Not everything is as it seems. Truth is ever-evolving like nature itself. You think you know someone? Well, think again. You might be surprised by what you find.
It was clear that her sister was never coming back.
Josephine made her way through the front porch, thoughtfully stepping over the potted ferns that graced the wooden floor. She looked up to see Gunner, their french bulldog, dashing wildly across the decaying lawn. His polished black fur shone brightly against the evening’s dim and sinister light. Josephine made her way down the porch’s front steps before plopping herself on the first step. She eyed the daisy rooted firmly in the soil in front of her. In a swift and calculated manner, she proceeded to pluck the flower’s petals one by one until nothing remained of the poor plant except a disembodied stem. A violent gust blew, Nature’s futile attempt at discipline. Josephine eyed the stem in her hand with newfound curiosity, a thin and fragile thing, just as her sister had been. She wondered how many days it took for June to finalize her escape plan. Had it been seven days? A month? Perhaps even years?
It was clear that June would never come back. How could she after such a devastating reveal? The pain of her sister’s absence rested solely on the fact that Josephine blamed herself for it. No one but herself could be blamed for what happened. She had been heartless, a fact that she came to accept only in retrospect. I can’t blame June for hating me, she thought. I’d hate me too and a thousand times over. The words from June’s previous letter remained etched in her memory, like a deep and unforgiving wound:
I still think of you now and then. To forget you would be a sin. I’m not quite sure if I’ve forgiven you, Josephine. I’m trying my best, believe that I am. I can only hope that you understand. Send my regards to Ma and Seven. And please do check on Anwar. He hurts badly. (Remain cautious.)
Josephine got up sluggishly from the front step, her body dizzy with guilt. She entered through the house’s double doors and made her way wearily to her bedroom.
There it was, hanging against the closet door: The sixty-nine-inch ivory wedding dress June had worn on the day of her wedding ceremony. It was a silky slip-on dress, reminiscent of the start of all things bad. The dress hung desperately on a metal hanger which Josephine reached for with her bony fingers. She stroked the fabric gently, before recoiling in horror. She eyed it cautiously, as though some electric current ran through its fibers. In fact, the entire room about her seemed to take on a new form. She was not her usual self, at least not since June’s departure. Tears brimmed her round eyes, giving them a lustrous and admirable shine. Josephine slumped against her queen size bed, heart heavy with agony. It must be done, she thought.
There she stood on the porch once again. Josephine grabbed June’s wedding dress, which she had placed hastily on a nearby sofa. Reluctantly, she tossed the dress onto the lawn, before retrieving the box of matches she left on the kitchen counter. She dragged the wooden match against the striker with trembling fingers and set June’s dress ablaze. Gunner barked madly behind her, his little body poised for attack. “It’s gonna be alright, boy,” she said, gesturing for the dog to return inside the house. “We’re okay,” she whispered.
But she was not okay, and she knew this. Josephine sat on her porch’s velvet sofa and observed the delicate, bright flames ahead of her with disturbing awe. She wondered if the flames in Hell burned just as bright. June’s dress was now a devastating pile of debris. About two months ago, she discovered the dress neatly packaged in an iridescent gift box near her mailbox post. Josephine didn’t think too much about it, believing it to be some attempt at a cruel joke. She and June often pranked each other as children, a devastating habit that had followed them well into adulthood. Hours after the box had arrived, however, June was reported missing by Ma. And it became clearer than ever that the box had not been some cruel joke, but instead a half-hearted goodbye from her sister. And just like that, Josephine’s world began its frightening descent into irremediable chaos.
Josephine released a violent cough into her blue handkerchief, indifferent to the blood stains spattered across the fabric. She was reminded again of the illness plaguing her from within, the root of communal suffering. As she lost herself in the beauty of the lawn fire, her mind staggered to the day of June’s wedding ceremony. What a day it had been, for her, for the both of them.
This work began as a class assignment emphasizing the significance of setting in making a story come to life. I got to share my vision for the story with Shanille who in turn gave me valuable feedback. The following excerpt follows days of intense brainstorming and spontaneous drafting done in my creative writing journal.
Ifeoma is a high school junior residing in The Bronx. She has a genuine interest for STEM-related topics and finds immense joy in writing fiction and poetry. At school, she is a member of the World Science Academy club and is a Girls Who Code (Summer Immersion Program) alumna. She is also a proud member of Teens For Press Freedom where she serves on the press team. During her free time, you might catch her reading (sci-fi, poetry or realistic fiction), playing one on one basketball with her twin brother or simply learning random skills on YouTube.