This is a regular column featuring original fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment.com, an online community writing site for young people.
My sister and I are so similar that it’s almost weird we’re not twins. We love the same inde rock bands and the same cheesy horror films. We even have the same favorite color, cobalt blue, because it’s the exact color of the one thing we do share genetically: our eyes.
I’ve been going nuts with Rachael gone on her choir trip for the past week. So, I squealed with utter delight when I woke up this morning to her singing one of our favorite songs, a folk ballad by a rock band from Ireland.
An hour later we’re sunning outside on the shore, my sister and I, facing the murky waters of the lake by our home. Her red hair is fanned out around her head, spreading a wide arc of crimson on our beach blanket. My white-blonde hair, just as long as hers, is pulled up in the usual tight knot at the nape of my neck.
We’ve been listening to the same band whose song she was singing when she woke me. The melancholy tunes and the soft lulling of the waves hitting the shore, combined with the warming effects of the sun, are so soothing I’m finding it hard not to doze off. I turn my head to face Rachael and a wisp of her red hair tickles my nose. I start giggling and so does Rachael. Within a minute we’re laughing so hard that we’re both sitting up and hunched over trying to catch our breaths.
I’m laughing so hard my side is burning and I’m beginning to tear up, all the while wondering why on earth a stray piece of hair could make me this giddy. Rachael lifts her delicate hand to my face and wipes away one of my absurd tears. “No tears for me, Julie.”
I cock my head at her, my laughter dying in my throat. Her eyes look so sad. I don’t understand it. We were just laughing. So, why do her eyes look like her heart is breaking? I’m barely able to utter the words; so, I’m sure she can’t even hear me over the waves and the music. “What’s wrong, Rach?”
“Shhh.” Rachael presses one slender finger to my lips and then cups my cheek with her palm. “Don’t worry, Jules. You’ll be okay.”
I’m really confused at this point. I don’t know what she could possibly mean. I shake the confusion from my mind, loosening my hair from its tight knot. “I love when you wear your hair, loose, Jules. It should be wild and free, just like you.” Rachael grabs a handful of my flaxen hair and tousles it. I bat her hand away playfully.
“Julie!” I hear Mom yelling for me. I turn to see her standing on the deck, phone in hand. Something about how she’s leaning against the doorframe doesn’t seem right. It’s almost as if she’s leaning on it for support, like she can’t stand on her own.
Rachael stiffens at the sound of Mom’s voice; and I glance at her, my head cocked to the side in curiosity at how strangely she’s acting. “Go on,” she says. “Mom needs you.”
I get up off the beach blanket and turn to run towards Mom at the house. Rachael calls out to me in her singsong voice, “I loathe you, Jules!” I laugh, loving the fact that she still uses our code for “I love you” that we made up when we were little kids. “I loathe you, Rach!” I call back to her.
I trot up the sand and to the deck where Mom still leans against the doorframe. The closer I get to her, a knot of fear forms in the pit of my stomach. Something is definitely not right. Her eyes are all red like she’s been crying. I come to a stop at the edge of the deck, unable to bring myself any closer.
My voice trembles, but I’m able to ask. “Mom, what’s wrong?”
She looks into my eyes and I see that same expression of her heart breaking like I just saw in Rachael’s eyes only a moment ago. “There’s been an accident, honey. They don’t really know what happened yet. They’re looking into it... "
“Wait!” I cut her off before she can say it. I don’t want to hear it.
Mom walks up to me, puts her arms around me. She whispers sadly in my ear. “It’s Rachael, honey. She’s dead.” Her voice choked on the last word, as if it pained her to speak it.
A rushing sound fills my ears, like the waves of our lake hitting the shore magnified by a thousand. My legs give way and I crumple to the ground, Mom’s arms grasping for me. I know she needs to hold on to me right now. I know that, but I have to look.
Mom has to be wrong. Rachael is out there on the beach blanket waiting for me. I blink the tears away and will my eyes to focus on the spot where I had just lain with my sister. When my vision clears, I feel my heart breaking, just like I'd seen when I looked into both Rachael's and Mom's eyes. She isn’t there.