I laughed, chasing Macy around the park with the bubble wand. "You can't catch me!" She cackled, and I used my longer legs to catch up to her. The four year old shrieked, squirming in my arms as I tickled her into submission.
"Tommy, stop it!" I smirked. "What's the magic word?" She rolled her eyes. "Please? You're the bestest big brother in the whole entire world!" Macy thanked me when I put her down. "Can we go back home?" A sigh from behind us made me turn around. "Perfect timing. I have to get to the hospital as soon as possible." I raised my eyebrows, confused. "Is something wrong?" Mum wiped the tears from her eyes, sniffling. "I'll explain it on the way, but we have to get going."
Macy and I shared a look, climbing into the back seat like the obedient children we tried to be. "Thomas, do you remember Oliver?" I paled. "All too vividly." I shuddered, remembering the boy who was afraid of every sound that went bump in the night. The older brother that always had mysterious bruises and wore jeans and hoodies even in the summer.
Oliver was someone I missed, even though I never really knew him. He was always so sweet and kind, and he would protect me from the world. I remember being afraid to move because I didn't want my own bed. Oli would scare away all of the monsters. I wanted to be just like him.
Even now, just thinking about him, I put him on a pedistool. He's my hero. Oli was everything I wanted to be. He was smart, strong, and kind. He was my brother, but he was taken away from me.
Mum took a deep breath, pressing down on the gas as the light switched to green. "He's in the hospital, and is showing signs of domestic abuse. Leanne was able to prove that I'm a legal guardian, but if I don't get to the hospital in time she can't guarantee custody." I nodded, giving my baby sister a big smile.
"Who's Oliver?" I kissed her forehead lovingly. "He's my big brother." I clarified. "What's he look like?" Mum giggled, dialing someone on her phone while I described my idol to Macy. Her eyes grew wide. "Will he love me, too?" I nodded. "Absolutely. He might even give you a kiss." She squealed, clapping her hands excitedly.
Mum motioned for us to be quiet. "Hullo, Daniel?" She smiled, a single tear running down her cheek. "There's a chance we can gain custody of Oliver." I leaned back in my seat, picturing my family getting back together.
"Come on, Tommy! We're here!" I was startled awake by an overly hyper Macy. She dragged me out of the car, following Mum up to the front doors of the hospital as quickly as she could. I scooped her up so we could move faster, entering through the double doors with a smile plastered on my face.
Mum asked the nurse for his room and we rushed down the hall. "I love you, baby." All three of us froze, staring through the open doorway and into the plain white hospital room. The woman sitting on the bed was young. She didn't look a day over twenty five. Her jet black hair was tied back into a ponytail with bangs framing her small face. Heavy eye makeup and the baggy sweatshirt made her look like one of the girls in my grade.
"Who is she?" Macy whispered, sensing the tension. Mum gulped, taking a brave step forward towards the pair. "Juliette?" Her head whipped around to face us with a sneer. "Look what the whore dragged in." Mum clenched her fists. "Get away from my son, you skank!" I held my mother back, not wanting to be thrown out of the hospital for starting a fight.
Juliette rolled her eyes, running her hand down Oliver's cheek with over exaggerated affections. "He's mine, and you know better." Mum sat her hands on her hips. "Then why did you leave him? You knew exactly what kind of monster his father was before I ever came into the picture, and you still left him." Oli's eyes locked with mine, and I saw a glimpse of my hero.
But, there was something else there as well. Something about him had changed. Oliver wasn't the rough and tough big brother I had once known. Our father had broken him, and there wasn't any going back.
"Mum, let's go." I tugged on her sleeve, giving Oli a small smile. "Come on." I pulled her out of the room and down the hallway towards the front doors. The girls both looked heartbroken, and on the inside, surely I was the same. I dunno, in a way I sort of expected it.
We all have our demons and our horrors to fight, but it's an uphill battle. I don't know what lead me to believe Oli could win when he was paralyzed, but it's damn hard to drown your demons when you don't know how to swim.