I walk with my head hung low, my eyes fixated on the gravelly sidewalk, and though I don’t look, I can feel their gazes sting on my back. It is almost like the times we went through when Dad passed away, but then I had you to shrug it off; you were always better at this, and at every other damn thing. I curse you under my breath, Natalie, because you really, really got me into a mess this time.
I release a breath I didn’t realise I’d been holding as I reach our room, my room now, close the door and slump on the floor. The room looked unnecessarily spacious now that your bed had been moved away. I insisted on keeping your clothes, though – more out of necessity than nostalgia.
I also insisted on keeping your stuff around, alright, maybe nostalgia got me there. I don’t know what I’ll do with that much junk.
My phone pings and I fish it out of my backpack. It’s mum. She’s asking whether I wanted to go out tonight, to clear my mind.
That’s how I know she isn’t holding up nearly as well as she’s pretending to. Going out to calm down was your thing, not mine. But I decide I will, more for her sake than mine.
I eye the closet, completely clueless on what I’m expected to wear when I’m grieving for my sister who passed away a week ago, but considering I’m going out to let off some steam – what do I do? Black, but sparkly? I really don’t have any idea about this.
I now eye your portion of the closet and find a perfect attire. I hesitate, then I put it on.
I smirk at my reflection in the mirror. “Hey Natalie.” I purr, “Oh, wait, you died. You’re Natasha. But you sure look like Natalie.”
I start giggling like a maniac, and as hot tears sear down my cheeks, I realise, for the first time, that I’m furious at you.
I wake in a pool of my own sweat. What was that all about?
I must have screamed my throat raw, because as I down a glass of water, it burns down. It’s surprising that I didn’t wake mum up.
“I am Natasha,” I whisper to remind myself, because apparently, I’d dreamt otherwise.
In my dream, I was in a black dress. Natalie’s pitch black one, sleek and professional. And I… I was Natalie. It was Natasha, I mean me, who died. I was attending her funeral. My funeral. I was Natalie and I was there at Natasha’s funeral.
I think I’m going to go crazy.
“I am Natasha,” I remind myself firmly before crashing back to my bed, already more than sure that I’d spend the rest of the night tossing and turning in bed.
Today was crap. Again. Miss Abby called your name in class by mistake, and what was even worse that I responded to her. The class looked at me like I was a lunatic, more than they did usually, anyway.
I had been called in the therapist’s room, twice, this week. Because I wore your dress at school, Natalie. Can you believe that? Better to wear the dresses than wipe the floor with them, right? At least I thought so. Oh God, I don’t need help. I really don’t. When are they gonna understand that the perfect way to help me was to leave me alone?
Dear Natalie, today mum screamed at me. Guess why?
Because I was, supposedly, purposefully ‘pretending’ to be you. Wearing your clothes, speaking like you, walking like you…
Walking like you? You know I can’t do that. You walked like a model on ramp, and I hobble around. You even tried to get me to walk gracefully, like you did. You eventually had to give up on me. And suddenly they think I’m walking like you?
I overheard Miss Abby telling someone that I’d changed my font to match yours. Now that’s bullshit.
And no, the nightmares haven’t stopped, thanks for asking. But I’ve got a better grip on myself. At least I don’t wake up screaming. And no, I haven’t told them. What’s the point?
I’m going to go to sleep now, that is, till you turn up in my nightmare.
“Natasha?” I hear someone calling, and I freeze.
I consider running, but that’d be silly, so I turn around instead.
It’s the redhead from my old neighborhood. We used to play together, but I can’t quite remember her name.
“Natasha, I’m so sorry. I only heard about Natalie a few days ago. I would have come earlier.” She scratches her head sheepishly, “There’s no point in asking how you’re holding up, is there?”
I give her a small smile, “I’m sorry, but whoever told you must have messed up. I’m Natalie.”
I walk away briskly after a moment of awkward, meaningless conversation. Why do so many people call me Natasha? It’s annoying. I shake my head in dismay and walk on.
Upoma Aziz is a walking-talking-ticking time bomb going off at random detonators. Poke her at your own risk at www.fb.com/upoma.aziz