There I sat, amongst the plush rose red pillows on the black leather of the couch.
The telephone rang, the receiver vibrating on the mahogany stand.
I answered, lazily sliding over towards it, and lifted the receiver on the third ring.
"Ms. Hipp? Katherine Hipp?" a woman's voice asked.
"Yes. Who is this?" I answered.
"Oh. My name is Karen. I'm afraid I have terrible news. It's about your sister. Victoria right?" the voice said casually.
I clutched the receiver, barely whispering a hoarse "Yes?", thoughts of car accidents raced through my mind as she had just gotten her license and I had agreed to allow her a ride by herself after much begging, of course.
"Well, you see, and no fault to you of course, but –well, in finding a few traces of alcohol and narcotics in her bloodstream, we've conducting some result –and, of course, not of your own fault, but-"
"Dammit!" I screamed into the receiver, exasperated at her constant repetition." Just tell me!"
"Um o-okay," she said, her voice full of shock at the harshness in my words that must have reverberated through the connected phone lines.
"I hate to inform you of this, but your sister died a little over an hour ago," she had said it quickly, as though I might reach through the phone and strangle her if she didn't.
Those words stunned me. I couldn't move. I thought I couldn't breathe, as time itself seemed to slow. My sister is dead? It couldn't be MY sister could it? Didn't she say they found narcotics and alcohol in her system? Were they even sure it was my sister? So many more thoughts raced through my mind.
"Um, Ms. Hipp?" Karen's voice snapped me out of my daze of questions and brought me back.
"Yes, um, what did you say?" I replied, it had only dawned on me that she'd been talking to me the whole time.
"I said that your sister is at .......... Hospital. You may need to come down to verify that the body is your sister and , if so, we will need to ask a few questions that may help us answer why she did this," she said, unnaturally. It sounded as if she was a machine and not a person on the other side of this conversation.
"Um, alright," I answered, a hard lump forming in my throat. I think I said "bye" as I hung up but I don't remeber. I remember the clang of the reciever as it clicked into position. The sound seemed to consume the deathly silent room in an unusualy loud tone.
I just wanted to wake up, but the more I thought about it, the more I truly believed I was still dreaming. That I would wake up from this nightmare and my sister and I would laugh about it.
One part of me believed the lady. The more I tried to fight it, the stronger the thought became. It was so strong, I thought I'd drown in it. I screamed as loud as I could, yelling at the empty walls that drooped with sadness and loss. Getting up I headed for the door, grabbing my other set of car keys and got into the silver Honda Civic, the one I only use in case the other car is in the shop.
I'd gone over our last conversation mentally as if it was a broken record that only knew how to repeat. It haunted me relentlessly.
I'd reached the hospital. I could already smell the retched trail of decay, even though I must have been floors from it. I paused, my hand only inches away from the cool metal of the door knob.
It was funny, but I hadn't thought of it until now. Tears were glistening my eyes and trailing my cheeks, but I was about to explode with sad laughter. I had promised her something before she left. She made me promise that, before she left, if she had died, I wouldn't be sad. It was a joke then, but she had told me that if she dies, I shouldn't worry, because she would always be with me. It had been a sarcastic remark, then. It was made so that I would stop harrassing her with endless questions before she had left. I think about it now, and I'm not so sad.
My sister didn't vanish into a forgotten realm where I could no longer remember her face, but she was with me, even now. Right now she was playing those drums I had bought for her last birthday, right there inside my heart.
I whispered aloud, not caring if anyone heard me," I promise." Maybe I said it to reassure myself? But somewhere inside me, I knew she heard me.
I turned the cold steel of the door knob, and walked inside.