The Alphabet Stories: Sisters
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Jon awoke feeling like he hadn’t slept, with a mind full of distorted dreams about his sister sitting up in her grave, desperate to tell him something, but all she kept saying was, ‘Sister. Sister.’ He shuddered, pulled back the covers and went to the bathroom to throw some water on his face.
Even though he did his best to switch off from thoughts about clients an hour before sleep, last night he’d gone to bed worrying about Ben. Ben was becoming like family. Maybe that’s why he’d dreamed about his sister. She’d been so sensitive like Ben … and Jon hadn’t been able to save her.
Jon wouldn’t normally discuss patients with his friends, yet Edward had been at every one of Ben’s sessions. So, after Ben had called Jon last night to say he’d been taken to his childhood home, Jon knew he needed to be with someone, and that that someone was Edward. Yes, Edward was Ben’s boss, yet he was more like his brother. Jon had even been tempted to suggest Ben move in with Edward for a while, that a stable family feeling would be a great new imprint on Ben’s psyche to replace his messed-up childhood memories. But Kate. Edward still mourned for her. His house was a shrine to his wife. When Jon visited, he could feel the oppression of Edward’s loneliness, guilt and grief in there too. It wouldn’t do Ben any favours to soak in any of that energy. Ben was so sensitive he would pick it up. Hell, after all, Ben was the only person for some reason who could see Kate’s spirit.
And Jon believed in ghosts. Kate had not appeared in spirit form to Jon - but she did bring messages in his dreams - yet his sister appeared once as a ghost 5 years ago, fully formed while he was eating dinner. He still sensed her around and saw flickers of light in the corner of his eye. Jon knew it was her. Despite his line of work, he hadn’t been able to shake the guilt of her suicide. He hadn’t dreamed of her in a while. Last night the dreams frustrated him and left him exhausted. Why did she keep saying, sister? Of course she was his sister. She looked straight at him in the dream. but she must have been talking to someone else. Unlike his sister, Kate always appeared in Jon’s dreams with clear instructions. He smiled. Just like she had been in real life. He missed his best friend.
When Jon had called Edward last night, Edward had already called Ben, and discovered Ben’s girlfriend had just arrived. Jon smiled. Ben had no shortage of people looking out for him now. And he seemed to be good for Edward too.
Jon had an early appointment this morning and by the time he’d had a shower and one-and-a-half coffees, he felt a little less like a slug. He had the thump of a headache and realized maybe the coffee hadn’t been the best idea. The client arrived 5 minutes early and Jon frowned when he saw her. He normally remembered old clients. He thought she’d said on the phone that she’d never had therapy before. He wished he felt more rested.
“I’m sorry. Have we seen each other before?”
She shook her head.
Jon gave himself a shake and felt woozy.
“Sorry. You look familiar to me.”
Jon extended his hand.
“Nice to meet you. Please come in and take a seat.”
“I’m not sure why I am here,” she said. “Well, I am. But I am not sure you are the person to see. Or maybe I need to see someone else too.”
She perched on the edge of the seat like it might burn her buttocks.
“Okay,” Jon said. “Let’s start with what you know you are here for.”
“I struggle with depression and anxiety. I’ve tried to deal with it on my own, and have done so for years, but … well, I need some help because I’m tired of it. I’ve worked through some insightful books and they’ve helped, yet the poison of the past is still in there.”
“Well done helping yourself. Do you know the root?”
She shuddered and nodded.
“Your family,” Jon said, and nodded.
She closed her eyes and dug her fingernails into her palms.
“I have memories that come back in nightmares. My parents were horrible. They, especially my mum, hated my older brother. She tried to drown him once and I watched her push him down the stairs. I would hide because I knew they didn’t like us, but the guilt. I feel so guilty that I didn’t help my brother, that he took the brunt of it while I hid. I walked in once when Mum was kicking him and Dad was laughing. I ran to my room before they could do the same to me.”
“I am so sorry about your parents, Amanda. You were a child. You just instinctively tried to protect yourself. Wouldn’t you advise any little girl to do the same?”
“I guess. But I should have helped my brother.”
“What you are showing is that you have morals and are caring, even though you weren’t big and strong enough to do anything. Have you thought about that?”
Jon stared at her. He was sure he knew her.
“No. I have never seen it like that before. My brother suffered so much. It’s not fair.”
“Have you spoken to your brother about this?”
She shook her head.
“No. That is the reason I need to see someone else. I need to find someone who can find him. I want to say I’m sorry. I know what he did and I don’t care.”
“What did he do?”
She stared, said nothing, shook her head and then, “He ran away. I was taken into care. I thought about going back to the house in case he had, but I can’t. The house - it sounds crazy - it was like it was alive. It was evil. I used to hear the walls breathing.”
Despite Jon’s foggy thumping head, the cogs turned in his brain. His dream last night. Of course. It came out of his mouth before he could stop himself.
“You’re Ben’s sister!”
Her eyes bulged and she leaned away.
“How do you know his name?”
“Your eyes, your nose. You look just like him.”
“You know my brother?” she said.
Jon smiled. “I do. He’s a wonderful person.”
And just like that, as if a river had burst its banks, Amanda burst into tears.