Do you remember your sixth birthday? All I can remember is Ava’s.
She had a great big vanilla cake with sickeningly yellow frosting that tasted like a bad dream. When I couldn’t finish mine, Linda and Taylor complained at me.
Do you remember your first day of school? All I can remember is Ava’s.
She wasn’t smiling because she was very scared, and because she knew that she wasn’t having a bad dream. When she got home that day, she found out she was going to live with a sister.
I woke up the morning of April 7th on the last day of Ava’s life.
“Good morning, Ava!”
Ava’s little sister Leah was becoming a very pretty young woman. But I wasn’t jealous of her, because I didn’t care for her that much. She was loud, and always trying to get me to do things with her. There was always something she needed from me. To do my hair, or paint my nails like hers. She was a troublesome girl.
I slid out of bed without a sound.
Linda and Taylor were in the kitchen. Linda was cooking and Taylor was eating. What was Linda cooking if Taylor was already eating? I guess it was for Ava.
“Happy birthday.” She said, setting the plate in front of me. I don’t even remember sitting down, but before I knew it, I was eating. This isn’t so bad, I thought. It tasted quite nice, really. After I put all the salt we had on it, that is.
“So whaddya wanna do with your big day?” Leah asked. I told her I didn’t know. “What do you mean you don’t know? Isn’t there anything you wanna do? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” She asked her. I dunno, I said. I just wanna stay home. “That’s no fun.” She says. “There’s loads of stuff we can do now that you can drive and all.” We can do? I asked. If you want to do something, you can just do it. I don’t really want to do anything, I told her again. “But it’s your day.” She says to her. This goes on for about a half hour.
On that day, I realised that my bed was not as soft as it once was. I couldn’t manage to fall back to sleep that morning. I always had bad dreams, but that was fine by me. Sleeping was easy. Normally. But today, I couldn’t sleep. Maybe I’d forgotten something again, I thought. Then I remembered. Oh, of course. I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet.
I stood up. As I left bed again, it felt just like a second day had started within this one. On my way to the washroom, I came across something that was just a little funny. One of Ava’s yearbooks was on the ground. I guess someone was looking at it. I decide to throw it away. I was a very secretive little girl.
When I walked back to go to the bathroom sink, I was stopped once again by something just the slightest bit unusual. The hallway was blocked by a streak of light. That shouldn’t be here, I thought. There’s no window this way. But I figured it out eventually. There was no window aimed here, but there was one in the bathroom. And surely the sun had just reached the right spot to reflect that light towards my path- with the help of the mirror in there.
The door was open, of course- how else would the light block my path- but for some reason, I just didn’t think I could go into that bathroom right then. I stood in place for a time. Nobody stopped to ask me what I was doing. I watched the light in front of me slowly, slowly disappear as the sun climbed itself above the world. Then, when the path was clear, I entered the washroom. But it was pointless. I realized she was still in there.
In the mirror, Ava was frowning at me again. She was always frowning at me whenever I saw her. I hated her for it. I hated her for a lot of reasons. I despised Ava. For her terrible birthday cake, for her stupid yearbook, and even for her horrid first day of school.
I don’t say anything to her, because saying things is embarrassing. Instead, I brush my teeth as I stare at the toothpaste dripping from my mouth into the drain.
When I entered the living room that day, everyone was there. This was rare, even for them. Leah, Linda, and Taylor’s eyes were all glued to the television screen.
“𝔽𝕠𝕦𝕣𝕥𝕪-𝕤𝕚𝕩 𝕝𝕠𝕔𝕒𝕝 𝕨𝕠𝕞𝕖𝕟 𝕡𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕦𝕞𝕖𝕕 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕕𝕖𝕒𝕕 𝕒𝕥 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕙𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕖𝕣𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝕞𝕦𝕣𝕕𝕖𝕣𝕖𝕣 𝕜𝕟𝕠𝕨𝕟 𝕠𝕟𝕝𝕪 𝕒𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 “𝕃𝕚𝕒𝕣’𝕤 𝔹𝕣𝕚𝕕𝕖” 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕠𝕟𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕖 𝕒𝕤 𝕙𝕖 𝕥𝕒𝕜𝕖𝕤 𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕕𝕚𝕥 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕓𝕚𝕫𝕒𝕣𝕣𝕖 𝕤𝕥𝕣𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕠𝕗 𝕗𝕖𝕞𝕒𝕝𝕖𝕤 𝕓𝕖𝕥𝕨𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕒𝕘𝕖𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕗𝕚𝕗𝕥𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕥𝕠 𝕥𝕨𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕪-𝕤𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕟 𝕕𝕚𝕤𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕖𝕒𝕣𝕚𝕟𝕘, 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕧𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕠𝕟𝕝𝕪 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕚𝕣 𝕣𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕗𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕖𝕣 𝕓𝕖𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕕 𝕚𝕟 𝕒𝕟 𝕦𝕟𝕡𝕣𝕖𝕔𝕖𝕕𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕕 𝕔𝕒𝕤𝕖 𝕠𝕗 𝕦𝕟𝕖𝕩𝕡𝕝𝕒𝕚𝕟𝕒𝕓𝕝𝕖 𝕥𝕣𝕒𝕘𝕖𝕕𝕪. 𝔸𝕦𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕣𝕚𝕥𝕚𝕖𝕤 𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕚𝕟𝕧𝕖𝕤𝕥𝕚𝕘𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕔𝕝𝕒𝕚𝕞𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕃𝕚𝕒𝕣’𝕤 𝔹𝕣𝕚𝕕𝕖 𝕚𝕤 𝕚𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕖𝕕 𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕡𝕠𝕟𝕤𝕚𝕓𝕝𝕖 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕙𝕖𝕚𝕟𝕠𝕦𝕤 𝕒𝕔𝕥𝕤 𝕕𝕚𝕤𝕔𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕖𝕕 𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕦𝕣𝕤𝕖 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕡𝕒𝕤𝕥 𝕥𝕨𝕠 𝕪𝕖𝕒𝕣𝕤 𝕒𝕝𝕠𝕟𝕖, 𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕘𝕙 𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪 𝕗𝕖𝕨 𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕕𝕤 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟…”
“That’s still disgusting…” Leah remarked, her face not quite as appalled as it was the last time the case was reported on before that day. Linda was the first to nod in response, I believe followed by Taylor, though he may have not nodded at all. All I recall is that after that I finally managed to fall asleep.
“Ava? Ava, wake up!”
Leah shaking me as I stood, I just couldn’t bear the sight of light as my eyes opened again. Goddammit, I thought. For a little while there, I almost believed it was over. But at that time, it was only the beginning.
After taking credit for the serial murder case online, I had been more worried no one would notice rather than the police coming after me. But I still wasn’t all that scared, really.
“We’re really worried about you, Ava…”
I wasn’t scared of anything else- Just the knowledge I held. Just the feeling of dread I lived with, that’s all that held me back. It’s all that had stopped me from being happy- and it’s everything that propelled me to do what I did.
On July 4th of last year, I was born.
The first thing I remember is how much it hurt when they took me out of the water. Their hands felt like sharpened claws, and the air was far more suffocating than the lake had been. I was told that it was Independence Day. That they had been diving off rocks. That I had almost drowned. Everyone kept calling me “Ava.”
As my memories returned to me, it felt like a foreign object was slowly being inserted into the back of my skull. It hurt, for lack of better words to describe it. I knew… I knew everything they told me, or that I remembered, couldn’t be true. It wasn’t me in the memories I recovered- but instead someone named Ava. It was uncanny. She liked Barbie and Halloween just like I did. She was secretive and had always been a cunning little child, just like I was.
But I’m not Ava.
Despite all the memories that flooded back into my head, it all just felt like a bad dream to me. I bore no connection to Linda, or Taylor, or Leah. I felt nothing towards them. It was painful to be around them. Anything they tried to say or do to me burnt like hell or passed through me entirely. I was supposed to feel so much towards them, yet I felt so little. I was supposed to be so thankful that they saved me, but really, from my perspective, all they’d done was carry me into a life that wasn’t mine. I was supposed to be Ava… but I’m not, and I wasn’t. Not ever.
All my childhood memories are fabricated. This I know to be absolutely true, and it is the only thing that still hurts inside. Otherwise, where I am now, I finally feel alive.
But it was no simple task getting here.
I was in my room when I had finally worked up the courage to steal Taylor’s knife. I knew that after I was done, I would have to clean and replace it without anyone noticing. But it was all I had.
Looking out the window, I watched as their car left the driveway. I told those people that all I wanted for my birthday was for them to pick me up a surprise present someplace. Knowing I had very little time, I immediately placed the back of my hand down on the carpet. The scene had otherwise been set. All that was left was to do the deed. I had constructed the area to appear similar to the culprit’s real attacks. Door closed and locked. Scattered furniture. Signs of a struggle. The fingernail removed from the finger and placed in a nearby receptacle- for me, that would be the glass of water by my bed- that much was easy, the hard part was next. Clenching the stick I dug out of the backyard between my teeth, it seemed to be a good fit. I took my painkillers. Hoped nobody would notice the few pills missing from the bottle. And as my hand sat in the same spot it had, creating a hard imprint in the carpet, I lowered Taylor’s knife to it.
This isn’t my finger, I thought. It’s Ava’s.
But as I came to lower the knife, that knocking came out of nowhere. Had no way to foresee it. The car must have been silent to my racing mind.
“Ava!” Leah’s voice stung from outside the door. “Mom said it- you’re coming with us! We can’t just leave you here. Come on.”
I was so fucking angry at that whore. I tried not to show it. I told her I was changing. Why else would I have my door shut? Even then, I guess it was a stretch. That bitch bought it, but not for long.
“Ava… it’s your twenty-third birthday. You ought to be better than this.”
Very quietly, I got up and started cleaning the room as fast as I could. It was inevitable- either she was getting in, or my plan was over. My life was over. Without so much as a chance to start it.
“The reason you’re so depressed and anxious all the time is because you never get out. Ava, you used to be so funny. We all liked you back then. You were the best. You’re still the best, Ava.”
I had to take down a few posters I had ripped to create the illusion of a fight. They were all posters Ava put up, so I didn’t feel bad destroying them.
“Ava, we can be happy again. You can be happy again. I know life is hard right now, but it gets better. You’ll find someone someday. You’ll… learn to love yourself. You have to hold out hope for that day.”
I had made my shelf look like a mess. Maybe it was overkill, but I threw most of the books out of it. Putting them back in was a balancing act of accuracy to how they were and how fast I could do it all. It ended up about maybe 47% close to how it was. I never used it much, so it was hard to tell. They weren’t my books, anyway.
“Ava, I’m coming in. Mom gave me the key. Are you okay?”
I opened the door and smiled at her for the first time in nine months.
I told her I was so sorry for being so shy, but that today was really hard on me and that I really just wanted to take it easy for once.
“Ava… you’re afraid of the whole world. You’ve been like this… ever since then. I know that was traumatic for you, and you weren’t especially social before then, but…”
I wanted to hurt her so bad. Never felt like that before or since. I just… wanted to prove that I was as far gone as she thought I was. I hated how she thought of me… no, I hate that she thought of me at all. I didn’t know her, and she shouldn’t have ever known me.
I told her I wasn’t going. That there was no way I could go- that I was scared of the Liar’s Bride, and I just wanted something special from my family to cheer me up. Told her it was my one birthday wish.
“You need help, Ava.”
I don’t think Leah was capable of intelligent thought.
I don’t know what was wrong with her, but something must have been. I don’t know how Ava ever stood being around her. She never listened, and never learned. Most of all- she took her life, her identity- for granted. And that’s what I hated about her most. And I almost screamed at her then. But if I had, I wouldn’t be where I am now. So I smiled. Not like before. Not a smile to please her. I wanted to guilt her a little. My smile was almost genuine- a shooken, wobbly little expression she read as understanding. It was pure anger. I turned my dark, bloodlusted feelings into tears, and shed as many as I could as she hugged me. I wrapped my arms around her back, forcing myself not to strangle her as I looked down at my hands.
I remembered my nail was still missing.
The dumbass never noticed.
I told her I would get help. That I just needed this one night to rest.
“I… okay, Ava. I… I understand. Look. You’ll… get better. We all… get better. One day, when we might not even expect it.”
We pulled away. That was the last time I ever had to touch her.
“Is that… Ava, is that blood on your fingers?”
It was too late. Both hands were tucked safely in my pockets.
Nail polish, I said. I’d been trying to learn to be more like her.
The self-obsessed little brat believed it.
“Well… I’ll go talk to the folks… we’ll get you something real nice, okay?”
Never did find out what they got for Ava that day.
It was like breaking my own brain. Every cell in my body tried to stop me from cutting that ring finger off. It took forever. First cut went halfway in, and I had to suppress my screams lest the neighbors or cops show up too early. Tough as it was, second cut was a million times harder. I knew exactly how much it would hurt from the first time, and it took me a good thirty minutes of contemplation before I went through with it. It kind of felt like getting burnt, only on the entire inside of where I cut as every molecule of air, dirt, and dust around the room rushed into touch the open wound. That’s how it seemed, at least. Third cut was the easiest. I think I’d gone a bit numb. The pain did come back a little later, but I was free by then. Once enough blood had gathered, I made sure to get some around the room before sealing it with a tight knot made from my shorts and jacket wrapped around it to make sure there was no leakage. I cleaned the knife for a good long while until I was absolutely sure there wasn’t the slightest bit of Ava on it, and then, I started to scream.
It felt so good to scream.
I had never gotten to scream before.
By the time I was done, I was running through some woods somewhere and my vocal cords stung. That, in time, went away. Just as the pain on my finger did, and the fear of being found. All that remained was the dread of those plastic memories I didn’t believe in.
I saw Ava in the news later that week. In the file photo, she was still frowning. I was already halfway across the country, missing the rest of that arm so nobody would notice the lost ring finger on its hand. That arm wasn’t Ava’s- it was mine, but I gave it up for my own good. Don’t ask me how that ended up- it’s a wonder I didn’t die of blood loss.
Can’t tell you my new name, but chose it because I liked the way it sounds. Had a fake ID set up with it within a month or two of escaping. I never saw Leah, Taylor, or Linda ever again. In 2022, I received plastic surgery, and ever since, most of my fears have subsided. I have more than a few friends now, a job, and I more or less enjoy life. If anything… I guess Leah was right about stuff getting better one day.
My only wish is that I could’ve had a childhood.