Family Is Everything
By Mihika Agarwal, Class 7, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai
He stood on the edge of the cliff, gazing at the sea below him. The wind lifted his golden hair, and he shivered slightly. "It’s all my fault,” he thought. He shouldn’t have been so scared. "I’m so sorry, Phoebe,” he whispered, as if his twin sister could hear him. He closed his eyes, trying not to think about Phoebe or their parents. Nonetheless, her face appeared behind his closed eyelids. Her eyes were the same blue as his, but her hair was a shade lighter. And her smile – the one that usually filled his heart with joy – made his stomach somersault. He remembered his life before the incident had happened. It felt like a dream to him now. He remembered playfully wrestling Phoebe. He remembered playing the piano and the look of admiration on Phoebe’s face. He remembered his mother’s smile as she kissed him goodnight, and his father’s melodious voice as he sang both his children to sleep.
He remembered the time he had fallen and scraped his knee. He had been crying until Phoebe had come and put her arms around him. He had stopped crying instantly, and they had simply sat there on the grass, his head on her shoulder. But one day, everything changed. He was just twelve. He remembered the sound of the siren as the smoke curled through the windows. His father had grabbed him and thrown him out of the house, coughing and choking, as the red flames spread. "I’ll be right back,” his father had said. When the little boy protested, the man reassured his son by saying as calmly as possible, "Daddy will be right back, okay? But I have to make sure Mom and Phoebe are safe. Will you promise you’ll be brave, for me? ” As the boy nodded, his father left, heading back into the house.
But he never came out; none of them ever did. And the little boy, who was shaking all over, could no longer stand by himself. He had knelt on the burnt grass, staring at the house, his vision blurred by silent tears. His whole world had toppled in a matter of minutes. "It was all my fault,” the boy, now fourteen, repeated, as he stood on the cliff. "Maybe if I hadn’t been so afraid and been braver like Dad, I could have helped. Then, they wouldn’t have died.” He looked around him one last time. The garden, now regrown, was covered in green grass. The farm had provided him with enough food to survive the past few years (though it felt as if each day a part of him died inside). At last, he looked down at the sea, and took a deep breath. "Mom, Dad, Phoebe, I’m sorry I was such a coward. I still am. But at least I get to see you again.” And with that, he closed his eyes and jumped, greeting the darkness as one might greet an old friend.