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A Brothers Keeper (Chapter 1)
“You never expect the unexpected. That of course is usually assumed by people, but when the unexpected happens to you, you start wondering if even Godidnt’t see that one coming.”
I remember the day we got the phone call that changed everything. Every aspect of our lives. Looking back I realize that I was afraid, change never comes easy. And when you suddenly find your life being shoved in a direction that you don’t wish it take, you start to pull in the opposite direction emotionally. All that that causes is friction, and as a result your life and emotions gets pretty confused and entangled. However when you come out of it, it makes everything that much more amazing.
It had started out as a normal weekend. I and Lile had slept way over normal decency again, as our usual. I remember Lile telling me the night before to get him up no later than three in the afternoon. But I myself had just woken up. I stumbled into the bathroom across from my bedroom and washed my face.
I had felt like punching the mirror. Starring back at me from the mirror was not myself, but my father. How I missed my father. My own reflection taunted me. The shockingly ocean blue eyes criticized me. My short blonde hair stood on end. My California tan face was splattered with ice cold water. A younger version of my father clearly. My mother had hated every part of me that had been of my father. Which was every part in almost every way.
I threw down the wash cloth. I stretched my fore arms, raising them above my head. I noticed the island shaped purple stain on my white tank top. “When was the last time I did the laundry?” I had no idea. “A couple weeks ago maybe? Great, that means I have to figure out how to work the washing machine at the laundry mat again.” I thought. Ever since Hannah had quite months ago nothing productive had been done around the two bedroom apartment.
Walking out of the small bathroom in only my boxers and tank top, I pounded on my brother’s bedroom door. A groan was admitted from inside. “Get up!” I yelled into the thick wood door. “It’s Saturday!” The voice cracked. “It’s also 4 in afternoon!” I replied, wondering what in the world was growing in the corner of hallway. My brother swore. “Why didn’t you wake me Strider?” “Hey man I just woke up!” Muttering from inside, a fist hitting the door. I jumped back and laughed.
Stepping around socks and underwear I made my way to the kitchen. Rather what was left of it. Dirty dishes were piled in and near the sink. Pots and pans, bowls and plates. Since it was only the two of us we didn’t do the dishes very often. I couldn’t remember the last time we had. Most of the time we would recycle the old dishes till they were too dirty to recognize. Open boxes of cereal lay spilled on the counter top. None of the healthy stuff either. Lucky Charms, Caption Crunch and Coco Puffs were what you would find if you looked closely at the jumbo mess. Some paper towels lay scrunched on the floor in some water that never fully got cleaned up.
Sticky notes hung off of the cabinets. A fan blew in the window. It was too expensive to turn the air on unless absolutely needed. The small breeze it caused kept ruffling the stacks of paper here in there. Last night’s microwave dinner still lay in its plastic wrapping on the stove. The fridge door was left open a crack. Milk was left spoiling nearby with the cap off. A pantry door hung by its hinge from being slammed so often. Some brownie crumbs were what decorated the floor. The trash can was over flowing, mostly with pudding cups. And I am pretty sure that had been turkey slices stuck to the ceiling with mustard. I heaved a sigh. If you looked up messy in the dictionary, our kitchen would be the first definition.
Grabbing a box of cereal off the counter, a bowl from the pile, and the milk from the counter I sat down at the cluttered rounded table and began to eat with a fork I had found on the tile floor. I read the expiration date on the back of the box. “Only a couple weeks over” I thought as I ate the stale Caption Crunch in the almost non liquid milk.
I heard my brother start the shower. I finished my entire bowl, as well as second and third. Then I put all the stuff back where I had found it. Then I thought better of it and put the milk in the small fridge. The shower stopped. The phone rang. Frantically I moved papers and boxes around trying the figure out where someone had put it. I grabbed it just as it stopped ringing. Looking at the number, I shrugged and tossed onto the couch.
“What do you want for dinner?” Lile asked walking into the kitchen. “Pizza?” “Well, I was kinda in the mood for Chinese.” I shook my head. “We had that a couple nights ago.” “Fine pizza, I’ll order.” “No mushrooms!” “Got it!”
I looked at the clock over the microwave. It was 4:15. We had only been awake for fifteen minutes, yet it was almost dinner time already. I snorted. It would be like this tomorrow to. Lile and I hardly ever did anything on the weekends. Except if I had a date with Melissa, which I didn’t. “When was the last time you went on a date?” I asked suddenly. Lile thought. “Last year’s prom” he said opening an Amp. “Why don’t you get yourself a girlfriend?” Lord knew that boy needed to get out more. He was popular, as far as I knew. Although he never went out except for football games or a random part at a friend’s house. Most of the time he sat at home reading books or playing that guitar of his. If dad had been there it would have been different, I don’t know exactly what he would have done but he did well by me right? I had a girlfriend, so obviously I was taught well. However, Lile…had Lile even ever had a girlfriend?
Lile looked at me, annoyed. “It’s so over rated! I don’t need a girlfriend. And besides, if I ever changed my mind it wouldn’t be that hard to get one”
I knew that to be true. Girls have always been in love with my brother. Taller than me, Lile is 6 foot 1. He works out at the gym every few days (one of the few places he actually did go) and though he always complained he about how much he weighed I knew it was all muscle weight. He is much darker than me. I just get tan in the summer, the golden sun kind; Lile is naturally tan all year round. He is dark complicated, just like our mom. His hair is dark brown, his eyes are almost black, so dark you would have to look for the pupil. He is the boy version of mother. He is all dark. Except his personality. He is a softy, as well as sweet and gentle. Like our dad. His smile shows him for who he really is. It lit up a room. Girls swooned at that smile.
“Whatever” I replied. Lile laughed. “You know it! I already got asked out twice.” I gave him a double take. “During the first week of school?” “Yep” Lile grinned. “By blondes too! Both cheerleaders!” I raised my eye brows. “And you turned them down?” Lile looked evil for a brief second. “What can I say? I leave a trail of broken hearts behind me! Look what you leave behind!” He said pointing at the scattered check mix that had followed me from where I had taken the box out of the cabinet to where I was standing. “Shut up!” I threw the phone at him. Lile just laughed and caught it.
“You weren’t home till one, late hours?” He asked. I nodded. “Yeah, but it is good to be out of school finally. Workings not so bad once you get used to it.”
I went through a pile of papers as Lile ordered the pizza. Stopping halfway I decided to just dump the whole thing in the trash until I noticed the return address of one of the thicker envelopes. Hanging up the phone he stepped around me when I held at the crisp clean letter towards him. “I don’t want to hear it, Strider” he muttered opening the fridge and staring into it. “This is a good school Lile. You have to think about college sometime.” Lile groaned. “Why does everybody assume I want to go to college? Maybe I don’t want to or need to for that matter” I rolled my eyes. “You’re going to collage! You are not sitting around here the rest of your life, at least not without bringing in a real pay check! What else would you do? Drive the bus?” I chuckled remembering my brothers dream job when he was ten. “Then again, we wouldn’t the whole cheerleading squad at some university to join the chorus of broken hearts singing out to you!” I mocked “Lile! Lile! Lile, come sit next to me! Come be my lab partner Lile!” I say in a poor imitation of a female’s voice.
Lile seemed to consider throwing the phone back at me. I eyed him. Just then the phone rang. “Saved the by ring” Lile said as he answered the phone. “What?!” I said giving him a weird look “Shhh. Hello.” Lile raised his eye brows. “Who?” He cocked his head, which he always does. It could mean anything. “Who is it?” I demanded with a mouth full of check mix. He held up his hand. A second later he put his shirt over the phone. “This man says he wants to speak to Aragorn Eden. Some law firm in Ohio” I raised my eye brows. I held out my hand. Lile gives up the phone willingly and makes his way towards the T.V. “Hello?” “Is this Aragorn Eden?” I bit my lip. I hated my name. Dear mother decided to name me off of her hero from her favorite books, Lord of the Rings. I went by Strider, like Aragorn did in the series. Not that Strider was that much better.
“Yeah, who’s this?” “This is Michael W. Phillips from James and Phillips Law. From North Ridgeville Ohio.” I paused for a second. “Um, what can I do for you? You know I live in California so I can’t really--” “Yes I am aware of that Mr. Eden. Are you the son of Matt and Mary Eden?” My heart skipped a beat. “Yes, I am.” I coughed. I heard some ruffling of papers. “That would be Mathew Jacob Eden and Mary Ellen Jackson Eden?” I shifted uncomfortably. “Yes sir.” More papers. “I am the late Mary Eden’s lawyer.” I froze. “The late??” I said, sure it was a mistake of the tongue. “I regret to inform you that your mother passed away three days ago in a car accident. September 17 2007 at 4:36 AM in Columbus Ohio. While talking on the phone she went through a red light. She got hit by a semi.”
I will never forget the feeling I felt just then. Time stopped. I hadn’t a word from or about my mother in what? 13, 14 years! Now I just heard that she died?? My breath was gone. I had felt like I had swallowed poison. I didn’t feel sad or remorse that she was gone; more or less I was glad! However, I was more annoyed that this would be brought up now at such a good time in my life. Ticked that I would have to deal with this. More painful memories would be drudged up. I felt dead myself, too many different emotions swirling around inside me for me understand and pick which one to feel. Instead a weird feeling of who cares settled onto my mind. I wasn’t gonna let this affect me, she wouldn’t have a hold over me. Not again.
“Mr. Eden?” The voice from the phone said. “Yes, uh, I am sorry to, to uh, to hear that.” I stuttered. What was I suppose to say? “What does he want?” Lile said. Before I could answer him the door bell rang. “Pizza’s here!” Lile made a bee line for the door. Him running towards the door made a sudden image of him as a young boy running towards the play ground being chased by our mother. I shook my head as the first stab of pain hit my gut.
“Mr. Eden, there are some things to go over. Do you think you could make it out here by Monday?” I rubbed my face. There was no way I had wanted to go down to my old home. That place was the idea of hell for me. I suddenly felt the need to pretend this never happened and to forget all about this stupid suggestion of returning to what should be called “home”. “I uh, why? Is it about the burial, or uh, the funeral? I don’t really care where you bury her.” I said. Not true, I didn’t want to be somewhere nice.
A long pause on the other end. “No. She left all of her assets to you and your brother. Uh, Phil-emon Eden? She left everything she owned or had pession of too both of you.” I sat down on the couch. “File-emon. Get it right! You’re my…my mothers lawyer you should know this!” I shook my head, trying to make sense of what shouldn’t be happening. Why would I care that he pronounced my brother’s name wrong? There were much bigger things to deal with right now, and our mother’s insane choices of our names were not one of them. I desperately needed a glass of water. I felt a little dizzy. This ridiculous, what the hell was going on? Your forgotten mother of the past does not just randomly die and then gives you all of her stuff suddenly does she?
After another long pause of nothing being said I cleared my throat;“I, err, uh could you not just mail it?” “Mail it!?” “You know…. the stuff?” Who was this guy? “Mr. Eden! I cannot just mail an entire house hold of items and money and debts to California! Not to mention your--” I blew out my breath. Great, debts. I also didn’t know if I wanted any furniture from that house. I didn’t want any of this. Of course life doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what it wants. “Sir, a plane ticket costs so much. I just got a new job; my brother would have to take a leave from school during the first week.” I tried to make up excuses, those had sounded pretty good to me at the time. Any excuse to not go was a good one as far as I was concerned. “I would appreciate it if you could just--” Buzzing in the background. “Mr. Eden I refuse to send a 13 year old girl all the way to California by herself after her mother just died! Not to mention there is guardian papers to sign.”
“What are you talking about?” I said confused, standing up. Maybe this was all some weird mistake, just a crazy mix up. Lile watched me while stuffing his mouth with cheese pizza, and I shook my head again to clear the image of him looking at me with those same dark brown eyes years ago when our mother wouldn’t come home. “Why your sister of course! Your mothers daughter?!”
I almost fell back onto the couch. “Wha-what?” My heart was pounding. “What do you mean what?” The lawyer said in obvious impatience. “I don’t have a sister” I replied matter of factly. Because a matter of fact for you here, I didn’t have a sister! Flipping of papers. I paced. “Uh, it says here you do. And I have met with her myself. She is the living likeness of your mother. She was a great help in finding the will.”
I swallowed. “Impossible. I know I don’t have a sister, pretty sure I would remember that” “No actually it’s not impossible at all” “I never knew, I haven’t heard from her, my mother, since my father left with us to California. Neither had he, to the best of my knowledge. Did she re-marry? Is she my half sister?” Coughing on the other end. “You never knew? Then I doubt the girl did either. In the will your mother claims she is Matt’s daughter.”
“What?! But he never returned!” “She was born the year your father left, so it is possible your mother just never told him.” “Huh? WHAT? They would never…their marriage was in… you’re crazy, I don’t have a sister!” This guy must be on crack. “You may want to sit down Mr. Eden.”
I sat on the floor. I had been on the phone for an hour. Lile had given up asking me what had happened. Oh how I had dreaded telling him. A sister? It was so crazy. My mom had done some crazy things before but—having my father’s child and not even telling him about it?!?! Mr. Phillips was faxing me more information. I had agreed to come down by Monday. I felt sick. The fax machine beeped in the kitchen. I ripped the crisp white paper out of the brand new machine I had stupidly insisted on buying.
I scanned over the paper quickly, wondering what name our mother had graced the girl with.
My mouth dropped open. HALO? “My mother named her Halo? What was she thinking? She out did herself this time. Wait, wait. It says goes by Hestia. What was her full name?” I thought as I searched through the papers.
When I found what I had been looking for I had laughed. I double checked it. Then laughed again. Even though I had felt more like crying. “Why?” Was all I could think. “Halo Obedience Pandora Eden? Oh God.” I sat the couch, resentment for this Halo Obedience Pandora Eden already filling my heart, and slowly spreading throughout.
“Who’s that?” Lile was standing above me. I had shook my head slowly.