In the last chapter, Leena and Syrah finally make it to Maine. But it isn't long before Syrah demands Leena to drop her role as "Esther" and reveal her true self. Now the day has finally come for the two sisters to pay their respects…
Nothing. There was absolutely nothing that I was looking forward to on that cold, dismal morning. I could tell my sister was deep in thought as we drove through what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. It all felt unreal. I wished I could snap out of this, as if it were nothing more than another bad dream. But it was reality and I was being forced to do something that I dreaded more than anything.
My body sunk deep into the cold leather seat. "Can't we just turn around and wait until tomorrow? It's snowing too hard." I pleaded as Syrah kept her attention on the road. "You've been acting this way ever since we woke up." Syrah put a reassuring hand on my knee. "Stop trying to halt the inevitable and let's get this over and done with. I know you're stressed about today. So am I. But remember what I told you. This is something you owe to me."
I wished for just about anything to stop what was about to happen. Let the tire blow out. Let the engine overheat and die. Just don't let this day occur! No, I knew my silent pleas would be all in vain. After all, Syrah was the one holding all the cards. I had little choice but to accept her will. "Does all of this look familiar?" Syrah asked. "The houses, the roads, it's all how I remembered it."
I involuntarily began rocking back and forth in my seat. I couldn't help it. "I thought I would never have to see them again. I don't want to do this!" I lamented. I could almost feel myself becoming short of breath as I pleaded one more for her to turn the car around.
Syrah angrily hit her hand on the steering wheel. "Stop it, Leena! I thought we were going to make today as easy as possible? This won't take long. Now you're making ME upset. I drove us here, I paid for the motel room so we're going to do things my way, understand? Don't make this any more difficult already" I didn't want to utter a single word in my own defense. It would do me no good anyways.
The robotic voice of the GPS suddenly sounded. "Turn right onto Willow Road". My heart throbbed as if I were about to have a heart attack. The bitter sting of fear began to pierce every corner of my soul. I could see it! NO!…
There is was in plain sight. "Coastal View Memorial Park" read the lonely, rusted metal sign that stood at the entrance. I scanned the endless rows of forlorn gravestones. I felt absolutely naked without the guise of Esther. It was a feeling that filled me with a sense of terror.
I felt as if even the overgrown oaks scattered across the cemetery knew of whom I was and why I was here. I felt as if the whole world would be watching. With my "Esther" persona all but gone who could I hide from? I played nervously with the fabric of my coat, cursing each passing second. Hoping for this to be over as quickly as possible.
The car slowed to a crawl as we drove down the narrow lane that led into the heart of the cemetery. The snow had now since tapered off, leaving a light coating on the ground. The branches of the mighty oaks swayed in the wind as a cold front moved through. It was a dismal atmosphere. "Leena, you need to show me where they're buried." Syrah said.
"Just stop the car" I replied. She pulled over to the side as I wrapped my coat tightly around my chest. Something seemed to have changed in my sister. The morose feeling I had been experiencing all morning had seemed to take hold of her. I had never seen her quite so somber before.
"I can tell you're no more willing to do this than I am." I told her. She sat back in her seat. "You're right. Do you really think I want to be here right now? It doesn't matter if we want to or not. We have an obligation. Now let's go and lead me to their graves. We'll be back in Connecticut before we know it. I know you're nervous but the time is now."
I might as well have been going to my own funeral at that point. Syrah opened her door and walked out onto the road. I on the other hand was lost in a silent trance, frozen in place. I was willing to sell my soul just to get out of this situation. "Leena, come on now. Don't try to draw this out." I put my hand on the door handle but I could only continue to hesitate. I was forced to stare at my horrid reflection in the windshield. I put my hand to my cheek. "Monster" was the only word that could come to mind. Only a monster could do what I had done.
"Leena, NOW!" Syrah demanded. It was back to reality as I moved at the pace of a snail. My conscious was telling me to stay in the vehicle, to ignore Syrah's commands. My heart seemed to sink into the pit of my stomach as I left the vehicle. I felt as if the earth itself were cursed by what I had done to that family. I looked up into the gunmetal grey sky, the sun a mere haze covered by thick clouds that seemed to form an endless impenetrable barrier.
My attention was drawn to Syrah as she walked around to meet me. In her arms were a bouquet of red roses that she had purchased on our way up to Maine. She extended them to me. I knew what I had to do, what begrudgingly HAD to be done. We walked alongside each other as I slowly led her off the road and into the snow covered grass.
"I haven't been here since the funeral. Not since the day they were buried." I said. Syrah remained quite, as if she were doing so out of respect. The snow crunched underneath our feet as I guided us among the hundreds of graves. "Do you know where you're going?" Syrah asked. I looked at her sadly with a nod.
It wasn't long before the four graves came into sight. The gray headstones looked new and polished; a contrast compared to the ancient, forgotten, decaying headstones that seemed to surround them as far as the eye could see. I clutched onto the bouquet of roses as I stopped a few feet in front of them. "This is it." I said sullenly. "This is what you wanted to see."
Syrah stopped next to me, clutching onto her long black coat. "Now can we go?" I begged. Syrah remained quiet. "This is it…" she said to herself. She took a few small steps ahead of me before slowly kneeling down to inspect the inscriptions. "My God, they were so young" she said quietly. I shuffled uncomfortably. When was this going to end? Why did we have to leave the comfort of our motel room for this?
She turned her head swiftly. "And James…the one on the very end…he was the one who knew who you were? Is that the honest truth, Leena? Come on and be honest, this isn't the time for anymore lies. Tell me the truth about what really happened on that day." Her voice seemed to quiver a little bit, as if she were pleading with me for the answer.
"Why? Do you distrust me all of the sudden?" I shot back. "All I want is the truth" Syrah repeated. I suddenly raised my voice. "Damn it, what I told you a hundred times IS the truth! It was just bad luck. I slept with that man years ago and it came back to haunt me. The story I've always told you IS the truth and there's no way in hell I'm placing flowers on that bastards grave." I pointed angrily to his headstone. "I hope the son of a bitch rots in hell!" I exclaimed.
Syrah immediately stood up. I could tell she wasn't happy in the least. "Don't you raise your voice at me! I asked a simple question and all I wanted was a simply answer." I rolled my eyes at her. "Why? Even if I gave you another story you would still think of me as a liar" I said sarcastically, turning my back away from her. Syrah immediately became frustrated. Things were getting tense, fast!
"Turn around and face me, damn it! Don't disrespect me like this! How dare you raise your voice when all I'm trying to do is talk with you?" she shouted. I swung around in a near fit of rage. "For the last time, the story I told you is the TRUTH! They only died because of him, because of that worthless piece of shit! I never got the chance to tell Paul Sullivan that I loved him and that I'm sorry for what happened over a piece of shit like James."
"That's because you LET it happen, Leena. Did somebody put a gun to your head and force you to burn that house down. Did they? Or were you so self absorbed that you couldn't have run away and called me so that I could come get you. I would have came here to America in a heartbeat. No, instead we have to visit a cemetery and see your handiworks first hand, now don't we? And then you don't have enough in you to even want to come here and apologize. No, I MUST be asking too much of my little sister." I was surprised how harsh Syrah had become.
I was definitely going to defend my pride. "Well then maybe we should build a damn time machine and try again, now should we? I was the one who cried about it night after night. Day after day and I STILL do sometimes." Syrah was having none of it. "Oh, and like I didn't cry an ocean over what you've done? Keep thinking about the pain YOU placed YOURSELF in, not the pain you caused me."
"Syrah, I cried for you too. I really, really did. This wasn't supposed to happen. I didn't plan this." The tears started to flow once again. I wiped them away with the sleeve of my coat. "You know what, Leena. Like I told you last night, I don't have a single clue what I would do if I were in the situation you were in. But one thing I can assure you of…" her voice suddenly became filled with anger. "I WOULDN'T BURN A HOUSE DOWN AND KILL AN INNOCENT FAMILY!"
She yelled so loud that I jumped. She was quivering with pent-up emotions. "I…I…" My words trailed off. "What?" A lump formed in my throat. "I don't know what to say." Syrah tilted her head back, her frustration continuing to build inside her. "Leena, if you had just five more minutes with the Sullivans, forget James, just five more minutes with those three who thought you were a daughter and a sister, just tell me, what would you say to them?" she whispered.
I couldn't answer the question. I doubt I ever really could. Syrah spoke up again. "You know…a soul doesn't get rest until it finds peace. Their souls need peace, don't you think? Maybe if you just answered my question they could get some peace…don't you want them to rest in peace?" Her voice was much softer now. The tears flowed uncontrollably as my thoughts raced at a mile a minute. "Yeah, I want them to rest in peace, I want them to have that" I sniffled.
"Then if you really want them to rest in peace then pretend they're standing here right now. Talk to them. What would you say to them if you just had a few more minutes to explain yourself? Tell me what you would say! Don't think about yourself right now, think about them!" she insisted. I hung my head in defeat. I couldn't bear to even face my own sister. I kicked gently at the snow, my psyche becoming numb, still pathetically holding onto the roses.
"You really have nothing to say to this family?" she said with a hint of disgust. "I have plenty to say" I answered. "Then SAY it!" Once more I became silent. "Look at me in the eye." my sister demanded. Still more silence. "Look at me!" she said softly. "Leena, look at me in the eye. You let that family suffer and die in that horrible fire. Please, don't be so selfish now. That family wants to hear from you so they can rest in peace".
My body began to tremble. To this day I don't know if it was out of fear of Syrah or fear over what I had done. "I…I tell them every night before I go to bed…that I love them and I miss them." Syrah shook her head in disbelief. "Somehow I only think you cared about Paul. That's truly how I feel. Did you care about Veronica or Rebecca?"
"Of course I did" I sobbed. "Then show it" Syrah demanded. She slowly walked towards me causing me to back away. "Leena, just stay still and let me take your hands." She gently took the flowers away and extended her hands towards mine, holding onto the tips of my fingers.
"Leena, if you could go back and have a chance to avoid this madness all over again, would you do things differently then?" I nodded although I had a feeling that Syrah didn't believe me. She let out a long, almost exhausted sign. "You need to tell the Sullivans why you killed them. Why you ended their lives the way you did. Just tell them, that's all. You're going to set them free and you're going to set you and I free. Free so that we can move forward and that they can finally be at peace."
"I'm afraid. I'm just afraid." I said, shaking life a leaf. "What on earth are you afraid of?" Syrah asked tenderly. "Look at me, Syrah. I'm standing here and I'm forced to confront something I don't have anymore control over." Syrah was now beginning to lose her patience again as she leaned forward.
"Leena, I'm going to ask you one more time. Say something to them so they can rest in peace. Have some courage now, please don't be a coward. Find it within you, Leena, PLEASE! If you didn't have the courage in the past just find it now and explain to them why you did what you did so they can rest in peace. We all get a shot at redemption sometimes and this is your chance" she said in a quiet anger. "Please don't make me, Syrah." I begged.
"Can you not give the Sullivans an answer?" she said in a rising tone. My silence must have spoke volumes about me. About all of the fear and apprehension I was feeling. I watched as Syrah's eyes became two little slits. Her expression showing a grave concern.
"Leena, to kill a family. To burn their very house down with them inside…and now you can't give an answer to these poor people. These people whom you victimized. " She pointed emphatically at their graves. "To let them lie in the frozen ground and never let their souls have a moments peace because you don't have the courage." She continued.
"And you didn't have the self control and moral compass when they were alive to stop yourself from doing such a horrible thing and now you don't have the courage to simply give them an answer because all you are is thinking about yourself and your own selfish needs." The more tears I wiped away the more that seemed to come. "There is no simple answer, Syrah. There is no simple answer." Once again I hung my head in total shame.
Syrah continued on. "And out of all the horrible things that can happen in this world. Out of all the evil that exists out there. And you just stand there like a load with not a word to say." She shook her head in disbelief.
"And now they get to lie in these graves. Not for a day, not for a week, not for a month, they get to lie here forever. They get to lie here for eternity. And all you got to say for yourself is that you can't come up with an answer. How pathetic! And now you don't let them get a moments peace as they rot in their graves! And all you can do is stand there and think only about yourself".
My sister was unrelenting. I knew she wouldn't stop until I spoke up. Syrah forcefully turned me around to look at their graves. Again, she made the same demands. "Say something to them. Say something damn it. Say something to this family, YOU OWE IT TO THEM!" I could only continue to shake and quiver. "Say something to the Sullivans so they can rest in peace YOU SELFISH BITCH!"
"I'm so fucking sorry, Syrah. I really mean that." Syrah pointed again at the graves. "Don't say sorry to me, say it to them." Syrah handed me the roses yet again. As I shuffled closer to their graves my feet felt as if they weighed a thousand pounds. It took every bit of fortitude to approach them. My sister quickly made her way over to me. Her voice once again became calm and collected. "You're showing all this emotion now. I know you're hurting but please do this for me, okay?"
Finally, I began to speak. My lip quivered as I struggled to find the right words. "Paul, Veronica, Rebecca…I came an awful long way today to say what I have to say to the three of you. First of all, there are no words that can describe exactly how I feel and I know all of the apologies and tears in the world are not going to bring any of you back again. I can still remember that day. I can still smell the smoke. I can still feel the heat of the flames. I can still remember every detail and I always will until the day I die. The day that ended your lives and changed mine forever. Yes, we had our good times but that doesn't matter now and that's not why I'm here."
"You knew me as Esther Sullivan. You knew and loved me as a daughter and a sister. But that's not who I am." I paused for a moment. "My real name is Leena Klammer and I'm 33 years old. But I'm well aware that each of you already know that. I've been living the lie of Esther for many years now. But before I go any further let me say that I think about what happened every single day and every single night."
"I think about how all three of you reacted when James provided proof of whom I really was. Paul, how you literally tore the house apart." I paused once more to collect myself. Syrah put her hands on my shoulders to keep me calm. "You're doing great…go on" she said.
"I'm sure all of you would want to know why an adult woman would go through the trouble of acting like a little girl just in the hopes that a family would take me in. It sounds insane, doesn't it? Something that only a mad person would do? There's a lot of reasons but I'll try to keep it simple. You see, I have a disorder. A medical condition where I am unable to physically grow into a normal adult. I know it sounds ridiculous but it's true and you have to understand that if you want to understand me."
"You see all my life all I ever wanted was a man who would love me and a family I could raise. A family to call my own. But not in the same way a child wants a family. No, all I ever wanted was to be a wife and a mother. I never grew up wanting to hurt anybody. I never asked for much out of life. I just wanted to be like everybody else. I always wanted to be happy and content." I clenched my fists in an attempt to keep myself steady.
"I've never known what it's like to be a mother or a wife. I can only daydream about the joy that's always out of reach. How wonderful and magical it must be to give birth to a child and to raise it with all the love in the world. I can't have children of my own and it seems no man in the world would ever bother to love me. My whole life I've been searching and seeking…and yet all I've ever found was rejection and abuse."
"My biological father was the only one who ever loved me in the way a husband would love a wife. I know, it sounds so sick, so wrong, so unnatural but that's all I've ever known." I stopped for a second to look at my sister. "It's okay…keep going." she instructed,
"I know it's a story you don't want to hear and it's not an excuse for what I've done but all of the men in my life have only ever used me and abused me. I've been beaten, I've been raped more times than I can count. Nobody ever cared for Leena Klammer besides my sister Syrah, the woman standing here with me. I don't know where I came up with the idea to become "Esther".
"Maybe I thought if I acted like a child long enough that I would find someone to love me, even if they loved Esther instead of Leena. After all, it's easy for me to pretend to be Esther. Nobody besides my sister has ever cared for Leena in the same way they care for Esther. And that somehow, someway, I would find someone who would love me romantically. I figured if nobody would ever love Leena than I had to be somebody else. It's…I know, it sounds absolutely mind boggling, doesn't it? But I've never loved myself, I've always felt dirty and disgusting. Maybe that's why I went through so much trouble."
"I was so excited when I found out I would be living with the three of you here in Maine. And yes Paul, I really did want you to love me in the same way you loved Veronica. It's the honest truth. And Veronica, I hold no malice against you or your daughter. But I was grasping for straws and I hoped against hope that one day I would get your husband to fall for me like some sort of storybook ending, And I honestly didn't have a clue how I was going to make that happen. I know that I'm worse than a home wrecker but it gets more complicated…"
"And that's because you weren't the first family to take me in either. I'm from Estonia, not Russia as you thought, and…um, there's no easy way to say this but your deaths are unfortunately not the first time that I committed such an act. I…it's so hard to say this but I killed an entire family when they took me in as their daughter. This was in Estonia. To put it simply, the man who loved me as a father rejected me. "
"All I wanted was a romantic relationship and he turned me away and…something snapped inside of me. I completely lost my sanity at that point. And what happened? I wound up murdering the entire family before burning the house down. I know, the world would think of me as a monster for doing such a thing and rightfully so. But when I finally came to America, please believe me when I say that I didn't want that to ever happen again, but unfortunately all three of you had to pay the price."
" I didn't start that fire because I was angry with any of you. Paul, Veronica, Rebecca…I did it because I was scared. Scared that I would go to prison or worse. I know that doesn't make it right but I never held hatred or anger towards any of you. I understand that I am your murderer. I understand that none of you will probably ever forgive me. I'm sure that if you're looking down on me right now that you hold nothing but contempt for my actions and for that I completely understand your rightful hatred of me."
"What I did was wrong and even though I'm not in a prison cell, I'm still paying the price. I really wish it never happened. Your fate wasn't sealed the day you first laid eyes on me. I didn't enter your household with the intent to kill and cause all the chaos that I have perpetrated."
"I know a lot of what I'm saying makes no sense. I don't expect it to and I'm by no means trying to ask for forgiveness, either. Whether we'll ever meet again on the other side of eternity, I don't know. But if you three were here right now…I would gladly take any punishment you would give me."
"I just wish every day that I could put Esther to rest and just be me. But the world doesn't love me as Leena. I absolutely hate Esther. I hate every part about her but I hate Leena even more. Every day is a struggle and I think about what I had done every single night. And all I can say is that I'm sorry for deceiving all of you. I'm sorry that everything got so fucked up. Maybe one day you'll find it in the three of you to forgive me. All I can hope is that you're in a better place. And I'm sorry, I sincerely mean that…and that I love you and I hope my words can help the three of you rest a little easier."
I had so much more that I wanted to say but I couldn't muster any more inner strength. I felt emotionally exhausted as I ended my speech. I turned to face Syrah, unsure of how she would feel about the sincerity of my words.
."That's exactly what I wanted to hear. I didn't mean to get frustrated and call you a selfish bitch, I apologize for that. I just wanted you to do what you just did for me…to do it for them. Okay?" I nodded. Yet unbeknownst to Syrah, this speech was only intended for Paul. I really had no attachment to Veronica or Rebecca and certainly NOT James. But what was done was done and any secrets I held in my heart about the incident would remain hidden. But still, If their souls were really listening to me then at least I felt a little content with myself.
I retrieved the roses, there were a dozen of them. I carefully took four roses and placed them on Paul's grave. I did likewise for Veronica and Rebecca. Of course, James didn't receive any sympathy from me. I returned to my sister's side. "Let's bow our heads and have a moment of silence" she said. We folded our hands in front of us, respectfully paying our overdue respects. I could hear Syrah muttering a prayer. I felt so sorry for having to drag her through so much pain and agony.
After a few moments we raised our heads. . "I need to say something too." she said quietly. "I need to say my own apologies." I was caught a little off guard by this as she cleared her throat, readying herself for her own words. It took her a few moments to hold back the tears. I then listened intently to what she had to say.
"My name is Syrah Klammer, I am the older sister of Leena. You probably never heard of me but I'm the one who brought Leena here today. I convinced myself that it would help the healing process if we come to pay our respects."
"You can never understand the guilt I feel in my soul for what my younger sister did. Believe me, I carry the same burden that she does every day. It's not something that will ever disappear. Maybe it fades with time but it's something that will never go away. Why do I feel guilty? Because I knew what my sister was trying to accomplish. I knew she had convinced your family to adopt her yet I stayed in Estonia and did nothing. Not because I was lazy or didn't care but because I was convinced that my sister wouldn't hurt another soul." She suddenly choked up.
"I tried to snap her out of these plans that she had. I tried my best but I failed. I could have stopped this from happening. I could have done many things but I did nothing. You don't understand how much I love Leena and never wanted to see her get hurt., It was out of love for Leena that I continued to let her walk a free woman and look what happened? I know that it sounds so selfish. But I misjudged her and this tragedy unfortunately had to occur. It occurred on my watch and I just wish that I could turn back the hands of time. I truly do."
"Had I stopped her…" She let out a pain filled cry. "Your family would still be here and building your lives. But now it's too little, too late. I feel just as guilty as Leena for what had happened. It didn't have to end this way. I begged my sister to no end to stop the Esther nonsense but she never listened. When the fire happened I thought that it was impossible for this to have occured a second time. Yet out of my own love for Leena I never turned her in. I know, I KNOW I should have but I didn't. I know that would have been the right thing to do but…it's so hard to explain. It's…not excusable, I know that."
"And for that I too may never receive your forgiveness. But one way I can honor your lives and your memory is by making sure that nobody else has to pay the price that the three of you have paid.. Leena has unfortunately convinced another family to take her into their fold. I'm here in America living under the same roof as Leena so that I could be with her. To make sure the Coleman family stays safe from harm."
"I wish I could have taken the same steps with your family but this is the least I can do to honor your memory. Please don't hate me for this. Please don't hate me for protecting my sister. She is a very ill person and she needs help rather than just punishment. Believe me, she IS paying the price for what she has done."
"I'm just so torn up between keeping other people safe from what my sister may do and wanting to keep my sister out of trouble. I know it sounds wrong, even sick. I just don't want to see her rot away in prison. I know she needs to be held accountable for her actions but I can assure you that I will be the one to hold her accountable from now on. But I had to take her here. She had to explain to all of you why she did what she did and I'm beyond ashamed that I didn't do more to prevent this. Oh God, I'm so sorry!"
Syrah put her hand to her mouth and wept bitterly. I took her other hand and gently held it. "Let's just go , Syrah. We said what we had to say. Whether they'll ever know or not…I'm so sorry for hurting you, Sy Sy." I could see the hurt in her eyes. It made me feel absolutely rotten inside. As if I were no longer worth even being in her presence.
Without a word we turned to leave. "Why did this have to be so hard?" she wept. "I told you today wasn't going to be easy. But it's alright now. Can't we just go back to the motel and rest until tomorrow?" Syrah coughed as she struggled to regain her composure. "Just…one more thing now…the scene of the fire.' I almost couldn't believe my ears. Surely this was enough emotional suffering for one day.
"I'm in so much pain, Leena, I'm hurting so much but I want to see the house. I really just want to get this day over with already." Syrah's pain only caused me pain. "I'm such a pathetic excuse for a sister. Yet you still stand by my side and take all of this. I'm sorry, Syrah. I can't say that enough. Whether you believe it or not I feel like shit for putting you through all this madness. You deserve so much more better than me."
We trudged our way back to the car. Syrah removed a tissue from her coat and wiped her eyes. "It's unbelievable, I didn't know it was going to be this difficult for either of us. But we have to finish what we started." I resigned myself to her will. "It's only about a mile or so down the road. It'll be the on the left a few hundred feet after you make the sharp bend." Syrah fired up the ignition.
"The frozen ground…" I said to myself. "This is all part of the healing process, Leena. All this pain we're feeling. All this emotion we're expressing. We're getting it out of our systems for the good of us. I turned around and took one final look at the lonesome graves as we pulled away. "So sorry…so sorry, Syrah."
"There's no point in apologizing, honey. I knew if you could bring them back that you would in a heartbeat." I honestly felt guilt for the first time in a long while. Sure, I still grieved for Paul. He still held a special place in my heart. Yet I thought back to how good Veronica and Rebecca treated me. I may not have loved them like I loved Paul but I still wondered about how their lives would have developed had I not taken them so soon.
"You said about a mile?" Syrah asked. "Yes, past the bend like I said." The car ambled along the road, every little thing I seen reminded me of my past here. "Veronica used to drive me to school on this road. It feels so strange. Even the little things like the street signs, I'd be lying if I said it isn't hard to look at."
It was only a few short minutes before closing in on our last stop. "The driveway, on the left. Follow it all the way down and the house will be at the end of it." I wanted to close my eyes and keep them shut for the rest of the trip. "Syrah, I remember the last time I was on this driveway. When I was taken to the hospital and I had to tell you what happened. It had to be one of the worst moments of my life." The stone structure finally came into view. "Oh my God!" I said in shock.
"I know this is difficult, sweetheart. Hold it together now." I wanted to simply disappear as we came to a stop. "Leena, you don't have to say anything here. I just wanted to see this for myself and nothing more." I suddenly felt lightheaded. I could feel all of the strength drain from my body. Syrah didn't hesitate to get out and see the site for herself. "Are you coming with me?" she asked.
"I just need a minute." The feelings of that day were all coming back at a million miles an hour. Syrah came around and opened the door for me. All of the anger and animosity she had held a short while ago had seemed to melt into a better understanding of why this had to happen. "Let me help you out" she offered. She wrapped an arm around me and helped me over to the ruins of what was once my home.
All that was left was the stone shell of the house. The grey limestone was blackened and cracked in parts by the intense heat of the blaze. The windows were all but gone. Graffiti already riddled the outside of the structure. "Oh my God! OH MY GODDDD" I cried. Syrah cuddled me closer as I covered my mouth in horror. Syrah was staying strong for the both of us.
Broken glass, charred wood, it was complete devastation. Police tape surrounded the entire structure. The roof and second stories where my bedroom had been had all but collapsed onto the ground floor. Syrah could only shake her head in a mixture of awe and total disbelief. "I want to say my eyes are deceiving me but…I mean look at this" she remarked. The stones that made up the back of the house had completely collapsed into an unrecognizable pile of shattered debris. "Leena, I didn't bring you to that cemetery or to here for that matter to pass any kind of judgment on you. Don't think that for a moment, my dear."
I approached the house ever closer. "Leena, be careful. I don't want you to get injured. Leena, what are you doing?" It was almost entrancing to witness. I held an open palm out in front of me. "I can still feel it, Syrah?"
"Feel what?" she asked. "The heat, the flames. I can still hear them screaming. God, if I live to be a thousand I'll never forget the way that sounded. You can't even begin to imagine." My eyes were drawn to the woods surrounding what was once the Sullivans property. "I ran into those woods, Syrah. I just lost it that day. I felt like I was going to die."
"I don't even want to talk about receiving that phone call. It was the worst phone call I'd ever received." she said. I stepped into the structure itself after ducking under the police tape. "Be careful" Syrah warned again. Straight ahead of me I could see the wall that made up the front of the house. The stone on the interior were completely black with soot.
It wasn't just the remnants of scorched furniture and collapsed beams that seemed to surround me. It was terrible memories and tattered dreams. Everything was lost on that day. So much human life was annihilated in such a short period of time. "It burned for so long, Syrah. I can't believe I did this."
Syrah kept her distance behind me, refusing to enter. There was hardly anything that looked recognizable. "It's damaged forever, isn't it?" I asked. "What? This house?" Syrah replied. "No, I mean our relationship. I think we should have never did this. Now I feel like it's ruined. Like we took a step back instead of a step forward. You know what I mean?"
Syrah walked closer. "Not true, honey. I know I was a bit harsh with you back at the cemetery but that's only because I wanted them to hear what you had to say. You may not believe it right now but this is going to bring us a lot of healing. It's going to bring us closer together. This day is all about getting closure, not opening up old wounds for either of us." I sighed. "I hope you're right. I honestly do." Suddenly, my eyes were attracted to something that seemed to be vaguely shimmering among the otherwise blackened debris.
I bent over closer and slowly picked up the object. I instantly lost my breath! I couldn't believe what I was holding! "This is impossible". My eyes grew wide in disbelief. It was the golden heart shaped locket that Rebecca had given me the very first time we met. Although it was dirty, it still shimmered nearly as brightly as when she had given it to me. The gold chain was still affixed to the heirloom. Instantly, I was taken back to the night when Paul and Veronica brought me home. I couldn't believe that it had survived the fire.
I turned around, nearly stumbling over myself as I made my way back to my sister. "What is that you have there?" she asked. Crying, and without a word, I handed the locket to her. She inspected in carefully, gently running her fingers across the surface. "What are the odds of me finding this?" I said.
Syrah held the locket out in front of her by the chain. "It's beautiful" she remarked, transfixed upon the shimmering memento. "Rebecca, their daughter, she gave that to me when I met her. It's a gold locket. I can't believe it. I can't believe I found this!" Syrah seemed to be deeply moved by what she was holding. "Are you serious, dear? This was something she gave to you?"
"It was her gift to me." I explained. "Turn around" Syrah said. As I did so she brushed the hair away from my neck. I watched as she placed the necklace around my neck, taking a few seconds to secure it. "I'll tell you who is going to be wearing this. I'm giving this to Max first thing when we get home. She needs to know how much I care about her."
Suddenly I became dizzy once again, just as I had in the car. Without warning, I could hear a loud buzzing sound within my head. The sound grew louder, drowning out every thought and feeling. Everything quickly became blurry and then…darkness as I felt my body collapse to the ground.
The next thing I could remember was my sister violently shaking me back into consciousness. "Leena, are you okay? Sister, speak to me! Speak to me! Wake up!" she pleaded hysterically. I could see her outline as my vision returned to me. "What? What happened?" I asked. There was almost a sense of panic in her voice. "You fainted! You just collapsed to the ground. Dear lord, are you alright?"
"Must have…must have just been overwhelmed by all this." That was the only explanation I could come up with. "I'm really starting to worry about your health" she went on. "Here, let me help you up". Syrah had to catch me several times as I struggled to maintain my balance. "This is all too much for the both of us. Let's get back to the motel so that you can get some rest. Are you sure everything is okay with you?" She placed the back of her hand on my forehead. I swear she was more like a mother figure than a sister sometimes.
"Tomorrow we're going home." she said. "We're going to go forward and leave this in the past where it belongs." I couldn't accept her reasoning that easily. "It's not that simple. A piece of me died along with them that day. How am I supposed to forget like it never even happened?"
"That's not what I meant" Syrah said. "All I'm saying is that we're not going to let it rule over our lives anymore. Yes, we'll always carry what happened that day in the back of our minds. In our hearts. But it's not going to define us. Understand?" I could see where she was coming from. "I'm not looking forward to tomorrow actually. It's fucking back to being Esther again." I lamented. My sister frowned. God, how we both hated the name "Esther" and everything she represented.
"But just remember that we don't tell John or Kate or anyone else about what was said today. What we said at the cemetery and all. It stays between the two of us." she warned. And perhaps that was the best that I could hope for after all…
In the next chapter, "Esther" and Syrah return to the Colemans but things soon get off to a bad start and begin spiraling out of control for Leena…what will happen exactly? Keep reading :D Thank you to everybody for your unending and continued support! Read, review, subscribe! Also, please read my one shot story "Zero Hour - Columbine", a real life story based on the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 which will be released on Fan Fiction in the near future.