Twenty Five

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I stare at all the tubs and cords that connect Jamal to the machines that monitor him. My eyes move up to his. His lids are close.  Maybe if I focus in I can pretend that he's just sleeping.

"So what we're trying to do right now is wait for the swelling to go down. We were able to remove the bullet but his still suffering from the hit to the head he received when he fell." The doctor says behind me.

He's talking to my parents. Mom's face is coved and tears and dad is holding onto her. He's trying to be the strong one but he barely holds back his own tears.

Keith is siting at the chair next to Jamal. He's holding his hand so tight he might break it.

I'm standing in the middle of all of this. My eyes stay focused on Jamal. None of it seems real. That isn't my brother in the bed. This isn't my family ready to fall apart. This isn't happening.

Kids get gunned down all the time. It's a sad fact but it's true. I knew stuff like this happened but I never knew it could happen to us.  But it was.

"We won't know anything until he wakes up, but you should know there is a possibility your son won't be the same. The longer he stays unconscious the lower his chances are of recovery." The doctor continues.

My phone buzzes in my pocket. I reach in and pull it out. Aden's name flashes across my screen.  I remember that we were suppose to have lunch today. Wasn't it just few hours a go I was threatening to kill Jamal? Look like someone beat me to the punch.

I let out a laugh but quickly cover my mouth with my hand. This isn't funny, none of it is, but it would seem brain doesn't know how to deal with the situation at hand. Is this what hysteria feels like?

Tears blur my vision. All or a sudden everything is too real.  The situation is too serious. Pain unlike anything I have every felt before swells up inside of me. I close my eyes and tears slip down my face.

"April?" Keith questioned, probably wondering if I've snapped and maybe I have. I turn away from Jamal. I rush past my parents and out of the room. I can't look at him like that, broken and weak.

I need air. I have to get away.

Once out in the hallway I try to take a deep breath but it only makes it worse. I lean back against the wall. My feet fall out under me and I slid to the floor.

There is nothing to stop my tears. The same hand I used to cover my laugh now muffles my sobs.

I can't lose him.

I think back on all our years together. Playing in the back yard, building forts, fighting of anyone who dared do either of us harm. Even as a child Jamal had always been a good fighter. 

I picture what he might be like after this. The vacant eyes of someone whose brains have been turned to mush stare back at me. I close my eyes as if that act alone will block out the image.

Never would I wish that on anyone, least of all one of my brothers. It doesn't matter how mad I was at him he was family. I love him and it would break me to see him like that.

I should have told momma he was skipping. Maybe then he wouldn't have been out when they started shooting. Worst part is the shooting had nothing to do with Jamal or his side job.  It was  a drive by on a house they passed to get to the park.

The bullet had hit him in the stomach and by gods blessing had managed to miss anything important. It wasn't even the bullet that threatened to take his life. When he fell he'd hit his head on the curb.

"April?" Keith said appearing in the door way.

I looked at him wanting to say that I was okay but the sight of him only made me cry harder. It always been the three of us. It didn't mater if the world hates me. I knew that my brothers would always be their for me.

It was like I'd been taken over by the tidal wave of emotions. I had no control.

Keith sat down on the ground next to me. He pulled me into his arms placing his chin atop my head.

"It's okay April. Everything's going to be okay. Jamal will pull through. He's stronger than both of us combined." Keith said, but his voice was weakened by the emotions he was no doubt holding back.

My fist griped onto his shirt as I pulled him closer. I held onto him like he was my last tether to this earth.

We were all we had. It was suppose to be us until the end.  Even when we were old and gray our grandchildren would play together at family picnics. Nothing was suppose to break us, nothing.

"It's okay. Everything is going to be okay." Keith said rubbing my back.

"We were fighting. That's the last thing his going to remember about us, is that I was angry at him." I cried.

Keith pulled back and looked at me. His eyes were stern.

"Jamal is going to be fine. His not going to die because I'm not going to allow it." He said.

It was a completely ridiculous statement considering the circumstances. Keith was no god. He could do nothing to stop Jamal's passing, but the look in his eyes when he said it made it almost believable.

I looked him in the eyes. "I'm scared, Keith."

"Me too, but we have to pull it together for mom and dad. The doctor said we should try talking to him to see if he responds."

"How am I suppose to talk to him when he's like that?"

"Just talk to him like you normally would."

Keith stood up and held out a hand for me. I took it. He lead me back into the room. I sniffed back tears.

Momma and daddy stood at the side of Jamal's bed. Momma looked up at me when we walked in the room. I could see in her eyes that this was tearing her apart.

We'd lost my biological father in a similar way. At the time I was too young to remember but she'd never forgot. Now she was forced to look at her son in the same situation.

I pushed back whatever pain and guilt I was feeling. Keith was right. We had to be strong.

Keith lead me over to the other side of the bed. I took Jamal's limp hand in mine. His big hands had always made mine seem so small. These were the hands that had picked me up whenever I feel down.

Momma reached down and took his other hand. "We're all here baby momma, daddy, Keith and April. We're all waiting for you so please open those beautiful brown eyes for us. Please wake up baby."

I squeezed his hand in mine. Please wake up. Please Jamal. Don't let this be our last goodbye. I prayed.

We all waited. There was no response. Jamal did not wake.

Author's note:

The most important thing about this chapter is that it is less about building sympathy for Jamal and more about how April feels to see her brother like that. What Jamal did should not be easily forgiven but April does love him.

Sorry that it wasn't  much Aden in this chapter but the next one is his so yeah...

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