Mom sighs again. “That’s the whole point, honey,” she says gently. “The one difference between you. Think back to that day, the day that we first knew about it. Tell me again what happened.”
I’m the one sighing now because my heart is aching and I don’t want to talk about this now. Maybe calling her was a bad idea.
“You know what happened,” I say limply.
“Humor me,” she directs me. Firmly.
“We were playing Capture the Flag in Kindergarten.” I tell her reluctantly, like I’m reciting from a book. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the hot, dirty gym floor. “Finn had the flag. He was running.” His skinny arms and legs were flying, his hair was damp on his brow.
My chest hurts a little. “Then he started screaming. And running in the other direction. He wasn’t playing anymore. He was screaming about demons chasing him.”
“And what else?” My mom’s voice is sympathetic, but still very firm.
“And my name. He was screaming my name.”
I can still hear him shrieking my name, his voice boyish and shrill and desperate.
But before I could do anything that day, he climbed the hanging rope all the way to the ceiling to get away from the demons.
It’d taken four teachers to get him down.
He wouldn’t even come down for me.
He was hospitalized for two weeks after that and diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, which is a nasty cross between Schizophrenia and Bi-Polarism and very appropriately referred to as SAD. He’s been medicated ever since. He’s been chased by those effing demons ever since, too.
That’s why he needs me.
“Mom,” I murmur desperately, because I know where she’s headed with this. But she’s unrelenting.
“Calla, he called for you. Because he always calls for you. I know it’s a twin thing, but it’s not fair to either of you. You’ve got to be able to go to college and figure out who you are outside of being Finn’s sister. He’s got to do the same. I promise you, we’re not doing this as a punishment. We’re doing it because it’s best. Do you trust me?”
I’m silent, mostly because my throat feels hot and constricted and I can’t speak from the mere frustration.
“Calla? Do you trust me?”
My mom is so freaking insistent.
“Yes,” I tell her. “Yeah, I trust you. But mom, it’s not a problem for me. Because when Finn’s on his meds, he’s almost normal. He’s fine.”
Almost. There’s only been a few break-through episodes. And a few periods of depression. And a few delusions.
Other than that, he’s been fine.
“Except for the times that he’s not fine,” my mom answers.
“No buts, Calla,” she shuts me down, quickly and efficiently. “Honey, we’ve talked this into the ground. Now, I’ve gotta go. I forgot my reading glasses so I’m on my way back to get them. But the rain is bad so I need to focus on the road—“
She interrupts her own sentence with a scream.
A shrill, loud, high-pitched shriek. It almost punctures my ear-drums with its intensity and before I can make heads or tails of it, it breaks off mid-way through. And I realize that I heard something else in the background.
The sound of metal and glass being crunched and broken.
There’s no answer, only loaded pregnant silence.
My hands shake as I wait for what seems like an eternity, but is actually only a second.
“Mom?” I demand, scared now.
Chills run up and down my back, and goose-bumps form on my arms because I somehow know that she won’t be answering.
And I’m right.
Mom died as she was screaming, as the metal crunched and the glass broke. The EMTs say that when they found her at the bottom of the ravine, the phone was somehow still in her hand.
Astoria smells like dying.
At least, it does to me.
Embalming chemicals. Carnations. Roses. Stargazers. These things mix with the sea breeze and pine trees blowing through the open windows, forming an olfactory cocktail that smells like a funeral to me. That’s fitting, I suppose, since I live in a funeral home. And my mother recently died.
Everything reminds me of a funeral because I’m surrounded by death.
Or mortem, as Finn would say. He’s obsessed with learning Latin, and has been for the past two years. I don’t know why, considering it’s a dead language. But then again, I guess that makes total sense around here.
My brother, on the other hand, only makes sense part of the time. We’re supposed to be preparing for college, but all he’s interested in is scribbling in his journal, learning Latin and looking up morbid facts about death.
The mere thought of the battered leather book sends a shudder down my spine. It’s tangible proof of how crazy his thoughts can be, and because of that (and the fact that I promised him I wouldn’t), I don’t look into it.