Author: Kaitlin Ambuehl – Third Place Senior Division 2019

Broken, empty words.

“You’re going to be alright.” I’ve heard that phrase so many times I’ve lost the effort to keep track. Black outfits and the reeking combination of horrid cologne and perfume fill this once lively home. I stand next to their portraits, my siblings on the other side of me crying as more and more people give their condolences.

“We’re sorry for your loss.” If only I could actually believe that. No one here knows; no one here sees. My dead parents didn’t have any family other than us, yet all of these relatives I don’t know are claiming to be here in “our time of need.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” You can leave. The only reason you people are here is because you want what my parents left behind, their money.

More of the darkness, more of the cold.

The twins’ sobbing continues as they look up at the portraits of our parents. Mom and Dad loved them with everything they had. Always affectionate, always worrying over their wellbeing. They tried to do the same for me.

I wonder when I wasn’t able to feel their love anymore.

“What do you mean, there’s nothing more we can do for her?” Memories that I tried to bury deep where they couldn’t resurface have fought their way back up.

* * *

“So what exactly are we supposed to do? Let her just… die?” Mom’s tears, Dad’s angry words, they yell at yet another psychiatrist.

“I’m sorry Mr. Blake, but your daughter… she’s just…”

“Lifeless?” I finish the sentence for him, a dead smile plastered on my face.

“Octavia, please.” I’m not supposed to be in here, but I was insistent on it. It’s not the poor man’s fault he can’t do anything; he’s not the first one to give up.

He won’t be the last either.

“This is our daughter, sir. Please, there has to be something you can do.”

“Well, we could always increase the dosage of her medications so–”

“No.” I’m somewhat confused about Mother’s reaction, it’s hard.


“I will not make her be a vegetable, Jonathan.” Warm arms, a kind embrace envelopes around me.

“We’ll always be here for you.” They lied.


“Go to sleep.” I tuck the twins into our parents’ bed tonight; both refused to sleep in their own beds after we got home from the funeral.

“Sissy… will you stay with us?” Pleading eyes, sad tears brimming in them, broken hearts burning their insides.

Eyes I can’t understand.

“No.” I close the door behind me, shutting out their whimpers that come through.

They deserve better. The hallway to my room grows darker and darker, the empty feeling weighing down my being.

I’m so useless. More pain, more hate, more suffering.

The bathroom feels like a freezer as I flick on the light and run the bath, the sounds of splashing water as it hits the bottom of the tub brings back a memory of the first time.

“Octavia? Are you home?” The voices that haunt me, the dreams that remain reminders.

Are you in the bathroom? Come on, we’re going to miss our reservation!” Dad’s voice, warm and filled with laughter. The feeling of warmth from the tub, the smell of iron and blood.

“Octavia?” My vision is black, only faded voices.

“Octavia!” Cold hands collide with the warmth, the feeling of hot and cold burning my body, being lifted from the tub, hands remaining on my neck.

Just let me die.

The empty feeling inside eats away what little dignity, pride, selflessness, and hope you have left, and despite all the medication and treatments they give you, the emptiness never goes away.

“No one could understand…” I run my fingers across the water surface as I stop the rushing water, the stillness of it almost calming.

I slip out of my funeral clothes, soaking deep into the hot bath. The water holds a welcoming warmth, and I close my eyes to the bliss.

I wish I could understand. I wanted to be able to feel it, all of it. I wanted to be able to let go of the empty, the dark. But I can’t. I never could, never will.

A glint out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. A fatal mistake on Mom’s part.

Her razor blade. The dark forms around the corners of my vision as I twirl it between my fingers.

She forgot. She rushed to get out of here with Dad that day; she forgot to lock this with all of the other sharp objects.

The blade falls into the tub as I feel the plastic snap between my hands.

The glimmering blade shines against the light as I hold it between my fingers.

Can I ever escape this empty feeling? My fingers graze the rough, jagged scar across my neck.

Can I let go now? I feel the edge of the blade graze my neck, digging deeper and deeper into my fragile skin.

Is it okay? Just a few more seconds, a little more pressure.

I’ll finally be free. Almost there…

“Octavia!” That voice Hesitation, if only for a moment, listening carefully.

“Octavia, sweetie!” Again. The blade slips between my fingers, I fly from the bath and grab a towel. Dripping wet, heart pounding, I race down the stairs to the kitchen.

“There you are!” Shock, an emotion I forgot I was capable of feeling. Mom, standing in the kitchen, her face as beautiful as always.

“I want waffles, Momma!” A little voice, I turn. A little girl with long hair and big, gentle eyes bounces into the kitchen. Right through me, it’s like I’m not even here.

What is this? I observe the scene, dripping more and more water into the puddle beneath my feet.

“Alright, but first, call your daddy inside.” The little girl runs to the sliding glass doors, throwing them open. The bright light of the sun tears through my vision, the only clear image is Dad. He looks younger, less gray, no bags under his eyes from his countless nights awake.

“There you are, who’s my favorite little girl?” Light, sweet laughter floods the room as he twirls her through the air.

Is this a dream? I watch as they sit and eat away at waffles, unable to see the water that comes off of my fragile frame.

Is this some sort of sick joke? A way to serve as a reminder of the things I lost?

Suddenly, it changes. Everything around me flies around, and now, the gray and tired expressions have returned to my parents’ features.

“So what are you proposing we do? Let this continue on?” Anger, fear, and worry cloud Mom’s expression; I remember this.

This was when I tried to kill myself. I remember their arguing, I remember the yelling and shattering of plates.

“Of course not, Maria! But you heard what the doctor said, there’s no way we could’ve known.”

“We should’ve helped her, Jonathan! We should’ve been there for her! Maybe… maybe if we had just tried harder to…” The tears I’ve seen her shed countless times before are different now. I think back to her smile.

No… That’s not it…

“There’s nothing more we could’ve done. Maria…” The sad, broken expression on Dad’s face I know so well returns as he holds Mom.

It wasn’t you… Pain, nothing but pain envelops my chest. It’s agonizing, suffocating.

Please, someone make it stop…! I feel blood trickle down my body as my nails dig into my chest over my heart. The pain, my God, the pain.

“Look at you…” A pause, a moment of relief lets me breathe again. I look up, no longer in the kitchen. Instead, I’m in a hospital room. It’s hot; sweat trickles down Mom’s body, her face exhausted yet filled with joy. Then, a cry. A loud, obnoxious cry of a tender soul who’s just entered this world.

“She’s so beautiful” Tears, but these tears are different. Mom and Dad look so happy, a face I forgot they could show.

“Octavia… Our baby girl…” Warmth, life, kindness. They tried so hard, worked so much. They gave me everything and more. They…

They are gone… It’s a typhoon, a hurricane, a massive storm that threatens to blow my entire frame away. Pain, agony, sorrow, everything. I can’t breathe, I can’t see. It’s like I’m falling apart and coming back together all at once. Fleeing, flying, falling… I can’t, I can’t. It’s all too much, too much to live.

“…Sissy…!” A voice, little and filled with fear. I break through, a tiny hand placed over my own. Tears, splashing across my already wet frame. The floor is cold and hard against my body, I’m back in the kitchen.

“Are you okay?” The twins, Damien and Carter, sit next to me, the towel covering my naked body from their sight.

“I…” My voice is shaking, my body coming apart.

I… Words aren’t there, my throat sealed.

“I love you.” Their warmth collides with my cold, their frames trembling as their cries and sobbing echoes through the kitchen with my own. I feel. I can feel! The emptiness, the disease that ate away at my being, it’s gone. It’s finally gone.

Mom… Dad… I miss you. I miss you more than words or actions will ever be able to describe, to tell. I love you, I loved you in every way I could. I just… didn’t know how to show it, to feel it. But deep down, I never stopped. It was always there, always. I will never forget you. I will raise up the twins to be someone you can be so proud of.

Because now, now I’m free.

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