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Carine and Esme

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“Hey honey, can you grab that last bag of mulch from the truck?” Esme called from her spot in the middle of the garden. She was kneeling, contemplating the layout of the rose bushes. Carine set down the book she had been reading while keeping an eye on Esme, and headed down the porch steps.

“Sure thing! Be back in a jiff,” Carine answered. She sped towards the driveway, grabbed the bag, and ran back to Esme. The family had recently moved, and Esme was hard at work creating her garden, where she had been for the last week. It was easy to lose herself in the work. And she needed to lose herself right now.

“Here’s the bag. Where do you need it?” Carine asked, the bag slung over her shoulder. “Esme?” she asked when she didn’t get an answer.

“What? Oh, um. It’s fine right there. I’ll add it in a sec. She yanked at a few stray weeds.

“I can add it,” Carine said, looking at the rose bushes Esme had motioned towards.

“I got it. Thanks, though.”

“Esme.” Carine put the bag down and knelt to face her.

“Carine, I’m fine.” All the weeds were gone, but Esme didn’t move from her spot.

“Is that why you won’t look at me? And why you haven’t left the garden since we moved here? We don’t have to discuss it if you don’t want to, but please don’t push me away. I don’t think you should be alone in this.” Carine reached for her hand, but she pulled it away and stood up.

“I deserve to be.”

“No one does, Es. It was just a mis-”

“Don’t say it was a mistake!” Esme yelled. She took a deep breath, then added, much quieter “I killed someone, Carine. Someone is dead because of me.

Carine stood up, nodding. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be so blase about it.”

“It’s not your fault.” Esme crossed her arms. “It’s mine. I’m why someone’s child is dead, why we all had to move, uprooting everyone. I’m the one who messed up. It’s my fault. Mine.”

“We’ve done more for less. It’s not a problem.” Carine took a step towards her, reaching out a hand to rest it on Esme’s shoulder. She was relieved when Esme didn’t shrug her off.

“It’s a part of this family. It’s a part of this life.”

“Not for you.”

Carine let out a small sigh. “We’re not discussing me right now.”

Esme’s face crumbled. She leaned into Carine for support, her arms wrapping around her as she shook with tearless sobs. “I, I haven’t slipped like this since I was a newborn. I should have the control to not…” she trailed off.

“We’ll be more careful next time,” Carine said, rubbing her back “I wish I could do or say something to make it better.”

“Me, too,” Esme said with a bitter laugh. “But I think I need to feel this.”

“That’s fair,” Carine agreed. “And I’ll be with you, every step of the way. If you’ll have me.”

“Always. I’m sorry I pushed you away,” Esme said. She wrapped her arms tight around Carine, pulling her closer.