My sister is dying. It’s an ugly sentence that is less painful to write down than to utter aloud. There are only two places in the world, two moments in every day that I allow myself to be reminded of this fact. When she is sleeping in the next room, and every afternoon as I finish work at the docks and I am on the pier, staring out to sea with the impenetrable stare of someone who has lost almost everything.
Of course, everything is not lost, at least, not just yet. She is still here with me, for how long, no one can be sure. Consumption is a cursed illness. There is no cure, no vaccine. Only time, and time can be a cruel ugly thing when you know there will never be enough of it. There is nothing that will stop her from being taken from me. It’s only a matter of when.
People say you’re either born into this town, or you end up here after running from someplace even worse. No one ends up here by choice. Which is true of Jane and I? Well it would be untrue to say that we were born here. But it is true that I always knew I would end up here. The sea is in my skin, deep in my bones. The water is there, always rushing through my body. The ocean, roaring in my ears, and sometimes when it is quiet there’s a faint, distant shushing calling me back.
Father was taken in the war. They say he died a hero but perhaps that’s the story they tell all orphaned daughters. As if dying a hero softens the blow, makes the life taken more profound. Father could have died a coward, or just an ordinary man caught up in something much bigger than him. We will never know which it was and I feel sure that it makes such little difference to us now.