When we got the news about Danny Wyman, no one believed it. Danny was a good kid, a little quiet but he had straight A's and was a member of the math team. He was the kind of person who you knew even if you didn't talk to him. Danny and I had been best friends since we were 5 years old, and I prided myself on knowing him better than everyone else.
So, when word got out that Danny had taken his 7-year-old brother, Caleb, into the big pasture behind his uncle's house and shot him then turned the shotgun on himself, it was safe to say the town was shocked.
Their bodies were found two days before Danny's 14th birthday. The funeral for Caleb was that weekend. It was a closed casket, and I remember my mom's tight grasp on my hand and her quiet sobs as we walked towards the small, navy blue coffin. Navy blue was Caleb's favorite color. I wasn't thinking about Caleb, though.
I was thinking about the last time I saw Danny. It was the day before it happened. We were sitting under his window smoking cigarettes. It was around 1 AM, and we snuck out so his uncle wouldn't catch us, his big nose sniffing the air. Danny was letting me sign his cast.
I put my name right under the shaky, giant black letters of Caleb's. He broke his arm falling out of a tree the day before. He had been really quiet all night, staring off into the dark. I knew something was on his mind, but I didn't want to push it too hard. When I did eventually ask what waswrong, he didn't answer for a long time and just stared up at the sky. I was going to drop it, but he sighed and looked at me.
“I think I’m going to move out.”
"Why?" I asked. It was a wild concept to me, at 13, thinking about moving out. But then I thought about the time when we were 10, and Danny's uncle came home and saw that we had accidentally broken the window on his old truck. He didn't yell, just sent me home, and the next day in P.E I noticed Danny's thigh was covered in jagged, red scabbed over angry lines as if someone had cut him with broken glass. He made me promise not to tell anyone, so I didn't because Danny always knew what was best for Danny. He let me stay at his house during my parent's divorce last year, and I wanted to do something for him for once. So, I pretended it never happened.
“I just think it’s a good idea,” he said, bringing me back.
"Where will you go?" I asked, and he shrugged. I didn't know what to say, so we were quiet again.
I finished the flames surrounding my name, and he took a long drag off the cigarette.
“You could move in with me,” I whispered then immediately felt embarrassed when he just looked at me. I couldn’t read his face at first, but he smiled and shook his head.
"Thanks, Nick, but I was thinking something further away," he said. I pretended that it didn't hurt. Whenever we went inside, I pretended not to notice how he put the cigarette out on his stomach. Right before I went to sleep, I rolled over and looked up at him from the pallet on the floor. He wasn't sleeping.
"What about Caleb?" I asked him, and he didn't answer me, but I thought I heard him crying before I went to sleep. I pretended not to hear.
I knew how important that was in that moment standing over Caleb's body. Tears clouded my eyes, and my mom squeezed my hand so hard fingers throbbed.
A week later, Mom and I were at the grocery store. I was looking at the different magazines when a familiar voice caught my attention. Danny’s uncle and his wife Shelly were checking out in front of us.
“Yea, it’s crazy. We just found out she’s 3 weeks pregnant,” He was talking to the lady at the checkout. When he saw me staring, he smiled at me. I pretended I didn’t notice.
On the ride home, my mom asked if I was okay. I turned and looked at her, thought of Danny, thought of Caleb, thought of Shelly, and my vision blurred with tears.
Do I stop pretending? Or do I let the cycle continue?
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