When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal Read Online (FREE)
Read When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal full novel online for free here
My sister has been dead for nearly fifteen years when I see her on the TV news.
I’d been working the ER for six hours straight, triaging young humans from a beach party where a fight broke out. Two gunshot wounds, one that nicked a kidney; a broken cheekbone; a broken wrist; and multiple facial wounds of various levels of severity.
And that was just the girls.
By the time we made it through the triage, I’d stitched and soothed the lucky ones. The unlucky ones were sent to surgery or to the wards, and I dived into the break room fridge for a Mountain Dew, my favored way to mainline sugar and caffeine.
A television mounted to the wall broadcasts the news of a disaster somewhere. I stare at it sightlessly as I gulp the sticky-sweet soda. It’s night. Flames are erupting in the background. People are running and screaming, while a news anchor with tousled hair and a vintage leather bomber jacket offers the news in properly grave tones.
And there, right over his left shoulder, is my sister.
For one long second, she looks at the camera. Long enough that there is no mistaking her. That straight, straight blonde hair, cut now into a sleek bob that just grazes her shoulders, her tilted dark eyes and slashes of cheekbone, that fat Angelina Jolie mouth. Everyone always fussed over her beauty, and it’s that combination of dark and light, angles and softness that does it. She’s an exact mix of our parents.
I feel as if she’s looking through the screen, right at me.
And then she’s gone, and the disaster keeps going. I stare, openmouthed, at the empty spot she left, holding the Mountain Dew out in front of me like an offering or a toast.
To you, Josie, my sister.
Then I shake myself. This happens all the time. Anyone who has lost somebody they love has experienced it—the head in the crowd on a busy street, the person at the grocery story who moves just like her. The rush to catch up, so relieved that she is actually still alive . . .
Only to be crushed when the imposter turns around and the face is wrong. The eyes. The lips.
It must have happened to me a hundred times in the first year, especially because we never found a body. Impossible, given the circumstances. Also impossible that she survived. Not for her the ordinary demise of a fiery car accident or a leap off a bridge, though she threatened those often enough.
No, Josie was vaporized on a European train blown up by terrorists. Gone, gone, gone.
This is why we have funerals. We desperately need to see the truth for ourselves, see that loved one’s face, even if it’s marred. Otherwise, it’s just too hard to believe.
I lift the Mountain Dew all the way to my lips and take a long swallow of the thing we shared, this private reminder of all we were to each other, and tell myself it’s just wishful thinking.