The sky was dark and heavy with rain-swollen storm-clouds on the day Lira watched her sister's body being buried.
The sky looked strangely flat against the landscape of headstones. The wind rose, and a cold rain started to fall.
Aster was- had been- two years older than her, a junior in high school. She had been beautiful, tall and slender, with the same night-black hair as Lira. She had been smart and clever, popular with everyone and a favourite of teachers. She had already been looking at colleges. Everyone had expected a shining future for her.
Lira was always walking in her shadow- not quite as pretty, not quite as good grades, not as popular. Not as noticeable.
A reflection, a bad copy.
It didn't matter to her.
The world always felt safer to her, knowing that Aster had already walked through it.
She had been jealous when she was younger, until their father left. After that, Aster had been her guardian in a world that had turned against them. It was impossible to hate someone as compassionate, as loving, as brilliant- as perfect- as her sister had been.
The black funerary dress Lira was wearing clung to her in the frozen wind. The rain fell, blurring the background. The sky is crying, she thought.
Her eyelids were heavy, but the rent carving through her mind was too deep to cry for.
She was never going to hear Aster laugh again.
She was never going to come home to find her clothes strewn on the floor, and her sister triumphantly clutching whatever item of hers that Lira had borrowed.
She would never have to go through months of being called "Aster's sister" until her name was learned.
She was being torn apart. What happens to the reflection when there's no one in front of the mirror?
The friend who had offered to drive Aster home had been exhausted and drunk. The driver and her other friend were injured and alive.
Shovelfuls of damp, black earth fell with dull, muted thuds onto a dark wooden coffin. Lira was vaguely aware of her mother's hand on her shoulder.
She couldn't stop staring, mute, at the earth covering Aster's body. She could smell crushed flower petals.
It was as if she was watching, through a dream, part of herself being buried.
When she closed her eyes, she could see her sister's own laughing eyes in the dark behind her eyelids.
The rain's heavy barrage drowned out the voices of the black-clad congregation and hid the tears on their faces.
She would never hear Aster laugh again.