The Things We Kept

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When she was alive, Berti once asked us what we lived for. We still had the car back then, and we were all four of us in the trunk with the back seat pushed forward, piled on top of each other with our limbs in odd angles in order to fit. I had my head on her chest, and even then I noticed her heartbeat was too weak under her thin layer of flesh.

"What do you mean?" asked Giulia.

"Why do we fight to keep ourselves in this world? Every day we make the choices that keep us alive. Why do we want that?"

Jared answered first. "It's instincts. We're just like animals. Survival of the fittest. Part of being fit is being a fighter."

"That's not what I mean," she dismissed. "I don't want to know why the species wants to live; I want to know why you want to. What is it about your life that makes it valuable?"

No one answered her. We didn't like it when she asked us questions and rejected the answers we gave her. But I think I can answer that question now, not just for me but for all of us.

We live for what we brought with us from before.

--

"Tristen, stop! Please, just wait a few minutes! Mom will wake up on her own!!" I was crying as I clung to my twin brother's squirming legs.

"There's a tsunami warning! You don't need to bring your stupid dolls!" Tristen was holding onto the doorknob like a lifeline; he was likely to knock it out of its hinges if he tried to pull it much harder.

"They're not stupid dolls! They're my babies and I'm their mommy!" I cried. "I can't leave them behind!"

"Well hurry up and get them then!" Tristen shouted as he gave the door a final tug. It hit me in the nose and forehead, so I yelped and let go. Tristen took off in a run down the hall, but I stayed in the room, holding my aching nose.

"I hate you, Tristen!" I shouted.

I stood up and looked back over our bedroom, which I'd nearly torn apart in an effort to find my favorite doll. Despairing, I overturned a couple of blankets that I'd already searched thoroughly. I had to find it quickly, before our mother made us go to the shelter. She wouldn't give me time to look for the doll.

That doll's name was Zoe. It was pretty back then. Doe eyes and glossy hair.

"Terry, what are you doing?" My mother's voice snapped behind me, startling me.

"I can't find Zoe!" I played up the distress in my voice, soliciting her sympathy.

"Honey, this is a tsunami warning. We have to go now."

"We have twelve hours 'til the wave gets here, the news said! It's not like it's an air raid or something!" Everyone knew the air raid procedure. No one knew the tsunami procedure.

Mother flung open my closet door and forced me into a coat and shoes. I rebelliously kicked off my flip-flops, so she got my boots. She made Tristen hold me down while she tied my laces so tight they pinched my toes.

Tristen had to hold all the emergency supply packs by himself, because my mother had to pick me up and carry me. On the way out, I saw my doll lying on the coffee table.

"Zoe!" I screeched. "Mom, let me get Zoe!"

"No," my mother said firmly. I didn't know why she didn't let me take those few seconds to get my doll, but I guess she didn't want to reward me for my bad behavior.

Tristen and I sat in the back seat. He was solemn and said nothing. I was throwing a temper-tantrum.

"This is your fault, Tristen! I hate you!"

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