No Place Like Home

How long has it been since I've been here? I cough looking over the tall grass in the clear azure sky. Bright sun lingers high at the noon hour above the pale, yellow, two-story house with a white picket fence. There isn't another house for miles, and the barn and stable are in the back.
My little brother answers the door, with a happy yell. He is nineteen now, and taking care of the old farm that has been in our family for ages. My three sisters and I decided to move to the big since for 'something more.' Standing here in this moment, how could I have wanted more than this? This was everything.
'Lilo!'
'Hey, Keo,' I put my arms tightly around him. 'How is everyone?'
'Great!' he holds my hand as he pulls me into the living room. 'Mum's upstairs sleeping and the baby is in his crib.'
I smile, coughing a little bit again as I sit down. Keo goes to the kitchen talking about how Mum had a made homemade apple crisp. Nothing had changed. Still on the walls were pictures of all the past family. The floor was still that pretty oak, never unpolished. The frunature was still scratchy and green. The only thing in the room that looked like it was beyond the twentieth century was the crib in the corner and some toys. I felt awful for leaving. I was so happy here before.
He comes back from the kitchen with a couple of sodas. He smiled widely, switching the rattle into his other hand when he sat. He had his baby a few months ago. His girlfriend at the time cheated on him soon after they found out she was pregnant, and he was never one to simply give someone another chance. She gladly gave up baby Colton, and he hadn't seen her since. I remember when he called me. He was crushed, crying and all. She was the love of his life. All of us kids hung out with her and her brothers. I am only three years older than Keo and those were the farm kids that came to hang out every summer by the creek about a half mile south of here. We all always thought that she and Keo would end up together. They did, but it wasn't right. Keo doesn't ask for much; he just wants her to come see Colton some time.
'This is a surprise! What are you doing here?'
'Just wanted to come home,' my voice is weaker than a moment ago. I know I looked like a mess. My black hair is brittle and going grey. I am pale and lifeless; enough so that I even noticed. It's amazing what a few months could do to a person.
'Liar,' Keo grins, broadly. 'You can tell me anything. You know that.'
'You tell me about you! How's the baby? Are you in school?'
The baby is great, and he is going to an online college for dealing with the farm. I have to admit, he is my favorite relative and I am so proud of him. I make sure he knows that.
***
For the next few weeks, I slowly get worse and worse. The coughing comes more and eventually blood as well. It has come to the point where I can no longer get out of bed. Mum and Keo visit me faithfully, but the pain is never-ending.
Keo and my nephew enter the room early one morning. My brother just gives me a look. Yes, I owe him an explanation. 'Final stages of lung cancer,' I tell him through painful wet coughs. 'Environmental.'
He laughs, humorlessly. 'Told you the big city would kill you. I told you all those cars, factories, buildings, and smoke would get to you. Didn't I tell you that?'
I smile in perfect agreement.
'And you came here to die!' His tears come from nowhere. The pain I suddenly fell in my heart is more than anything I have endured during the six months I have been slowly dying. Keo is strong. Keo has always been so strong. Seeing him in tears like this is like endless pins and needles to the most sensitive area known on a body.
I take my brother into my weak embrace (it was good for the baby). I hold Keo for a long time before I am too fatigued to hold him any longer. I so dearly wish I could, but I am pulled into a black abyss again.
That night, when Keo brought me a cup of tea, I make him sit beside me. 'I'm going to die tonight, sweetheart.'
His eyes pinch closed.
'Don't be sad; don't be mad; don't be anything. All I want you to do on my behalf is kiss my nephew for me every day and every night. I want you to lay me to sleep beside daddy on his left. Mum's place is n the right. Promise me. I have left everything to you, just as long as you promise me.'
'P-promise.'
'And don't cry. I'm just going home. Promise.'
'I promise.'
I kiss my baby brother's hand. 'I love you.'
'I love you, too.'
Smiling, I close my eyes.





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