by Amy Liu
I. Her tongue darted out, tasting the bitter tinge of iron on her lips. Her pale, slender fingers traced the chapped surface, body racking with shivers as she realized how underdressed she was in this situation, the freezing ocean breeze raising the tiny hairs on her arms.
She could taste the pain, the agony that the heavy air contained. It pressed downwards on her, suffocating all the will she had. She swallowed as she felt a tiny itch in her throat, her lungs aching as she breathed in and coughed, hastily wiping away the froth bubbling from her lips.
Involuntarily, she stumbled backward, seeing the red smeared across her ivory skin, creating a stark contrast. “Please, no...,” she whispered, her voice trailing to a faint echo in the vastness surrounding her.
The sea’s waves crashed against the shore chaotically, swallowing the once-untouched sand in its grasp. There was a cold sheen of sweat upon her skin, and for a split second, she saw the crimson waters, ripples twinkling across its surface with their corpses beneath.
“I’m sorry,” she wailed out, feeling the warmth of another body behind hers. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry for everything, just please don’t--”
The figure’s lips curled upwards in a delirious smile as the girl was left behind, staining the pale mounds of sand dark with her tainted blood.
II. It felt as if the air had been knocked out of her lungs. The boy standing next to the police wasn’t helping much, either, with his stammering of ‘I’m sorry’s like a broken record. She felt the world tilt on its axis as everything fractured apart into a million pieces. Her mouth kept repeating, ‘It’s not true, tell me it’s not true, please!’
She felt her heart shatter to the ground at full force. She wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be dead. But the more she told herself the phrase, the more it seemed false, a beautiful mirage from the harsh reality of the world.
They took her to an isolated room where she was interrogated and asked questions about where she went to school and her relationship with her sister. She felt so empty, so numb. She could still remember her mother’s raspy voice as she took her last breaths of air, Take care of her, please. You two have to stick together no matter what.
And yet she had failed at the task. She had promised her mother over and over that she would always look out for Rosie, but she had not been the good sister she wished that she was. Sobs racked through her body the second she entered the bathroom, slumping onto the ground.
There were so many different emotions in her heart, but one was prominent among the dark, faded shapes-- guilt. If Elle had called Rosie more often, checked up on her, she wouldn’t be in the same situation. She couldn’t justify her actions with the same excuse of university or her part-time job at the community art center, and certainly not with the party she had been at the night Rosie went missing.
Her stomach wrenched, twisting rapidly as she remembered the hot, sticky atmosphere of the party and the crowded figures in the room. She remembered passing out and waking up next to the sidewalk. God, she never should’ve gone to that place. Where was Rosie at the time? Was this before she was murdered by that sadistic psycho? Or was it after she bled out across the sand, wondering where her beloved big sister was when she needed her?
It sickened her; she and Rosie had both loved the sea. Every time something troubled them, they would always go there to collect seashells and to simply sit on the shore, talking about everything and nothing at all.
Elle jerked forward as she retched, dark hair falling from behind her shoulders to encircle her face. There was no one there to hold the strands back; she could still remember Rosie’s hands holding her hair back the day she ate too much at that tiny, roadside concession stand. Her sweet, kind sister, who was always there to help her when she needed aid of any sort.
What kind of sadist would want to hurt her little sister, with her soft smile and her reassuring words? The tears subsided and dried, as anger slowly overtook her. There was a tiny little itch in her chest, threatening to leap out any second. She needed to find whoever did this. She craved to break whoever hurt her sister, one by one. She wanted to kill him.
She rested her head against the bathroom wall as she stood up on shaky legs. Get it together, Elle. Crying is futile now-- you need to get revenge for Rosie.
And whoever murdered Rosie Fan had made a dangerous enemy in the form of a girl with embers burning in her soul, a true phoenix risen from the ashes.
III. On the way out of the police station, Elle caught sight of the boy who was inside. His frame leaned against the concrete wall, his head tilted to the side slightly. He was smoking a cigarette, taking puffs of it slowly.
But what contrasted from this cliche bad-boy stereotype were his eyes. They were big, wide eyes, full of innocence and youth. And yet they held so much sadness and sorrow, deep in their depths.
Those same, deer-in-the-headlights eyes stared up at her, surprised, as she blinked, suddenly aware that she had been staring this whole time. Her expression quickly turned into a scowl as she realized how he had been the first one to discover Rosie. Maybe he was the one who killed her, after all.
Her fist curled in anger as the same unsteady feeling overcame her. She felt dizzy from the crimson rush that washed over her, as she dug her nails into her palm, already feeling the crescent-shaped marks they would leave afterward. But the words coming out of his mouth stopped her, “I’m so sorry, Elle.”
Elle? How did he know her name?
His lips lifted upwards in a melancholic, reminiscent smile as he murmured, “My apologies, I don’t believe we’ve met yet. I’m Alistair, Rosie’s--friend. She used to talk about you a lot.”
Used to. “She never talked about you,” she murmured, slumping against the wall. She felt as if everything had drained all her energy and radiance. Her voice sounded sharper than she intended, and she watched as he flinched slightly.
“I’m sorry, she just never brought you up...” Elle’s voice faded away as her mind raced. If Rosie had hidden Alistair from her, what else had she been hiding? “Did you--did you know her well?”
He shrugged, brushing his messy locks out of his eyes. They were like whiskey through an amber glass, warm and honeyed. “I drove her to class every morning, and we’d walk together every day, but she was always a bit of a mystery to everyone.”
Elle blinked with confusion; Rosie had always been reserved, but she was amiable and made friends easily. Shaking her head, Elle asked, “What did she say about me?”
Alistair paused before answering, seeming to choose his words carefully. “She loved you and admired you, but she also said that she was... intimidated by you.” Seeing her face contort into shock, Alistair quickly added, “She just missed you a lot, you know. And she said you always had this radiance about you that made you the sun, and I guess that she always felt like Pluto when she was next to you.”
Elle felt herself scoff in disbelief. Rosie was a Mary Sue in Elle’s eyes, and Elle had envied her ever since the beginning when her parents had showered the younger girl with their praise and affection. How could Rosie possibly envy Elle? Elle had always been the black sheep of the family, never quite fitting in.
And why was she afraid of Elle? Elle had never laid a single finger on her-- sure, sometimes she disciplined her sister, but she always made sure that Rosie felt loved and worthy, no matter what.
The sun was setting, bathing the sky in hues of gold and blood-orange. Clouds drifted across their canvas, swathed in soft yet vivid tones. “It’s beautiful, right?” Alistair remarked, his head tilting to the sky. His eyes were sore and red as he abruptly turned, facing Elle. “You do remind me of her,” he murmured, his voice a fleeting whisper. “I hope you find whoever... whoever hurt her. You will find them eventually; my professor always tells me to look closer to where you may not expect.”
Elle narrowed her eyes in suspicion, but he walked away, his broad shoulders against the background of the parking lot. She watched him get into his car and drive away, his voice still ringing in her ears, Look closer where you may not expect.
IV. September 10th, 2014 I don’t know what this is for, frankly; my friend recommended it for something like trauma? I’m not sure, she says that she believes that journaling helps get things off of her chest. I don’t think she’s right at all, but whatever. It’s just nice to vent to something willing to listen.
I miss her so much, it just breaks my heart. I get this sick feeling in my stomach whenever I think of her dead body and her soul, gone from this world. I know one thing-- I won’t stop until I find whoever did this. Alistair was right, as suspicious as he is. I think I need to look closer at little details. The police have invited me into their investigation; I guess they’re so desperate that they’re involving family now.
I’m still wary of Alistair... what did he mean? It sounds like the stereotypical, over-cliched signs of him being guilty. And yet there’s a sorrow to him that I can’t uncover; he seemed to genuinely have been in love with Rosie. I would be too; she was an angel. Whoever hurt her must have been the devil.
September 28th, 2014
They filled me in with some information about Rosie’s case. There wasn’t much to uncover; just a manila file folder with a few papers and her picture inside. They avoided showing me the crime scene because it would be triggering, I guess.
I ran into Alistair today at the bookstore. He looked lonely and unhappy, but when his eyes met mine, they seemed to almost light up. He offered to buy me a coffee, I told him no over and over again, but in the end, he convinced me to go with him. We discussed Rosie’s case and eventually warmed up to each other. But there’s still something off about him that I can’t identify. For some reason, I feel as if this is all a game to him. I’m not sure; I think I’m just being paranoid about it all.
October 14th, 2014 I’m honestly terrible at remembering to journal-- college life is so hectic.
I ran into Alistair again today, on my university campus. We still talked after the coffee date, but it had been a while since we met. I was surprised that he was at my university, but just before I turned to leave, I saw a dark-haired girl clinging to him. I was shocked; she looked so much like Rosie, with the doe eyes and ruddy cheeks.
He tried to downplay it, but I was already walking away from the couple. Later that night, I did some research and found his social media. I dug deep, and I found around four different girls who looked exactly like Rosie. I looked up the girls, and, hear this, another girl named Sonya Choi disappeared completely from all records.
It hurts my heart to say this, but Alistair isn’t who I thought he was. In fact, he’s cruel and cold and there’s a piece of burning hatred for him, deep in my chest. This was a game to him after all.
I just came back from reporting it to the officers, and they’re now investigating the case. For some odd reason, they don’t seem to be trying so hard anymore. And neither am I; I guess I’ve accepted it after all, but I’m not ready to let her go... not yet. I can’t stop myself though, I hope that he gets what he deserves.
October 19th, 2014 Rosie, if you’re still reading this, I want you to know that I’m so sorry for wrongly accusing him. He was trying his best to forget about you by moving on, but he still loved you.
Why I’m saying this?
Alistair’s body was found at a seashore nearby, in the vicinity of where you were hurt.
I’m sorry for ever calling him cruel.
November 17th, 2014 I’ve given up hope. There are no leads whatsoever; the police keep saying it wasn’t considered a serial killer because there were only four deaths with the same M.O. in total.
Can you believe that they think it’s suicide? How would you expect four deaths with stab wounds to be that?
I’m not even fighting anymore; it’s a vain effort, after all. I’ve lost the tiny seed of hope planted in my heart.
But without Rosie to whisper her sweet, comforting words to me, I’m basically failing college at this point. I just feel so hopeless; at this point, I don’t care if I sink or swim.
P.S. I found a painting with an ambiguous image in my house; I have no recollection painting it at all. Maybe I was tired or wasted, but I’m still impressed with the end results. Rosie would be proud.
November 29th, 2014 The stars are bright tonight, Rosie. I think it’s because you are among them.
December 12th, 2014 I had a terrifying dream last night. I dreamt that Rosie was lying next to me, smiling with that stab wound in her heart. She kept whispering “sister dearest” over and over again, and no matter how hard I tried to escape her choking grasp, I couldn’t.
December 15th, 2014 I woke up this morning on the side of the street again; I guess I really need to get it together at this point. I don’t even remember what happened last night; or the night before that, even. My life’s tearing apart at the seams, and yet, for once, I don’t care at all.
December 29th, 2014 Help me please I don’t know what to do anymore please please please I can’t stop this storm I love you so much that I hate you
January 7th, 2015 I have no recollection of the past two weeks... What is wrong with me?
January 12th, 2015 Who am I anymore?
January 19th, 2015 I’m going to do it tonight I’m sure if I don’t my mind is going to explode. I don’t want help anymore aren’t we all insane in some way
V. Her body was slammed against the car door roughly, the knife dropping onto the soft sand behind her. The sirens rang in her ears, blue and red lights flashing in front of her eyes. Multiple personality disorder, they murmured, Poor girl, driven mad from when she was younger.
“Elle Fan, you are under arrest for the murder of Rosie Fan, Alistair Grey, and Caroline Clark. Anything you say can and will be used against you; you have the right to remain silent.”
And yet, through her dazed, wild eyes, all she could see was the sea, whispers, and howls drifting in her ears, where despair reigned over everything else. Where the water suffocated the sand. Where everything drained away into the same, hopeless kingdom over and over again.