Shadow and Shayde Part 2
Link to Part 1: https://theprose.com/post/238246/shadow-and-shayde-part-1
Weariness draws me into the sheets. I turn to blow out the lantern and startle. The girl is sitting up in her cot; dark eyes accusing, threatening, hating. But, of course, I can’t really see her eyes in the half-light, I just feel them.
I swallow hard and watch her shadow creep up the wall, then spread across the floor toward me. If I blink it’ll be on top of me.
My fingers curl into my sheets.
“I said my name’s not Rose and his name’s not Boo.”
“Alrighty. And my name’s Aphrodite.” It’s meant to be a joke—one she wouldn’t understand—but my attempt at humor does nothing to alleviate the hard knot in my stomach. Of all the children in all the years, I had to take this one?
Rescue, I tell myself and swallow the acid pill of panic that tastes bitter on my tongue.
“Go to sleep,” I command her. I release the sheets, my fists sweaty and stiff, then swing my legs into bed. The lantern can burn all night.
In the morning, she’s gone. Her rumpled bedsheets are still warm when I run my hands over them. I know she’s gone back to him. Back to my dead brother. My twin, my best friend. The one who’s haunted me ever since I accidentally knocked over the lantern and burned our shared bedroom to the ground when we were children.
Rose’s dark eyes look back at me as I stand before the mirror and brush my dark hair. When the past catches up with you it’s better to face it, so I stare at my reflection. Hating the dark eyes so like his. So like my brother’s. I frown and stick out my tongue before putting down my brush and turning away from the mirror. Away from the shadow of my former self.
When I turn around he’s there, but this time I don’t use the name I made up for him. This time I face my guilt. I embrace the pain, for it’s the only way into the future.
“Shayde!” I call for him as he slinks across my wall and over my floor when the sun rises in my window.
“I’m sorry!” He’s heard it before but it doesn’t stop him from haunting me. Taunting me every time the light and the darkness collides.
“Shadow?” A child calls to me from my bedroom doorway. “I’m hungry.”
I nod, and step across the threshold to embrace another day. Maybe the next child—next year on Rescue Day—will be the one who assuages my guilt; who fills the cavernous void my brother left in my chest.
And it must be filled.