Mina stared at the girl in the picture. The girl had radiant eyes, and a carefree countenance. She was… she was happy. Laughing, cheerful, mischievous. Her arms were around the neck of… her brother. Mina looked hungrily at the girl.
“Who are you?” she asked. “Who are you, girl in the picture? Who are you?”
But the picture had no answers. It was silent. Mina took a step back, then fled to the safety of her bed, sobbing. When she finally calmed down and looked up, the picture was still there, hanging on her bedroom wall.
They were at it again. The class was having another heated discussion. And this one was about siblings. Mina sat in her desk; her eyes squeezed shut, blood pounding in her ears.
Don’t they know…? I can’t handle it. I can’t! Don’t they know I have no siblings to fight with anymore? Don’t they realize this is a sensitive topic for me to hear?
“My brother’s an idiot,” Becka said. “He’s the biggest attention- seeker you’ll ever have the displeasure of meeting, and-”
“That’s because you’ve never had the misfortune of meeting my sister,” said Sarah loudly. “She’s so embarrassing. Last night, she ran into the den where I was sitting with my camp friend, and shouted at me to come make my bed. And she is just so disorganized. She can never find any of her things because she leaves them around randomly.”
Sarah was cut off by someone else, who was interrupted by the next person, who was quieted by a third. Mina sat there, trying not to listen.
“My brother’s nasty!”
My brother was nice and caring. He always noticed when I had a bad day, and he used to take me out on Sundays.
“My sister is so sloppy!”
My brother was sloppy. I didn’t mind… why do you? If she’s a nice person, it doesn’t matter. And I’m sure you have faults, too.
“My brother never answers when I greet him, or say goodbye on my way out.”
My brother used to greet me. He said goodbye to me before…before he left that day. He said “Goodbye! Have a great day! I love you!” those were the last words he ever said to me. That night we got the call that he…that he….That there was an accident and that…no one survived.
Melissa’s voice was heard above the rest of the hubbub. “I wish my brother was dead!”
Silence. The lively, active class of a second ago was as still as a graveyard at midnight. Then there was a titter. A giggle. A laugh.
No! NO! NONONONONONONONONO!
“NO!” The cry escaped her lips, involuntarily. The class was suddenly silent again, as quiet as death itself. “Noooooooo…..” Mina was crying, sobbing, screaming. She fled from the room, thirty-one pairs of shocked eyes following her back, until the door slammed behind her.
Run, run, run keep running don’t ever stop no no no keep running run run from the pain run no no no make it stop make it stop run away.
When Mina could run no more, she stopped abruptly and dropped down at the side of the road, her face in her shaking hands. She sat there for minutes, hours, days. Mina was not aware of the passage of time until the evening wind enveloped her in its frigid embrace. She stood, unsteady after hours of weeping. Mina turned, and began to walk in the direction of home. It was time she faced reality.
It was not until much later that Mina had a chance to go up to her bedroom. She stood in front of the picture, staring at the girl with the sparkling, happy eyes. The girl with everything, with a world to live for. The girl with a brother.
“Who are you?” she begged the girl in the picture. “Please tell me. Who are you? Girl in the picture, who are you?”
But the picture had no answers. It was silent.
It was that time of year again. Spring cleaning. A day cooped up inside, with only your own mess to keep you company.
Mina sighed as she pulled open her first drawer and began to sort the disarray inside. Garbage… keep… keep…file away with the rest of the things she couldn’t throw out but would never use again… keep… garbage… file… garbage… A paper fluttered out of the muddle, onto the floor. What was that? Mina bent to pick it up. An envelope. Her heart beat faster as she recognized the handwriting scrawled on the outside of the envelope. Breathing fast, Mina opened the letter.
Hi! How are you? Camp is great, but I miss you so much. How’s camp by you? I hope everything worked out with the girl we discussed- the one who isn’t nice to you. If she’s mean, just tell me and I’ll take care of her! Just kidding. But seriously, let me know. I have way too much cash on me, so I’m sending some for you. Enjoy! I love you.
Your favorite big bro
p.s. Write back quick! I’m waiting to hear from you.
The letter fell from her hands, whispering to a stop on the floor below. Tears streaming from her eyes, Mina approached the picture on the wall.
“Who are you?” she asked. “Who are you? Girl in the picture, who are you? Please, I beg of you! Tell me, who are you?”
But the picture had no answers. It was silent.
Mina sat for an eternity, staring at the girl she no longer knew.
She remembered that day in the park, taking that picture. It was an uncharacteristically warm day for February, and they had grabbed the chance, her and her brother, and ran to the park. Their mother had followed behind, at a slower pace, smiling as her children linked arms and scampered away. They had rolled in the grass, run down the hills, climbed the trees, laughed and played. The picture was taken at the end of the day, in front of the big maple tree they were trying to climb. Their mother had called “Smile!” and Mina threw her arms around her brother’s neck from behind and beamed.
Mina shook herself out of her reverie. Turning away from the picture, she silently got ready for bed and crawled under her heavy comforter. Flicking off the lamp, Mina lay back. Within minutes, sleep had overtaken her.
Where was she? She recognized this place, but she did not know it. Suddenly, she remembered. The park… she was in the park… Mina turned around, and there they were. She saw them rolling in the grass, running down the hills, climbing the trees. She ran towards them, shouting, screaming.
“Girl in the picture! Girl in the picture! Please! Please, stop! You must tell me, please, you must tell me- who are you? Please! I’m begging you- come back here! Please, you must tell me! Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?”
The girl in the picture slipped her hand into her big brother’s and began to walk away.
“No! NO! Please, come back to me! Girl in the picture! You must come back here! You must tell me! Who are you? Who are you? Who are you, girl in the picture? WHO ARE YOU?”
The girl in the picture did not turn around. She was getting farther, hazier.
“Girl in the picture! Girl in the picture! Come back! Come back! I must know! Just tell me- who are you? Who are you?!”
Mina tried to run, but her feet would not move.
“Come back! No! Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me alone again! You must tell me! You must! Who are you? Who are you?”
The girl in the picture did not turn around. She clutched her brother’s hand, and beamed up at him. They started walking faster.
“No! Come back! Don’t leave me here! Please, you must tell me, I must know. Girl in the picture, who are you? Who are you?! Please come back! Please! Just tell me- who are you?”
The scene was getting darker. The girl in the picture began to disappear. Mina sobbed, stuck in place by an invisible force.
“No… no… please… please…”
It was all black now, a suffocating darkness that took her breath away.
“I must know… please… who are you? Please…”
Mina jerked awake, eyes wide and wild in the overpowering gloom. A dream… it had been a dream… only a dream. Somehow, this did not make Mina feel any better.
Soundlessly, Mina slipped out of bed. She tiptoed over to the picture on the wall, and stared into its depths. She was desperate now.
“Who are you? Girl in the picture, who are you? Who are you?” The words came in a desperate whisper, begging, pleading, demanding. “Who are you? Who? WHO? Girl in the picture, who are you? Who are you? Girl in the picture, who are you? Who are you?” Tears streamed down Mina’s face and neck, soaking her pajama shirt, but Mina did not notice.
“Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?! Girl in the picture, who are you?”
The girl in the picture…is me. The realization came from deep inside, a silent voice that told of hope and happiness.
“Girl in the picture, you are me,” she repeated. “You are my past, and my future. You are what I once was, and what I can still be. You are happy. You are me.”
Shira Stefansky, Age 16, Grade 11, Congregation Bnos Yaakov, Gold Key