content warning for domestic abuse
For you, there are cemetery flowers and consolation cards and scars puckering down your spine in the shape of his hands. The flowers are too florid, too alive for you to use at his funeral but they look beautiful around the house and if I squint, the indigo begonias cover up the spaces he used to occupy, quite nicely in fact. The consolation cards all come in varying shades of purple and you seem to find this funny, laughing hysterically when yet another envelope is lilac. The doctors call this catatonic shock and the nicest one, the young woman who always wears flowered scrubs, says that it will fade away as the bruises have. They’re nasty, by the way. Your arms look like patchwork, even now. I know I’m your sister and I should support you in this time of grief but believe me when I tell you that you’re better off now that he’s dead.
For me, there are stained coverlets and a haunted look in your eyes, both of which need to be washed away. Red wine—or something else—has been splashed all over the linen, the sets and piles of napkins spotted and purple and hard to clean. Those will need more than a few cycles in the washer, but after that they’ll be usable once again, snow-white and only a little bit worse for wear. As for the look in your eyes, I don’t know what to do. It isn’t, exactly, just your eyes, because when you smile your lips looked fatigued too, sagging, as if the very effort of turning upwards is too much. It isn’t, also, as easy to clean up as the tablecloths. There are indigo stains underneath your eyelids, filmy red veins glowing through, dark enough to be smeared mascara or blotched eyeliner but no matter how many times I go over your face completely with a towel and water, the shadows just can’t be erased. It’s annoying, sometimes, when I look over and find you staring off into space, the stitches lining your hairline, the hollows of your cheeks so pronounced you look dead. But then again, you can’t help that. And I can’t help you with it either. You’ve changed so much in those six years that he had you that when you speak I can barely recognize your voice.
I used to know you so well, the ins and outs of your smiles and moods, every part of you familiar to me in the way that a sister separated by only a year should be. But then you moved off to college, and met him, son of a bitch that he is, and since no unfortunate car-crashes occurred then, you two got married and he moved you here, to the opposite side of the country and so far away from mom and I. I remember being in the bridal party, I remember thinking that you and him looked so beautiful together, that your smile looked so real when you were with him. I remember you winking at me over your shoulder and kissing him on the cheek. I remember you two driving off into the sunset, an impossibly picture-perfect couple that everyone thought would last forever.
I should have known when you stopped calling me after a few months. You always sounded so stilted over the phone, your voice fragile and hazy and uncomfortably soft, and I should have known, every time you called that something was wrong. The one time you came to visit and I found you crying in the restroom, I should have known something was wrong, in that moment. But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. I’ll always regret not taking the time to sit you down and question you, I’ll always regret that I let you brush me off and hurry away and smile the fakest smile I’ve ever seen. I should have realized that you wore long sleeves for a reason.
I can still find shattered glass if I look for it, specks and fragments of the antique chandelier that used to swing in the dining room, the one mom gave you as a wedding present, the one that now lies in a ruin underneath the couch. It’s a good thing that she never lived to see any of what’s happened because she would have killed your bastard ex-husband the minute she thought something was wrong and ended up in jail for it. At the same time it’s a shame that I’m the only one you have left. It’s a shame that you’re the only one that I have left. It’s a shame that I can’t dig him up and stitch his bones together and kill him all over again. It’s a shame that the only satisfaction you get is the flaming wreck of a car. You deserve more than what he’s given, you always have.
One of these days I’ll find the energy to clean both you and all the hidden messes up, but for now, everything stays where it’s been for the past few weeks, you in a huddled heap on your bed until it’s time to eat, the glass in impossible places, sharp and hidden. When this whole ordeal is over and done with, Anne, I’ll bring you back home. It’ll be late winter then, and the wild violets will be blooming in the old lot behind the train tracks. We can go see them if you’ve recovered. Maybe by then you’ll have stopped flinching at loud noises or startling when I move too quickly. Maybe by then you’ll be able to look at glass cups without shaking, maybe by then you’ll be able to tell me what exactly happened in those two years after your marriage and before his fiery death. Or maybe nothing will have changed. But either way the worst has passed. And you have the space to learn to smile again.