Veera was a good girl. She always tried to do her best.
We grew up like sisters, our hands and hearts intertwined, forever refusing to be split. We grew up carelessly together, with a life on our tongues that tasted so heavenly good. We hid under tables and shook with laughter as Maa tried to find us. I remember the knot in our stomach as I grasped your wrist while we waited for Maa to play pretend and to pass us by, just letting us stay where we were. I always won. I don’t think she was ever able to find me. Your head was a beautiful place to live in. I would drink in your thoughts and laugh away the fears.
Maa always said we were two peas in a pod. She said that she loved us the same, but she was nobody’s fool. Maa had eyes at the back of her head, and every time you blamed your “accidents” on me, she never let me take the fall.
Maa knew. She always knew.
Have you ever been loved that way, Veera? Because I haven’t. I have only ever been loved by you, in every tense and in every word, in every gesture, in every rarity of your smiles.
Love is simple that way. Either you have the feeling or you don’t.
Then there was every morning after.
I was woken up by your whisper, your hair in my mouth and our feet touching as we lay there in a damp puddle. I helped you role up the sheets and drag them down to the basement before Papa woke up. The dreams had started keeping us up at night, your knobby knees pulled up all the way to your chest under the blankets that engulfed us.
The dark was far scarier now that Maa wasn’t around to tuck us in or check on us at odd hours. The corridor missed the soft sound of her footsteps, a warning for us to screw our eyelids shut and fall asleep to escape any “consequences.” We were far too afraid to pad across the rug to the door when we were thirsty, in case, just in case, the monsters from the shadows grasped our legs and pulled us in towards their lair under the bed.
Daddy kept forgetting to check for the monsters since he had started sleeping on the couch. He seemed to forget a lot of things now — our practices, our Sunday morning pancakes and sometimes, just sometimes, it felt like he forgot us.
Still, it was better when it was just us two.
This was before the big, yellow bus that seemed to swallow us whole and spit us out near the school gate. It was harder for me to grasp your wrist Veera, when all these people passed right through me. I wondered if the corridors were always this unforgiving to girls who wandered, who were lost.
Lunch was better because I liked it when we could sit beside each other, away from the rumours that kept getting bigger and bigger as you got thinner. The table might have been built for four, but right now it just needed to seat two.
I was happy with the music, my drug of choice. I loved when I would sit on the piano top and turn the pages for you, kicking legs up in rhythm and shaking my head in time. It was safe in that room with the padded walls. It was where I think we belonged now, with your fingers skimming the keys, shattering the silence with a score that was truly worth its dismissal, music so unearthly that it altered the quiet with grace.
We grew wings together, these beautiful glossy and pearly-pink wings that shed feathers as we walked down the hallway, with my hand around your wrist. I was Liv, you were Veera, and our world was safe. The lights would be bright as long as there was an “us.”
I sat beside you during dinner, the dinner when Papa brought home the Lady with the caviar eyes for the very first time. I was scared, and you were shaking as I grasped your wrist. You were still quivering when you knocked over the glass of water. I didn’t want you to be in trouble. I just wanted to make you laugh because I could see the tears welling up in your eyes. You looked towards me to mouth something, and Papa saw that.
He said, “Stop being dumb, Veera. Look up at us, will you?”
And then the Lady with the alligator smile let out a laugh.
I so desperately wanted to push your chin up towards me and tell you, in a single glance, that you could stop smiling, that you could lax the corners of your mouth because Papa didn’t care anymore and because the Lady was weeding her way into our lives, and that we would need each other more now than ever before.
After dinner that night, you grasped my wrist and pulled me upstairs. You threw the bedroom door open and lunged at the doors of your closet with me in tow. You let your grip loose to grab the shoe box of your feelings, all your tainted sunshine memories before cramming me inside, right beside the picture of Maa, your music score sheets, and old journals. I stayed there in that box, with my ragged breath and bruised wrist, wondering how we got this way.
That was till the day I heard you scream, throwing open the closet door and shattering my heart with a single glance. I leapt out as you rushed in, pressing your face into my chest and tumbling us both back onto a mountain of clothes. I saw the Lady run into the room as you turned to shove the closet door, trapping her hand in the wedge, the hand with the glittering band, the finger with the diamond that seemed to trap all the light.
You screamed and screamed as I cradled your sobbing head to my chest, our hearts and feet intertwined. You kept piercing the static white noise. You wailed and shrieked and bled scarlet as I sheltered the fragile shell they had reduced you to.
Papa tried to coax you out. He tried grasping for your wrist.
The Lady reached out to touch you.
Veera wouldn’t stop screaming.
Then, the man in the white coat arrived. He had a cool touch. His gentle eyes latched onto mine, his silhouette a soft and blurry line in that jagged moment. He knelt down to scoop you into his arms, and for the first time in years, your frantic eyes searched for me, urged me to grasp your wrist tightly, and so I did.
We stayed far away for an entire year, away from the inky black tar pools of the world. I never judged you, only loved you as we laid side by side on the couch, talking to the ‘White Coat Man.’ He looked gentle and steady, drinking in every thought you poured out in his room, week after week.
I felt you come back as I quietly faded.
I thought it was all those pills, but it wasn’t.
I watched it turn to black, as your eyes viewed brighter horizons. I could no longer feel my fingertips grasping your wrist. I was stuck in a sad song, alone, right where I belonged.
As my grasp on your wrist loosened, the girls from the other wards took over. You started to paint your nails, started coating your lashes in mascara, rimming your eyes with khol, and pulling your hair up in a ponytail. You filled silence with chatter instead of music, vanquished your anguish with laughter, and fit new pieces into your very being.
I knew my time had come when I unfurled my wings and you, you simply shed yours as you walked out, as you walked out towards Papa and the Lady. You smiled, and it was bright, but you never looked back at me once. So I watched you leave, watched us split. I looked and I looked at you, Veera, till I couldn’t see anything at all.
Esha is a pajama-clad eighteen-year-old who loves Musicals, debating politics, and big words. She has vague aspirations, a best friend who lives in the North, and a familiarity with the outside of books.