It starts with Aya, and in a way, that’s the whole story.
My name is Sybl. I’m the forth child, third daughter, of the Whitestarr family. My birth certificate says that I am Serenity, the name my parents chose for me, the name they forced upon me, the name they gave the daughter that they wanted me to be. It is not my name. My name is Sybl.
Aya was my friend, though to the rest of the world she was invisible. A shadow; someone pushed into a corner by people who didn’t want to see her, people who thought that if you couldn't see something, it would just vanish, disappear. They made Aya and her family disappear. She was sent home, to a world of poverty and war. All chances of her life thrown away, as though she were as worthless and annoying as an insect. From the start, Aya didn’t stand a chance.
She could have. She should have. She would have if not for my useless family. I couldn’t do anything, I was a child, the same as her, but they could have. They could have done something, anything, more than they did, but they didn’t, and they failed.
All their ‘peaceful’ protesting, their useless letters to the local newspaper, did nothing. My Da was my hero, my sisters meant the world to me, but they failed. Da wrote a song, the best song he’s ever written, but what was the point? He wouldn’t publish it. He said it belonged to Aya, that only she could decide what to do with it. Da said it was the right thing to do. Da was wrong.
How could that have helped her? It needed to be spread, recorded professionally, sold overseas, but Da failed there too. He has always been too law abidingly moral. All of them are; my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother. Even baby Luke is a bundle of innocence. They will corrupt him, he will never be able to make the hard choices, but I will. I will show those cowards what courage is. I will show them true love. Maybe Da will write another stupid, pointless song that won’t help anyone, in memory of me.
To think that these people call themselves my family. So content in their happy little lives, fiddling while Rome burns. They are blind, ignorant of what’s really out there; a filthy and ugly world. One full of nothing but hatred, cruelty, and cowardice. What will they do when their euphoria is challenged? What will Da do? Will he sing while I burn?
* * *
Agony like I’ve never felt before assaults me, except I think maybe I have felt it. Flashes of searing pain and screams invade my mind briefly, but the pain in my chest pulls me back. It’s so hard to breathe, and every breath is excruciating. I succumb to unconsciousness.
* * *
“I love you.”
I try to open my eyes again, and I think perhaps they move, but I can’t do it. The presence draws back slightly, but they are still there.
“We all do, and you better hurry up and come back home to us.”
The voice sounds familiar, but I can’t place it. I don’t know how I would, everything is muffled, and I’m so confused. I try harder to remember, and I hear more voices. This time they're in my head.
“Come down, Honey,” calls a man’s voice, soft and soothing. “I love you. Come down so we can talk.”
“Serenity?” Is that my name? Serenity? I think it is. There are more words, the same voice, and a thought bursts through to the front of my mind.
My father? Why would he be-? Oh. I remember. Not much really, just flashes. So I was on fire. Not when I woke up before, that must have been the burns, the nerve damage. I can’t feel them now, I must be drugged.
My cheek is kissed again, followed by soft footsteps drawing away. Alyzon? She loves me? After all that I did? My sister sat will me, stroked my cheek, and kissed me? Suddenly I want her back. I don’t want to be Sybl right now, I just want my family. My family, oh how could I have been so stupid? I can’t stop the tears as they soak the bandages I hadn’t even realised were on my face.
* * *
I can’t look anyone in the eye. it hurts to much to see the pain on their faces, knowing that I put it there, that I caused the grief that seems to consume them. All I ever wanted to do was to help a poor refugee. How did such pure intent become so twisted? The scalding hatred I held for my family and the “heartless bureaucracy” must have come from somewhere. Alyzon says that I was manipulated, that forces beyond my control played a game with my life. I want to believe her, it would make me feel better.
Da is driving us home, Alyzon next to me holds my hand. I hope she never lets me go again. I choke back a sob, and she squeezes tighter. Da asks if I would like to listen to the radio. I don’t care, but I nod anyway. When the music starts I can hardly believe my ears. Da is smiling in the rear-view mirror, he planned this.
My ribs are broken, my skin is burned, my lung is punctured, and my soul is shattered, but it doesn’t matter. because I know this song. It’s ‘Song for Aya.’