Bored beyond belief, our feet slap on the harsh grey concrete resentfully. Scarlett trudges in a slow circle on the road, a slight sheen of ice causing her to slip. She laughs, glancing expectantly at me until I join, the melodies intertwining and dancing through the frozen branches. She captivates everyone around her, me included. We’re identical, but somehow she always shines more intensely, her vivid colours glowing until I seem tarnished beside her.
Sliding further away along the ice, her voice grows fainter as she moves out of sight. Suddenly, there’s a confusion of harsh, heavy sounds followed by abrupt silence. ‘Scarlett?’ I call out, my voice tense. No answer. I pick my way across the road and gasp. The perishing air rushes through my body, straight to my heart. Next to the bus, her slight frame lies at an unnatural angle, limbs misaligned and her head cracked to the side. Crimson rivulets of salty blood mingle with her bright hair. Her face is porcelain white against the unforgiving tarmac.
A kaleidoscope of bright normalcy bustles on without me, lively undertones sweeping past as I walk down the ward. I’m fading into monochromes; greys and blacks are filling the blank spaces within my head but my emptiness doesn’t matter right now. I reach the bed, all clinical corners and institutional crispness. The only drop of colour there is her flaming hair and dark-rimmed eyes. I look exactly like her, sleepless nights finally catching up with me.
People normally don’t recover from comas like this. She sustained head trauma, possibly permanently destroying her awareness. Knowing this isn’t some fairy-tale ending though, doesn’t change the hope in every inch of my bones. We can get away from this eventually. I stay for a while. Like every day, I ramble about the mundane, as if talking about life without her will somehow bring her back to me. When it’s time to leave, I glance back once before walking out.
The harsh knock of bone on wood disturbs the calm for an age. I don’t answer. The affronted air settles to blanket any lingering emotions, but my mother knocks again.
‘Hayley, we need to talk to you.’
Reluctantly, I get up and follow her downstairs. My heartbeat begins to escalate, alerting my senses to a panic I haven’t felt in months as my father begins to talk stiltedly. ‘Hayley, this is the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to do, but we have to let her go.’
We have to let her go. We have to let her go. The words ring in my ears over and over until my vision is blurred and I can barely register my parents pulling me towards them.
My life before is in all the echoes that faded with Scarlett. Time has not been kind and I’m left behind trying to write my own future from the remains of our shattered reality. Something will always be missing, but maybe I won’t always feel so empty. Maybe.