The day passed slowly, it felt as if my whole life would be in slow motion. My little sister was dead. That would not leave my mind. Nothing would ease the pain. I'm so tired of being here, alone with all my childhood fears. I wished and prayed for the pain to end, part of me just wanted to forget Grace so that I could forget all the agony and heartache. Nothing felt right, nothing ever would feel right again. I hated pitying myself, I wanted my old happy life back. Whereas Grace used to live in my shadow i now lingered in hers, everyone talking, gossiping, saying behind my back how i was 'the dead girls sister.'
Night turned into morning and it was another new day, another long day without my sister. It hurt to get up every morning, I felt as if I had nothing to live for. My stomach groaned loudly as i sat up. I clasped it hard, the pain shook through me like an earthquake. I hadn't eaten in three days. I knew I had to try and eat, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.
"Morning Mi-Mi." Mum opened my curtains, letting in the bright sunshine.
"Ugh, shut them."
"Nope, we're getting up. Come on, we have things to do."
"Like what?" I said sarcastically, looking over at Grace's door.
Mum looked hurt. "Household chores Mia. Don't get cocky with me young lady. Come on get up. It's breakfast time."
I ignored her as she walked out of my room. The light from the sun was shining right on my face, as i got up to shut my curtains I starred out, it was a beautiful April morning, how I wish i could have spent it was Grace and Emily. I longed to play in the back garden with them, hearing their childish laughs echo the area. I pull them tightly together, brushing the image from my head.
"Stop being stupid Mia." I told myself sternly.
"Talking to yourself is a sign of madness Mi." Ben said laughing.
"Funny joke. Piss off."
"Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning." Ben joked, ignoring my comment.
"I said piss off."
"Suit yourself grumpy." Ben sighed, leaving my doorway.
I was so sick of my family, all they did was smother me. Every second of every day they were just there, pestering me, annoying me, nagging me. I had to get out, I had to break free. I hated thinking like that, I thought of Grace, today she was being chopped up, the thought of her under the knife made me scream inside. They were going to find out how she died. I wish it was that easy to find her killer. As usual we waited, staring at the clock, I wanted the time to skip backwards, to two weeks ago, so I could save her from her tragic end, to stop the pain. But I can't. After one day at work Ben had taken the day off so we could all wait for the news on Gracie.
"Maybe I should ring them?" Ben said trying to pick up the phone.
"NO. Let them ring us." Mum shouted.
"Mummy mad?" Emily whimpered.
"No sweetie." She said cuddling Emily. "Mummy loves Emily."
The phone rang loudly. The room seemed the start spinning. Then black.
"Mia, hun, are you okay? Mia wake up."
I could hear people talking to me, but I couldn't move, I felt paralyzed. Was I dead?
"Oh god Ben quick put down the phone and call 999. QUICK!" Mum's voice sounded too panicked. I couldn't feel or see anything, I could only just hear things.
When i finally woke up i was surrounded by white sheets. "Mum?" I croaked. "MUM." I screamed.
She came rushing in, tears ruining her make up. "Oh thank god Mia you scared us so much."
"What happened?" I said struggling to sit up.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Mum cried.
"That you hadn't eaten much in the last few days. You fainted from lack of energy Mia. The doctors have connected food tubes to you to feed you up."
I looked down at my arm and noticed 5 cables attached to me. "Oh."
"God Mia don't ever scare me like that again, I cannot loose another daughter."
"I thought it had all been some horrible nightmare." I cried, trying to hold mum's hand.
"No darling, it's real, you collapsed as the police rang, we have to ring them back once we get home, but only when you're okay."
After a day and a half in hospital I was dismissed. My arm was red raw from where they had attached so many tubes to me. It looked as if I had been self harming. I arrived home to the house being spotless, the first time it had been cleaned since Grace went missing. I sat on the sofa, smelling the air freshener smother the room.
"Mi-mi!" Emily said, toddling towards me, throwing her arms onto my legs.
"Hello Emmie." I half smiled, stroking her fringe from her eyes.
"You take it easy okay Mia. Don't push yourself too much." Mum smiled.
I nodded, pulling Emily up onto my lap. The days since Grace went felt like years, dragging slowly and endlessly onwards with no end in sight. I looked down at Emily, how naive she was, so innocent. I wished I could be her age again. Life was so simple when everything was carefree.
"Who's turning three next month?"
"Me!" Emily shouted pointing to herself.
"That's right! You're going to be a big girl aren't you!"
My heart skipped a beat. She was so young yet she knew her sister wasn't there. I let the tears fill my eyes as i took a long breath. "She's dancing with the angels."
Her eyes widened. "Forever?" She whispered.
I pulled her in close to my chest. "Yes." I whispered back, afraid of the reply.
She sat there, breathing deeply, after a minute she pulled out of the hug and turned to me, "No forever?"
I had no reply to this, she didn't understand as much as I thought she would. "You'll see her again." Was all i could think of telling her.
"When i'm big girl?"
"Yes, when you're a very big girl Emily."
With that she pushed herself off my lap, smiled at me once more then ran into the kitchen to play with Socks. I hated wondering if this was going to traumatize Emily for the rest of her life, I couldn't let my only little sister turn out like me or even worse, like Grace. I was going to do everything I could to make sure she would be happy, healthy and safe. I had failed with one sister and I was not going to let that happen again.
"Mia dinner time." Ben called.
I sped down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Oh, mash potato and sausages?"
"Yes, it's my favorite, i felt like treating myself." Mum laughed. "Now sit down and eat it all up. No more trips to the hospital please."
I followed her orders and spooned mouthfuls of food into my mouth. Every mouthful feeling as worse as the next.
"It's been 2 days, why haven't the police contacted us about her?" Ben said angrily pushing his food around on his plate.
"I don't know. Can we please not discuss this in front of the girls."
"Mum it's okay. So you still don't know how she..." I trailed off, I still couldn't say the last word.
"No we don't. I guess if they still don't ring tomorrow we shall have to go down there ourselves, but there must be a valid reason."
"Either that or they just can't be fucked to get off their lazy arse's and phone us."
"Language Mia!" Ben yelled.
"Sorry it just makes me so mad, they are doing nothing."
"She has a point Cindy."
"Look we will discuss this another time, when our two year old daughter isn't present at the table." Mum sighed, faking a smile at Emily who smiled back.
"Oh like she doesn't know what's going on! She may be two but she isn't stupid, everytime I play with her she asks why Grace won't play with us. What am I supposed to say to that mum?"
Mum sat in awkward silence. "I don't know Mia. But she is two, i want to keep her mind at ease for as long as humanly possible."
"So what, you're going to just pretend like Grace never existed so she'll forget and never ask?"
"Stop being stupid Mia, of course not." Mum spat across the table.
"I am so sick of our fucked up family." I pushed my plate across the table and ran into my bedroom. I hated everyone, my whole family was messed up. Why couldn't we be happy? Why?
No one came to see if I was okay, so I sat alone in my bedroom watching the sun go down all evening. I sat on my laptop, searching through youtube videos, the press had got hold of every pageant and cheerleading competition video we owned and people has started making youtube tributes for her. It made me feel uneasy, seeing my little sister flashed over the internet, everyone who made the videos in a weird way were fans, as i watched a few of them i realised how kind it was, what these people were doing, in a way they sort of felt for us. I sat and watched so many my eyes went blurry, each similar to another, I watched until i could not stop the tears. How could anyone do that to my sister, as i looked at the photos and footage of her all i could see washer battered lifeless body. It had only been a matter of time since Grace died yet I felt as if i hadn't seen her in years. Her big smile, her bright green eyes, her long brown hair, we used to love playing dress up, I would do her hair and make up and we would play pageant, or that we were film stars. Grace was such a loving child, all she wanted to do when she grew up was help people, she wanted to be a social worked to help abused children. It's sadly ironic how she ended up as one.
Just as I was running to my bathroom to throw up my mum pushed my door open. "Mia, we need to talk." I stopped in my tracks, those words always meant something bad was coming.
"What about it"
"Your teachers have rang me and said you have been skipping lessons and the ones you have been going to you have not been listening and concentrating. That's not like you at all Mia. I know we're all going though hell at the minute but you need your education to keep you going in life."
"God I do not need this lecture from you mum. School's shit, end of."
"Mia you have always been top of your class. Are you being bullied?"
"No." I said sharply, trying to urge her out of my room.
"Then what is wrong with you, besides the obvious.."
I sighed. "Nothing, everyone is being overly nice, I just don't see the point in school anymore. GCSE's are boring."
"Oh Mia, you need to snap out of this, we need to try and lead a normal life again, how else will these wounds heal?"
I watched as she forced tears away from her eyes. "I'm sorry mum."
"It's not your fault Mia. God I miss her so much."
"I miss her too, so much."
I put one arm softly around her and hugged her tightly.
"Your such a good girl Mia." She smiled, wiping away tears.
"That's not what school says." I laughed.
"Look if you would like to be home schooled we can sort that out, It's up to you Mi-Mi." She sniffed leaving my room.
I sat back on my bed. Did i really want to be a home schooled freak with no friends? I would have to give up all my social life, the only person I would see was Ashlynn. Maybe it would be for the best, maybe it wouldn't. Grace wouldn't want me to be a quitter, thats all i knew.
Three weeks had passed since Grace went missing and the police still hadn't told us how Grace had died and they were still refusing to release her body for burial.
"This is so ridiculous, it's been three weeks and we can't even bury our little girl yet." Ben screamed down the phone. "She went missing on the 23rd, it's now the 13th of April and still nothing! What are you doing down there? We need answers!" He said slamming down the phone. "All they said was we have to be patient. How dare they! God i want to complain so much about their shit service."
"Ben stop huffing and puffing you'll worry Emily. You can complain but they did find her..." Mum trailed off.
"Yeah but a little too late, they found her dead!"
"Mum clutched Emily's ears. "You insensitive bastard!"
"I'm sorry Cindy but they are doing jack shit for us."
"Why don't you go down there then?" I mumbled.
"Brilliant idea, get your coat Mia we're going down their now." Ben laughed.
Ben drove furiously fast to the police station, swerving and skidding left right and centre. "Get out my way!" He kept yelling at traffic.
"Ben be careful, you do not need a speeding ticket, then what would the police say?"
"They will say I'm a step dad looking for justice!"
"Please be careful, if we crash think of what will happen."
He pushed his foot on the break. "For crying out loud Mia, I am trying to get justice for your dead little sister, now you can either help me or shut up, okay?"
I moved towards the window and just stared out of it. "Fine." I whispered.
When we finally got there Ben nearly ran into the reception and demanded to see a police officer on Grace's case.
"Go through into there, a police officer will be with you shortly."
"Finally, some good quick service." Ben said walking me into a small room with him.
A matter of minutes later a police officer we have not seen before entered the room and sat opposite us. "How may I help you?"
"I want to know, right here, right now how Grace was...murdered." Ben demanded.
The police officer looked over to me then back to Ben. "Are you sure you want your daughter to hear this?"
I jumped when he called me Ben's daughter. "I-"
"She's fine with it, why else would she be here?" Ben argued.
"Sir can you please calm down. Are you sure you're okay with this?" He said looking over to me.
I nodded nervously, worried about the outcome.
"Right, well let me get the autopsy letter and then we can begin." He said leaving the room.
"Finally, a result!" Ben said triumphantly.
As soon as the police officer walked back into the room my heart started to pound. He was carrying a large blue folder with 'Love' written on it. He had both hands clasped tightly around it. As he placed it on the table it made a loud bang. "Right, well then lets get started."
"Good." Ben said eagerly.
He opened the folder slowly, i felt as if i was going to be sick with panic. I just wanted this over with as soon as possible.
"So Mr Cooke, Grace went missing the night of the 23rd of March, sometime between ten and midnight. We believe she was taken from her bed, there was no mass sign of struggle showing she must of known her killer, she knew the face and was not alarmed. Sometime after she was taken, between the hours of 2am and 6am Grace died. From the bruising all over her body we can see that she was beaten with a blunt object, perhaps a household object, we are yet to decide on what they was. I'm sorry to say that she was raped during her murder. There was no semen left apart from a small extract near her mouth. We also believe that she had been cut on glass some point in the night, as she had various cuts all over her body. While being raped her arms had been tied together with cord from her curtains, they cut off her blood circulation in her hands, after she was raped one hand was released from the cord, leaving the other still tied up. After all that she was strangled using hands killing her slowly, sadly we could not find any finger prints, as they must of been wearing gloves. Throughout her ordeal she did try and fight off her killer, as she has skin underneath her fingernails and toe nails and some substance in her teeth which we believe to be from anothers tounge. When she eventually died in the early hours of the morning she was moved from her place of death to the woodland area not far from your home, where her body started to decompose until she was found." He put the autopsy sheet down. "I'm really sorry."
Ben and I sat there in absolute shock, her murder was gruesome and it was torture. We no longer had the comfort of knowing that she maybe had died quickly with no pain, she endured a night of pain until she finally let go.
"What about the broken window?" Ben said.
"We do not know much about that as glass was moved, there is glass inside and outside therefore we do not know if it was an enter or exit point or if it is valid to the case at all."
"Of course it's valid! A broken window and a dead child, they instantly connect!" I shouted.
"Miss Love, we are the professionals, please do not tell me how to do my job."
I looked to Ben who's face was getting redder with rage.
"Now we are glad you have come down here Ben."
The police officer looked to me once again and then to Ben. "You are our prime suspect in the Grace Love murder case, and you are under arrest for the suspected murder of your stepdaughter Grace, anything you say or do may be used against you in court." He said pushing hand cuffs onto his wrists.
"What? Are you mad? It wasn't me!" Ben shouted.
I stood watching helplessly as three men escorted Ben out of the room and into a cell.
"We are sorry you had to see that Miss Love, do you have any money for a cab or would you like a lift off us?" They said smiling at me.
"I'll walk." I said stunned at what had just happened. As I left the building i looked back, thinking of what I had just heard, remembering what I had just seen. Once again my world was spinning upside down with no end in sight.