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My stomach was in knots as soon as we hit the road

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My stomach was in knots as soon as we hit the road. Not knowing what would become of our visit unsettled me. I didn't like the feeling of being without control and nervous. Gone were my calm and cool exterior and replaced with being timid and unsure. It wasn't like me at all and I hated to have to be so weak in front of Cree.

         She sat beside me in the passenger seat not speaking but humming along to the radio. It was soothing, the only thing keeping me from really losing my shit.

"How's your dad?" I asked to avoid dwelling on Darnel.

Cree looked my way and shrugged. "Fine, I'll probably have to gain ten pounds this summer just to keep him off of my back while I'm away."

"He's just going to miss you."

Cree brought her attention to her lap. "He's not the only one. Tremaine and Troiann are doing a great job of making me feel guilty for leaving, but this is something I need, you know?"

I thought it was important she go as well, not that I wouldn't miss her smart mouth, but because she wanted to learn about her family. If there was a small part of me that wanted the same for myself, I would take it.

"It is the whole summer," I said. "Maybe you'll come back one week or two early?"

"I've got seventeen years to make up for, I doubt three months is enough, Dre."

Even if the news of her leaving was something I agreed with, I was slightly bummed she would be gone the whole summer. There were just way too many adventures to be had with all the free time at our hands.

"You're missing out," I said.

Cree clicked her tongue. "Oh, I'm sure I am."

"The things we do, Cree, it could be a movie."

"Fast cars, fast women, fast life."

"Pedal to the metal, baby."

Cree rolled her eyes. "Yeah, well, I'm hoping for a summer romance while finding myself, something cliché instead of completely debauched."

Of course she did.

We had arrived at the university and my stomach sank.

"You can do this, DeAndre. Just tell him how you feel," Cree instructed as I found a place to park.

It should've been easy to just say how I felt about Darnel's distancing himself from us, but I was honestly scared. What if he were to take a cue from our mother and leave us behind as well? I wanted to blame Ashley, but I knew this was more of Darnel's doing than an outside influence.

"What if he doesn't want to come back?" I asked. I wasn't taught to be emotional or to express feelings, I was supposed to be strong, be a man, but I couldn't be hard when it came to my brother's continuing absence. Plus, Cree had cried in front of me, let down her walls and just bled open, she wanted to return the favor and be there for me as my world was crashing down and I had to do my best to let her in.

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