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I Already Knew
My mouth is dry as I watch my parents come into the house. Mom takes off her coat; hangs it up. Dad shrugs out of his own jacket and follows suit. I look back down at the homework in front of me. Math. But I can’t focus.
“Well?” Spencer, my brother, asks. We all know what he refers to. Grandpa. The hospital. It.
Mom takes a seat on the leather chair near the fireplace, where I lay with my gray furry blanket and homework. I notice her red-rimmed eyes, the tissue in her partially-closed fist. The tissue in her hand is a sign of sadness and tragedy, heartbrokenness and grief. Her eyes...she’d been crying. I clench my jaw shut, look down at the algebra in front of me.
One of my sisters moves into the room, plops on the couch. Dad calls for the others. The popcorn I had eaten earlier suddenly gives my mouth a bad taste. I try to focus on the equation in front of me, focusing on y=mx+b. Y=MX+B, Y=MX+B, Y=MX+B.
“Daddy’s gonna tell you what happened at the hospital when you are quiet,” Mom says, looking at Dad, who stands near the couch. The littlest kids are giggling, fighting over a pillow. When they realize what Mom said, they stop. Everyone looks up at Dad expectantly. Except me. I already know.
Spencer lays on the ground beside me, a thick blanket pulled close. Jamie, Lia, and Logan are all on the couch, silently fighting over a pillow once more.Finally, Jamie and Lia give up and look at their dad. Waiting. Waiting. But I already knew. I knew because of the tissue, and her eyes, and...everything.
Logan gets up, grabs a toy from the floor. His siblings’ eyes follow him. Someone tells him to shut up and hold still. Then Dad opens his mouth and speaks.
“Yes. Grandpa has what—” he continues to talk, but I hardly hear anything. The other kids ask him questions. I fight the tears and finish the problem I’m on. Spencer puts his head in his arms.He probably won’t cry. Spence doesn’t cry, hardly ever.
Little Logan laughs at something, and everyone glares at him. “It isn’t funny, Logan,” Mom says. “Grandpa might not live.” That wipes the grin off his freckled face. Lia wants to know what It really is and what happens when you have It. I bite my tongue when I hear Dad say that people die from It sometimes.
Suddenly, Spence is in Mom’s arms, hugging her silently. Mom’s eyes are watery. Sad. Tired. Shattered. After pulling away, Spence goes into the bathroom down the hall, and the lock clicks shut. He isn’t really going to the bathroom. I’m not an idiot.
Jamie encases herself in my mom’s arms. I stare at my homework, unable to think. Y=MX+B. Right. Because that was what mattered.
I remember camping with Grandpa and Grandma, just me and Spence. I remember sleeping over at their house, and Grandpa would always get up early to go to work. He'd eat his breakfast out in the kitchen, and the light would shine beneath the guest room door. The times that I woke up, seeing that light, I would sneak out of the room and go eat cereal at the table as he prepared for work. It was sort of a sleepover-at-the-grandparents'-tradition to me.
Jamie moved away, and I closed in on my mother. Lia was hugging Dad, Logan nearby. For this one moment, the whole family was completely grief-stricken, shocked, silent.That didn’t happen often with a family of five kids, two adults, a dog, two cats, and two fish.
I hugged her for a long, long time, letting the tears drop from my nose to the floor. When had I started crying? I didn’t know. I didn’t even care anymore.
Eventually, she let me go, and I went to the animals. My dog. The kitties. Cuddling close with them, tears falling onto their fur, I could finally release all of the pent-up sobs within me. Lexi, the dog, licked my tears away, and the calico kitten rubbed her head underneath my hand. The striped kitten curled up by my feet.
And I cried. Because I had always known. He had liver cancer, and I had always known.