Where’s Your Little Sister?
Droplets of water splashed the two girls as they leaned against the rail of the bridge across from the bottom of the waterfall.
Sara took off her glasses and wiped them with her shirt.
“Come on,” said Chrissy, walking off the bridge and turning to stroll along the bank toward the fall.
“Mom and dad said to wait here,” said Sara, putting her glasses back in place.
“We won’t go far,” said Chrissy, not stopping.
Sara trudged after her sister until she reached a wall of dirt and rock and greenery a few yards from the waterfall. Chrissy was already there, staring up.
“I bet I can climb this,” said Chrissy.
“Yeah, right,” said Sara with a laugh.
Chrissy didn’t respond, but instead reached up with her right hand, grabbed what looked like a root, and stepped her left foot onto a rock a foot or so off the ground.
“What are you doing?” said Sara.
Chrissy pulled herself up by the root, found a spot for her right foot, and felt around with her left hand until it found a stable perch.
“Get down,” said Sara. “You’ll hurt yourself.”
“Don’t worry,” said Chrissy, heaving herself further up. “We climb all the time at home.”
“Those are trees. This is a freakin’ cliff.”
“It’s more like a steep hill.”
“Yeah,” said Sara. “Really steep.”
She reached for Chrissy’s lowest foot, but her little sister pulled it out of range.
“Mom and dad’ll be here any second,” said Sara. “They’ll kill me if anything happens to you.”
“I just wanna see what’s up there,” said Chrissy.
“Just…be careful,” said Sara, hugging her arms to her chest as she watched Chrissy climb.
And climb. And climb. So high she started feeling vertigo just imagining what her little sister was seeing.
A small rock fell next to Sara, dislodged by the rogue climber. “That’s too high,” bellowed Sara up the side of the hill.
“Just a little further,” said Chrissy, her voice faint and distant.
Sara looked on in a mixture of awe and horror as Chrissy continued her ascent. Until her sister disappeared into a haze above.
“Chrissy?” she said.
Sara heard footsteps behind her, but couldn’t tear her eyes away from the spot where she last saw her sister.
“You were supposed to wait at the bridge,” said her dad’s stern voice.
“Where’s your little sister?” asked her mom’s voice.
“Chrissy!” screamed Sara, still looking up.
Sara sat at the back of an emergency vehicle, a blanket from an EMT wrapped around her shoulders, while a park ranger and police officer questioned her. Her mom sat next to her and hugged her when they were done. But she didn’t look Sara in the eye.
Search parties went out for days, weeks, up at the top of the waterfall, down near the bridge, all over the park. They dragged the lake that the water emptied into down the way. Nothing.
Mom and dad went for months after everyone else had given up. She envisioned them yelling her sister’s name like they had on the official searches in which Sara had been allowed to participate.
But she was no longer invited. They left her with aunt Clara, who had eyed her with both pity and suspicion since the event.
Sara’s parents hadn’t forgiven her, either. They said they had. Said it wasn’t her fault. But they never looked at her the same. Their looks were forever tinged with deep sadness.
Sara stood on the bridge. The one she had visited annually since she graduated from college and took a dead-end job in her home town, missing her family’s and friends’ expectations of her by a mile. Four years out of town had been enough. She couldn’t leave Chrissy for that long again.
Her parents said they were glad she settled nearby. But they still gave her the look.
She came back to the place every year on the day. She leaned on the rail. Felt the spray of whatever droplets made it all the way from the base of the waterfall to where she was standing. Wiped her glasses, until she switched to contacts.
After a few minutes, she walked to the spot where Chrissy climbed. And she looked up, and sometimes spoke. “I miss you,” and “Where did you go, little sister?” and such.
Today was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fracturing of her once happy family. Sara stood looking up the wall of earth beside the waterfall. The top looked hazy, like the day it happened.
“You went too high, Chrissy,” said Sara.
“Just a little further,” she heard. Or she thought she heard. It must have been her mind and the noise of the fall playing tricks.
A small rock fell from above and bounced on the ground at her feet.
A clump of dirt hit on her other side.
Sara reached up and grabbed a root. Was it the same one her sister had used? Or a relative? She put her foot on a rock, and carefully pulled herself up.
She repeated the process. Found handhold and foothold again and again until she was higher than any tree she and Chrissy had ever climbed as children. It was terrifying, but also freeing.
She reached the haze. It cleared a bit. She saw a shoe.
“Chrissy? Is that you?” asked Sara.
“Who else would it be, silly?” said her little sister.
The haze cleared further. Sara could see the girl in her entirety now. It was Chrissy. Unchanged.
“You disappeared,” said Sara.
“I just want to see what’s up there,” said Chrissy.
“But…,” started Sara.
“Just a little further,” said Chrissy.
After a pause, Sara said, “Go on, then. I’ll follow.”
They climbed together.
About the Creator
Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.
You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at bernijohnson.com.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.