Caitlin M. S. Buxbaum
Agatha gingerly lifted the petals of her nasturtium, the first in the bed to bloom; she so loved its vibrant orange, but it reminded her of unhappier times, too. Marching the grimy streets with her “sisters” on All Hallows’ Eve, lanterns held aloft so long her arms still remembered the ache.
She let her flower’s head droop and stood, brushing the dirt from her knees. October was still months away, and she needn’t concern herself with ghosts anymore anyway; it had been years since she’d worn the thin white shift that marked her a member of that cult, and she had her real sister back.
“Hey!” Lettie piped from the doorway. “Wanna help make lunch?”
Agatha smiled at her younger sibling, lithe with both youth and wisdom. She had known all along Agatha was making a mistake, following Frederick into the fire—the whole family had told her as much—but only Lettie welcomed her back with open arms.
Agatha followed her sister into their tiny home, where Lettie had laid out all the ingredients they needed to make their cold cucumber soup and fresh garden salad: spinach and arugula, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, carrots and radishes, basil and—
“No dill?” Agatha asked.
Lettie slapped a palm to her forehead. “I knew I forgot something. One second.”
Agatha hardly had time to offer her hand in harvesting before her sister had slipped out into the garden again, leaving the door wide open. It was a bad habit, Agatha thought, but it let her keep Lettie in sight, which was always a comfort—Lettie was truly her happy place.
After an early supper, the two sisters reclined on the porch in creaky Adirondack chairs, watching the sunset.
“I missed this,” Agatha said, eyes on the horizon.
“Missed what?” Lettie asked.
“This,” Agatha said, gesturing to her sister. “All those years we could have been living together, having the time of our lives—”
“Forget the past, Aggie,” Lettie said, laying a hand on her arm. “You’re here now. We have all the time in the world.”
Agatha relaxed back into her chair and closed her eyes so long she nearly fell asleep.
“Hey, Lettie why didn’t you—”
The sky was dark, and the chair beside her was empty.
Her dishes were still on the side table, but the door to the house was closed. Agatha stood and grasped the handle, only to find it locked.
“Lettie,” Agatha said, relying on irritation to mask her fear. “Lettie this isn’t funny.”
Nothing. Agatha’s heart beat faster.
“Lettie!” She yelled, pounding on the door. “Lettie, open up!”
Agatha had started to whimper, but stopped when she heard another sound: the familiar rhythm of many feet marching. She looked toward the treeline and saw the glow of a hundred orange eyes approaching.
A foot fell behind her and Agatha yelped. She turned and found her sister, match in one hand, lantern in the other, a thin white shift clinging to her skin.
Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum is a writer and teacher from Wasilla, Alaska. She currently serves as CEO of Red Sweater Press and President of Alaska Writers Guild. Learn more about her and read more of her work at caitbuxbaum.com. Find her on Instagram and Twitter as @caitbuxbaum.