My sister ran away from home on her 18th birthday, when I was 14 years old. I will never forget that day, not in my entire life. Its like that quote, ‘you might forget what someone did to you, but you will never forget the way they made you feel.’
And on that day, I knew something was going to happen. I’m not sure how… It must have been a sisterly-connection. In any case, she was on the back of my mind throughout that busy day. It was my first cross country race of the season, which was a huge deal. The years leading up to that, I had never lost a race, and I had great expectations! We left after school, on a Friday, to the course. It was a long course up Donner Pass, all uphill to the finish! I not only finished first, but got the fastest time for a girl on the course. I was so proud. Afterwards we cooled off at a river and I talked to my long time crush, who would later become my boyfriend for the next 6 years. The whole time I thought of my sister, and felt guilty that I had been gone all day on her birthday! But I couldn’t wait to tell her the things that happened! My success in my race and the giddy butterflies from talking to Scottie.
I got home sort of late and only my parents and young siblings were home. In my heart I knew something wasn’t right… I asked my mom where my sister was and she said she had gone out with her best friend. I shrugged it off, still feeling sad I had not seen her. I went to bed feeling worried. I woke up in the middle of the night and walked into her room.. Her bed was empty. My heart knew something was wrong, but I went back to bed. I woke up in the morning to my mother’s crying voice across the hall. I stumbled in Rachel’s room half-asleep only to be handed a very small, typed paragraph, from my sister explaining that she had moved in with her boyfriend.
I was in shock. For a very long time. I felt numb. I had plans with my best friend that day, I went over and still hadn’t realized the entirety of my loss. I went to school on Monday. I saw her boyfriend on campus. He was in my band class. I had to get out of that class. I started taking art instead.
I would leave class to go to the bathroom, but instead I would wander the halls. I started crying. I couldn’t tell my new boyfriend, I thought he wouldn’t understand. And how could I expect him to? I didn’t even understand.
I didn’t talk to my friends about it, they wouldn’t know what to say if I did. I didn’t want to be pitied. I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself. I would get really angry sometimes. I would sit in her room and cry. I prayed for her to come back to me, I went outside in the middle of the night and prayed to the stars. In my dreams I told her over and over again how sorry I was.. I would sometimes think about wearing her favorite clothes. Her brown converse with the friendship bracelet still attached to the laces. I would put on one of her Beatles t-shirts and it would smell like her. I would quickly leave her room and close the door. These would be possessions our family would keep forever, in boxes, in our closets, always somewhere in the room, in our hearts, never forgotten.
I started to get angry with my parents. Why didn’t they try harder to reach her?
Why didn’t we drive to her boyfriend’s parent’s house where she was living?
My parents became sad. They started talking about moving away from Nevada City, saying it was better for my dad’s job. He was offered a position at Stanford.
We left Nevada City and moved to Santa Cruz. Things in my life changed, and I changed. I started to forget those late nights in the cabin, watching scary movies. I forgot all the weird voices we used to make. I didn’t hate her boyfriend/husband anymore. I didn’t blame her for anything, I didn’t care about the past. I just wanted her back in my life. I wanted the closest person in my life back. My hero, my best friend, my sister.
As more time went on, some days would go by that I nearly forgot. I wondered if she thought about me, if she were interested in my life.. What would have been different for me if I still had my older sister to talk to through high school? To be there for my first kiss and so on, my first prom, my last race.
I went to Vermont and I was starting another new chapter. I wondered what she was doing in Ohio.
We had talked a handful of times on facebook messages long after she left…. Nothing serious or real. Only that I missed her. Time had changed us… You can’t take back time. It didn’t feel like I was talking to my sister anymore.
She had two babies. Two precious babies that I’ve never met.
Recently I reached out to her. We went back and forth messaging. I was crying mad. I asked her why she really left all those years ago. And her answer was so simple I could hardly accept it. She couldn’t stand my parents fighting anymore. My dad’s drinking. I cried and cried. I told her she was wrong in thinking she was alone. That I too had gone through all of that. I also wished to leave many times. But I stayed. And I needed her to be there for me. I decided we needed to talk on the phone. I heard her voice for the first time in 8 years.
How could so many years go by without talking to someone who felt the same way you did? I always blamed myself. I had no idea the sole reason for her disappearance was something right in front of me. I felt cheated. I felt like I missed out on the best thing I had. I felt lied to by my parents, like they knew all along.
But I chose to forgive everyone.
Rachel and I haven’t talked since. Our lives are so different now. I can only hope the we can grow closer to each other as more time goes on. We are two different people now. Both much older and wiser. Leading two different lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Miss her. Love her. Until the day I die.