○Living With The Guilt○

Just a random story that I had thought of a long time ago, but never really got to writing.

Chapter 2

The Loss of a Brother

Vanessa was sleeping soundly in her own bed when the front door slammed, jolting her awake. She sat up and looked at her digital alarm clock. “Holy fvck,” she whispered. It was already afternoon. Vanessa got dressed and went down to see who had slammed the door. “What the hell?”

“Vanessa–“ Mike cut off, concentrating on holding Susan up.

“What happened?” Vanessa started to panic, seeing her strong mother that weak. “Why is Mom crying like that?”

“Nessa, it's Matt,” Mike said, setting Susan down on the couch. She had fainted. “He's – well, there's no way to tell you gently – “

“Where's Matt?! What happened?! Tell me, Michael!” Mike didn't even register that Vanessa had called him by his full first name.

“Vanessa Mary Knight,” Mike said, gently grabbing her by the shoulders and looking her in the eye, “your brother's gone.”

Vanessa didn't understand at first. “This is a joke, right?” she asked weakly. “It's a mean prank?” She didn't need Mike's shake of the head to know the answer. Somehow she knew for certain that he was telling the truth. Her twin brother, the one she bickered with, the one she laughed with, and one she lived with for fifteen years – gone, dead. She would never eat with him, never make fun of old music videos with him, never tease him about being born five minutes after she was, again. The sheer reality of this hit her with such a force that she collapsed, just like her mother. Mike didn't have enough time to catch her, and everything went black.

“I'm sure she'll be fine,” Dr. Drake said, lifting Vanessa's eyelids and shining a little penlight into them. “So will Susan.”

“Okay, good,” Vanessa heard Mike say. “I hoped that they would be. I didn't expect them to collapse like that, they're both such strong women....”

“The death of a loved one often brings one down,” Dr. Drake said. “No matter how strong they are.” There was a dull thudding noise as the doctor patted Mike on the back, and Vanessa could hear Mike's ragged breathing, as if he were trying not to cry.

“Yes....” Mike said, trying to gain control of his voice.

“Why don't you sit down, Mike?” Dr. Drake said. “I know this must be very hard for you too.”

“It is, Dan, it is. I loved him like he was my biological son. It's the same with Vanessa too. Even though they aren't my flesh and blood, I still treated the two of them like they were. But now there's only Nessa....” Vanessa drifted back into the cool darkness, saved from hearing a grown man cry.

The week after Matt's death was a living hell. Vanessa stayed in her bedroom, not even leaving to eat, and didn't answer when Jacob or anyone else called. Mike tried to coax her downstairs, but gave up after a flower pot got thrown at him.

“I knew we shouldn't've let her have that flower box,” Mike mumbled, rubbing his leg where the pot had hit him.

“We didn't know that this would happen,” Susan said, brushing some dirt off of her husband's shirt. “Matt's death came as a huge shock to us, and to Vanessa, probably even more so.” Susan knew that no matter how many times they fought, nor how unalike they were, that the twins had been very close.

Vanessa sat in her room, staring out the window. Part of her view of the street outside was now clear, no longer obscured by the colorful carnations that had not long ago grew there. Tears, as silent as a newborn doe, rolled down her cheeks. She could see snug couples holding hands, giggling children running toward the playground at the end of the street, businessmen struggling to carry heavy briefcases. One of these businessmen dropped theirs, and it burst open, the wind carrying the papers that were inside up into the air. Vanessa watched the swirling white sheets as they blew further and further away from their owner, a slight smile tugging at her lips. She then paid no attention to what was going on, lost in her own thoughts.

She had turned away from her brother just like she did to that struggling man. If she hadn't hurt Matt's feelings like she did, maybe he wouldn't have been drinking himself into oblivion with the bad crowd. Maybe he hadn't taken up that dare to drive drunk. Maybe he wouldn't have got into that car and immediately drove into that ditch. Maybe.....

The word kept going through Vanessa's mind. Maybe. The tears fell faster and thicker as she blamed herself for her twin's death. With a great heaving sob she threw herself onto the floor, falling apart, crawling to her desk and yanking the drawer out. The contents fell into her lap, and she picked out, from the mess, what she needed to end this pain and regret.....

“Ready to try again?” Susan asked Mike, glancing at the clock. It was near dinnertime, and Vanessa hadn't ate lunch.

“I'm not looking forward to it,” Mike said, subconsciously shifting his bruised leg. “But if I must....” he sighed. Susan loaded a tray with food, and handed it to her husband.

“Good luck,” she said, and patted his cheek.

“I'll probably need it,” he responded, and started up the stairs. He knocked on the pale blue door that had the word “Vanessa” painted in gold letters. “Nessa?” he called out. No answer, but he hadn't really been expecting one. Pushing open the door with a tray full of food in his hands was difficult, but he managed. Mike looked up from the tray, and toward the window. Chicken and rice spilled onto the floor as Mike cried out, “VANESSA!”

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