Chapter 9

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It felt like I had just barely put my head on the pillow when I heard a bang on my door. Pop barged in before I had a chance to stop him.

"Leigh, my boy," he said, producing a chocolate muffin and dropping it on me. "I bought that at the airport for whoever would need it more. I never expected it to be you."

I sat and began to unpeel the muffin from its wrapper as he plopped onto the foot of my bed. "How did you know?"

"Just the way she looked when I said his name." Pop put a hand on my shoulder. "What happened? When I spoke to you yesterday it sounded like it was all going so well between you."

"I thought it was. But she and Noah met properly last night. I guess they just clicked."

"Noah's never clicked with another human in his life," said Pop in amazement.

I shrugged. "I guess there's a first time for everything."

"Well, you really have only two choices," said Pop, with typical frankness. "You can vow to hate them both and mooch around here like a sulky teenager until we grow so sick of you we box you up and send you to Antarctica.  Or the outback.  Or Florida."

"Or?" I said, smiling despite myself.

"Or you can take the high road. You can do the harder thing and be genuinely happy for your brother. After all, let's face it; neither of us ever thought he could find someone who might actually like him back."

I twisted about, annoyed and frustrated. "I don't want to be noble. I want to be sulky."

"I know," said Pop gently. "It won't be easy. But you'll always be able to find someone special."

"Keira is special, Pop." I realised with horror that hot tears of self-pity lurked just behind my eyes. Pop stared out the window as I fought for control of my emotions.

"I know she's special, Leigh. She's just not yours." He patted my back as he left my room.

I wiped my eyes and checked the clock. I had run out of time for sleep and sulking; work awaited me. Stuffing the muffin in my mouth, I headed down to my clinic to open up.

Over the course of my very busy day, I concluded a few things. First, Noah had never talked about, expressed interest in or even seemed remotely conscious of girls. Because of his faith, deep down I always thought he might end up checking into a monastery, reading and praying to his heart's content. Yet, the night before, he wasn't just talking about Keira, he was smitten with her. I wasn't a martyr; my every instinct was screaming at me to fight for Keira, to hold her and tell her what I was feeling. But I loved my brother. I couldn't attempt to steal the only thing that had made him happy in a long time.

The other aspect to my problem was Keira. I had seen her face that morning when I landed. For a moment, her smile lit up my world. Then she realised I wasn't Noah, and I knew: she was smitten too. I couldn't fight against what she wanted. It would be pointless and painful to everyone involved.

I made my choice. I swallowed it all; my pride, my feelings, my hurt and my aching heart. I pushed everything as far down inside me as I could and vowed to be a good brother to Noah and a good friend to Keira. Nothing more.

That night I flew until my wings ached and I couldn't feel anything anymore. If anyone who saw me thought that I was crying, I would have simply said it was the wind causing my eyes to tear.

One of the things that frustrates me about this story is inconsistent chapter lengths - I'm pretty good now at churning out 3000-4000 words every time I write a chapter, but back when I wrote this story, I was all over the place!  I'm going to post two chapters in a row to make up for this measly one - even though doing that affects the book's rankings.  I don't care about rankings as a point of pride, but they help others to find my work, so if you would, please, click me a vote before you move on!  

And quickly, answer me this in the comments - musical theater lovers - what's your favourite musical right now?  I won't say 'favourite ever' because we all know that's an impossible call to make ;)  I'm loving Hamilton right now - you?

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