Mom’s screaming woke me up. I ran to the sound, sliding to a stop at the bathroom door. Katherine was lying in the bathtub, blood and water mixing until you couldn’t tell where my sister ended and the nothingness began.
Long blonde hair fanned out around her face. A razor blade sat on the edge of the tub, gleaming under the harsh fluorescent lighting. Mom’s blouse was drenched with bloody water.
“I tried to help her”, she whispered, rocking back and forth on the toilet, unable to take her eyes off Katherine. “Call the ambulance.”
The phone was heavy in my hand as I dialed. I dropped it once, the receiver banging against the kitchen cupboard and twirling madly on its twisted cord before I could grab it again and finish the call. My fingers were shaking and it was all I could do to punch in the numbers. I couldn’t think straight. Didn’t I just call them? And already a whirl of lights and sirens roared down our street. I opened the front door and pointed the way to the bathroom, too afraid to watch.
I heard the sick sloshing when they lifted Katherine from the tub, the counting as they performed CPR, the creaking and banging of the stretcher over our hardwood floors as they wheeled her away.
My father met us at the hospital. Somehow he found out but I don’t remember calling him. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Dad said something to me but I couldn’t make out his words. Nothing sounded right, like I was underwater. A wash of red blurred across my eyes every time I blinked.
Dad wrapped his arms around me, squeezing me close.”Leave me alone.” I pushed him away. “You don’t belong here.”
“How can you say that? You’re my daughter. Katherine’s my daughter. Of course I belong here.”
“You should have thought of that before you left.”
His shoulders drooped and the air seeped from his lungs in defeat. “Not now Ronnie, please. I love you. You need me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. I don’t need anybody.” I sat down on one of the orange plastic chairs that lined the hallway in the hospital. Mom was coming down the hall, crying and raking her hands through her blonde hair. Just like Katherine’s.
“It’s over,” she told us, wiping her eyes. “Oh God, I can’t do this.” Dad took her by the hand and they went back down the hall to see Katherine. I should have gone too, but my feet wouldn’t move. I just sat in that chair with my back sticking to the hard plastic. I didn’t feel anything at all.
Lines of friends and classmates shuffled past her coffin, heads down, reverent. I screamed inside my head. People, are you blind? She never looked like that. She never wore pink lipstick. Wipe it off.
But I didn’t cry. Not even when my father and my barely recognized cousins picked up the coffin and carried it to the hearse. I watched it all from a distance. It was the only way I could cope without falling apart. My sister loved me. She was perfect, everybody knew that. So why did she do it?