The River of Life

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Set your story on (or in) a winding river.... view prompt

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Sad Fiction Teens & Young Adult

Trigger Warning: Talk of death and suicide

Everett

I walk along a winding river, looking into it. It’s like glass, and my entire life is on the other side. I’m a spectator, watching my life unfold through the river in real time.

This is no ordinary river. This is the River of Life, a river that tells my story, from birth to death.

I see many things, things I forgot about. 

The time I broke my leg falling off my bike.

The first time my older sister Emily brought a boy home.

My mother falling down the stairs and going to the hospital.

When I worked at the SPCA and took home a kitten named Jacques.

I notice one thing that stands out to me; the circumstances leading up to my beloved father’s death.

It’s a rainy spring day the river shows me, one of those days where you want to cuddle up by the fire and read a book. 

My second-youngest sister, Ella, and I are playing Monopoly, her most favourite game of all time, in the cosy living room of our family’s countryside home. 

“Evett?” she asks. 

She had started calling me ‘Evett’ when she could talk, because she couldn’t pronounce the ‘r’. So I was ‘Evett’.

“Evett?” Ella asks again.

I shake my head, coming out of my thoughts and into reality. “Yeah, El?”

‘El’ was my nickname for her. As soon as I heard her name for the first time, I told my parents, “El!” 

They had laughed at my toddler self, but the name had stuck.

“Do you know when Papa will be home?” Ella asks me.

I shake my head. “Nope. Why don’t you ask Mom?” 

“Okay!”

I watch Ella leave the room through the glass-like river. 

In the river, I straighten her Monopoly money into orderly piles.

Some people would say I was a neat freak. I would say I was a tidy person. 

I watch myself get impatient and walk into Mom’s office. She’s hunched over her computer as always, working away. 

She had a job at a lawyer firm in the city, but she mostly worked from home. With 4 kids to take care of and work on top of that, she never had much time to herself. 

Emily and I tried to help out as much as we could, watching the two younger siblings and doing chores around the house.

In the water, Mom looks up from her screen. “Hey, Everett. Something on your mind?”

Mom could always tell when I was thinking about something. She said she knew because my nose would scrunch up when I was thinking really hard.

I nod. “Yeah. When’s Dad going to be home?” 

She looks up at the ceiling, obviously trying to remember what Dad said earlier that day.

“He should be home around six,” Mom tells me.

“Okay, thanks.”

After Ella and I finish our game, my youngest sister Evie comes up to me. 

“Evett?” she asks. 

I look down at her. “Yeah?”

“Will you read me a book?”

“Sure, Evie.” 

Evie picks a picture book about animals that we breeze through. 

“Too fast!” she said. “Another!”

“Sure. Go pick one.”

Suddenly there are ripples in the water-screen, and it shows me a different scene. 

I recognise it immediately.

It’s when we find out why Dad didn’t come home on time.

I watch as we eat dinner, beef lasagna and Caesar salad. Mom talks to us about our day, and Ella tells her about the art they did in kindergarten.

This was the only time Mom actually had to socialise with us, being so busy with work.

I could tell Mom was anxious about Dad being late, but she hid it well. 

She laughed and ate like there was nothing wrong, like it was a normal night.

But I could see the worry in her eyes. 

Later that night, when Evie and Ella went to bed and Mom, Emily and I are doing our own separate things, the phone rings. 

Mom goes to pick it up, and she’s on it for a while.

Already knowing what’s going to happen in the water image, I close my eyes and mentally prepare myself.

I watch in the river as Mom comes back from the phone, crying hard.

 In the image, I jump up from my video game and rush over to her, asking what’s wrong.

 Emily quickly follows me, hurrying to reassure my mother. 

Mom gulps, trying to talk through tears. “Y-your d-dad. H-he-” She broke down in great, heaving sobs. 

It was hard to understand what Mom said, but Emily and I got the gist of it. 

We all collapsed on the ground, crying and holding each other, where we stayed all night.

When the sad scene ends there, the image disappears, leaving me looking for more of my short life.

Amber

I stare down into the reflections as I walk along the River of Life. 

Memories. 

Friends.

Family.

Everything that happened in my life. 

But there is one that I am looking for. 

I walk along the river in search of the story. 

The time I saved my best friend from drowning at the beach.

The time I cut my finger open when I was chopping vegetables.

A forest I went exploring in once.

However none of these are what I am looking for. I start walking away from the River of Life, sure that I’ll never see the memory I want in a river this large when I spot it out of the corner of my eye. 

About 12 meters from where I stand, I catch a glimpse of that hot, summer day. With a 12 year old girl baking in the kitchen. 

I walk over that spot in the water. Sure enough, the memory I’d been looking for was right there. I watch the river as the water ripples into the memory and it begins to show me everything in that moment of time. 

Before you watch the memory with me, you should know that my sister meant everything to me. And my parents meant nothing. Just before I turned five, my parents decided that me and my sister were useless. They sold us to an older couple who were very kind to us but I couldn’t help but think about my real parents and why they would do something like that. 

But I know now. For money. 

The woman’s name was Audrey and the man’s name was Jack. They were so nice and acted like the mother and father our parents never were. 

Luckily, me and my sister never got separated like some kids do, but it was already enough that we were sold by our parents.

The water ripples to show me baking something in the kitchen for Audrey’s birthday. 

I call her Audrey, but she asks me to call her ‘Mom’. I just find it hard to call a woman this age ‘Mom’ when she looks like she could be my grandmother.

I watch myself slide a cake pan into the oven, set a timer, and put something in the freezer. Ice cream. 

Then I sit down in one of the kitchen chairs and read a book. I guess I’ve forgotten how much I loved books through everything that happened to me. 

I watch myself read for a bit then check the oven and freezer. I can tell through the water that the ice cream is ready but the cake needs more time and I guess my younger self knew that too. I then take the ice cream out of the freezer and try a bit of it.

I can’t taste it through the river, but I remember how delicious that strawberry ice cream was and my mouth immediately waters for some. 

I watch my younger self read for another ten minutes then go and check on the cake in the oven. 

When I find it done I take the cake out of the oven and wait for it to cool so I can frost it. I’m walking around the house, looking for something to do, when I notice a letter on the coffee table in our living room. 

I walk closer to it and I see the name on the envelope. Amber.

Before I run forward to open it, I think that Audrey and Jack would’ve told me if they wanted me to open it right now, but it’s for me and I figure that I should get to open it when I choose. I rip open the seal and start reading. 

Amber, 

It reads in cursive at the top. I had recognized the writing. Only one person in the whole world could print cursive as well as it was written here. My older sister, Aurora. 

You are reading this through a letter because I knew it would be too hard for both of us if I told you this in person. Neither of us could handle it. And you probably would have convinced me not to do what I’m about to do. 

I remember the things that had flashed into my head, ideas of what she could be doing. But my past self reading the letter shakes her head, trying not to imagine the worst things possible. 

But knowing what already happened, and what she did probably was the worst thing possible. I close my eyes to hold in the tears, then turn my attention back to the memory. I read the letter along with my past self, even though I already know what it says. 

Before I begin, you have to know that it’s been harder for me than you to move in with Audrey and Jack. You were this sweet, beautiful five year old little girl and I was just the older sister. Sure, I was better than you at a lot of different things, but what did it matter when you were so cheerful and adorable? 

Before I read that, I’d never known how Aurora struggled. I wish she would’ve told me that sooner. 

I had also known Mom and Dad better. So you can’t imagine how hard it was for me when they got rid of us to get more money. I had loved them, and grown up with them for eight years. 

Aurora wasn’t the type to tell everyone all of her emotions, but I had never expected that it was this bad for her.

I’ll tell you what I’m about to do now. You’ll find out sooner or later anyways. But please don’t criticize my decision. Different people handle things in different ways. 

I know from reading that letter already what it’s about to say, but in the moment I had wondered what she could be doing that was so hard to write. 

Amber, I’m going to take my life. 

I watch the memory as my past self reacts. 

“NO!” my past self screams. “Please Aurora, you can’t do that!”

I cry but I know it is already too late. That my sister has already done what she was about to do. She has done something that I had never imagined she’d do. 

My sister is going to commit suicide. 

But I read on. Because there might be something important that she wants to tell me. 

Please don’t be mad Amber, I had to do it. 

“No, you didn’t!” I scream. “You didn’t have to leave me!”

Amber, I know you’ll be strong. You always have been. 

No, I haven’t. And I can’t be strong without her, my sister was all I had! 

I know you well Amber. I know how hard this will be on you. But don’t leave me, this is the last time I can speak to you before I die. 

It isn’t too late. I might be able to stop her. But as if on cue, she tells me that I can’t. 

You are probably trying to find me right now, or at least thinking about it. But I asked Jack to leave the letter here at a specific time, and that time is after I’ve already taken my life. 

No! She can’t be gone! 

But she is. I already know that she is. Aurora never lies. And she’s probably planned this too well. 

Amber, you are like the beautiful jewel you were named after. A bright, beautiful girl that shines bright. Don’t think I’ve left you, because I will always be in your heart. 

Love, 

Aurora

Author’s note: Half the credit for this book goes to Kate Melenia, who wrote the perspective of Amber. She is an amazing author and I suggest you all go follow her and check out her stories. You can visit her Reedsy Profile here: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/0bf453/ 

June 16, 2021 13:27

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3 comments

Yay! It's posted!

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13:57 Jun 16, 2021

Yay! This took us so long though, but it was worth it!

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Totally!

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