“How long ago did your youngest sister pass away?” he asked.
Leah stared at her folded hands resting on her lap, unable to meet the priest’s gaze. His empathetic tone surprised her. She did not want to cry.
“One year ago today, but it feels as though it just happened. I will never forget…”
“Leah, dear child. No one expects you to forget about her.”
Leah stood abruptly, glaring at him. “My mother and father do! They expect me to carry on with my studies and giggle along with the other girls, but I cannot! I just want Ruth back… is there… not any way that she…?”
She sunk to the floor, weeping and choking, barely able to breathe. Her mother would be angry at the dirt on her new dress, but she did not care. In fact, she despised everything that her parents said to her, because they wanted to pretend that Ruth had never existed. How could they?
A hand rested gently on her shoulder. “I am very sorry. The bond between sisters can be extraordinary.”
She wiped her tears. “Yes, but fate has broken it forever.”
“Your father tells me that you write books.”
Leah wiped her eyes, taken aback by the change of topic. “Well, yes. It is something that Ruth and I used to do together. Write and then draw pictures.”
“That is remarkable, you know. Think of what Ruth would want for you. She would wish for you to be happy, and to continue writing, yes?”
Leah nodded. He was being very kind about Ruth, considering that the way in which she died was an eternal crime, according to most Catholics. Suicide was treated in the same way as murder by many of them.
“I also want you to know that nothing can break your connection. You can bring her back every time you think of her. With your imagination, you could even create stories where the two of you…”
Her terrible sadness was replaced by anger. Did he think her to be daft?
“It is not the same!”
“I know, Leah. But you must try…”
She stood and left him standing there in the middle of the church. How dare he suggest that simply pretending that her sister was there would suddenly solve her terrible loneliness? All she wanted to do was run away so she would never have to hear older people’s stupid logic.
She walked along the rocky beach for hours, finally stopping to rest once she realized how far she had gone. Her eyes were heavy, but her mind was more awake than ever.
“Ruth, where are you?” she whispered, staring out the flaming sunset. “Would you come back to me if I fall asleep? Maybe our dreams could bring us back together again, no matter how far away you may be.”
Slowly, Leah surrendered to sleep’s pull. Sprawling out on the sand, a smile was planted on her face even in slumber, for she did dream about her baby sister. In her world, they had reunited with unspeakable joy, and together they explored their whimsical reality. Ruth had come back.