The clod of earth scrunched in the palm of my hand was light and warm. It did not hold shape as a proper clod should have. Scrunch as I might with my tiny, pink hand, the flecks of dust simply sprung back upwards, crumbling apart and bouncing upwards between my little fingers, sticking under the nails.
Father would have said proper little girls didn't play with dirt, but it was okay today for some reason.
It needed water, I remember thinking. Even the prissiest of little girls knew that you needed water for a good mud pie, and I knew I needed water for a real, proper clod—it was very important to have a good one—but it hadn't rained in days.
The sun was shining in an obnoxiously cheerful way and not a single cloud was brave enough to cover the great glowing orb, nor even cower near to it. The sky, instead, was a remarkable shade of spring blue—one large bubbling field of forget-me-nots.
But the only flowers the ground held had been supplanted there. They had been chopped out of some farm or some happy glen, and were now slowly dying at our feet in the chilly March wind.
The wind did howl so. It was bitterly cold, even for March, and I had forgotten my jacket in all the fuss. Father wasn't used to reminding us yet; Ryou didn't have his either.
The hand he had wrapped around mine was a pale white, though I couldn't tell if it was from sheer force, the icy conditions, or if white was just the color his body chose to exude now. His hair fell in his face in long, glacial waterfalls, longer than even my own. It had once been a darker shade, that pretty sheen of blue we had inherited from our father, and I was getting used to the snowy shade of white still.
I, of course, had told him I thought it was hideously ugly every chance I got, but I had been young and disused to change and unaccustomed to the strange way the body responds to shock or fear.
I was naïve, in short terms.
Or maybe I had known the whole time. Maybe a small part of my heart, or the soul we shared, had always been able to feel the thin string tying the color of Ryou's hair to the casket hovering above the hole in the ground before us. Maybe this memory was what I had always hated.
Maybe I was just an awful sister.
"Amane, Ryou," came the begging order, unusually cracked in my father's quiet voice.
We stepped forward together, pale hand still clutched in pink hand.
We extended our arms together, like some inverted version of a three legged race, and what little bit of dirt I had left in my palm, slipped through my fingers to sprinkle lightly upon the heavy oaken lid of the casket before us. It bounced along the glossy, highly-polished sides, skidding down the arch of the lid, tumbling to inexorable darkness below. Soft clumps of it pooled in corners around the pretty gold decoration they had lain on the casket in lieu of flowers, trapped between the outer circle and the inner triangle, slowly covering the stylized eye in the center; closing her eyes for good.
"Mother's safe now," Father comforted in a rasp of a whisper, "Mother can't be hurt anymore. She's happy now. She's free."
But I didn't believe him. Nothing about this hole seemed free. Nothing about these faces seemed happy. Nothing about that awful white hair seemed safe.
Ryou had begun to cry.
I didn't look at him, but I had known, as I always did. I could feel his grief weighing down the heart in my chest as I desperately tried to pull the monstrosity above water. The sensation of sorrow confused me and frightened me and I released his hand as quickly as I could.
And it was gone.
And the emptiness felt so much better than that heavy, bursting emotion.
I shot Ryou an accusing look, one he took no note of, but Father did. He said nothing to me then, but would always carry the moment as the shining example: my scowl and my brother's frown looking so similar, but representing such stark and piercing opposition—two sides of one coin.
I don't know why I did it.
The hole was so abysmally dark and the sun was so unforgivingly bright and the wind had burst forth and then left like a vacuum. The world was frozen, slow-moving, unreal.
My little pink hand pushed outward, back toward the dirt little girls weren't meant to play with, down to the closed golden eye, and I grabbed hold of the cool metal. My tiny fingers wove their way between the ring and the triangle and pulled.
It didn't want to come with me. It wanted to be with Mother. It did not move.
My shiny black shoes skidded forward in the uneven ground around the hole—the hole my mother would call home for the rest of eternity—and a small hand gripped the back of my dress.
With a tremendous yank, Ryou jerked me backwards, falling onto his back. There would be green streaks on his white button up and dirt smeared all over the Sunday-best slacks. My fingers had entwined too closely with the hunk of gold already and in a twinkling cacophony, I ripped the gold ring backwards with me. The weighted points littered around the sides scraped long scratches into the lid of the coffin as we pulled away.
It had not been ready to let go.
I caught my footing better than Ryou, and had twisted one leg around the opposite direction before my father had enough wind to scream, "Amane Bakura!"
I ran fast and hard, as if I had no need of air. I ran as if I had become the wind. The breeze ruffled my hair approvingly and jingled the ring in a comforting chime sound.
This was free, I had thought, not in that awful hole. This was free.
And the ring clattered louder in agreement. The eye in the center sparkled happily against the sun's rays. I imagined the eye had promised to protect me from all of these evil spirits and strange people, like the dream catcher it so resembled. The metal was beginning to thrum with the warmth absorbed from my fingers. It felt nice. We sustained each other.
I skidded to the ground behind an old mausoleum, back to the wall, ring clutched to my chest like a teddy bear, the points seemed to clasp sideways against my chest like a returned hug.
I would not let it go.
To everyone watching, it had been a tragic display of mourning from a motherless child. Only Ryou could ever know the dangerous calm that had settled over me in that moment: the lock of sadness I possessed, the thrill of fear, and the trepidation my hummingbird heart pitter-pattered when I looked into that all-seeing, golden eye. Only Ryou could ever know the gravity of what I had done.
I'm told his tears were plentiful after I departed. I'm told he was inconsolable. I'm told he screamed bloody murder until he had to be taken away from the grave.
At the time, nobody thought it out of the ordinary, and that fine golden ring was a small price to pay to ease a little girl's suffering.
And why would they?
After all, we were only seven years old when we buried our mother.