(This is the third day experimenting with the writing a fictional short story.)
She sat in her housecoat reading the newspaper article taking quick, shallow breaths, her mouth open, her shoulders curled forward with her head hanging over the table where the broadsheet pages lay flat. She had left her bedroom, venturing down the stairs to the kitchen for the first time since returning home from the hospital, since waking up from the coma, since realizing there had been an accident that she could not remember.
For three…no, six long months, she thought. She was waking up to an awareness that Celia had kept her hidden with a purpose. She had told her that she needed to be “safe”, but the opposite of this was unknown so she searched through the archives outside of her for answers. She searched in photographs.
The sound of a car door brought her back into the moment, one for which she was entirely unprepared and this disoriented her. A panic grew as she heard the footsteps up the path, the door clicking open, then clumping shut, the deep sigh, and then the gasp.
Celia stood in the doorway still partially at the entrance looking like a flight risk. Her arms were still behind her caught in the sleeves of her jacket which hung partially from her shoulders and she was frozen in place facing her sister’s discovery. The newspaper story was there – published with graphic images, published without her.
Rising only slightly from the chair, she glanced down then up, then down again. “What is this story, Celia?” she pushed out of her throat.
The jacket now fell to the floor landing on the moistened carpet in the hallway. Celia crossed the threshold of the kitchen robotically, pulled off her mask, poured a coffee, and then sat across from her sister. Celia did this seemingly without her eyes.
“I’ve been trying to keep the story from you because..” She paused searching for words, thinking back to the plans she had in case she needed to tell her that it was her fault. Celia felt the groan of her empty stomach, but not as hunger so much as a vacancy. Breathing and swallowing another gulp of coffee, she rubbed her right eye to steady a spasm of the lid, a recurring tick that had regularly irritated her of late.
Then, the story emerged with urgency and now it propelled her forward unfolding honestly, or as honestly as she was able, with the limited reflection she has allowed herself. It was mostly factual, most chronological with only vague similarity to the one found in the newspaper.
“My eyes,” she whispered, “were focused on the rear view mirror. I wasn’t watching where we were going. I was looking back. It’s my fault. Your life is changed and it all my fault.”
“But, there’s more, right?”
Stories were now spoken out loud, and she knew it didn’t really matter to what lay ahead, that she wouldn’t find the answer in the photographs, in the newspaper article, but she did finally realize that everything was different and the same.