Just a freewrite I did today in under an hour... if there's anything you particularly like or dislike about my style of writing (that you can get out of this jumble of incoherent ramblings... ) then I would definitely appreciate you telling me. Thanks.
I turn, football clasped firmly in my arms. “Not now, Em!” I call over my shoulder, sprinting toward the makeshift goal line in our backyard.
Hunter catches me from behind and I shriek as he carries me under his arm to the goal line. “Touchdown!” he shouts, dropping me unceremoniously.
I laugh with the rest of my friends and shove his blue jean-clad leg from my spot in the grass. He snatches the football away from me. “You want to snap this time?”
“Sure,” I say, standing up and brushing off my shorts. I try not to sound too eager.
Before I can rejoin the group, however, my little sister Emily runs up to me and tugs my sleeve. “Annie! Come on! I have to show you something.”
I sigh, exasperated. “Look, not right now, Emily. Can’t you see I’m playing here?”
Emily looks hurt, and I lean down next to her ear. “Hunter’s here,” I whisper urgently. “Can’t it wait? Please?”
Emily shakes her head, blonde pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. “No. I have to show you now.”
Torn between not wanting to hurt my little sister’s feelings and my desire to play more tackle football with Hunter, I look over my shoulder at the group, and then back to Emily’s eager face. I haven’t seen her this excited about something in months.
“You coming, Annie?” Hunter calls, football in hand.
I groan mentally, and it takes all my self-restraint not to sprint to where he is as fast as my legs will carry me. “No,” I call, frustrated. “You guys go ahead; I’ll be back in a minute.” I jerk my head in Emily’s direction and shrug, giving him a look that says, “You know how little sisters are.”
He grins and my friends proceed into the first down. Sighing longingly, I watch Hunter for a moment before Emily grabs my hand. “Come on.” She drags me behind Dad’s abundant azaleas and stops at the base of a large oak. “It’s up there.” She point to out old platform tree house.
I shake my head and take a step back. “Uh uh. No way.” I haven’t been up there since the afternoon it happened, and I wasn’t about to go back up now.
“Please, Annie?” her blue eyes fill with tears. “It’s really important.”
I swallow hard, fighting tears, and wish I could just go back and flirt with Hunter.
“Come on,” Emily turns and climbs the ladder to the platform that is our tree house.
My throat burns with tears unshed and I climb up behind her. The second I step onto the platform, I am hit by a rush of bittersweet memories that make me want to curl up and weep. “What is it, Em?” I ask, impatience in my voice to cover the pain. I frown, watching her unusually still form.
She turns her face and her eyes are bright, joyful. “I saw her, Annie.”
I groan mentally. Not another imaginary friend. You’d think that by age nine she’d have outgrown them. “Who?” I ask patiently.
My heart stops, then speeds up. “Oh… Emily… honey, no, you didn’t.” I swallow, hot tears filling my eyes.
“Did too,” she protests, putting one hand on her hip and pointing somewhere out in the distance. “See?”
I tear my eyes away from my sister’s face and look out at the sky. The sun is beginning to set, the sky slowly turning pink. I walk closer to Emily.
“See her?” she asks with condescending patience.
I take my sister in my arms. “There’s nothing there, Em…” I choke out, tightening the hug. “She’s gone, sweetie.” I swallow and utter the words I hate to hear. “She’s dead.” She has been for one year—to the day. Did Emily know that?
“No.” Emily shoves me away, determination like steel in her blue eyes. “You’re not listening!” She reaches up and captures my chin in her small fingers, turning my head toward the sunset. “Look!”
I shut my eyes, and push her hands away from me, turning my face from the sky to look into the growing darkness of our backyard. “Stop it, Emily.” I choke. “Please stop.” Does she have any idea what she’s doing to me?
I hear shrieks of laughter from the impromptu football game, and I wish fervently I were down on the ground with my friends. I open my eyes, letting my breath out slowly, swallowing the tears that threaten to spill over. I turn. Emily is sitting on her hands, her legs hanging off the platform, swinging lethargically back and forth. Her eyes are wide, flickering restlessly over the treetops and scanning the clouds where bursts of sunlight reach out frantically from behind them as they disappear for the day.
“I can’t find her,” she says, her voice filled with disappointment, sounding almost whiny. She tugs on one of her braids impatiently, eyes scanning the sky.
I cross the small platform and sit cross-legged next to her. “Em…” She doesn’t look at me, and I take her hand in mine. “She wasn’t there.”
Emily tightens her grip on my hand and turns to face me. “Do you remember what Mommy said before she left?”
“What are you talking about? She didn’t say anything before she left… she didn’t know that she was going to get into a car wreck.” My face contorts in pain.
“You have to remember.” Emily says, scooting close to me, her skinny, tanned legs against my pale ones. I’m almost never outside anymore; it reminds me too much of Mom.
“All she said was that she loved us and she’ll be back in a few minutes.” Who could have known that she’d never come back from a twenty-minute trip to the grocery store?
Emily shakes her head urgently, pigtails slapping against her t-shirt. “No, Annie. Think. What did Mommy say?”
I feel the tears come back as a rush of memories hits me. “I don’t want to remember, Em.” I whisper. “It hurts too much to think about her.”
Emily wraps her small arms around my waist and holds me tight, as though I am the child, and she is the big sister. I put my arms around her and bury my face in her soft blonde hair, the hot tears falling onto her scalp.
Her small hand rubs my back slowly… gliding up and down, just like Mom used to do. I am shaking with silent sobs, the tears dropping rapidly.
Finally, Emily draws back, and there is a sheen of moisture across her eyes, her eyes so like our mother’s. She smiles through her tears and turns her face toward the sky, where the last rays of the sun are bursting through the clouds. “Look, Annie.”
My eyes shift and take in the light streaming in glorious, pink rays, contrasting the purple hues of the sky against the dark outlines of the trees jutting into the horizon. I inhale sharply at the last burst of the sun, which outlines an oddly shaped cloud…
My mother's words come back to me as my sister whispers urgently. "'Listen to me girls,' Mommy used to say. 'Never give up hope; God always leaves a remnant.' Can you see her now, Annie?” Emily whispers. “Can you?”
Suddenly, I am smiling, tears running down my face. “Yes,” I am laughing and crying at the same time. “I can see her.”
Emily is laughing too, salty droplets of water from her eyes running down her cheeks to her neck. “I love you, Mommy!”
I cannot tell whether I am crying or laughing. “I love you!” I join in. Jubilant, we laugh until our sides ache, two sisters sharing in the bittersweet memories of a mother taken all too soon. Our tears blend in a puddle on the wood; it is impossible to tell where the water of her grief ends and mine begins.
The sun is gone now, and darkness descends over our backyard, from the tip of the rooftop to the freshly mowed grass. “Are you going to play with Hunter?” Emily asks.
I’d forgotten all about him. “No.” I reply. “He’s probably already left.” Oddly enough, I don’t even care.
Emily stands, brushing sand off her cotton shorts. “I’m going to make sure the rest of your friends are gone.”
I nod, glad my sister understands I can’t be a hostess right now. “Thanks.”
Emily smiles, wisdom beyond her years in those blue eyes. “Don’t mention it.”
I watch her descend the ladder to rejoin the world, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I lean my head back, stretching my neck, and feeling utterly insignificant in the vastness of the steadily blackening sky. The first stars appear.
I allow the memories to course through me, purging the blackness that has overtaken me since my mother died. I see flashes of her smiling face, glimpses of her joyful laughter. I was angry when she died. I couldn’t understand why she left us. But now, I realize that she’s been here all along.
A smile spreads across my face. “Hi Mom,” I whisper. “I’ve missed you.”