Shine looked out the window. From her room, she could see people were starting to gather under the canopy erected in the front yard. She closed her eyes and wished them all away. She wished this whole nightmare was over. She drew the curtains and sank into the floor. She curled into a ball and started humming a calming lullaby her mother always sang to her whenever she was having a panic attack like this.
But she would never hear it from her again.
She would never see her mother’s happy beam when she confirms that a new recipe, she just tried came out good. She would sometimes share secret eye contact with her father when they both knew it did not come out good at all.
No more of those.
It was just all over. They said it had been quick, as if that helped anything.
They had both been on their way back from the family poultry which they had both managed for over twenty years when their car was hit by a fuel tanker and had caught fire immediately. It was confirmed that they died on impact and not by the fire. Because that would have been a thought she could never live with. That day, while she had been at home waiting for them to get back, it was her sister, Bright, who had come home instead and pulled her into the fiercest hug she has ever received.
“There are gone. They are both gone” She said in a dull distant tone.
In her twelve years, Shine had never felt so dense. The words did not make sense. At least, not for the first minute. Not until she pulled back and looked deep into her sister’s eyes. Bright just nodded her head vigorously. That was when she broke down. And wailed. Really wailed. That was the right way to describe her cry of anguish because her chest really ached. They had held each other for the longest time.
But Bright had slipped into robot mode. Even though she was only twice her age, she suddenly looked much older. She had called and informed everyone. And even when some family members wanted to take over the burial, she did not allow them. She took some time off her work as a data analyst and handled all the details. She was her elder sister and like a hero to her. She was her only sibling and only ally when her parents got into their old people mode. When she moved out last year to be closer to work, Shine had felt so dejected. Bright was the strong, independent who never wasted any moment to educate people about feminism and climate change. She was smart and her parents had said she practically raised herself. Unlike her.
But Bright has not cried. She was always looking out for her and trying to make sure Shine was handling it well. Maybe she was just made of tougher stuff. I mean, for a person that to identify her parents’ burnt bodies in the mortuary, maybe she just-
Shine heard a knock on her door. A gentle single knock. That was Bright. She had made sure everyone stayed away from Shine since the incident of the uncle that told her that being an orphan is not the end of the world. Bright had charged into mama-bear-mode and made everyone stay away from her younger sister. Her parents had never been close to any of their family members anyway. But here they were, trying to be the savior to the two orphaned girls. But Bright never accepted their pity. She made them understand from the get-go that she can take care of herself and her sister. And she had been doing a great job so far. Even though her eyes still look so blank, it is almost scary.
“Come in. “Shine called out.
Bright stepped into the dark room but did not comment about the closed curtains. She just went to sit near her sister on the floor and held her shoulder till she rested her head on the crook of her neck. That was Bright. Always knowing exactly how to take care of you.
“It’s time for us to go down. The wake keep is about to start.”
“I know,” Bright said in a small voice. “You can do this. It won’t be more than an hour. I made sure of that. I promise.”
Shine nodded reluctantly. “Okay. Let’s go.”
As Bright was about to stand up, Shine asked in a small unsure voice.
“You have not cried.” She said with the question evident in her shaky tone.
“What? Oh, I have.”
“No, you haven’t. And I- “
“We have to go, Shine. Let’s talk about this later.”
They made their way downstairs and managed to get through the service. The next day when their parent’s coffins were placed into the ground, Shine almost lost it. But Bright held on to her sister when they started to fill the burial plots of their plots.
Two months later, Shine looked out through the same window at the deserted grounds. They have to leave the house. It seemed like her parent’s poultry had been running on a loss for a while now and her sister had had to declare bankruptcy when all the debts just kept accumulating. Now the house will be sold to offset some loans. Everything was falling apart. Everything.
Even when some family members had offered to take her, Bright had adamantly refused and held her ground. No one was taking her sister away from her, she had said. Thank God.
So, they were moving out today into Bright’s mini flat.
Shine was about to leave the window when she saw her sister. Staring at the wall. There was this bleak look in her eyes. She had lost so much weight and it seemed like the wind could sweep away. She never sleeps. She was always busy. She had been working from home while also trying to settle her parent’s estate. Or whatever was left of it. She mumbled some things that had no meaning too, sometimes.
Shine got scared. As much as she tried to avoid this. She knew something was wrong. Bright was phasing out. Like a flower. She seemed like she was wilting away. She has lost all her zeal. Oh, she still tried to keep it together for her. And sometimes it felt like she was existing. She seemed to have sped right past the process of grief into something deeper and darker.
Shine quickly ran down the stairs in a panic.
She grabbed her sister from behind in a tight hug.
“Please, I need you. I need you, Bright. Please come back to me. Bright, Please.” The hug communicated all the emotions she couldn’t put into words.
Bright held her hand and slowly sank to the floor.
Then she heard it. It sounded like a screech at first. Little heartbreaking moans of pain. Then the tears started, and she let out a wail. A loud heart-wrenching wail of despair with so many emotions that they seemed to overwhelm her.
“I don’t know what I am doing” She acknowledged amidst the tears.
Then she was up. “I have to go. I have to.” Bright said as she pulled herself up. Before Shine could stop her, she ran. Like a crazed person, she ran. Moving in a lightning pace that even Shine could not keep up with. Shine soon stopped when she figured out where she was going.
Bright stood in front of her parent’s headstones, near their farm, and just stared for a minute like she was in a trance. She slowly slid to the ground and rocked herself all the while mumbling some random nonsense.
Shine did not move close. She just stood and watched her sister from afar. She knew she needed this space.
She sat under the cashew tree and dozed off.
She soon woke up to the warm, rich smile of her sister over her head.
“Now we can go home, Shine.”