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A Million Hugs and Kisses
The familiar red beat up Chevy sat on the curb waiting for me after school. I yanked open the door and put all my weight into slamming it shut. The air conditioner didn't work, the radio only picked up Spanish channels and it was unreliable. When I was fourteen my mom had to go to work early and depended on my brother to take me to my ballet class. His brand new gently used truck wouldn't start, and my brother was no mechanic. I sat outside wearing my tight leggings in the dead heat of July. Needless to say I missed my class and my brother was covered in oil.
“How was school?” he asked.
He reared up the engine and it shook the entire cab. One day I knew it would explode time could only tell when.
“Fine,” I mumbled.
I glanced at him and saw the gray tight t-shirt that we wore proudly on his chest. His muscles bulged in that shirt. I hated that word, what it meant; to me it was death and suffering. It was something else entirely to my brother. Ever since he told me his decision six months ago I had hated the idea.
“Are you going to tell me why you’re mad?” he asked laughing his deep throaty laugh. The wind whipped my hair as I sent a glare at him.
“I don’t want to talk about it Brent,” I grumbled.
I turned my gaze out the window to see houses, kids running down the sidewalk, and a dog bathing in the sun. I glanced at Brent quickly to see his grip tighten on the steering wheel, he hated it when I cut him out and just shut him down.
Jerkily, he swerved off the road, making me slide into the door. I grabbed my waist where the door handle had stabbed me.
“Ow! Do you have a death wish?” I snapped staring at him.
“We’re not going anywhere until we talk.” He decided.
He shut off the engine and put the keys in his pocket. I could feel Brent’s eyes burning holes into my skull. I didn’t want to look at him to see those dark brown eyes lit up with fury. But how could I make him understand? That the only strength in my life was leaving and I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t tell him that I cried myself to sleep every night just thinking about him leaving. I didn’t want to guilt trip him.
“It’s nothing,” I mumbled hoping he would leave it at that.
“No, lately the past couple of months you been blocking me out. You’ve never done that before. I don’t know what to say to make you let me in again…” he sighed.
“Brent it’s just…” I started.
His cell phone blared out and I shut my mouth.
“Real quick,” he apologized.
Brent climbed out of the heat filled cab and answered the cell phone.
“Hey, Barnes,” he started.
Barnes, how I despised that name, the man that had recruited my brother, that had sent him to boot camp. The name sent my stomach into nerve pelting knots.
“So soon?” his voice was concerned.
“I just thought I’d have more time,” he sighed running his hand through his hair.
“Isn’t there a way…? I knew it would be soon…”
“I understand,” he sighed hanging up the phone.
He climbed into the cab plastering on a happy face for my sake. But I knew that Barnes had just sent him his ship date. I didn’t even know where he was going.
“Sorry,” he smiled.
“Let’s just go home,” I mumbled.
He didn’t argue, he started the truck and it sputtered then roared to life.
After three weeks of the continuous behavior and the random phone calls from Barnes I could feel my time with Brent slowly ending. I barricaded myself in my room thinking that I could detach myself from the pain.
“Bree please open the door,” he whined for the third time on a Saturday after noon.
“No,” I mumbled.
“Bree I need to spend today with you,” he begged.
My twenty year old brother, who was 6’ 3 and could take any guy on our football team was begging at his seventeen year old sister’s door. Guilt lingered in my stomach as I cracked the door. I let him in the closed the door and locked it.
“Is this how you want to spend a Saturday?” he asked.
“You’re leaving tomorrow, sorry if I’m not rejoicing…” I mumbled.
“Please don’t be sad, I’ll be fine,” he promised me yet again.
The nightmares had begun, my brother running across a distant battle field, machine gun in hand, blood dripping down his uniform. He grabs his side and reaches out for a soldier trying to help him. His hand is covered with blood, his own blood and then a distant figure shoots him in the back. Every time he dies and there’s nothing I can do about it.
“Please don’t go,” I begged him tears streaming down my face.
“I have to Aubrey,” he clenched his teeth.
“I need you. I have no one else. Dad is dead, mom works all the time, you’re the only thing I can hold onto Brent please,” I begged him.
“Hey, I’ll always be here,” he put his arms around me.
“No you won’t, you’re leaving.” I shrieked.
He had no answer for me, but pulled me into his chest. Willingly I held onto him, hoping I could pause time, just hold onto this memory forever.
Night crept on us as we returned from a restaurant where we had eaten one last time as a family. Tomorrow morning my brother would leave and there was so much more I wanted to say to him, explain to him.
I disappeared into my room and pulled out a mound of paper and a pen. I could easily write it but saying it would be a different story.
There is so much I want to say to you. I’ll start at the beginning before things changed for us. When dad died you were the only constant male figure I could look up to. That’s why I am having a hard time talking to you about anything, I don’t wan to hold you back Brent, but I feel as though you are my Atlas holding the world up. Who am I supposed to look to when you leave?
I know you will be a great soldier; everything else you have done in your life has been precise and perfect. I just wish you didn’t have to leave to full fill you’re life long dreams… I’ll miss you every day. I love you.
A Million Hugs and Kisses
I snuck into his room to find his uniform hanging up. I slipped it into his pocket and retreated.
The next morning I watched my brother come down the stairs wearing the camo proudly, the heavy boots echoing in our small house.
“How do I look?” he asked.
“Perfect,” my mom tried to be supportive.
He put his hat on my head and ate the breakfast I had made for him. The time seemed to pass quickly as we sat outside on the porch swing. My mom paced across the door waiting anxiously.
I saw a huge bus come rolling down our street. Just a few minutes now and he would leave.
“Oh Brent,” she whined pulling him into a grasping tight hug.
“Come on mom,” he whispered.
He kissed her on the cheek and turned to face me.
I took his hat off my head and placed it on his own.
“I love you Brent,” I smiled.
“I love you more, and no arguing,” he smiled.
I threw my arms around his neck and walked him down the stairs halfway to the bus. Mom was weeping on the porch and I was close to tears.
“Check your front pocket, on the bus,” I whispered in his ear.
His hand went to the direct pocket and nodded at me.
I watched him climb onto the bus and he sat down at a seat towards the back. He pulled out the piece of paper before the bus had a chance to roll away. His eyes grazed over the letters and glanced at me through the window
“A million hugs and kisses,” he mouthed to me.
“A million and one,” I smiled back.
The bus rolled away as I watched silently. It pulled off the road and out of sight. I stood on that corner for a long time until the sun began to set and night fell around me. Brent was gone.