This happened to me when I was a very young girl, possibly seven, possibly twelve. I have a hard time with my memory, and it’s not really the ghost that’s done it. So I can only tell you what I saw. Maybe you can tell me what you’ve seen. Maybe we can figure it out and find her together.
People say to me, "Are you still looking?"
Of course I’m looking. If there’s no body, she can’t be dead. If I’m her own sister, I should know. Twins are like that. Twins know. We were in the parade together. We were the same.
So we were seven or we were twelve, and we were doing a cross-America vacation with our parents. I saw night rolling over our heads while we slept in the backseat, dressed in beige and cream and coffee. Unrealistic dresses and my sister’s foot in my face, we slept like that. Mother said we were born like that. Lorelei’s foot covering my eye. It was like that snake that bites its own foot, except I would never bite my sister. She used to bite her arm and say it was me, but I would never. Sometimes living with Lorelei was like a long game of keeping still. Mother put a bow in my hair and it hurt me like stitches.
I said, "I don’t wanna wear it."
But if Lorelei was wearing it then I was wearing it. We were the same, at least with looking. Mother said we both had to wear them in the parade.
"You can take your own head off after the parade." She said, "I don’t care. You keep Lorelei happy."
So in the night we drove, and Dad was bickering about how, yes he could drive, and he could drive all night if he needed too and would Mother just please stay awake for the love of holy mighty hell. A man can’t be expected to keep his’self up.
Not in from of the girls, Jerome.
And I opened my one eye and Lorelei smiled at me because she knew Father swore. So we rode faster into night.
And at the Inn father told us to be quiet. It was his friend’s house, Mr. Almond, and Mr. Almond hated that his weird historic building was now a bed and breakfast because they were broke. His dumb wife. Her dumb brother. Their whole dumb family.
"Hope you don’t mind the north wing, Jer," Mr. Almond sighed. It was the middle of the night, and Dad had nodded off pissing in a field. Out there, crossing the grass basin, it got so dark. Even with the stars never-so-big, it was the darkest possible. I believe it. In the world.
Mother said it would be lovely. And thank you. And weren’t we lucky.
Dad mumbled something about business trips and the old college days, and taking the girls along. Only rich men were on vacations back then and Mr. Almond didn’t need that rubbed at his face, that Dad was rich and Mr. Almond not.
"It’s still under renovations, of course," he said. "The working washroom’s down the hall, and don’t you girls wander."
But I was safe with Lorelei. Hands holding hands with twin minds, I knew we would. She looked me in the eye, and Dad said he would never get off the bed ever again. Mother closing the door is what I remember.
"Take a while washing," is what she said.
And we winded. For a while I thought nothing, Lorelei leading. It was still sleepy from the car. We were still up and down the stairs as fast as we could. No cats in the house. I tore the ribbon out of my hair and put it in a plant, rustled it out, dropped my neck and cocked my head to the side. Always with my head titled was how I looked, the off-tilt twin.
Lorelei said, "Where’s your hair?" Stamped her foot. "You have to look the same as me! You’re the same as me!" She grabbed my hand. "Not all crooked! I’m not crooked! I’m straight!"
Mother would fix it. So I was drug along, pulled back to our rooms, me pulling at my feet in the other direction. Not really talking, no sense contradicting, down and under, north and on the ground floor. I pulled suddenly and she stopped.
My hand rooted on a doorknob, and she looked at me, slapped my hand away and opened the door. Light slid between us, sipping from beneath another door.
Lorelei looked at me, and said, "What’s that light?"
I didn’t know so we went in. The room was three feet deep and then another door. So we opened that door and what was in there was suddenly afternoon.
Keep in mind it was night. It was new morning night and black as all night night, and here we were and it was afternoon and outside and water. Thick water, rushing and falling.
But Lorelei was there and I wasn’t afraid.
We walked onto an overlook. Keep in mind we were underneath. The north wing was underneath, or at least on the ground floor but there, on the overlook we could look down at least a level, at least a floor. It was all grey and stony, not at all like the grasses we were crossing. And water was rushing all around them, sitting there looking back at us, the family. The woman, and the boys looked up.
There were four of them. A man, rotund, in a white shirt and brown pants, gentle-man-ly. He was tired, and covered in what was obviously blood. A bandage circled his neck. The woman was sitting in blue next to him. She was his wife. I knew that. Two men sat in suits beside her. They were her sons, their sons, I knew.
I looked to Lorelei, but she didn’t know. She blinked her eyes and made a wide face.
The man’s neck was bandaged, round and covered slightly by his tuxedo shirt. The blood spilled from his neck. I knew he didn’t want it discussed. Like Dad. Like Mr. Almond.
Lorelei and I leaned over the railing.
We shouted, "Hello!" I think to hear our own echoes.
The woman called back, low and monotone, "Hello."
"What’s your name?" Lorelei called.
None of them answered.
"What’s that all over you?" Lorelei called.
But ghosts don’t want to think about what’s over them. Same as ghosts don’t know they’re dead. Let me tell you, you don’t want them to remember. A ghost is like a crazy person, barely keeping their cool. You bring it up. They’re liable to snap.
Lorelei called, "Is it blood?"
And many times they don’t notice. They can be quite amiable.
But Lorelei called, "Is it blood?"
And something was funny in my head. I felt something hot, like blood and joy, bubbling from my lungs. Something wild and wicked. It was the urge that already had Lorelei, and was making her grip the railing, screaming, "IS THAT BLOOD?!"
Rocking back and forth, gripping the edge, the stone, and one hand over my head and my eyes, covered.
She and I screamed, "IS THAT BLOOD? IS THAT BLOOD? IS THAT BLOOD?"
Laughing. Because I knew about the bloody man by then. Some knowledge crept into my brain. I knew he’d killed for the family at his side. He’d killed to keep them with him, and they were with him. He’d kill to keep them there again. And I knew he hadn’t realized he’d killed, and that’s why the blood was all over him. And I knew he would not be mocked for something he didn’t do, did not remember doing. Wouldn’t be mocked in any event, regardless of guilt.
And he looked up at us, but really just me. And it hurt so bad, with burning and bloody in my lungs. We fell back, and fell out the door.
Woke up as two dolls in front of our parent’s door. China, in the pretty boxes with the cushion paper, I tore myself up and out, gasping and gasping because dolls can’t breathe. I knew I had to give Lorelei mouth to mouth and tore open her box, I realized there was no one in there, nothing in there, not even a doll. There should have been a doll, same as mine, same as me.
There was just this bow, a moon-colored bow. And I whirled in the hall, standing up, around, a little girl again. I had to find Lorelei and give her breath. But there weren’t any other boxes. And the door we came through was all dark and led to a library now. I put her bow to my chest and felt somehow okay. Thought that perhaps since we were both dolls we would now both be ribbon bows.
"Lorelei, are you still with me?" I said quiet.
But she wasn’t.
I went back to our family’s room. And when I asked for her they didn’t remember. To them I had never been a twin. I’ve always had such a vivid imagination, a teller of stories.
"Is this another story?" Mother asked.
And I showed her the bow.
"You hate that bow," she said.
It was such a strange feeling, no way to get back. Dad never wanted to go back. Sometimes I think I must have failed. She’s all suffocated in some secret room, stuck in the Almond house. Neither of my parents remembered her. No knowledge, no care that she was gone. She was just gone. And childhood is so impermeable. The past can’t be gotten to. She has gone. Lorelei is just gone.