Wither

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Still young and ignorant, Lynn returns to the home of his childhood, which barely remains within his memory. The short trip ends up becoming a long journey in his maturing, and what he learns
changes his life forever.

Submitted: January 25, 2018

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Submitted: January 25, 2018

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During the summer I turned seven, I went back to the countryside where my father lived for the first time. My mother told me we all lived there until I was three, when my parents got divorced. I didn't remember my brother, couldn't see his face in my mind. At that time I wondered why we had to go back, for my old family was as good as strangers to me. My stepfather was on a business trip in the city, so we brought my little stepbrother, Caleb, along. We were only two years apart, and I loved him dearly. We were greeted at the door by the housekeeper, for my father was rich, despite living in the country. My brother held on to my hand, and I squeezed it gently. Neither of us felt at home here.

"Why don't you go play with your older brother," she prompted, "he's in the room straight down the hall. I'm sure he'll love to see you two."  

When I opened the door, I expected to see a messy room with toys, like mine back home. I expected to find a boy who looked like me, and was eager to play. I couldn't have been more wrong. Instead of plastic cars, the room was cluttered with sheets of paper, scrawled over with numbers and words I couldn't understand. At the center of the room I found a teenager, who paused in his writing to take a look at us. He looked nothing like me, with his tall lanky figure, pale skin, and dull eyes. His hair fell in front of his face like dried leaves, and his eyes seemed to stare into my soul. 

"Um... I'm Lynn, the lady told us to come here..." My little brother cowered behind me, clutching the back of my shirt. 

"I see. You've grown a lot, my brother. Come in." 

We stumbled into the room, not sure where to stand amidst all the papers. I sat down awkwardly, and looked at him. "I... I don't know your name."  

He turned to face me again. After a pause he replied, "Is that so? My name's Aaron. I'm twelve, in case you didn't remember." 

I nodded and he continued his work, ignoring our presence completely. "Um... What are you writing?" 

"I'm exploring the causes of Duchenne muscular dystrophy." 

I didn't understand. Caleb peeked out from behind me. "Aaron, don't you want to go outside and play?"  

He stared at us, a tiny bit of melancholy in his face. "...No."  

"So you don't want to play with us," I replied, hoping for a bigger response. The housekeeper was utterly wrong about his behavior.  

He lowered his head, turning away from our scrutiny. "No. You two can play by yourselves."  

I was beginning to get irritated at his indifference, for surely he remembered me. What older brother was he, to care so little about me? I, for one, would never treat Caleb in such an unaffectionate manner. Unable to bear the dreariness of the room any longer, I snapped, the hotheaded child I was. "Fine! Just stay here and rot your life away writing whatever that is that you find oh-so-important! Come on Caleb, let's go." I grabbed his hand and stomped out the door, seeing a glimpse of a sad smile on Aaron's face. It's not like I cared. 

When we were called back in for dinner, Caleb and I raced each other. We went home covered in dirt, panting and laughing. Aaron was already at the table, still lost in thought about his work. The sight of him stopped my laughter, and suddenly I felt bitter again. We sat down and started eating in silence, before the housekeeper began questioning me. 

"Honey," she said, "why don't you get along with your brother? I'm sure you can find things to do with him." 

I scoffed, "He's boring. He doesn't care about us anyway."  

After dinner, my mom took Caleb to go to sleep first. I followed after them, but Aaron called out to me. "I find it curious...Why do you treat your step brother more as family than your blood brother?"

I stopped in my tracks, staring at him. "Well, if you want me to treat you as family, maybe you could start by first acting like a normal big brother yourself! You won't even hang out with us, thinking you're so high and mighty in your little room." 

I guess it was a sort of inferiority I felt that made me so upset, but I didn't know then what that feeling was. We didn't talk much that whole summer. I stayed with Caleb; he remained alone. It didn't seem to bother him that he had no friends. I decided I couldn't care less about what he chose to do with his life. Then summer ended, and autumn dawned on us. My family returned back to the city, leaving my old brother, father, and their housekeeper behind.  I never did like Aaron. While we played outdoors, he locked himself up in his room. He wasn't normal; he was more like a genius. And it wasn't even that he was smarter, it was just the way he worked all day with his distant attitude. I couldn't bring myself to get along with him. So maybe that's why a few years later, in the summer I turned ten, it didn't really affect me when I heard news of his death. Not when I found out, not when I was at the funeral. I didn't cry nor mourn for his death. I didn't know him well enough to say I felt sorrow for his passing. And I thought that was it, and that I would just forget him. But I was wrong. 

My ex-father pleaded my mother to let him take me back, for me to become his son again. She must have felt sorry for him, losing his only child. Through some sort of bribery or pity, she agreed, and I was sent on a train back to the countryside, with memories of him. If I had spoken up, said something, perhaps I wouldn't have been separated from my dear younger brother. I was stripped away from him, and forced to face the truth of Aaron again. 

In the house, I would hear the floor creaking, feel the rough walls. I was given Aaron's old room, and his belongings were packed into a small box in the closet. I couldn't help but think of what it was like. These were the hallways he walked through, the scenery he viewed. This was the bed he slept on, the ceiling he would stare at before night. He was everywhere, in the cold, empty walls, the wooden floors, the bright lamps. He lived in the memory of this house. And I couldn't stand it.  

"Father," I asked one night over dinner, "what was Aaron like to you?"  

He seemed a little shocked by the question, and he smiled wryly. "He was a good child, diligent and kind. He strove to be the best he could be, and envisioned a better world. It's a shame he won't see the world of tomorrow."  

I gazed into my plate of food, my appetite lost. The more I thought of him, the worse it got. I couldn't seem to get my mind off of him, wondering how he saw the world, how he felt, sitting alone in that enclosed room. That evening I opened the box in my closet, and found a small diary inside it. It felt wrong prying into the belongings of a dead man, but I opened it anyway. On the first page, there was a picture of him with a baby, me. Aside it was written: 'Lynn was born today. He's really tiny and fragile. But they say he's got a better body than me. I'm glad, so glad. I love him already.'  

A picture of him hugging me as a toddler. 'Look how my little brother is growing, he's so cute. He's learning how to walk, and I'm proud of his efforts. Our whole family is so thankful for this.' I didn't understand. Why did he make such a big deal about my development? As a child, shouldn't he have been growing too?  

A picture of me running in the yard. 'Lynn's legs are strong, and he's learning well. Before long, he's going to do more than I'll ever be able to. But I'm not jealous. I'm just so happy for him.' I stopped. What? How could I have been stronger than he, who was five years older than me? I flipped the page, my heart pounding. 

There was no picture. 'Today, I went to the doctor again. They said I'm doing alright, but it might get worse soon. One more time mom and dad begged them to find a solution for muscular dystrophy. The doctors said they were trying. I overheard them in the lobby, and they said I have less than ten years. It's okay, I'm okay. I have Lynn.' The sound of my heart drowned out everything then, and tears formed in the back of my eyes. He had mentioned this to me, but I was too young, too stupid to understand. I had even yelled at him, when he appeared so sad. It broke my heart to think I was his strength when I was only going to betray him several years later. 

A picture of me as a young child. 'This is the last picture I took of Lynn. He's gone now, with mom. It was all too soon, too sudden. Why are they taking everything away from me when I barely have anything left?' My tears threatened to fall, and my sight went blurry. I sniffled and blinked, but they wouldn't go away. I continued to flip the pages. 

'Lynn came back to me for one brief summer. It was the only thing I looked forward to. He didn't remember me; I guess that was to be expected. But why does it feel like my last hope was ripped away from me? It seems he hates me now, because I don't understand him. He says I'm not normal. I suppose it's true, but why did it hit so hard? It felt like my heart was going to shatter into a million pieces. I did not let him see my difficulty walking. He didn't need to know.' My tears fell onto the white paper, ruining the perfect sheets. I hadn't realized anything the summer I came back. Oblivious, I left everything in pieces, but did not restore anything. His handwriting was shaky, and I faintly remembered noticing that summer three years ago. My own hand trembling, I turned to the next page.

I could barely read the written words, since they were so light and messy, as if he could barely hold the pencil. 'I’ve been confined to bed in the hospital now, and they almost wouldn't let me write. I can barely feel anything, and it's so cold. Only the gears in my brain continue to move, as my days drag to an end. The doctors said I only have a few days left. I wonder how my dear, beloved little brother is doing. Is he having fun with his younger brother now, with that new family of his? I hope so; he has a bright future ahead of him. It's a curious thing, how I continue to think of him, when he couldn't care less about me anymore. I guess I just couldn't bring myself to dislike him, with his innocent ignorance. It couldn't be helped, the way things turned out. It wasn't Lynn's fault. To the end, I will love him.'  

I flipped the pages, but there was nothing more. Only countless blank sheets remained, that would never be filled in. I was bawling now, my tears spilling over my cheeks. My heart ached terribly with grief for Aaron, and what could have been. It was my fault. Even if his death couldn't have changed, I could have been there for him, let him live a happier life. And that I ever disliked him, I was so, so sorry. My whole body trembling, I put the journal away and shuffled to my bed. I cried myself to sleep that night, filled with thoughts of Aaron.  

I never understood him, my selfless older brother, but I came to know him a little better than before. I would not forget the way he saw the world, and I strove to live in his place. He would walk in the steps I took, see in the views I saw, breathe in the air I inhaled. Aaron would live on in me. 

 

 


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