The phone was ringing in the other room, frantic calls from worried people, probably only starting to wonder now where I was- but I wasn’t listening.
My eyes were intensely fixed on the box. I kept trying to figure out who could’ve sent it, but the more I tried making out of it, the less sense it made. If my parents were here, they would’ve made fun of my paranoia, well- they might’ve been right, but it doesn’t change the facts, I found it ominously at my door around late afternoon, the sun setting behind the box, with no one in sight. But worse- with no name tags. With my eyes I inspected every corner and parcel of the box, but there was only a single writing in delicate curvy letters, an address- mine own. I broke the spell, and, leaning in, opened the box.
It contained a full set of paint, in all shades and tones, pearl, onyx, glaucous.. you name it. It took some time to sink in, but then as the realization befell me, I pulled back, gasping in shock. No no.. they wouldn’t dare?! I felt as though I was going to throw up. “If this is some kind of sick prank,-!” I saw a cleanly folded letter, exactly in the way she used to do it. I picked it up with trembling hands, and read and re read the same word at least a dozen times before it sunk in. “Ash”. I choked a sob.
That had been four hours ago, now, the sun had definitely set, and I had locked the box away in my closet.
I was staring outside, watching without seeing a butterfly caught in a spider’s net. Ash used to scream in her shrill, little five-year-old voice and rush outside to free it. And if she was here with me, now, she would probably do it as well. I felt a pang of sadness and turned away. I was so tired of feeling sick at the pit of my stomach. Like a weight on my heart. So tired of having to live every day hiding from people’s eyes. So tired of being tired. But today.. I was tired of trying, I was giving up. It’s okay, no one will ever notice.
My parents will, when they return home and find me. They’d try helping me and try understanding what they’d done wrong and they’d care for how I felt. A rush of weariness washed over me. They’re the only ones that did. Holding the bottle in one hand I unscrewed the lid with the other, but my eyes were fixed on a picture of Ash. Smiling at me, her eyes twinkling with laughter. Shut up, it’s all your fault. In one swift motion I tore my eyes from the picture and swallowed the pills. “There,” I told her. For the first time in the whole month, I noticed my voice was neither shrill nor fragile. “It’ll all be over soon.” I looked down at the bottle and saw “72 hours”. I cursed aloud. I guess not. I threw the bottle across the room, and it smashed against the wall, spilling the pills below my bed. I might’ve stayed up all night to lament on this unfair act of karma, the tears already beginning to run down my cheeks, but at this point I was just too exhausted, falling asleep immediately the moment I hit the bed.
I woke up late next day, and the moment I did, I slowly plugged in my earphones and listened to music whilst staring outside the window. The sun bathed my room in a worn out, tired yellow. I turned away, feeling sick.
The rays cold and raw to the touch. Turning the dust hanging in the air, to shimmery stardust. I coughed once, twice- dust clogging my lungs- and seeing that there wasn’t anymore, got up, soaked a cloth in alcohol and pressed it on my forearm. That’ll make Beth happy.. then I prepared myself.
The whole day, I occupied myself the best I could, but each time- my attention drew itself to the box. Why would my sister do that? She knows.. she knew. She did it on purpose. But why. Unable to resist the temptation any longer, I figured it was okay if I checked the box, it would all be over soon anyways. I dragged myself over to it and pulled out its contents. A color pallet, brushes, a sheet of paper- I raised my eyebrow- stains? Two blotches of ink on the otherwise immaculate paper. How charming from my sister. My phone pinged loudly. I ignored it. Maybe she’s trying to tell me something.. my phone pinged again. “Shut up!” Or maybe she wants me to feel ping guilty.. I’d better check.. I dragged myself over to it, reading “you’ve got 322 messages in the group discussion -class group-" I went through the last ones
-“hey where’s Dusk?
-I don’t know. Who cares.
-hah. True 😂
-OMG Dusk, if you’re reading this, we just wanted to tell you that everyone would be better off without you ️❤️
-ye just kill yourself
-and that outfit you wore Friday? Burn it. It’s tragic 😂”
Tears were blurring my vision, when I blinked them away. They rolled down my cheek, splattering against my phone. I threw it across the room violently and dried my tears with my sleeve. It’s alright.. it’ll be all over soon..
“No!” I screamed shrilly. “I won’t just give them what they want! I’m going to make them pay! Make them feel guilty in such a way they wished they had died in my place.” I looked over at the box, a hint of a smile crossing my tear-stricken face. “And I know how.”
I set myself to work early the next day, and setting the sheet in front of me, immediately began with my first day to school. I was- I drew a butterfly- happy.
The butterfly went from sunny yellow to deep orange, as it flew up and out.
I remember that first day, I kept going over to people and making friends with everyone. I would’ve been intimidated, if not for Ally. She’s more precisely, my best friend. At that time, she kept hugging herself when we crossed new people, which seemed to boost my confidence, and so instead I went over to them, displaying my warmest smile, and dragging her with me. But I knew she was secretly glad I was there to break the ice. Though when she wasn’t around, I stayed low, keeping in the corners to avoid being seen.
But then, I’d look at my butterfly, remembering the words. “Be brave, no one can stop us, sis,” and I’d suddenly feel comfortable walking in a room full of eyes. As a matter of fact, people always asked me about it. It was a magenta and sunny orange butterfly, on my forearm. Not exceptionally huge or anything but still quite visible. I would tell them it’s me and my sister, when we were very young, who drew one on both our arms to always be together.
Then I would add that it isn’t removable, and people would look at me with huge eyes. A great topic of conversation, I would always say how much I wished I could wash it away, and people would sympathize. But I never told them about the words. When I was little, a child my age pushed and insulted me. My sister, who was then three years older than me, found me crying and drew a butterfly on my arm. It was her secret talent, and it was also the point where my admiration for painting and colors grew. She whispered, “be brave, no one can stop us.” And then drew one on her own arm. She smiled, with twinkling eyes, “Together.”
I was passionate about drawing at that time, just loving talking about it- I would sit with Ally at lunch outside, basking in the sun, and we would talk about everything and nothing as I drew anything and everything that came to my mind. Mostly butterflies. For a reason I just can’t put my finger on. And with a smile on my face, it would be the best of times.
That’s when the popular people come in. The ones I got to know were Skye and Elizabeth. Which everyone seemed to call Beth. They approached me, asking if I wanted to be their friend, which for me, was not even a question. I smiled at them, but that’s when I remembered Ally and saw her wringing her hands and looking down.
“But you’ll need to take my friend Ally in as well,” I said, smiling even louder
Skye seemed to stiffen, which should’ve been a red flag at the time. But I ignored it. “Okay. Yeah, sure.”
They also happened to be my sister’s friends, although Ash never told me about them. As a matter of fact, she never even mentioned them.
And when we went outside to our usual spot in the park, below the willow, I talked about my new friends, my great classmates.. but when I told her about my awful grade in English and how I was scared out of my wits of having to explain it to my parents, she reassured me, saying she’d convince them not to be too harsh with me. And she kept her promise.
I always looked up to Ash and being in her group of friends just excited me even more. But it’s strange how much she changes character when I’m not around.
I’d know because when people talked about her, the conversation became much colder and they’d call her insensitive, cold-hearted. Say she called a girl “ugly and fat”, made harsh jokes behind everyone’s back. I always proved them wrong.. but was deeply unsettled by that. My sister.. whatever she was, was not insensitive.
The week that followed was a rollercoaster. Me and my new friends went over to people giving advice. I personally just watched at Beth, who I was now starting to look up to also. She went over to people and told them how “you should fix your hair in another way. It really looks like a bird’s nest.” Or how a girl should be thin, and not the “hippo” she was.
Skye and Ash would giggle, and I would join in, because we were all just really in admiration of Beth’s confidence in helping people about touchy subjects. Ally also giggled with us, but wrung her hands now almost all the time, and always seemed to need to go to the bathroom during every single break.
Beth also started a game in which she would scale people on how beautiful they were. She would walk up to the person and say something along the lines of “3/20 or 6/20” in a very serious manner. I grinned at that, I just found it so hilarious and when she was done, she would walk back to us and we would giggle again.
Beth always called on Ash to help her when scaling people’s beauty factor, and Ash, who I noticed didn’t talk much, would grin and walk towards her to help her out. But when we met again at our spot, I asked her if anything was wrong, and she told me she was fine. But I knew she wasn’t. When she was with us, sure, she was giggling, but her eyes never twinkled or had the life in them they usually had. They.. oh, nevermind. They looked dead. Blank. But I figured she must be just tired, if she said so, then she really must be fine.
I drew a second, blue butterfly with chips of emerald. A way of showing how, as the butterfly contorting around the black blotches, I contorted around the red flags and ignored them.
And one day, Beth and Skye followed Ash to our secret spot and sat down with us. They giggled and asked if there were any other secrets between me and my sister. I insisted that yes and told Ash to show her tattoo. First her eyes looked quizzically at me, then seeing we were all watching, waiting, she laughed, saying that the tattoo wasn’t permanent, and that she had washed it away long ago with some alcohol. Although I joined in in the laugh, I felt as though she had just put a weight over my chest; shattered my heart with a hammer.
I looked up from my drawing and at my arm, with the alcohol-soaked cloth drenching it. I smiled sadly.
Then one afternoon, I was running around looking for Skye, Beth and Ash, when I bumped into Ally. Well rather, I bumped into Ally in the act of doing something. She was helping someone up and picking his books sprawled all over the floor.
Hoping to get some help with my friends, I went to them, telling them everything. They looked at each other. That’s when I noticed Skye wasn’t here. Beth looked at Ash, motioning her forwards. Ash took a step forward and looked at me straight in the eyes. I noticed her olive eyes were teary. I never saw them this way before. “That guy punched Skye in the face when she was just trying to help him with his looks. So, we helped push him away from her and took her to the nurse.” I stared in disbelief. “Why is Ally helping him then??” They looked at each other knowingly. “Don’t worry. We’ll talk to her.” And they left.
At the bus stop I waited anxiously for Ally, and when she did arrive, I ran over to her.
“Hey Ally, I was so worried when-“ she didn’t even look at me.
“Ally..? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” her hands were twisting a fold of her dress. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. I know you when you’re happy. You aren’t this way.”
“Oh. Okay then.” She walked over to the bus.
“Ally! Please tell me what’s wrong! If you’re mad because of your grades-“
“I don’t care about my grades!” She was shaking. “I just- I don’t want.. just leave me alone!”
I pulled on her sleeve just as she was about to leave discovering a huge bruise. I gasped.
“Who.. who did this to you..” I whispered. My own voice was cracked.
She sneered. “Your friends. They’re not the perfect people you think they are.”
Then she was gone. I tattered and cracked the yellow butterfly, shattered its wings.
Just like my happiness did, then.
But people were looking at me, the bus driver and my classmates, so I just stitched a smile.
But my thoughts were too troubled, so I went to see my friends at the place they usually hang out. I knew my sister would be coming soon, since she was old enough to pick me up, but she was going to have to wait.
The first thing I noticed was that Skye was perfectly fine, after being punched in the face. And when I asked them what happened with Ally, they laughed and told me they kicked and punched her. I was taken aback.
“W- why..?” My voice was cracking again. For the first time, my smile wavered and faltered “I thought she was your friend..” they giggled again. I can almost hear them now.
I dipped my brush in black ink, poising it, ready, above the blue butterfly.
“No. We never were. “You thought so? Aww.. Dumbass.”
"why would we be friends with little girls like you?”
I suddenly ran the brush across the butterfly, cracking it, shattering it.
Then Ash was there, out of breath but here, and again, I see her watery eyes. “Leave my sister alone! Now!” They giggled again, like they had always done and started towards me. “Dusk! Run! Run home and never turn back.” I saw my sister, I saw her friends, and didn’t want to leave her alone. I wanted to be with her, supporting her. That was the right thing to do.
But instead I looked at her once and ran all the way back home. And when she arrived, late. Oh, so very late. I acted as though I was asleep, never thanking her.
I drew a torrent of orange and yellow trickling from the butterfly, sucked in by the blotch of ink- all joy and happiness drained by a single flaw I had ignored.
That’s when the talk started.
They said that I had hurt Ally, and that I had an insult for everyone. That I was racist, harsh and insulting. And everyone believed them.
Suddenly, I was all alone.
Ally could never prove them wrong, she was too shy to do so, and she probably didn’t even want to, after my betrayal. But for Ash, it was probably even worse. She had to bear the hate of her classmates as well as the insults of her friends. And this time I really started to notice her dead eyes. She just took everything in. But on the opposite of me, she never tried stitching a smile. She didn’t think doing it would bring her happiness. But there wasn’t anything I could do..
And whenever Ally tried to come and see me, I would slip away in a corner, staying there for minutes on end. That’s also when I stopped drawing for good. And one day I was too drawn out and tired, of surviving every day, not living, so I- I.. let’s just say I tried ending my life.
I got up. It’s too hard. I looked down at my paper, now soaking wet with deep black ink. But as I turned to leave, a pot fell over and spilled its contents on the sheet. I looked back. White. A splatter of pure white on the black ink. Ash. My eyes filled up with tears and I sat back down.
Ally had worriedly called Ash, since we had not talked in days, asking to know if I was doing okay. Ash was just as worried, her classes started earlier than mine and since I had stopped coming to our usual spot, we didn’t see each other in days.
Ash had burst in my room, stopping me from doing the act even though I fought fervently against her.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” she kept saying, but it might’ve been me as well.
“So so sorry” she whispered, her eyes filled up with water once again. “It’s all my fault. But I’m here now.”
“Will.. I.. die at least?” My voice trembling like a leaf. She had said “yes,” just to calm me down, but her eyes were unblinking. They always were when she.. “liar,” I whispered. They had called an ambulance and I woke up only later, to see I was at the hospital. I drew a phœnix, there. It was meant to be me, I wasn’t alone anymore, and I could rebirth.
I weaved a spider web on the white ink, because, I learned the hard way, once I returned to school, that my sister was dead. It.. crushed me. Destroyed me. And then I stopped drawing for good and would only listen to music. Even in class. Me, who usually listened with so much avidity to teacher’s lessons. I wanted to drown myself. And not only in sorrow.
That was three days ago.
I splattered some drops of red all over the sheet of paper. Now, I had skipped school, and taken the pills. And soon, my future will look this way..- I splashed black ink all over the paper once again- and drew my final drawing, a raven.
I sat back down, panting.
Well, this is it.
I stretched. But when my eyes fell back on the paper, I could see that.. my future wasn’t entirely set in darkness. The red was starting to show below the screen of black. And my raven wasn’t a raven.. but a bird erupting in flames. With a fiery mane and colorful red and magenta feathers, made out of droplets. A phœnix..? Impossible! And yet and yet.. my phone pinged up again.
“You’ve got a new message:” beep. “Hey Dusk, it’s me, Ally. I was worried about you and wanted to ask if you’re doing okay.” I felt warmth glow through me like embers.
“Please answer. It’s been the fifth time I’ve called you and I’m seriously getting worried. If you don’t answer, I’m coming! This is a warning.” I could hear her laugh on the other end. Not giggle. Laugh. “I know it’s hard.. and I’m sorry I was never there to support you, but I want you to know that I’m here now. I’m here to stay. Something reminded me that our future is not set in stone, we can change it as we can change ourselves. Please answer. I miss you.” Beep.
With renewed energy, I decided to look one last time at the discussion of before and saw that one person had replied. Ally. “Hey Skye. I just wanted to clear out two three things. Yeah, maybe you are popular and maybe you are beautiful and maybe you have friends to hang out with, but you don’t have REAL friends. And yeah, maybe I don’t have much, but at least I have that. I have Dusk.”
-you don’t have much, you have nothing 😂
-two people are friends without talking to each other, that’s tragic 🙃
I was burning on the inside, burning burning burning.. and it felt good. I opened the keyboard, typing..
-go to hell. You’re the tragic one!
And although I could see that both Skye and Beth had seen this message, none could answer.
I walked over to my drawing, content, this time outlining clearly the phœnix bursting in flames. I drew its talon raised upwards, drawing it in a way that looked as though it was clutching something.
After pondering on what, I settled on a heart.
A violent pang of weariness suddenly got hold of me. I dropped my brush, picking it back up with trembling hands.
And.. I drew a raven.Flying away from the heart.. and butterflies- flying in an intertwined way, purple, blue, red, pink and gold, into the heart..- blinking dots of color danced before my eyes- ..into my heart.
New wave of weariness.
I collapsed from my chair. The pills! How could I forget them! and suddenly, I knew that my life was this way because I didn’t do anything to change it. And I knew that I wasn’t alone. Never was alone. I fought against the weariness. I didn’t want to die. All I should and could focus on was the phone. I crawled slowly. Dragging myself across the floor, in the dust. The room was spinning, my eyes were zoning in and out. But I had to reach the phone. Seconds stretched to minutes. I could almost feel the cold touch of death on my skin. But still I crawled. And crawled. And half aware, I grasped the phone weakly and dialed what I believed was 911.
“Hello, 911, what’s your emergency?”
My mouth seemed to weigh forty tons. I unclamped it with effort, trying hard to remember- “71.” I said wearily.
“I don’t understand. Please repeat”
I tried snapping myself out of it and clicked my tongue several times “71.. 71 OakStreet, London.”
“Alright. We are sending someone on their way. Please stay on the line.”
I sighed contently as I let myself relax against the floor. “What’s the nature of your emergency?”
“What did you say?”
Just at that moment I realized the cloth had slipped long ago off from my arm. And I could see the- permanent! It’s permanent! For the first time in a long time, a real smile shone wearily, but warmly on my face.
I closed my eyes “it’s, oh… sister..-
I want to live !”