We lived on the military base for eight years. Alice and I hardly ever saw James, he was always either training here, or on a raid there. Alice and I grew up apart from the other children on the base. We were known as the kids whose parents walked out on them, and because of that, we were treated like we had a disease. Like if we were socialized with, their parents would one day leave and never come back. Alice and I found solace in each other, even though we both handled the grief and rejection in different ways. Alice drew deeper into herself, and would lash out randomly with horrible tempers that destroyed everything within reach. I became quieter and hid everything behind a mask. Alice and I only spent time with each other, and in time, we functioned like one person. We were loners, outsiders who did their own thing. And on one ordinary day, we got news that made our world anything but ordinary.
It was a hot, sunny day, like all the summer days in Israel. Alice and I were sitting together on a table outside, on the edges of the base.
Alice leaned back, her red wavy hair falling behind her shoulders. “Ralda, you must be dying of heat stroke, because I’m melting and my hair is nowhere near as dark as yours.”
I smiled and lifted my hair off my neck. Truth was, I was sweltering under my thick, ebony curls. “At least I know a plane won’t land on me because my hair matches the landing strips.”
Alice laughed, and I mouthed the words I knew she would say. “The landing strips are orange, my hair is red. There’s a difference, Ralda.”
Footsteps behind us made Alice stop laughing and turn around, piercing the military officer with her stormy purple eyes.
“Alice and Esmeralda McCarthy?”
“Telegram for you.”
My heart started sinking slowly. This could only mean one thing.
Alice quickly scanned the telegram, and then looked at the officer.
He nodded. “James was killed in a raid two days ago. He fought bravely and…”
His words were cut off as Alice hurled a rock against a shed a few yards away.
I looked at the officer. “Tell me what happened, and I’ll tell her later.”
He nodded and continued speaking. Tears started welling in my eyes, and the officer was visibly relieved. Tears he could handle, not an angry fifteen year old girl with a temper.
“When is his funeral?”
The officer looked down as Alice walked up behind me. “James’ body was never recovered.”
“So he could still be alive?” Alice asked, no hope in her voice. Alice and I had given up on hope a long time ago.
The officer shook his head. “There’s no way he could’ve survived. Your brother’s dead.”
“Thank you,” I said softly, not wanting my voice to crack.
“One more thing, the general wanted me to remind you that without any military personnel in your family, you can’t stay here on base. Is there any other family you can go to?”
I looked at Alice and shrugged.
“We have no one else.”
“Then you know that means you’ll be sent to an orphanage until you’re eighteen, right?”
Alice nodded, her jaw clenched.
A strong wind whipped up and sand started blowing across the base as the officer walked away. The sand obscured everything from sight, except from each other. Just like in the storm, Alice and I were alone.