Authors: Alannah Carbonneau
A Donnelley Brother’s Novel
By Alannah Carbonneau
Copyright © 2014 Alannah Carbonneau
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Table of Contents
The bakery downtown made the best bread. It was moist and soft and fluffy - and the stuff practically melted in your mouth. With peanut butter it was even better.
My mouth watered as I slapped another slice over the peanut butter covered slab of utter deliciousness - and then I stared down at my messy creation where heaps of brown heaven had pushed its way from between the bread slices, and I sighed. It was a joyful sound.
I was so entranced by my plain, but magical sandwich, that I didn’t notice Michael sneaking up behind me to ruin my moment of bliss.
Even as my mom cried out in the background, “Hadley, watch your bread!” And my dad chuckled in his low barrel tone voice I still didn’t snatch up my sandwich to shove it protectively in my mouth.
A large hand snaked around my waist and then my sandwich was - gone.
A boyish sound of triumph emanated from behind me as I stared in utter heartache at the empty plate. Then I kicked into little sister mode and stomped my bare foot against the heated tile of the kitchen floor. I spun around to roar-whine at Michael as I pounded my palm into the thick quartz of the countertop.
“Are you for real?” My voice rose higher as each word darted from between my scowling lips.
Michael just grinned as he chomped his chops down over
“Come on, Had.” He swallowed before continuing. “I’m just working on your reflexes.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m ready for bed. My reflexes aren’t supposed to be quick this time of night.” My eyes scanned over my brother and narrowed eyes joined with my scowl as I plopped my fisted hand down onto my hip. “Where are you going?”
“To a party.”
My head swung around to look back at Mom and Dad. “You’re letting him go to a party when we have family breakfast in the morning?”
“It’s spring, Had.” Michael announced as though that changed the fact that he more than likely wouldn’t wake up early enough to drag his butt to family breakfast. “This is the party that will set the bar for summer greatness. I can’t not go.” His eyes flashed to Dads. “It would practically be a crime.”
Dad chuckled, always abetting Michael’s ways of mischief in the name of youth. “Then you’d better be on your way, Michael. Stop harassing your sister and be safe tonight.”
I watched as my brother swung his arms out to the side, walking backward through the kitchen to the hall that would lead him to the entryway. He still held my sandwich in his hand - and his blue eyes, so clear and bright, laughed with mischief as he disappeared around the bend in the wall.
I grunted loudly as I call-yelled. “That was supposed to be my sandwich, Mike!”
I heard his deep throaty laugh echo through the length of the hall. “I love you, Hadley.”
I couldn’t avoid a reply, so I grumbled under my breath. “Yeah, love you too, Mike.”
And then he was gone.
I was left to assemble a whole new peanut butter sandwich.
Michael didn’t stay safe at the party that night. He not only didn’t drag his butt out of bed to make family breakfast, but he didn’t make it home.
I don’t exactly know how the last four days have happened. I don’t know where the hours went to get me to this place, or even what occurred in those hours. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything. My wayward brain couldn’t seem to focus on my surroundings as flashes of my floppy haired big brother, with his clear blue eyes and mischievous grin worked to maim my every coherent thought.
In my chest my heart was heavy and as I glanced around, I was startled to find that I was no longer standing over the black glossy coffin. The mass of people with tears glistening in their eyes for their lost friend, were no longer surrounding me with their suffocating sounds of loss. The enlarged picture of my brother was no longer staring straight into the bleak hole of my soul.
Instead, the spring sun that had shone down over the mob of people dressed in black was now banished by the deep tint of the limo’s windows. I was sitting across the limo from my parents.
My mother, in all her steady beauty, looked torn apart. Her soft blond hair had been swept back in a twist of a bun and in the lap of her black dress, her ashen hands were shaking as they clutched tightly to one of my fathers hands. Her blue eyes were shimmering with tears she fought and I felt my bleak heart twitch in my chest. But it wasn’t until I glanced from my mother, to my father, that I felt my heart break all over again.
But I didn’t cry. For the last four days, I had cried and cried and cried. For the last four days, I had demanded to know why. Why Michael? Why now? Why?
No one answered.
Now, as the limo headed the long convoy of grieving people who would soon be attending a gathering at our home, I couldn’t do much more than stare blankly ahead. My mind couldn’t seem to accept the reality, and finality, of
I would never see my brother again.
When I woke up in the morning and raced to tell him of a dream, he wouldn’t be there.
When I snuck deviously into his bedroom to plant fake snakes at the foot of his bed, he wouldn’t find them.
When I made an awesome peanut butter sandwich, he would never steal it.
When I grew into a woman, found a man, married, had a baby - lived my life - Michael would never be a part of it.
He was gone. My brother and best friend was gone. Just. Like. That.
The limo rolled to a stop outside the massive house I called a home and I stared up at the brick mountain with wide, dry eyes. My father was a well-respected Judge. We had more money than most people, and never in my life, had I longed for anything. My mother was a socialite, always expending her energy on a new charity event. But we weren’t unkind. My family never risked the chance of drowning from only standing in the rain - our noses weren’t so high that we faced such a fate. Yes, we had money, but we were taught to respect everyone. Mom always said that every walk of life had meaning - and I had always believed her.
But now - I just didn’t understand how Michael’s life could be over. How could he have fulfilled all he was supposed to do here on Earth? How could he have walked his path of meaning in only twenty-three years?
“Hadley?” My father’s voice sounded into my thoughts and I blinked dazedly as my eyes focused on his face. “It’s time to go inside, sweetheart.”
My throat tightened as he held his hand out to me. People were already walking into the house alongside my mother, their hands on her shoulder, back, and hand. Their touches offering condolence I knew couldn’t possibly reach her broken heart. Why, after a funeral, was it customary to attend a peace-less gathering at the home of the family who’d lost so much already? Was it so difficult to fathom the possibility of allowing us to grieve in solitary?
“Hadley?” My father’s voice sounded again, and this time, at the croak in his whispered word, I found the strength to move toward the door.
His big hand wrapped around mine and he walked alongside me to the door of our house. The scent of food assaulted my senses as the caterer’s array of fancy plates circled the room of somber people. The scent alone turned my stomach and as numerous pairs of eyes settled over my face, I felt the need within me to run from the mass of unwelcome people.
Pulling my hand gently from my fathers, I moved quickly to the stairs. The sound of my heels on the hardwood floor resonated through the piercing ringing in my ears and I took a moment to kick them off, leaving them in the center of the hall before I continued down the length, past my bedroom - all the way to Michael’s.
Pushing open his closed door, I shoved myself inside the darkness of his bedroom. And then I cried. The scent of him, something I had never before paid any mind to assaulted me. On wobbly knees, I moved to his closet. Opening the door, I pressed my face into his clothes, and I cried harder. These were all things he’d never wear again.
A pain with a desperation I had never known ripped through my body and I felt my fingers tearing the fabric from the hangers. When there wasn’t one article of clothing left clinging to a hanger, I moved in a crazed state to his bed where I tore his comforter from his bed. Wrapping it around my body, I moved back to the closet where I sunk down into the heap of his clothing as his scent surrounded me, infusing itself within my entity. I fell asleep.
Mike’s been gone for a week now. In the past three days, the three days after my brother was buried, my father had changed.
Michael had been a good kid and we’d been a great family. I’d loved my big brother and I’d looked up to him. At twenty-three years old, Mike had been going into his third year of university. He was taking general sciences. He’d been smart, but he hadn’t known the exact path he’d wanted his life to take.
Although Mike had been smart, he’d also liked to party. He’d been a ladies man. There was no question that he had more than one girlfriend most of the time and that fact was never something he kept secret - not from our family - or the girls he entertained. Mike had been honest.
For as long as I can remember, Dad had encouraged us to live our lives. He’d encouraged us to experience rather than stand along the sidelines.
And then Mike died.
And now, my father had changed his tune.
We’ve all changed our tunes. There’s no more ‘live your life for you’ or ‘do what you love’. Instead, all my father’s friendly encouragement has morphed into grizzly command.
In the past three days, he’s made it more than clear to me that he wants me to choose something to do with my life and apply to University. The window of opportunity to get into a class for the beginning of the fall semester is small. May is nearing and I know that soon, applying for the fall semester won’t be possible. But Dad won’t let up.
He wants me to throw away my desire to start a business of my own - a gym. I’ve never been like Mike who was so fantastically smart and possessed such a focused mind. I’ve always been active - a wanderer of sorts. I understand my father’s fear, but I’m not Mike and I won’t make his same mistakes. I can’t fathom the idea of sitting in a University class for four to six years for something that doesn’t make my soul burn with passion. I’ve told my father this repeatedly, but he doesn’t hear me. All he hears are his fears, that he’ll lose me the same way he lost Michael.
Carrying my coffee out onto the patio, I lowered myself into a plush beige chair. The air was chilly and the steam from my coffee whirled in wayward spirals of white as I sipped the black liquid. Although the yard was large and I couldn’t see the bustling Toronto city streets, I could hear them. Traffic was an ever-constant hum in the background of my life and I barely even noticed it anymore. I wondered how long it would take for my heart to stop aching at Michael’s absence.
My mother lowered herself into the chair next to mine. Lately, she’d been playing mediator between my father and I. Never, not in all my twenty years, had I fought with my father the way I had fought with him these past three days. You would think that after the loss of one child, you wouldn’t be so quick to push your remaining child away, but obviously my father hadn’t considered that.
“Did you sleep well, Hadley?” Mom asked quietly, softly. I could feel her eyes on my face, studying me and I felt my jaw clench tight.
“I slept as good as can be expected.”
I hadn’t slept at all.
“That’s good, I suppose.” She sighed and quiet fell over us until she spoke again. “Your father’s asked me to tell you he’d like to see you in his office.”
I tensed. “Does he have another University application he wants me to fill out?”
“Mom, don’t.” I stood from the chair with my coffee. “I don’t have the energy to fight with you too.”