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I have to be honest with you in saying that this is the fifth draft of this letter. I’m just not quite sure what to say. In fact, I don’t even really know what I want to say at this point. What do you say to someone who you haven’t seen in six years? I think I’m starting to realize that there is no elegant or flawless way to write this. I think the best course of action for me right now is to write everything down and be done with it.
I hope that the beginning of this letter wasn’t too weird; I know you never did like all that cheesy family stuff. Using “Brother” by itself seemed too formal, and simply using “Dear” just came across as too common and not enough. It took me a long time to finally settle on dearest, because although you were my only brother, you were definitely my dearest.
I always wondered what you thought of me. What were your thoughts the first time you saw me? Me-- a screaming, red-faced blob with not a single visible hair. You-- a five year old who was unsure of what exactly was happening. Were you happy with your new responsibilities as big brother, or did you feel resentment for no longer being an only child?
No matter what your feelings were, I absolutely adored you. I remember in first grade when my teacher instructed us to draw a family portrait. First there was father, with his crayon mustache covering most of his face. Then there was mom, who’s hair took a long time to draw because I didn’t want a single strand out of place, just like in real life. I drew myself in between you and mother, but it was only you and I that I drew holding hands. After all, you were the only one who bothered to hold my hand while crossing the street, or when helping me trace my letters. Mother and father were never much for physical contact.
I remember you laughed when I first showed you the picture, and I felt devastated. Being the quick observer you were, you swiftly took note of my dejected state and tried to cheer me up.
“It’s my hands, they are just so big!” You chuckled as you threw an arm around me. “But I’m glad that they are drawn that way. It means that I’ll have enough room to grow into them!” You gave me that reassuring smile that said “trust me”, and all insecurities about my picture disappeared.
That was the day you showed me your “treasure vault”-- a small hollow in the trunk of the old oak tree in our backyard. “It’s for my most important things,” you told me in the same whispered voice we used whenever we stayed up late talking. You fixed me with a stern gaze. “Only those worthy enough are allowed to know it’s location. Promise me you won’t tell anyone.” Under your intimidating stare, I was quick to pinkie promise again and again until you were satisfied. I watched with reverent eyes as my amateur drawing was placed into the dark cavity of the tree.
Mother signed me up for piano lessons when I was eight, the summer before you started high school. It was your job to escort me the three blocks to the music store, which I remember you did not like at all. My first lesson you moaned and grumbled the whole way there.
Your sulky disposition changed the moment we entered the store. I can still picture the way your eyes widened, then illuminated as you noticed the shiny guitar behind the counter.
On the way home, you had a determined look in your eyes and I had to walk twice as fast just to keep up with your brisk steps.
“You’re not going to be the only musician in the family,” You told me. With excitement, I inquired if you were going to learn piano too. You just laughed and shook your head.”Goodness no, the piano is for rich snobs,” you scoffed. “I’m going to play a real instrument.”
Despite being a perceptive person, you didn’t see the way I flinched as if you had slapped me. Your eyes were too clouded with visions of fame and greatness to discern my hurt, or to realize that you had never spoken to me in such a way before.
I don’t remember the exact details of your conversation with our parents, but I do remember sitting on your bed as I watched you pace angrily back and forth across your room. You seemed so enraged that I was afraid you were going to burn a hole into the thick carpet and fall through the floor into the dining room below.
“‘Not a proper instrument!’” You growled and I had to back up as you almost ran into me. “We will see,” You stopped your back and forth motion just long enough to pound your fist against the wall, a sharp clap that echoed around the whole house and caused me to jump. “I’ll show them.”
The next week, by the time I had finished my lessons, you had made a deal. “I work here for three days a week,” you told me with a voice trembling with passion, “and I get free guitar lessons!”
“Really? You want to work for that?” I had muttered in confusion. You had simply rolled your eyes.
“Of course. The best things are worth working for.” You then ruffled my hair and went to work right away.
I should of been concerned that you were going behind our parent’s backs, but your enthusiasm was just so contagious that I couldn’t help but go along with your plan. Until high school started, at least.
High school changed you. I suppose only you know the exact cause for your transformation, but I think I can guess. Part of it might of been the disease of insecurity and peer pressure that comes with the teenage years. Or maybe it was the sudden interest that our parent’s took in you. It must of been hard to go from barely existing to carrying the expectations of perfect grades, leadership positions, and scholarships.
It didn’t happen all at once. The first while you would retreat into your music. I started to accompany you to the music store. You would strum chords you had learned on the guitar while I struggled with my homework.
“I’m going to leave here one day,” You told me as I sat across from you, nestled between a drum set and a banjo. “The minute I graduate I’m going to pack up, leave, and never look back.”
“You’ll take me with you, right?” I had asked.
You stared at me in disbelief for such a long amount of time that I began to fear you were disgusted at the idea of me accompanying you. “Of course you’ll come with me!” you finally exclaimed. “I’ll play guitar, and you can hold a hat so that people can give donations. That will only last until we’re rich, though. Then you can be my agent.”
I wasn’t quite sure what an agent was, but as long as you were still there to protect me, I was willing to be anything you wanted me to be. “We’ll be rich?”
“Of course! I mean, a talent scout will have to find me first, but that shouldn’t be too hard when people start crowding the streets just to hear my music!”
As the days past, your plans started to become grander and grander, and I couldn’t help but be pulled in by your lavish promises of worldwide vacations and screaming fans and mansions on the beach.
I became so desperate for your dream life, that I drew up a contract stating that you would allow me to go with you no matter what. You signed it without a second glance, giving me your “trust me” smile. I was content.
You were my hero. My idol. My very definition of perfection. You were my brother. All it took was one broken promise-- one betrayal-- to send all of that tumbling down, nothing more than dust underneath my feet.
It started just a couple years before graduation. You started to spend more time hanging out with your friends at the music shop and less time at home. Whenever you were home you were either taking refuge in your bedroom or screaming angrily at our parents.
I used to comfort you after arguments, but once you started turning on me as well, I could do nothing but hide in my own bedroom and feel shaken. You told me to go somewhere else whenever I came near you or your friends. I tried coming with you to the music shop one day, but you simply sent me home saying,”I don’t need you following me around like some lost puppy. Go find your own things to do.”
You didn’t want me around anymore. After years of a close relationship, I was suddenly a nuisance. The “sibling pest”. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I did nothing.
The night before your graduation, I packed my suitcase with everything I felt I needed for the next few months on the road. I’ll admit that I should have been smarter about it, but I still believed that although you had distanced yourself from me in the past year, you would stay true to your promise.
Graduation was a surprisingly cordial event. You smiled and took the required pictures with mother and father, and not a single harsh word was spoken. I tried to talk to you, but you continued to breeze by me. I still wasn’t worried, though. You would come get me when it was time to leave.
That night I waited in my room, watching as the minutes, then hours, ticked by. It was around 3 A.M. when my exhausted body couldn’t take anymore and fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning to angry shouts and sobs coming from the kitchen. Cautiously, I made my way down the stairs to see our parents. Father was clutching a white note angrily in his fist while mother had her head buried in her arms. They quieted when I entered the room. “Your brother’s gone,” father said simply, before he stormed out of our house, slamming the door behind him.
I once read somewhere that when animals are faced with tense or dangerous situations, they react in one of two ways: fight or flight. Father was all fight. Every time someone mentioned your name his eyes would flame and his mustache would twitch angrily, then he would lash out. Your name became a taboo word in our household. Mother went the flight route. After that first day, she never let me see it, but I sometimes heard her crying behind closed doors. Often she would just pretend that she had never had a son.
As for me, I did neither. I remained your blind, naive, trusting sister. I felt so confidant that you would come back for me that I spent the next few months staying up late just waiting for your return. My suitcase remained packed.
It was when I discovered our ripped contract underneath your bed that I realized that you're really were gone. I really was on my own.
I was mad. Actually, livid is probably a better way to describe it. Your room, which had remained relatively untouched since you had left, was now in chaos as I searched frantically for anything you might have left behind for me. A note, a picture… anything would do. But there was nothing and you were gone and I had been left behind.
I went to your treasure safe and dug up the crayon family portrait. I don’t really know what happened-- I couldn’t really see through the tears in my eyes and the poisonous thoughts that clouded my mind-- but by the time I was done with it you had been torn clean from the picture. My left hand, which had been sitting comfortably in your oversized one, had detached from the rest of me when I cleaved through the paper. It seemed fitting. After all, you had taken the part of me that knew how to trust when you had departed.
I bet you are probably laughing at me right now as you read this. You’re probably rolling your eyes at my dramatics. But you should know that I really was crushed. For a 13 year old girl, being abandoned by the one person she was ever close to was terrifying.
I started high school the year after you were gone. You should be proud to know that I made friends; I eventually moved on with my life. Things weren’t the same, though. I had a hard time trusting anyone and remained fairly distant with all my relationships. I avoided your room at all costs. The piano started to gather dust because anything musical felt like a slap to the face.
It took a while, but eventually I taught myself to trust again. And to forgive. A few days ago a storm blew down the old oak tree, and with it your treasure safe. Don’t worry, I retrieved all of the items from it. Including both halves of the portrait.
That was when I decided I wasn’t angry anymore.
I feel pretty ridiculous to be honest. Of course you left me behind. There was no way you could haul a 13 year old anywhere without being charged with kidnapping or something ridiculous. There was also no way you could’ve provided for the both of us. I don’t know how it seemed to make sense back then.
I wonder where you are now. Are you still standing on the corner of the street, worn guitar in your hands and a faded hat lying at your feet? Or did you make it big? Maybe you found another dream in life and started chasing that. Either way, I hope you come back someday. Mother and Father are starting to come to their senses now; they are growing weary of being bitter after so many years. We speak your name with a sort of wishful fondness now.
I’m going to college in a week. Before I leave, though, I just wanted to write you this. I want you to know that I understand why you did it, and that I forgive you. I’m hiding this letter in a shoebox with the rest of your treasures, underneath the roots of the old oak tree. I know you’ll find it. I bet you’re still observant enough to figure it out.
You probably have noticed that my first grade picture is in here as well. You are still missing, because I’m taking your part of the portrait with me. It might be a silly speculation, but I still believe that one day you’ll find me and we will become a family again. All of us-- mother, father, sister, and brother. We’ll tape the picture back together. It won’t be the same-- a crack will still be visible-- but we’ll work towards making it whole again. I know we can do it.
After all, the best things are worth working for.
Your Baby Sister