What Follows

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2.1: Back At My Mansion

~you don’t realize how quickly everything can fall apart until it does~

My mouth is wide open when I find myself standing in my mansion’s living area, watching my pale-faced parents sit on the grey sofa that faced my siblings, Jacob and Aiden, who look like they just woke up. Their hair is everywhere, and they’re still in their striped, ‘good-boy’ pyjamas. According to the clock hanging from the wall, and the sunlight streaming from the window, it’s six in the morning.

My mom is still in yesterday’s clothes but has her blazer off, and Dad has changed to jeans and a grey sweater. They are holding hands, and I can tell from Aiden’s face that he knows that something’s up with them.

Before we speculate whatever the hell is going to happen, you need to know my siblings. Jacob: A sixteen-year-old idiot. And that says a lot for real. He’s the kind of kid who you’d so easily mistaken for an angel, with his soft blond hair, pale blue eyes, soft, pale skin, and million bucks smile. He’s the smartest in the family, and that’s probably why he’s so loved by everyone (because being smart means, being able to understand people). Until now, I believe that he uses his brains to trick people into loving him by kissing their asses.

I’m not sure if that makes sense, but it does to me.

Did I mention that he was my favourite sibling? No, I didn’t. It’s because he understands me and usually accompanies me in my loneliest moments. He knew when something was bothering me and would give me his stupid ‘advice’ in his more than ‘decade-and-a-half’ life journey. Which really had no effect on me. Clearly.

Aiden: The house’s Gandhi. Nineteen, on a gap year, and a huge gap-tooth (I know, irrelevant). Thinks that everything is amazing and that his girlfriend is the best thing that ever happened to him in his life. He takes of Dad and is roughly handsome, with dark-brown hair and eyes. I think his positivity, regardless of how shitty my life was made me dislike him a lot.

But, hey, he’s my brother. I love him, but not enough to stay alive for him.

“Are you going to let me go yet?” Tobias says in my ear, and I almost jump back when I notice that he’s still here.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I ask wide-eyed, detaching my hand from his forearm, not caring if I’m too loud (cause, of course, I’m not heard).

"You grabbed me? With you?” His hazel, thick-eyelashes-guarded eyes blink at me as his dark-pink lips form an apprehensive ‘o’.

I blink back at him, not understanding how this worked, and am about to give him my signature scowl when my dad starts speaking.

"Gentlemen-" He says, his voice calm and clear. “Please be seated.”

Aiden and Jacob glance at each other briefly, before they move in opposite directions each on a couch. I gulp at Mom’s red nose, and the tissue crumpled in her right fist.

“You, okay, Ma?” Jacob asks with a hesitant smile, and I feel myself move away from an astonished Tobias to my miserable Mom. Mom is obviously oblivious to how close I am to her, and I am surprised by how I find myself drawn to her grief.

I turn to watch my siblings’ faces as they await Mom’s answer. I frown and find myself shaking my head.

"Don’t-” I whisper uselessly.

"Your sister-” Mom starts, but a sob catches up on her, and she shakes her head. Dad glances at their intertwined hands, and immediately, Aiden jolts up.

With his thick, raspy voice, he whispers, “Died?” As soon as the word leaves his lips, his face falls, and his eyes jump from Mom to Dad, waiting for an answer.

Jacob is sitting idly, lips parted, and eyes wide and bloodshot. His hands are balled into fists by his sides as he looks up at his brother in disbelief.

“Your sister killed herself-” Dad rips the bandage off, and I gulp. “We found her in the tub, yesterday. When we returned home, when you were both asleep-”

“No-” Aiden shakes his head, and I feel my eyes burn. I am sure I should feel nothing, but my eyes sting nevertheless. Like I’m about to actually fucking cry like a baby if that’s possible in whatever dimension I’m wandering in. Mom breaks down into more sobs, and Jacob is still sitting, in a haze, staring at Mom’s shaking figure.

“I am lost at words too,” Dad says. “I don’t know...why-” He shakes his head as Aiden stumbles back and collapses into his couch. “She just did it-”

“She died alone?” Jacob whispers like it’s the worst thing he can ever imagine, and his question makes me hold my breath.

Mom looks up at him and purses her lips into a thin line. “She chose to die alone-” She shakes her head, and I gulp, not sure if that was what I chose. All I wanted was to evade loneliness actually.

I would’ve never chosen such a thing.

“She’d never-!” Jacob chokes it out, his face going red from all his contained emotion.

My parents look surprised at his outburst as Aiden drops his head in his hands and runs his fingers through his hair.

“That’s it?” Jacob blurts out. “She just...died?” He shakes his head and glances at Aiden who’s looking through the living area’s window. “Mom?” He turns his head to her pleadingly, despite the despondency evident on her face. “Mom, what the fuck?”

“Language-” Dad mutters, and Jacob almost loses his shit.

“Language?” Jacob makes a sour face before jumping up from his chair, grabbing Aiden’s attention. “My fucking sister just killed herself, and that’s what you can come up with?” Jacob shakes his head, blond hair strands falling over his unblinking, disbelieving, ocean eyes. “Have you no care to the fact that-" He then stops and pushing back his hair strands with shaky fingers. “-that she killed herself? Killed herself?”

I am watching Jacob, appalled at the emotion his face is showing. The anger that pulled down on his lips, the pain that lit his eyes with fresh, unfallen tears, and the disbelief that bared his canines.

Jacob glares at my parents.

“We’re aware Jacobson-” Dad says, using his full first name. “It shook us too-”

Jacob is now beyond the talking phase. He has fallen silent like his brother. My brother, Aiden. His lips are pursed shut as he progresses to the next phase. Fighting back tears.

He blinks at the ceiling, not willing to say a word. And I know that it’s because his voice breaks like a pubescent, and he’s always ashamed of it. He always tells me that it’s the reason why he hates crying. But here he is, defying his own ‘rules’ to talk about dead me in his breaking voice.

I’m sure, if I have a heart, it’d be broken.

“Has she left a letter?” He squeaks out, his neck reddening more by the second.

“Jake- hey-” Aiden starts, and gets up, ready to console his brother.

“No-” It’s Mom’s first time to speak, and I gulp.

I didn’t think that Jacob’s eyes could get sadder, but I am watching them become the epitome of sorrow.

“No?” He repeats, breathing hard, and looking down.

“Hey, Jake-” Aiden, bright-eyed, reaches for Jacob, but Jacob doesn’t seem to have it. He pulls his arm out of his clutch, glances around the area (I almost died again when his eyes unawaringly fell on me). He then backs away and walks right out of the mansion. Right out, with his pyjama’s sleeve up to his nose.

Dad lets out a sigh, and I’m surprised when I see a water drop on my hand. I gasp, pat my cheeks, and look at my apparently wet fingers. I am crying unawaringly. I grimace. What kind of hell is this?

Dad sighs, and Mom’s still looking at the open front door with a small, absent frown.

Aiden, my parents’ shoulder in the toughest of times, sits down and clasps his hands between his spread-out legs.

“How did she do it?” He asks them calmly, looking in his palms.

“Slit wrists,” Dad answers, not holding back as Aiden winces, closes his eyes, and turns his head to his right, where I stand.

There is a beat of silence where I sniff (Perhaps a reflex in this dimension or something, because one won’t even feel his own boogers?).

“Do you know why?” Aiden asks solemnly. “Why would she do that, that is?”

Dad and Mom glance at each other as if they’ve already discussed the matter, and came up with conclusive reasons. I stand, waiting for how they’ll explain my ‘killer’ to my brother.

“I-" Dad says, glancing at Mom who shakes her head. ”We- don’t really know. Maybe she was bullied?”

Aiden makes a face. “Maybe?”

"Probably-" Dad corrects himself, and I glare at him, sniffing more (I didn’t even need to look down to find my teardrops). “She didn’t even leave a letter to explain herself, son-”

“She didn’t think we’re worthy of a letter?” Aiden asks rhetorically, frowning. “Why?”

“Tomorrow’s her funeral-” Dad says monotone, ignoring Aiden’s question. “I don’t think Jake’s strong enough to tell her friends-” He shrugs. “He’s the one who-” He averts his gaze to the coffee table in front of him. “Who knew her well-”

“I know her well-” Aiden’s instant defensiveness surprises me. “I know exactly who her friends ar-were-" He frowns. “I’ve always-” He cocks his head to the side, taking a deep breath. “I’ve always kept an eye on her from afar.”

I almost gasp at what he says. What does he mean?

“You wouldn’t know why she did that?” Mom speaks for the second time.

Aiden bites down on his lower lip, clears his throat once. “No.”

Dad sighs, placing a hand on Mom’s back. “I guess it’s high time we tried getting some sleep-” He tells Aiden. “Your Mom’s been up all night-” Aiden looks at Mom and nods absently as I narrow my eyes at the affection Dad is showing to Mom.

It’s almost revolting to watch after all they’ve put me through.

“Come on Chell-” Dad urges Mom to get up as Aiden sits back in the chair, hands clasped, and eyes shut. “Let’s go to bed-”

Mom snaps out of whatever she’s been caught into and gets to her feet. After a few more inaudible whispers and uncomfortable shuffling, Dad and Mom go upstairs and leave me alone with Aiden.

I sit on the couch opposite to his, the one Jacob sat on, and stare at him. At his crumpled, stained pyjama shirt, and noticeably short pyjama pants. At his worn-out eyes, and the crease between his eyebrows that he always has whenever he’s lost in thought. He rubs his callous hands together, inhales deeply, closes his eyes, and hauls himself out of the chair.

He stands tall, hair unkempt, and face red as he looks at me. Literally. My eyes flutter, even though I’m certain he can’t see me. And then without any warning, he kicks the coffee table furiously, wiping a half-full ashtray off the table, and onto the ground with a soft thud.

He licks his lip quickly, frowning deeply, and looking around as I beg myself not to quiver at the sight of an angry and desperate Aiden. It is almost unholy, something wicked. I’ve never seen Aiden so angry or so petrified in my life.

And so watching him, front seat, dead, being furious, is a whole other level of ‘yes-I-fucked-up’. And for a second, I thought I’d be blinded by grief.

Aiden clutches his hair in his hands, looks up at the ceiling, and groans like an animal. Guttural and low.

I never thought I mattered that much.

Crying hopelessly and brokenly, he grabs his black coat, throws it over his shoulders, and leaves the house, slamming the door shut behind him. Just like Jacob did.

I can’t catch my breath as I continue staring at the door in shock. I can’t do anything but bring my hands to where my throat is supposedly present. It’s like I’m having a spiritual panic attack. Something that solely suffocates you. Something indescribable.

I know I’m probably crying uncontrollably because I start hiccoughing and sniffing like there’s no tomorrow as I stare at the door longingly.

"Holy chickens-” Someone says, and I yelp before turning and facing the chair where Aiden sat on. And where Tobias is now sitting.

I wipe my face with my hands and give a final sniff before glaring at his amused facial expression.

“Hope I’ve given you the entertainment this fucking joke of a place is lacking,” I say bitterly, my voice rough and raspy.

His eyes widen as he crosses his right leg over his bony, left knee. “That definitely was everything but entertaining. I’m not evil.”

I roll my eyes and rub my temples. “Whatever. You shouldn’t have seen this-” I absently lift my arm toward the couch my parents sat on. “Royal, bullshit drama-”

“You’re about to witness more of it-” He says casually, and I lift my brows.

“Aren’t we supposed to disappear or whatever voodoo?” I ask, grimacing and gulping. “I mean, what is this place?” I finally look up at his face. He is staring at me with a small, knowing smile.

When he realizes that the question wasn’t rhetorical, his smile and brows fall. “I don’t know-” He rolls his shoulders. “Some people say that it’s their personal hell. Some people say that it’s...pointless.” He catches my eyes. “It’s subjective, you know? Based on personalities-”

“Some people?” I ask in a stupor. “There are more people who killed themselves on the fifteenth of May?”

"Of course. Over the ages-" He sighs. “Unfortunately.”

"Unfortunately?" I frown, biting down on my lip as hard as I like because I really feel nothing. “You regret killing yourself?” I ask, and it isn’t because I regret it myself. At least not yet.

Tobias looks down and fumbles with his fingers. He doesn’t answer, and I sigh.

"You-" I start with wide eyes, and he looks up at me with a creased forehead. “How long have you been in this place?”

Tobias links his fingers together and uncrosses his legs. “You won’t believe me.”

I roll my eyes. “I can’t say anything will surprise me after all I’ve been through.”

Tobias nods once and leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and his face in his palms before locking my eyes.

"Thirty years.”

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