Chapter 16

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I was sorting through papers in my little office connected to the clinic at the end of a work day when Noah wandered in. He looked even more gaunt and hollow than usual. Of course Noah had always been all dark and gothic, but looking at him that day, he was a tragedy. His eyes were nothing but black pools, his hair lank, his clothes an unwashed and wrinkly mess.

Despite his homeless appearance though, I wasn't in the mood to talk. Life in the house was much easier when I didn't have to see Noah or Keira and think about what they had been up to, were up to, would be getting up to. I had a pretty visual imagination and it was doing an excellent job of painting x-rated images of the two people I loved best doing very bad things together.

"Brother," I greeted him. "Visiting hours are between two and four. It's after five."

He lowered himself heavily into the seat across my desk, completely missing my pithy hint for him to get out and leave me alone. "Leigh, I need your advice."

"Take a shower," I muttered, still filing.

"It's Keira."

I sighed. "Of course it is. Well, I'm afraid I'm not really the one to talk to on this."

"What do you mean?" he asked. "You talk about everything. You talk too much. It's what you do."

"I'm trying to quit."

Noah leaned towards me, his dark eyes imploring. "Please, Leigh. I need to talk. And you're my brother."

It was a simple as that. I was Noah's brother, his other half. It might kill me, but I need to be here for him.

My mother had tried to teach me that fact back when we were little. She was a wise woman, and she could tell, even as we were kids, that Noah would always need me.

I remember one conversation with her from when I was about ten. It must have been just before my parents died.

"Come on, Noah," I begged my brother. We were in our room and I'd been trying for about twenty minutes to get him to come outside with me. "I really want to show you something. It'll only take a few minutes. Please? Noah?"

He ignored me thoroughly, nose deep in a large book, his juvenile wings pulled close to his back.

"Fine. I don't need a brother anyway. Especially not a nerdy, boring, stupid brother." I stormed out to the kitchen where my mother was mixing something sugary in a bowl.

My mother was the most beautiful woman in the world to me. She wasn't slender; Noah had once called her Rubenesque, whatever that meant, but she was divine in my mind. As I approached, she looked up and smiled, her wide face open and happy.

"Hello, gorgeous boy! I'm making brownies."

"Good," I said, slumping in a stool at the bench. I flapped my wings crossly behind me. "Don't bother telling Noah. He'll just want to tell you the molecular whatever of a brownie is. He ruins everything."

My mother put down her spoon. "Oh dear. What happened?"

"I just wanted him to come outside and he won't even look at me. What's the point of even having a brother if he won't even hang out with me?" I stuck a finger in the brownie mix and licked it dejectedly. "He's so smart. He doesn't need me."

"Leigh, that's not true," said my mother. She came around the bench and held my face in her floury hands. "Your brother needs you. He will always need you. Just because Noah is brainy doesn't mean he doesn't need you. In fact it's because he's so smart that you're important."

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