I don’t remember the days ever being so gloomy or the nights ever so dark. The cold winter’s chill hardly bothered me and I could remember the summers being lively and warm – never a blazing hot. There was always life and joy in every dark moment of my life, back in my childhood days. Back before I decided to leave everyone I loved.
I sipped my hot chocolate in the busy café, pulling my coat tighter around me to ward off the arrival-of-spring cold – even though it was perfectly warm inside. I stared hard at the lab reports I had brought with me, but I couldn’t process anything written on them. My mind was not present at the moment but absorbed in a time long ago in my childhood years.
I was an enthusiastic child, always ready to take on the challenges of life. My parents and relative spoiled me with utmost love and care. “You’ll be a famous writer when you grow up,” my aunt would say. “You’re going to save lives and become a doctor,” my mom was convinced. “My daughter’s going to be the greatest soccer star the world has ever seen,” my dad would brag to his friends. Artist, singer and detective were other careers I was foretold to become. I began to think I could become anything I wanted to. I would be successful and happy.
But I wasn’t.
So where did my life go wrong?
Staring down at the lab reports, I remembered. It was never a career that would have made me happy. It was her. The day I left her was the day my happiness declined.
I was the eldest in my family. I had two younger brothers and a sister. Naturally, my sister Dora and I were close. Our family was quite studious so we didn’t get along with the other kids at school who would rather talk about tik tock dances and marvel movies. My parents had distanced us from the internet as best they could, so we would remain clueless when other kids talked about such things. However, our social isolation made us closer to one another. I know I was happy - and whenever I was with her, Dora was too.
It must’ve been during my last year of high school that changed that. I was flooded with assignments and tests. In the midst of all that, Dora would pop into our room sometimes and sit by the study table. When she didn’t get an audience from me, she would leave. The entire year passed that way and I had no idea where she’d been.
I heaved a sigh of relief when graduation day came and I finally completed high school but things only got busier after that. I went to university and delved into a demanding life, living on campus. Years passed and all I began to care about was my biochemistry degree. No calls, no parties, no outings with classmates – nothing. Just me and my degree.
It had been six years before I finally came home again – having conquered the position as a biochemist. I was more tired than not; all I wanted was to crash down for a nice few weeks before getting a job.
A bitter feeling stung my heart as I averted my eyes from the lab reports. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes and I bit my lip.
My parents were alone in the house when I entered, a disappointed expression hung on their faces. I came to know that my two brothers had left the house and gotten their own jobs. Dora still lived here but was seldom at home.
It was evening when I went out to find her, having found out by neighbours where she could be. It came as a hard blow to the head when I spotted her in an alleyway with a group of girls whose mouths wreaked with the foul smell of cigarettes. Her own breath smelled and her once long shiny hair was cropped short and messy. I was speechless. Why was she with such awful people? When did this happen?
Dora’s frown was deep when her eyes met mine. She started to walk away, answering one of her friends’ inquiries with the words, “I don’t know who she is.” Despite her tough-girl act, I saw a sadness in her eyes that told me she didn’t really want to be with those girls.
I didn’t know what to say – how to make it up to her. In the end, I was left alone in the darkening alley with only one thought swirling in my head.
This is all my fault.
The soft music from the café’s speakers reached my ears as my mind was brought back to the present, tormented with the feeling of guilt. Not even my job as a forensic scientist at the police force made me feel any better about myself. I had let my family down by not being there for them when they need me – for not being there for Dora when she needed me.
I took a sip from my hot chocolate which had gotten cold as the café’s bell rang, indicating the arrival of another customer. I lifted my eyes up when they walked up to me. I pursed my lips when I saw it was Dora, eyes narrowed. She sat down as I averted my gaze.
“Well?” She said after a while.
I looked at her. “Well, what?”
“You came to see me after so long. Figured you needed something.”
A bitter smile appeared on my lips. She was trying to sound rude but I heard care in her voice. Perhaps it was something only an older sister could hear. Dora caught my smile and made a pouty face. Then she smiled as well.
Even though I had deserted her, she still cared about me – something only family could do. A warm feeling caved my heart and suddenly, the cold winter’s chill hardly bothered me anymore.