My sisters and I are really close. We have no friends at school because we always keep to ourselves. Vanessa is the oldest, Nikki, Monica, then there’s me, Mallory. Our mom died while going into labor with me. It gets kind of heartbreaking to look in the mirror every day and not see myself the way I should. Instead I see myself as someone who doesn’t deserve life because she took someone else’s. My sisters don’t look at it that way though and that makes me feel a little better. Our dad ran off with another woman after mom had Nikki. The only person that actually considered him a father figure is Vanessa.
He left when she was eight years old. The rest of us only knew our mom. Our foster parents are the devil’s gift to saints. They didn’t care about us at all. They were only in it for the money, nothing more. Since we had no ride to church, we had to wait on the church van to come. When they arrived, we grabbed our bibles and got on the van. Sitting closest to the door was Ms. Augustine. Ms. Augustine was the closest thing we had to a loving, caring parent or guardian. She and my mom were friends before she died. Mom didn’t tell her to look after us but I guess she wanted to.
I always get to sit beside her on the van because I was the youngest. The youngest always get the special treatment. That wasn’t the case when she handed out candy though. Every time she would give me a piece of gum while my other sisters got a piece of peppermint or a butter scotch. When we arrived at the church Ms. Augustine gave us our usual delivery, the Life box, and we went on in. She gave it to Vanessa because she knew that one of us would probably peek to see what it was. Our favorite part of church was prayer. We loved talking to God and we always thought that Mom was there too.
When she was alive, she loved to go to church and she loved to pray. So when it was time for prayer we always felt like she would show up. After church Ms. Augustine gave us all a big hug and prayed with us before we left. Every Sunday she has to stay back and attend a meeting. When we rode back home I always sit in the same seat but I would sit by myself. My sisters would sit behind me and talk about how cute the boy was that sits two rows in front of us. It was a ridiculous conversation because he was old enough to be our father. Every day after school or after church we would go to the barn.
The barn is our little secret hiding place which we only knew about. The barn is where we shared everything, sung gospel songs, and wrote about ourselves. In the life box contained seven sticky notes; one for each day of the week including today. The life question for today asked “Are you being faced with anything? When I read the question Vanessa said, “Wow where would I start from? “Why don’t you start with that sixty-four on that math test? said Nikki. We all gave a small chuckle and begin writing. All you could hear was the pencils racing across the paper and the eraser shavings flying everywhere.
Monica, Nikki and I were starting to recognize how weird Vanessa had been acting lately. One day last week she didn’t even come to the barn with us. We had thought about reading her sticky notes but that would be a violation of our pact. We made a pact that we wouldn’t ever read each other’s notes until we were adults. It felt kind of weird without Vanessa at school today. She told us that she didn’t feel good and that she had a fever. It felt like it was more than just a bad cold.
We each got that sister vibe that something was really wrong. On our way back from the barn we had seen an ambulance in the front yard. Oh my God,” I said. As my sisters and I stormed to the front yard, so many things ran through my head. Just the thought of someone being hurt or worse was bad enough. Although I was hoping my foster parents had gotten in an argument and one of them had hurt the other. When we got to the front yard, I could see my foster mom standing on the front porch crying. She was rubbing her arms and shaking as if it was cold outside.
Her cry didn’t look like a sad cry; it was more like a guilty cry. My foster dad was nowhere to be found strangely. “Wait a minute! “ said Monica. “Where’s?… Before she could get anything else out of her mouth, we’d seen someone being rushed out of the house on a stretcher. “Vanessa! “ screamed Nikki. As bad as I wanted to run I couldn’t. My feet were glued to the ground and I was shaking rapidly. From afar I saw Vanessa’s eyes rolling back in her head and she was shaking as bad as I was. “Is Vanessa going to die? I asked myself. I was so scared that my hands were sweating and my heart thumped non-stop out of my chest. Nikki and Monica sprinted to the stretcher running to the ambulance holding on to the stretcher with both hands.
Nikki was constantly screaming Vanessa’s name and Monica crying her eyes out. “Excuse me girls but only adults are allowed in this vehicle, said the paramedic. “I’m the closest thing she has to a mother now let me through! “ said Nikki. “I’m not leaving her either,” said Monica. They had tried to pull them away from the stretcher but their grip was super tight. When I had finally come back to my senses, I started putting the pieces together. I ran to the barn and opened up the life box. We each had our divided section in the box. I knew it was wrong to do this but I had to find out what the problem was.
My brain told me that Vanessa was hiding something from us. This wasn’t just some head cold or flu. I grabbed the note on the very top because it was the most recent one; the one from Sunday. As I unfolded it, my heart started that thumping thing again. The note read, “My foster dad raped me and I have HIV. After reading what she’d written I couldn’t do anything but cry. While crying Nikki and Monica come walking through the barn doors. Their eyes were bloodshot red and Monica was still crying. “She’s gone, said Nikki. By the way that I was crying, they could tell that I knew what happened so they didn’t say a word. I’m going to kill him,” said Nikki. The next day was the hardest day for everyone.
Especially for our foster mom whose husband was now in jail. If it was left up to us he would be dead or would be in prison for life. She really didn’t care about Vanessa’s death even though she put on a good front for everyone at the funeral. My sisters and I knew that she was just doing that out of guilt. The reverend didn’t even know who she was because he had never seen her at church. It seemed like we never knew how much she existed until she was gone.
We went to the barn early that morning because we wanted to honor her in our own way. When we got there, we took all of her notes and put them in a pile. We took the most recent picture we could find of her and taped it to the wall. Then I wrote a song that we sung for her. We cried while we sang and held each other’s hands. Afterwards we just stood there and thought about her. “Ms. Augustine told me that,” Nikki said hesitantly. “Vanessa had told her about it and she knew why Vanessa had died. Turns out they both knew that she was going to die. She said that Vanessa didn’t want us to know about it.
Then I thought to myself, “Why would she tell her and not us? ” Ms. Augustine had taken her to the doctor and gotten her tested and that’s how they found out. I was already heartbroken at the situation in itself, but to find that out was just too much for me. Now that she’s gone, our circle has become tighter. We’ve learned to continue to keep squares out just like she had taught us to. A sister’s love is deep, pure, and unconditional. A sister’s heart can tell when another sister is happy, angry, or sad. That’s how I know that she’s in our hearts now more than ever.