The lights are off in the house, and I can barely see as I follow my sister Lucy to the games room. She’s young, like me, and full of energy, which I lack. When we reach the games room, we find our brother, Christopher, and our mother, Josephine, sitting on a couch, looking drained. Christopher’s eyes are red, and mum’s face is gaunt, long, and tortured and pained. I wonder what’s wrong. They won’t tell me, even though I keep asking as loud as I can.
Lucy crawls into mum’s arms on the opposite side of Christopher, leaving no room for me. She’s rather selfish. She constantly forgets that even though I’m older, I enjoy being comforted too. I’d kill for a hug right now. I’ve always feared the dark, and yet no one even looks at me as I shiver. My mum is too focused on hugging Christopher and Lucy tight. She still looks sad, and I hate it. My mum shouldn’t be allowed to look sad. She’s so beautiful when she’s happy.
“Mum?” Lucy asks, after a long silence between the four of us. “Where’s dad?”
My mum frowns and removes her arms from my brother and sister. She glances between them, and then directly at me. “He’s gone to the church,” she said, at last.
“But it’s Halloween,” Christopher said. “Do churches give out free sweets? Lu, maybe we should go!”
“But I don’t have a costume,” Lucy replied, hugging her arms around herself without our mum holding onto her. “Nancy Clover ripped my witch costume to shreds last year. Do you remember, mum?”
“Of course, darling,” mum said, but she didn’t sound all there. “How could I forget?”
“Yeah! We spent hours making that costume,” Lucy huffed. I tried not to laugh at her antics. She was very peculiar, my sister, but I loved her. I knew she loved me too, even if she never said anything.
“Well, how about this?” mum asked, turning to face Lucy. “Next year, we’ll make the best costume you’ve ever seen. When we go trick-or-treating, every house will stop and ask who made your costume and say it’s the best they’ve ever seen. And then you can reply that you made it all on your own! How does that sound?”
“But don’t you want any credit?” Lucy asked, blinking up at mum with her owlish eyes.
“Oh no, darling,” mum replied. “I don’t need any credit.”
“Hmm, okay,” Lucy said, settling down until she was snuggled into our mum’s arms once more.
“Mum?” Christopher asked, from where he now lay on the end of the sofa. I glanced at him with tired eyes. Although he was my brother, I found him incredibly annoying. I knew as his older sister that the feeling was mutual. “How’s Isabelle today?”
Mum frowned, took a deep breath, and glanced at me once more. I felt shivers go down my spine, and little hairs sticking up on my arms. It felt like she was invading my personal space. I couldn’t breathe as she stared at me, her laser focus hitting like a stab to my heart. I felt the need to comb my hair, which was wild and reckless from lack of brushing, or to change my ripped shirt. Mum exhaled, and I felt the air whoosh back into my lungs. I could breathe again, just as well as I’d been able to breathe when I was alive.
“She’s watching over us right now,” mum said at last, after she’d recovered her breath. “She’s sitting just there. Can you see?”
Lucy frowned and shook her head. Christopher followed my mum’s arm, which was pointing at my still heart. I frowned as he took a big gulp and then covered his mouth with his hands. His eyes bulged, and his face turned blue, but I didn’t feel any different. He couldn’t see me. He wasn’t special. He wasn’t like mum.
“Stop it, Chris!” Lucy shouted, as Chris’ face turned even bluer. “You’re going to hurt yourself, like Isabelle hurt herself.”
“Lucy Amelia Thompson,” mum scolded. I’d never heard her so angry, not even when she’d seen me plummet to my death exactly one year ago after scoffing all the chocolate in the world. “Isabelle did not hurt herself. Never say that about your sister. It was a horrible accident that led to a horrible situation. I think it’s bedtime for you, young lady.”
“But she died, mum!” Lucy protested. “She died because she was careless and stupid and-“
“The one rule in this house is that we never speak ill of the dead,” mum continued, gripping Lucy’s arm tight as she stood up, ready to drag Lucy to her bedroom.
“She was careless and stupid,” Lucy continued. “And I miss her. I miss her, mummy, I really miss her.”
I wanted to reply and tell Lucy that it was all okay; I forgave her for her outburst. I missed her too. The painful feeling of want sat in my stomach, blossoming each day my siblings continued acting normal, forgetting all about me until they were comfortable in their beds again and I knocked something off a counter. I couldn’t stand the idea of being forgotten when my death had been an accident. A stupid tumble down the stairs where I’d landed on my neck wrong. I should still be alive. It should be me sitting next to my mother, seeking refuge in the safety of her arms. It should be me comforting my little sister as she bawls her eyes out. It should be me, telling Christopher not to hurt himself by holding his breath. It should be me taking my younger siblings out for trick-or-treating.
But it can’t be me. Not anymore.
“She misses you too, sweetheart,” mum said, arms once again wrapped around Lucy, who was still crying her eyes out. “I can’t hear her talk, but I know your sister, and I know that she misses you two dreadfully. I can feel it. Right here.”
Lucy wiped her nose on her sleeve and looked at where our mum was pointing. “In your heart?”
“In my heart,” mum agreed. “And you want to know why I can feel her in my heart?”
“Yeah,” Christopher said, from where he sat still on the now cold sofa. “How?”
“Well, it’s easy,” mum replied. “I can feel her in my heart because Isabelle has always been in my heart. I have never stopped loving her and neither have you. And I think, if you try hard enough, maybe one day you’ll be able to see your sister again.”
“As long as we love her?” Lucy asked, her face twisted in a little frown.
“Yes,” mum replied. “She’ll never be gone as long as someone keeps loving her. Can you two promise me you’ll always love your sister, no matter what?”
“Yes, mum,” Christopher replied, nodding furiously. “She’s my big sister.”
“Yeah,” Lucy replied, lip wobbling as she spoke.
I felt a powerful surge of pride and love for my two siblings. Young children who’d lost their sister at such a young age because of a stupid accident, forced to stay at home to mourn my death instead of go trick-or-treating with their friends. Lucy and Christopher both seemed wiser than their ages would suggest and I felt young and stupid in comparison. I glanced at my mother, who was smiling at me again. My dad must have loved me a lot too, for he was miles away mourning me in what he didn’t realise was an empty graveyard. I glanced one more time at Lucy, Christopher, and mum, who were all smiling and wiping away tears. I’d haunted them for long enough. I knew then that my family would always love me, no matter what.
It was time for me to move on.