"Why?"1

Her single word encompassed in one syllable, one soft utterance, every emotion gripping her heart, making short her breath. As Evva stared into her sister's eyes, she tried with a deepened sense of urgency and fear to decipher their surface, to see past it into the answers- the unknown thoughts and path of logic- that must lie somewhere inside her. 2

It had to be there, if she could just SEE it… it had to be, there had to be direct, uncomplicated reasons, something simple even in the complexity of this horrible moment in their lives. And if it was there, then Evva could find it, she could fix it before it got any worse… before it was too late…3

But all she saw in Rachael's eyes was a flat surface shine, a darker shade of brown than she was accustomed to… a shade that was almost black. Nothing of her thoughts, nothing of her reasoning… and Evva's own attempts to do so gave her no insight to work with. 4

When Rachael did not reply, simply stared past her, her dark eyes focused on a point that was not a point at all- on what Evva knew without turning would merely be empty air- Evva felt her stomach drop, goosebumps slowly rising on the bare flesh of her arms. Everything about them was so silent, the hour just late enough that no one would know- no one had any idea- of what took place such a short distance away from them.5

This was, of course, how Rachael had wanted it… and this was what terrified Evva. No one would hear them…no one would know, until it was too late.6

"Rachael," Evva spoke again, and though her voice strove for authority, for a way of grabbing her sister's attention and forcing it upon herself, the word shook slightly upon escaping her mouth. "Rachael, why?"7

Rachael turned slowly, her eyes not shifting at all in the way they regarded Evva, hooded, measured, but seeming as if they didn't truly see her at all. Watching her, Evva shuddered again, pulling her elbows in more closely to her sides. In the dim light illuminating her sister's face, she thought that Rachael looked not quite alive…8

Rachael's shoulders lifted slightly, then fell, barely more than a twitch of acknowledgement at the other girl's words. Her eyes remained on Evva's, but there was no indication of any form of emotional reaction of her as she replied tonelessly.9

"It doesn't matter why."10

"Yes, Rachael, it does!" Evva burst out with, unable to keep calm for any longer as her eyes widened, her body stiffening at her sister's flat proclamation. She felt her heart skip a beat, then resume its pounding just a little faster than before as she barely managed to restrain herself from running to Rachael, grabbing her and shaking her until she lost that blank look and dead tone and fought back.11

"That's all that DOES matter, Rachael- all that's important now is WHY! Please…please tell me," she almost pleaded, her voice dropping, almost cracking, as she took a slow step forward, hand unconsciously extended as she held Rachael's eyes in her own. "Tell me why you're doing this."12

Rachael did not answer, did not look back as her eyes moved slowly, once more focusing on the empty air behind Evva's shoulder. For a moment Evva panicked, for it seemed that Rachael's body had shifted just a little bit, was moving or preparing to move…but then her sister went still once more, speaking again in the same oddly detached tone that Evva did not want to acknowledge to herself was her sister's.13

"It's nothing, Evva…"14

She stopped, blinking slowly as she continued to gaze past Evva, seeming lost somewhere in her own words, perhaps in her own line of thought so removed from Evva's. She seemed so distant to Evva then, though they were really only a few feet apart, as if she would never be able to touch her, as if she were already far removed from her…15

"Everything is nothing," Rachael went on finally, her words slow, musing, as if she were just now beginning to understand the greater scope of what she was saying. As she continued to stare past Evva, her face shifted slightly in a way that the other girl did not understand… a way that made her stomach sink even more sickeningly…16

"There's so much nothingness in this world… so much nothing. That's all there is…nothing is everything…everything is nothing. Nothing… so it's not real, it's really… sometimes I think that nothing's even real. So there's no point to anything. Not if it's nothing."17

Evva's heart jumped in her chest, knocking hard against her ribcage. She shivered again, her arms wrapping more tightly around herself, and as her eyes anxiously scanned Rachael's face, she looked over her shoulder hurriedly before looking back into her almost blank features. She hated the way Rachael looked, the way her voice sounded…but even more, she hated what she was saying, the words that made fear clutch icy fingers around her heart…18

"Of course it's real," she replied, her voice shaking slightly as she tried to hold Rachael's eyes in her own, to force her attention back to her. "Rachael, there is something…there's a lot. Everything is real, of course it is-"19

"Is it?" Rachael asked, and her voice was still quiet, unaggressive, unemotional. "Are you real, Evva…am I?"20

"Well, of course you are, Rachael!" Evva blurted out, her voice rising slightly. How was she supposed to react to something that sounded so crazy? "Of course you're real, both of us are real. You didn't' really think differently, did you- you know we're real…"21

"Do I?" Rachael asked blankly, letting her shoulders rise and fall slowly, even as her eyes went to focus for a few moments on her sister's. "I wonder…"22

Evva went quiet as her mind scrabbled for words, for decisions of what to do, what Rachael needed from her now… but nothing was coming, nothing was making any sense to her, whether in her own mind or outside of it, what was taking place before her…23

She'd never had to do this before…she'd never worried for Rachael, never tried to care for her. It had never seemed necessary before. Rachael was the older sister, eighteen to Evva's sixteen…she had always been the one with more responsibilities, the one setting the example for Evva. Evva had even been jealous of her before because Rachael had seemed to her so easily, effortlessly successful, so completely perfect at times. Evva had thought of herself sometimes as the lesser one, had not tried to compete with her in terms of looks and grades, schedules and behavior. She had somewhat relieved, somewhat envious, settled instead into her own pattern of mediocrity.24

She had never dreamed that Rachael would sink away from the elevated position she had been placed- placed herself- upon…she had never considered that some day, Rachael would no longer be able to maintain it. Or had she never maintained it at all? Had it merely been a pretense, a covering of what she really thought and felt? Had her sister never been so capable at all, never truly been better, more together than Evva herself… was it really possible that she had been less so?25

Evva had never had to do for Rachael, never had to deal with anything remotely like this. She had never had to help her in any way…Rachael had never given her reason to think it was needed. She had never seen her behave anything like the way she was now…and now, without even a slight prerequisite of anything remotely similar ever having happened between them for Evva to draw back on, she felt more out of her depth than ever. She felt so young, so useless and helpless in the face of her sister's behavior… utterly unprepared.26

How had this happened? What had gone wrong, caused Rachael to change so suddenly and drastically? Or had it not been changing at all…had it been just that she no longer allowed for even a thin veneer of concealment? Was it really possible that they had all been so blind, missed so much?27

What was wrong with her… what was the reason, WHY was this happening?28

For this was what drove Evva the most… the why. Almost as much as she needed to stop Rachael, she needed to understand.29

"I used to be real, maybe," Rachael said suddenly, and her voice was still distant, holding no real emotion. She continued to stare past Evva, and Evva realized uneasily how seldom she blinked, how very subtly she drew her breaths. 30

"I think maybe I was real, once," Rachael repeated, and it almost seemed to Evva that she were speaking to herself rather than to her. Her voice was low, not changing in cadence, and as she went on it seemed to be slowing, dropping even further in volume. "But maybe you use up reality, after some time… go too fast, too hard with things, and the reality of it slips away. So maybe I wore it off now…maybe I'm not, or I shouldn't be."31

She nodded slowly, her eyes slipping down, and she repeated the words to herself so softly Evva barely understood. "Maybe I shouldn't be…"32

"Rachael," Evva nearly whispered, and she licked her lips anxiously, her stomach twisting sharply. She attempted to clear her throat, but it stuck, almost making her gag. "Rachael…why are you talking like this?"33

Very slowly Rachael turned her head, and for the first time when her eyes met Evva's, Evva felt that she was really looking at her, really seeing her…but even so she could not count this as positive. For even as Rachael appeared to focus on her, to regard her with some thought, the darkness in her eyes, the total absence of the Rachael Evva had thought she knew, gave her no relief whatsoever.34

"Talking like what, Evva?" she asked, and for the first time there was a bit of emotion in her voice, a bare hint of irony. "Do you mean talking honestly…do you mean telling you the truth as I see it?" 35

She exhaled slightly, and for a moment she dropped her eyes. When she looked back up at Evva again, her eyes had changed slightly in a way Evva could not quite identify, but that in no way lessened her fear.36

"Because you deserve it from me, Evva… you over anyone. I can't keep lying to you about the world… I can't keep lying to you about me. That wouldn't be right, right now."37

"What are you TALKING about?" Evva cried, her voice growing slightly shrill as she unconsciously took another step towards Rachael, not unaware of how still her sister was holding herself, how her eyes sharpened suddenly at her movement. "Rachael-"38

"I'm trying to save you, Evva," Rachael interrupted, and there was no trace of irony in her words this time. "I don't want you to start going unreal too…if you just listen to me… if you understand… maybe this wont' happen to you. Maybe it's different for you."39

Her voice dropped low, and even as she spoke her last words she was already shifting her body, already beginning to move past Evva, to where her eyes had been drifting all along.40

"I hope so…"41

She began to walk, slowly, but deliberately, Evva already blocked from her mind, her vision… and as Evva watched, her heart pounding, she could not for a moment form words as the horror of her failure hit her heavily.42

"Rachael… Rachael, stop- RACHAEL-"43

"Keeping you real, Evva…" Rachael replied without shifting her head in the slightest, without straying from her slow steps forward. "Stupid phrase…but it's true. Have to keep it real."44

"RACHAEL!" Evva cried, and she snatched at the older girl's wrist, tightening her hand around it in panicky desperation. "Rachael, stop! You can't do this… I'm not going to let you do this!"45

Even as she was stalled, Rachael did not look at her; her voice had gone flat again as she replied in measured tones.46

"You can't stop me, Evva… you can't hold me back, and there's not enough time for you to get someone who could."47

At those words Evva froze, still clinging tightly to her wrist… for she knew that the older girl's words were true. She couldn't stay here, would not in the long run be able to stop Rachael…but if she left her now, it would be too late…48

"Go away," Rachael said quietly, her eyes briefly moving to hold her sister's, flat in contrast to Evva's shining with emotion. "You don't want to be here… you don't want to see this."49

"Rachael," Evva whispered, and she swallowed hard, trying to dispel the lump in her throat, the frantic tears pricking behind her eyes. "Rachael..why would you do this? Don't…don't you care what this will do to me… to everyone? Don't…don't you love me?"50

It was her last effort, her last thought of what she might could say to change things, to stop her… but it was also a desperate cry, her fear and sense of loss not yet received, but pending, poured out into that one last question.51

And Rachael's reply was almost as soft, some expression seeping into her tone.52

"Yes…of course…"53

"Then why? Why would you do this to me?"54

Rachael's words were slow in coming, and as her eyes rose to look on Evva's, Evva was stunned by the change in them… there was no more emptiness, no absence of emotion or thought. Suddenly they were glittering, displaying a fear and anguish that mirrored Evva's own….maybe even surpassed it. Evva had to wonder if she had been concealing it the whole time, if she had spent most of her life concealing it.55

"Because," she replied slowly, and her words were barely a breath now, Evva almost having to read her lips. "Because I hate me more."56

For a moment longer her eyes remained locked on Evva's… but then she turned jerkily, pulling her arm roughly from her grasp. And then she was moving rapidly, not running so much as stumbling her way toward the balcony's edge.57

And Evva was paralyzed, all cries of protest dying on her lips, all thoughts to stop her failing to translate to action…she just stood there, her stomach dropping sharply with her strong emotions, her dread. She didn't want to be here, didn't' want to see this, but she couldn't look away, couldn't move… she could only stand there, helpless, watching as her sister prepared to jump.58

But Rachael didn't jump… she kept moving, never slowing as she drew closer to the balcony rail, and Evva's body grew rigid, preparing herself to see what she could not handle seeing, what she would not be able to handle happening…59

But it didn't happen. Rachael reached the railing, grabbed hold of it…but then she stopped. Holding onto it tightly, she stared out into the space before her, the darkness of the night sky, the distance below her. Evva swallowed, watching her shoulders grow taut, scarcely daring to hope… 60

She wasn't sure how long Rachael stood there, simply staring, before the shaking began. It started in the hands tightly wrapped around the balcony rail, hands anchoring her to the ground she had just seriously tried to jump out from… quickly it spread up her arms, down her back and legs, until she was trembling so strongly she was barely standing, barely able to keep upright.61

And then the gasps began, fast, shallow intakes of air accompanied with loud gulping, as if Rachael could not breathe. Without warning her legs buckled, and she slid to the balcony floor in a crumpled heap, as the shaking intensified, joined now with a harsh, hopeless sobbing that somehow brought Evva relief almost as intensely as her sorrow. For she knew now that Rachael would not die…at least now.62

She made her way over to her sister on legs that were also quivering, her mouth dry, heart pounding just a little less than before as she took her into her arms. As Evva held her silently, knowing nothing else could be done in the moment, Rachael continued to weep with lessening harshness, lying limply against her with eyes far from empty in expression.63

Time passed, as slowly their separate realities shook themselves into barely a semblance of what had been before.64