4:00 pm – continued
A knock at her door jerked her from her thoughts and she sat bolt upright, eyes wide and startled. The tears that had begun to form in her eyes dried and her nose ceased its tell-tale tingling.
“Sorry, Val,” a soft voice said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Calliope was standing in her sister’s doorway, her long russet colored skirt brushing the floor and her white peasant blouse laced tightly across her chest, the sleeves puffing out around her arms. Her light red hair spilled down her back until it reached her waist and was held back with a black headband. Calliope, obsessed with everything from the Renaissance period, always dressed in a style influenced by that time, but her older sister had to commend her for her conservative clothing in contrast to Sabrina’s more revealing style.
Calliope blinked her wide green eyes from behind dark framed glasses, looking a little like an owl with a hardcover book pressed to her chest, as she stared at her sister. She looked a little uncertain, but why, Valentine couldn’t say. Sighing inwardly and wondering what her sister wanted now, Valentine swung her legs over the edge of her bed. With a welcoming smile, she patted the space beside her. Calliope could sometimes talk in circles, but Valentine did enjoy her company sometimes.
Calliope made her way over to Valentine’s bed and sat beside her sister, wrapping her hands around her knees with her book in her lap. Valentine waited for her sister to say something, knowing it could be a while as Calliope tended to take her time to say anything.
She was pleasantly surprised when Calliope came right out and said something barely a second after seating herself. But she would have preferred that Calliope had selected a different topic to discuss.
“There’s no way we can save ourselves, is there?” Calliope asked as she stared out into space, her eyes vacant. There was none of their usual liveliness and intelligence. She looked more blank and bleak than anything else, and Valentine couldn’t help but worry. “We’re all going to die regardless of whether we want to, aren’t we?”
“Why are you asking me?” Valentine asked, rubbing at her forehead. “I don’t have any answers for you.”
“Oh, I know,” Calliope said, still staring at the carpet in her sister’s room. “No one does. I just…needed to ask. I’ll never know, but I want to know. It’s driving me crazy. Can I tell you I’m scared, Val?”
Feeling sympathetic towards her younger sister, and finding she felt the same way, Valentine put an arm around Calliope and pulled her close. She hugged the younger girl tightly, wishing Calliope could have had a much longer life.
“Yeah, Calliope, you can. I’m scared, too. I don’t want to die yet. Do you want to talk about this?”
Slowly, Calliope shook her head against her sister’s shoulder and whispered, “I just don’t want to be alone right now.”
Valentine looked down at her sister in surprise, pulling away slightly. “But we have four siblings. We’re never alone around here. And right now it sounds like everyone else will be better company than me.”
Calliope shook her head. “No. They’re too loud. I can’t hear myself think. But you’re quiet, Val. You’re a source of quietness and peace. I feel like I need that to be okay with what’s going to happen tonight.”
Valentine suddenly hugged her sister tighter, pulling her close, feeling Calliope wrap her own arms around her and letting the book fall to the floor with a dull thud. “Oh, Calliope, I wish you didn’t have to die. I wish they had found a way to save us all. They have doomed us to death. They have condemned the people of this world. You don’t deserve to die. You shouldn’t have to die.”