The Strength We Come By (part 5)

How stupid I’ve been, she thought, how blind. All these years, thinking I alone carried the loss of Natalie, while Jane has been living with that question. If it had been me who tried to help, Elena wondered, and still Natalie was murdered, how would I have held up with the consequences? Would I have been able to carry on like Jane? Or would it have destroyed me? She realized how much she needed Jane to be the strong one, and how much she’d resented her for being just that. Embarrassed, she looked away. Saying I’m sorry seemed ridiculous. Elena felt frozen with remorse and bone achingly exhausted. She closed her eyes and lay on the floor, allowing the heavy stillness of the house to enfold her.

After some time, she felt the light, tentative touch of Jane’s fingers on her hair.

Elena opened her eyes and looked at Jane. It was as if she were seeing her for the first time. She’d never bothered to notice how much she and Natalie looked alike. They shared the same long straight nose and thick hair from their father, round blue eyes and generous mouth from their mother. For Jane to remember, Elena thought, all she has to do is look in the mirror. Elena realized with chagrin that she’d been trying all these years to get Jane to remember Natalie in a way that she could recognize — with ritual and celebration — but those weren’t the only ways to honor someone’s memory.

She sat up, took Jane’s hand in hers, and pressed it against her cheek. Elena felt the truth in her bones. “There was nothing else you could have done.”

Fresh tears brimmed in Jane’s eyes. She nodded, took a deep breath, and bit her lower lip. Her tears slid slowly down her cheeks. Elena wiped each one away.

“Can I go with you?” Jane asked.

It took less than one full belly breath for Elena to answer. “I’ll go get the flowers.”

###

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