“Linda came back on Tuesday, March 17th. She looked really different. She was wearing a simple skirt and top, not at all like the tube top she had been wearing when she left. She looked different without the useless makeup that had covered her face. Now, she had a light covering. She looked more grown-up.”
“Linda?” I whispered. It was late at night and the storm clouds were brewing.
“What is it, Josie?” she said sleepily.
The thunder boomed loudly. I dove for her bed. I snuggled in and she made room for me. That’s how I spent the night: with my sister.
The next day, it was a warm, bright, sunny morning. I listened to the birds chirping their merry tunes as if to say, “Spring is here. Rejoice, oh, rejoice in the glory of spring.” I got ready to throw my frisbee, still listening to the merry tunes, listening to the leaves rustle, and smelling the smell of spring.
I threw my frisbee perfectly, letting it glide elegantly through the air. I got the feeling of being on a roller coaster. In my mind, I was with the frisbee; I was on the frisbee sailing over the green of the park, over the river, past people staring and pointing. I flew through the sharp wind, over stores and restaurants, cars and bikes, towers and skyscrapers. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, gliding elegantly through the air. I was zipping over people, high above city life . . . and then I was back, standing very still in the park, with my eyes watching my frisbee sail through the air.
My sister caught the frisbee. She tossed it back to me. I let it glide through the air. I let it glide over my head, skimming my hair. I let it come to a stop on the bright green grass. I ran to pick it up. I threw it to my sister. She threw it back. She laughed. I laughed. I ran over to her and hugged her tight. She hugged me back.
“Do you wanna go to the pool?” I asked.
“Do you want to get ice cream and then go to the pool?” she replied, still laughing.
We heard the sound of an ice cream truck and we rushed in the direction of the music. I got a chocolate vanilla twirl and she got strawberry. She paid for both of ours with her pocket money and we skipped off to the pool. We had to finish our ice cream before we went into the changing room.
We both laughed when my sister spilled ice cream on her shoes, because the sole of the shoe said Foolproof. I gave her some of mine. We had fun in the pool, splashing each other until an elderly lady told us to stop. Her mouth was like a lemon, swollen and big. We spent the rest of the time laughing about that.
We decided to go back to the park. While we were relaxing on the green, green grass, Linda got a phone call. I studied her face to see what was going on.
After a long pause, my sister said, “Okay.”
I couldn’t read her face.
She put her phone in the bag, and without saying a word, she began to pack our things.
“Linda? What’s wrong?”
She slowly turned to face me.
She burst out laughing.
“I so got you,” she said, still laughing. We both fell on the grass, laughing and laughing. I felt as free as the frisbee, sailing over the park.
“Who was it?” I asked.
“Mom,” she answered. “She said that we have to go walk the dog.”
This produced a fresh bout of giggles.
Linda had a friend named Peggy. I really liked Peggy. When she came over, Linda, Peggy, and I would go and play. Peggy was a lot like Linda, so you can see why I liked her. She would call me Josie-Rosie and spin around, holding my hands, spinning, singing “Ring Around the Rosie.” It was a lot of fun when Peggy would come over.
I had a friend named Finney. Both of us liked Linda and Peggy. When Linda would have a playdate with Peggy, Finney and I would beg our parents if we could could have one too. One such instance, our parents said no. So I crept up the stairs to Linda’s bedroom, where I knew she and Peggy were hanging out.
No one answered.
I put my ear to the door. They were definitely in there. Maybe I hadn’t knocked loud enough.
I knocked again.
I turned the handle. The door was locked. My sister’s door never had a lock. Maybe she got one yesterday; maybe that explains the drilling noise. That confused me. Why would she need a lock?
I ran downstairs to tell Mom, but she just sighed and said, “Your sister just wants her privacy. She’s growing up.”
One day, Mom sat us down and said, “Your dad and I are leaving for Spain in a week. We are going to leave you here alone because Linda is old enough to take care of you both for a week. Linda, I’m going to leave money on the table for you to use. Buy food for yourself and your sister. You guys know our phone numbers, so in case of an emergency, you can call us. Do not invite anyone into the house. Linda, we’re trusting you. Josie, behave yourself.”
On the second day that Mom and Dad were gone, Linda broke the rules. And she broke the rules big-time. She invited her gang at school over to have a party in the basement. I rushed to the phone. Seeing me, Linda pulled me aside, her eyes strangely bloodshot and her voice slurred. She said, “Listen up, girl: not a word to Mom, or else . . . ” She let the threat hang in the air. She turned slowly and rejoined the party. I stood in shock. That was not my sister.
At the end of the party, the problem of cleaning up occurred. Linda’s friends pointed at me, jeering, their voices slurred, their eyes bloodshot. The stench of tobacco filled the air. I struggled to breathe.
I ran upstairs.
Up another flight.
I ran past my sister’s room
I ran to my room.
I shut the door.
I sat on my bed.
This was not my sister.
The rest of the time that Mom and Dad were gone, every day, Linda would invite Peggy over and they would sit and drink. The smoke from their cigarettes billowed out from under the locked door. Sometimes they would emerge for a snack, stumbling down the stairs, their eyes bloodshot, their voices slurred.
The week without Mom and Dad was horrible. When they came back, Linda got in trouble; the remains of her party still covered the basement. Linda was angry for a week after. She hated me. This was not the Linda I knew. Her room was now off-limits to everyone, including Mom and Dad. They respected that and never went in! Why didn’t they care?
One day, when I knew that my sister was in the bathroom, I crept into her room. Everything seemed normal until I looked under her bed. What I saw made me gasp. Under her bed, tons of alcohol and bags of tobacco and cigarettes were crammed.
Half of me wanted to go tell Mom, and half of me knew that I would get Linda in trouble and she would hate me even more. But I didn’t have to decide.
“What the **** are you doing in my room?” my sister thundered from the doorway. I leapt up. My heart was beating so fast, I thought my chest would burst.
“I . . .”
“Shut up. If you mention a word to Mom, I swear I’ll . . . ” she said. “Get out of my room.”
I didn’t need her to tell me twice. I ran out of her room. I tried to put as much distance between us as possible.
I raced down the stairs.
I sprinted down the hallway.
I bounded down the steps.
I was in the basement.
I stared at the remains of the party.
I remembered my sister and her bloodshot eyes, her slurred voice, the gang jeering and pointing.
I shot out of the basement.
I darted up the steps.
I fled down the hallway.
I scrambled up the stairs.
I tore down another hallway.
I rushed into my room.
I slammed the door.
A week later, Linda ran away. She left a note. On it, the words, “hate you, not coming back,” were scribbled hurriedly. She took her stash of alcohol, tobacco, and cigarettes with her.
I didn’t know how I felt about her being gone. I missed her old self.
I didn’t know about her new self.
Our house was quiet with Linda gone.
I didn’t really miss her.
That’s a terrible thing to say.
The next year passed smoothly and quietly.
I got B’s in most of my classes; I’d never gotten anything else.
Things were really quiet without Linda. My parents were devastated. They constantly blamed themselves for her unhappiness. They looked for her all over. They were still upset even though she took a bunch of money from them. I couldn’t recognize Linda’s room without the constant smoke billowing out from under the door. The house smelt strange without the constant stench of tobacco. It was . . . well . . . different, without Linda.
Linda came back on Tuesday, March 17th. She looked really different. She was wearing a simple skirt and top, not at all like the tube top she had been wearing when she left. She looked different without the useless makeup that had covered her face. Now, she had a light covering. She looked more grown-up. Mom and Dad took turns hugging her. She approached me slowly.
I had a horrible flashback of the party; of Linda approaching me slowly with her bloodshot eyes and slurred voice.
I turned and ran.
Up to my room.
I shut the door.
I sat on my bed, crying.
I knew that this Linda was different, but I couldn’t forgive her. I just couldn’t.
The door opened quietly.
Linda came in. She sat on my bed.
For a moment, it was silent. I buried my face deeper in the pillows.
“Josie,” she said. “I am so sorry. I really was horrible to you.”
I ignored her. That was easy to do due to my turmoil of thoughts, each pushing to the front of the line, trying to get attention.
“Josie,” she said again. “I really am.”
I still ignored her. But she should’ve gotten an award for persistence.
“Josie . . .” she tried again.
“Get out of my room.” I hadn’t really meant for it to come out rudely, but it did. Linda got off my bed.
She whispered, “I really am.”
Then she left.
My head was aching for the rest of the day, and the day after that, and so on.
About a week later, Linda came into my room with a gift. It was wrapped in the most beautiful wrapping paper, which must have cost her a fortune.
She left the present on my bed. On it was pinned a note: I’m really sorry. I opened her present. It was a camera—the expensive kind that I had begged for on every one of my birthdays.
A month later, my thoughts were still in turmoil when Linda quietly came into my bedroom.
“Do you want to go to the park?” she asked.
“Do you want to get ice cream and then go to the pool?”
“Josie, what do you want to do?”
“Leave me alone.” Again, it came out rudely, but I hadn’t meant for it to.
She left the room.
Ever since Linda had come back, my parents had been treating her like a queen. Well, everyone was treating her like a queen, as if she did something great, running away like she did.
One day, I was in the kitchen making myself a peanut butter sandwich when I heard Linda and Mom through the wall. I stopped and crept out of the kitchen. I approached the dining room door and put my ear to it. At first, I couldn’t make out what they were saying, then I heard Mom: “Linda, your dad and I are very proud of you for growing up and coming back. We really missed you.”
“But Mom, I’m not proud of myself.”
“If you’re talking about Josie, she’s just in a shock. She’ll get better.”
“No, she won’t. She has reason to hate me. I’ve tried everything. I even got her that camera that she has wanted for so long. Nothing works. I don’t blame her.”
“Sweetie . . .”
I gritted my teeth.
I sat there for a moment.
Not taking it anymore.
I went up to my room.
It’s wasn’t like I didn’t think she had changed. It was that I couldn’t forgive her for who she was. She seemed different since she’d come back; she seemed more grown-up, not playful, not fun, not the Linda she used to be. Not the Linda I used to love.
I banged my head on the bed. This was not helpful.
Ouch. I misjudged the distance between the bed and the wooden part. Ow.
I hung off my bed, my head almost reaching the floor.
All the blood rushed to my head.
I remembered a warm, sunny morning.
It was early in the morning, and I went into Linda’s room. She was sleeping on her bunk. Her bed was like a bunk bed, but it had no under bed. Just empty space.
“Come on, Linda. Wake up.” She stirred in her sleep. “Come on, Linda.”
“Okay, okay, I’m up.”
“What should we do?”
She sat up, a twinkle in her eyes.
“We don’t have swings.”
“Let’s make them.”
“Grab a blanket.” I got a blanket.
“You can tie it to my bed, like this.” She showed me how to tie the ends of the blanket together to make a swing. She got in hers. I got in mine. We swung, laughing, giggling. We swung higher and higher, laughing, giggling.
That was it. I remembered no more.
Another memory took its place.
It was about to rain. Linda dragged me outside.
“Let’s build a fort,” she said.
The twinkle was in her eyes.
We grabbed chairs, raincoats, some food, and umbrellas. We finished our fort just as the rain started to fall. It had a bedroom and a food storage area. It even had a playroom! Our bedroom began to leak.
“Come on,” Linda said, a twinkle in her eyes.
We ran inside, laughing. We grabbed an umbrella and ran back, laughing, getting soaked. We repaired our fort. We ran outside, getting wet. We ran through the rain, laughing, dancing in the rain. We were soaked to the bone.
It was snowing. We built a snowman together, and an ice wall surrounding him. We went inside and dyed water with food coloring and splashed it all over our snowman and ice wall, laughing.
Linda had a twinkle in her eyes.
We went inside and had hot chocolate with marshmallows.
Linda had a twinkle in her eyes.
I missed that twinkle. I missed it a lot.
That was it. No more memories came to me. That was it.
I missed that twinkle.
I wanted to see it again. I needed to see it again. I had to trust Linda; it was the only way. I needed to see that twinkle.
I ran to Linda’s room.
“Come on, Linda. Wake up.”
She was up in an instant.
“What’s wrong? Is everything okay? Is everyone okay?”
“It’s just me, Linda,” I said.
She just looked at me.
“Can we go to the park?” I asked.