Category: Fan Fiction
Title: Ashes to Ashes
Summary: Sometimes, love is so painful it morphs into another emotion entirely.
Warnings: Spoilers for book #53
Don't tell me she loved us more than anything. If she had, she wouldn't have left at all.
It's hard, loving those who are no longer living in exactly the way they were loved when they stood, slept, and walked alongside you. There's no twelve step program for crawling out of the wreckage they make by leaving this life first, or well-meant platitude that actually sooth the empty ache.
The little things are forgotten first- exactly the way her hair parted across the kitchen table in the mornings before it's brushed, the correct blue of her eyes and the way her handwriting slanted this way and before looping the other. Some days, the fact that they're even gone is forgotten, but then the hole in the world where they laughed, cried and dreamed rips itself back open with a silent scream, and there's no walling the truth of their absence back up behind the veil of sleep or ignorance of the fact again.
When they're not here to share it, the actor in the movies that were their favorites doesn't seem quite as funny, and what photo albums that survived the war are too painful to open to snapshots of her sister vivacious, vibrant, alive. She changes the channel every time any songs that remotely remind her of her sister come on, and she never picks cookies and cream ice cream out at the grocery store anymore.
Rachel's been gone for two years next month, which is both no time at all and a gaping eternity of lost moments at the same time.
Don't tell me she was a hero like the flowery words you're embellishing her with is some kind of compensation for her absence. Heroes in stories are impenetrable, gifted, glowing with their successes. And everyone knows heroes are supposed to return triumphant on the wings of their daring deeds, not as a broken shell in a body bag no one would let me say goodbye to.
Everyone thought her sister was so freaking wonderful.
Everyone never had to wait for her to remember there are other people in the house who might need to take a shower sometime before next week. Everyone never endured an awkward family meal Rachel showed up to but barely participated in before disappearing off with her weird friends again. Everyone never had the only publically memorable thing about their own existence be the fact that they're related to a dead girl.
And they certainly weren't standing next to Mom the day Rachel broke their mother's heart one final time by never coming home.
Don't tell me she loved me I'm lucky to have had her for a sister.
If I was lucky, she would still be leaving her textbooks all over the kitchen counter, clean clothes unfolded in the hamper that takes up all the floor space in the laundry room, and her dirty dishes would still be piling up next to the sink because the dishwasher is an impossible two feet beyond it.
Jordan systematically destroyed everything at the Hork Bajr valley camp ground that reminded her of Rachel the day after her sister died. It hadn't taken all that long; her sister hadn't been around enough to leave much trace of her life there.
She thought maybe she hated her sister most for not staying with their family the night before she willingly died; hadn't Rachel wanted to huddle under the thin covers with them one last time? Then she realized she resented Rachel even more for having the audacity to give her final gift, her life for the whole world- her family included- but her final goodbye to some boy she'd only known for a few years.
Jordan had been her sister for over a decade. How could he have counted more?
But she was regrettably old enough to know she told herself she hated Rachel because loving her sister's memory instead hurt so damn much.
Don't tell me she had to go. There must have been another way.
They burned her tragically heroic sister's broken body to ashes and swept the charred, broken bones that were left into an ugly, tacky vase-like thing Rachel would have been appalled by.
She was glad her sister's boyfriend took the thing away. She never wanted to see it again, anyways.
There's simply no way to relate the Rachel who hogged the remote and never put the butter back in the fridge after she used it to the pathetic decoration displayed for the observation of the crowd of people behind her. Her sister didn't belong in an urn any more than she belonged in a shellacked box in the cold ground; Rachel belonged striding through the halls of a high school- that also should still be standing- like she owned the place, listening to God awful music in the bedroom next door, or in the front seat of the car she tricked Jordan into giving her perpetual shotgun of years ago.
Mostly, Rachel doesn't belong being dead, being an it.
In spite of this glaringly obvious truth, Rachel and her stupid death belong to all the gawking spectators pretending to grieve at the funeral. Her passing may have indirectly touched the murmuring crowd behind her family, but Jordan doubts that's why any of them are here; in her final act her sister is simply one more postcard piece of history people want to be able to say that in some way they touched, like the dusty scrap from the Berlin wall her history teacher proudly displayed in class last year.
“So heartrending,” they whisper when they think Jordan isn't listening- or perhaps it doesn't dawn on any of them that she might be. “That poor family.”
“So young, so beautiful”.
Adults have occasionally forgotten she and Sara are still there now that the first official onslaught of bereaved relatives she doesn't remember having and distant family friends they haven't seen in years has ebbed, and that the war hero's sister can hear them.
“I can't imagine losing how much it would hurt to lose my own daughter like that.”
Frankly, Jordan couldn't have imagined this kind of grief the week before Rachel's death either.
Mostly, don't tell me she changed the world like that was more important than being our sister.
The sky overhead wasn't quite the blue of Rachel's eyes that day, and the rays of the sun weren't the correct golden tone to be like Rachel's hair; they weren't as warm as Rachel's enveloping bear hugs used to be, either.
However, the cadence of her sister's laughter haunted her in the guise of the warm autumn wind that danced down the sidewalk beside Jordan when her family joined the sober procession leaving the service; the wind whipped in front of her at a slightly faster pace because it, like Rachel, always effortlessly seems to get everywhere Jordan wanted to go first.