A month had passed. A full month. In a lot of ways it felt like time had stood still, never passing, simply locking me into a perpetual state of hopelessness. And then in some ways…it was like years had already flown by. The face I saw in the mirror seemed aged; drawn. My eyes held bags beneath them that never wanted to fade: a reminder of my agony. I tried to remember Pacifica’s face, the scent of her hair…the taste of her skin. But each day it eluded me more. Perhaps this was for the best. The sooner I could forget her, the sooner the pain would fade away. And yet here I was, barely breathing, struggling to stand in the mornings. Each day the sorrow felt more prominent. It consumed every part of me. I had taken to drinking more than was healthy. I wanted anything to dull the pain and put me into a dreamless sleep. Most nights I lay awake hearing the coldness of her voice as she sent me away. There seemed to be no chemical in this world that could wipe away that memory. And I hated it.
So here I sat, trying hard to appear as composed as possible, on my parents’ couch. Serene and Cedar had called a family meeting to discuss something important. I assumed it was about the wedding, but truth be told, I had been so absorbed in my own despair that I didn’t know what was going on with them.
I looked at Aqua, reading another of her romances. She was the only other sibling that had bothered to show up to this “family meeting.” Gossamer was on a cruise with her boyfriend, and there was really no telling where Hummingbird was. I didn’t bother to ask.
I looked at my beautiful sister’s face, smiling softly every few minutes, presumably at the words of her novel’s hero as he wooed the princess or maiden or whoever else was playing the clichéd role of heroine.
I envied her innocence. Her belief in true love. She was naïve, but I didn’t have it in me to say anything. I knew one day a man would break her heart, as mine had been broken…but I was willing to allow her a few more years of peace.
I looked at my mother, who had made a valiant effort to dress up. Despite her curled hair and meticulous makeup, the lines in her face were unmistakable. I ached a little for the mother I knew when I was a child. So vibrant and youthful. Here she stood before me as a testament to the ravages of time. I wondered where I would be at her age. She had led a fairly good life, with a loving husband and five children, but still she had been unable to escape the violence of aging. I had nothing to show for my life in my nearly twenty-five years. By the time I reached my fifties, I couldn’t imagine I would look any better than my mother did. I half-wondered if I would even be alive at that point. Berry knows that waking up each day was already a hassle. I shook my head, trying not to picture this agony multiplied by twenty-five more years.
“Okay, everyone,” my mother said in a tired voice, “Serene and Cedar have something they want to tell us!” She added quickly under breath, “And it better be that they’ve chosen a wedding date.”
Cedar laughed at the last comment. “Actually, Mom, we’re putting the wedding on hold.” He wrapped his arms around Serene, gazing into her eyes with a look of pure love, which caused a vice to tighten around my heart.
“What?!” My mother screeched. “Is there something wrong? Don’t tell me you have cold feet! I already have my dress picked out.” She sounded whinier than a woman of her age should, but it wasn’t anything we weren’t used to.
“And I’m sure you’ll look beautiful in your dress when the wedding does take place,” Cedar said soothingly. “But circumstances have changed and, well, do you want to tell them?” He directed the last part to Serene, who smiled widely.
She pressed her hands against her stomach, grinning. “We’re pregnant!” She exclaimed enthusiastically. “About four months along.”
I leapt from my seat. “Pregnant?” She was pregnant? I had been living under their roof for months and I’d had no idea. I was floored. I was ashamed. I was…jealous. There was a war of emotions taking place inside of me and I pressed my hands to my head to try and make it stop. I felt like the worst brother in the world, not knowing what was going on in Cedar’s life. He and Serene had been nothing but amazing to me in the past month, making sure I ate, and giving me space when I needed to be alone. But all this time they had something wonderful going on that should have been their only focus and they were concerned about me. And I hadn’t even bothered to notice what was happening in their lives. I felt so ashamed, so overwhelmed. I was selfish.
But I was also filled with sadness and jealousy. I should have been happy for them. I was happy for them. But I couldn’t help but think about Pacifica, and the future I hadn’t realized before that I wanted with her. I wanted this to be us, holding each other lovingly, talking about our future family. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Aqua squealed with excitement, doing a little dance. “I’m going to be an aunt!” She said in a sing-song voice. “It’s about time!”
“This is wonderful,” my mother said, “But…four months? Why didn’t we know sooner?” Leave it to my mother to focus on the negative. My father laid a hand on her arm, both in a gesture of love, and of warning.
“Now, Briar, I’m sure they had a very good reason.” He said, smiling tightly, hoping my mom would get the hint.
“We wanted to wait until we knew the pregnancy was viable,” Cedar said, wrapping his arm around Serene’s shoulders. “And Serene had to tell her mother first.”
“But,” my mother said. My father shook his head and she closed her mouth. “Fine. Do you know yet what you’re having?” She said, forcing a smile.
I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I needed to be alone, in a safe place. So I fled to my old bedroom, tears stinging my eyes. I forced them back.
I both relished and despised the familiarity of my childhood bedroom. Besides the loud-print bedspread my mother had chosen, it looked more or less the same as it had the last time I was here. It smelled the same, like men’s deodorant and laundry detergent. I threw myself on the bed, remembering a time long past, when coming home to this room felt like routine. I would come in, toss my backpack on the floor, grab my homework, and sit on the bed working. Then I’d hop on the computer and play games until my mom called me to dinner. It had been years, but in a lot of ways it felt like time had never passed. Or maybe I just wanted to believe it had never passed; that I was still young with nothing but good things in my future. Those were the memories I relished.
And yet, I despised the realization that somehow I had ended up back where I started. Granted, I wasn’t actually living here, but as I lay in my old bed recalling images from the past, I realized that everything about my life that was new, different…was gone. Pacifica had made me something different; better. She had taken me out of my shell and given me a reason to believe in myself, and I had fought against her. I had fought the strangeness of the emotions she made me feel, tried so hard to hold on to the person I was before…and I hated myself for it. Now that she was gone, I missed the person I was when she was near. I craved the anxiety and the uncertainty and the rush of complicated emotions. I missed the love.
I missed Pacifica. With every beat of my broken heart.
I heard the door creak open, but I didn’t bother lifting my head.
“Eden?” I heard Aqua’s voice say, soft and sweet. “Are you okay?”
I didn’t answer. I attempted a shrug, but even that much effort seemed like too much.
“We missed you in there. Cedar and Serene are talking to Mom about some potential baby names,” she laughed, “and you know how she can be about getting her way.” On a happier day, I would have managed a giggle, but I continued to lay there in silence.
I felt the bed creak as Aqua sat down on the edge. I closed my eyes, hoping she would go away and leave me to my misery. I loved my sister dearly, but I didn’t feel like opening up to her. She was innocent and naïve, excited to live her life; and I was no longer any of those things.
“I know about Pacifica,” she said in a sympathetic voice. “Cedar told us about it.” I saw her turn to look at me in my peripheral vision, but I couldn’t find the strength to look her in the eye. “I’m worried about you, you know. I know you’re probably hurting, but I promise it’s all going to work out in the end.”
That earned a snort from me. “Thanks, sis, but you don’t know anything about love that you didn’t learn from a novel.”
She scoffed indignantly and jumped up from the bed.
“For your information, I happen to be in a relationship with a very nice man!”
I rose quickly. “What?” Was I really this out of touch with what was going on in my family? First Cedar and Serene were having a baby, and now my little sister had her first boyfriend…and I didn’t know about either. “Since when? Who? Why didn’t I know about this?” I blurted out a string of questions, my eyes wide.
She laughed. “Since a month and a half ago. His name is Drizzle and I met him at the park playing chess. I was sitting on a bench reading and he was taking a break in between matches and…well, we discovered we have a lot in common.” She smiled wistfully. “I didn’t tell you because I knew you had a lot going on. It didn’t seem important.”
“Not important?” I asked sadly. “You’re my little sister and you have your first boyfriend. You should have been able to come to me about it.” I sighed. “Is he treating you right, at least?” Because if he wasn’t, I was going to do something about it. I didn’t share that last thought with Aqua, however.
She laughed softly. “Yes, Eden, he’s been nothing but gentlemanly. I think – I think I may love him.” She bit her lip.
Love. I remembered what it was like to be in love. Too bad I hadn’t realized it at the time. Maybe if I had…Pacifica would still be in my life.
Aqua must have seen the look on my face, because she wrapped her arms around me in a big hug. Despite my assertions about wanting to be left alone, I felt a sense of peace as my sister shushed me in a calming voice. I felt loved and understood. I guess I should have expected that if anyone in the family could appreciate my pain, it would be Aqua. We had always been a little different from the others.
“It’s going to be okay, Eden,” she said in a whisper. “I promise.”
“How do you know?” I asked, skeptical. “Did one of your books tell you that?”
She stepped back, pressing her hand over her heart. “No, I know it in my heart,” she said with an encouraging smile. “I can’t explain how, but I know that everything is going to work out in the end.” She let out a small laugh. “Maybe I’m psychic,” she added.
I wanted to believe what she was saying, but there was no part of me that truly believed that things would work out. I felt hopeless; empty. I’d had one opportunity for love and happiness and it had all fallen apart. I didn’t know it was something I did or if fate had frowned upon me, but I knew that nothing in my life would ever be right again.
I just smiled, not letting her see the doubts running through my head. “Thanks, sis,” I said. “I hope you’re right.”
I crawled into my bed later that night, experience a tangle of unpleasant emotions swirl through me. The guilt I felt over not knowing Serene’s situation was eating at me. And the never-ceasing melancholy of losing Pacifica played its perpetual melody in my brain, reminding me of everything I would never have again. I just wanted peace. To sleep soundly, comatose.
I prayed to Berry for dreamless sleep.