OF LITTLE LIGHT
Trigger warning: Self-harm
In a dark world like hers, Harlow couldn’t stand the light. It was difficult to withstand the brightness when her whole life was covered by an eclipse. She was afraid the light would kill her if she was exposed to it for too long. Her bedroom door suddenly opened, breaking her thoughts.
“Hannah, breakfast.” Her mother called, and Harlow abruptly sat up in bed. She wasn’t Hannah, was she? How long had she been in this room if she had forgotten her own name? For a second, she wanted to burst out of her room and remind her mother who she was. But, she was scared. She couldn’t go out there. She wanted to hide under this rock for a little longer. Her twin was Hannah, she was Harlow.
“I’m Harlow,” she whispered to herself, “I’m fifteen and I’m hiding.” She repeated it again,
“Hannah, here’s your breakfast.” Her mother placed a bowl of cereal on her cluttered desk, taking the night before’s dinner plate.
“I’m Harlow,” she repeated once more, “I’m-”
“Sorry, darling. Sometimes I forget Hannah is gone.” Her mother apologised, before walking out of the room.
‘Hannah was gone?’ She thought to herself. She shook her head. Yes, Hannah was gone. She couldn’t forget that. She was Harlow, her twin was Hannah, her mother was Marissa, her father was Chris and her older brother was- Harlow froze, thinking hard.
“Who is he?” she voiced aloud. “What’s his name? I know it. I’ve just forgotten. I forgot. That’s normal. What was it? I’ll remember soon. Who is he?” She shrieked, rocking back and forth on her bed. “I’ve forgotten my older brother. I don’t know his name.” Her voice dropped to a murmur as tears rolled down her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she wailed, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Why was it so hard to think about him? Why couldn’t she remember? Why couldn’t she be okay?
Harlow stared at the empty cereal bowl in front of her. When had she finished it? Five minutes ago? Ten? Twenty? Why didn’t she know? Harlow would know. No, she was Harlow. Her sister was Hannah, her mother was Marissa and her father was Chris. It was, wasn’t it? No, it might’ve been something else. She suddenly doubted all her thoughts. Was it Chris, or was it not?
“I’m Harlow, I’m fourteen, and I’m hiding.” She tried to console herself with the familiar words, letting the darkness of the room embrace her. Yet, something was off. Her words were no longer comforting nor reassuring. Had she said the wrong words? No, that couldn’t be right. She wandered to her bathroom, filling up an empty glass from the tap. Harlow wished she wasn’t afraid of going outside, she wished she didn’t forget so easily. What had happened to her to make her feel so lost? With trembling hands, she threw the glass at the wall. Water splashed everywhere, soaking her, and the shards of broken glass cut her arms. What was the point of living when there was only darkness? Harlow picked up a big piece of glass, staring at it. Glass was such a beautiful thing, but it could be so destructive. She stared at the mirror, and then at the glass below her feet. Harlow was tired of forgetting things, of being scared to go outside. She dragged a jagged piece down her arm, and she watched the blood form and then drip down. She was tired of not knowing the answers to things, it was time she got some answers.
“Mother,” Harlow asked when her mother came into her room to give her dinner. Or was it lunch? Harlow didn’t even want to bother trying to remember. “What happened to me?” She demanded, “why do I forget everything? Where is Hannah? What are my brother and father’s names? Why can’t I remember?!” She asked hysterically, her breath catching on the sobs building up in her chest. Her mother placed the bowl on the table and sat next to her on the end of her bed.
“Harlow, I don’t know if you’re ready. It’s hard to-”
“Don’t tell me if I’m ready or not! Do you know how long I’ve been feeling…” she hesitated, trying to think of the right word.
“Confused?” Her mother suggested at the same time she said,
“Abandoned.” Harlow whispered, and her mother hung her head low.
“The night before your sixteenth birthday, Josh took you and Hannah for a drive.”
“Josh,” Harlow said the name of her brother like it was from a foreign language. “My older brother is Josh.”
“He was nineteen, so he was eligible to drive, but something went wrong. A truck smashed into the car as the driver had been drunk, and was driving illegally. It caused a big accident,” Her mother inhaled shakily. The flashback appeared out of nowhere, cursing Harlow’s mind. Hannah’s hand in hers. Josh yelling to stay calm. Bright truck lights. The lights made Harlow dizzy for a second, but then she remembered who she was, and where she was. She slowly came back to reality as her mother wiped her eyes. “Your siblings d-died on impact. The crew who freed you, s-said Hannah was holding your hand, and you didn’t want to let go.” Her mother stopped, tears falling down her cheeks, and Harlow stared at her hands. The very hands that had been protected by her twin. Why had Hannah and Josh died, and not her? What had she done to deserve all this suffering?
“Why don’t I remember this?” She surprised herself by voicing her thoughts aloud.
“The doctors told us that you were seriously hurt. They warned you would experience some memory loss, and your mind would become hazy whenever the topic of the incident was brought up. It was like your mind tried to erase all the bad parts.” Harlow’s mother took her hand, and she gratefully took it. “You suffered from brain damage, a broken rib and cuts from the glass all over your body.” And there it was again, the horror of glass’ beauty and destruction.
“They’re dead.” Harlow choked out, and her mother bit her lip, nodding.
“Ever since then, you’ve shut yourself out from the world. You never wanted to leave home, and you didn’t like bright light because it reminded you of the truck. I’m sorry I didn’t pay more attention, Harlow. I-I was blinded by the loss of Hannah and Josh, I realised I was so lucky that you survived. Please forgive me.” Her mother cried, her body trembling.
“How long has it been?” Harlow asked, fearing it was too late to live again.
“Two years,” her mother breathed, “you’ve grown up without realising. I’m so sorry.” Harlow shook her head, hugging her mother tightly.
“No, I am. It was so selfish of me to shut myself out, thinking I was the only one hurting. You and Father must’ve been for so long, I apologise.”
“Don’t darling. We’ve missed you more than anything. Accept my apology. I’m just happy you’ve come back to us.”
“I’m Harlow Rosshire. I’m eighteen. My sister was Hannah, my mother is Marissa, my father is Chris and my older brother was Josh. I have been hiding for so long, but now, I’ve been set free.” She repeated to herself, and for the first time in a long while, Harlow stepped outside. She walked into the sunshine, embracing the light as it warmed her face. She was free from the darkness. It no longer had any control over her. Her parents smiled at her, taking one hand each. Now that she knew what had happened, Harlow tried to do everything in her power not to forget. Her sister and brother’s memory would live on. Harlow looked at the outside world, grateful that her life was no longer completely dark.