the door handle did.
Stop with this pretense shit. You know for a fact I’m going somewhere, so just spit out the questions already, is what Sion wanted to say, but instead, she turned on her heel and gave them a warm smile that was a long time coming.
“Ah, Mel, let the girl get some fresh night air. No matter where you’re off to Sion, have fun. Oh, and remember to get back before dinner, tonight’s your favorite,” her Dad saved her from the onslaught of sappy emotions that her Mum was clearly already riled up for, winking and glancing nervously at my Mum as he relayed what was a lie. Sion knew the original dinner plans weren’t prawn masala. She had seen her Mum’s dinner list for the week the other day, but decided that she’d let her parents make a fuss over her. It was better than decomposing in her room everyday.
The walk up the hill to the old oak tree brought with it the vestiges of two girls. Two sisters, running up this same hill side by side, tumbling over each other as they raced to the top. Sion could still see the footsteps forming dents in the grass, light brown hair flying in the wind, tangling with the darker locks of the older, prettier girl. As Sion reached the top, the ghosts of years past did too, planting themselves atop the tree roots, stars in their eyes from riveting conversation. She couldn’t take it. She smacked them to no avail, merely disrupting their pellucid existence for a moment. She wondered if this was how they had always looked, exchanging their weekly anecdotes in squeals and star infused gestures. She also wondered if this scene was exclusive; was this the last time they had come here, the last time her sister had whispered her name and hugged her tight? The last time, when her sister had revealed that maybe she was miserable, and Sion had asked if it was the last time, and she had said maybe not.
The smell of the damp soil reaches Sions nostrils as the memory fades away with the ghosts. She could feel the dirt calling out to her, daring her to form mud clumps, to do anything that would distract her from being here alone for the first time. It was as though her involuntary tears had sanctified the ground, for under her fingers she could feel something that she was sure wasn’t a root. At first, she caressed her fingers slowly up and down the soil, making sure that she hadn’t just imagined hope. But no, there was definitely something there, and it filled her with a multicoloured mystery dying to be solved. It wasn’t that deep, only a few minutes of frenzied digging that revealed a medium sized tube, the kind you see found by characters with sad eyes in tragedies. She too, felt like the protagonist in a young adult movie, but she couldn’t immediately understand the glass tube.
Is this some kind of joke?
It must be some kind of joke. This is not what she was expecting.
“FUCK YOU DUDE!” she shouted towards the purple and pink hues of the darkening sky , knowing that was the closest her sister would be. “FUCK YOU FOR NOT….FOR NOT CARING AND BEING SELFISH AND TELLING ME IT PROBABLY WOULDN’T BE THE LAST TIME. AND DECIDING THAT IT WAS ALL TOO MUCH. AND FOR PRETENDING TO BE STRONG FOR ME FOR SO LONG AND GIVING ME THIS FUCKING...THING? THIS TUBE AND I DON’T EVEN WANT TO OPEN THIS SHIT. I just want you to come back.” But the sky was as still and sympathetic as ever, it’s pale streaks mocking her dark aura. She knew she was going to open it regardless, examine what looked like a rolled up notebook, secretly still shooting fire to the sky.
She opened the lid reluctantly, her trembling fingers a stark contrast to those of the tree, tightly curled around her like the arms of a grandfather chair. She pulled and straightened out the decrepit looking notebook, with edges tattered even more so than herself. It was plain black, save for a big italic heading and miniscule quote sprawled over the front in white.
𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓻𝓮𝓿𝓲𝓿𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓸𝓯 𝓛𝓮𝓷𝓪𝓱 𝓐𝓽𝔀𝓸𝓸𝓭
𝓜𝔂𝓽𝓱𝓼 𝓬𝓪𝓷'𝓽 𝓫𝓮 𝓽𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓼𝓵𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓭 𝓪𝓼 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝔂 𝓭𝓲𝓭 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮𝓲𝓻 𝓪𝓷𝓬𝓲𝓮𝓷𝓽 𝓼𝓸𝓲𝓵. 𝓦𝓮 𝓬𝓪𝓷 𝓸𝓷𝓵𝔂 𝓯𝓲𝓷𝓭 𝓸𝓾𝓻 𝓸𝔀𝓷 𝓶𝓮𝓪𝓷𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓲𝓷 𝓸𝓾𝓻 𝓸𝔀𝓷 𝓽𝓲𝓶𝓮.
And in the midst of a thousand negative emotions, she found the heart to momentarily smile. The quote was by Margaret Atwood, her sister’s favorite author. It was possibly due to the fact that they shared a surname, but there was no denying that Lenah moulded her life to suit the characters Margaret created. She was always relaying direct quotes at apt times, telling Sion that there was always a situation for a Margaret Atwood quote. Sion found this amusing, the way Lenah’s mind reversed orthodox ideals. To Lenah, life was the pearl, and Atwoods world was the oyster.
Sion knew that this quote too, was a direct reference to Lenah’s suicide. She knew it was, even before she opened the notebook and read the singular sentence written boldly but neatly in the middle of the pale yellow page.
I had to die in order to live.
The last time they were two sisters at their oak tree atop the hill, Lenah told Sion she hadn’t been happy for a while.
Sion told her she hadn’t either, but Lenah said it wasn’t the same. It just wasn’t the sort of unhappiness that came with highschool drama and the stress of being a teenager. It wasn’t like Sion’s version.
After a few moments, Lenah’s eyes glazed over and she said she hadn’t ever really been happy, actually.
Sion asked what Lenah meant by it all.
Sion asked if it was their last time catching up at their oak tree atop the hill.
Lenah said maybe it was.
A few weeks later, Lenah had hung herself from the highest branch of their oak tree atop the hill.
No one could figure out why, but Sion knew she was the only one who had any sort of inkling.
Sion wanted revenge. She wanted to die, just like Lenah had done on her, the one person Sion never thought would leave her side.
Sion was dying inside slowly, rotting away as she tried to figure out what went wrong. Or what was always wrong.
Now, three years later, Sion flips through the rest of the pages, it dawns on her that the loosely strung sentences are actually a bucket list of things Lenah wanted to achieve. They were sporadically interjected by more Margaret Atwood quotes, making it clear what the one on the cover meant.
Even though Sion might never understand what her sister was going through, she knew that that was the point. Somehow, Lenah wanted the world to remember her not as who she was, but who she could be. Maybe the girl with sad eyes in a tragedy. Or the summer clad girl who lived next door. Or a woman shrouded in enigma.
Lenah didn’t want to be remembered as she was, sitting in the soil near the tree, regaling stories that only mattered to who she was telling. Sion knew Lenah wanted her to carry out the bucket list that she never could, become a character Margaret never wrote. She also knew that maybe one day, she could construct a close enough meaning to her sister’s life and death. Through this notebook, Lenah was always alive. And maybe she really did want to be the happy sister who revelled in stories and stardust on their oak tree atop the hill.