Musical Selection: We Are KING (or KING)|Hey
Flash Fiction: Narrated by Kay Bolden
*Readers, the following story details murder and death graphically, abuse and neglect of children, and a family’s indescribable pain.
We don’t talk about Daniela. We don’t reminisce — don’t share our memories — don’t even flip through the plastic pages of our favorite photo albums. We can’t say her name. We don’t. We don’t. We don’t. But my sister Alexandria does. She chants it. She brings up the past. She draws in the days of old and begs us to dance with her. She shouts the name. She spends it around her fingertips and blows a kiss to us with it. She is enamored by it, dressed in it, locked into it, and we . . . we can’t get her to stop. We want her to stop. We want her to start. We don’t know what we want. But we don’t talk about Daniela.
We don’t talk about that night. We don’t look into the eyes of her sons and wonder what happened — why they lived — why she didn’t. We don’t ask for answers. We don’t wait for answers. We stopped looking for answers. But my sister Alexandria does. She spends hours on the phone with private investigators — works overtime to pay meaningless dollars to an overweight, flighty man who lives at his place of business — too focused to go home — too greedy to know home. She is submerged in the knowing — the yearning — the need to find answers. We wish she would stop. We hope she won’t stop. We can’t get her to stop. But we don’t talk about Daniela.
Alexandria picks at the paintings in my mother’s home — asks, “Who’s this? Who’s that”? and she knows every face. She knows our family — our dead — our ghosts. My mother does not respond. I stand statue-like, still in the presence of my sister who won’t let go. I want to be like her. I want to talk about Daniela — our youngest sister. I’ll try. I think I can. I think I can. Will you listen?
My mother has soulless eyes now. They have been drained of tears. She is hollow-boned and sunken — dry. Nothing moves her. We exist. We still exist. We are here, Mama.
Daniela was the reason for the word beautiful. She had golden eyes. Did you hear me? Golden eyes! Her voice was a velvety sing-songy lullaby. The smartest in her class. The light in every room. The undeniable work of art God created, stepped back, and announced, “It is good” . . . She was thirty years old when that night happened. Thirty years old. Thir — Alexandria was on her way to see her — she had all of their favorite snacks. It was a Friday evening and the roads glistened with the first sprinkles of summer rain. Luther Vandross’s Never Too Much played on her radio. And she sang along. She sang along. She sang along.
Alexandria says, “As soon as I saw her house, something felt off. Something wasn’t right.” That’s what she said. That’s what she says. She got out of her car approached our sister’s home. Her stomach fell to her feet. Tears pummeled her eyelids. She couldn’t move. She wanted to. She couldn’t. She found our nephews tied up in their bedroom — removed the muzzles from their mouths, and listened to their screams. How does one cut their own sister down from a spinning fan? Her neck bruised — eyes bulged from their sockets — breathless. Who did it? Who did it?! Who did THIS?!
An overwhelming feeling to shelter our nephews — at the time, ages seven and four, tapped at her, and Alexandria guided them to the family room, closed the door, and called the police. She was advised to leave our sister hanging — to watch her sway — to not tamper with evidence. Is this right? Was this okay — to allow someone you loved more than the full-bodied moon to just . . . hover lifeless in your presence? It didn’t feel right to Alexandria. It wasn’t right. She took a chair from the dining room, placed it under our sister, and butcher-knifed the rope in half. The two of them fell to the floor.
She held her — smoothed her hair away from her eyes — rocked back and forth. Every tear was a testament to the days she would search for her killer. Every breath was etched in pain. She rocked back and forth. She rocked . . . The boys beat at the door. They kicked. They raged. They wanted out! She rocked . . . she rocked . . . She held onto our sister. She cried. She cried.
Sirens blared in the dark — the slick road announced the officers’ arrival. The hushed trees swayed in the distance — they announced the ambulance’s arrival. The sky opened up and showered down its heaviest rain. It announced the local fire department’s arrival.
Alexandria says, “It was the worst night of my life. It was the worst night of their lives. It was the worst night of her life.” Her being, Daniela — the name we don’t say. The one we don’t talk about. But I’m trying. I — I really am. When I heard my sister’s voice that night, there was a feeling deep in my gut that told me to be quiet — to just listen. I don’t know how she did it — how she told me every detail of that night after holding our dead sister. After embracing our nephews. After answering question after question and catering to authorities performing half-assed duties. I don’t know how she did it.
A suicide — that’s what it was called. Really?! Alexandria slapped the authorities with their own words. Our sister would have never tied up her sons or abused them or beat them in any way. She would have never managed to hang herself or physically bruise her own body prior to this. Who did it?! Look! Search! Do something, damn it! Question the boys. Ask them! Ask them! They know . . . They know . . . They know . . .
Someone had to tell our mother. Someone had to be the one. Someone needed to let her know. How do you tell a woman her youngest child is no longer alive? How do you tell a woman who nearly lost this child in month four — she’s truly gone now? How do you tell a woman she is a mother of two — not three? Someone had to tell her. Alexandria drove to our mother’s home after our sister’s body was removed from her house. The boys sat silently in the back seat. In hushed whispers — intermittent tears fell. She drove faster. She drove faster. She had to get to our mother.
Mothers know. They always know. Alexandria says, “When Mama saw me covered in Daniela’s blood — her sweat wrapping my body — the boys’ tears staining my clothes, she knew.” How Alexandria thought our mother would react was not how she reacted. She sat stoically on her couch, smoothed the silk pajama pants she had on — cleared her throat — closed her eyes. Alexandria told her. She told her. She let her know.
The boys stood by her. They clung to her. They let the woman who birthed the woman they called mother love on them. They allowed her to hold their hands — kiss their cheeks — ease their pain. And it has been like this for the last five years. It’s that way. This is the way. It’s her way. And why we don’t talk about Daniela.
We don’t talk about Daniela. We don’t reminisce — don’t share our memories — don’t even flip through the plastic pages of our favorite photo albums. We can’t say her name. We don’t. We don’t. We don’t.
But my sister Alexandria does. She does . . . To her, Daniela was what we wished for — our shooting star in a land of fallen stars. She will never stop talking about Daniela.