September 30, 2008
The red flowed like silk around the air that already seemed to swim with the dizziness. As the smell of metallic rust that often came with blood overpowered my senses, I lost control of my bearings, and the black safety my mind created rushed me like an oceanic wave.

I was hardly aware of my collapse, but, as I fell and should have hit the ground, a hard yet smooth hand caught me by the shoulder and helped me maintain my quickly fading balance. The hand's efforts, though, were fruitless; I staggered and fell into its owner, who simply wrapped both arms around me. I did not complain, though under other, more normal circumstances, I might have.

“Yes, Mr. Hergrande, this is defiantly my brother.”

The corpse wasn’t much of one, for it was missing a limb or two, and torn flesh covered his torso and face, but an old, largely visible scar on his hip was clear enough. I’d like to think that he had died on his way down, and he wasn’t put through anymore torment than the fall, but the arms around me believed otherwise.

“He didn’t feel much after that fall. He probably lost too much blood by then. Already too numb.” I tried to ignore what he said, but it was difficult, since I knew he was probably right. He almost always was.

“Ms. Frettermen, when did you last see your brother?” Mr. Hergrande was a tall man, with very “right” features. He had a straight, square nose and a straight mouth when it relaxed. He had some-what squinty eyes that were dark and beady. He was wearing a white dress shirt and dark grey dress pants that I assumed went with the job; looking professional for dead people was probably mentioned in the job description.

“Not too long ago,” I began, thinking back. Last month, over Thanksgiving break, when he was home from school like me? No, he came and visited me on campus two weeks ago, showcasing his model of a girlfriend. “The seventh, I think. He towed his girlfriend down from Maine to introduce us.”

The arms tightened around me, whispering in my ear, “I’m so sorry.” He, and only he, could understand that my calm, one that I barely noticed, was a façade. Only he would get to see me break down after all of this was over with, when the initial shock wore off. Not even Carol or Warren, my Hallmark mother and father, would be allowed to see the real blunt of the blow.

“We’re going to need the name of that girlfriend later. But first, did he perhaps mention why he would be out there? Camping trip, maybe?”
“Not that I can recall. Maybe he said something about hiking, but I’m not sure. I wasn’t paying attention.”
Mr. Hergrande looked at me with an emotion I couldn’t quite place. I’d never been talented at guessing anyone’s feelings other than the man holding me now, but the added stress of my brother’s death, and possibly just how good the man was at masking his expression made my attempts at placing it … varied. Suspicion? Pity? Understanding? They were so ranged, it confused me even more. “That’s it for now, Ms. Fretterman. I’ll have to ask that you stay here though, for further questioning after we’ve determined more from the body. But I suggest calling your parents: spreading the news…” he trailed slightly, as if there were some unfinished thought. “You know. That sort of thing.”

The arms wrapped around me guided me gently back in the direction of his car. I felt rather lucky he was there, that he had insisted on coming. If I had had my way, I would have been alone here, to fend for my sanity myself.

We weren’t parked that far away, and as I got closer to the car, the less distinct the smell of my brother’s blood became. The door was opened for me, and I plopped down unhesitantly. I was reluctant to close the door, though (the cool, fresh air helped greatly), so I grabbed on to his arm before he could move away.

I saw him for the first time since I’d seen my brother’s body, and even through my dazed, confused, and denying eyes, he still was beautiful. “Thank you,” I whispered to strangely warm ice blue eyes. His hair was dark and messy in a stylish way. Pale, symmetrical features (straight nose, soft square jaw, and thin lips, pulled down in concern) were all I could see, all I could focus on. “Thank you for insisting on coming with me,” I finished.

He smiled, but barely, only letting me know he had heard, and felt appreciated, before he dropped into a worried expression: eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly, eye narrowed, lips down-turned. Beautiful. He wrapped his arms around me again, pulling me into an awkward hug. Awkward not because of emotions or relations or anything trivial like that, but because of the car door, and how I was sitting half-way in the car. As far as trivial things like emotions and relations, the hug was comforting, reassuring, and full of care.

I breathed in his sent, wrapped my fingers in his light blue sweater that I thought brought out his eyes, and felt the first of many sobs bubble up my throat. I almost said something like “He’s dead,” but I tried not to be cliché or obvious. Of course he was dead. The realization of it, however, felt like an ache in your chest you got after a car crash. Painful to breathe, hard to move, and you can’t think straight it hurt so badly.

We sat like that for what could have been any length of time, for it had seamed to be forever and too quickly at the same time, before he pulled back to stare gently into my tear-soaked eyes. “Do you want me to call Carol? Or do you think you should do it?”

I didn’t want to think of Carol, didn’t want to listen to her melodramatic sorrow over her lost son that she barely knew. But I didn’t want to force this fate onto anyone else. “I … I guess I should do it.”

“Don’t just say that because you don’t want me have to deal with her. I know you’re not too fond of your mother. You’re not in any condition to listen to her wail and moan. Just sit here and I’ll be done quickly.”

So I sat. What else was there to do?

Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Rleon02 said...
Oct. 7, 2008 at 6:54 pm
You are indeed a soon to be great writer... Wow, if only I could write as well!
deedeesunshine said...
Oct. 7, 2008 at 12:59 pm
I loved the description: He had some-what squinty eyes that were dark and beady. He was wearing a white dress shirt and dark grey dress pants that I assumed went with the job; looking professional for dead people was probably mentioned in the job description. Nicely written.
k_leah said...
Oct. 7, 2008 at 2:53 am
I really like it. I think it's very emotionally moving.
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