When my sister died, I came into possession of her Facebook account.
That looks a bit weird, now that I’ve typed that out. To be honest, I’m probably not the first person who should have access to her account. Logically, that honor should go to her husband, Ted, if it goes to anyone at all.
The thing is, nobody knows that I have access to the account.
She gave me her password… Jesus, six years ago. She had asked me to log in and check something for her on my computer… I can’t remember why now. It’s one of those little memories that seemed unimportant at the time but I miss dreadfully now. A million little interactions and words and smiles between us and I’ll never remember most of them.
Anyway, the password. About a week after she died, I tried the password on a whim. I figured she must have changed it at some point within the last six years, but to my surprise I was granted access right away. Honestly, Annalise. She never was very good with cyber security.
I know I shouldn’t have gone into her account. I get that, really. Even if she’s dead, it’s an invasion of privacy. Not just for her, but for everyone else. But I had just lost one of the most beloved people in my life and I was grieving. It seemed okay at the time. It seemed justified. And besides, it’s not like anyone had to know – I set her status to “offline” so nobody would see that I’d logged in.
I spent many sleepless nights looking through her Facebook. At the groups she was a part of, at the pages she liked, at the photos she posted. It quickly became an unhealthy addiction. Not that I cared. I was desperate for some kind of connection with her – anything at all. And so much of her life was catalogued online. It was the perfect poison.
To my great shame, I eventually began to go through her inbox.
If it makes it any better (I know it doesn’t), there wasn’t anything groundbreaking or terrible in her messages. Annalise preferred talking to people in person as opposed to over text. Most of it was pretty mundane. Sharing pictures of her little ankle-biter dog with our cousin, Sam. Ironing out details to a party invite with a group of college friends. Planning a last-minute trip to see her best friend, Freida.
That last one hurt a little to read. They were set to meet up just a few days after Annalise’s accident. Their messages were tense and curt as though they’d gotten into a fight. Freida had seemed so distressed at the funeral, crying that Annalise would never forgive her. It must have been hard, her best friend dying without making up for whatever stupid argument they were having. I imagine that stays with a person forever.
It’s funny how we always think we have time. The day of the accident, I was actually at the pharmacy picking up iron pills for my sister at her request. Her anemia was back and her arms had been bruising up like crazy. She had been a little blue lately, so I was looking at the candy aisle, thinking maybe I’d bring her some Cadbury Eggs to cheer her up – they were always her favorite, and I used to give her all the ones out of my Easter basket – when I got the call.
My sister. My stupid, clumsy, lovely sister. It wouldn’t be the first time she fell down the stairs – that had happened to her a lot as kids. But it was her last because this time, she was unlucky.
This time, she broke her neck at the bottom. She died instantly.
The memory of that awful moment – standing in the pharmacy, my mouth hanging open in a scream that seemed to have died somewhere deep inside my chest – flashed vividly in my brain and my face crumpled as I sat there, reading Freida’s message over and over.
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.
I was still crying, curled up in my computer chair in a fetal position when Annalise received a new message.
It wasn’t rare for people to send new messages to Annalise’s Facebook page. Most of it was clearly sent in a state of grief – people wishing she hadn’t gone, wishing they’d had more time. I didn’t read any of these messages. To be honest, that felt like too much of an invasion. Plus, they just reminded me of the fact that she wasn’t coming home. And, weirdly enough, that was what I was trying to avoid by scouring her Facebook all the time.
But something was different about this one.
This one was from Ted. Before I could close out of the window, I read the first line.
“Why did things have to be that way?”
Visions of Ted flashed in my mind from the funeral. How pale he’d been, how shaky. Like he was dying under his grief. Like he had no one to share it with, although we all tried.
Ignoring that little voice of my conscience, I kept reading.
“Why did things have to be that way?
“It didn’t have to happen like that. You have nobody to blame but yourself and I’m so, so angry with you. We could have worked things out. We could have made it work. I love you. Even in our worst moments, you knew that – how could you not? I did everything for you, GAVE everything for you. You were so ungrateful.
“You know I didn’t mean it. I just got so angry. You do that to me, you know – you make me angry. And it hurt me, too, to do that. You have no idea how fucking bad I felt about it the next day. And besides, that fight nearly broke my hand. You aren’t the only one that came out hurt.
“I wish you’d listened. I wish you hadn’t tried to run. You thought I wouldn’t find out about your plans with Freida? You thought you’d be safe with her? What a fucking joke. You KNEW you were safe with me. I just lose my temper sometimes – who doesn’t? You’re supposed to love me and that means loving EVERYTHING about me. Or were those marriage vows a lie?
“It’s your fault. It’s your fault for leaving your phone open so I could read those messages. It’s your fault for hurting me when you knew I was already in pain. It’s your fault for making me so angry that I did something to hurt you again.
“Don’t you understand? It’s your fault. And now you’ve been punished for it.”
As I read the messages, I became increasingly ill. Slowly, a picture started to form in my mind, a picture that made my heartrate pick up and my jaw hang open.
Before I had time to react further, another message came in.
“What the fuck… who’s reading this???”
Shit. I’d forgotten that by clicking on the message, it sent a “Read Message” notification. In panic, I shut my computer, backing away from it like it was toxic.
It took me a few hours to process what I’d seen. To try to understand it. But by the time I did – by the time I realized what Ted had done to my sister – I knew what I had to do.
I took screenshots of the conversation and went down to the police station. It was about three in the morning and they were surprised to see me, of course – but they were very interested in what I brought in.
They started the search for Ted immediately. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t in their home. He was gone, along with his wallet and all his personal identification. They stopped to talk to Freida, too, and she told them everything – about how they’d been planning to get her away from him, to hide her until she could get a divorce finalized. Freida wanted to talk to me but I refused. I have nothing to say to her for not coming forward earlier.
The police think their prospects of catching him are pretty good – he’ll almost certainly have to use a credit or debit card along the way, which will help them pinpoint his location.
As for me, I’m hoping they don’t find him.
Because if they find him, then he’ll be at the mercy of the law. And I’ve decided that the law is pretty lenient, especially in these parts. If Ted gets convicted – and that’s a big IF – he might get life in prison. And life in prison is too good for scum like him.
The police have started their search. Well, I’ve started one of my own. And I’m not stopping until I find him and get justice for Annalise, for my family.
I won’t stop until he’s choking on his own rotten blood.