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I watched my older sister throw her long, messy brown hair into an even messier pony tail before she stuck her Rockies baseball hat onto her head in the same backwards manner she always did. She wore an old hand-me-down, baggy black Wild Oats shirt that I’m sure she received from one of our brothers. Her shorts were her favorite pair of shiny red basketball shorts. She wore no shoes on her calloused feet.
My sister glared in my direction as she hopped off her bed. I smiled shyly at her, she only scowled in return. The deep frown on her face caused the smile to slip off my own. She stomped across our bedroom toward where I was perched on the barber’s chair that two of our brothers had found in an alleyway and dragged home. She reached out her dainty hand and tugged on the shirt I was wearing. It was a white and green Whole Foods shirt that I had snagged from her dresser when she was still asleep earlier that morning.
“That’s my shirt,” she mumbled, more to herself than to me, it seemed. “But you can wear it if you want. Just wash it ‘kay?” my sister added. I nodded my head enthusiastically as she turned away from me.
“Where ya goin’?” I asked hopping down from the barber’s chair to follow my sister. She didn’t turn around, instead she kept walking.
“To hang out on the roof,” she answered as we reached the stairs leading out of the basement. She stopped abruptly and turned to face me, a secret smile threatening the corner of her lips. She glanced quickly to her right where four of our brothers were watching TV.
“You wanna come with me?” she whispered, as she began to climb up the steep, narrow stairs.
“Yeah,” I answered, my grin spreading across my entire face. I followed my sister out into the backyard where the enormous tree stood, just waiting for us to climb it. So we did. We climbed the thick wooden branches as fast as we could, not caring about the cuts and bruises we’d have to cover with Arnica later.
We scrambled onto the roof, breaking off sticks and having a mini – sword fight while thirty feet off the ground. When our neighbors yelled at us and called us “stupid, f***ing kids,” we just laughed until our stomachs hurt.
When our laughter died down, Xylia and I laid side by side, watching the sun set. We could hear our brothers shouting our names, but neither of us felt like returning from our blissful haven on the top of the roof.
“Hey Xylia?” I asked, gazing at the sky.
“Hm?” she answered quietly.
“We’ll be best friends forever, won’t we?” I asked, crossing my fingers that she would say yes. I am forever surrounded by boys, we both are; and I like them and all, but Xylia is my best friend. I watched as the very first star showed up in the night sky. I closed my sapphire eyes and wished as hard as my little eleven-year-old mind would allow me to.
Xylia giggled at my question. “Of course we will crazy Quen,” she replied, using my nickname. My real name is Quentin, Quentin Lane Oakley. I am the fifth Oakley child, hence the name, Quentin.
“Do you promise?” I had to make sure. Xylia reached over and gripped my hand in hers. She stared at me with the gorgeous emerald eyes that I wish I had been born with.
“I promise.” She squeezed my hand lightly. I wanted to be just like my sister. I dressed like her; I tried to act like her. She was my role model. She made living with six crazy brothers bearable.
My sister was my best friend; she would never lie to me.
But she did.
“Goddammit Quentin! Get out of the f***ing way!” my older brother, Uriah, shouted at me. I rolled my eyes and glared at him.
“Why don’t you shut the f*** up?” I snapped back as I flopped down onto the old, leather couch. I honestly have no f***ing idea why I even bother to come down from my room anymore.
“Quentin, don’t be so snappy,” Xylia warned me in that superior voice she likes to use. Of course she always jumps in at the wrong time. She never scolds Uriah for the way he talks to me, or for Thane and Olli being annoying and bratty as hell. Or God forbid her precious Kyler. Ugh! I f***ing hate my life!
I stood to my feet and stormed out of the TV room, up to my own. Nobody even looked up when I left. Nobody cares about me anymore.
Unwanted tears welled up in my eyes, the eyes I can’t stand to look at anymore. I brushed them away quickly with my index finger, but more took their place.
When did my life get so f***ed up? I wanted to punch something. Mama is not around enough for me to talk to her, she’s always too busy dealing with my brothers, or Xylia. My problems are never big enough for her to see. I’m not a juvenile delinquent like Xylia, Rebel, Uriah and Gyles, I don’t have a life threatening disease like Thane and Oliver; and I’m not the youngest, like Kyler.
I’m Quentin, the fifth child. That’s it. I play rough, and have mostly guys for friends, but that gets me nothing but dirty looks from other girls and rumors spread about me. I wish Xylia was my best friend again, but she’s too busy trying to be the second mother when Mama is gone, and doing her homework so she can graduate. And when she’s not doing those things, she’s hanging out with her friends. She has no time for her former best friend anymore.
I bring my knees to my chest and rock back and forth on my floor as I allow tears to soak my baggy, “tomboy” clothes. How is it possible to feel so alone among so many people?
My eyes shift to my cell phone and dial Rebel’s number. I haven’t talked to him in weeks, but I wanna talk to him anyway. Maybe he’d make me feel better.
“Hey Quentin, what’s up?” Rebel’s voice is clear on the phone, but he sounds annoyed and rushed.
“Are you busy?” I asked, and cringed. My voice sounded mousy, even to me.
“Not really, but can you make this fast?” I feel more tears leak from my eyes and hang up without saying another word.
Being sensitive is a f***ing curse. Every hurtful word or unkind glance in my direction adds one more cut into my fragile heart. I can't take it anymore! Rebel was my last try. I’ve done so much to try and get their attention, but I might as well be invisible. I curled up in a ball for hours, until I’d shed every tear I could.
When I finally dragged myself to my feet, it was well past midnight. I could hear Mama’s TV on down the hall, and my brothers’ soft snoring coming from a few doors down. I slipped out of my room and down the stairs toward Xylia’s room.
When I arrived, I found Xylia dressed completely in black, she was about to go meet up with “the guys,” I could just tell. She narrowed her eyes when I entered the room.
I wanted so badly for her to notice that I had been crying. I wanted her expression to soften and for her to smooth down my hair and tell me that life would get better, like she did when dad left. But she didn’t, she was done playing Mom Two for the day.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed Quentin?” she asked, brushing passed me to grab her jacket.
“Yeah. But… can I talk to you Xylia?” I asked, pleading with her. Xylia’s eyes softened slightly.
“Why don’t we talk tomorrow Quen?” Xylia answered giving me a quick hug. I wanted to scream. Why couldn’t I have my Xylia back? She was my only ally, now I have none.
I can understand not being able to hang out with her former best friend, but why couldn’t she talk to her sister? The one who is dying on the inside?
I tip-toed back up to my room, and looking around, something snapped. Since this world no longer wanted me, I didn’t want it. I grabbed my climbing rope out from under my bed and threw it over the rafter on my ceiling. I climbed onto a chair and slid the noose around my neck. As I kicked away the chair I could hear voices calling out my name, and my phone vibrating in my pocket. I heard pounding footsteps on the stairs.
Xylia flung my door open and her eyes widened. A scream echoed from her lips, causing more footsteps and voices. She reached me in time for me to hear,
“I’m sorry Quentin, I love you. I’m sorry…” I felt my body being cut down and I fell into soft arms. I felt Xylia’s cold fingers running through my hair, as she told me life would be better soon. I felt her squeeze my hand and whisper, for only me to hear, “You’re my best friend Quen, but I’ve been so awful. Please, Quenny, forgive me. You have to promise me you’ll keep breathing.” I don’t remember how much time passed before I opened my mouth.
“I promise,” I whispered hoarsely, even though I didn’t want to at the moment. Because deep down, I really did. Xylia squeezed my hand and I weakly squeezed hers back, as chaos filled my room. An inky abyss took hold of me then, and dragged me into a cavernous, unending blackness.
'Wait,' I felt like screaming. 'I changed my mind! I don't want this!' But no sound escaped. I was trapped. How will I ever get back to X? I tried to struggle against the darkness... but there was nothing I could do. I was confined to the empty void with no hope of ever returning to my family.
I sit here, next to your bed, wondering if you'll ever get to read this letter. I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry I ignored you for so long. I'm sorry that I was so wrapped up in my own stupid problems that I didn't notice how badly you were hurting. If I could, my Quenny, dearest, I'd go back in time and talk to you for hours, like we used to. I'd lay across your bed and try and make you laugh through your tears. I just wish... that you would open those gorgeous sapphire eyes and let me see your smile one last time.
You can't leave me like this, sis. You haven't even had your first kiss. You haven't told a boy you loved him. You haven't made the mistakes that teenagers make. You haven't done any of the things a young teenager like yourself is supposed to do. You can't leave yet. But most of all Quen... you can't leave me alone against the world. You're my only sister... how could I ever face the world without you?