A heart wrenching story of two sisters brought together by an insurmountable tragedy.
She sat there, amidst the shadows, crying bitterly.
Mackenzie Fuller was a young girl of 15 and had an elder brother, Jake, who was two years older to her. She was as white as snow and had dark, curly hair. Mackenzie's eyes gave her away, they were a shade of bright blue, yet cold, distant, unwilling to melt... But these eyes were not always like this, instead were warm, full of love and affection. Something happened that day.
It was a cool, autumn Saturday morning, when the family decided to go on a camping trip to a hilltop called 'Fordbent' . Mackenzie got up early that day. They left after packing their lunch. Mackenzie and her younger sister, Ariana had a lot of fun during their one and a half hour drive. They listened to their favourite songs on Mackenzie's headphones and played a few games of car bingo.
Dry leaves crunched beneath their feet as they trekked towards their campsite. Jake helped their parents to set up the canvas tents while Ariana and Mackenzie played a game of hide - n - seek near the cliff. "Come on Mack and Ariana! Who wants some s'mores?" cried Melody Fuller, their mother. "Be right there after one last round! It's my den!" replied Mackenzie. "One, two, three. Ready or not, here I come!" Ariana was hiding behind a tree at the very edge of the cliff. Mackenzie looked almost everywhere, but couldn't find her. As she did so, she heard Ariana sneeze. Cheekily, she pretended that she didn't hear anything. All of a sudden, she rounded upon the tree and accidentally pushed Ariana in her excitement. The next second, Ariana was falling, falling gracefully, her beautiful blonde hair flowing like ribbons of gold. It looked like she wanted to say something, finish an unfinished sentence. Soon Mackenzie thought she heard a soft thud, as faint as an apple falling from a tree. She stared at the spot where Ariana had fallen, horror - struck, tasting a tear that had escaped her eye, unable to speak.
The truth was too bitter to discuss, so Mackenzie kept it a secret. She told her family that Ariana had tripped over a rock and had lost her balance. It was a rough day for the family, especially Mackenzie, due to the great shock of losing her sister.
Guilt is a strong feeling; a feeling of anxiety, a feeling of regret... It is like a wisp of smoke, likely not to be seen. Guilt sounds like a child, afraid of the dark. It's eyes look like a gleaming lake, under the bright sun, trying not to cry. Guilt is like a shadow, that never parts with you. It's weakness is getting overridden by happiness. Guilt doesn't let anyone accept themselves, like casting a shadow over the sun. It makes people want to cry all day..
Mackenzie woke up the next morning in her warm bed, hoping that all what had happened the day before was just a bad dream and that she would be greeted by Ariana in some time. She went to the bathroom to brush her teeth, and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She looked into her empty eyes, and for a moment thought that she was the one who had died. Mackenzie lay down on her bed, tears trickling down her face, forming patches on her pillow. For a split second, she thought that she heard Jake crying. The other second she realised that it was a delusion after all. She stared blankly at the portraits of Ariana around her room, feeling her pillow getting more sodden by the minute. Mackenzie decided to go to the kitchen, knowing that her parents wouldn't be in the mood to cook, and was surprised to find them. The silence between them was louder than ever. Her parents were looking at a recent photograph of Ariana. They were staring into the void of time and space. Is, had become was, in the blink of an eye. Their cheeks were streaked with the salt, which the tears had left behind.
It was all a blur - Mackenzie did not know what day or month it was. Did it even matter?
Mackenzie walked down the steps to the kitchen, her hair tied into a messy braid. Jake and her parents were huddled together at the table, whispering. They stopped talking abruptly as she entered. "Hey mom, hey dad" she said and sat at her usual spot at the table. "What's going on?" she added after looking at their tense expressions. Her parents did not reply, but merely stood there, staring at her. Jake was eyeing her suspiciously; Mackenzie's stomach gave an uneasy lurch. The uncomfortable silence was broken by the fake cough by her father, James Fuller. "Well, listen Mack. We were going through some of Ariana's old stuff and we found her.. her will" said James, usually blowing his nose in a pink polka - dotted handkerchief. "What? Ariana wrote a will at the age of twelve?" She said with a note of incredulity in her voice. "Well yeah. And she's left most of her possessions to you." Said Melody before her husband could reply. Instinctively, Mackenzie walked towards the table and took a look at the piece of turquoise scrapbook paper. Ariana had beautiful handwriting. She read the first thing on the list aloud, "To Mack - my journal." Mackenzie gave a nervous laugh and said, "Her journal, she never even let me touch it when she was well," "alive", Jake completed her sentence for her. "Well, yeah. I'm going upstairs to look for her journal." She said as she left the room. Mackenzie rummaged through Ariana's cupboard to find her journal. Under a pile of clothes, she saw something glinting in the narrow streak of sunlight, entering her room from the gap in the curtains. She pulled it out. It was thin, but beautiful. It was the same shade of turquoise that the scrapbook paper was, and had a golden letter 'A' carved into it. Mackenzie opened the book, her heart skipped a beat. The first page read:
If you're reading this, make sure you are alone right now. Something about you has been bothering me and I wanted to put it down on paper.
You have a habit of keeping secrets and strong emotions to yourself, which makes you feel much worse. Do you remember when you had a bad day at school and you discussed it with me? You felt much better right? You said that a big burden had been lifted off your chest. So my advice is that in the future, if anything is bothering you, always discuss it with someone.
As Mackenzie read these words, a tight knot was formed in her stomach. She sat down on her bed and started to cry. Everywhere she went, the horrible shadow of guilt followed her around. She had nightmares of the scene of Ariana falling, trying to make out what she wanted to say. Whereas on the other hand, guilt was having a gala time. It had a soul to feed on. It had fresh tears to quench his thirst. Mackenzie was having a hard time, unable to decide whether she should tell her parents or not.
The solution to this problem was not easy. Every now and then, she saw a faint spectre of Ariana following her.
A few months later, Mackenzie's parents sent her to a grief therapist, as it seemed like the right thing to do.
Mackenzie agreed. The therapist's office was not far away from her house. As she entered the room, a shiver went down her spine. The quantity of perfume in that room was huge. There was a beautifully carved ornate wooden desk, and a matching armchair.
At the desk, sat a pale, but beautiful woman. She reminded Mackenzie strongly of Ariana, but something about her was not good. She gestured Mackenzie to sit down in front of her. Mackenzie obeyed. "Well Mackenzie dear. Don't you worry now," said the therapist in a dreamy voice. "You can trust me, and tell me everything, that's bothering you." Mackenzie gave a tiny nod. She didn't like her very much, and told her the same thing that she had told her parents. The therapist was convinced, and just tried to make Mackenzie feel better.
Mackenzie reached home and said, "Mom, I'm home!" "How was the therapist Mack?" asked her mother. "She was good. I felt better," Mackenzie lied.
She changed into her night - suit and lay down on her bed. It wasn't easy for her to sleep that night, as she kept wondering whether she should tell her parents or not. Mackenzie stared at the fan on the ceiling, trying to sleep. Eventually, she drifted off.
Mackenzie saw Ariana. She was talking to her, her skin glowing.
"Whoops, Mack! I know you read my journal, and it's bothering you. I know it's not your fault. By the way, guess who I met here? Remember Amazon, and how much we cried when he died as just a 2 year old puppy? Well at least we're together now! We all make mistakes. As you might have understood by reading my journal, I want you to speak out the truth to Mom and Dad, and especially Jake..."
The beautiful figure of Ariana disappeared, and Mackenzie woke up with a start. She was in her bed, snuggled with her stuffed animals. She got out of her bed, and tip - toed to Jake's room. She was just about to open the door, but a horrible feeling crept upon her as her skin touched the cold, metal handle. Mackenzie was brave, and opened the door quietly. Tears started trickling down her face.
Jake was awake already, reading a book. He looked up as Mackenzie entered and said, "Good morning Mack! What happened?" "I have something to tell you," she replied, and sat down on the bed beside him. With sudden sobs and pauses, Mackenzie told Jake exactly what had happened on the day of Ariana's death. She also told him about the journal and the dream she had. After she finished, Jake put his arm around her and said, "Well, Ariana is totally right Mackenzie! If you keep all this to yourself, you'll suffer even more! Come down with me, and we'll tell mom and dad." Jake pulled Mackenzie by her arm, and ran downstairs. He knocked at the door, and entered. Their parents were in bed, watching their favourite TV show. "What happened Mackenzie?" asked Melody when she realised that Mackenzie was crying. "Something is bothering Mackenzie, and she wants to share it with you." "Go on," said James. Mackenzie narrated the same thing that she had told Jake, and started to cry. "I'm sorry! It's all my fault."
Melody and James hugged her. With tears in her eyes, Melody said, "We are proud of you Mackenzie. It takes a lot of courage to do what you just did." Mackenzie gave a weary smile, and hugged them once more.
Now, the weight had been lifted off her chest. In the years to come, the shadow of guilt never followed her again.