Moonlight casts shadows on the paisley wallpaper. Everything is a different shade of gray in the dark. Down the hall, a grandfather clock strikes midnight. Tingling fills the air, a sign of magic. Charged silence replaces the chimes. My skin prickles. I unfold my hands, letting them fall open in my lap. “Are you here?”
My body shivers and panicked sadness catches in my stomach. My breath comes fast. My lungs tighten. Images flash through my mind, digging into me. I can’t make sense of them. I can’t slow them down.
Please, help, the soft voice whispers in my ear. My body stiffens. The images freeze. It’s like the girl is standing right in front of me, reddish brown hair falling to her hips. She’s young and faded. The longer someone has been dead, the harder it is to see them. She can’t be the one I’m looking for, but she’s here.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” I brace myself as I always do, but it never helps. Pain blots out the room in front of me. The air pulls from my lungs. My heart thumps, bruised and terrified. Fear freezes my brain. As I feel myself twisting around, I see hands reaching for me. They tighten around my throat, and I thrash and scream. No sound comes out. My body releases, giving into death. As my eyes close, I see a familiar square-jawed man, her step-dad. His normally cheery, brown eyes are dark pits of hate. His lips scowl down at me. Then he’s gone. The room rushes back to meet me. Air fills my lungs too fast, giving me a headache. I wrap my arms around myself, taking a moment to breathe. My neck aches from where I scratched myself trying to escape the phantom hands.
The girl watches me, eyes wide. I press my shaking hands between my thighs. “I’m sorry that that happened to you.”
Don’t be. I’m glad I died. Better to die with honor than be exiled and shamed.
“How long have you been trapped wandering?”
“I can set you free.”
What do I have to do?
The girl’s eyes narrow. How do I do that?
“Don’t carry this with you anymore.”
What does that mean? You talk like that’s easy.
“I know it’s not, but as soon as you let it go, it can’t hurt you anymore.”
It will always hurt me, even if I manage to forget. I will always be dead because of him.
“Just like my sister. She was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.” My voice comes out strong, but inside I’m crumbling.
Did your sister let go? Is she at peace?
“No, and I need to find her.”
Maybe she doesn’t want to be at peace if it means letting go of everything, if it means forgiving.
“But when you wander you’re in pain and you’re alone!”
But you’re you, and you’re fighting. If I let go, I’m letting him win.
“If you stay, you’re letting what he did control you.”
The girl is quiet for a long time. Then she is gone, and I’m no closer to finding my sister.