My brother killed himself one Saturday morning, just to spite my mother. It was late May, the weather unusually hot. I was eight. My mother was having a yard sale to make extra money a week after our stepfather, Bill, left "for good," and she’d warned David that she’d sell his favorite video games, like Contra and Pac-Man, if he didn’t clean his room before Saturday. Her anger had been mounting for weeks, ever since David got kicked out of school. She had been surprisingly patient those first few days, smoothing his thick red hair and talking to therapists over the phone, asking frantically if they had a name for what was wrong with him. But when he kept acting out, randomly breaking dishes or toys, cursing at her and Bill, she tried being more strict. Suddenly, we both had a lot more rules.
After setting up the tables outside for the yard sale, Mom came in the house to monitor David’s progress on his room. She found him sitting Indian style on the floor, watching television while his Voltron pieces lay in separate pieces all around him. I bit my nails from the doorway. I had cleaned my own room the night before, then moved onto his, picking up dirty tissues and candy wrappers from around his bed, tucking stray clothes inside his drawers and closing them. When David found me, he grabbed me by the wrist and led me away. “I can help,” I said, but he shook his head and said lowly, “Get out, Shelley.” I always did what he said. David never hurt me because I knew when to back away.
Mom was clearly upset that he disregarded her warnings and waved her hands in front of her, saying “That is it!” She grabbed his video games from the bureau and stormed out of the room. David screamed and gripped her legs, and I followed behind, watching his body hit the cracks and corners of the old house every time she made a turn. When we got outside, David’s face was wet with tears, but it didn’t matter. Mom untangled his hands from around her ankles and headed for the front yard, where a few people picked up old records, vases, and crocheted baby clothes and set them down again. They looked up as we came out, first hearing David’s yell, then watching as Mom stepped quickly across the lawn, the video games under her arm. What got him the most upset, it seemed to me, was when she let out a hollow laugh and said her son was “a little eccentric.” The browsers chuckled nervously, giving us all sideways glances.
I felt David’s anger, and I almost knew what he was going to do before he did it. But I didn’t believe myself. I knew he wanted to avenge my mother, but he wasn’t sure how. He looked around with his large brown eyes, his cheeks flaming, teeth bared. His gaze stopped at me. He squinted, tilting his head a little to the side. I wouldn’t be much help in my flip-flops and terry-cloth jumpsuit. My mother heard his heavy breathing as he focused on the street, but she chose to ignore him.
I wonder how often she looks back on that day and thinks of what she could have done differently. She might still have taken the video games, but maybe she would have locked David in the house afterward. Or maybe she would have held him around the shoulders as she talked to approaching customers, the rattling gray cassettes safe in his room. She could have just smiled at him, told him it would be okay. Maybe something that small would have saved him.
Instead, he stepped quickly into the street where she always complained cars went too fast, right into an oncoming pick-up truck. At ten years old, he may not have known exactly what kind of damage it could do. The horrible, gnawing instinct in my gut, though, told me that he did.
[img_assist|nid=9403|title=Off the Grid by Kip Deeds © 2012|desc=|link=node|align=none|width=450|height=587]
In January, five months before David died, I walked out to the kitchen for breakfast and saw Mom and Bill—the man David and I secretly referred to as The Stepfather—standing in front of the counter in robes. They were laughing quietly, smoking cigarettes. Mom jolted when she saw me.
I wore a Winnie the Pooh nightgown, and my legs grew suddenly cold. I didn’t know The Stepfather would be coming back. Not by the tone of their voices the last time he left, when my mother threw his clothes out to him on the lawn and he got in the car and started driving before his door was even shut. Because he had been yelling about another person from the front lawn, a "she" who he was going to "live with, rent free," who didn’t have “a crazy kid” and who gave him the "best head of his life."
"Well, say hello to your father."
When Mom married Bill and became Mrs. Middleson a couple of years ago, she said that we should start calling Bill “Dad.” Our real father left when David and I were really young, and whenever we asked about him, Mom said he was never going to come back, so there was no use talking about it. He had problems, she said. Serious problems. Sometimes I looked at myself in our bathroom mirror and wondered if I got my blue eyes from him. "Hello," I said to Bill, then turned back to her. "Can I have Apple Jacks?"
"How are you, Shelley?" The Stepfather asked. “I’ve missed you.” He walked over and put his arms around me, his brown mustache tickling my neck. I moved my hands quickly to his shoulders and back again so Mom couldn’t get mad at me for not giving him a hug, but she was too busy humming and reaching for my favorite blue bowl in the cabinet to notice.
"Do you want to watch cartoons while you eat?" she asked.
I nodded and smiled. This was unusual. Most days, she made me eat my cereal at the kitchen table, then dress before I could even consider turning on the television. She and Bill probably wanted to kiss in the kitchen some more.
"David!" She yelled happily as she set my cereal down on the coffee table atop a cotton checkered placemat. "Come down for breakfast. Wait until you see who’s here!"
I ate the orange and green circles in my bowl and watched the milk turn peach, knowing that when David came down and saw The Stepfather, he’d be upset. I didn’t understand how my mother could forget about the shouting at dinner or in the car, David always banging the TV while the Stepfather watched football, the pack of beer bottles David had taken from refrigerator and smashed on the cement driveway. Maybe my mother’s greatest flaw was her optimism.
My eyes were glued to the TV screen when I heard David shuffling down the stairs. By this time the Muppet Babies were planning an escape out of the playroom and into the den with the grownups. They were climbing on top of each other in order to turn the knob, just about to fall with a loud crash to the floor.
"David, honey," I heard my mother say. Even though he was what my family called “difficult,” I thought sometimes that she loved him more. She talked on the phone about him all the time, but never about me. When I asked her about it once, she told me that I was being silly, that we were both wonderful children and she loved us exactly the same. Then she looked off to the side and said softly, almost to herself, that David was just the person who had made her a mother.
The sunlight from the living room window formed a halo around her as she turned off the television and held out her hands to us. Her wavy blonde hair fell to her shoulders, and she pulled us toward her. David wriggled away and scrunched his nose. She sighed, trying not to look perturbed. "I have something special to tell the both of you." She looked at David, then me. The Stepfather lingered in the doorway to the kitchen, smoking his cigarette. "Bill is coming back to live with us. We’re going to be a family again!” David and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, and she pulled us to either side of her. “And there’s more. Bill got a new job. We’re moving to California!” She smiled, her cheeks a little too wide. “It’s so beautiful there. We’ll all be so happy!"
Now Bill moved like a shadow behind her and in the dimness, her cheeks became pale. My heart started to pound. She waited. “Don’t you guys have anything to say?"
I knew that California was where Michael Jackson lived, and maybe Cyndi Lauper, and most of the people we saw in movies. Still, I didn’t want to move. I liked our house, my school, the familiar state of Pennsylvania. I liked driving to my grandmother’s on Saturdays to see Aunt Clair, who made me chocolate milk and let me try on her make-up.
"What about school?" I asked, glancing over at David, whose lips were pushed so tightly together I could only see white skin.
"Well,” my mother said, sitting on the couch and tapping her knee for me to come over. “There are plenty of schools in California. And you won’t ever have to walk to the bus in the cold. It’s always warm."
"Now, Tina, that’s southern California you’re talking about and we’re not going that far south…closer to San Francisco,” Bill interjected, then paced until he found an ashtray for his cigarette in a corner cabinet.
"Well, still, the winters aren’t as cold as they are here, right?" She said, turning back to look at him.
I stared at her, too startled to know what to say. The creases around her mouth dampened as the moments passed.
"I don’t want to go,” David finally muttered, and moved away from us into the kitchen.
I didn’t like when my cereal got soggy, and I didn’t like how The Stepfather came over and started to rub Mom’s back, so I followed David. I put my cereal bowl in the sink and went upstairs to get dressed, wishing I could have seen the end of my cartoon.
From my bedroom door, I listened hard to see if they talked any more about moving. But the whole downstairs was completely quiet.
[img_assist|nid=9404|title=Doll-Y by Diana Trout © 2012|desc=|link=node|align=none|width=400|height=514]
I didn’t know much about death until I found our cat, Ruby, cold and still next to her water bowl one morning before kindergarten. Her eyes were like blocks of ice as she stared at the floor. I screamed and Mom came and picked her up and started to cry into her fur. We wrapped Ruby in an old blanket and I held her in the back of the car as we drove to the veterinarian. Why did this happen? I asked. Where did she go?
That was when Mom told David and I about Heaven. It was where her father was, and a lot of other old people, and even dogs and cats.
“But what if you die?” I asked her, my voice small in the backseat.
“Don’t worry, Shelley. I won’t die for a really long time.”
“Well, I don’t ever want to die,” I whispered.
“How old?” David asked. Mom put on her turn signal and pulled into the veterinarian’s parking lot.
“What?” she said.
“How old do you have to be?” David repeated.
She turned to look at us. “Older than you can even imagine.”
The nights after Ruby’s death, I asked what Heaven looked like, and why our bodies had to stop working. Mom brushed the hair on my head with her fingernails and told me that even though Ruby was gone and we couldn’t see her, she was still around. Mom knew this because she felt her father with her all the time. “Where?” I had asked. “In my heart,” she answered, and said I should stop worrying and go to sleep. Nothing bad was going to happen.
David and I pretended to die for weeks afterward. We shot each other and fell to the ground, our legs splayed and our tongues hanging out of our mouths. Then we stood up, staggering from one end of the room to the other, haunting the furniture. By the time dinner came, though, we were always alive.
Even though I watched it happen—the truck hitting David, my mom’s shriek, the driver getting out and falling to the ground, David’s body twisted and motionless under the tires as someone grabbed me and covered my face—even then, it didn’t seem possible that a boy, my brother, could really die.
The night before David’s funeral, I lay under covers and listened to my grandmother’s cough downstairs and my aunt Clair murmuring on the phone every time it rang. I stared at the butterfly border in my room until David appeared.
It was all a mistake, he said, his voice like a whisper, his arms and legs hidden underneath a puffy white snowsuit. (Heaven was cold.)
He wouldn’t be able to go to school anymore, he explained, but he’d always be here, hanging out and watching my life like I was on TV.
That I can deal with, I said. Maybe you should tell Mom about this, because she’s been crying for days.
No, Shelley. He rubbed my back as I drifted into sleep. This is just between us.
The next morning, Aunt Clair helped me put on the dress she had bought me at the mall. She wanted me to wear stockings, but I shook my head emphatically. The humidity had made it hard to sleep at night, and there was no way I was going to wear any more layers than I had to. Clair had promised to stay with me while everyone went ahead so we could talk. She was dressed in black pants and a jacket, her forehead sprinkled with tiny beads of sweat. I noticed a small gold angel pinned to her jacket.
She held my dress open and told me to step in. As she pulled the sleeves up over my shoulders, I pointed and asked her, "What’s that?”
She looked down. "Oh.” She touched the pin. “I got this when I was a teenager. A friend bought it for me when my father died."
My grandfather, I almost said. “Sometimes I think that maybe my father died, too, and that’s why he never comes to see us.”
Aunt Clair froze for a moment before smoothing the sleeves of my dress.
"Can I touch it?" I asked and pointed to the pin.
She looked at me with a frown, rested on her knees, and began to unclasp it. She then clipped it to my collar, trying hard to smile. "There you go. You can have it. How about that?"
"Thanks!" I said, and strained the muscles in my eyes as I went to the bathroom, still trying to get a good look.
Later, in the car, I asked Aunt Clair if angels really existed.
"Sure, I guess. It depends on what you believe. But a lot of people believe in angels."
Aunt Clair stared straight ahead before looking at me out of the corner of her eyes. She took a long time to answer.
"I don’t know."
"Then why were you wearing one on your shirt today?"
We stopped at a red light and she rubbed her forehead with her left hand, leaning her elbow into the window. The light turned green.
"I hope, Shelley. But sometimes I don’t know."
I had always thought of Aunt Clair as a happy person. She had a beauty about her, the way she walked with her toes pointed out, the way she laughed and her shoulders bunched up toward her cheeks. I still liked to step into her high-heels at my grandmother’s and walk around the dining room pretending to be her, my hips slow and graceful. Now, in the car, she seemed sad.
"Is it because of David?" I asked. I didn’t look at her as the words came out of my mouth. It was raining outside, and I watched the way the raindrops on my window slithered down like tiny crystal snakes.
Aunt Clair turned her neck to see if anyone was behind her, and then pulled the car over to the side of the road. She put her flashers on and stopped, looking at me only after she took a couple of deep breaths.
She finally spoke. "I really miss your brother, Shelley. I know you do, too. Are you doing okay?”
I thought for a moment, wondering if I should tell her how David came to my room the night before and made me feel like everything would be okay. Maybe she’d believe me. "I think so.”
Aunt Clair unhooked her seat belt and leaned over to unhook mine. Then she held me tightly, so tightly that my mouth was open against her polyester jacket, and I was sure I was drooling on it. She didn’t seem to mind. I felt her body shake and tiny sobs slip out of her throat. After a few minutes, she calmed down and let go. I watched as she wiped her eyes and talked into the steering wheel. "Shelley, this is going to be hard for you. It’s going to be hard for everybody, but it’s really going to be hard on you. You looked up to David.”
Of course I looked up to him, I thought. He was taller.
“Do you know what happens when a person dies?” she asked.
I nodded. When David came down, he told me Heaven was a large igloo in the sky. Everyone milled around with paper cups full of hot chocolate. He said he kind of liked it.
“He never comes back,” Claire said.
I opened my mouth, but couldn’t speak.
Clair swallowed. “No one can ever see him again, except in pictures. And memories.” By this time, her hand was on my shoulder, rubbing until I felt raw.
“But you live in people’s hearts,” I said, correcting her. “It’s just your body that’s gone.” I looked back at the windshield, at the glass-stemmed snakes floating toward the car’s hood. Aunt Clair was silent next to me, and I thought she might never understand. “Can we go?” I murmured. For the first time ever, I was tired of talking to her.
"Yes,” she whispered, and took her hand from my shoulder. I stared at the crystal snakes as they danced down the glass and melted against the windshield wipers. Clair put her blinker on, pulled the gearshift toward her, and drove back onto the road.
* * *
At the funeral home, a gray-haired man I’d never seen before was standing in a white robe at the front of the room. As people approached the casket, he took their hands and stared deeply into their eyes.
“Who is that?” I asked Aunt Clair and tugged on her hand.
She looked down at me and whispered, “That’s the priest. Father Martin.”
I had only gone to church a few times when I slept over my grandmother’s. I liked the pictures in the windows and the smell of burnt candles, but usually I was embarrassed that I didn’t know when to sit or stand, that I couldn’t get up with everyone else when it was time for communion. Once, I fell asleep. My grandmom stopped taking me, said that it was my mother’s job to give me “a spiritual life.” When I asked Mom to go to church, she told me she didn’t like that church very much and she was going to find a better one for us. She must have never stopped looking, because on Sunday mornings, we all just watched cartoons and ate donuts. Now, in front of the room, the priest looked like an intruder, and it bothered me when he started talking as though he knew David.
“Some children are not long for this earth,” Father Martin began, and Aunt Clair and I took our seats in the front row, next to Mom and Bill, who had flown back from California when he heard about David. I gazed around at all the people who dabbed their noses with tissues. As the priest spoke, I let my eyes drift to every corner of the room except the solid brown casket in front of me.
After Father Martin finished talking, I wandered into the foyer where there was a deep red rug with tiny flowers. When I thought no one was watching, I knelt down and counted them, knowing that this would be David’s favorite spot. He’d lie on his stomach and gaze at the patterns until Mom hissed at him to get up, that someone was going to trip over him.
I had never seen so many people that I didn’t know in one place, all of them crying.
Most of them stood in a line so they could kneel at the casket, then light a thin white candle. Old people I had never seen stood off to the side and shook their heads at how beautiful the flowers were. My mom stayed in the front row with a tissue in her hand, occasionally lowering her face and blowing her nose. When I returned to my seat, she squeezed me to her for a few minutes and kept her eyes closed. I thought she was pretending I was David. He and I used the same apple shampoo.
After a couple of hours, people filed out of the room until it was only our close family left: Mom, Bill, me, Aunt Clair and Grandmom. Mom leaned over and asked if I wanted to see David before we went to the cemetery. I could feel everyone looking at me as we walked up together. I was scared, but I watched and copied as she made a cross on her chest.
Looking at David up close, I could see that he was yellow and wooden in a navy jacket and tie, not in the white snowsuit I had expected. His hair was flat on his head instead of messy, his eyelids closed, like a doll’s. It was almost as if someone had come with a vacuum and sucked out all of his organs. He was there, but he wasn’t. I wanted him to act like he used to, to get mad and leap up, screaming that we should all stop staring.
He wouldn’t, though. He was dead.
For a moment, everything was quiet and cloudy, but then I heard Mom’s sobs and heaves and felt her being pulled away, falling onto Bill’s chest. Now she screamed and moaned like an animal, and it made my mouth fall apart so that I sounded like a monkey, too. I ran out of the room and spread myself on the rug and put my eyes close to the flowery print, hoping that if I looked hard enough and long enough, it would erase the picture of my brother flat in the casket, the sound of my mother’s scream.
Mom wouldn’t leave her bedroom. Aunt Clair slept every night on the couch, making me breakfast and lunch and filling up the tub for my baths. My grandmother, her gray hair in plastic curlers, came over every day to do laundry and eat dinner with us and take a bowl of soup to my mom. Sometimes I saw my grandmother wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, and other times Aunt Clair stared straight ahead and didn’t hear the phone ring or me asking her a question. They took me to the park a couple of times, but I just climbed the wooden steps in my flip-flops and loosely gripped the monkey bars. It didn’t seem right to have fun when your brother was dead.
I missed David, but I still talked to him in my bedroom at night when everything was dark. He always appeared in his snowsuit, blowing into a paper cup. Steam rose in the shape of an O.
I hate him, he said, referring to Bill, who had started to come over each day and spend long hours in Mom’s room. Why can’t he just go away and stop coming back?
Mom loves him, I heard myself whisper. Maybe he makes her feel better.
David shook his head. She has another kid, you know, and he nodded in my direction.
I stared back.
He’s not our real father, David said. She should stop pretending.
I shrugged. At least Bill comes back.
I’m going to find him, Shelley, David said, and I knew he wasn’t talking about Bill. He started to fade into nothingness again as I closed my eyes. Maybe that’s why I died.
* * *
[img_assist|nid=9405|title=Couch by Suzie Forrester © 2012|desc=|link=node|align=none|width=470|height=322]
My mom didn’t leave her room for days, but finally, on a Friday afternoon when Bill went to the store and Aunt Clair sat with me playing Legos, she appeared in the doorway to the living room and looked around nervously. Mom had put on jeans and her favorite t-shirt, but her body looked like a deflated balloon. Her hair seemed to have grown since I last saw her.
"What are you guys doing?" she asked softly and sat down on the couch. I wondered if she’d ever get her normal voice back, or if it was something that had left along with David.
"Playing Legos. I’m making a house and a garage," I told her. "Aunt Clair is making a barn." I paused and leaned back on my feet. "Do you want to help?"
Mom shook her head, her hair greasy as she tucked it behind her ear. "I think I’ll just watch you." She gazed at me from the couch, her eyes falling to the floor. When I got up and went over to give her a hug, she held me so tight I thought she might not let go. It felt like I might stop breathing, but that would be okay.
There was a reason we never went to California.
The day after my mother had made her big announcement to us in the living room, the sunlight streaming like tentacles around her, David’s school had called and said he was being “expelled.” He bit a girl on the shoulder and then tried to hurt his teacher when she pulled him away. Security had to come and keep him in the principal’s office. As the bus dropped me off and I saw her car in the driveway, I knew something was wrong. Usually the babysitter, Theresa, stayed with us after school, watching soap operas in her bare feet with an algebra book open on the coffee table.
The first person I saw was David, sitting on the loveseat with his head down and his hands tucked under his legs. He didn’t look up when I came in, although I knew he heard the door. His eyes seemed to be transfixed by a pull in the couch, cushiony white stuffing that bulged through beige corduroy. My mother was on the phone arguing with someone, yelling about "this condition" and "What am I supposed to do with him?"
I put my backpack down and sat on the couch next to David, tucking my hands under my legs, too. "What happened?" I asked.
He shook his head and kept looking down. “I was bad.”
We both listened to Mom on the phone telling the story, her voice growing squeaky and desperate.
Finally, after a few minutes of my staring at David and his staring at the couch cushion, Mom came out of the kitchen and looked at us.
"Listen, Shelley. I’m going to drop you off at Mary’s, and I have to take David somewhere."
"To a doctor. So you’re going to go to Mary’s, okay? She’s having spaghetti for dinner. I told her you love that." Mom knelt down in front of David and touched his knees. "David, we’re going to go talk to someone for a little while, okay? I think you’ll like him.” I was surprised by how nice she was being to him, treating him like a sick old person.
David looked up after a minute and nodded, then returned his gaze to the cushion.
"Come on, Shelley. Grab your backpack. Mary will help you with your homework."
She got up and led David toward the door. He kept his head still, his eyes sad as a dog’s.
That night I stayed with Mary Connors, our neighbor from a couple of houses over, until 10 o’clock. I watched TV with her kids, ate spaghetti, and helped put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mr. Connors even bought us milkshakes from the pizza parlor around the corner. By the time Mom came back to get me, I was sleeping on the couch in a pair of someone else’s pajamas. I was only half-conscious as she led me into the front seat of the car and took me home. The next morning, Mom didn’t get ready for work as usual, because she said she had to stay with David. It wasn’t until I saw Bill sitting on the couch, after school, smoking a cigarette and staring out of the window, that I remembered our big plans. He looked over at me, but slowly turned his head again. Mom came in from David’s bedroom and asked me if I wanted a snack.
"Are we still going to California?" I asked, looking at her, then at Bill.
"Come on, Shelley. Do you want some pretzels? Or crackers?" She waved me into the kitchen.
Later, I heard Mom and Bill shouting in the bedroom, Mom saying something about "stability" and Bill shouting back, "your promise." They fought every day until the night he stomped out the door, David and I listening on our hands and knees from the top of the stairs. I don’t know if Bill would have come back if not for David’s funeral.
Before David jumped in front of the truck, he looked at me. I thought it was an angry look at first, but now I think it was his way of saying goodbye. He wasn’t good at talking, at explaining why he got so angry all the time. Mom couldn’t figure out what it was that caused him to explode. Maybe he knew that day at the yard sale that nothing would ever change. Maybe he wanted to escape.
After school and during the summers, Mom often nagged David to play outside with the other kids his age, to start a game of kickball, to make friends. What she didn’t realize was I was his only friend in the whole world.
I talk to David each night before I go to bed. I tell him that Mom is doing better, that I even saw her laugh during a movie she was watching with Bill, that her giggle was like a burst of flowers in the house. I tell him that Aunt Clair and Grandmom left when Bill moved back, that I saw him hugging Grandmom in the kitchen and swaying back and forth with her, tears in his eyes.
You mean, you saw him cry? David asks.
Yes, I say, my eyes wide. It was weird.
I tell him that we’re planning to move to another house. A fresh start.
Hmm, he says, and listens. More than anything else, the white-snowsuit-David always listens.
* * *
"My mother says it’s a tragedy that your brother died and your father still didn’t come back." It is recess, September, about four months after David’s death. Even though Mom and Bill and I moved, I still go to the same school. Sometimes, I wish I could go somewhere else, a place where no one knows about my young dead brother. Now, Molly Leonard corners me by the fence, where I am tracing pictures in the dirt. She blows bubbles with her gum—which she isn’t supposed to have—and waits for a reaction.
I wish our playground had swings, or even a sliding board, but all kids do during recess is chase each other and stand in circles and ask stupid questions. "Well,” I say finally, my forefinger drawing tiny clouds in the dirt. “My father did come back. He bought us the new house we’re living in.”
"Oh.” She pauses. “But my mom said he lived far away.”
My heart stops for a second. And then I remember what David told me a few nights ago, that he flew around the country for days, looking to find where our biological father was. He even asked some old people while they were shoveling snow in heaven. Poof, they told David. Gone. Just like a magic trick. "Well, your mom is wrong,” I tell Molly.
Molly is quiet as she drags the side of her shoe against the dirt.
"My father drives me to school in his car every morning. And he helps my mom make dinner.” My finger traces another line in the dirt, a boy with spikes coming out of his back, like a dragon.
"That’s your stepfather, though. Not your real dad. Not the man who made you with your mom." She holds her palms up, her hip cocked to the side. “See?”
I shake my head and stand up to correct her. I begin to smooth over my picture with the toe of my shoe. "No. Bill is my dad. All your dad needs to do is love you to be a dad." Mrs. Cohen, my new third grade teacher, starts to ring the bell from the school steps, our sign that recess is over.
"Well, that can’t be. Cause how is he different from an uncle, then? Or a brother?"
The picture I made is gone, smoothed over like sand. Tomorrow, I’ll come to the same spot and make another one, like I do every day at recess. "Because an uncle has his own family he lives with. And a brother is someone your own age." I run to the school steps to get away from Molly, and I look up into the sky and roll my eyes.
Molly Leonard, I whisper.
Such a brat, David says.
I get in line behind Judith Paulson and in front of Gary Pullman, right where Peterson fits in, the name I share only with David.
Jana Llewellyn taught English and writing for over a decade. She is now Associate Editor at Friends Journal magazine. She lives in Havertown with her husband, son and daughter.