I can still remember the day as if it were yesterday. The street…the car… the scream… Oh, the scream still surges through my dreams and keeps me up at night.
My sister, Aubrey, was the sweetest little girl that anyone could ask for. She was nice, pretty, and lovable. She was everything anyone could ever want in a daughter, and everyone secretly wished she was theirs. She had a special love towards our Pomski, French-fry. He is a black and white fur ball, and has the energy to match a hyperactive bunny rabbit. He used to sleep with her at night and acted like the giant guard dog his father was, even though his bark is less than terrifying. I used to brush and braid her beautiful long, light brown hair, just like my own, and I would tell her that she was Repunzel. She nearly fell out of the window on more than a few occasions trying to get her hair to touch the grass outside.
One bright spring afternoon in the middle of May, she wanted to go outside and chase around a few butterflies. She was 6 and I was 9 at that time. We sat down and I braided her hair, then pinned it up so it wouldn’t get caught on any stray branch lying on the ground. “Camille? I am so lucky to have a sister like you. I never want to lose you. I love you.” Those were the last words she said to me, for after I finished her hair, she jumped up and ran off. I can still see that light purple dress flowing in the wind behind her. I picked a daisy growing nearby, and plucked the petals off when I hear a piercing scream. I look up and see Aubrey getting picked up by a tall man, and being thrown into a car. I sprung to my feet ad ran after the man. They were so far away, but she was just so close? I am within reach of the car, when it speeds away. The last picture I get of my sister is of her at the window, then crashing into the seat as the car speeds away. The look in her eye is indescribable. Fear? Hopelessness? I don’t know. What I do know is that I will never forget that day, or the look in her eyes, or the scream.
5 years have passed since that day, but I haven’t given up hope. I have gotten help from neighbors, police, and about anyone else that knew my sister. I have gotten a few leads, but none have gotten me where I want to be; with my sister in my arms again. Late at night I can hear my mom crying through the walls of our home. With my dad in Afghanistan, and my sister missing, she can’t hold herself together anymore. Ever since that day, the only time I see her smile is when she gets a letter from dad in the mail. Besides that, I can tell they are all halfhearted smiles and forced.
Today is her birthday, and we are celebrating in the only way we know how, nowadays, with silent prayers, and candles being lit around a cross in her room that lays untouched for 5 years. Her dolls in a perfect row across her dresser, her bows tied to her bed frame in perfect little knots, and French-fry curled up in a ball on her pillow, whimpering in his mourning.
The phone in the kitchen rings and I hear my mother answer it. There seems to be something like good news on the other end of the phone because after she answers there is a long pause, and then her voice lights up with concern and enlightenment. She calls me downstairs and we leave the house in a hurry. “They found Aubrey,” was all she said to me on the car ride there. We pull up to a house on the opposite side of town and it is surrounded with police cars and ambulances. There is a man on the roof of the house and has a gun, so they haven’t been able to get into the house to retrieve Aubrey yet. Shots rang out and soon the man falls from the roof, dead before he hit the ground.
Police men run inside the house to make sure no one else is in there with weapons when they yell something, but unable to make it out. A police officer runs out of the house with something that looks like a leather rapped skeleton, but soon I realize what it is. Aubrey.
Her body can’t weigh more than 60 pounds, and her arms look like they are made with straws and paper for bones and skin. Her hair drops loose and ragged. Her face is pale. Her body doesn’t move. When the man lays Aubrey on the cot, I’m shocked that her bones don’t shatter, even if he does it as gentle as possible. Her purple dress does little to conceal the protruding ribcage. She is unconscious and looks like she is sleeping. Her mouth wide open.
The ambulance rushes away as soon as she is in it. An 11 year old should not look like that, and it worries me to the point I pass out.
When I wake up, I am in a cot in the hospital. They let me go after they check for a concussion, which I don’t have one. I rush past nurses and Doctors and coughing patients until I find the room with the 60 pound girl. French-fry is sitting right next to her in his guard-dog position, making sure she is breathing and that no one harms her. I walk into the room and sit down next to her bed. When I grab her hand, her eyes flicker and open slightly.
“Camille?” She is almost in a whisper, but I can hear her as if she was shouting.
“Yes, Aubrey, I’m here for you. I will never let go again. I promise.” Tear fall down my face in a waterfall.
“I’m not going to make it through the night Camille. I weigh 42 pounds and have no energy. The doctors have already told mom.”
“No! No you have to stay with me. I haven’t fought for 5 years to get you back, just to lose you again!”
“It’s true. I’m sorry.”
“I am you older sister, I should have been able to protect you!” I scream. She closes her eyes and falls back asleep.
We both sit there for a long while watching the seconds go by, realizing it is another second closer to losing her once again. I make sure she is breathing by watching her chest rise up and down.
Its 11:58. “Sing me a song.” I used to sing her songs every night when she would lay down for sleep.
I obey her request and climb up in her bed with her. I place her head in my lap, stroke her hair, and begin.
Don’t you dare look out that window, darling everything’s on fire.
The war outside our door keeps raging on.
Hold on to this lullaby even when the music’s gone.
Aubrey’s breathing slows down. She closes her eyes. I can barely get the words out of my mouth with the thought of this being the last thing she hears.
Just close your eyes the sun is going down.
You’ll be all right no one can hurt you now.
Come morning light you and I will be safe and sound.
I look at the clock. 11:59.
Just close your eyes.
You’ll be all right.
Come morning light, you and I will be safe and sound.
Her monitor goes flat, her breathing stops. A solid beep fills the room. She was gone just then. 12am. She lived through her birthday.
French-fry lets out a long howl, as if it was his way of saying goodbye to his guardian angel, Aubrey.
Those two nights will never be forgotten for as long as I live, and I wouldn’t want to. I loved her with all of my heart, and no one can change that.
January 3 2001 – January 4th 2012
I love you Aubrey Jay.