Here comes Chapter 2 of The Imagined Ones – The World Upside Down ! Once again, there might be mistakes 😀
(Links to the other chapters at the end)
I lost my daughter at fifty-two.
We’d fought over a stupid thing, nothing worth the last words we exchanged. Being herself, my eldest had defended her sister. I’d just came back from a day at work that, while having ended early, had started the day before. I was exhausted, I simply wanted to go home, forget work with my wife and daughters before getting a head start on a few cases I had in mind.
Saskia was twenty-two, arctic blue eyes and pale skin from her mother’s Scandinavian origins, jet black hair from my Latin ancestry, falling in elegant curls on a slender waist carried by long legs, and white elfin-like fingers that brightened everything they touched. Boys were falling at her feet. She was a porcelain doll, and she was my greatest accomplishment. Brilliant from the moment she started talking, she’d passed her high school diploma with distinctions at twelve, and was now working on her second thesis in genetics, on undiscovered brain capacities. Socially radiant, every person she met gravitated around her like they would around a sun, she attracted the world with a single smile. And for all that she was amazing and bright in society, she wasn’t any less of an extraordinary sister at home, who tenderly loved her younger sisters and always found time to spend with them. That night, she had traveled the North-South distance between her laboratory and home to spend the week-end with us. My wife was in the kitchen, my youngest at the table in the living-room doing her homework with the help of my eldest. I smiled when they saw me and sent an enthusiastic “Hi Dad!” my way. As for the middle one, she was, as per usual, upside down on the couch, legs thrown over the backrest, head close to the floor, a chocolate bar jammed in her mouth, gawking at one of her debilitating reality shows.
My exhaustion quickly gave way to irritation. I tried to remember what her mother kept telling me; she was only fourteen, she was trying to find herself, her limits and ours, and it was perfectly normal that, at her age, she suffers from chronic laziness. I spotted her school bag abandoned in the entrance and knew she had not looked at it since she had come home from school to sit in front of the TV. The truth, which my wife refused to see, was that her daughter had always been difficult, and that being a teenager did not explain her abysmal grades and her horrible behavior. I knew teens in crisis, and that was not what she was.
“Will there ever be a time where I won’t come home to find you slumped in front of the TV doing nothing?!”
And then a scene I was unfortunately all too familiar with. No, she had nothing better to do. What about her homework? She finished it at school. The TV next to his sister who was studying? It did not bother her. Reality shows, really? Superstructures was not a reality show, it was a documentary, and it was research because she had decided that with an F in math and a permanent exclusion from art class, she was going to be an architect, and I was pissing her off because I was hiding the screen and was not exactly see through. This was beyond the time she told us she was bisexual. Saskia chose to send her little sister, done with her homework, in her room.
“I cannot stand your behavior anymore!! Insolent is the least of your faults! If you keep it up, I can tell you one thing: I will ship you off to boarding school!”
“Oh yeah, the easy way out! How did you not think of it sooner?”
I turned my head towards my eldest who placed herself between her sister and me, hands on her hips.
“Dad,” she started, “I really don’t want to do this tonight. I know she can be a little annoying at times, but it’s perfectly normal for her age!”
“Her age is not what’s causing her bad attitude, and we both know it,” I grunted.
Saskia ticked but only responded by clenching her jaw.
“If we keep ignoring all her vices, your beloved sister will end up a junkie in rehab!”
“Okaaaay!!” The object of our discord stepping out from behind his sister. “I see where the conversation’s going, I’m out!”
She had slammed the door before her sister could shout “Wait!”. Saskia glared at me before she grabbed her bag and keys, saying she was going to go and get her.
“You think she doesn’t know you’re going to follow her,” I groused. “Just last month, you dropped the lab and took the first train because she called you and asked you to come. For nothing. It’s not by giving her everything she wants and sparing her the hard words that we’re going to fix her behavior, Saskia.”
“Right now, it’s not her behavior I have a problem with, Dad.”
She left, without me knowing that two hours later, the criminal explosion of a bridge would take her away from me for good.
Barely taking the time to call our neighbor to watch our youngest after hearing about the disaster, and my wife and I had rushed to the barriers set up by the police, anxiously awaiting for news with hundreds of other people. What was left of the bridge stood about a hundred meters away from us, we couldn’t see anything in the dark night except for the blinding lights of paramedics, firemen and policemen. Most of the wreckage had been cleared, but bits and traces of blood still laid on the ground and stuck to the tar, preventing us from forgetting why we were here. There was an unbearable tension in the air, and I felt like I was crushed under its weight.
The journalists were circling us like vultures, hoping to get the slightest piece of information. My wife clung to me sobbing, forgetting she had been giving me the cold shoulder since she found out why our two eldests would not be eating with us.
And me, I was paralyzed. I still couldn’t understand what the situation implied. I had heard the words; it was her license plate that had been identified, her car that had plunged into the river with them inside, the police were doing everything in their power to find them, they would give us news as soon as they could. I had heard the words but they made no sense. I was in a daze, unable to focus on the possible ends of this story, choosing to rehash the ‘what ifs’ that would never happen.
What if I went to look for them. What if I had stopped her from taking the car. What if I’d handled the argument differently. What if I had shut up. What if my middle daughter wasn’t born with such a hot temper.
I chanced a glance at this huge white tent, whose existence I had refused to acknowledge since we’d arrived, imposing, unreachable beyond the barriers ; the one which sheltered the morgue. When I turned away, my wife had left my side with a sob to grab and never let go of our second daughter, just brought to us by a policeman, soaked and shaking, wrapped in a security blanket. She had bleeding cuts on her forehead and arms, and seemed to rely only on her mother to stand up, but she was safe and sound.
I should have been relieved but I wasn’t. Because the only thing I could understand was that while they should have returned the both of them, we had only gotten back the second one. And I knew when she looked at me with dead eyes that we wouldn’t get our first back.
Here are the links to the other chapters :