Anyone who has been in my life within the past two decades knows little or nothing about my siblings. Not my husband, our children, or my closest friends. I never talk about them or to them.

My brother and I are 16 months apart in age and took the brunt of our father’s abuse. My sister is four years younger than me. I have no recollection of her existence before she was in fifth grade.

This is the last photo ever taken of the three of us together because it’s the last time the three of us were together. Since 1994, I have visited my brother on one occasion and my sister on another. Both visits were over a decade ago.

My brother is on the left, my sister on the right, and that’s me in the middle, circa 1994.

The photograph was taken with a disposable camera, all we could afford between us at the time. We were super stoned that night in the hotel room, proud of ourselves for making it to Daytona Beach — back in the day, when it was a hot spot for spring break. My skin was glowing from the sun’s kiss, my hair ratty from the salt of the ocean.

Seeing this photo now makes me wonder if we were ever truly happy together or if it was only a side effect of the weed we smoked that night.

Captured in a natural moment of laughter, my siblings and I appear as if we were genuinely bonding. Seeing this photo now makes me wonder if we were ever truly happy together or if it was only a side effect of the weed we smoked that night.

I was 22 at the time, and it was after this last reunion that I began to bury my siblings alive.

The first memory I have of my sister is pleading with her to climb outside through the bedroom window when our father was in one of his fits of rage. Just before this, he had been beating me with a vacuum cleaner until my brother intervened, turning our father’s attention toward him instead. My brother and I had this unspoken tag-team agreement. It’s how we survived the monster, our father, throughout childhood.

I don’t recall how we got outside, but I do remember the feeling of panic that encapsulated me and the unsafe, trauma-induced plan we devised to get my sister. We managed to convince her to climb out the window to us. From that day on, she told a story about how aliens abducted her from her bedroom window.

I wasn’t a kid anymore. I was a teenager and had some idea by then that our home life wasn’t normal.

Before the episode started, I had phoned an older friend with a van and asked him to pick us up. I had known it was about to happen; there was always a feeling in the air, like a spirit coming to warn us. The friend showed up just in time for our father to be outside looking for us with a baseball bat, pacing about on the sidewalk to the front entrance of our apartment building. When he saw the van in the street, my father ran out and started beating on it with the bat. My friend peeled off, leaving us behind.

I believe this is the first memory I have of my sister because it’s also the first memory I have of a time when the pain of my father’s actions hurt me more than his physical abuse. I wasn’t a kid anymore. I was a teenager and had some idea by then that our home life wasn’t normal.

I was humiliated.

The friend never spoke to me again. Instead, he spread a rumor around school about my “crazy fucked up father.” After that, the whispers surrounding my locker became a regular thing. They haunted me for the rest of the school year.

How we ended up at Daytona Beach together is a story I’ll never forget and one I wish I didn’t remember. Four years earlier, we separated from our parents — or, I should say, we left. My brother and I had legal guardianship over our sister, and we raised her until she graduated high school.

I can’t claim we did a good job. We were kids at the time, but we were all safe from our father’s wrath. We rented a tiny one-bedroom house in the woods in upstate New York. Our sister had the bedroom, and my brother and I slept on the couches in the living room.

We sent her off to school each day while we both worked jobs and attended school ourselves. I worked the night shift in a gas station out by the interstate and crashed on my day off each week, usually missing school. My brother worked a telemarketing job until he went off to college where he sold pot on the side. We made a buck any way we could to keep the roof over our heads.

My brother and I were old pros at “adulting” before that was even a thing — and before we were actual adults.

I taught my sister how to drive and attended parent-teacher conferences. She got drunk one night and puked in her boyfriend’s mouth while they were sucking face in our driveway. She skipped classes and partied. She stole my checkbook and forged a check to cash at the local grocery store. I grounded her. A lot of the time, it was just her and me.

I didn’t realize how deep the roots of that responsibility went until one evening she decided to show her appreciation by cooking dinner. She prepared an elbow macaroni casserole with ketchup and mayonnaise. She needed to learn how to cook, and I needed to teach her. It was the worst meal I’ve ever eaten though I only made it through a few bites.

By the time our sister finished high school, my brother and I were old pros at “adulting” before that was even a thing — and before we were actual adults.

I look back now and wonder who those people were. My siblings are strangers to me, and so is the life we once had together. I don’t miss them. It’s a strange thing to say, more so because I experience no remorse when saying it.

I feel no love or loss. I’m not sure if it’s because we weren’t raised knowing how it feels to love or be loved, or if it’s because they share the same memories that I’ve spent my adult life trying to run away from. We would have no other choice but to face our childhood if we were in one another’s lives today.

But it never was love that bound us anyway. It was always survival, a means to an end, a chance.

Throughout my marriage and raising children, I have found myself curious at times. The truth is I haven’t heard from my siblings, either. I can’t say for certain their reasoning, but I don’t doubt it’s similar to mine.

It’s just another unspoken agreement we have.