Jillian sat in front of her computer, watching the cursor blink back at her as she struggled to form an idea that she wanted to get out for today. She took a shuddering breath and stared at her coffee, which had been left untouched since last night. Her clothes were strewn across the room, which had given it an impression that she had been here for weeks when she had only arrived three days ago. Her parents, kind as they were to leave her alone, refused to keep her out of sight for fear that she would return to the city to resume her studies in spite of it being a semestral break for a month. But she never told her parents about those things, for she did not think there was any reason to come home on the first and second week of November.
I must be a fool to let my parents talk me into this.
She walked out of the room and made her way to the bathroom, only to see that the door beside hers was ajar. She hadn’t seen that room open since the day she left for university. She did not even bother to look for belongings which she knew were in the nooks and crannies of that room, for fear of finding something that might only cause her discomfort in addition to the fact that she was back at her childhood home. But curiosity overcame her, and she opened the door.
For a room that was left untouched, the walls were still bright yellow, with paintings framed on one side of the wall. She had known her mother was responsible for keeping the room tidy, as books were placed in one box. She knew that most of these books were on gardening and drawing, which was something that Jillian wouldn’t pick up at first. But now, it had seemed that whenever she saw books like that on the store, she narrowly avoided these aisles.
Placed beside the bed were transparent containers with several items of clothing inside them. Upon taking a closer look, she could see that most of them had been vacuum sealed to prevent any dirt from coming in. Her eye caught a flash of yellow and she impulsively reached out for the plastic-covered dress.
It was nothing special: A sleeved knee-length dress with a huge ribbon at the back. But she caught a scent of flowers in the dress. She shuddered, wondering if her mother had even bothered to clean this up. However, the smell grew stronger in the room, and she froze in her place, thinking that this must have been set up by her parents. But she had known that her parents left early in the morning with a note telling her where she could find them. It was not possible for this scent to last for this long. She slowly turned around, already expecting someone. What she did not expect was the likeness of she was looking at.
Her brown, wavy hair flowed to her shoulders, as she had always wanted. Jillian knew that she refused to tie her hair because it would give her a sense of restriction, even when she was in the hospital. Her skin was tan, as compared to her expectations of the skin being pale since the last time Jillian saw her, as if she had been out in the sun after all this time she was gone. She wore the same yellow dress that Jillian now held in her hands. Curious hazel eyes looked back at her questioningly, with a smile on her face. Jillian could only manage to say a word.
Mary’s grin grew wider as Jillian acknowledged her, arms wide open as she twirled in place.
“Jillian! I haven’t seen you in ages!”
“I could say the same about you,” Jillian managed to stammer.
“I remember the last time we’ve been together. Do you remember? The theme park was the best time of my life!”
Before you went away, Jillian said to herself.
Sensing the silence that enveloped the room, Mary sat on the bed and looked around the room. Jillian could distinctly smell roses when Mary approached the bed.
“Mom sure has cleaned up since I left. I almost thought she would convert this into her personal gym, but she’s obviously too busy in errands. Besides, dad wouldn’t let her spend a single dime on something she would only use for three months.”
Jillian failed to hold back a grin at this, but she knew deep inside that her mother was someone who would find it difficult to remove every bit of memory of Mary when she left. Her throat suddenly itched, and her eyes started to prick. She took a shuddering breath and faced her sister.
“I’ve missed you, Mary.”
“Have you been to the theme park, Jillian? We made a promise that you would come back to the theme park even after I’ve gone.”
“How could I when I can’t even come with you?”
Jillian blinked back tears as Mary’s appearance wavered for a second. Her brown hair had fallen out as a result of numerous trips to the hospital for chemotherapy. Her slightly plump form began to thin out, and her yellow dress turned white, resembling a hospital gown. She rubbed her eyes for a second and saw Mary’s original appearance once more.
Mary placed a hand on Jillian’s shoulder. The latter had noticed that her eyes were filled with tears as well.
“Do it for me? Please? You’re my baby sister, so please do it for me?”
Jillian was more than ready with her excuses on why she wouldn’t want to do so. She was ready to yell at Mary for all the possible explanations she could provide. But she found herself unable to speak. When she finally spoke, Jillian noticed that her voice was cracked.
“I’m not ready, Mary. I’m not ready to do things without you.”
“You need to. I’ll be around. Well, not around as in lurking in the shadows kind of around. But you get my point, right?”
Jillian nodded slowly, and Mary walked towards the hallway. Jillian could hear nothing else but the chirping of the birds outside.
The place was filled to the brim with people in black as they carried bouquets of lilies, chrysanthemums, and daffodils. Candles would be lit in every inch of the place, which would eventually be stolen by some of the children when the visitors wouldn’t be looking. Some would come alone, while some would come with their relatives. But no matter who came, people in the cemetery had one reason for going there, no matter what.
Jillian had avoided this day for three years, mumbling excuses to her parents about her being too busy with work to come along with them to the cemetery. She managed to avoid visiting her parents’ home during the first week of November, but she had run out of her luck when her friends managed to make her go home with the notion that her parents were in an emergency. However, when she got home, her parents could only look dumbstruck when Jillian huffed at their claims that they were both fine.
It seemed Mary found a way to get Jillian home.
Jillian avoided the piercing stares she got from the people who she passed by. She forced herself to keep her head high as she made her way to where her parents were, whose heads were hunched together as they lit candles on the ground. She coughed trying to get her parents’ attention. Her mother’s hands flew immediately over her mouth, her eyes almost circular in shape. Her father slowly stood up and faced his daughter, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“You came. And at a strange outfit for this day, at that.” He said, looking her over.
“She would not have wanted for me to wear something drab to her place,” Jillian said. She looked down at the yellow dress that she had paired with black boots and a black coat to compensate for the color, but the brightness of the dress was almost impossible to hide. She brought out the sunflowers that she had gotten on the way, and her parents made way for her to place the flowers in front of the headstone. The family took a moment together as the scent of roses caught Jillian. She could see the glimpse of her sister, waving at her as she disappeared amongst the crowds.
What a reminder to go to a theme park. Rolling her eyes, Jillian turned to her parents and made the strangest request she had ever given.
“Mom, Dad, can we go to a roller coaster?”