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Last Night with Stephen

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I watched the slender hand of the clock make a short flick to the right, landing on the giant twelve. It was finally one o’clock and mom and dad had been asleep for a full half hour. Excitedly, I pushed back my covers and slipped out of bed, my feet making a seemingly deafening creak. I cringed at the sound and silently crept out of my room. Across the hall was my older brother, Stephen’s room. The door was painting a dark forest green, his favorite color, with a large poster of his favorite basketball player, LeBron James shooting a layup, plastered in the middle. I took a long stride across the hall so my nose barely skimmed LeBron’s face of determination, and knocked.

On the other side of the door I heard shuffling, and the door opened a crack. “What Lauren?” Stephen’s obviously bored, sleepy voice came from the darkness.

“Do you want to come downstairs and play Xbox?” I whispered back.

“Sure, just a sec.” he said, closing the door for a moment. I stepped back and waited until the door opened and he emerged again. Stephen’s pale platinum hair was in desperate need of a haircut, it curled around his goofy large ears and down his neck. His small, almond shaped eyes were squinted so you could barely see how blue they were. He was tall and broad, wearing a red and white jersey paired with navy and orange shorts.

“Why are you wearing two different college’s colors?” I asked him.

“Because I can.” He challenged, teasingly shoving me into the wall. I followed as he lumbered down the hall and down the stairs. His awkwardly large hand turned on the kitchen light and he strode towards the fridge, “Did dad finish off the ice cream?” he asked.

“No,” I replied as he opened the freezer and grabbed the ¼ filled carton of Rocky Road ice cream.

“You want any?” he asked as he searched the silverware drawer for a spoon.

“Nah,” I shrugged, walking past him into the family room where the Xbox awaited.

“Fine then.” He said, spooning an oversized hunk into his mouth and padding into the family room. “What do you want to play?”

“I was thinking that war game.” I said, searching the game shelf.

“Cool, you want to play zombies?” he asked, falling back into the recliner.

“Totally,” I said happily, pulling out the box and setting up the game console. We sat there silently, Stephen was eating, and I was trying to find all the supplies.

“Stephen?” I asked as I handed him the controller.

“Yeah?” he asked with his mouth full.

“Were you nervous for high school?” I sat on the couch waiting for his response.

“What do you think?” he said sarcastically. “Of course I was, I didn’t know anybody there, it was terrifying.”

“That’s not very comforting.” I replied flatly, turning my head to give him a dark look. “School starts in two months and I’m totally unprepared.”

“Don’t spazz out, Lauren. I’ll be there for senior year, so you won’t be messed with.” He said a bit more reassuringly.

“I’m not spazzing! I just don’t want high school to be a nightmare like in the movies.” I whined. Stephen started laughing hysterically.

“Geez! You are so gullible, what, do you think you’re going to get stuffed into a locker or be written in a Burn Book?” he guffawed.

“I don’t know!” I defended myself, my face flushing as the game’s narrator introduced us to level one.

“Listen, high school is normal. You go there for classes, you hang out with people, there aren’t any ‘cool cliques’ or any of that stuff. It’s like middle school but the classes are harder.” He said. “Go guard that door over there.” He mentioned, talking about the game.

On the screen my player hustled to the door where a zombie with glowing eyes tried to attack. “Is that all it is?” I asked. “Middle school with harder classes?”

“Sorry to burst your bubble.” He responded dryly. “Okay now, rebuild. I’ll handle the downstairs, you go up.” He said, focused on the game.

“Yes sir!” I teased. “And thanks Stephen.”

“Whatever.” He said.

“I don’t know what I’d do you without you.” I said gratefully. We sat silently, playing the game.

“You won’t have to worry about that, Lauren,” Stephen said warmly, “I will always be your brother. And you will always be my annoying, spastic baby sister.”

“I’m not spastic!” I exclaimed.

“Lauren? What’s going on, who are you talking to?” My blood instantly ran cold when I heard my mother’s irritated, tired voice behind me. I slowly turned around to see her look at the mess. “Why is that ice cream laying out, it’s going to melt!” she complained. “Lauren, turn the game off, put the ice cream back in the fridge, and go to bed! We have a long day tomorrow; you know that Stephen’s funeral is tomorrow.”

“Yes mom.” I said, obeying her.

“Who were you talking to?” she asked.

“No one.” I replied, “Just myself.”





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