ingrid by Zaria Ware
She is your-
-sister and you love her. You finally realize this with your knees meeting your chest while you sit on the wooden floor in her room the day she leaves for college. You are eleven years old.
"What's California like?"
She looks pensive, as if it was too hard a question to answer without giving away a piece of her in return, and she meets your eyes relunctantly.
"It's big," she says and stands up from her perch on the stripped bed that only left a holey mattress and a blood stain from when she cut herself by mistake on a piece of metal. "To be truthful, all I know is that it's sunny and hot and away from here." She is now staring at her reflection in the mirror, turquoise eyes murky, absent-mindedly messing with her freshly curled hair.
"It's her last day," your mom says as if you possibly hadn't known. Ingrid was still in her room packing, leaving you to sit with her and pick whether or not you want cereal or bagels. Ingrid likes bagels, and you offer to take one to her.
"Just give her some space today, lady bug."
But it was impossible.
When your dad comes down from Jersey all the way to Tennesse to help your sister move, you realize this is resolute. Done. Finished. Decided. Real.
"We're so proud of you Ingrid."
She responds with half a smile for each parent; nothing is reserved for you to make you feel better by her side at the dinner table. She was ready for adulthood, something that likened her paradise, and it scared the eleven-year old you that still depended on a sister for answers.
You understood her need for an escape, despite being significantly younger in Ingrid's eyes. Sometimes, you pretended you weren't born into a family that was in all ways too normal. Ingrid somehow made surviving the days easier, but you never tell her this.
"I can't stay Addie," she mumbles into your hair, arms loose around your neck. This is your version of a hug, though it's filled with space. You blame it on your relunctance to be happy for her, but your subconscious blames it on Ingrid. She was the one who was leaving. The deserter.
You would never actually tell her this, but she was your California. Even after she had left, you begged your parents for tacky tropical wallpaper with sand and one palm tree that repeated on every few inches from the cheap hardware store down the street. On one particulary dreary evening you recall etching a picture of the both of you holding hands by the palm tree, but the faces were rather small and the proportions were all off.
Every night, you smell sun.