“Wheee!” Kallie squealed as I twirled her around on the frozen lake on the evening of New Year’s Eve. Our skates scored the ice with shapes as we skated around in patterns. Her blond hair streamed behind her in wavy locks and her innocent blue eyes shone with pure joy.
I giggled when she stuck her tongue out to catch a snowflake. She always looked so silly when she did that. I stuck my tongue out to catch a snowflake as well, but instead of snowflakes my straight brown hair ended up in my mouth.
Kalli shrieked with laughter as I spluttered and tried to spit out the hair. Kalli was laughing so hard that I almost didn’t hear the faint crack. But I did. I froze, and Kallie stopped spinning around.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her big blue eyes filled with concern. “Don’t move!” I told her. She nodded and stayed where she was. “I heard the ice crack. I think it’s too thin to skate on. Take your skates off so you can walk off of the ice,” I explained. She complied, slipping off her skates and holding them in her hand. I did the same, then realized that she looked afraid. “Don’t worry, just stay still and I’ll come to you so we can get off together. It’ll be okay, Kalli,” I assured her.
Kalli nodded stiffly, her eyes wide with fright. I took a slow, small step towards her. The ice creaked, but held. I took another step, then another. When the ice didn’t break, I started walking faster, and I quickly got to where Kalli was.
“Okay, Kalli. We are going to slowly walk off of the ice together now, okay?” I said. Kalli nodded. Together, we took one step, then another, then another. We started walking faster when I heard another crack, this one louder.
I looked down. The ice was fracturing. Kalli and I took a slow step forward. We started to take another step when I felt the ice give out from under us.
We crashed into the freezing cold water and I was submerged. The cold pricked at me like tiny icicle darts, but I ignored it and pushed up. I burst from the water and gulped the frigid air greedily. I looked around for Kalli, but it was getting dark outside so I couldn’t see the shore from here.
I took a huge breath, then dove back under to see if my five-year-old sister was still in the water. I strained my eyes against the gloom and tried to spot her. I was running out of air when I saw her, sinking and seemingly unconscious.
I broke the surface to get more air, then I swam back under water. I quickly found her again and furiously paddled towards her. I will not let her die. I will not let her die.
I reached her and hooked one arm under her armpit so I could take her back to the surface. I turned around and started swimming towards the light, but it was difficult to stroke with only one arm.
I kicked my legs harder and faster, because I knew she couldn’t have much time left. Kalli was heavy, my arms and legs ached, and I was running out of breath, but I pushed forward. I must get to the surface.
Finally, with one last push, I surfaced and inhaled precious, precious air. I heaved Kalli onto the ice and then dragged myself up as well. Then, I picked her up and plodded across the ice towards the house.
When I reached the bank, I dropped her into the snow and began pumping at her chest. Come on, come on, come on, breathe! I prayed silently and kept pumping, alternating that with mouth-to-mouth. Finally, she spasmed and jerked to life. Her little body shook as she hacked and coughed out water.
I suddenly felt really weak, and everything grew blurry. I saw the fuzzy shape of my parents running towards us. I saved her. That was my last conscious thought before I blacked out.
I woke up in my warm bed, underneath thick blankets. The last thing I remembered was skating on the lake. I decided to ask my parents what happened.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and sat up, looking around. I saw my parents sitting at the table. My mother’s eyes were red and puffy, and my father had a box of Kleenexes beside him. I suddenly had a dreadful feeling, and a shiver raced through me despite the warmth of the comforter.
“What’s wrong?” I asked my mom. She jolted, surprised, and turned to me. “Oh good, you’re awake, Kyla,” she said and they both came over to hug me. Something was off, and I knew it. It was like the house was not complete, like we were missing something. Missing something... Or someone!
“Where’s Kalli?” I demanded. Mom and Dad shifted their gaze away from me. I had a horrible feeling. Something was terribly wrong. “Where is she? What happened?!” I repeated.
Mom sighed and looked at me with grief in her eyes. Dad put his arm around her, then started to speak. “We found you and Kalli on the bank. You had fallen in the lake. You were unconscious, and your lips were turning blue. Kalli was conscious, but only just. We carried you both inside and tried to warm you up, but Kalli was too cold. She was so little, and her body just couldn’t handle the temperature. She... she passed away last night,” Dad explained, his voice cracking.
The memories rushed into me, overwhelming me with a deluge of emotion. I broke down and sobbed. My parents enveloped me in a hug and we wept together over the loss of my precious sister.
I couldn’t save her...
On New Year’s Eve, I sat in my seat and waited for the bell to ring. Most people are off for New Year’s, but at my school, we come back a few days after Christmas and are in school on New Year’s Day.
Just as the bell rang, the teacher tried to close the door, but a straggler bolted inside before she could. I didn’t recognize the girl, but then again, I don’t hang out with the people in my grade.
She apologized to the teacher and revealed that she was new, so she didn’t know her way around yet.
I groaned inwardly. Great. Another new kid to try and ask me questions that I will never answer.
Of course, the only empty seat left was by me, so the eager girl came and plopped down in it. She had blond, curly hair and bright blue eyes. She turned to me with a bright smile on her face and said, “Hi, I’m Callie Byrnam, what’s your name?”
I stiffened in shock. She looked just like... Her name was the same as.... No, don’t think about it. It will only make it worse.
I immediately turned away from her and covered my face to hide the tears creeping into my eyes. I heard her whisper to another student to find out what was wrong. “That’s Kyla. She doesn’t speak. She hasn’t talked to anyone in 3 years. No one knows why. Just leave her alone, Callie,” they replied.
If I hadn’t have been so sad, I would have laughed at the absurdity of the situation. Just because I don’t talk doesn’t mean I can’t hear. I was slightly grateful for the explanation because now the girl might leave me alone.
Unfortunately, at lunch Callie came and sat down right beside me at the empty table. I ignored her and silently continued to eat my lunch in the hopes that she would give up and go away. No such luck.
“Hi, Kyla,” she chirped brightly. I continued to ignore her.
She pressed on and asked, “What are you eating?”
I rolled my eyes and held up the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I was munching on. “Oh, I like peanut butter and jelly, but not the grape jelly. I like to use apricot jelly, or sometimes plum jelly!” She exclaimed.
I choked on my sandwich and almost laughed out loud. What kind of kid doesn’t like grape jelly. I gave her a quick smile and then pointedly started eating again, trying to deter her from asking more questions.
Unperturbed, she persevered. “Why don’t you talk?” she asked.
I froze. My jaw clenched, and my hands shook. No one asks me that question anymore. They know I’ll never answer it. I trembled with grief and her curious expression fell into pity and fear as she realized that she went too far and something was wrong.
I quickly picked up my stuff and dashed to a different empty table, as far away from her as I could get. I could feel her wounded and concerned gaze boring into my back, but I didn’t turn around. I even avoided her for the rest of the day. I was too emotionally raw to hang around her.
After school, I snatched my stuff from my locker and hustled out the door, only to slam into someone. My stuff flew everywhere and I sighed, knowing I would have to pick it all up.
I knelt down and started grabbing papers, surprised to see a pair of hands helping me. I looked up and saw who the hands belonged to: Callie.
She helped me gather all my stuff, then she knelt offered her hand to help me up. Shocked at the kind gesture, I took it, and stood up.
Callie opened her mouth to speak, and I brushed past her to go out the door. “Wait!” she cried. I stopped and turned around expectantly.
“I’m sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean to pry. I just wanted to help. Please tell me what happened, or write it down. Maybe I can make you feel better if you just share your story with somebody,” Callie pleaded, her innocent blue eyes filled with concern. Her innocent blue eyes that were just like another pair of eyes: Kalli’s eyes. I stood there, uncertain. I looked up at her face again, and I saw the image of Kalli reflected back at me. Something inside me softened, and I gave in. This girl genuinely wants to help.
I nodded, and she smiled. “You can come with me to my house,” She offered, gesturing out the door. I nodded again, and she took my arm and led me out of the school.
Callie closed the door to her room and sat on the bed beside me, gazing at me expectantly.
I took a deep, shuddering breath, and then began to talk for the first time in three years. I told her my story, and what happened on that night so long ago. My voice cracked a few times, and it was raspy and rusty with disuse.
Callie listened the whole time, never making a peep. When I finished, she enveloped me in a huge hug, sobbing.
“I’m so sorry! I had no idea!” She sniffed. I blinked back tears and smiled at her.
Callie loosened her embrace and stared at me. “So, now that you’ve told me, don’t you think you should tell other people?” she inquired.
I sat there silently for a while, then I made a decision that would possibly change my life: I was going to tell my story.
“Yes,” I agreed, “People can know now.” I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. The stress of remaining silent was gone. I could finally be who I used to be.
Callie suddenly seized her laptop, plucking it from her desk and dropping it in my lap. “There,” she said, “It will be easier this way. You don’t have to talk to them about it. Just type, and we can send it to anyone who wants to know. You can have a life again.”
I hesitated, anxious, but then I lowered my hands to the keyboard and began to type. I noticed the time and realized it was getting late. It wasn’t New Year’s Day yet though. It was still New Year’s Eve, exactly three years ago from that horrible night. I was typing my story, the text that made my New Year’s Eve...