I don’t remember a time when I didn’t wait at the park on the stone wall. I came here every day after school to wait. I never really knew what I was waiting for at first. Maybe it was for answers. Maybe it was for comfort. Maybe it was for her.
She left without a warning. I was sitting on the stone wall, holding her hand as the ice cream melted onto our fingers. She always complained about her hands getting sticky but I didn’t care. It was humid out and the sweat that ran down our faces made our long brown hair stick to us. I wasn’t always uncomfortable like she was, though. She always found something to be upset about.
And then there was that man. A large, bulky man whose hair didn’t look quite right, came lumbering towards us.
He shot her an insincere smile and looked around nervously. We were both uncomfortable, and I opened my mouth to ask him what he was doing, squeezing her hand slightly. But then he exaggeratedly shook his hand in his pocket so he could get our attention. There was a gun. She dropped her ice cream cone in panic but he told us to keep quiet. He kept saying he only needed her; that if we screamed he would shoot everyone in the park.
I told him in a hushed tone that he should take me instead, but he kept repeating that he only needed one girl and was adamant about taking her. Then he took her into his grasp and put the gun into the collar of her shirt, near her neck. It just looked like he was holding her shoulders from behind. They began to walk and he said he would shoot her dead if I screamed. I wanted to scream so badly.
She was crying but he hushed her like he was her father. Our parents were really across the street at our home making lunch. Mama was probably trying to trick our brother into eating something healthy.
When she got too far away for me to hold her hand, I tried to come up with them. But then the man said if I followed he would shoot her dead. I was panicking, looking around desperately. I needed something to help her, save her. But I couldn’t do anything, for fear of her getting shot. I whimpered as they got further in the distance, my hands pulling at a loose thread from my cutoffs, my eyes building up with tears. That picture of the two figures walking off onto the street had been engraved in my mind.
I felt helpless and alone. I was the older one. I was supposed to take care of her. I was supposed to do something. I should’ve been walking away with that man while she waited here and went home crying.
The first years after she left were agonizing. At the beginning, I could remember a blur of blue and red sirens, policemen asking me questions, and posters of her. But after a while, the fact that she was missing was old news. The amount of guilt that built inside me after that day left me pushing away everybody. No one was safe when they were alone with me-I might just let them get kidnapped by a large man with a gun.
My parents kept telling me that I did the right thing. I didn’t endanger other people and I didn’t get her killed on the spot. They kept saying that she might be alive. I feel that deep down in their hearts they knew that man did something horrible to her and then left her in some ditch in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I like to believe that a woman couldn’t bear a child so that big man stole one for her. I had seen that on a crime TV show that we watched together. Maybe that was why he said he only needed one.
However, after the first few years, I started to move on. I wasn’t in grade school anymore, I was turning into a young adult with responsibilities. I still walked to the stone wall every day after school and thought about her, but she wasn’t taking over my life anymore. Days turned into months and months turned into years. Life without her was normal. I think that’s when it hit me that she was gone and she wasn’t coming back.
One day, five years after she disappeared, a man showed up at our doorstep. He was wearing a suit and his hair was slicked back like he was important. He was an FBI agent. They had found her.
We all sat in the living room as he told us what happened. They had found her, behind a gas station, screaming. She was alive long enough to tell them her name. By then she had bled out.
When he told me that, I ran across the street and sat down on the stone wall. That brings me to why I’m here right now, breathing deeply and crying so loudly it makes the dogs being walked stare. Have I done this to her? Was she being tortured that entire time? But that makes me think about me being right. What if there had been a woman who couldn’t bear a child? What if she was brought there and was treated well? Then one day she made up her mind and planned to escape? There’s so many what if’s that it’s hard to think about what actually happened and if anything is true at this point.
All I know is that I miss her. I miss talking to my sister, holding her hand, loving her. I want her to be breathing and smiling and complaining. She should be living her life right now, but for some reason, God decided she was better off in Heaven. Maybe if she was tortured, then she’s in a better place, but part of me wants her to still be standing here, scarred or not. A part of me also feels selfish and guilty but I’m only listening to my heart at this point. And maybe a part of me knows she lived every day of those five years determined to break free. Because as annoying as she was, my sister was a strong girl who I had no doubt, fought with everything she had.