That Saturday I woke like any typical weekend morning. I got out of bed early and hello to the boy in the mirror. I washed the night out of my hair and the sleep from my face. I dressed myself in dad’s old khakis and an obscure band T-shirt because Saturdays are for relaxation. I swallowed cereal and pride for breakfast and swept my hair into a baseball cap. Saturdays were for relaxing our American dream. Saturdays were for football games and brunch. This Saturday was for the wedding of Avery Kingston and Marissa Rhodes. I biked to St. Celine Chapel down the center of the road. Outside was hanging with decorations. Inside the rainbow echoed off the walls; burning each cone in my eyes in the best way possible. Avery’s mother greeted me and showed me to a spare seat in case anyone from our block actually showed. Marissa’s Father got ordained to lead the service. The room wasn’t packed yet full enough to know that these people were loved. They were loved despite who they were and that– that I wanted. Here the air was technicolor. And then the organ in the back began to sing and the room went silent. Bridesmaids and family members walked down the aisle and soon Avery came around the corner too. She was glowing in white and beauty and happiness. And I thought of how so many of their friends had shut them out. And yet, here they were, smiling as if they each had stolen a piece of the sun.
My mother and father met in the 80s. It wasn’t a whirlwind romance and they didn’t meet as children. They met in Florida during a church fundraiser for the soup kitchen. They were in love the moment they saw each other. Well, at least that’s what they like to tell people. Yes, they did meet at the fundraiser, but they didn’t really talk much. Dad was actually happily married at the time but we don’t talk about that. In case you’re wondering, he didn’t cheat on his wife. She died of cardiac arrest a couple months later. Her name was Louise. So Dad stayed faithful and it wasn’t until years later they hit it off. My mom went through a coke addiction pretty early in her life, but we don’t talk about that either. My father was an alcoholic ever since he learned the word bourbon. So when they were both were sent to rehab, they ended up in the same support group. Recognizing each other, they started talking. One year later they were married and had Anne the year after. Of course, they never tell anyone. My mom made me swear up and down I’d keep my mouth shut. It was the Walkers’ best-kept secret.
My mother wasn’t a budding painter or teacher before she met my dad. Her plan from the start was to marry rich and have kids. Pathetic, I know. She even wrote on those homeworks in elementary school I want to be a Housewife. I guess maybe that’s why Anne tried to escape– she didn’t want to end up like mom. Dad never planned on being a politician. He had a small business when he lived in Florida, a hardware store. Everyone told him he was smart and should run for Mayor, and years later in Orlin he decided to just go for it.
I don’t always remember life before we were royalty. We went skiing and on vacations to beachy places. But I have no memory of Anne being sad.
So when she was found dead my world exploded into oblivion. I swear the room was torn from the foundation. I swear we all crumbled in the rubble and flew into the sun.
Or maybe it was just me, rocketing alone into space.
Or maybe I didn’t even move at all. Maybe I just watched that officer standing outside our door, perfectly still. Maybe I broke down in tears and drown us all in my sadness.
What if I didn’t even cry? What if I shut the door, walked up the stairs to my bed and sat still for years. Until I was an empty cave for bears to hibernate in, until birds nested in my hair.
They say it was a drug overdose. Self-induced. They found her out in the open, near the railroad tracks. The time of death was marked 8:00 pm to 1: 00 am. She killed herself watching the stars.
I didn’t actually stay in my bed until I was a bird’s nest, as you probably guessed. It was actually a week and a half. I only got up because my parents had to give a public statement and said I must come. School was optional. My mom dabbed her eyes a bit during dad’s speech. Later she said she didn’t cry because she didn’t want to mess up her mascara. Dad, on the other hand, could barely hold himself up. His voice was more broken than him. The whole town showed up in black to show their solitude. I found it weird only in death was she recognized.
After Father was done people began to trickle away. Others came to say their condolences, but I didn’t listen. I didn’t care. After the statement I hibernated three more days until my final rise from bed. I awoke on a foreign planet. No, the planet wasn’t strange. The people were strangers. Mother spoke to me in another language. Father didn’t speak. When Mother wasn’t speaking she was invisible, disappearing. Her voice was skittish. She would fuss with any distraction– my hair, her eyelashes, or even the particles in the air. I liked to believe she was speaking to herself. She liked to believe she was speaking to Anne. Father stayed in the bathroom chain smoking all day. He’d just watch his reflection through the smoke and give himself a cold hard stare. Sometimes I feel like that whole part of my life I was watching through smoke. Later we found the sink full of empty cigarette packs. Eventually the room was so full of smoke he couldn’t breathe. He fainted around eleven that night. Mother found him collapsed around eleven thirty. He wasn’t breathing so we rushed him to the hospital.
He didn’t die, if that’s what you’re thinking. He stayed for a couple nights until he insisted on coming back home. The first day Mother and I stayed by his bed. He didn’t wake up until the next morning. We were still asleep in the hospital chair at the time, so he propped himself up and attempted his escape because “One night’s rest is one enough.” He staggered down the hallway until a nurse led him back to bed. He explained later he didn’t want to make a scene, just show he wasn’t weak. Some people brought him flowers that morning; Sherry and Rudder, Mr. and Mrs. Olsen from next door, and Avery and Marissa. When they entered he nodded, barely acknowledging them. Once they left Mother threw them in the trash. The rest of that day was spent with Father making comments about the reporters on TV and eating Jello out of a mug. It was one helluva day.
25 hours later, Father pushed open the wooden front door and marched inside. He scanned his kingdom while mother and I stood behind him. He finally strode into the center of the living room and passed out on the couch. Me and mother followed suit and lay across him. We were exhausted from exhaustion.
And I just sat there and listened to Father’s breathing. I knew that no, Anne wasn’t looking down on me from her castle in the stars. Her body was rotting in the County graveyard. Her headstone hadn’t even been finished yet. But at least I knew we were under the same sky.