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A light green car zoomed into a vacant parking spot at a dingy gas station placed somewhere between Virginia and Pennsylvania. One of the doors of the van slid open and an energetic eight year old popped out and sped into the gas station. The two front doors of the van were pried open and a mother and a fourteen year old, me, crawled out of the van and stretched their stiff muscles. Then they strolled into the gas station to find the rambunctious little girl.
It was a sunny day on August 5, 2010. My Aunt Twila was coming to meet us in ten minutes at this gas station to take me to her house for the week. When I opened the glass doors of the gas station, cool air whooshed into my face, making me sigh with relief like a cat getting scratched behind its ears. I’ve been here before. I thought. It was years ago when our car had broken down. I wonder if that game that freaked me and Jon out so much is still here? I scurried around the gas station trying to find the game.
The gas station, brushed with dirt and dust, sagged with old age. The spotless windows encircled me as I gazed up and down the aisles of white shelves stuffed with colorful snacks. The florescent lights buzzed like bees in the summer time. The white speckled floor was splashed with black.
Finally I found the ancient, dusty game in the corner at the back of the gas station near the bathrooms. I giggled as I remembered how Jon had bumped into it making a loud siren go off and scaring us for life because we thought we’d go to jail. Enthused that I had found the game, I sprinted back over to my mom and sister, Faith. Faith was slithering up and down the aisles, awed by the knick-knacks being sold and occasionally sending my mom a pleading glance. My mom was standing with her back to me. I skidded to a halt beside her.
“Mom!!” I exclaimed. “I found-“ I stopped suddenly when I realized that my mom was on the phone and she was . . . CRYING?! This terrified me because my mom rarely ever cries much less in public. My mind raced as fast as a race horse. Was Jon hurt? Did Twila get in a car accident? What’s going on?! I frantically paced the floor like a lion getting ready to pounce on its prey. I saw her close the phone and bounded to her.
“What’s going on?!” I cried.
I stared at her freckled face. Tears rolled down her pink cheeks. Her skin, naturally paler than mine, was now as white as a ghost. Her red, puffy eyes stared at the floor as if it were the most interesting thing she had ever seen. Her tear dripped glasses had a skinny, brown rim. Her nose was red from whipping it so much with a now tattered tissue. Her dark brown hair, shimmering with gray hairs that made her looks as wise as an old owl, flowed into her face like a waterfall after a rainy season.
Looking at me straight in the face, with tears filling her eyes again, she choked out, “That was Elaina Carderelli on the phone,”
OK, I thought impatiently. But what does that mean?
“They think Brian is dead.”
I felt the blood drain from my pimply face. I faintly heard someone whisper, “Wha’?” Then I realized it had been me who had uttered it.
My brown eyes looked to my mom and pleaded with her to tell me it wasn’t true, to say “Got ‘cha!” But she wasn’t going to, I knew that. Brian had always been like an older brother to me but now he was probably gone and that would mean that until I die as well, I will never get to see him again. I felt dizzy and started to sweat. My short brown hair clung to my tan face. I realized someone was talking and forced myself out of Never-Never Land and back to reality. It was my mom talking I realized, trying to focus on her words.
“Killed by Kurds in Afghanistan . . . just today . . . with other aid workers . . . all shot . . . 95% chance he’s dead . . . still trying to identify bodies . . .”
That’s when my mind flashed a scene of what it must have looked like when it all happened. I saw Brian with his sparkling brown eyes and ear length brown hair, laughing in the back of a filthy jeep, laughing along with his aid worker friends. The jeep stopping abruptly. Brian leaning around the front seat to see what’s going on. Two men caked with dust, standing in front of the jeep in the middle of the road with their hands making the universal stop sign. The jeeps occupants quieting down immediately upon spotting the men. The men’s footsteps booming as they moved to the right side of the jeep, guns loaded and ready. The first man’s face showing no emotion as he lifts the gun and fires the first bullets to the driver and passenger in the front of the jeep. Astonished by what is happening, the others raise their hands in surrender only to find that the men didn’t want their surrender; they wanted their blood. The other man now takes a turn in the “joy” and shoots everyone but Brian. Brian gulps in air knowing that it is his time to go. He sits up straight and holds his head up, determined to be known as the one who went down bravely. His finally thoughts are of his family and friends and childhood. The first man shoots Brian and laughs at the pain on Brian’s face before he dies.
My breathing became rapid and my eyes started to water. I slowly backed away from my mom. I noticed I was shaking and swaying on my feet. I grasped one of the nearby shelves and clung to it as if my life depended on it. That’s when I noticed the glass doors of the gas station open and my Aunt Twila walk in. My mom and my aunt talked in hushed voices as we walked to the bathroom to freshen up. Then my aunt took me to her house where I waited anxiously for a phone call from my mom.
A few days past. He’s that 5%. I told myself for the hundredth time. He’s that 5%. He has to be. I had been waiting for days to find out if Brian had indeed been in the jeep with the other aid workers. I paced the guest room I was staying in while I was at my aunt’s house. I hadn’t cried over Brian yet for two reasons, 1) I don’t cry often and if I do no one knows about it; and 2) I still believed he was the 5% that lived. I was nervously waiting for my mom to pick up the phone. 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . I counted each ring.
“Hello?” My mom’s voice sounded over the phone.
“Hey, Mom.” I greeted, trying not to rush into the question that was eating me alive. After asking the usual “How are you?” questions and talking about what all we’d done, I rushed into it.
“Mom, did you hear yet?” I was unable to say the unthinkable.
“Yes, I did.” She sighed. “Brian’s dead.”
This punch didn’t hurt as bad because a part of me had known it was coming. The unthinkable was now real.
“OK” I breathed. Then we said good-bye and I went back upstairs to play with my cousins.
It was the next day and I still hadn’t cried. I was in shock. It was Friday night and my aunt was upstairs putting my cousins to sleep for the night. I pulled out the bulky computer chair and got on the famous Facebook. I cautiously typed Brian’s name in the search bar at the top of the page. I was already friends with Brian on Facebook so his name popped up immediately. That’s when I saw the millions of notes that people had posted on Brian’s wall. I read a few then, with enormous tears sliding down my face, I wrote my own note. I cried heart wrenching sobs for the next five minutes not caring who would see me. I love and miss you Brian!! You were always like a big brother to me. ;)