“Stella, wake up, it’s sunrise. Come watch it with me.”
“Cindy, don’t you get tired of watching it every morning?”
“No. Why? Don’t you feel something special when you see it? Like magic.”
She smiled at me and pulled me out of my bed. We sat by the window to wait as I cradled her on my lap. Cindy is already 10 years old but she weighs like a six-year old. She’s a sweet and charming girl with pale skin, sad eyes, and raven hair. She doesn’t talk much, only in the morning when she wakes me up to watch the sunrise with her. She’s been here for two months but so far all I know about her is that she likes towear knitted shirts, long skirts, and black shoes, tie her hair with orange ribbons, and watch the sunrise. She never answers me when I ask her about her family or why she needs to stay with us.
“Will you watch the sunrise with me again tomorrow?” It’s what she would always say and I know better to surrender when a child asks.
I have learned to accept her as one of our own, as the little sister I never got to have. In the next few months, waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning to watch the sun rise has been my habit. She would always tell me how she used to do it with her mom and dad, and how they would tell her stories about fairies sprinkling fairy dust all over the neighbourhood every morning to make everything colourful and bright again after night time.
“Where are your parents?” I asked.
“There.” She pointed to the sun.
“Mom and dad said that’s where the nice people go.”
“Cindy,” I held her in my lap and ran my fingers through her hair, her orange ribbon ever shimmering as rays of light pass through our window.
“They’re just staying there for a while. I think they got tired of me because I’m always a burden. They always had to take care of me. I miss them, though.” She said with teary eyes.
“I’m sorry, Cindy. If it makes you feel better I would love to be your sister, if that’s okay with you.”
She immediately wiped her tears and looked at me with a hopeful smile.
I nodded. She hugged me tight and turned to the window where we saw the sun rising slowly behind the hills.
“It’s so pretty, right? Someday I’ll go there and be with mom and dad.”
“Don’t say that, Cindy. Don’t you like it here? Don’t you want to stay with us?”
“Yes, but mom and dad miss me. They told me they miss you too, but you won’t be coming to meet them yet for a long time. But that’s okay, you will when you’re ready.”
“How did you talk to them, and how do they know me?”
“I dreamt about them last night. They were at the sun, they’re waiting for me. They said we will watch you every day at sunrise and share lots of fairy stories.”
“What are you talking about, Cindy?”
She hugged me again and raised her pinkie.
“You’re going to watch it again with me tomorrow, okay? You need to pinkie swear, Stella.”
I didn’t know what else to say or ask so I just nodded.
She got up from my lap and ran back to her with a kind of smile and eagerness I’ve never seen before.
The next day, I woke up at exactly 5 o’clock in the morning. I’m like an automatic alarm clock every morning since Cindy had been with us. I was surprised not to see Cindy in my room, pulling my arm, grabbing my blanket, or pinching my nose to wake me up. My room was silent, as if something had been missing, or lost. I went to her room to check her out.
“Maybe she just overslept.” I whispered to myself.
I knocked on the door, but no one answered. The door wasn’t locked so I decided to come in.
“Wake up, Cindy. You’re going to miss—”
No one was there. I ran to mom and dad’s room.
“Mom! Dad! Cindy is—”
No one was there, too.
I felt numb, like someone just pulled me out of my body and put something else in. My thoughts were floating to where mom, dad, and Cindy might be. I just sat on the floor, blankly staring at the rays of light slowly peeking through the window. It was my first sunrise without Cindy since she had been with us.
After hours of waiting, I finally heard someone come in.
“Stella! Stella honey, are you awake?” Mom called in a trembling voice.
I could not move. I just knew something was not right and I might not be able to take it when I find out. Mom and dad went to their room and rushed and saw me sitting on the floor. They hugged me and started crying.
“We’re sorry, sweetie. We’re sorry.” Dad said.
“What about Cindy? Is she dressed already? We’re gonna be late for school. I’ll just wash up very fast then we’ll be going.”
I got up like nothing happened, like it was an ordinary day of coming to school with Cindy in her usual knitted blouse, long skirt, black shoes, and orange ribbon tied to her hair. I was like a crazy person walking around the house. Mom pulled me into her arms as I struggle to get her off me. She held me tighter and I started crying.
I know. I just didn’t want to accept it from the start.
“We wanted to wake you but she asked us not to.”
Mom handed me an old photo with Cindy’s orange ribbon tied around it.
It was a picture of her holding an orange balloon with a man and a woman at the beach on sunrise.
“Is that her parents?”
“They’re also your real parents.”
I’ve never seen mom and dad cry so hard asking for my forgiveness all my life. I glanced at the photo again with tears streaming down my face. I turned it around and saw a note at the back.
We’ll be watching you at sunrise every day. We love you.
It was the last thing I remembered before I turned pale, ran out of breath, and fainted.