She remembered her sister.
She always tried not to, but there the memories came and she did not stop them. Instead she sat on the curb, in the Southern California heat, and stared across the street into the windows of her childhood home, at the gauzy curtains drawn closed. If someone came down the street, she would act as if she had only sat down to shake something out of her shoe, and then she would stand up and walk to her car. Driving away, she would forget again.
But no one came along, and so she remembered.
She imagined how they had looked, the two of them with their red hair, sitting sprawled on the green grass on sweaty summer afternoons. Their hair was so red and the grass was greener than green and it was so bright that it hurt to look at, in her mind. But she looked and remembered anyway.
She would say Melissa, what do you want to be when you grow up?
I don't know, she told her. Maybe an archaeologist.
It's a person who travels all over the world and finds old things, dead things, and figures out what happened to them, so that everyone can know.
They lay restlessly on the grass, each silent for a moment. It was too hot to think.
Melissa, can I be one with you?
You said you wanted to be a doctor.
Well, she huffed, deliberately. She turned on her side, shading her eyes from the sun. If you're going to be traveling that far away without me, she said, I'll miss you a lot.
Her memories jumped startlingly from the green front lawn to the brown grass of winter, dusted with snow, surrounding her sister's tombstone, and now that she didn't want to remember, she couldn't stop. She was Dana Scully and she did not cry, but here, in her old neighborhood, she was only Melissa's little sister and it was okay to cry if you were really hurt.
Growing up, she had sat on the curb to cry over painful bicycle accidents, her brother's name-calling, and Melissa choosing the older girl next door for a playmate instead of her. Grown up, she sat and cried because her sister was dead and it was her fault, and that hurt worse than falling off a bike on the pavement.
Despite the agonizing heat of San Diego in June, her insides grew cold as she remembered snowflakes setting on top of the chilled dirt that covered her sister's casket. As girls they had thrilled to every flake they saw fall whenever they lived in colder climates, but as a woman on the day of her sister's funeral she only watched the snow bury her deeper, and cried tears that froze on her cheeks.
She stood suddenly and walked to her car, wanting to return to crime scenes and autopsy bays where she could forget. As she drove, she turned the air conditioning on high, even though she was still cold, to faster dry the tears on her cheeks so that when she saw him he would not know that she had been crying.
From each stoplight to the next, she distanced herself a little more from the places that made her remember. Somewhere between the sidewalk and the police station she stopped being Melissa's little sister, who is allowed to cry when she is sad, and started being Dana Scully, who does not ever cry.
She walked in and he was there, checking files and digging through drawers. He looked up and she smiled at him as he walked toward her, because she was not sad.
She was not sad but her eyes were red and he noticed. He frowned and laid his hand on her shoulder.
Looking up at him she did not smile anymore because she knew he could see the streaks on her cheeks from when she was in the place she was allowed to cry.
His hand on her shoulder warmed her cold places inside, and she rubbed her eyes and moved away to ask him if he needed help with the files.
Thank you for reading, and I appreciate reviews!