Sky Blue Hydrangeas

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Eight

My sister Julia was everywhere; smirking down from the billboard at the bus stop, pouting at me through the glass of my TV and phone. And she was also nowhere. Even when I looked straight into her eyes, I couldn’t find her behind them; just another screen flashing simulated life.

When we’d played as children, Julia was always the princess and I, as the younger sister, took the lesser parts of knight, witch, dragon, or even horse. I remember the last time game we played together; Julia tied a rope around my middle and she stood in our wheelbarrow, holding the rope in two hands, saying “Giddee-up faithful steed,” shaking the reigns into endless waves as I pulled her around our mother’s backyard garden.

“Faster,” she said, “faster.”

I pulled as fast as I could until I tripped, and we both spilled into the sky blue hydrangeas that bobbed their pom-pom blossoms in thick profusion along the winding path.

We screamed as we fell, laughter and terror mingling in our voices.

The wheelbarrow tumbled heavily onto my legs. Its tilting side cut Julia’s hand as she reached out the wrong way, into the air and not towards the ground, trying to catch her fall.

When we landed, there was quiet. Wheelbarrow, crushed girls, crushed hydrangeas, with the sticks of the shrub scratching and poking us as we lay in a heap.

A door’s slam shattered the silence and our mother rushed towards us from the house. When she reached us, she stopped, hands on her hips, making no move to help, an elegant giant, towering above.

We struggled to move, to get up. The wheelbarrow lay heavily on my leg. Julia held her hand tight to her chest where it was staining her white shirt with drips of blood. Water and snot ran down our faces.

Our mother spoke to my sister first, “What did you do, Julia?” Julia didn’t answer but her whimpers turned to howls and she clutched her injured hand even closer, the tears spilling more thickly from her puffy eyes.

Only then did my mother lift the wheelbarrow. She scooped me up in her arms and headed towards the house. Over my mother’s shoulder, I watched as my sister straggled behind, gulping and sniffing, cradling her hand.

My sister and I never played together again after that. And then she was gone, wearing makeup, going to parties, leaving me behind. When Julia got her first big role, I started seeing her on TV, in commercials, in magazines at the dentist’s. But even when she deigned to meet up with me for lunch or dinner at some elegant restaurant, I could hardly find anyone familiar in the beautiful face of Julia, the star.

Until the day she called me to her house. Not a house; a mansion. The gates to her driveway were unlocked. The front door was open too, making me uneasy.

I walked up three flights of her glass and steel house, calling my sister’s name, before I found her on the balcony looking out over the garden below.

Julia turned towards me. For a moment, I saw the same anguished expression in her eyes that I’d seen on the day the wheelbarrow had crushed us as she’d followed my mother into the house.

Then Julia climbed up onto the railing, arms out, balancing on it.

If she had jumped from that height, she would not have died. But she did not jump.

She only took a step forward. For an instant, it seemed as if the air held her weight. Then she plunged down.

I rushed to the edge of the balcony, hoping to grab her, save her. But all I saw below were hydrangea blossoms, tumbling slowly on a breeze, floating into the distance until the blue of the petals and the blue of the sky became one.   

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