The memories of my past never fade.
They haunt my dreams and my waking hours. During the day, I do my best to occupy myself, so I can put a stop to the images and the echoes of screaming in my mind, if only for a little while. I paint, I read, I write. I go out and take walks through the park, listening to birds chirping and children playing, and for a while, I almost forget what happened.
But at night, I toss and turn in bed, staring at the wall or into my closet, depending on which way I face. You’d think after five years I would have been recovered by now. But no amount of therapy or hobbies or distractions can help me escape from my thoughts.
Losing somebody you love is always hard. Losing the one and only person who understands you is fucking devastating. For me, that was my older sister, Rebecca. She was four when I was born, and up until her death, my parents always told the same stories about how she bragged about me to her friends, to other relatives, and even to total strangers in the grocery store. “That’s my sister!,” she’d say, proudly pointing to me as I sat idly in my baby stroller.
She did this my whole life while she was around. Of course, the intensity of her excitement faded as we grew older, but she was still proud to introduce me to any friends she made, and even though I was a lot younger, she’d always include me in her plans to hang out with them. None of them seemed to mind, and I never gave them any trouble.
When she was 16, she got her first boyfriend, David. He was gorgeous, with blonde hair and blue eyes, standing at at least 6 feet. Of course, the first person in our family that she introduced him to was me. I was ecstatic for her and started hounding him with questions. “How old are you? Do you play any sports? Can you drive? Do you have a car?” I barely gave him time to answer between questions, and my sister cut me off. “Okay, okay, Gia. Don’t scare him off,” she said jokingly.
“It’s okay,” David laughed. “I’m 17. I play baseball – most people think I play basketball because of my height,” he said, rolling his eyes in an amused way. “Anyway, I do drive, and I do have a car-” “So you can take her out on a REAL date!,” I exclaimed, interrupting him in my excitement. Most high schoolers in my area just went on dates at a pizza place or at a park; you know, places within walking distance. Nothing wrong with that, but something about getting in a car with no parents and going to a nice restaurant for a night out with a cute boy sounded luxurious to me.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “We’re going out tonight,” my sister said happily. “Will you be okay for the night? I won’t be out past nine.” My parents had gone away for the weekend and had trusted that my sister was old enough to take care of the house, as well as herself and me. I told her I’d be fine, and David agreed to come back in a few hours to pick her up.
I helped Rebecca pick out a nice dress and some matching heels. She let me do her makeup and curl her hair for her. We topped it off with a diamond necklace she’d gotten for her birthday awhile back. I was beaming as I latched it on for her; I think I was more excited about the whole thing than she was.
Before she left, she leaned in to give me a hug. “I left some money on the counter so you can order a pizza. Be careful. Lock the doors, and don’t open them for anyone except the pizza guy. I have my key.”
“Okay, mom,” I said sarcastically. She rolled her eyes in return, but flashed a smile as she walked out of the house and shut the door behind her. I immediately ran to all the doors and windows, locking them tight. It was 6 o’clock in late Autumn, so it was getting dark fast, which made me nervous. I’d never been home alone at night before. I wondered what my parents would have thought of it, but I was no snitch. I figured that 12 years old was old enough to be left alone for a few hours, even if it was at night.
An hour later, I was sitting on my couch, watching cartoons when I heard a single, quiet knock at the door. My heart skipped a beat, and I looked in the direction of the front door. I hadn’t ordered the pizza yet, so I had no idea who it was. The door was located across the room, and for a split second I considered looking through the peephole to see who it could be. Instead, I sat still for a couple minutes, and when I was only met with silence, I turned my attention back to the T.V., concluding that it must have been an animal walking across the porch and bumping into the door outside.
A few minutes later, I heard the knock again. My eyes widened, and again, I stared at the door. Knock. I jumped up and ran into the hallway, peering around the corner into the living room. I imagined someone busting through with a butcher’s knife and flaying me alive, or bludgeoning me with a baseball bat, or beating me dead with their bare hands.
Shut up, shut up, shut up, I told myself, but my anxiety only increased as the seconds ticked by. KNOCK. That was the final call for me. I booked it up to my room to lock myself in and call the cops. On the way up, I heard the door open. The thumping sounds of heavy footsteps followed.
I made it to my room and dialed 911, pressing my phone to my face and jumping at every noise the intruder made. The footsteps stopped outside my bedroom door, and the doorknob shook violently.
I heard the dispatcher. “911, what’s your emergency?” Knock. I ran and hid in my closet. “Someone’s in my house,” I whispered, tears running down my face. “We’re sending someone over. Stay on the phone as long as you can, please.”
I heard the door open downstairs, followed by my sister laughing with her boyfriend. Run. Turn back. Don’t come upstairs, I silently pleaded with them. The dispatcher kept talking, but I was too scared to make even the smallest sound, let alone answer her.
I heard the door close, and the bells on the doorknob jingled.
That’s when I realized: the bells. I didn’t hear the bells jingle when the intrudor came into my home. I heard my sister speak. “Why is the basement door open?” I heard her voice again, then David’s, as they called out for me. “Gia?… Gia!” I stayed quiet. “Let’s check upstairs,” David said.
No no no no no! My body trembled, and I braced myself for whatever was to come. I heard two sets of footsteps running up the stairs. Rebecca gasped. “Who are you?!”
That was the last thing I heard her say before a sickening crack rang throughout my ears. Then a high pitched scream. Then another crack, and another scream, the mixed sounds creating a symphony of agonized shouting and wet smacks. The screams stopped, eventually, but the smacking went on. “STOP!,” I heard a deep voice shout. “What the fuck, man? You fucking killed her! I told you to get rid of the kid, not my girlfriend!” “I’m sorry, man, I panicked! The kid is in there. I couldn’t pick the lock.” “You couldn’t just kick the fucking door down? Are you 5?”
I heard vigorous banging at my door, jumping with each crash. “Let us in, you little shit!”
I must have blacked out from panic or something, because the next thing I knew, I was being lifted up out of my closet by a police officer. He tried to push my face into his shoulder, which I resisted. I wish I hadn’t. He was trying to shelter me, but I saw it all: my sister’s dead body, face smashed in, head cracked open with brains leaking out. Her hair was matted with congealed blood, which pooled around her head.
When all was said and done – a trip to the hospital, breaking the news to my devastated parents, the funeral – we found out the truth. David had formulated a plan with his best friend, Timothy. Timothy slipped into the house earlier that day to hide in the basement, which was located right next to the front door. Their plan was to murder me, let my sister find my body, and scar her for life so that David could swoop in and save her from her agony. Some fucked up white knight fantasy. Instead, he earned life in prison.
Timothy was never found. He fled the scene before the cops arrived. He was good at what he did – he had left behind no evidence, and presumably started a new life for himself. I have no doubt in my mind that that was not the first time he’d killed, or that it was the last.
For the past two years, I’ve been trying to find him. I was ready to risk my life and jail time to give him what he deserves. But I think someone may have beat me to it. I was watching the news the other day and saw something about an unnamed man who was mauled to death in his own home. And I mean mauled. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that he’s lucky he didn’t survive that.
The only thing the suspect left behind was a diamond necklace. That, along with a box of “souvenirs” they’d found under his floorboards; it all added up too smoothly. He’s gone. I can feel it.
I still jump when I hear a loud noise, and like I said, my past haunts me. But I feel like I can move on now. I’m planning on starting college in the fall. I want to become a psychiatrist. That’s what my sister was going to do. I think it would make her proud to see me fulfill both my dreams and hers.
To my beautiful sister: Rebecca, it’s all over now. I love you more than you’ll ever know. I want you to know I’ll be okay, and I want to thank you for being there for me for all those years. I hope you’re at peace.