February 10, 2008 had suddenly become a day she would hate for the rest of her life. How could he be gone, she thought, staring at the mess of trophies, papers and books strewn across her bedroom floor. Tears hot with anger and regret streaked her face as she thought about the moments that had led her here.
As children, they spent summer days in the tree that their swing hung from, filling the afternoons with laughter and conversation. When the sun would set, and the moon began to light the night sky they would catch the fireflies that made the front yard twinkle until their parents called them inside. Young and innocent, they were inseparable; and they only grew closer as the time passed.
In their teenage years, she was surprised at how often he included her in plans with his friends. All her friend’s older brothers acted as if their sisters didn’t exist – but not him. He would ask her to come to the mall and hangout or invite her to tag along as he ran errands. When he would finish a song he had been working on and was ready to record the choruses and background vocals, she was the first person he would ask. She loved those moments with her brother; they were few and far between because they lived in different states, but every time he could- he chose her.
When she started dating, he was more protective than her dad. He would warn the boys she spent hours texting and talking to on the phone that they should be careful with her; and they all heeded the warning. He gave her ‘the talk’, even though she was still nervous about kissing boys. He was honest and told her that sometimes he lied to get girls to fall for him, and that he knew how smart she was, so she should know the difference between genuine interest and sugar-coated persuasions. He was her biggest supporter. From the literary awards she won to her acceptance into the magnet high school, he was there and proud.
So, it was no surprise that he died the way he did.
He had a younger brother who was just a year older than her. Just as he was with her, he was protective of his brother, too. When some neighborhood kids tried to jump him one day, her brother immediately ran to the rescue. He couldn’t have known they were carrying guns; that they were cowards who could not finish a fight the way they started it. Two in the chest and one in the head, he lied there bleeding out. The cowards fled and his brother called the ambulance before running to get help.
She was 800 miles away, getting off the bus when her brother was shot. 800 miles away putting pizza rolls in the oven as the ambulance sat stuck on the other side of the train passing by on the tracks, as he continued to lose more blood. 800 miles away watching tv on the couch as the paramedics picked his weakened body up off the ground while simultaneously trying to stop the bleeding. 800 miles away as she sat down at her desk to do her homework and he took his last breaths in the back of the ambulance. 800 miles away … screaming and crying and throwing everything in sight at the four walls that surrounded her after getting the phone call that her brother was dead.
He was murdered three months before his twenty-first birthday, she had just turned sixteen.
The tears flowed heavier now as she collapsed to the floor in a crumpled heap and remembered the last day she spent with her brother. He had asked to hang out and she had declined to be with her friends instead, how selfish she had been. She thought she had more time, more moments to look forward to, more memories to make. Feeling cried out and empty, she wiped the tears away and uttered “I love you” before picking herself up from the floor.
That night, as she laid her head on her pillow, she opened her phone and dialed her brother’s number – it went straight to voicemail. She closed her eyes and as the tears began to fall once more, she listened to her brother’s voice, hanging up just before the beep. She dialed the number eighteen times more before drifting off to sleep.