"So warm," I hear a small voice whisper.
I sigh and get up from where I was uncomfortably laying. The sand moves beneath my body and sticks to my sweaty palms. Why we had chosen to come to the beach during winter, I will never understand. I stand up stiffly and look up at the sky; dawn is approaching.
"What are you doing, big brother?" my little sister calls, her high pitched voice again penetrating the cold, silent air of the beach. She is sitting next to the fire it had taken me an hour to make, warming her hands near it. She is wearing our only blanket around her small, shaking shoulders.
I don't reply to her question, but instead take a seat next to her. I put my arm around her shivering shoulders in a feeble attempt to warm her up.
She smiles; a small smile, but a smile nonetheless. She leans against me and closes her eyes for a moment.
"..When do you think Mommy will come back?" she asks me quietly.
I cringe inwardly at the innocent question. I can't tell her, can I? No, of course I can't...
I can't tell her that she's dead.
I feel a twinge of anger. Mom told us she would be back in a few minutes. Just a few short minutes...
But apparently, a lot can happen in a few short minutes.
She had left a few hours ago; after half an hour had passed since her departure, I realized something was wrong. I told my sister to stay put for a while.
And I searched.
I trudged through the thick woods near the beach where we set up our little camp.
I stopped short next to a large oak tree and looked around.
There I found her, a knife in her hand and a slice on her throat.
My mother. Dead. Knife. Dead. Mom. Mommy. Dead.
The words swam through my mind as tears welled up in my eyes.
I knelt next to her, examining her more closely before the tears finally overflowed.
I ran. I had to get back to my sister. I had to.
I made sure my eyes were dry before I returned.
I lay down, facing away from my sister, and told her that I couldn't find mom.
If you think about it, it's not really a total lie.
Our mother had killed herself.
How could I tell my six year old sister something like that?
I remain silent, the image of my mother still lingering in my mind.
"What's wrong, big brother?" she asks me.
I have to tell her.
But how can I?
She's only six. Hell, I'm only fourteen. I don't know how to tell my little sister something like this.
I'll tell her tomorrow.
My mother is dead.
The thought repeats over and over again in my mind like a broken record until it finally registers with my tired brain.
I can feel my eyes burning with hot tears as I bring my hand to my eyes.
I can feel my sister's childish gaze fall upon me, but I cannot stop crying despite my best efforts.
I feel small, thin arms wrap around my waist and a head rest on my torso. The tiny body leans against me, and I know that everything will work out.
"I love you," my sister mumbles against my body.
I look down at her, tears blurring my vision as I wrap my arms around her fragile frame.
We can make it through this together, I think as the sun finally rises, creating a beautiful array of colors in the winter sky.
"I love you too, little sis."