Chapter Seven: Gone

'Charlotte was the one who found her.'

"Maria?" Charlotte knocked on Maria's bedroom door, but everything was silent. "Maria! Come on, you're going to be late for work!"

No answer came, so Charlotte opened the door slightly, revealing a darkened room. She turned on the light, and froze, staring at the sight of Maria, still dressed in the clothes she wore the day before, hanging suspended by her neck from the rails of her four-poster bed.

"MARIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Isabelle came running and burst into the room behind Charlotte, stumbling in shock at the sight. Charlotte collapsed to the floor and cried her heart out for her twin, while Isabelle stared, unable to believe what her eyes were telling her.

It was a while before either of them moved.

'There was no note. It was as though she had just decided, suddenly, that she would do it, and there was no thinking or hesitation. She just…did it. Neither of us expected it. She was always the sensible one, and for her to do something so…unthinkable…it shocked us.

'I guess her inability to see Eric's true nature, along with the stress of running her own business and practically providing for her two sisters finally pushed her over the edge. The way Eric insulted her as he left probably contributed as well. I doubt either of us really understood how sensitive Maria really was.

'But it's too late now.'

'It rained at her funeral. It was as though even the Heaven's mourned her passing. It was strange, watching her coffin being lowered into the ground. Charlotte was in shock. I don't think she heard anything that was said in Maria's eulogy.

'When we got home, Charlotte barricaded herself in her room. I took refuge in mine, and my friends comforted me.

'But I knew that Charlotte was alone.'

'The next few days passed in a daze. Charlotte never came out of her room, but I made sure she ate. She looked terrible, but I didn't know how to comfort her, so I left her alone.

'I sold the hair salon and put the money in a bank, to keep it safe. I had to cancel all of the appointments and let go of Maria's employees. They were understanding, if a little disgruntled at the thought of finding a new job.

'Eric came by once. I invited him inside, and he left five minutes later, wondering why he couldn't remember what had happened, and why he felt like he had been run over by a car. Repeatedly.

'Nicollette sometimes visited Charlotte, and swore that Charlotte could see her sometimes. I would smile at her, happy that Charlotte was getting the help she needed, and glad that Charlotte had finally started to Believe, but wishing that it hadn't been under such depressing circumstances. I encouraged Nicollette to keep visiting Charlotte, to help her move on. She was happy to help.

'The weeks passed. I took up painting and even managed to sell a few. Nicollette swore that Charlotte was slowly coming out of her depression, thanks to her. We all congratulated her, and I suggested that she could be a counselor when she was older. She looked ecstatic at the thought of being something other than the Grand Sorceress.

'Letitia and Marius practically moved in. Letitia cooked for us all, making sure that we all ate healthy and nice meals, and Marius started managing the sales of my paintings, leaving me more time to paint. Though, he was annoyed and slightly upset with the way some of the buyers couldn't see him, and he had to get me, but we managed.

'Maria's death left a large hole in our lives, but we managed to survive. We closed up her old room and left it as a shrine to say, "This was our sister, and we loved her." Charlotte still hadn't come out of her room, but Nicollette said that she smiled now and then, and she was looking better.

'Sometimes, it was hard to accept the fact that Maria was now forever gone. It occasionally snuck on me and wrapped me in its depressing arms, seemingly never wanting to let go. But then Marius, who had decided that it was his job to watch out for me, would smile at me or make me laugh, and the depression would disappear. He was, in a way, a guardian angel.

'But it still hurt.'