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The phone call was random, unwanted.
I answered it unhappily, on my way to third period- history.
“Your brother’s dead.”
I didn’t listen to much after that, my head started to spin. I knew it would happen one day. Ten years was certainly too long to stay in a coma, too short to make him better. I brushed past people and tears begun to fall freely. I didn’t want to cry in school, didn’t want to appear weak.
“What happened?” Owen cried, seeing my face. He was only two steps behind me. My best friend, my not-so secret admirer, he followed me everywhere.
“My brother died.” I said, leaving him staring, frozen in shock.
“What? What happened?"
I hurried past blurs of people, barely acknowledging him.
I saw him waiting there, outside of my class. I wondered how he seemed to always know where to find me. I let the bag slung over my shoulder fall to the floor as I threw myself into his arms. He looked taken back, looking down at me with a puzzled expression.
I didn’t care that he wasn’t my boyfriend, that I had a boyfriend, sitting somewhere in a class in the same four walls of the building I was in. Marco felt good; he felt real. He was the one I’ve longed for too long, the one I loved. He was perfect in every which way, and in ways that I didn’t know. For reasons I couldn’t phantom- I loved him. His arms were strong, but comfortable. His chest board- but delicate.
He stared down at me, his eyes soft. His eyes had always been soft. He had a look of pain in them, a deepness of soul. He looked at me and I wanted to give him everything.
“I- my mom just called. My brother died.” I cringed at the word. Should I have said passed away?
I looked up at him, wondering how much I looked like a romance novel heroine, limp and weak in the hero’s arms.
“Are you serious?” he said.
His arm drew protectively around my back, and before I knew it, he had pulled me in. I wanted to kiss him at that precise moment.
On that very day he told me he loved me.
Everyone had gathered in the house for the funeral. My aunt and uncle had flown in from California, and the living room became a place where someone was always crying.
I never went downstairs.
It rained that whole week, heavy, with thunder. I used to love this type of rain. I spent days staring at it, positioned on my bed just so that the covers hid me in case anyone came in. I didn’t want to be seen crying, I had to be strong for my mother.
I had told myself the same thing years ago when my father passed away. The tears I cried at his funeral were discreet, illicit.
Marco stayed with me. His smell was in the rain, in the comfort of my covers. His voice filled the room every time he called. He became all I needed.
A small part of me knew it was too good to last. It teased me, tore apart his words and left them with empty promises.
The day of the funeral I went to the park with him. We walked hand by hand the whole four blocks from school, and
the only thing I can remember is the way his eyes sparkled when he spoke.
We lay in the grass, hidden under the sun. It always seemed to always shine behind him, covering him with a soft halo that made me smile. He threw his shirt over us, kissed me endlessly.
I went home that day with my heart swelling with the inklings of my first love, our first love.
My mother answered the door with hatred on her face.
I sat on the couch and wished to disappear as my uncle asked who Marco was.
“You left the computer on last night.” He said.
He had read our instant message conversations. The sweet things Marco wrote, the things that made me laugh.
I don’t know how hard my mother slapped me that day, how many things she made me swear on to prove my purity. I remember the look on her face, the result of the betrayal of her perfect Indian daughter. How had I dared to find love?
She made me sit outside the house, wanted the neighbors to hear as she hurled accusations at me. It bothered me that my aunt and uncle were screaming things at me in my own house, but my mother didn’t seem to mind.
“Besides,” she said, “You didn’t even cry at your own brother’s death. Or your father’s.”