Wind in my throat. It is fresh, it is clean.
I sip the dew of a miserable drink, bright pink and fruity. I would kill for a shot of tequila right now. The pink, thick liquid glides down my throat. God, just as tasteless as Mother used to make it. I pull it from my chest and stare at it, shining under the bubble lights that string against the wall of the balcony. A smile tugs at my lips.
“Yo, Arie!” My brother’s voice shouts from inside. “Where the hell is she?” I hear him muttering, and then he pauses in the doorway. I hear my sister behind him, recognize the pitter of her footsteps immediately. It’s been years, but I still know when little Willow is coming down the hall.
I listen to them walk to come and sit with me. Our feet dangle over the ledge of the balcony, our tongues painted pink with the sticky, dull-tasting drink. We don’t talk. I’m glad.
“You make it just like Mother did,” I murmur.
My brother knocks my shoulder. “That’s a hell of an insult,” he mutters, and we chuckle. The wind in my throat feels lighter, still. It swirls into my mouth, cool and brisk. It feels like something inside me is ripping apart.
“I miss her.” Willow says, her voice already warbling.
“Yeah, who doesn’t.” Kace says. He slings an arm over his knee, shifting forward. I watch him inhale the sky, tilting his head back. “She’d be real happy right now, if she saw us.” He murmurs.
I look at Willow. Tears bubble in her eyes. “Yeah.” She sniffles. “I just wish her dying didn’t make it happen.” She whispers.
I look down at my glass, tap my fingers to it. The moon stares at me, blinking, throbbing in the darkness. Tell them, it says. “It would’ve been me.” I stammer out.
“What?” Willow looks at me.
I shiver on the balcony, suddenly alone, suddenly cold. Then Willow touches my arm, a knot around me, a tie that binds us. And I’m warm again. “I was suicidal, for a year.” I swallow, throat clenching. “I attempted, last week. Threw up the pills over the side of my bathtub after an insufferable drinking binge, and I--”
“Arie, what the hell?” Kace sits up. When I look at him, his face is red and blotchy. The wind in my mouth freezes. It sinks back down, sits on my tongue. I have never seen Kace this upset. “You didn’t tell us about this?”
I stare at him. Beside me, Willow grips my arm. The air sticks to the corner of my throat. “We didn’t talk,” I whisper. “We don’t talk.”
Kace’s eyes fill with tears. Willow is already crying. I feel my own face burn, and I duck my head. “Even as kids,” I whisper. “We hated each other.”
“We were kids.” Willow says.
“Does Dad know?” Kace asks.
I choke on a laugh, using my sleeve to wipe at my leaking face. “We have to tell him.” Willow says. The wind in my throat leaps, hitting my teeth. My face collapses, and I squint to keep a sob from bursting through my lips. “What is it?” She asks, a soft hand meeting my back.
I shake my head, sniffling, and set down the bright, pink, tasteless drink on the side. “I didn’t think you guys would care.” I murmur numbly, taking a shivering breath.
Kace loops an arm around my neck and presses his chin to my forehead. “In the words of six-year-old me, Arie, you’re a doody-head.”
Willow breaks into tearful laughter, joining the hug. They warm the wind in my throat with their gripping arms. It settles thickly at the bottom of me. It does not come back for a while, at least, as long as their arms are here.
"I wish you would've told us sooner." She says. A memory plays out in my head.
"You're never going to be grateful for us, are you?" Dad had shouted. "Look at the family you have. You should be proud of your siblings for putting up with you." I had stared him down with fire in my eyes. My tears warmed my face.
"I hate you." I had said. I imagined his eyes rolling into his head. I imagined his body hitting the floor. The fire died down. I had made my peace with it. He was dead to me.
"Stop fighting," Mother had begged us. "You're going to insane with all this fighting."
"He's already insane," I shouted, staggering backward. I shouldn't have said that. Not because it wasn't true, but because of the blinding rage it was about to send him into.
I saw Willow's eyes fill with fear. "Stop touching my stuff." I barked at her. "And you," I turned to Kace. "Stop telling me what to do."
You should be grateful. You should be proud of your siblings for putting up with you.
I stare into Willow's perfect, aged eyes. I wonder if she remembers that night. I was not grateful for them back then. I still am not. We didn't have an easy life growing up. But now that our parents are gone, the wounds are finally able to heal.
Willow pulls back, her hands never leaving my arms. I expect a coldness to surface at the loss of her touch, but it lingers on my skin. “We’re going to get you the help you need.” She says, voice thick. “And we’re never going to leave again.”
“All of us.” Kace says. He grabs my cup from behind me and takes a sip of the juice. Then he grimaces, scrunching his nose. Willow laughs, taking it from him. I watch them laugh and grin and I am proud of them. Not for putting up with me, but for the people they've become. I stare at the glass as it reflects the bouncing light in Willow's eyes.
There is wind in my throat. It is fresh, it is clean, it is life.