Yawning, I leant back in my chair, kicking my feet up onto a spare one, and took a mouthful of the steaming hot coffee that I was clutching in my hands. On some level I was still hoping that the hot liquid might provide some comfort to the continuous ache in my chest, but just like every day… that didn’t happen.
“You know you’re an idiot right?” My sister sighed with exasperation as she helped herself to a mug of coffee and joined me at the kitchen table, fixing me with her most disapproving scowl.
“Mari, you have no idea what you’re talking about okay.” I snapped.
“Of course I do. You just threw away the best thing that ever happened to you. In fact, I could use many other words to describe you, but I thought it might be too early for such harsh abuse.”
It was my turn to scowl this time. How could she think that this was easy on me. That I threw Lacey away. I rolled my eyes at her continued stubbornness and slid my mug away from me. It had been a week since I’d broken things off with Lacey, and every single one of those days had been hell. Working alongside her meant that I was forced to feel that familiar spark, and relive every fun or intimate moment between us whenever I laid eyes on her. To ask myself a million questions about whether I was doing the right thing, or if there was a way around it. But no matter how much I may have wanted to run to her and hold her in my arms, promising that I would never let her go again, I was always halted by that chilling image of Em at the funeral, and the idea of our relationship ending in the same way someday.
“Just why are you here?” I asked bitterly, feeling irritated by my sister’s continuous lack of civilised behaviour at my pain.
She softened at my question, and for the first time this week, I saw actual care.
“Because you’re my big brother, and I love you. Me giving you crap is just my way of showing you.”
She reached out a hand, wrapping it around my wrist and smiling weakly at me. I returned her smile, realising that she meant what she was saying, and recalling all the other times in the past that she’d acted the same way. I’d just missed the point of her crappy attitude these past days, too busy being consumed by my own loss.
“Thanks.” I replied.
“So what are you going to do?” She asked.
She swatted my arm and I snatched it back, nudging her with my foot and shooting a warning look in her direction.
“About Lacey dumbass. You have to fix this.”
I groaned and raked my hand through my hair, getting to my feet and walking away to try to avoid answering. I should have known better though as I heard my sister’s footsteps following me.
Realising that there was no way to evade her, I slumped on the sofa and switched tactics, turning on the television and cranking up the volume.
“I can do this all day if it takes!” She shouted, walking into the room a second later and scrambling over the arm of the sofa, before perching on it and making it clear that she was in this for the long haul.
“Well maybe I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But Bane you nee-”
“No I don’t!” I snapped, muting the tv and throwing the remote down as the building pain I’d built up inside, switched to flaring anger. “I don’t need to fix it, because fixing it will destroy us both.”
Marya’s eyes widened, shocked by my outburst and clearly unnerved, having never angered me like this before.
“I’m sorry.” She muttered.
“I can’t keep trying to explain why I did it, because everytime I do, I think of all the reasons that I should, and want to, go back to her.” I shook my head in resignation, the anger subsiding as quickly as it had come. “And then I have to relive the same reasons why I can’t… and it’s killing me Mari. I love her, but at least this way, she can have the chance to move on. To fall for someone who will be able to build a life with her, knowing that each day, he will make it back home and hold her in his arms.”
Her head bowed sadly as my voice cracked at the very idea of another man being the one to give her all that I wanted to give her.
“I can’t promise that, and I can’t ask her to take the chance that she will be on her own one day, standing in a church looking at a picture of me beside a coffin, and having to realise that I won’t be coming back to her. And it’s selfish I know, but I can’t face the idea that it might happen the other way around either. That she would be the one to leave me behind, and I’d be there, having to say goodbye to the only woman that I have, or could, ever love.”
Marya slid off the arm of the sofa, wasting no time in rushing forward and wrapping her arms around me, hugging me tightly and apologising over and over. I’d tried to suppress my own selfish concerns about not being able to handle her death. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to acknowledge them as I was completely ashamed of the very idea, it was nothing short of cowardice and I couldn’t believe that I allowed it to even impact my decision. But the words just slipped out, and now there was no going back.
“I really am an idiot.” I muttered against Marya’s shoulder.
“For not wanting to grieve the loss of someone you love?” She asked, drawing back and looking confused. “That’s not stupid. No one wants to lose those they love, and I think you’ve lost enough. You lost Mom when you were just a kid, you lost Derek only a few years ago, now Dodger. It’s not wrong to want to not have to go through any more.”
“Well she walked out, so we didn’t really lose her, and you did too.”
“Not really, I was a baby, I didn’t know what was happening. You actually remember it.” She shrugged, “And the point still stands.”
“And what about Lacey, she’s lost more than me. Two sets of parents, and three friends... and yet she’s still brave enough to want to keep trying.”
“Well I always said women were the strongest sex.” Mari teased, chuckling as I shot dagger eyes at her. “She’s brave enough to, because she loves you. And to her, it’s worth the sacrifice.”
I wanted to believe her, believe that there was no doubt that the life we would have together, would outweigh any of the possible hurdles, or heartbreaks that may come our way. But the potential agony was more than my sister could comprehend, and as much as I longed to just accept the words as true, I knew that I couldn’t because they just felt hollow. Empty words of comfort from someone who’s heart hadn’t been shattered.