The summer had left just as it had arrived; everyone expected it, but it still surprised some. Now there were leaves all over the roads, the sidewalks, and the yard of people living in subdivisions. That Saturday morning, the residence of the neighbourhood dug us their rakes somewhere from the corners of their garages and began to clean up their properties of the leaves. It was predicted that there was a heavy storm coming, just as there always is in the autumn, and people were worried that the leaves would be a hazard, not only to the drainage systems, but also to the drives on the road.
Just like everyone else, Hannah and Ivy’s parents were raking their lawn, tidying up their portion of the sidewalk, and chatting with the next-door neighbours. What they did not realize were their rambunctious seven year-old twin girls running around the perimeter of the property line, throwing leaves back to their original spot, and playing tag.
“Tag, you’re it”, Ivy gave Hannah a significant push and then proceeded to sprint down the side walk.
Hannah was not pleased. She was the older of the two, and even though they were twins and did share the same birthdate, she was technically 10 minutes older, and always used that in her favour. Hannah acted much older, and more sophisticated, as if there were a great number of years between them.
“OH MY GOD, IVY! I’m getting really fed up with this game. You’re going to get hurt and then I’m going to get in trouble for it! Why don’t you come and play in the leaves with me? It will be way more fun!”
As Hannah said this, the clouds came in, the sky became darker, and the rain began to come, just like everything else, out of nowhere. The wind began to gust heavier by the second, causing the tree branches to fold over the sidewalks, in attempt to reach to the ground. Regardless of the near-tornado occurring in the streets, Ivy continued to run up and down the sidewalk, careless of her surroundings.
“C’mon, girls. Please gather your belongings and get into the house before a twister comes and swoops you both up!,” cried their mother, trying to be funny as all parents do, but you could tell there was fear in her tone of voice. “Hannah. Sweetheart, can you go call your sister?” Ivy continued to parade down the lawn, as if she were the Queen of the castle, now that a solid two-and-a-half minute had gone by without being ‘it’.
Hannah was, as some would say, a ‘momma’s girls’, others would call it a kiss-up, and she would personality go by as the favourite child. But, being seven and all, it was simply in her job description to get back at her sister while helping her mother at the same time. Besides, Hannah was a sore loser and couldn’t handle being the ‘loser’ in a game like tag.
“Let’s go, Ivy,” she called out to her sister. “Mom said we need to go inside.”
Ivy always listened to Hannah and trusted her, so she had no doubt that the game was over.
“Okay, I’m coming,” Ivy replied, and proceeded to walk in the direction of their house.
Hannah thought “at the perfect moment, I’m going to get her, and I’m going to show her who’s boss!”
Hannah ran towards Ivy fast enough for Ivy unable to run away.
“Tag, you’re it”, yelled Hannah, and gave Ivy a strong, aggressive push on the shoulder, and Ivy was unable to protect herself from the fall.
They say that just like everything else in that neighbourhood, the car was unpredictable and nobody saw it coming.
Hannah was startled when she woke up in a very white room nearly 15 years since the accident that toke her beloved sister from her and left her with nothing but a seven year-old shaped hole in her heart. They say seeing is believing, but if someone were to see Hannah in her current state, they would never think in their wildest dreams it was her. Physically, Hannah was different. Fifteen years had passed and now she was a young women, twenty-two years-old and at the peak of her life. Unfortunately, she let herself go, stopped caring about her physical appearance and not to mention, personal hygiene, which added an extra ten to twenty years to her face. Hannah also changed physiologically. She was not the bubbly, energetic person she once used to be. She couldn’t stand being around people and regretted human interaction at all times. Often, she would rather go for days on end voluntarily starving herself because she despised saying “please” and “thank you” to her nurses.
Doctor Dean came to visit Hannah every morning at exactly 7:45 to check in with her. Hannah remembered that kind of detail, the details no one else really cared to remember. What she didn’t remember was that she had been living in this strange white room for the past five years. Also, every morning she could never remember that this “strange white room” was actually part of a mental health facility, and because didn’t know that, Hannah woke up every morning thinking she had been kidnapped in the night. Every single day, at exactly 7:43 am, Hannah would press the Big Red emergency button beside her bed, beckoning for Doctor Dean to explain this to her. And every day, he would come and inform poor Hannah that she was in fact safe, that, no, she had not been kidnapped in the night, and that, yes, the nurses were telling her the truth about her location. He also had to explain to her every day that her long term memory was deteriorating ever since the day Ivy died.
Her daily interaction with Doctor Dean was her first and only interaction that Hannah would dare to take part in during the day.
That was, until, her sister came to visit.
This morning, as Hannah called for help, begging that someone, anyone, could help her get out of the hell hole she liked to call life but society call Chicago Mental Health Care Centre, a visitor came to her door that was outside of the medical staff.
As 22 year-old Ivy waltzed through the double-doors and into her sister’s private room, Hannah’s face lite up and a light came upon her; a kind of happiness Hannah hadn’t experienced since she was a child.
“Jesus, Hannah, are you alright?” exclaimed Ivy, running to her sister’s bedside. “I was so worried about you! I heard about the accident.”
“What accident?”, Hannah asked, with a puzzled expression. There was a long silence in the room as Ivy looked at Hannah, concerned and confused. “Seriously, Ivy, what accident?”
“Oh honey, sweetheart, you got into an accident. A bad one! And you’re just here so you, you know, can get better again.”
Hannah tried to laugh it off. She hadn’t had any visitors since she came here and was still panicking that she didn’t know why she was here. Then Doctor Dean arrived at exactly 7:45 am just like he did every day.
“Good morning Hannah, how are you to…” he slowed down his speech as he heard Hannah from down the hall talking. The doctor thought to himself “thank God she is talking to somebody! She is finally making progress.” But as Doctor Dean made his way to the door, there was no one there.
“Hannah? Did you call me?”
“One sec, oh, um, yes, I did”, Hannah said, a bit distracted.
“Is everything alright, Hannah? Who were you talking to?”
Hannah was now even more confused. “Doctor Dean, don’t you see, I’m having a conversation with Ivy, my sister.”
At this point, Doctor Dean nearly broke down into tears. He had been treating her at the mental hospital since the day she was admitted by her parents. He suggested they don’t visit her, as it may make her more confused. He was worried that one day she might relapse, and today she finally did. Doctor Dean collected himself and slowly walked across the room to Hannah and sat in the chair near her bed.
As he reached out for Hannah’s hand, in attempt to comfort her, this was the first time she did not refuse his offer and let him take her hand. He could tell in the smallest of gestures that Hannah was truly experiencing something deep down that changed her way of looked at people. “Hannah,” Doctor Dean began, “I deeply regret that I need to tell you this, but there is nobody there.” He was trying to fight back the tears, feeling very emotional that Hannah had to go through something like this.
Hannah just stared at him, almost dumbfound. “What are talking about?” she said, almost with a small chuckle, as if this were a practical joke. “Ivy’s right beside you. I was just talking to her. She told me that I was in a terrible accident.” Hannah looked into the direction of the second chair beside the doctor. “Well, Ivy, tell him?”
“Hannah,” Doctor Dean said in a calm and quiet voice, “Ivy’s not there.”
Doctor Dean tried to explain to Hannah that Ivy had passed way in a terrible car accident fifteen years earlier, that Hannah was there the day of the crash and since then has never been the same. It would be impossible for Hannah to have just had a conversation with her because Ivy has been dead for years.
Hannah was extremely perplexed, and suddenly filled with anger. “So Doctor, you mean to tell me that Ivy isn’t right beside you at this very minute? Then since you have all the answered, Doctor, who do you suppose that it?” Hannah waved her hand in the direction of the empty chair in the room, seemingly becoming very annoyed.
“It is likely that you are in a relapse mode and are being to see things again. A few years ago, when your family brought you here in the first place, you use to see things a lot more. Now this vision you have of your sister is merely your guilty conscience. Look Hannah, if you look in the mirror, do you also see Ivy’s reflection looking back at you?”
Hannah stood to her feet, and walked in the direction of the mirror, ready to prove to Doctor Dean that he was wrong, she was right, and Ivy was right there. But as Hannah looked into the mirror, she only saw her own reflection, and not the one of her sister, sitting right beside her, right in front of the mirror.
“You’re not going to believe this bullshit, are you?” Ivy looked at Hannah was a smirk on her face. Ivy stood up and walked to Hannah. “He’s just lying to you,” Ivy whispered in Hannah’s ear. “He just wants you to go back in the meds, and you don’t want that again, do you?”
“No,” Hannah said. “No, I don’t.” The moment she said this, Ivy was gone.
Hannah didn’t speak to anyone for the rest of the day, which wasn’t abnormal for her considered she never talks on a regular basis.
In the middle of the night, Hannah woke up in a cold sweat and saw a dark figure at the foot of her bed. Because it was around 2am, she couldn’t tell what it was. Hannah didn’t know what to do; she remembered the conversation she had with Doctor Dean about her schizophrenic episodes and decided that the figure was likely not there and simply a vision in her mind. Hannah contemplated pressing the Big Red button near her bed. Maybe the nurses would come and help her, give her a little bit of that medication that allowed her to cope, and the vision would be gone. Instead, Hannah chose to deal with it herself, and in return, stay wake until it went away. Now what was that he told me to do? Look into the mirror? Hannah sat up in her bed, and stuck her head out a bit to see the mirror. In the mirror, Hannah saw her reflection, along with the reflection of the unknown figure.
At this point Hannah nearly had a heart attack. Her heart was pounding in her chest and now she could hear it in her ear. She never got a moment of sleep and continued to star at the figure. Nearly five hours later, the sun began to rise and light come into the room. As light traveled into Hannah’s view, she began to see more clearly.
It was Ivy. But instead of the young-women Ivy that Hannah saw earlier, Ivy was seven-years old, dressed in a polka dot dress and little running shoes, two pig-tales in her hair with ribbons, the same outfit that she wore the day she died. She looked a little worn out, as if she finished rolling down a hill. She was silent.
Hannah sat up in her bed, more scared than she was earlier today.
“Ivy? What are you doing here?”
With a small voice, Ivy answered.
“Tag. You’re it.”