Chapter 10 - Part 1
The next couple of days, Jessica felt unsettled, and she couldn’t shake the feeling.
It didn’t help that Thursday she woke up knowing nothing good would come of the day. She studied the date in her phone. It was a date that would always hold meaning for her. It was the second anniversary of Dylan’s death. Myles hadn’t mentioned anything the day before, but he would know what day it was.
She had decided not to say anything about Dylan for fear it would upset Myles. Unless he mentioned something, she would pretend it was just another day.
With her decision made, she dragged herself out of bed and got ready for work. As usual, Myles was seated at the breakfast table drinking coffee.
“Morning,” she said cheerily, even though her heart felt so heavy.
“You’re in a good mood.” He studied her pensively.
Maybe she was overdoing it. She needed to scale back the pretend happiness.
“Not really.” She turned her back to make coffee.
Just be normal, she told herself, trying to find a balance in between.
As usual she sat across from him and drank her coffee before they left for work. He was his usual self as she studied him while he drove. He seemed quieter than usual, but there was no way to know for sure the reason was Dylan.
She was starting to make some headway with the filing. That morning, she spent her time poring over the piles, trying to get some order going.
At lunchtime, Joe brought her a sandwich instead of Myles, and his excuse that Myles had been caught up with a client wasn’t something she felt a need to question.
It was only later that she did, when Joe popped his head into the office, breaking her concentration.
“Myles is leaving early. I’ll be taking you home later. Just let me know when you’re done.”
Still clasping papers in her hands, she nodded, and then he left.
Why had Myles left early? It was only four. He hadn’t said anything. Every reason he could possibly have passed through her mind, but only one concerned her. Did it have something to do with Dylan? She had spent the best part of the day trying to keep herself from thinking about it, but she hadn’t been successful.
It was on days like this that it was difficult not to think of all the things Dylan wouldn’t get to do, and it was heartbreaking. He had died so young, before he had even had a chance to really live.
With her thoughts centered around Dylan, she eventually gave up trying to do any more work. She stretched her stiff back before she went looking for Joe, then found him working on a car.
It was six, two hours after Myles had left.
“You ready?” he asked while wiping his hands with a cloth.
She nodded. “My brain is frazzled. I can’t concentrate anymore.”
“I don’t know how you’ve persevered with that mess. I’ve been telling Myles we needed to sort it out ages ago, but he just kept ignoring it.”
He grabbed his keys.
“I can wait if you still have things to do,” she offered, but he shook his head.
“No, I’m done. I’ve been waiting for you.”
She was relieved as she wanted to get home to see Myles, although she wasn’t even sure if he would be home. Maybe he’d made plans to go out, but surely he would have said something to her.
She was nervous the whole ride home, and there were a few times she was tempted to ask Joe why Myles had gone home early, but she didn’t.
Joe dropped her outside the house and he waited for her to enter the front door and close it before she heard him pull away.
The house was dark, so she switched the lights on. The sight of Myles seated on the floor with his back to the sofa, with his knees drawn up to his chest, greeted her. He had what looked like a bottle of whiskey in his right hand, and a look of sadness that shook her.
“Myles,” she said softly as she dropped her bag and approached him slowly.
He seemed to realize he wasn’t alone and he raised his eyes to hers.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” she whispered as she sat down beside him.
“What, that I’m so pathetic I can’t function on the anniversary of the day my brother took his life?”
She swallowed hard as she turned to him and put her arms around him. “I’m sorry.” No words would take away his pain, but she felt the need to say them to him.
He was stiff, but she continued to hold him like she could share his burden and ease his pain.
“It’s all I could think about today.” She lay her head on his shoulder. She sighed. “The first anniversary of his death, I couldn’t make it out of bed.” He had to know he wasn’t the only one struggling to deal with the aftermath of his brother’s death. She bet Karsyn wasn’t coping any better.
His shoulders slumped. She lifted her head and he leaned his head against hers. In that moment, they were sharing their gut-wrenching grief with someone who understood it.
“I tried. I tried to be okay, but…why does is still hurt so much? How can am I supposed understand why he did it?” He let out an emotional breath. “It makes me angry he did this to us.”
He shifted slightly to take a gulp from the bottle before he handed it to her. She released him and took a swig. It burned down her throat and grimaced as it momentarily stole her breath.
“All he left was some crappy note.” He sighed. “Like it’s supposed to make it all okay.”
The mention of the note felt like a physical wave of pain that washed over her. She remembered every word of his suicide note. It was something she tried not to think about, because it was too painful. It added to her guilt, making it difficult to breathe or function.
“I know.” She was still too deep in her own grief to be able to pull him out of his. She took another gulp of the whiskey and grimaced.
She handed him the bottle and then leaned her head against his shoulder. She needed to feel close to him; it was something she couldn’t explain.
When he moved to stand, she scrambled to her feet. He strode to the hallway that led to the rooms and she hurried after him, worried about what he would do in the state he was in.
She had failed one brother—she wasn’t going to fail another. He wrenched the door to Dylan’s room open and then entered it. Then he flipped the switch on, flooding the room with light.
“Myles,” she started as she found herself in the room she hadn’t stepped into since the night Dylan had taken his last breath.
For a moment she was winded. The room looked exactly the way she remembered. Each detail was engraved in her memory. She inhaled as the memories hit her all at once. Dylan laughing and smiling, the sound of his laughter echoing in the distance somewhere…all as if, despite their pain at his passing, he was still close.
“I want to know why he thought dying was his only option.” He closed his eyes, tightening his fists as he wrestled with his inner anger. “Why?”
That night, Myles had been out with Joe.
He swung his gaze to her, and his eyes pleaded with hers. She could have said something then and there, but when her lips moved, no words came out. She wasn’t strong enough to tell him the secret she had been hiding for so long.
“Afterward I spent so much time going over every little thing, wondering what I missed, but even then I didn’t see anything! Nothing! He was my brother—how did I not know what he was going through? I should have seen something, anything!”
Her eyes watered. She wanted to open her mouth and tell him the truth, but she was a coward. She hated herself for being so weak.
And it was as if all his anger evaporated in an instant and all that was left was defeat.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, sounding so haggard, and a tear escaped down her face.
“Don’t cry, Jess.” He brushed it from her cheek. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have drank today. This”—he gazed down to the bottle he still held tightly in his hand—“isn’t helping, either. But I just want to be numb, you know?”
She nodded. “You don’t have to be okay with me. If this is what you need, I’ll sit with you all night long.” She swallowed.
“There has to be a better way to deal with this. The problem is I don’t know what it is. Last year, I drank myself into oblivion. Is this what I’m going to be forced to do every year when I’m faced with another year without him?” His eyes earnestly questioned hers, like she had all the answers—but she, like him, didn’t have any.
“You deal with it as best you can,” she answered, reaching out to touch his arm gently. “If you need to cry, then cry. If you want to yell, then shout as loud as you want—and if you want to drink until you can’t feel anything, then I’ll watch over you. You don’t have to do this alone.”
His eyes were rimmed with redness.
She gave him a sad smile and moved to hug his waist. His arms reluctantly wrapped around her to return it as he rested his chin on the top of her head. She wanted to be able to take his pain away from him, but it wasn’t possible when she was struggling with the weight of her own.