My Sister’s Keeper (A Short Story)

*Any feedback is welcome, it’s a work in progress.

 

Here’s a remedy for stress: run away from your problems! In all honesty, that’s probably not the best of solutions, but people assume it is. It is one of the most popular coping mechanisms for stress. Another mechanism is isolation. Others like to blow off some steam by indulging in bad habits. Eva did neither; whenever she felt like she needed a breather, she would go to a crowded place about a mile away from her house. She would sit down and watch as people came in and out. It gave her a good feeling to be alone yet surrounded by people at the same time. This place was a family owned Brazilian bakery and bistro named de Janeiro, (the locals called it The Jan). Anyhow, it was a hot spot in Eva’s neighborhood because of the friendly and happy atmosphere that the Brazilian owners offered to the community. De Janeiro gave its guests an authentic Latin vibe of a rich Brazilian countryside, the Portuguese melodies from inside the shop made people feel warm inside. The owners implemented bright hues of blue, green, and yellow on the walls of the coffeeshop and the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread drew in multitudes of customers every few hours.

On this warm Tuesday summer day, she found herself there in De Janeiro avoiding her grandmother and the world for a few hours. With her mother’s long hours at the clinic and her little sister Joy’s violin lessons, Grandma Lola was now constantly at Eva’s home to ensure that everything was clean and that they always had fresh fish and rice on the dinner table. Her fiery Brazilian spirit led her to be very expressive in the way she did everything. She would greet Eva with a: “Faça tudo com emoção, minha garota. Você precisa sentir o que você diz.” (Some Brazilian proverb about expressing emotion when living…) Grandma also said that everything had to be seasoned properly and with emotion, pronounced correctly and with passion, and life had to be enjoyed to the most.

This grandmother, like most, was an amazing human being. She was as sweet as the *brigadeiro she made in the evenings and wiser than any sage in the state. She added flavor to the bland neighborhood, and happiness to the family’s sorrow. Even so, there was something that annoyed her immensely about her grandmother: and that was her repetition. If Grandma Lola had something on her mind, she would mention it and repeat it until she was blue in the face. Lately, if they were alone together, the topic of the “long-lost” Luna would arise again to torment Eva. “Eva, *menina, have you heard from this Luna girl recently?” There was no avoiding it. No protest could lift her grandmother’s queries and no explanation she could try to give could ever bring her sister Luna back.

Nevertheless, each day for a few months, her grandmother would continue to pry until she found an answer, but the answer was always, “No *Avó Lola, I do not know.” Eva would then try anything to distract herself from the woman, take a shower, read a book, or wash the family’s dog until the interrogation session was over or her mother stepped in to defend her, and with that, she would attempt to silence the older woman. “Ma, leave her alone! She already told you!” She would often give her mother one of her hard, penetrating looks and would pull her into another room. Man… If one could kill another with looks, Eva’s mom would be a full-blown assassin. Behind closed doors, Eva could still hear them arguing, “Yes, but Anna she must know something!” The banter went on for a few minutes and their voices echoed through the house at a volume so large that Eva feared a glass would shatter in the smaller room where the petite women argued.

Currently, everyone was still asking her about Luna, even though a good time had passed. Eva was the last person to have contacted her about a year ago, and soon after they never spoke again. It was hitting the family hard as well as the rest of the people in that small town in Beaufort County. Luna babysat many of the local kids, worked at a small coffeeshop where many went to, and was simply a sweetheart all around. Still, sweetheart or not, Eva no longer wanted to hear another word about Luna.

So, today, she would go and kill time elsewhere. She had two more hours to kill until her little family came home and was using her time and money wisely while reading a book in de Janeiro and drinking some water when she got distracted by a family of four with one insolent little boy that was wailing for a motorcycle as they came in the shop. The coffeeshop was now filled with the repetitive phrase, “I want a motorcycle too-ooo-ooo!”  The piercing screams of the boy were as deafening as someone scratching their nails across a chalkboard. This kid was a sight with a lollipop in one hand and a soccer ball in the other. Eva felt her nose scrunching up in disgust as she watched yet another set of parents ignore their little beast, not discipline him, and order their food.

She was so focused on this family that she didn’t see or hear anyone come up behind her. “Hello, Eva!” The familiar voice behind her sent chills up her spine, but they weren’t chills of excitement. Eva then took a deep breath and mentally rolled her eyes into the back of her skull before turning around… “Dina! I didn’t see you. It’s almost as if you crept up on me!” Dina looked at her up and down and stared hard at her polka-dotted skirt. Quickly, to avoid one of Dina’s blunt backhanded compliments, Eva quickly complimented her on her shoes. “Wow. Where did you buy your green flats? They’re cute!” Dina nodded, the corners of her mouth formed into a smirk and then calculatingly asked, “Where is exactly is Luna?” Eva slowly glared up at Dina who was still standing over her and had taken it upon herself to finish Eva’s lemon water. “Dina, for the last time, I do not know. Please leave me alone now… and maybe forever.”

Upset that the most annoying girl alive had now discovered her hideaway, Eva grabbed her keys from the sticky table and decided to go back home for the evening. When she got there, Grandma Lola was already taking her siesta, and all seemed right with the world… she could be alone once more… or so she thought… “EVA!” Eva quickly tiptoed into her grandmother’s room but saw her laying deep in sleep. “Eva!” Again, someone called her name, but now it seemed to come from outside. She propped open the window ever so slowly, while watching her grandmother so she wouldn’t move a muscle in her sleep. She wondered then who could be calling her so insistently and for what… “Eva!” She poked her head out and saw their neighbor Lydia sitting on her porch swing with a coffee mug in one hand and a fat ugly cat on her lap. “Give me one moment Mrs. Lydia! I’ll be right out.” Lydia was a nosy old woman who seemed to have no friends, no life, and would just sit there on the porch with dumb fat cat.

Once outside, she felt a cool breeze that gave her the feeling that a big storm was brewing. There had been a drought in Ohio and although the rain was welcome, Eva hated getting wet in the rain. When she approached the neighbor, and stood under her roof, it began to pour, and Lydia’s face expressed what Eva was feeling. All the while, she noticed something different with the woman. The family wasn’t close with Lydia, but the Grandma and mother spoke to her every now and then, it was usually in response to Lydia’s frequent calls about the business of other people. “Sit down child.” Eva narrowed her eyes and stared at Lydia expecting her to say more, but she did not. “Sit!” Eva sat. “Child, do you know where Luna is?” Eva fought the urge to hit the woman, she fought the urge to leave in hopes that maybe she would have overheard something about Luna’s whereabouts that could be accurate. “No Mrs. Lydia, I do not. I would appreciate it if no one asked me again. I’ve been searching for six months and… no, I just don’t know.” She let out the biggest sigh. “Eva girl, I know where she is.” Lydia chuckled to herself…” I know child, I know.” With all the stresses that she has had to endure recently, Eva, knowing she deserves more than to just sit here and joke about the incident, gets up to leave.

“Girl, where are you going? Don’t you want to ask me? You think I would call you over for a fake story?” Flustered, Eva turns towards the woman with so much irritation, “Ummm, home, no, and yes. I am fed up with people telling me they know where she is, I’m tired of this small dump of a town, I’m tired of the speculation, and I’m tired of trying so hard to just be ok. Ma’am, you just moved here a year ago and 6 months ago, my twin sister mysteriously disappeared. People blame us all for her vanishing so often, and you believe that you would know where she is after only meeting her twice?! No ma’am. I’m going home.” Thunder seemed to shake the table where Lydia’s mug was placed, and lighting struck as Eva walked down the steps of this woman’s porch making the scenery around her speak into the atmosphere what she was feeling… invigorating anger. “Luna is in Germany, my child. Well, Munich School of Law, to be more specific. Look for Charlie.” Upon hearing those words Eva glared at the woman who seemed more psychotic now than ever before, and ran back out into the rain until she neared the front steps of her quiet home. “She’s such a psychotic woman.” she mumbled under her breath and unlocked the front door of her home.

She opened the door and found her mother sitting in the kitchen table scrolling through her phone. Her long golden locks were disheveled; the product of a long day at work. She could tell that when her mother looked up to see her, every possible question came to her mind. In her defense, Washington state was known for its thunderstorms during this time of year, and she honestly didn’t think Eva was that good of a driver to be out and about. “Eva, where were you and why are you all drenched?” Anna, exasperated couldn’t stand her daughter to be drenched, because all who get wet in the rain, get sick. “Stop walking, take your shoes off! Who’s a psychotic woman anyhow?” Quietly she did as she was told. “Lydia called me over to talk foolishness.” she responded as she slipped off her shoes, sat down with her mother, and grabbed a banana at the table.  “Ignore that woman Eva, she’s crazy.” “Yes, I will Ma.”

And ignore her she did. A few months passed, and she had forgotten Lydia’s information. Yet when January came around, which was their birthday, she decided that it was worth a shot. She had inherited the idea of an emergency fund from her father before he passed away and came up with the brilliant idea to join the language program at the law school. She mentioned it to her mom and grandmother and they said that if she had enough money, she could. So, she called the school one evening, arranged for a Charlie to pick her up at the airport and packed all her belongings for two weeks. She was a sporadic soul and random trips like these were okay with her. She had done something similar with her dad before he died. The summer before his death, they traveled to Singapore and took cheesy pictures with elephants. Anyhow, those were other times. The program she had enrolled in only lasted two weeks, so she had to make every move count, maybe look for her sister… “Eva, this was literally the craziest idea you’ve ever had.” her little sister Joy had welcomed herself into her bedsheets and was looking up at her with a concerned face. “I’ll just be gone two weeks. I’ll talk to you as much as I can, it’ll be ok love.” “Is this because of what Lydia said?” Eva’s eyes were open wide in amazement. “Lydia?” Eva asked. “Yeah, she told grandma about your conversation. You’re lucky she didn’t believe her about you being outside in the rain talking with her.” Mom might… Keep her sane if she hears anything new within the next week.” “When do you leave?” “Tomorrow night.” “I won’t be home when you leave.” “Ok. I love you, goodnight.” “Goodnight sis… and find a Ferris Wheel souvenir. I know they have the biggest wheel in the world in Munich” “Yes, love.”

She embarked on her voyage on a cool January morning in 2016 and took 11-hour flight from Freeport, Washington towards Munich, Germany. It was an extremely long, yet relaxing flight but since she couldn’t sleep on planes, by the end of the flight, she felt dead inside, drained, and with a sense of homesickness that she did not want to have. When she finally landed, she quietly and vigilantly hustled through the crowded rooms in that busy airport grabbed her heavy suitcase from the baggage claim and as she bent down, she bumped into a tall elegant man which almost made her fall. She quickly apologized to the man to which he replied a soft, “It’s okay” in his broken English. Their eyes met and froze in each other for a brief second. When she noticed she was staring, she looked away quickly and saw his name tag: Charlie. Apparently, he was a representative from the school she was about to attend and seemed warm and friendly. Although, his name gave her an uneasy feeling and made her think of Lydia, which made her think of Luna’s disappearance, which turned her mood sour.

He took her to the school, they talked for most of the way. He was indeed friendly, an architect of her same age, 28, and quite accustomed to traveling because of his work. When they arrived at the school, and for rest of the day, he watched her closely. He stayed in the orientations sessions with her, so she would have a familiar face and not feel uncomfortable, but she did feel a bit strange. Whenever she caught him looking, she would smile and so would he. She couldn’t tell if his intentions were malicious or if he was simply being nice and hospitable. Creeps can smile too, so that was not too comforting. But all her worries left her as she looked outside of the building during the last orientation. The skies had opened up and the sun had come out to play the sun shone brightly on her face and it felt as if the country was welcoming her with open arms. The wind picked up a few leaves around her and she giggled in delight. It already felt so much better to be there than back home in Washington.

She was incandescently happy, thrilled in fact. To be at a new place and away from the haunting memory of her vanished sister made her feel a peace that she had not felt in years, simply by being outside and breathing in the new warm air. From inside the building, the meetings were winding down and in her boredom, her attention span was shortening. Eva was leaving reality and longed to be with the little kids she heard outside who were actively chasing a dog out in the sunshine… Oh how she loved dogs… ‘Achoo!’ A sudden loud sneeze from the person next to her jump up. It seemed as if her arm had some spit sprinkled on it. With a look of total disgust, she snapped out of her daydream and eager to discover the town surrounding her for the next two weeks, she left the room to look for Charlie. She remembered she had to get Joy a souvenir soon, before she forgot.

She found him out in the hall, near the door talking to a few men, and only then was she able to get a good look at this handsome feller’. His dark curly hair stood out from the rest of the older bald heads in the hall. His broad shoulders made him look very important… but she also snapped out of this, she had things to do. Once he saw her lingering and waiting around, he came right over. “Can I help you settle down Miss. Eva?” “I’m settled thank you. I was wondering if you would not mind please taking me to see the Ferris Wheel downtown?” “Sure Miss, we can go now if you’re ready!” “Awesome thank you!”

He took her to the square and told her that he would be back in three hours. She checked her watch and three hours later would be 6pm. That seemed ok, but as soon as Charlie left, she became scared. She had a small fear of getting lost. It was a bit startling when she thought about it, especially since oftentimes she would get lost in big cities just the kid from the Home Alone movies and be quite embarrassed. As she walked across the street and her eyes glanced at starving skimpy dogs, she was reminded that she far away from Beaufort County. She then quickly thought about the worst-case scenarios of accidents that could happen on the streets while she walked. Eve then had an uneasy feeling that somebody was watching her, but she turned and saw no one. So, she decided to hum along and was able to still her thoughts to a soft tune that comforted her as she walked the lonesome way.

On the corner of the street of her hotel, she saw a small bakery. The shop was painted in a pastel blue hue and the sun shone brightly on the window pane as it reflected off the happy faces of the eager customers inside. It looked so quaint and homey that there was no reason to not go inside. It reminded her so much of the Rio coffeeshop by her house. Eva popped her head inside and, in that moment, she decided to order what she would if her and Luna were together… a small green tea and a biscuit with marmalade. She thought for the first time, of her younger sister who was at home waiting for her, but reminded herself that she was in a foreign land, on a mission. She savored her treats in one big bite, and on her way out she saw a small table with various pamphlets and sightseeing brochures. Moved, she picked up one whose picture exhilarated her. The Steiger Ferris Wheel is a transportable Ferris wheel! Free admission for Munich students! She let out a heavy sigh and took the pamphlet in her hand as she wandered to the door and out to the sidewalk.

Once she walked out of the building, she saw that the country’s landscape was breathtaking. It seemed as if the skies, people, and scenery were all painted onto a canvas. The green mountains were greener than anything she had ever seen, a river ran around the town’s main center and sparkled like crystals in the sunlight.  The warm sun seemed to breathe words of safety onto the back of her neck, and the hushed tweets from the blue jays instantly made her feel at home. As she gazed around, she saw to her left, a middle-aged couple who held hands as they walked; their love covered their atmosphere like a cloud above them protecting them from life. It was beautiful. In front of her, she saw a family who was sitting under a big colorful oak tree, savoring an ambrosial meal. They too looked genuinely content and together they shared a joy she envied. The breeze made her hair look gorgeous and she felt that momentary confidence a girl feels whenever their hair is flowing through the wind. It was strange to feel full and empty all at the same time.

As she continued to walk around the streets, she fumbled around her bag for her water bottle and dropped her passport. The bright yellow case for her passport stood out from the brick in the street and she did not notice she had dropped it. Even so, she soon had the feeling that something was missing from her person and the feeling that someone was watching her returned. However, this time, when she turned around, Charlie was staring right at her. She tried to ignore him by looking away and promptly bent down to pick up the passport that was shining at her in the afternoon sun. When she looked up, the same man with the devious stare was now in front of her. Her first instinct was to run away. He is a stranger after all… she quickly rose as she heard him clearing his throat. “Miss, your sister called the school.” “Joy? Okay, what did she want?” “You startled me just now… why couldn’t this have waited?” He looked a bit stuck, as if he were looking for the right words to say something. “Your sister Luna called from the local prison.” Eva dropped the souvenir she has just bought Joy and heard its glass shatter onto the concrete. “WHAT?! WHO?! She instantly fell to the ground and a heap of sobs came over her. He quickly tried to hush her and by rubbing her shoulder in a friendly way. “HOW DO YOU KNOW?! WHAT’RE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?!” He pulled out a picture from his wallet and sure enough, in the picture was her twin, in a wedding dress, with Charlie.

Her world was turned upside down. Her sister was married? How could she not know? Who really was Charlie? Better yet… who was Lydia to begin with? Why was Luna in jail?! Overcome with emotion, Eva began to sob uncontrollably “Where’s LUNA?! Where is my best friend? Charlie then attempted to persuade her to be quiet, but this would only make her cry louder. “Hush! It’s okay. I can take you to her if you’d like.” “I just want Luna to be okay!” She kept screaming and repeating herself in an effort to soothe her mind. “Shut up! Stop Crying! Hush!” Eva wouldn’t stop crying and her hollering only get louder. People were beginning to draw near to them both. It seemed as if Charlie was the one causing her to be so out of control. He was starting to look bad and he knew it. So, he hit her. “NO, don’t touch me!” But he kept hitting her, leaving her mute. She was struck in the mouth and head, blood spilled profusely onto the grass and people began to disperse from the scene, leaving her alone with the foreign monster.

She felt dizzy and tired at once and closed her eyes into unconsciousness, until the sun woke her up the next morning. Joy walked into her room and hugged her tight, told her she loved her, and to not eat food before bed ever again. It was then that she realized that Luna was forever gone and nothing could replace the sister in front of her… the sister she had so often neglected in hopes to find the other one. It was then that she realized that nothing should rob her of the joy in front of her. Her time of mourning was gone and her future could now be molded around her present.

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