It has been four years since that night. I am almost an adult now. Almost ready to move out of my parents' house.
Every now and then, I pay Miriam's grave a visit. It is the only piece of that family that I can still protect. Today is one of those days when I do. Possibly the last one, too.
From time to time, I would find people wandering the woods in search of Miriam's body. Especially during the first year. Mostly those damned kids. They are after her pendant that they could sell for a huge sum.
I managed to keep them from finding it, threatening that I would call authorities on them if they kept loitering in the woods where they were not allowed to be. I have also been lying and telling them that the pendant is nowhere to be found anymore. It has worked so far. They have been coming here less and less. I haven't seen them at all in the past year.
I enter the woods and I hear noises of someone digging from far away. I hope I'm just imagining it. My pace gets a bit faster. As I come closer, the noises get louder. I am certain that I am not imagining it.
The grave is within sight and my hunch is true. There is a person standing right at the grave with a shovel.
"Hey!" I run. "Hey! I told you that you can't-"
She stops and turns around to face me. My jaw dropped.
"Oriana?" I recognized her face right away. She is not the bubbly child I remember her to be, but she is looking more and more like her mother the longer I stare.
I see her trying to remember my name. "Meg?"
"Oriana!" I give her a big hug. "I missed you so much!"
"I missed you too!"
We pause to exchange grins.
"What brought you here? Are you paying a visit to your Mama as well?" I look at the ground. There are two flowers.
She smiles. "I wanted Papa to rest right beside Mama."
"I see. I'm... Sorry to hear that."
She shakes her head.
"It's a miracle that he has survived this long," Oriana says as she sits on the ground. Even her way of speaking is becoming more and more like her mother. "He was more frail than Mama, if you can believe that."
"Somehow, I can," I sit down with her. "He really fought hard to be with you for as long as he possibly could."
"Mhm," she nods.
"Your Mama fought pretty hard to see you grow too. To teach you everything she could."
"They must be very happy now that they are together again."
"Mhm," she smiles, eyes still fixed on the ground.
With nothing more I can think of to say, I rest my hand on top of hers. We sit here for what feels like forever. I never thought we would ever meet again. The memories of my time with them in their humble abode begin replaying in my head. I can't help but smile.
"I hope..." her voice softens. "I hope I have been a great daughter to them."
"What are you talking about? Of cours-" I look at her. An unfamiliar stream runs down her face and drops on her hand. She wipes it off with a confused look on her face. She looks at me, unsure of what to do. This has never happened to her before.
I pull her into my arms, and her arms wrap around me. I brush her hair with my hand, a feeling I have missed a lot.
"Of course, you have," I whisper to her as she finally lets her tears out and cries on my chest. "You always have been."
It's only now that I realized that the kids were right. Oriana was cursed. But not in the way they thought. She was cursed to be a blessing to her parents. To be their undying ray of sunshine. To make their difficult lives just a bit tolerable. To give them a reason to keep on smiling. To give them a world when the world has taken everything from them.
Of course, Oriana would never see it that way. To her, that would be an honor.
But now that Miriam and Oko are gone, her curse has been lifted. She is now just a normal girl with normal feelings. Normal flaws and normal worries.
I hold her head close to me so I don't see her tears. I am not used to seeing her like this. I can't stand seeing her like this. From now on, I will always be here for her. And I would do anything to see her smile back on her face.
It is my turn to be her ray of sunshine.