“Faith, dear, you have to eat your vegetables,” my mum said, looking at me reprovingly.
“Oh, but, Mummy! They’re just so yucky,” I made a face, crossing my eyes and sticking out my tongue.
“Faith Sullivan! Do as your mother says, please,” Daddy said. He tried to look stern, but failed when he winked at me.
I turned in my seat and looked at Joy beseechingly. She smiled brightly and tugged her left ear, our code signal. Then she looked at our parents while I picked up a green bean and put in my mouth. Bleck.
“Mummy, Daddy,” she said with wide-eyed innocence. I fake chewed and added another bean. “There’s a strange man walking around outside. Should we go say hi?”
They looked alarmed. “No, no, sweetie, just stay there,” Mum said, shooting Daddy a look. They both got up and walked out of the room.
“Coast is clear,” David hooted. He, Joy, and Hope all descended on my plate and began eating my vegetables. I spat out the ones in my mouth and tried washing the taste away with milk. We had this routine down after just a few months. Joy would always distract Mum and Daddy and then those three would eat any food I didn’t want.
“They’re coming back,” Hope warned. We all nonchalantly started eating our food, Joy going on about a butterfly we had found in the backyard today. It was purple and blue. Joy had wanted to call it Bob, but I insisted that it was more of a Steve.
My parents entered the room and sat down again, looking at us suspiciously. “Faith,” I winced at the name, “did you really eat your green beans or did you feed them to the dog?” Daddy asked, glancing at our terrier, Charisma.
“No, Daddy, I eated them all. They were very yucky,” I bit my lip and fluttered my eyelashes.
“She ate them,” Hope said, adopting a bossy tone. “I wouldn’t let her give them to Char.”
That was Hope’s main job. Acting like a stern, suck up, tattletale, when in truth, she was thoroughly entertained by Joy and I’s antics. Mum sighed. “Well, alright then. But I swear, you tow are up to something,” she said with a glance toward Joy and I.
I tugged my left ear and we both gave Mum and Daddy our biggest, brightest smiles. “We’re not doing anything. We just love you both so much,” we chorused in perfect unison.
Hope and David struggled to hide their grins while Daddy chuckled and Mum swooped down on Joy and I, kissing us on the forehead. “Oh, my sweet little angles,” she cooed.
Under the table, Joy and I gave each other a high five.
Muggle Primary School
“Higher, Tina, higher!” Joy giggled as I pushed her on the swings on the playground.
“I’m trying Joy!” I shouted, laughing as well. I willed myself to make Joy soar through the air with my next push. Suddenly, Joy seemed to fly up in a graceful arc without my hands even touching her. She shrieked jubilantly as she came swinging back again. She was moving so fast, I dove out of her way.
“Woah!” she exclaimed breathlessly. “How did you do that, Tina?”
I looked at her, wide-eyed. “But-but, I didn’t even touch you. You just… flew!”
Joy shook her head. “No way. There’s no way I did that. It had to have been you.”
I shrugged. We both looked at each other for a few seconds. Despite the different skin tone, hair color, and eye color, we looked exactly the same. We were the same height, same weight, and had the similar facial features. The biggest difference was the birthmark on Joy’s face. Her skin, much darker than my creamy complexion, had a single flaw; a pale spot just below her eye in the exact shape of a heart. It was one of my favorite things about her.
I broke the silence. “Hey, let’s go play hopscotch!”
Joy nodded excitedly and we both took off running. There weren’t any other kids playing hopscotch, so we gladly started up our game. It’s not that we didn’t like the other children, we got along quite well with them all, but we just preferred to spend our time with each other.
We had been playing for about 10 minutes when I got thirsty. “Joy, I’m going to go get some water, okay?”
“Okay, Tina, I’ll stay here,” she said, a sunny smile on her face.
I skipped over to the drinking fountain. There was no line so I gratefully began to take a drink. When I turned around, I accidentally bumped into an older boy. He was a lot bigger than I was and looked to be about 7, like David was.
“Sorry,” I said brightly, making to move past him and go back to Joy.
The boy grabbed my arm and yanked me back. “Hey,” he snarled, “I don’t like little girls running into me.”
I looked at him with wide, frightened eyes. “I’m sorry, it was an accident.”
“Do I look like I care?” The boy started shaking me, keeping a firm hold on my arm. I desperately tried to get myself free, but his grasp was too tight. It was so tight, that I began to lose feeling in my arm.
“Please,” I begged. “Just let me go, I’m sorry.” What was this boy’s problem? I had barely brushed him, but he was freaking out on me!
“Let my sister go!” Joy had run over and was looking at the boy holding me angrily. I don’t like it when she’s mad. My Joy should always be happy.
The boy looked at Joy in disbelief. “No, I don’t think I will.”
Suddenly, Joy stomped on the boy’s foot with all her might. He let go of me and grabbed his foot with a groan. Joy immediately seized my hand and we both ran off, away from the mean boy.
“Are you okay, Tina?” she asked, as we collapsed on the ground by the slide. “Did that meanie hurt you?”
I smiled. “I’m okay, Joy, thanks to you. What would I do without you?”
Joy pulled me into a hug. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to go anywhere. I’ll always be here for you. I promise.”
“Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday dear Hope,
Happy Birthday to you!”
My family sang to Hope, now 11, Joy and I singing louder than anyone else. She giggled, her brown hair falling around her face as she leaned forward to blow out the candles on her cake. Dad cut and served the cake, chocolate with chocolate frosting, and we all began eating. Suddenly, Joy leaned over and smeared frosting across my cheek. I gasped, then grabbed a piece of my cake and threw it at her. It stuck in her hair and she looked at me, smiling evilly.
“Girls, girls. Don’t make a mess,” Mum scolded, but she had to hide a grin. We both turned to smile at her angelically. This time, a smile really did cross her face and Dad, Dave, and Hope all started laughing.
I looked at Joy and she looked at me. I pulled on my left ear and she winked, as identical smirks started to cross our faces. Simultaneously, we both seized our cake and threw it in Hope’s face. Then, a devious glint in our eye, we said “Oops. Sorry, Hope. Happy Birthday!”
A brief silence followed. Cake fell off of Hope’s face and onto the floor. Mum sat, aghast, and David’s eyes were as wide as saucers. Hope slowly lifted her hand and swiped some cake off of her face. She looked at it, and then stuck her finger into her mouth. She grinned and said “Delicious. Thanks for the cake girls.”
The entire family simultaneously burst out laughing, Joy and I clutching at each other to keep from falling onto the floor. Amidst the ruckus, none of us noticed that an owl had flown through the open window, sitting primly on the table with a letter tied to its leg.
“Look!” David shouted, pointing at it. We all stared at the owl in astonishment, Dad with a glint of recognition in his eyes. The owl hopped forward and held its leg out to Hope. The letter was addressed:
Hope Iris Sullivan
Number 8, Montevideo Road
Roscrea, Tipperary, Ireland
Dad had a slight smile on his face as he gestured to Hope. “Go on, then. Open it.”
With a curious glance toward him, Hope tentatively reached forward and detached the letter from the owl’s leg. It ruffled its feathers and took off out the window once more. Hope slit the envelope and pulled out a piece of parchment. As she read the letter, she let out a gasp.
“What is it, Hope?” David asked eagerly.
She looked around at us with shining eyes. “I-I’m a witch.”
Dad laughed joyfully and Mum cracked a smile, though neither looked surprised. David, however, looked confused and Joy and I both frowned. “That’s not a very nice thing to say about yourself,” Joy said reproachfully.
“No,” Hope laughed, “it means I can do magic! I’m magical! Look!” She thrust the letter toward us. It was from someplace called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“Let me explain,” said Dad, leaning forward with an endearing smile at the confused look David, Joy, and I all wore. He then went on to describe how everyone on his side of the family, other than himself, had magical ability. He told us all about the magical world, how witches and wizards live among us. We sat up very late that evening as Dad described endless details about Hogwarts and the past wizardring wars. He talked about some weirdo called Voldemort and the hero Harry Potter. He told us about Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. He explained about Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Helga Hufflepuff.
Joy and I were utterly enchanted. David, though he was interested, had nodded off around the time Dad was speaking of the Chamber of Secrets. And Hope, oh Hope. She was absolutely beside herself with delight.
That evening, when Joy and I went to bed, we talked endlessly about magic. We wondered if we had magical abilities too and we dreamed about a future at Hogwarts.
Joy and I were lounging around in our room. We had music playing and I was putting plaits into Joy’s hair. A knock came from the door and Mum stuck her head in.
“Girls?” she asked. “Dad and I are going out and Dave is at a friend’s house. Will you be okay on your own?”
Joy smiled at her. “Of course, Mum. We’ll just hang around in here. We know all the rules: don’t answer the phone, don’t open the door for strangers, don’t use the oven, and don’t do anything stupid.”
“Good luck with that last one, Joy,” I laughed. She swatted my leg in protest.
“That’s my girls,” Mum said, smiling gently. “There’s food in the fridge that you can heat up in the microwave when you’re hungry.”
“Okay, thanks. Bye, Mum, love you!” I called as she turned and left.
I finished braiding Joy’s hair as we heard the car pull out onto the street. Joy got up and tugged on her left ear. I smiled and turned the music up to blasting. We began to dance around, flailing our arms through the air and jumping on our beds.
We both screamed in glee when our song came on. It was an old song, by and American band. But we both absolutely loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers and By the Way was definitely our favorite of their songs.
Joy and I hopped down from our beds and threw our arms around each other. We began to jump up and down to the beat, bobbing our heads and waving our free arm.
“Standing in line to see the show tonight and there’s a light on!” we sang-shouted, dancing around, still intertwined.
When the song ended we collapsed onto Joy’s bed. As we lay there, catching our breath, Joy looked at me and said, “You know, I’ll always think of you when I hear that song.”
I smiled. “Of course! I think of you. It’s our song. Forever and always.”
The music kept playing but Joy and I stayed on her bed, staring at the ceiling. We’d covered it with pictures. There were several of our family – all together or in smaller groups – but most pictures were of me and Joy alone. There were pictures of us at the hospital after we were born, us at school, on our birthdays and Christmas, but mostly just candid shots of the two us around the house. Playing outside, making art projects, the two of us falling asleep together, and a few of me taking care of Joy when she got sick. She gets sick a lot more than the rest of us, but I always help her get better.
Joy picked up a strand of my hair and began playing with it. “Your hair is so pretty, Tina. I wish mine was this color.”
I sat up. “Really? ‘Cause I’ve always wanted your hair. In fact, I wish I looked just like you, so I could fit in with the family. I just look so different from all of you.”
“Tina, don’t say that. You belong to this family. You belong to me. You’re my Tina.”
I smiled. “My Joy.”
“Besides,” she said, “you don’t want to look exactly like me. I’ve got this stupid white spot on my face.”
I reached out and gently touched the pale heart below her left eye. “That’s one of my favorite things about you,” I whispered.
“You mean it?” she asked in a small voice. I nodded vigorously. She smiled. “Good. Then anytime someone asks about it, I’ll say I have it to show how much I love my sister and how much she loves me.”
I pulled Joy into a hug and held her there. We stayed there so long that eventually we fell asleep, still locked into our embrace.
Joy and I sat on my bed, legs crossed over each other’s, laughing and talking. It was June 9th, exactly one month from our 10th birthday. Hope and David would be home soon, and we talked eagerly about next year, when we would hopefully be going to Hogwarts as well. As the sun set beyond the horizon and the room grew darker, Mum called for us to go to bed.
I got up and smiled down at Joy. “I’m going to go brush my teeth, I’ll be right back.”
Five minutes later, I was walking back towards our room, and as I passed by Mum and Dad’s room, I caught the word “Hogwarts.” I paused to listen, putting my ear against the crack between the door and its frame.
“They’d absolutely love it. I remember going to Hogwarts when my siblings each graduated. I’m sure there’s still time for Joy to show signs…” Dad trailed off.
I pressed my head closer to the door, desperate to hear more.
“Joy is nine years old. By then, Hope and Dave had already shown signs of magic. And Faith has shown so much, it’s rather shocking,” I heard my mum say in a concerned tone. “Joy, though… well, I guess we’ll have to accept that Faith is going to Hogwarts without her.”
I pulled away, stunned. Leave my Joy? Go away to school without my best friend? I’d just as soon cut myself down the middle and leave half of myself at home. Because that’s what Joy is. Half of who I am. Without her, I’d be nothing.
I walked slowly back to our room, still in shock. I sat down on my bed, lost in my thoughts.
“Hey,” Joy said, looking concerned. “What’s up?”
I looked over at her, feeling my heart wrench. I couldn’t ever lose my sister. She was my everything. I got up and ran over to hug her. “Don’t worry, Joy,” I said. “I’ll always love you. I’m not going to let you go. I promise I’ll never lose you.”
I was broken. I was lost. I was empty. I was faithless. I had no Joy.
I sat at the front of the church. I was dressed entirely in black. My hands shook as I stared up at the casket in front of me. Next to me, my Mum was sobbing, clutching Dad’s hand, who was struggling to contain his grief, looking like the most defeated man I had ever seen. David had a tight grip on my shoulder, tears falling from his cheeks and dripping off his nose. Hope wept quietly into a handkerchief, her face blotchy and puffy. All around us were crying people, family and friends. I alone sat, dry-eyed.
The priest stood up front, speaking of loss and of new life. Of an eternal life with God. I felt the words stab into me. God? What God? Would such a so-called “God” take a life? More than that, two lives? Because I certainly don’t have mine. It’s inside that casket, with the lifeless body of my Joy.
I felt anger rise up inside my as the priest continued, trying to console everyone in attendance. He talked about Joy, describing her attributes and glorious qualities. I had to stifle a scoff. What did he know about Joy? What could he say to summarize who she was? He didn’t know her. No one did. Not like I know her. Knew her.
Dad spoke about Joy as well, giving a eulogy. His voice cracked and tears flowed freely from his eyes. Even his words, though, were not enough. Joy was mine, she was me. As he finished his speech, he smiled briefly at me. It was my turn to speak.
I walked up to the pulpit and looked out at the people in mourning. They stared at me, some in wonderment. My eyes still had not shed any tears. I had cried myself out long ago.
“My sister is my everything,” I began, my voice quiet but strong. “Ever since I was born, she was the most important person in my life. I understood her and she understood me.”
I took a breath. My sight began to shrink, gaining a tunnel-like quality until all I could see was Joy’s casket. My breath seemed to catch in my throat. I gripped the sides of the pulpit, feeling my knees wobble. I squeezed my eyes shut, silent, tearless sobs wracking my body.
“She wasn’t supposed to die,” I gasped out. “I need her. I need her so much. I close my eyes and I see her face, wasting away as she died in the hospital. I see her everywhere around me. In the sun that still shines, the flowers that bloom, and the laughing of children. And I think, ‘How can there be beauty? How is there happiness?’ My Joy is gone. Nothing will ever be beautiful or happy again.”
I broke away, stumbling back to my spot. But as I looked around, I knew that it couldn’t be done. I couldn’t sit here any longer. I ran from the church, outside. I collapsed into the grass, shivering, my hands clutching at my hair, threatening to rip it out.
I glared up at the sky. “It was you! You did this to me! You took her from me! Well, you don’t deserve her. She’s better than you. She’s better than us all! I don’t believe in you. You’re not real. You’re just a lie! A lie! Give me my sister back! GIVE ME MY SISTER!” I shrieked, tumbling over the edge into hysteria. My dad came out of the church and sat next to me. He rocked me back and forth as I began to weep bitterly. I wailed and sobbed and screamed.
As Dad held me, his tears falling into my hair, I made a solemn vow to myself. Never again would I let someone see me like this. Never again would I lose a hold of my control. I would put on a face for everyone. I would be okay, I would look happy. But only on the outside. From the outside, I would seem like a normal girl, I would be myself again. But underneath was a very different story.
I was broken. I was lost. I was empty. I was faithless. I had no Joy.
The wind whipped my hair about as I stared out the window, leaning out over the ledge ever so slightly. It was June 21st. I would be going home in just a few days. Back to Roscrea. On this day, six years ago, Joy had still been alive. On this day, when we were nine years old, I’d had a dream that Joy had left me. I’d woken up, screaming, and Joy had told me she’d be with me forever. It had been an empty promise.
I felt a tear course down my cheek and I stared out around the grounds. The sun was setting, tinges of pink, red, orange, and deep purple spread through the sky in a glorious sunset. Hagrid had flowers blooming in his gardens and everything was green and lovely. I stuck my head out further, looking into the Forbidden Forest. I couldn’t quite see far enough, so I cautiously eased myself onto the ledge, my legs dangling out in open space.
I squeezed my eyes shut briefly, more tears falling from my eyes. I breathed deeply, shutting the pain out from my mind. Lessie had straightened her hair today, and from the back, I could almost imagine that she was Joy, but older. I tried to imagine how she would look, if she was still alive. She’d probably have the same proportions as I, tall and thin, but with curves of a woman. Her hair, would be long, but still shorten than my own waist-length tresses. She’d be utterly beautiful, with her rich eyes and the white heart on her face.
Tears flowed faster and my breaths turned to gasps. I looked back around the school grounds again, lost in my despair. I heard an intake of breath from behind me as the door slammed shut. Someone rushed forward and grabbed me about the waist, pulling me from the ledge I sat upon.
I turned around in shock and looked into the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen. Well, second, actually. No one could beat Joy. My Joy. I blinked and recognized James Potter. I hadn’t ever spoken to him before and I felt confused as he looked at me in alarm.
“Er, excuse me?” I asked. “Is there a particular reason you violently yanked me to the floor?”
He stared at me, breathing hard. “I just… I just stopped you from committing suicide.”
“Are you crazy? What the hell makes you think I was going to kill myself? What is wrong with you?” I gasped.
“Well, you were kind of sitting on a ledge of a very tall tower and crying. What was I supposed to think?”
I felt bitterness twist my face into a harsh smile. “That I was trying to get a better look at the scenery? Because that’s what it was.”
“Right,” James said skeptically. “And the reason for the tears was…?”
“Hmm… let me think… none of your goddamned business? Oops, didn’t mean to speak of mythical creatures.”
“What-what d’you mean?”
I lifted an eyebrow and smirked cynically. “I said ‘God,’ didn’t I?”
“You… don’t believe in God?” James sounded incredulous.
“Believe?” I snorted. “Sorry, that word does not compute. Belief? Faith? Trust? Ha! Don’t make me laugh.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? What happened to the real Val? This is not the girl I know.”
“Know? You don’t know me. You haven’t ever even talked to me before today.”
James bit his lip. “Well, yeah, I know that. But you’re pretty much the most popular and well-loved girl in the entire school. I’ve seen you around, you used to date my cousin, and you’re friends with a lot of my other cousins as well.”
“That may be true, but you’re operating under the impression that they all know me,” I said with a harsh laugh.
“What do you mean?”
I shook my head, tears still smarting in my eyes. “No one knows me. None of my so-called friends, not even my family. They don’t understand, they don’t know. Everyone sees me how I want them to. But that’s not me. It hasn’t been me for almost six years. And I intend to keep it that way.”
The words were spilling out of my mouth without abandon. The inner torment and turmoil I had kept bottled up since that day at Joy’s funeral was finally being unleashed. And I didn’t care. On some level, deep inside my mind, I was screaming at myself to shut up. That I was ruining everything I had worked for. I was making myself to vulnerable, giving another person control over me. But at the moment, I hurt too much to give a damn.
“So, you’re saying that this person that everyone thinks you are is a lie. That you’re actually just a callous, untrusting, unfeeling, empty excuse for a human being?” James seemed almost angry. And… disappointed?
“You’re hitting the nail on the head, there Jamey-poo.”
“Why? How? You said… you said that you haven’t been the person everyone thinks you are for six years. What changed?”
More tears leaked from my eyes and my face contorted. “Everything changed.”
James grabbed his hair viciously, raking his hands through the messy black locks. “How?”
“How what? How did I change? How did I lose my faith? Ironic, isn’t it. My name is Faith. Yet faith is completely empty and meaningless. Just like me.”
“Why don’t you believe in God?” James asked quietly.
“Because, my naïve friend, why should I trust and believe and have faith in a cruel, selfish bastard, that lords over us, pulling strings and causing pain and destruction? Why should I thank this soulless being for what he’s done to me?” I gasped in a breath, tears cascading down my face now. “Why should I love something that took away my Joy?” I added, so softly I wondered if James even heard it.
Apparently, he did. “How did he take away your joy?”
“Leukemia,” I spat.
James tilted his head, his expression a mixture of confusion and frustration. I looked at him for a second before taking the plunge. “Joy was my twin sister. She died two weeks after we turned ten. It was sudden, totally unexpected.”
Understanding lit his eyes. I turned away, back to the window, trying to ignore his presence as I wallowed in my misery and guilt. He put his hand on my shoulder. “I am so sor-“
“DON’T!” I roared, whirling around so fast, James was knocked slightly off-balance. “DO-NOT-SAY-YOU-ARE-SORRY!”
He stared at me, eyes wide. He took a deep breath and said, “You can’t shut yourself out. You can’t turn your life into a lie. You have to keep living. Keep living because Joy can’t.”
I slapped him across the face. He had no right to mention my sister. My Joy.
James didn’t react to the slap. He just continued to look at me. Suddenly, his hands were holding my face and he pulled me forward. In a surreal moment, his mouth covered mine in a searing kiss. I stood, rooted to the spot, incomprehension filling my mind. Somewhere in my mind, I recognized that his lips were soft and warm, gentle as he pressed them to mine with a heartbreaking tenderness.
He pulled away, only to put his mouth next to my ear. “I’m going to fix you,” he whispered, his breath an intoxicating caress against my cheek. James took a step back and, with one final look, walked out of the tower.
I was still frozen in place and I subconsciously lifted my hand to trace my lips in confusion. I tried to ignore the odd feeling in the pit of my stomach as I returned to my ledge, sitting on it once more. I examined the grounds once more. This time, there were two thoughts consuming my mind, rather than one.
Oh. My. God. This chapter is hugeI was definitely not expecting that. But I think it was pretty necessary. I really wanted to illustrate the relationship between Val and Joy. The dependency, the protectiveness, and the overwhelming love. I hope I did an okay job of that.
I don’t know how many of you know the band, Red Hot Chili Peppers. But they kind of rock my world. Seriously, I love so much I had to include them in my story. I’m going to see them in concert in October, and every time I think about it, I nearly go into convulsions of excitement. I can’t wait! Also, this chapter, especially the last flashback, was inspired by the song Fix You, by Coldplay. Genius song. When I first bought it on iTunes, I listened to it for a week straight. So beautiful, if you haven’t heard it, you seriously need to check it out.
This chapter was actually very interesting for me to write. I have three older brothers, so I don’t have any true, sisterly relationships. Sure, I have close friends, but it’s still not quite the same. I see girls all the time who don’t appreciate their sisters and I just think that they take them too much for granted. They don’t understand what they have. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brothers. They’re great and even though I want to kill them sometimes, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I just think there’s something special about a bond between two sisters. Which was a big inspiration for me starting this story in the first place.
Anyways, let me know what you think. Was it too overdone? Do you understand Val a bit better now? And the last flashback! What did you think of that? Let me know in a review!
I’m thinking chapter nine will be in James’ point of view. But until then, here’s a preview of chapter eight!
“Oh, nothing, really. Just musing about how much you guys look alike. You have the same grey eyes and curly hair, even if Rhiannon’s is black and yours is sandy blond. You two could be siblings.”
“We are!” Rhiannon cried, wrapping Zeke into a hug.
“Yeah, Rhee-Rhee’s my sister. There’s nothing better than having a wonderful sister. But you, of course, already know that, Val.”
I stiffened. My eyes flashed and I looked at Zeke, my jaw clenched. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, James, and all other Harry Potter related things. I, sadly, do not. Such is life.
Also, once again, Val’s statements about God, faith, etc. are not my own views.
EDIT July 2012: Those of you who have already read the story will notice I took out the bit about Val’s Uncle. I didn’t like the way that plotline was going and I decided to take it out. Look for edits to later chapters, as it will cut out a significant bit of the story.