Sienna always made a fuss. She was like that even at birth. I remember poking my head through mum and dad's door, only to see a pool of scarlet growing on the floor, dripping roots into the carpet. Mum's stomach was gushing blood, dad was yelling, and mum and her doula were both pale. Somehow she survived it, but afterwards she shut up her womb for good, vowed never to have children, and the rest of us were both reverent and fearful of the little caramel baby with the funny coloured eyes, wailing stoically at the ceiling every other hour. I was older and darker and less significant, and Jayden was a boy, so he was interesting by default. Dad grew fearful of women, and fearful of their power to both create life and destroy it so bloodily. He poured his heart into Jayden, and Jayden grew bloated.
It came as no surprise when Sienna then decided that she would drop out of school early to be a model. When mum and dad said no, she moved her belongings to the cellar with the leaking pipes and the mildewy smell in protest. Before long, her creamy complexion grew sallow, and she returned upstairs in a fluster, frightened that her looks would be permanently damaged. I tried then to talk some sense into her because it was expected of me, being the eldest, and not long after she dragged her feet to school, immaculate uniform and all, and did as she was told. One day she went to school and never came back. She was sixteen.
To say she had left a hole in the family would be a lie. Sad to say we were all quietly relieved. Dad was suspicious of her, and by extension mum, because Sienna was too light. Jayden saw her as the rival for our parents' affection, and mum never forgave her for almost killing her upon debut. I was indifferent, I just never liked her drama. But as a family, we had to act the part. Yes, we went to the police station and filed a missing persons report; I posted her picture on the internet with a heartfelt plea, Jayden took time off school for compassionate leave, but she never came home. Her phone pinged at various points, the police said. It looked like she was somewhere in North London, but at Camden Town her phone never turned back on, either by a dead battery or because she turned it off on purpose. We all thought the latter. Therefore, every year, at Christmas, we would leave a space for her, buy a present, do the rituals that denoted care and an open-armed welcome, but secretly, we wanted her gone.
In 2012 I finished university. I got a first in Law from LSE and didn't know what to do with it. I volunteered at the Olympics with a few of my friends, Chloe, Anton, Sheriff, and partied in the night. It was a strange time. Everyone believed in something, and they all thought they were invincible. Londoners greeted each other on the street, and the tourists had been banished from central London to give way for the natives, who out of nowhere wanted to know what their city had to offer, where the museums were, and how to climb on a Trafalgar Square lion. People even visited Buckingham Palace. People were happy, and the nation won a few more medals than before.
On the last day of the paralympics, my small group went to one of those fancy city night clubs. I wore a black leather dress and knee high boots. My hair was in a box braid bun. Chloe had on her best wig; Anton and Sheriff wore men's clothing. I was barred at the door. Too dark and too ugly, although that's not what they said. The bouncers apologised and said they were at full capacity and that only three of us would be able to get in. I told them we were a foursome. The biggest and whitest bouncer of the group asked me for ID. When I showed it to him, he accused me of being a fake. Anton and Sheriff tried to calm the tension and Chloe remained silent. Somehow, everyone in the queue found out that Rihanna was in the club and they all wanted to get in, including my friends. They left me on the pavement, to face the absent and pitying crowd. I folded my arms and stalked away. On Regent Street I felt stupid, my boots too small and my dress too tight. I leaned against the wall of the Burberry shop and fought back the tears. And then, a pair of cat eyes appeared amidst the gloom of the night. The owner of the eyes detached herself from the alleyway opposite where I stood, flitted across the bustling street, and stood before me.
"Sienna" I said.
She looked the same. Thin, pointed chin, a broad forehead and a pair of green, beady eyes. Her skin was paler than I remembered, and there was a hollowness to her, something gaunt in the cheeks, and pitted around her eyes. When she opened her mouth to speak, I could only see an empty blackness, as if she had swallowed space. I leapt back in fright, and looked her over again.
In response, she grabbed my wrist. She was cold. Her fingers had no nails, and the tips were white and wrinkly, as if she had been soaking in water for too long. There was an odd fleshiness to her hands, like the muscles and sinews were loose and had started to drop away from the bone. Somehow, when I looked back at Sienna, I knew that she was dead.
"How are you alive now?" I said.
She shrugged, and at last she spoke. "Anger, maybe."
Robotically, we fell into a step, traversing the concourse of Regent Street. I kept looking at her askance, still in unbelief and a little unsure of myself. But there was a characteristic smugness to her that confirmed this was definitely Sienna, and that she was definitely dead. I felt no remorse that she had died, but I was relieved to get the answer to my years of curiosity.
"Why did you leave home?" I said to her.
"Did you get killed?" I asked.
"I did," she said.
I stopped. This was my little sister, old before her years, and dead without having seen them. Just as I was about to ask her who and what killed her, she pressed a squishy hand on my shoulder.
"I want you to get them back for me," she said bluntly. "I'm gonna show you everything, where I went that day, and what happened afterwards."
The ground opened and swallowed us whole. The pale buildings of Regent Street caved in on themselves, the sky collapsed into glaring brightness, and out of the depths of the earth our house appeared, recreated by the mud and the grime of the central London street. We were back on our own road, with its square terraced houses and chipped wooden panels beneath the first floor windows. It was spring again, and the trees that lined the street were clustered with pink, throbbing buds of the new season. Sienna's face twisted in consternation beside me, just as the projection of her alive version stalked out the front door before us, dumped her school bag in the wheelie bin on the pavement, and then walked down the road and out of sight.
It would be a long viewing, but we were about to see my sister's final moments.