13 year old Sebastian Gonzalez raced downhill on his bike, stomach already in knots at the thought of his older brother Jorge's reaction to his tardiness.
He's gonna get onto me again.
Not that it wasn't entirely undeserved of course. This was the third day in a row that he'd be getting home after curfew and today was an especially important day.
He looked down at his watch.
He hadn't intended on losing track of time at Raul's house but one second he had time to spare and the next he was 5 minutes behind schedule. Now it was up to 25.
The sun had already begun to set and dusk was settling in, yet the Texas heat was still as intense as ever.
Of all the days, Sebastian. Of all the days.
Now he was chastising himself.
It was the one year anniversary of his mother's death and here he was, pedaling his heart out trying to get home for the brothers' personal memorial.
Their dad had been gone a year after his youngest brother, Abel, was born. Then, a year ago, when Jorge was 20, Sebastian was 12, and Abel was 9, their mother passed away from breast cancer.
Now all the three brothers had left was each other.
All that's left is us. Sebastian thought to himself. And I'm still late!
Their mom had left a little money for them, thanks to a decent life insurance. That wouldn't last forever, though, so Jorge took it upon himself to become the breadwinner, lest the brothers be separated and the youngest sent to foster care.
Now to add insult to injury he had recently been let go from his job.
A pang of guilt hit Sebastian's chest.
All that Jorge does for me and I can't even make it home on time.
His brother could be naggy and temperamental sometimes, but he knew that everything he did was for them. The least he could do is make it home in time for requiems.
As he continued to pedal, the house came into view. It was a depressing sight as all the lights remained off aside from one to the left.
The light to his mother's room.
He reached the fence and hopped off his bike, up onto the porch and to the front door.
Abel opened it before he had even reached the doorknob.
"Hurry up!" His little brother said, ushering him inside.
"I know, I know, I'm sorry."
They ran down the hall, into their mother's room.
"Jorge I'm sorry, I didn't even look at my watch, I didn't mean to-"
He stopped as his older brother looked up at him. Their eyes met and Sebastian could see Jorge's eyes red with tears. In his lap he held a photo album, currently open to a picture from Abel's 5th birthday party.
A cake in front of them, the small family was huddled together, smiling and laughing. Abel's little face was covered in icing, Jorge stood with a napkin trying to get him clean, and Sebastian had his arm around his mother's shoulder.
Teardrops fell to the plastic cover over the photos as Sebastian sat down next to Jorge on the bed.
"I'm sorry I'm late." He said, leaning his head onto his big brother's shoulder.
Abel sat on the other side. He too rested his head.
"It's ok." Jorge said, his voice cracked with sadness.
He closed the photo album and opened it to the first page again.
They began to flip through.