Two tries in one day is exhausting, so I make a hot cocoa and surrender in front of the T.V. I listen closely to a tree branch that always taps on the windowsill when the wind is howling. My isolation feels comfortable after failing to leave the house. The familiarity of the walls around me provides me with a sense of security. Inside these walls, I’m safe from the world. I can be nobody, there is no judgment and people can’t label me or blame me for my mistakes. Inside these walls, it’s like Owen isn’t lying in a hospital bed because of me. My denial is real here and my sorrows are contained, they can’t wander anywhere.
A pink light reflects on the kitchen cabinets, which makes me wonder what the sunset looks like. My parents barge into the house looking cheerful. I resist the urge to ask, but dad just blurts it out. “Owen is coming home tomorrow.”
I feel myself begin to hyperventilate and head to the bathroom. I gaze at my frizzy hair in the mirror with disgust. Before all this happened I used to spend hours, fixing it and making sure my make up matched my clothes. There is this wall that surrounds me I don’t know if I should shatter it or remain on the inside. I close my eyes and the car crash returns to my mind. Owen was singing in the backseat while I was dropping him off to his Karate class and I received a text from a friend. The road ahead was clear, so I thought I’d peek at my phone. It took a second for a car to crash onto Owen’s side of the car. He was in a comma for ten days. A tear drops on the sink and I’m certain I don’t deserve to lead a normal life after this, I deserve to stay home wallowing in my guilt.
Balloons float over the “Welcome home” banner in the living room. On the floor, there is a pile of gifts from relatives and Owen’s schoolmates. I pace the living room back and forth waiting for my parents’ car to stop in the driveway. I’m excited and overwhelmed at the same time about what my brother would think of me.
Owen walks in slowly as if he’s taking in the scene in front of him and then his eyes slip to me.
“Sophie!” Owen darts to me and wraps his arms around my waist. I spot a scar at the top of his forehead and my eyes fill with tears. He crouches on the floor and starts opening his presents. I sit across him on the floor staring into his blue eyes. He looks skinnier and there are dark circles under his eyes but his giggle hasn’t changed. All of a sudden, he stands up and urges me to follow him.
“Come and play with me outside.” Owen says and tries to open the door that leads to the backyard when I stop him.
“There’s snow!” He squeals.
My posture is stiff and I can feel my parents stare, “I’ll watch from here.” I explain to him certain that there is a fake smile planted on my face. On the inside it’s like a ton of bricks just landed on my chest.
“Bu-” Owen whines.
“It’s dinner time.” My father interrupts, “There’s a special dessert.” He winks at Owen and my brother grins.
I rest in bed listening to my parents whisper a bedtime story to Owen. Twenty minutes later, his bedroom light goes off in the hallway. I close my eyes but my mind is racing trying to figure a way out of my situation.
“Pssst.” I hear coming from outside my door,
“Psst. Can I come in?”
“Yes.” I grin to myself. Owen pushes the door open and jumps on my bed. I wonder how he has all this energy. His brown hair is almost in his eyes as he stares at me.
“What?” I ask laughing, “Didn’t they just tuck you in?”
“Yes.” He collapses on my bed and tucks himself under my sheets. He points at the space on the bed so I can sleep next to him. I rest my head on the pillows and he immediately hugs me.
“I miss you.” Owen whispers, “I want to play with you all day tomorrow…we can make another snowman.”
I hesitate and I can feel my palms
begin to sweat, “I can watch you from the inside.”
“That’s not fun.” Owen pouts.
“Okay I’ll try.” I reply and look over at him to see if he is disappointed but he is already fast asleep.
The next day, Owen keeps nagging me to come with him to the backyard and I keep postponing. I’m afraid to freeze in front of him or collapse like before. If it happens, I can always pretend as if we are playing a game, right? Owen rushes inside to get something from the kitchen and comes back with a carrot.
“What’s this for?” I ask while Owen’s weight pushes me towards the back door. I halt at the open doorframe as the frost kisses my face. Owen is looking at me and saying something but I can’t hear it. My parent’s voices turns into a blur as the sun blazes in my eyes. I haven’t felt this direct warmth in two weeks so I stop until my eyes and skin get used to the new environment. I stare at this little person in front of me and it hits me that he has been through so much worse. Owen has been in hospital for two weeks while I left the accident unharmed. He has every reason to wallow and stay home yet he is full of smiles.
My eyes dart back and forth from the safety of these walls to this vast world out there. The thick blanket of snow silences some of my thoughts. I’m afraid to sway with the breeze and break instead I remain planted to the ground. My invisible shackles loosen as Owen cheers my achievement and he keeps asking me to help him with the snowman. From inside these walls, I realize second chances exist. I’m captivated by the view and my body leans forward as if ushering me to take that first step.
I want to return to the safety of my bedroom when Owen’s giggle interrupts my thoughts.
“Hurry up, silly!” Owen yells and his voice radiates enough strength to shatter my walls. All of a sudden, my feet decide to co-operate with me and I finally step outside.
You can find Part one here :