This flash-fiction story was originally posted at iRez, in the Stories tag, between October 21 and 27.
Torn apart, five sisters come back home to face a painful past that still haunts them.
This is their story.
|Photo by Honour McMillan|
Rain poured for hours, a reminder of tough days past. Outside, the chairs seemed to have been left behind hastily, one of them thrown to the floor, forgotten in a puddle of falling drops. A few hours earlier, the family had been sitting at that table, sharing, desperately trying to overcome differences. These differences were deep wounds that had bled for years, wounds he was never able to prevent or help heal. He tried, but he bled too. How could he do anything if he was part of the pain shared? In his passivity, he saw the children fight through the storm, growing bitter and far apart. Years past, his wife, their mother, died. An over-controlling woman with a mean streak, she took pleasure in seeing pain in his eyes first, then in the children’s. He would never forget that final walk when he let go of his pain and, he believed, his wife’s too… When he saw the girls come back, he dreamt that the page would be turned. They would finally become a real family filled with laughter and those girlish giggles he yearned to hear when they were so small. Then the rain came... He fell and was rushed to the hospital. He never woke up again, but never before had he felt so alive, the family gathered, one last time, unknowingly just for him.
|Photo by Connie Arida|
2. A Blue Note
Patty was the eldest of the five. She drove all the way back, from where she had been hiding, the farthest away city she could find when she decided to leave home. Against her father’s will, she packed a small bag and left, sure to find a world she would conquer, free of all restrains, free of pain. After a few years of struggling, she opened the Blue Note, an elegant jazzy place where most of the city’s elite gathered for a drink and some music. The flow of famous blues and jazz musicians attracted unknown singers eager to show off their talent, hoping to catch the eye of an agent. The crowds of people coming in every night also brought a few unwanted visitors, members of the underworld trying to get a cut of the exorbitant amount of money the club made, high-rollers and petty drug dealers alike, seeking to make a fast buck. She moved in this milieu quite astutely. Her contacts in the police department kept things under control and she returned the favor by allowing them a safe haven for their indiscretions. Now she was returning home, fighting to run away once again, eager to find that slice of freedom she was still looking for.
|Photo by Canary Beck|
Jill turned the key to lock the door of her house by the sea. She stopped for a few seconds, hesitating between going ahead with the plan or simply unlocking the door and forgetting all about this crazy trip. Patty had the idea, and what Patty said was the rule. It had always been like that, but she really didn’t have to go along with it, she wasn’t a kid anymore. She could just disappear, like she had done a few years after her sister left home. “Why go back?” she heard herself say, getting startled by her own voice. She was now happily married, writing her books, and paving the way towards a promising career. Going home would bring back old stories, old accusations, and most of all pain. Somehow she felt relieved her mother would not be there. “Right… Let’s do this then,” she said, pepping herself to letting go of the doorknob, counting the waves splashing on the shore. She was tough, yet… just below the surface, coming face to face with the past made her feel as small and defenseless as she was back then.
|Photo by Yordie Sands|
4. Harvest Moon
Cordelia held her smiling Buddha. The wooden statue travelled with her throughout the world, finally settling down in Tokyo on her mantelpiece. A blend between modern and traditional Japanese, her apartment was as uncluttered as her daily life and her heart. She had found an unexpected peace of mind in Japan with a quiet uneventful nine-to-five secretarial job at a new technologies company, a soothing hobby learning to play the shamisen at the Harvest Moon and doing public performances. When her sister Patty set the exodus in motion, many years ago, Cordelia tried to stay. She tried to stay for as long as she could; she struggled to handle their mother’s hatred, as long as some of her sisters were still at home. But she failed. She wasn’t the last to leave or the only one to stay. That was the pain Cordelia still bore in her heart and the main reason why she sat on that plane, flying back home.
|Photo by Strawberry Singh|
The youngest of all the sisters, Angel felt the wrath the worst. She was rebellious, autonomous, irreverent, mocking even. The scar that ran across her back, from the right shoulder down, was a vivid reminder of the battles she had to endure. Her sisters tried to protect her as much as they could; they hid her in the attic, took her food and cleaned her wounds. However, she refused to turn away from the beast, as they called their mother, a beast filled with anger and irrationality, slashing their father’s belt against Angel’s back, thighs, arms; this cynical gesture would also hurt her weak father, a man who never stood up for his daughters. While she was still very young, Jill showed up one day. Angel was hiding out in the old oak tree. Her sister grabbed her by the wrist, no packing, no hesitating, and took off with her. They never went back. Then she rebelled against Jill too, overstepping boundaries, breaking rules and dying more and more in a parallel and hazy world of an excess of drugs. When Patty called her, she said no. However, her Master, a wise man who was determined to bring her back to life and who saw much farther beyond the pain, teaching her the meaning of trust, told her to go. And she understood.
|Photo by Whiskey Monday|
Mathilda stayed behind, not because she couldn’t leave, but because she was strong enough to stay. Of all the sisters, she was the only one their mother didn’t dare touch. Angel constantly brought the mother to a blind, full blown rage; Cordelia shied away from conflict, trying to convince her little sister not to test their mother’s patience; Jill ached violently for a family of her own to simply find peace, and Patty was a strong-willed soul set on a survival mode. They scattered in all directions, one by one. She stayed, for herself, for their father, even for their mother. She feared the worst would happen if she left, so she surrounded herself by books, fragments of memories and forgotten dreams, collected letters scattered in a pandemonium inside of her. In her daydreaming escapades, she sailed aimlessly with her sister Cordelia; she sang in a duet with Patty; she lived under the sea with Jill; she held her little sister Angel and told her everything would be alright. She was the only one of them who attended the mother’s funeral, her father’s fading will clutching to her arm while he whispered “I miss your sisters...”
|Photo by Ziki Questi|
The five sisters sat in silence, looking at the soft web and flow of the sea. The old oak tree they used to climb and hide in remained faithful and kept company to the five grown women, a shared past, and a sisterhood about to unfold from the pain of loss.
“Why did you leave, Patty?” asked Angel.
Patty sunk her fingers in the warm sand. “Amazing, how yesterday it was pouring and today…”
“You’re avoiding the question and wasting time,” interrupted Angel in her usual direct way.
“I had to…”
“Why didn’t you take us with you? I came back for Angel.”
“Jill, you could afford to… I was practically living on the street and, when lucky, sleeping at friends’ places… You have no idea what I had to do…” replied Patty.
A stifling silence settled in for long minutes.
Each one of them was divided between reliving the sorrows of countless unspoken resentments and the need, the wish to find their way back to the primordial togetherness that existed between them, a bond as strong as life, broken by distance and pain.
“If you want to see it that way… Even Dad left, in a way, hiding out in his garage. Everyone left, but Mathilda…” added Patty.
Mathilda smiled. The warm afternoon seemed to plot in favor of the sisters. She knew that.
“Well, this won’t take us anywhere. It’s only us now, girls. We need to stick together,” said Cordelia, always conciliatory.
The sisters talked about the infamous belt and that evening when they had to hide little Angel in the attic, one by one secretly going up there with the needed paraphernalia to clean and dress the wound. They talked about being the last to leave school and slowly walking home together, because the bus took them back to hell too fast. They talked about the lost nights of sleep, listening to the violent arguments between their mother and father, thinking there would be consequences the next day. Amidst the pain, in reality, they talked about their togetherness. How they shared the sparse lunch bought, two sandwiches and a bottle of water for five, with the few coins their dad had given them. They smiled when they recalled reading stories before bedtime and living in them, imagining new endings, taking characters from one story to visit with the characters of another.
After long hours, the day came to an end, a soft soothing breeze whispering over the dunes. They started by sitting randomly, a great distance between them. They ended sitting side by side, looking at the sun setting behind the line of the horizon, preparing for a new day somewhere on the other side of the world as they prepared for a new life.
“We are back home now, together” said Mathilda. “That’s what matters.”
Over a period of a year and a half, all the sisters moved back into town. Patty sold her club for a ton of money to a shady character who was convinced he was buying not only the club, but all her contacts and influences and opened a restaurant. Jill and her husband sold the house by the sea to find a beautiful luxurious cabin close to the beach. Cordelia left her job and, along with Angel, moved back in with Mathilda; they renovated the house while healing Angel, and vowed to make the family grow with tons of children, to the amusement of Cordelia’s shamisen students. They also bought a boat and sailed out often, diving and singing old songs as loudly as they could, causing much distress to the poor seagulls that would scatter in all directions, away from them as they approached.
“Angel… It’ll be alright. Everything will be alright,” said Mathilda.
Angel smiled and snuggled in her sister’s arms. It took a while, but life was now good.
Thank you to Canary Beck, Connie Arida, Honour McMillan, Strawberry Singh, Whiskey Monday, Yordie Sands and Ziki Questi for trusting me and allowing me to draw inspiration from their photos and feelings. Also thank you to Vanessa Blaylock for always being there when technology and I have an argument (!) and to Canary Beck for reaching out and helping me with the photos at iRez. Thank you for your support and encouragement.
Last, but not least, thank you, London, for believing. You are my rock.
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Related: Is Lizzie Gudkov a Psychic by Canary Beck