Emma sat at the window, her gaze fixed on the falling rain outside, motionless. Her green eyes reflected the grey-green darkness of the world outside, as she lost herself in thought, numb to all her senses. I saw her shiver, but she seemed not to notice the cold. She was right in front of me, and yet she was too far away. I watched as the first tear rolled down her face, and then the second. She trembled and yet, her gaze never shifted. She made no move to get warm, none to stop her trembling, and none to wipe her tears away. I understood. This was my fault.
My name is Emily Baron. Emma is my sister. Or perhaps, ‘was’ would be the apt word now. I’m not there anymore. Emma doesn’t have a sister anymore. And it’s my fault. You see, I was scared, I was just plain petrified of life, and so, I found a way out. Except, I didn’t think about Emma, nor did I think about Mum and Dad. I just wanted to take the fear away, that pain of feeling so alone. I was sick of being told I wasn’t good enough. My parents wouldn’t say it, but I know they wished I’d take more interest in my studies. Emma has always loved studying, but me; it’s never been my cup of tea. My teachers took joy in making me miserable. No grade I got would ever be enough because Emma would always have done better. It amused me how Emma always thought I was unaffected. She told me once that she admired my nerve to stand up so defiantly every hour, to each new teacher, listening to the same speech and come away smiling.
But I wasn’t smiling. I honestly didn’t know how to tell them how lost I was. I’d heard enough of their speeches to be numb to them. I wanted desperately to become better. I read incessantly, I wrote and rewrote my assignments, till my fingers were sore and calluses had formed where I held my pen too tight, for too long. It wasn’t Emma’s fault. She had an eidetic memory, that is, she could remember everything she read, word for word, after having read it only once. That’s not something anyone should have to compete against. Emma always told me to do my best and leave whatever happens to happen. She was never the kind of big sister to rub in her brilliance. In fact, I loved her all the more for her humility and her willingness to help me. But it just wasn’t enough. I couldn’t understand like she did. I just wasn’t good enough. I never would have been.
So, last year, on the 10th of August, I put an end to it. It was just after our end of semester exams and I really didn’t feel too confident. I’d been moody all week and my day really hadn’t gone well. Emma had come home for the weekend from college, upset about the dorm rooms being full of girls who cared about nothing but their hair and make-up and had no sense of personal space or respect for others’ belongings. But I didn’t have the patience to listen to her rant about it. She’d meant it as a joke when she said, “You’re always in your head. When are you going to think about someone else?” But that wasn’t the moment for those words. Before I knew what I was doing, I lost my temper at her. I threw my backpack at her, ran upstairs to my room and slammed my door. Hard. She came up after me, apologising, even though she didn’t have to.
All I wanted to do was shut her out, shut out the world, shut out the voice in my head telling me I would never be good enough; that there was no point in my existence, shut out all those comparisons with everything I’m supposed to be, everything I could be, but am not.
I broke down, my head throbbed. The voice in my head kept telling me I wasn’t good for anything. It told me I was a mistake, one not worth keeping, not worth having around, a mere burden and embarrassment. It echoed in my ears. Over and over again. I couldn’t make it stop. I tried to sleep it off, but I couldn’t. I stumbled into the bathroom, drenched in sweat, my face stained with dry tears, to find the medicine cabinet. Maybe something in there would help. Mum had been prescribed sleeping pills last week; I thought I’d just take one.
One didn’t help, nor did two. I don’t remember how many I took. The pain stopped as I fell asleep. But, I never woke up. At least, not in the sense that people normally do. I woke up to the sound of sirens, and watched as Mum, Dad and Emma rushed into the ER behind the medics who were frantically trying to revive me, in vain. I watched Mum break down into pieces as the doctor from the ER told her there was nothing he could do; I was gone.
I hadn’t meant to. But it seemed like I’d found peace. I hadn’t. It took mere seconds for my heart to break watching Dad struggle to hold tears back as Mum and Emma held each other and wept in the waiting room, wishing it wasn’t true; wishing, hoping, praying that I’d wake up, that the doctor would come back saying it had been a mistake, that I’d woken up, that I would be alright. But he didn’t.
I’d never known how strong Dad was till I watched him go through all the paper work the hospital had him fill out, without a flinch. He went through all the questions stone faced. I couldn’t read him. And then they let him into the room where my body was. He was in shambles before he entered, crying his heart out. It was then that I realised that Dad was always there for me. I wanted so much to tell him I was there, but I knew it wouldn’t help. I’d been his special helper, his baby girl. What had I done?
My pain had been gone for a little while now, but as I watched my family, a new pain seared through my being, whatever I am now. A spirit? A presence? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be called. All I know is that my peace, or what I thought was peace, is non-existent. I live, if you can call this semi-existence ‘living’, in constant regret and guilt. In my naivety, I’d torn four lives apart. And all it took was a moment. Unintentional as it was, it could not be fixed. I couldn’t watch them anymore; it hurt too much to see their pain.
That voice I’d heard, it comes back every now and again, reminding me how Emma at the window now, trembling in the cold, unmoving, was my fault. It’s been a year today. I thought she was doing better, until today I found her sitting by the window. Mum and Dad are at my grave, but I don’t like the cemetery. I’m alone where I am now. No one to talk to, no one to listen to. I need no sleep and time is irrelevant, but I spend it all with Emma. I know I can’t do anything to help her. I can’t tell her I’m in a better place, or ask her to let go and be happy. Mum and Dad are doing better, Emma’s the one I hurt the most. She blames herself. I wish I could tell her it’s not her fault. Mum’s tried a million times, and she says she knows, but if you saw her today, like I do, you’d read it in her eyes.
If I had a moment, a single moment to change, it would be my last minutes with Emma. I’d hug her, listen patiently, and tell her that I loved her and that she had been the best sister anyone could ever hope for. Unfortunately, life was a lifetime ago, and it has never been known for its generosity in second chances. I just hope someday Emma finds her peace. She knows I’m sorry, but I wish I could tell her.