Published in The Helix Magazine, Fall 2015


I stand at our favorite spot under the dogwood tree. There are day-old cigarette nubs piled underneath, but none of them are hers. I keep walking around to the edge of the cliff, searching for signs that Marie was here, but there’s not a single trace of her. For as long as I can remember, the sky has never been so clear. The stars are lighting up the pitch-black sky, and I can see out into the distance, where the lake houses are scattered down the southern shore. As the town sleeps, there’s a deep calm that is spreading out like a blanket over the lake tonight, with not even a whisper from the wind. The world as I know it in Redmonton looks beautiful, for once. I bet she’d wish she were here.

I light a clove cigarette I found from a used pack in her room, mostly just for the smell. Mom doesn’t sleep anymore. She keeps asking where I go at night, afraid every time I walk out the door that I’ll disappear like my sister. I still sneak out my window every night after midnight, to our secret spot, expecting to see Marie stretched out in the grass, staring into the infinite Midwestern sky. She’ll turn her head and smile tenderly up at me as I walk closer, like she’s been waiting for me. She’ll lie close, clasping my delicate hand between both of hers, so I can feel safe again. The burn scars never quite healed, but I forget they’re there when I squeeze as tight as I can. Days become months before I begin to realize she is never coming back.

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