I didn’t want to tell them what I had seen; I didn’t want to tell Marlee and Amaya that just thinking of my brothers being happy like they had been years before had the power to break me.
I didn’t want them to know and have the power to break me, too.
“I remembered something,” I began slowly, hesitating with every syllable that left my tongue.
“We noticed that,” Marlee said dryly, “what we want to know is why you passed out over it and why you suddenly remembered it now of all times.”
I stared at her, my mouth shutting for a moment. I still didn’t want to say anything.
“We just don’t want it to happen again,” Amaya added helpfully, glancing between us.
“Right…” I took a slow breath. “I think I remembered it because…” I hesitated again, “well, you were being mischievous.” I looked at Marlee. “You had a look on your face that looked like the face my brother used to make when I should run from him shrieking in laughter and stuff.” I glanced away. “Kialos was… I don’t know. He was my brother, but he was also my best friend, too. We messed around together, we played pranks with each other, and if we got in trouble, we only ever threw each other under the bus when it wasn’t a horrible punishment. Out of all my brothers, I managed to love Kia the most.”
Amaya looked confused. “Who’s Kia?”
I blinked, “Oh. Kia is Kialos’s nickname. All of them had nicknames because some names are too long to say even when they’re only four letters long.”
Marlee chuckled. “Sounds about right.”
I smiled slightly. “Eliaz was Eli, Alanis was Lani, Dionte was Dion, Cyneley was Cyn, Ethelred was Ethel and he would glare at anyone who used his full name, which was funny. Then Joran was JJ, Rexton was Rex, Omri was Ri, Asil was Sil…”
“Stop,” Marlee looked dazed. “You need to keep in mind that I know nothing about your brothers whatsoever and this is just confusing me.”
“Oh,” I blinked, glancing at Amaya. “You too?”
Amaya shrugged. “I sorta remember a few things, but they’re just names to me.”
For some reason, I didn’t really want to let that be all they knew of my brothers. “Well, we were a strange family—”
“You can say 'is,'” Marlee piped in. “Just because they aren’t here anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t your family members.”
I looked at her, my head tilting for a moment as a small smile crept over my face. “Thanks,” I said, then continued. “Even now I’m not sure who was the oldest, I just know that we all messed around with each other and didn’t always care about life itself. Other times, we had to.” I felt the smile slide off my face as I thought about it.
“JJ had a bad leg, which drove him insane, but he worked really hard around the house. He was in charge of all the legal papers and forgery and stuff. My father never wanted me to learn any of that stuff, but I knew that JJ did it. Rex was the bodyguard of sorts. We all played different roles from time to time, but Rex was always the bodyguard of sorts. If I had to go somewhere for some reason, chances were that Rex was sent with me.”
I smiled a wry smile as I thought back on it. “At first, I kept losing him. He was supposed to be tailing me, but I’d purposely run off and confuse him so that I could get away. The city was where I’d started and I just wanted to see it. I didn’t think that was so unreasonable.”
I let out a long sigh. “By my father… he wasn’t too thrilled that his ‘baby girl’ was off in the big city alone. After being a mob boss for so long, he had made enemies that scared him more than he wanted to let on. In the end, those enemies turned him in.”
Marlee narrowed her eyes at me. “And you know that for certain?”
I looked steadily back at her. “They’re the only ones who knew that we didn’t live in the house that we said we lived in,” I replied gravely, “believe me when I said that no one knew where we actually lived.”
I felt myself start to close off. “I left the day I got my father’s note.” I shook my head mirthlessly. “I had gone adventuring without Rex that day. If I had taken him with me, maybe I would still be back there. Maybe we could’ve gotten them free.”
“You couldn’t have changed anything,” Amaya said confidently. “Fate has its way with us and it seems to think that it’s funny to watch us suffer. If you were meant to be here, then you were going to end up here one way or another, whether you went against the original path you were supposed to follow or not. One way or another, you would’ve gotten here.”
I shook my head, not looking at her. “I never said that I was wondering about whether I would’ve ended up here. I’m sure I would’ve eventually. I have a habit of getting myself into stuff that I shouldn’t.” I turned towards the castle, already ready to move on to the next part of our mission of sorts.
“The question is whether or not I’d be alone when I came here.”
The words were spoken into the wind that chose that exact moment to pick up, and for a moment, I wondered if the girls had even heard them.
Marlee walked up beside me, silently just standing there, facing the castle the same way I was.
After a moment, Amaya appeared on my other side.
“You aren’t alone,” she said softly, sliding her arm around my shoulders.
I glanced over, smiling slightly. “Thank you,” I replied in kind, my whispers blending into the breeze.
“Well, now that we’re done being mushy and avoiding what we were supposed to be talking about,” Marlee began, stepping away from me and shooting me a knowing look, “shall we start to work on getting into this place?”
I smiled slightly. “Sure.”
After all, the alternative was telling her the other part of the flashback. The part that I wasn’t even sure of.
The part that I clung to like it was my lifeline because it might be all I have left of my family.
I would never let it go without a fight.