Elizabella looked at the portrait behind the bar with longing. The lone ballet slipper with the single lace elbow-length glove and the strand of pearls dangling from the shoe created a feeling of nostalgia she wanted to forget but did not dare to. So much had happened that day, and she still did not know what to do or, most importantly, the answer to the questions that surfaced to her mind. Her mind refused to understand why she had not been there. No peace came from knowing she should have moved to New York but let selfish desires rule her decision instead. She wanted answers but had no clue how to find them. All that had nothing to do with the picture itself, but because of what the picture contained, it kept the questions burning. It reminded her of Mirielle, and, truth be told, connected her to her sister.
Mirielle, her twin sister.
They had shared almost everything growing up but passions. Mirielle was a diva, a prima ballerina since the first time she pointed her toes at the tender age of two. Elizabella was a bit more boyish, preferring rough, rugged sports like baseball to prancing around on a stage. The difference worked well for them. At least they did, until two years ago when the twins split for the first time. Mirielle went to New York, hopeful to find her destiny on a stage. Elizabella stayed back in their hometown in the Midwest, took classes at the local community college, and worked part time as a bartender for a local pub. They existed together, yet apart, secure in the knowledge that the other was out there. They had also promised to call each other at a certain time every night.
Until the night when the phone did not ring. No one answered on the other end either.
A second night passed without talking to Mirielle.
By the third night, Elizabella began panicking. Even when Mirielle was at her busiest, she always made time for her. A knot formed in her stomach. Dread filled her soul. Something happened, and it was not good. After five days of missed phone calls, her phone rang and she knew.
“Hello?” She said quietly.
“Is this Elizabella Sempling?” A masculine voice asked.
Trepidation filled her senses. “Yes, this is she.” She squinched her eyes shut and held her breath.
“My name is Dan Jones. I’m a detective with the New York police department. I am investigating a crime. You’re listed as the next of kin for a Mirielle Sempling. Is this correct? Do you know Mirielle Sempling?”
His voice held authority and she exhaled. Tears rushed over her eyelids as her breath escaped. “She…she is….my twin…sister.” She asked no questions, only wished to delay whatever this man had to say. A soft sob flowed from her throat.
“I’m sorry. I need you to come to New York and identify her body. How soon can you get here?”
Grief stricken, Elizabella raced from the airport to the police station. Detective Jones met her at the reception desk and took her to the morgue. She said nothing along the way, still wishing to prolong the inevitable, and still holding out hope that the detective was wrong and it was not Mirielle lying on a cold slab in the morgue. She shivered thinking about it. The detective must have noticed it because he too remained quiet as they moved.
The elevator doors swished open with a creak as they landed on the basement level. The hallway beyond the elevator was not dark, but a few of the fluorescent lights overhead flickered as if they were about to lose power. This created an ominous atmosphere that left dark corners in every direction. Elizabella shivered again and pulled her wool coat closer, as if it was a suit of armor that could protect her. The detective placed his hand gently on her back between her shoulder blades protectively and she felt gratitude rush through her.
“I’m sorry. I know this is a bit…horror movie-ish, I suppose.” The detective chuckled softly and a slight smile found its way onto Elizabella’s face. There was no squelching the lump inside her bowels, however.
“It is a bit unsettling. This whole having to identify a body combined with this atmosphere…if someone were giving out trophies for the creepiest real life situations, I think this would win hands-down,” Elizabella said.
“I agree with you. It is very unsettling, even for me, and until the moment they are found, most of them are strangers to me. I’ve met some fascinating people along the way, but I’m always sorry for the circumstances we meet under.” The detective paused long enough to push open a set of double metal doors lined with black rubber strips. He held one of the doors open. “This way, please.”
Elizabella stepped through the doors and found herself surprised. The morgue did not look the way television had trained her to think it did. A woman in a white jacket sat behind a desk, a pair of eyeglasses holding back her golden brown hair like a headband and an out-of-place smile attached to her face.
“Hi, Dan.” She said, rising from her seat. Fondness dripped from her words. “What can I do for you today?”
The detective turned to Elizabella and said, “This is Dr. Johnson, our resident ME.”
He turned to Dr. Johnson in the same manner and said, “Susan, this is Elizabella Sempling. She is here to identify that body we brought in from the park yesterday.”
“Ah, yes. Such a pity, that one,” Dr. Johnson said as she turned her back to them.
She walked forward, her heels click clacking on the hard linoleum floor as she went. She crossed the room and stopped in front of a silver cabinet with a single row of three drawers. She opened the centermost drawer and slid out the tray. A body covered with a sheet laid on it. The doctor waited patiently for the detective and his guest to be ready. Elizabella sniffled and despair etched its signature in the lines of her green eyes and full mouth.
Dan turned to Elizabella expectantly. “Ready?” He asked.
Her eyes closed and she nodded. The sheet removal cast a soft breeze against her skin. She inhaled slowly and exhaled quickly, audibly. Her eyes opened slowly as she breathed. The tears she had been holding back spilled down her cheeks as she saw the familiar jawline, recognized the slightly crooked nose–the one she accidentally broke when they were five. Her face crumbled as she took in the various shades of purple that colored Mirielle’s skin, yet she held her poise. She closed her eyes again, willing the vision to go away, wishing that all this were nothing more than a dream. A wail filled the silence and she realized it came from her. She watched the doctor quickly cover Mirielle back up and slide her back into the black hole beyond her feet. Pressure on her arm made her feet move, but she was no longer aware. A fog settled over the edges of everything within view, and she allowed the detective to lead her away.
When the fog cleared, she found herself sitting in a chair next to a desk. A man she did not recognize sat behind the desk. She felt her body ripple and his head turned her way.
“Are you okay, Miss Sempling?” He said. His voice was as kind as his eyes.
Elizabella looked around her before answering. “Where is Detective Jones?”
“He got a call and had to step out. My name is Detective O’Hara. Can I get you anything?”
She looked at him blankly, soaking in his appearance. His black hair was peppered with silver streaks. Crow’s feet marred the corner of his soft brown eyes, chasing away the illusion of youth he had otherwise. Realizing her throat felt dry and raw, she asked for a drink. He came back with a bottle of water and set it down in front of her. Tears traced new paths down her face as she remembered why she was there in the first place.
“What happened to my sister?” She asked in a subdued voice.
Detective O’Hara paused for a moment. She could tell he was considering his words carefully. “Did Detective Jones tell you nothing?”
She let her eyes fall to the floor. “I…I don’t remember. I don’t even know how I got from the morgue to this desk.”
“I see. You must understand that I am not handling your sister’s case. I have limited information. All I can accurately tell you is that she died of an overdose.”
Elizabella frowned in confusion. “An overdose? That’s not possible. My sister was a dancer, preparing for her second show on Broadway. She would never use drugs.” Her fingers twisted around the bottle of water until it crackled. “She’s always been anti-stimulant. Pain was her friend, she said. It was the only way she knew she was doing it right. She would never, ever do drugs. Not even for recreation.”
“I’m sorry; I don’t have any more information. Since it is an active investigation, they must believe there was some foul play involved. I can assure you that all the detectives working on the case are doing everything they can to solve it.”
Detective Jones spoke from behind her. “We are absolutely doing everything we can. There is no evidence that she was doing drugs at all. All the marks and bruises on her skin tell a story. We need to figure out what that story is.” Sorrow framed his eyes. “I’m sorry again, Miss Sempling. Thank you for coming. I will call you when your sister’s body is released.”
Elizabella looked at the picture behind the bar. The lone ballet slipper, the single lace glove, and the strand of pearls reminded her of her sister. Fresh tears slipped out, and her heart began aching anew. She looked at the glass in her hand. The bokah lights faded in the background as she raised it for a refill. The fingers of her other hand toyed with two small red capsules resting within her palm. It had taken her a couple of days to secure them. “Pain Killers” was the street name for them, and promises of numbness flowed behind every sale. She had wanted more, but they refused to sell more than two at a time. The rules were explained during purchase– do not mix with alcohol; do not take the open the capsules; do not take more than one at a time. The penalty for rule breaking could result in death. She understood.
She stopped toying with them and placed them on the white cocktail napkin beside her refilled glass of wine. She swatted at the tears wetting her face and looked at the picture once more before closing her eyes. Mirielle danced behind her closed eyelids, a smile on her unmarked face, and laughter spilled from her lips. They spun together in a circle, faster and faster until their hands slipped from each other’s grip and they fell, laughing, to the green carpet of grass beneath their feet.
“What are you waiting for?” Mirielle said, her face once again twelve, the best year of their lives. Childish laughter echoed between the trees that surrounded them.
Elizabella smiled. She opened one capsule and poured the contents into her glass. She could feel a lightness taking over her body, filling her soul with peace. She split the second capsule open and dumped its contents into the glass. She refused to let her thoughts wander, choosing, instead, to let Mirielle fill them. She sighed then drank from the glass, emptying it in four gulps.
As her eyes closed, Mirielle reached out to her. Hand-in-hand they started walking toward the edge of the tree line.
“Born hand in hand, died hand in hand.” She said with her last breath. “Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
I’m triple dipping this week, but only for two writing memes. I started this story last week when the first Picture It and Write was still up (the ballet slipper picture at the beginning of the story) and the new picture (the one at the bottom) given out yesterday gave me the story’s direction.
I am always looking for honest feedback. Please share your thoughts on this, and any story, in the comments section.
Thanks for stopping in.