The house’s quietness felt, in a sense, like it was magnified—choking me with its inescapable intensity— when Sherri was welcomed inside. She seated herself at the head of the dinner table, squeezing the torn and frail strap of her aging backpack. Her golden locks, usually sleek and wavy, was recently dyed jet black. For a moment, when I saw her outside, I hadn’t recognized the person staring at me in the dark. It was her eyes and face, a replica of Heath’s, was what answered the fuddled question of her identity.
“Heath’s coming soon.” I went into the fridge and got her a bottle of water.
“Why—” she stopped, hitting her hands on to the table. “If I wanted to see my brother, I know how to find him. I didn’t come to Crescent Heights to do a family reunion.”
“He’s your brother, Sherri. He has every right to know where you are. Your family has been worried sick about where you’ve been,” I said, watching her struggle with the cap. I took it back from her and removed it, handing it back. “Do you have any idea how much Heath has missed you?”
“Where’s Diana?” she squeaked. I couldn’t understand why she had a hard time discussing how she vanished, without a trace, and without contacting her family whatsoever on her whereabouts. She visibly was bored at my inquires. “I—I was hoping I could speak to her.”
Silvia and I shared a cumbrous glance. I fumbled on my reply, unsure as to where to start. She had been gone for so long that perhaps she hadn’t caught word of the news. “Diana isn’t here anymore.”
“Where did she go?”
“She took her life this summer.”
The bottle fell, tumbling out from her grip and on to the table—spilling all over the place. I snatched it up, swearing the entire time. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, running for the paper towel holder above the dish washer. Sherri yanked, vigorously, then tossed them on the puddle amassing on the glass table. “I—I didn’t hear about the death. I knew she was going through a lot, but I didn’t know that she would go as far as to...”
“I’m still trying to understand why, too,” I mused, helping her with the mess. Silvia remained behind me, leaning against the kitchen counter with her eyes studying the tiles on the floor. “I was more blindsided than that. I didn’t see her as that sad—at least on the surface, clearly.”
Her hands dawdled with a clumped towel. “I don’t think you knew her very well then towards the end of her life. I could’ve sworn you were closer. Diana was a very sad, troubled girl.”
“I’m not dismissing that she dealt with clinical depression,” I noted. My mother wrestled with her mental health, too. After entering middle school, my mother saw signs of it appearing in Diana and took her to a professional. “Diana was overt about her feelings, I get that. But she knew how to take care of that. Or rather...I thought she did until her death.”
Sherri batted her lashes, scoffing. “You really didn’t know. I can see that more than ever now. Diana was off her medication and refused to use it. She wasn’t going to therapy sessions, saying that there was no point in it anymore.”
“I,” I sighed, “I guess I didn’t know what was going on.”
“I wasn’t aware right away, but I found out it was the guy she was with telling her she didn’t need it. I did my best to step in, but it was ignored. The second she had those rose-colored glasses on, love stuck by this guy, she thought he could do no wrong and that I was sticking my nose in matters it didn’t belong. I thought maybe that she would’ve opened her eyes by the time I came back.” Her voice broke, wavering. ”I wish I didn’t listen to him.”
“Huh?” Silvia jumped, shattering her silence, “What are you talking about?”
Her hand shot up to her face, sniffling. “I thought that I was leaving for the best, removing myself from the situation. I didn’t think this is how far it would’ve gone. I wouldn’t have listened to him if I knew this is what she would do.”
“I’m lost,” I said. “I need you to back up and tell me what exactly you’re trying to tell us. Are you saying that someone told you to leave?”
“Told is a simple way to say it. He threatened me. I could tell that Diana couldn’t get see how she was being used. He had tangled her into a relationship that was draining her spirit. He pretended like he wasn’t with her, making her lie to me on which school he went to and his real name. She showed me a picture of a completely different guy, someone I thought she was in a relationship with, until it dawned on me that it was all a lie. Everything about him screamed insecure. I couldn’t take it anymore. When I discovered who her boyfriend was, I cornered him at school and told him that I would tell everyone at school about Diana and the baby she was going to have.” She gasped. “Where’s the baby?”
“Ophelia is fine.” I assured her.
Her lips cracked into a smile. “She had a girl? She was hoping for a girl. She never asked to know the gender.”
“What happened after you corned the dad?”
“He didn’t like it.” She shuttered, crumpling up the soggy paper towels and hurling it into the trash can. “He used his popularity and friends to practically swarm me on a daily basis to shut up, threatening me, sending explosive claims that weren’t true about me to spread false rumors about me in response. He kept saying it was best if I disappeared. I took that to hart, moving in with boyfriend in San Diego.”
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”
She gave a sly grin. “You didn’t know Diana was pregnant until it was too late. Teenage girls can have a double life if we want one. It’s not that hard.”
“I don’t get why you’d come back after all this time.” I shook her head.
“Tomorrow is April 2nd,” she retorted.
“Diana’s birthday,” I realized. “You came back for her birthday but couldn’t bother to see earlier than that she’s been gone for a long time.”
“I wanted to. I wanted to so bad, but Diana didn’t want to talk to me after I left. She entirely cut me off, saying that she had already lost the relationship with the father of her child and that losing me too was the salt on her wound. She thought I was betraying her and leaving her to deal with the new burdens on her own. I’m sure his friends also didn’t stop their parade of torment, switching their attention on to her.”
“Who was it?” I asked, bringing out my phone and going to only photo in my phone from the year I was on the Lacrosse team. In the picture, I was standing next to Pierson. To his right, there stood the twins. I didn’t know for certain they were on the team, but I had a feeling they had to be amongst those three—going for my sister to spite me. “Who was her boyfriend?”
“Him,” she answered, pinching the screen to enlarge the photo. “It was Hunter.”