She remembers everything so clearly, and yet it still felt like a blur. The deafening sound of sirens fading in and out, blue and red lights flashing before her unfocused eyes, the intense scent of scorching metal and oil, her entire body, numb and on fire at the same time, all as if her mind was a thousand miles away. She can recall her sister, calling out her name amidst all the screaming and commotion, her eyes full of panic and fear as she tried to bring her back from her state of shock. It feels like a nightmare, she doesn't understand, she wants to wake up, wake up now, before knowing what happened. Suddenly, it seems all-too-real and everything hurts. Tears flow free from her eyes as she clings to her sister, whose arms are tightly wound around her like she might disappear any second. Her throat feels closed up, and she can't even speak. A small part of her wants to look and try to understand, another part knows, but her heart isn't strong enough to look. Her head buried in her sister's embrace, her eyes are closed. Not too long after- or an eternity, she couldn't tell-, she could feel another pair of arms circle around them, as desperate as the ones shielding her from the reality she can't bear to see. The conscious part of her is waiting for the other ones, the soft, caring arms they know too well. She waits and waits, as the dread rises from the deepest parts of her heart. But they never come, and her wails of grief are the only thing her mind remembers before everything goes dark.
Her sister's weirdly out-of-context statement made her lift her eyes from her phone. From her spot on their small couch, Serra stared at her sister for a moment, and she stared back. Her day had been awfully tiring, and it was probably the case for both of them. Serra opened her mouth to protest that she was not in the mood for one of her sister's games but stopped. The smile in Cheryl's eyes, while she tried to remain dead serious, gave away the true nature of the scene. She had something to say, and of course that dork was going to make it theatrical. That was all but new, and she knew she had to play along.
"What are you talking about ?"
As always, Cheryl stayed silent a little while before coming closer and sitting down before her. Serra rolled her eyes and grinned at her typical dramatic behaviour.
"Stop being obnoxious and just tell me what it's all about already."
Cheryl laughed a little, and her smile widened. It might seem odd, but sometimes, she had the feeling their emotions were interconnected. When Cheryl smiled, she smiled too, and vice versa. Still, her sister, aside from laughing, wasn't giving away anything. Just when she was getting a bit anxious, she saw her pulling an envelope from her back pocket. Immediately her curiosity took over the worry, and she raised a brow.
"What are those?"
"Those," she began, her voice betraying her excitement, "are our escape tickets out of hell."
Serra blinked, confused. She knew it was totally normal for her sister to be all cryptic about something simple, but... Somehow the envelope was familiar. Where did she see it? It seemed so distant, yet so reachable, that she wanted to grab it and open it herself. Cheryl pulled it away, taking out the letter inside.
"Do you remember Grandpa? I mean, the cool Grandpa."
A giggle passed her lips as the younger sister pictured in her mind their grandpas. Yup, she totally knew which one was the cool one. While the one from their father's side was old and hysterical, their mother's father was the coolest. Well... He was around for only two months before passing away... And he had been stuck at the hospital... But still! He'd been pretty awesome. Serra held back the numerous hilarious anecdotes that came to her mind and simply nodded. Cheryl ran a hand through her hair, finally settling for playing with a strand and looking at it like it held the secrets of the universe. Her smile had faded, and Serra could almost see the memories scrolling in her older sister's mind. Sure, she'd always loved grandpa... but Cheryl had been closer to him than anyone. It was like they had shared a special friendship that could never be replaced. Serra could remember his last moments in this world with them... Cheryl was the one who had held his hand as the illness took him away. That was the second, and the last time she saw her sister cry.
Her brow furrowed in worry, Serra got up and hugged her sister tightly. She heard her letting out the breath she'd been holding, and she returned the gesture briefly. They pulled away, and she looked at Cheryl in concern.
"Sorry," she said. "I'm just emotional. He gave me that letter sometime before passing away... I never thought I'd open it. Told me I was to do so only when I'd be... crushed by the burden of modern life."
Serra stayed still, listening closely. It did sound exactly like something their grandpa would have said. Still, she couldn't see how the puzzle pieces fit together. Where was her sister going with that speech? And what about the whole "leaving" thing?
"You know he lived far away from town?" Cheryl began, nervousness seeping into her voice. "He was actually a farmer in a place called Stardew Valley. He... He thought that if we were, one day, to want to leave everything and just start from scratch... Then we could go there. On his farm."
A blank silence fell upon their little home, and Serra stared into her sister's hazel eyes.
"Moving to a farm...?" Serra echoed. "Starting from scratch? B-but what about our life here? You worked so hard to get us where we are...!"
"Serra..." she said softly. Her hands came to hold her shoulders comfortingly. "You know as well as I do that we're not really happy here. My job is a torture and..." she sighed. "I know you're having trouble too. I might be here for you, but... I know you're lonely. The nice people at work aren't what you need. I want you to make friends, and do something you really like. I want you and I to be happy, and... I don't know about you, but a fresh start sounds like exactly what we need."
Serra's eyes saddened as she looked away, hesitant. She knew that. She knew all that. She knew her sister was far from happy, and that this opportunity might actually be the answer to everything. But still, she couldn't help but worry... What if they did go there, and in the end, they failed to settle down into a proper life? No one's ever told them how to manage farm work! What if they really couldn't do it? They would be even worse off than now... At least here in the city, they were somewhat stable, and they had jobs and an apartment... Though she knew way too well how Cheryl felt about their lives here. She knew how badly she wanted freedom from their suffocating routine, but... Throwing everything they've ever known aside? That did sound like her overly bold sister, but her? She'd always been the little sister, following the steps of grown-ups and comforting herself in the safety of Cheryl's mother-like caring. A decision like this was way too much for her! Her mind was in overdrive and her emotions all over the place; she could feel tears welling up in her eyes.
"I know you're worried," Cheryl said, bringing her back from her thoughts. "But we'll do our best! Managing a farm can't be that hard, right? It's like, an overgrown garden."
She sniffled. "Cheryl, you kill every plant you touch."
"Hey!" she retorted, causing Serra to giggle. She took on a mockingly offended voice. "We have three alive tulips in our garden, rude."
Serra giggled lightly. She didn't know what she would do without her sister. She knew she couldn't let her go like this. If Cheryl was going to go there and work their way out of hell, then you could bet she wouldn't be alone. She would do everything to help her, because that's just what they did for each other.
Maybe, just maybe, she'd known all along, deep in her heart, what her answer would be.
"Alright, you crazy dork. How do we do this?"
Cheryl's smile warmed her heart like a second sun as she threw her arms around her neck and pulled her into a bear hug.
"Yes!! Oh, you're not gonna regret this, I swear! We'll have our own house, our own stuff, and we're gonna be able to do anything! It'll be rough at first, but I know that if we're together, nothing is ever going to stop us, I promise!"
Serra grinned. "I know."
Cheryl affectionately ruffled her hair before breaking the hug, though not letting go of her shoulders. She took a deep breath.
"We'll need a few things, for sure... But I want us to start over, so the less possible. Clothes, food, all the money we have... Our gardening tools, too, I guess that'll be useful. I'll buy the bus tickets tonight, and we'll leave next month. How about that? Sounds good?
Serra smiled. It was a trust fall, in the end.
"Yeah. That sounds great."
And she knew her sister would never let her hit the ground.