My mother’s blue vase was a family heirloom that she had received on her wedding day. It stood on the small table at the end of the upstairs hallway, right beneath the window. My mother used to keep tulips in it, two of them, one red, and the other yellow. She said those were her favorite colors.
Personally, I thought they clashed rather horribly with the delicate blue vase.
One day, when I was six and Lily was four, we were playing hide-and-seek tag. It’s a game in which you hide, the other person has to find you and then catch you. On this particular day, I was ‘it’. I had searched the entire house for Lily, all except for my parents’ bedroom at the end of the upstairs hallway. So I went to check in there.
I looked under the bed, under the lumpy blankets, and in the closet. She wasn’t there. I was turning around when I caught sight of Lily trying to sneak out of the room behind me. I dashed after her, and both of us were running, when her socks slipped on the wooden floor. She fell and skidded into the table. The vase rocked slightly. I went and tripped over her. I pushed the table even more, and somehow, just somehow, the vase went and tipped over.
All the water spilled out of it, and this wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, if the water hadn’t made the floor even more slippery, so when I tried to get up, I slipped and bumped the table again.
The vase started to roll, and sadly, it rolled out the window.
My mother had been downstairs cleaning the kitchen when she heard the crash from upstairs. She came running up, but when she realized that the vase had fallen out the window, she blew her top. She went on and on about how the two of us shouldn’t have been running around the house. And when I tried to explain to her that it was Lily’s fault, if she hadn’t slipped none of this would have happened, she sent the both of us to our rooms without supper.
It was all Lily’s fault. If she hadn’t slipped and caused me to trip, that vase would have been just fine.
At least, that’s what I was thinking…
My Aunt Betsy was coming to visit from Spain, and we were all going to Nan’s house to have a little party for her. I’ve always heard that there is a particular old lady smell that goes along with old lady houses, but Nan’s house was nothing like that. The windows were always open in the summer, even when it was raining, and her house, above all else, smelled clean. The curtains always breezed with the smell of fabric softener, and the floors always seemed to emanate a piney freshness. Aunt Esther lived with Nan, and between the two of them, the house was always spotless. I loved that house, it seemed so clean, and so open, without all the clutter, you could breathe more freely than you could anywhere else, and I always felt at home.
When Aunt Betsy opened the door, Lily and I were enveloped in a gigantic hug. Unlike her mother and eldest sister, Aunt Betsy was soft, round, and rather short. She was always smiling and her eyes always looked like they had a story to tell.
“Ah, Petunia, Lily, look at you! You’ve both grown so much, and so beautiful, and so precious. Oh, I’ve missed the both of you dreadfully.” She gave the both of us a suffocating hug.
She then turned to my mother. “Milly! Oh, the girls are lovely, and you look absolutely wonderful! My goodness, it can’t have been that long since my last visit. What was it? Two summers ago? Oh dear, I must visit more often. Mother and Esther were baking the entire day yesterday, right before I came, and there was so much food that I had to ask- “
She turned and saw my dad standing sheepishly by the door. “Hubert!” She cried, enveloping him in a hug. “And how have you been? Everything at the factory all right? How’s old Mr. Johnson? Not still bossing you lot around like children, is he? I shall have to pay him a visit and- “
Aunt Esther came up behind Aunt Betsy and said “Hello everyone, before Betsy goes and gets herself going, why don’t we all go into the living room, Mum made ginger cookies.”
My Aunt Esther was a tall thin woman with her long chestnut hair pinned back in a bun at the nape of her neck. She was a sharp contrast to Aunt Betsy, always very serious, but loving just the same.
Aunt Esther took after Nan. Nan was also tall, with pure white hair in a bun. At the moment she was carrying a large tray with ginger cookies and lemonade on it. She placed it on the table before giving me and Lily a hug.
“Ah ha! Here are my two favorite granddaughters! Now we can get this little party started!” She said with a twinkle in her eye.
Lily and I looked at each other before saying in unison, “But Nan, we’re your only granddaughters!”
The three of us laughed before sitting down on the couch in a heap, grabbing some cookies on the way.
After dinner we all went back into the living room to look at pictures Aunt Betsy had drawn. She took out her notepad.
“Right now, I’m actually illustrating a book, but that’s work. Here are the important pictures.” She turned the page “Here are some of the flowers I grow in my garden, they’re roses…and this is Sra. De Valle, she lives across the street from me…and these are birds sitting on the telephone wires…” She paused at one particular picture and blushed slightly. “And this is my friend Peter…” she flipped the page hurriedly, “This is the bakery…and you know what? We’ve seen enough of my pictures, how have all of you been, do anything interesting this summer…actually what am I saying? This summer has hardly begun; did you do anything interesting last summer?”
She looked at us curiously. We were all quiet before Lily answered in a very small voice, “Granddad and Granny died last summer…”
Aunt Betsy looked absolutely shocked before slapping herself on the forehead, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I never meant to- I…just forgot, and oh dear, I’m so sorry, I really am.” She looked horridly embarrassed.
Lily and I looked at each other. We loved Aunt Betsy, but she could be horribly naïve sometimes. Still, knowing her, she would feel horribly guilty for the rest of the evening. Lily spoke up. “It’s alright Aunt Betsy, really. Why don’t you tell us all about this…Peter person you met in Spain?”
Aunt Betsy blushed before looking apologetically at my dad. He nodded, and she cleared her throat before stammering an explanation about her dear ‘friend’ Peter.
We drove home that night with the car full of laughter and leftovers. We had said our goodbyes to Aunt Betsy and hoped that she would visit again soon. She had smiled and said she would do her best.
And we all knew she would, because despite how…innocent our Aunt Betsy was, she was always honest and had the best intentions. However, we really were thankful for dear Aunt Esther, without her, that poor girl would have been horribly lost.
It must have been one in the morning when I woke up dreadfully thirsty. I silently rolled out of bed and padded downstairs to the kitchen. I sleepily opened the cabinet, and poured myself a glass of water when I noticed Lily asleep at the table. The full moon shone on her usually bright red hair, and gave her pale skin a ghostly appearance.
I shook her awake.
“Hunh, what?” Lily blinked sleepily.
I laughed quietly. “You dunderhead, you fell asleep at the table.”
She looked around her, taking in her surroundings, before giving a mere “Oh.”
I sat down next to her. “What were you doing down here anyways? Were you thirsty too?”
She stared at her ghostly fingers before murmuring, “I was just…thinking. That’s all.”
I took a gulp of water. “Thinking about what?”
She shrugged and continued to inspect her fingers. “Nothing in particular, just stuff.”
I finished my water. “Oh, well, okay then.”
I got up to leave and was walking through the doorframe when Lily whispered quietly, “Petunia, it’s my fault.”
I turned around. “What’s your fault?”
She looked again at her ghost-white fingers and said, “It’s my fault that Granny died. She was fine before I left, she was getting better. But then I left, and- and…she died.”
She gulped. “Maybe if I had stayed she would have gotten better, maybe she would have been happier. But I went back to school. My stupid school that’s so far away…”
I stood rooted to the spot. I always thought it was my fault that I had stood by and done nothing. I had never once thought Lily was to blame.
I turned to her. “Lily, look at me. Look at me.” She gave me a tear-filled green eyed stare. “Granny just…it wasn’t your fault, okay. It was never your fault and it never will be.” I took a breath. “It was nobody’s fault…things just happen sometimes and…sometimes there’s really nothing you can do.”
Lily trembled and then whispered, “But Petunia, what am I doing so far away from home? I mean, look at Aunt Betsy. She lives in Spain, she only comes to visit once in awhile, and she forgot what happened last summer. What if I- I become like her? I don’t want to forget you; I don’t want to become a stranger.”
The tears flowed over, and I must have been tearing up as well because all of a sudden my vision blurred and Lily had an eerie white glow around her. She was crying softly now, and it was all because she felt guilty about some wrong she never committed.
It was my fault, and an even greater guilt was growing, knowing that Lily felt guilty for my crime. But unlike her, I would never confess.
I reached over and gave her a hug and a broken smile. “You goose, you’ll never forget us. Haha, at school, we’re probably all you think about. And everyone has to move on. Everyone, including me and you.”
She hiccupped. “But Petunia, what if I forget you; I don’t want to forget…”
I pulled her closer, trying to think of something, anything to say to that. “You won’t forget Lily, you’ll never forget. I mean ten years from now you’ll probably remember this exact moment, and be able to tell me every detail. I’d be more worried about me forgetting…” I looked at Lily before hastily adding, “But I would never forget about you. Never. After all, we’re sisters, and sisters don’t forget each other.”
She nodded and sighed. “I guess you're right Petunia…” She gave a half laugh. “Evans Sisters ‘til the end.”
I gave a watery smile and agreed.
“Sisters ‘til the end…”
A/N: Thanks to all my reviewers, you guys = so AWESOME!
Hope you enjoyed the chapter!