We as spectators view the girl from an unknown camera, as she sits huddled in the lightless room. The lens attempt to capture the details surrounding her, but the lack of light renders the feat to be difficult. We are silent, crouched in a space where she won’t see us. We know her name is Hatty, and that her older sister is Hailey. 23 and 25.
What we don’t know is how she feels after what just transpired.
“It’s not my fault,” she mumbled, breaking her silence. “It’s not.”
Through the lens, we view her eyes flitting to her closed door – wondering if someone is beyond the doorway.
Picture this routine. It’s a collection of what we viewed and collected over time.
Morning: Hailey quietly gets up and ready for her usual 9 to 5 job as a skincare planning director. Hatty is knocked out on her bed, pomegranate incense on, curtains closed, away from the world. Though young, she chose to entertain herself with work while everyone was asleep, preferring not to face the world while the light was up.
Afternoon: Usually these text messages would be shortly exchanged during Hailey’s lunch break –
Hail: Wake up, Hat. Did you eat?
Sis: I have a 2nd date w/Dylan!
Getting ready to go out soon.
Hail: Weren’t you w/Michael?
Sis: It ended like three weeks ago, oops…
Sorry I forgot to tell you 😦
Hail: No worries. But stop being so
sporadic with dating, would you?
At least that was 7 months.
Sis: Well why stick around
in a boring r/ship? Better
to jump ship and move on.
Hail: Whatever, I’ll see you later then.
I have to go.
Sis: Bye, Hail!!!
The Blue Hour: the mysterious transition from 5:25 to 6:25 PM, in which the sky is neither bright nor dark. It’s as if time distills back into the colors of dawn. Even Hailey’s upheld hand is dunk in a pale, gradient blue until the moon rises up. She commutes home, envisioning her sister emerging from her cocoon for work. They would talk if Hat didn’t have to redo her eyeliner twice or thrice, or traffic held Hail up. But Hailey often hesitated, wishing deep inside that Hatty didn’t have to work at night, without a car of her own.
7 PM: Their compact apartment is empty, with chores maybe or maybe not done. It depended on Hatty’s mood. Hailey would either eat Hatty’s prepared food or cook her own, since her sister spent enough delivery bills for both of them. And the house would be quiet, peaceful.
4 AM: Hatty returns from a) fitting modeling and b) serving a (promiscuous) night shift at a karaoke cafe, and silently knocks out.
So it was clear that the two weren’t as close anymore. Suffice to say, life got in the way.
Hailey hadn’t much time to contact her boyfriend Damien either. Her time was mostly allotted to work, chores or her sister; whenever their schedules happened to align, she’d try to take Hatty out for a meal. In response, the younger one still called the older one “Hail” from their childhood. It especially stuck once the two girls were left to fend for themselves, at only 18 and 20.
We rewind back to what happened five years prior, in this very house.
“Here,” Hailey had said, handing another tissue to her crying sister. It was after the funeral, and they were huddled together, knees in arms, in their lonely and empty family house. He’d been gone, but now so was she. Hatty accepted it with a hiccup, a couple tears splattering down her black dress anyway. The scene outside their living room window was too good to be true – pure white, with an unobtrusive sheet of calm clouds. It was so deceiving. Even final.
Meanwhile, Hailey clutched onto the check sent from her aunt overseas. They had no relatives in close proximity, but from now on their aunt and uncle would contribute the missing expenses. As of caring for themselves, though, they were now on their own, armed with only lessons to remember.
Hailey’s eyes, though downtrodden, were alight with a spark of determination. To make it through until they could stand on their own two feet, together.
“Goddamn. What are we going to do, now?” Hatty whispered, turning her red eyes to her sister. Hailey’s eyes mirrored hers, but they were more resolute.
“We’ll continue to live,” she stated, bringing her sister in for a close hug. “It’ll be okay.”
Hat sniffed. “You sure? How do you know?”
“You can trust me,” Hail assured.
Sadly, there would come a point where their trust in each other would erode, growing complacent. Seeing only their own lives ahead of them, the invested effort would fade, unbeknownst to Hailey. In due time, the lessened communication would prove to render her loyalty to be futile.
Since Hatty would end up holding hands with Damien.
He approached her first, while she was a month into her relationship with Michael. Over time, gifts, snacks, and eventually a Tiffany & Co. necklace stacked in a bookshelf. While we as outsiders may never know what his true intentions were when first approaching, it seemed they were in good mutual consensus. After all, with Michael’s departure three weeks prior, Dylan had eagerly sidled up at the “open” chance – and Damien actually enjoyed the game.
Fast-forward to now – three weeks following the sisters’ texts.
Hailey’s bedroom door was closed, which kept her off his mind as he walked down their hall to her sister’s room. Only the sisters didn’t know, with their increasing distance and all. They weren’t at a place where they introduced each other’s lovers. Though he believed they didn’t have to know at all.
But anyway. Our lens of view follows him in until we see him from Hatty’s vantage point. Noticing the sudden outline of Damien in her open doorway, she laughed in surprise from her pillow. In response, he held up the spare key she allotted him – which was hidden in a heel of hers in the shoe closet outside.
“What are you doing here?” she happily asked, slipping off her headphones, pushing her phone aside.
“Came to surprise you,” he said with a grin, lifting up a bulging bag of Fat Sal’s burritos and a sheer plastic box from California Donuts. It’d been their first meal together, back when they were testing the waters.
She beamed, sitting up in her bed – delighting in having someone come to her.
“Good job,” Hatty then remarked, walking towards him for a hug.
“Date with Dylan cancelled, right?”
“Yup. I’ve got all day and night for you. Anna’s covering my shift to thank me for last week, and today’s shoot is postponed to tomorrow.”
“The best scenario,” Damien replied, leaning into her lips.
The time was 2:00 PM, on a Friday. They had four free hours there – then the entire rest of the night outside, elsewhere, wherever they wanted.
If only they hadn’t gone to take the trash out at the exact moment Hailey pulled in to their parking space. Hailey emerged from her car, opened the door, and showed herself when the two had yet to make it back to Hatty’s room. They remained still as Hailey arrived to stand a mere three meters away.
Hailey stared at her now fresh ex, whose toes squirmed from the fire in her eyes. Suffice to say, the confrontation had been brutal.
She was the older one, after all.
“Get lost,” she murmured. Just like that, 18 months vanished without a trace, compromised for the six he dually spent with Hatty. There weren’t any ashes left to clean as he wordlessly slipped past them to leave. Although, our lens catches him holding Hatty’s fingers for a split second on the way – a sign of reassurance.
The Blue Hour never seemed as ominous as it did now. No one knew Hailey would come home early – at 5:30, instead of 6:30 PM.
Terse words were briefly exchanged, before their direction somehow moved to the topic of mistake versus fault. Hailey took the lead in teaching her sister – and how she couldn’t get away with her reasonings even if she tried.
Basically, a mistake is a wrong action committed without prior knowledge, experience, or awareness. Meanwhile, a fault is what one carries as a consequence for the result of a deed knowingly committed.
“So, you and Damien,” Hailey told her with folded arms, “that was a mistake. I can’t guess whether knowing this would’ve stopped you or not, but fact is you hadn’t known he’s been with me. I suppose it wasn’t anything but a mistake. While mine was allowing this to happen. We’ve been too busy to even be family, and I should’ve questioned that a long time ago. Especially at home.”
Hatty stayed silent.
“He’s a cheating bitch, too,” she added darkly. The outside blue sunk in a little deeper upon them.
“But you.” And now Hatty’s shoulders tensed. She didn’t want to be labeled as a troublemaker – she knew this already. The younger one just wanted her sister to see the little girl who couldn’t handle departures.
In Hatty’s hopes, her bad habit was only a result of something else. But as an older sister, it seemed to be bigger than that.
“How much are you not telling me?”
“I couldn’t say no to –”
“How could you dare cheat… and think of doing it so freely without telling?”
“It’s not what you think! I didn’t always do this. And with Damien, he came to me first –”
“So you’ve had no hand in saying yes to cheating? In the lying, and deceiving? All of this happened to you, with none of your participation?”
“I… well, I didn’t know what to do. And… I couldn’t help but like it.”
“Yeah okay, but have you ever thought for one second what my input would’ve been? Am I not here for you when you need it? To simply ask me if you didn’t know?”
Hatty’s face crumpled.
“Or am I too out of your league because I don’t drink, go out at night, and ‘loosen up’? Because I’m ‘too good’ for you?”
Then her face scrunched up into a determined frown.
“Well, how about you, Hailey? How much are you not telling me?”
Hailey’s chest rose, then fell.
“I can’t believe you’re asking me that. When I’m always the one to text you so I can update you, to check up on you, and for you to update me whenever it mattered.”
Hesitation flickered across the younger one’s eyes. The older one continued, “I’ve waited for you. I did my side of the work by telling you what went on with my life, whether with me or even my friends. Though I see it was idiotic of me to keep trying. Your attention was clearly elsewhere.”
Hatty fretted, before mustering up some confidence. “It’s not my fault,” she responded, calmly concealing the effort behind it. Hailey raised a brow.
“It’s a mistake, yeah,” the younger one continued to fill the silence. “But not a fault.”
“Of anything? Really?”
A nervous bite of lips, as shadows of an incoming night hid the walls.
“So it’s not your fault that you chose to handle your pain like this?” Hailey coolly asked, noticing how her counterpart’s shoulders stiffened again. The sky’s dim light fell by another decibel. “That after dad left and mom died six years ago, you cheated because you were that desperate to have people stay –”
Both pairs of eyes looked stung. Hatty’s chest slightly heaved as well, in anger. From either side of the hallway entry, both stood their lone ground – though noticeably, more light reached Hailey’s side than Hatty’s.
“There’s never enough justification for what you’re doing, Hat,” Hail continued, her limp arms finding rest in her coat pockets. “All I see from you is this – ‘I’m going to act out like this because I feel scared.’ That’s the kind of mindset you’re keeping. Really?”
“It’s your fault for mishandling your pain –”
“Stop,” Hatty sharply cut in, “acting like a know-it-all.” She added, fists trembling, “You don’t know everything about me, Hail. How I cope, or why I’ve made these decisions. Right? You’ve always been the stronger one, so don’t act like you understand, either. Just stop saying that I mishandled everything, for fuck’s sake.” Hearing this, Hailey took a moment to breathe.
“Hatty. It’s been five years. Do you really not know me?”
“I know you plenty well enough,” she spat out. “It’s you who’s out of the loop with me.”
“Yeah?” Hailey nearly whispered. “Well hurry up and know your place.”
A silent minute passed, before a nearby clock read 6:12 PM. Both sisters’ eyes shone with salt water and disbelief, but it was Hatty who stomped away into her room, and Hailey who walked out of the house.
Our point-of-view returns to Hatty in her lightless bedroom. The lens of our view zooms up to her huddled form on her bed, in which a tissue box is beside her feet.
“Sorry. God, I’m still crying.”
“It’s okay. I can be on the phone all night.”
“So it didn’t go well.”
“Of course it wouldn’t. Not with her.”
“She’s… my sister’s fine. You know. She can be a great leader of the house. She’s got her life straight. She’s smart, logical, and strong. Hail coped better than I had at that time. But, like…”
“Shit. I don’t know. I don’t have anything. I’m not anything.”
“You don’t need to think that way. You’re all that you can be.”
“I can never be anything alone.”
“Hmph. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Want to have a smoke once the sun is up?”
“Sure. Come by noon, I’ll order some chicken.”
“Will do. I’ll see you then, with some beer.”
“You’re not going to leave me right?”
“You won’t have to worry. I’m yours.”
She beamed. “I won’t.”
But still. Upon hearing the dial tone, she dropped her phone on her bed, let out a breath she wasn’t aware of holding, and looked at her closed door. Her empty eyes showed she’d no idea when Hailey would return. The clock on her bedside table read 11:45 PM. She’d no idea of her intentions, or even location.
Though here is where we leave Hatty. Our camera lens zoom out from her huddled profile on her bed, from her room, the incoming dawn, zooming out, out, out until all around is pure darkness. We’ll never know what may happen to amend the sisters’ relationship.
The last sound we hear, however, is the sound of a door closing.