Someone Else

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The day after exams
is Christmas Eve.
All day, my mom and I
spend getting food prepared
for Christmas day,
baking cookies and smiling
as Eddie jumps in to
help us cut out the sugar cookies.
It takes my mind off
off a lot of things, this rote
preparation of food,
and my mom's constant chattering
as a background behind
the Christmas music playing
out in the living room.

Obviously, Sara isn't
going to be joining us
this year, and the loss
of someone I considered
like a sister to me
is startling.
Thias has brought her over
every year since they started dating,
but I guess this year
is the end of it.
The mood shifts somewhat
as we all gather in
the living room in the evening
to decorate the Christmas tree,
all of us remembering, but
no one saying anything,
for fear of upsetting Thias again.

But I can't help but remember
as Dad lifts Eddie
on his shoulders to
place the star atop the tree
that Sara had been the one
to place it there last year.

Finally, we all go our
separate ways for the night -
Eddie to bed, Euni
to our room to do
whatever my sister does
on Christmas Eve,
my parents to their room to
finish wrapping gifts
for tomorrow morning.
I go to leave as well,
but one look at Thias,
standing by the window,
stops me short.

He looks so lost,
staring out into the night.
It started to snow
earlier in the day,
and the pale shapes of snowflakes
drift down beyond him
like ghosts in the darkness.
I know exactly what
he must be thinking about -
and it hurts to see him
like this, because he
never deserved to be hurt
by someone like Sara.

"It's my fault, you know,"
he says in a whisper as
I move to stand beside him.
"All my fault..."
Together, we look out
into the cold night
for long, silent moments before
I can bring myself to
break it and speak.

"What's your fault?"
I whisper back
at last.

"That Sara's not here.
That we broke up
in general, I mean."
He sighs, then -
a deep sigh that sounds
as if he's put everything
he's been feeling for the
past few days into it.
"If I hadn't told her
that I was thinking of
applying to colleges
out of state..."

"You can't blame yourself,"
I protest.
"It's your life,
your decision,
and if she can't handle it,
then she wasn't-"

"Wasn't worth it?"
he finishes dryly.
"Yes, Matty,
I've heard that one before."
His tone isn't mean
as he says it, just sad.
"Only, she was worth it -
I thought she was, anyway.
We knew this was coming,
and she said that we would
take on any problems that
would come our way,
no problem..."
He pauses, frowning.
I almost think I see
tears in the back
of his eyes.
"But at the first sign
of change, she
backed out on me,
like she didn't even care."

I remember that one
scrap of their conversation
that I'd heard the other night -
You don't even care, Sara!
And immediately, I feel
so bad for Thias, who
had given his whole heart
away to someone
who didn't even respect
the gift she'd been given.
How lonely must that feel?
I don't think I've realized
just how brokenhearted
my brother must be.

He doesn't move as I
reach out to hug him;
his gaze stays squarely fixed
on a point beyond the window
that I can't see.
"There will be
other girls,"
I tell him softly,
"girls who will be
prettier than Sara,
and kinder and
more understanding.
Remember what Mom
has always said?
High school romances
never last."
Those words taste bitter
on my tongue, though I can't
determine why at the moment.
"You'll go to college, and
find someone else who
will be even better for you."

Thias doesn't sound convinced.
He soon just sighs, though,
leaning his head against mine
just as he always does when
he's upset and I
try to comfort him.
I'm surprised that it's not
uncomfortable for him to
stand like that, considering
how much shorter I am.

"I am sorry,"
I tell him after a moment,
"about what happened,
but it will get better,
I promise.
It has to -
you're cute enough that
girls will be all over you
when you get to college.
You won't be able to
get away from them all."

That brings out a laugh -
a small one, but
a laugh, nonetheless.
A bit of color rises
to my brother's cheeks as he
kisses the top of my head
and shoots me a
rueful grin.
"You promise to help
scare them away if
that happens?"
he asks teasingly -
and there, that's
the Thias I know.

"I promise,"
I tell him
with a grin of my own.
After poking my nose,
he wishes me goodnight
and turns to head back
to the room that he
and Eddie share,
leaving me alone
in the living room with
just the Christmas tree
to keep me company.
The undulating lights
wrapped around it
send strange shadows
dancing across the room.

Natalia, I wonder,
and Seth -
how are they spending
their Christmas Eve?
Hopefully with a lot
less emotional turmoil,
at the very least.

After a second of
puzzling over that
unprecedented thought,
I realize that it must have
just been a product of
my exhaustion, and turn
to head to my own room,
stifling a yawn as I go.


I find it oddly fitting that today's chapter takes place on Christmas Eve, and today is July 24th. Christmas in July, much? (And no, I didn't plan it like this, lmao.)

If you guys liked this chapter, I would love if you would vote and leave me some feedback! It would be much appreciated <3

Also, some self-promo here, but do you guys mind checking out my new short story, Away? I need a bit of feedback on that, as I've recently restarted it and sort of have no idea what I'm doing. Any and all support would be great c:

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