When I walked into my sister's room the next morning, most of her things were gone. Her bed was unmade, as usual, but most of her dresser was empty with the drawers still half open. Dad was screaming at her again last night. Every time I thought it couldn't get any worse, it always seemed to. It wasn't that they never got along; they did at one point when she was younger. I think after years of him putting so many restrictions on her, they all finally collapsed, and she decided not to die under the weight of them. It probably would have killed her if she didn't have so many friends looking out for her.

I poked around to see what she had left. Her posters were still hanging, mostly punk and gothic bands in all their leather and spike-wearing glory. If sweet girls love cotton candy, my sister's tastes were thoroughly black liquorice. There was some makeup by her mirror,and some old clothes that I didn't even recognize thrown into a pile in the corner. There were some red candles and figurines still on the shelf. I wondered if she would come back to get them, and what Dad would do with them all if she didn't. The whole room felt hollow. Even though she had just left last night, with so many of her things gone, it felt like she had been gone for weeks — and in many ways she had, since she had been spending more time out of the house than in her room at night. I think she had abandoned the idea of it being any kind of "home" long ago.

I lied down on her bed for a bit, thinking about her and the time she taught me how to put on eyeshadow. The sheets still smelled like her hair, and a combination of the thirty different scents that used to sit in shiny bottles on top of her dresser. Even though it might make some of the yelling stop, I didn't like the thought of having to live here without her now. The only thing that made me feel a little bit better was that I knew she had somewhere to go. I didn't know exactly where, but she had enough friends that would take her in. She even told me once that if she ever left, not to worry about her — and generally, I didn't. She had been in a little trouble before, but nothing really serious. She was smart, and Dad never gave her enough credit for that.

It had started raining, so I got up and closed the window. I walked out to the kitchen, and that's when I noticed it on the dining room table. She had left something there late last night, after everyone had fallen asleep. Sitting in the middle of the table was a doll. I remembered it, but hadn't seen it in so many years, and then it occurred to me why. She must have kept it hidden, stored away in a very safe place where no one could see it, where no one would discover it. It was in stark contrast to almost everything else she owned. It was the black sheep of her belongings, though it's face was porcelain white and beaming with joy. It's blonde hair was perfectly brushed, her blue hat still unwrinkled. The little girl toy was completely untouched by time, as if it had been frozen and protected since the day he gave it to her. No matter the relationship, the pain and heartache that might have been birthed in this house, the doll was unscathed by it. It was a reflection of the day he brought it home for her, after a long day of fighting traffic and arguing with management in the office, he remembered her birthday, and found something that would make her happy. She was happy. That day, he was the best father in the entire world, and it was the only thing left to help her remember that day, and that those feelings, were ever real.

It sat on the table, on top of a note that she had written for Dad. I didn't have the heart to touch it, because it brought me so much sadness to see that she left it here, but I could see the last half of it, which ended:

"...the things that I aspire to, and the decisions that I make. I was your little girl, and you loved me. I was perfect to you at one time, perhaps when I was first born, or when I was learning to walk and you saved me from falling into the coffee table. You can't save me from those things anymore. The world that seems to you so dark and dangerous is the same one I jumped into with open arms. The world outside has changed me, and I wanted it to. I feel like the more I learned about myself, the less you understood me. You tried to keep me the way I used to be, when my world was small and didn't extend beyond the living room or backyard. You don't really know me, in the same way you don't really know my world. Maybe there will be a time when you truly want to."

Photograph by Emily Beeson used via Morguefile license