The sun peeked through the trees and seeped through Zoe’s window as she finished up packing her bag. As she threw it over her shoulder she looked out and saw the red and yellow leaves of fall. The sun looked as if it was burning them, and when they fell and dried it up was because the sun had won.
She took a breath, and slipped on her shoes. As she tied the laces she counted the stars that were drawn on the sides and tips of the old white pair of converse.
Another breath, and she opened her door to the lively, yet quiet house.
All the counseling she’d taken still didn’t help her feel when it came to walking down the bedroom hall. She’d gotten better at it over the months, she’s able to look straight ahead, take note of the picture frames that are scattered about. Showcasing a family that was torn apart.
Zoe could understand that. She could look at the photos and still feel sad.
But time always slowed when she walked past her brothers room. Everything felt so distant everyday she did.
The house used to be full of yelling, slamming doors and pleading to open the door. But the halls were empty now, quiet.
There was no more laughter from siblings teasing each other, no one fighting between siblings because Connor stole her nail polish.
Those were all moved to the picture frames. Snapshots of moments that made Zoe wish things were back to the way they were.
But, maybe if they were back to how they were… Maybe Zoe could of helped her brother instead of hate him.
“Morning, Zoe!” Her mother called from down the stairs. “Your dad made breakfast–come on down.”
“C-Coming!” Zoe called, giving one last look to the vacant room and headed down.
“Mornin’ kiddo.” Her dad said, he was dressed in business attire and flipping pancakes. A true site to behold, and one that Zoe had gotten used to.
“I didn’t know it was Dad-day already.” Zoe sat down in her chair as her father brought a stack.
“Well, everyday is Dad-day.” He said, joining her.
“Oh yeah, just like everyday is Kidday.” Zoe forked a pancake and placed it on her plate.
“If everyday is Kid-day then why don’t you make breakfast everyday for us, hmm?” Her mother said, coming to the table with a fresh cup of coffee, planting a kiss on her head before sitting down.
“Because I have school, and you both are already up before me.” the daughter laughed and cut her pancake. “I make lunch on the weekends with you guys, and I help with dinner every night. So I’m holding up my mandatory Kid-day part of the everyday holiday.”
“I don’t think a holiday is a holiday if it’s everyday.” Her mother sipped her coffee and grabbed a pancake.
“Sure it is. We celebrate Chanukah.” Her father had a smile as he watched the two stop eating. The disappointment was palpable.
“Dad–” Zoe sighed.
“Larry–” Her mother looked at him
“It’s six in the morning, me and Mom don’t want to hear your jokes!” Zoe explained and watched as her father erupted with laughter.
“But it’s Dad-day !” He chuckled.
Zoe groaned and finished the rest of her breakfast quickly.
“Do you have everything?” Her mother asked, as Zoe slung her bass guitar over one shoulder and her bag on the next. “Lunch, and, just everything else.”
“Yeah Mom, I’m sure…” Zoe spoke up as her mother started to list off school supplies.
Her mother was smiled slightly. Her eyes were a mix sadness, with the smallest amount of joy. It’s been a year and saying goodbyes was still a hard thing for the family to do. Zoe pulled her mother into a hug thought a mess of farewell kisses and muttered ‘i love you’s’ they finally parted and Zoe alone, left for school.
She’d been carrying around her bass guitar for years that the strain on her back was normal, and she numbed it out. Focusing on the sounds around her. The leaves rustled and fell at her shoes.
The weather was saying that it would start getting colder… This weekend might be the last time we can go to the–
Her thought stopped as a welling of grief struck her. She continued walking; keeping an even stride, taking long deep breaths. The words were on her tongue, trying to escape. Her lips parted slightly, muttering the end of phrase. “The park… We probably won’t be able to come till spring.”
Her chest ached as she got the words out.
As she neared the school, she started to chew on thumb nail. Regular anxiety.
She walked through the doors and immediately veered toward the music room to drop off her instrument. The hallways were oddly always lively, even at such an early time. People were gathered in groups and talking about classes or listening to music.
Zoe just went right to her first class, stopping at her locker to gather her things for the next few classes.
During her free period she met with her guidance counselor. The deadlines for senior papers were coming up. Zoe had a few topics to pick from, and an idea of what to write… But finding the words for it was hard..
He crossed his arms and took off his glasses, twirling them. “Are you sure this is the topic you want to focus on?” He started.
“Yeah, see the reason is–”
The guidance counselor cut her off. “But it’s not about you… Your paper has to be about something important about you, so the colleges will want you.”
That was always the response.
“Can I discuss topics with my family?” Zoe asked, her hands were fiddling with the straps on her bag.
“Of course.” Her counselor answered, and glanced at the time. Gesturing her to go.
And the rest of the day was a blur.
She closed the front door and took off her shoes as a yawn escaped from her mouth. Gathering her things, she quickly went to her room and threw her bag on her bed. She was filled with an odd energy, adrenaline and anxiety.
The family sat down for dinner and talked about their days, how school was, how work was, how each of them were.
Zoe dropped her silverware. “Can I talk to you guys about something?”
The parents exchanged a glance, then looked at her.
“Of course, Zoe…” Her mother said.
“You can tell us anything, Zo.” Her father, spoke. Both parents placed their own silverware down.
“It’s just… For my paper, the one I have to sent to colleges, I have to pick a topic to write about…” She started. “And everytime I talked about it with my counselor he said it wasn’t a good idea, because it’s–It’s not about me .”
As she spoke, the regular pains of grief started to return. Tears started to well up in her eyes.
Her mother reached for her hand, lightly touching it. Giving comfort.
“I want… I want to write about Connor.” Zoe got out, and as she said her brothers name it was like a flood gate was opened. She sobbed uncontrollably. Her tears spilled as she got out her explanation. “I want to write about growing up with him and all the good things about him and how… how much he meant to me, how much he meant to our family!”
Her parents were crying, tears streaked their cheeks as the grief set in for another day.
Letting it all out was good. It was a build up of emotion that needed to get out. And Zoe let it out. Her parents did too
“He was so quiet. Always reading a book and listening to music.” His mother remembered.
“Remember how he would—He’d steal my nail polish… And write on himself in pen.” Zoe wiped her own tears away with her napkin.
“His laugh.” Her father smiled. “He-he didn’t laugh unless he found something really funny. And when it was, he–he couldn’t control himself.”
The mother and daughter nodded. Sniffling away the rest of their tears.
“Zoe, we’d love for you to write about that… And, I know your brother would, too.”
Zoe, still tearful, still sniffling, smiled.
That night, she sat at her desk and started to type…
The first words,
This is a letter to my brother, Connor Murphy.
And then the paper started with,
Dear Connor Murphy