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20 April 2009 @ 09:37 pm
Amber Had A Brother Names James  

Wrote this as a 15 year old, but decided to edit it recently. Hope you like it!s

(Warning: deals with suicide and angst)

Amber Had A Brother Named James

“Can you dream of a place you’ve never visited?” That was what he asked me that morning, the day he died. He barely looked at me through his thick glasses, just headed straight for the coffee pot with cold coffee.


“I dunno,” I stared at his back as he reached for his pink cup in the sink and poured coffee into it, “why’d you ask?” He drummed his fingers against the surface of the working bench, looking at the wooden cupboards.


“I had a dream,”

he explained with a downward smile as he turned around. Silently he sat down next to me by the table, smacked his lips loudly a few times, and then stretched his arm to get the newspaper.


His name was James, and he was four years older than I was, always was, always will. It was a law in this house that he would always be the smartest, the nicest and the best child a parent could have. He lived up to these expectations by wearing glasses too big for his small nose, too short pants and too big shirts, and he constantly corrected faulty facts on wikipedia. Ever since he got the genius stamp at the age of five he’d been living up to everyone’s expectations until he became them.


However, when he was with me, the dynamics changed. He was not the geek anymore, he was not a genius, and he was only my brother James. For years, we had shared our dreams while sitting at the kitchen table in the mornings while waiting for the school bus to arrive.


His dreams were so vivid and full of actions that we had once missed the bus because we were so wrapped up in his dream. However, during the last year, those days had faded, and he would sit all day at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.


Ever since he found out that we could not afford college, because of mortgages, he had studied even harder in hope that he would get a scholarship. However, when the time came, he could not show them exactly why he should be given the scholarship, so it was given to someone else. College after college let him down until it was only the community college left, and he had all his life promised that he would never go there, ever, and he kept his promise.

Our neighbor, Jeanie, had packed all of her things and left for college right in front of his eyes, and there was not a thing that could be done to make him hurt less.


“What you dream ‘bout?” I asked him as he took a sip of the cold coffee, but he did not spit it out like he always used to do, pulling his chair back and shaking his head in comic disgust. This time he swallowed it without even tasting it.


“A lot of things,” he said, coldly, before putting his pink cup down and looking at me straight through thick glasses that hid the color of his eyes. I sighed and leaned back in my chair as I watched him. It had changed him, this year. Mom blamed it on growing up, dad blamed it on him still acting like a kid. It was hard not knowing who to believe, or if to believe.


“Pass the butter?” I asked him when he had resumed to reading the newspaper, he grunted before quickly giving me the butter.


“Don’t you have school?” James asked, sighing as he turned the page.


“Yeah, but I need breakfast,” I answered, rolling my eyes as I took a bite of my sandwich. We had never been close, the two of us. There had always been something between us, but what really separated us was our age. It would always be four years between us that I would never get caught up with, four years of experience I have never taken a part of. It had always been four years too many, a distance not even love could make shorter. I was not even sure if he loved me, maybe he cared for me like a brother did, but I never thought he really did love me.


We were so different from one another, only our genes and intelligence brought us together every morning and night by the kitchen table. Besides those times, we might as well have been strangers in two different countries. Everything I did he had already done. The jokes had been told, the stories had been written, and the drawing had been drawn. I was not new, I was just like James, and the only difference was me being a girl. My parents did not like repeats, they thrived on new things, and so imagine the boredom my mother went through to raise me.


Maybe I should say that I was not exactly planned, I was created by a hole in a condom. Thank god for condoms that break, should be my line, since that was the only reason I excited. However, I knew better than to say that, it was easier to say that it was something cheesy like fate.


Then I can tell you that my brother was planned. Long before mom was even pregnant they had started planning his arrival, picking out cribs, buying books... everything. Then she got pregnant and for nine whole months, they waited excitedly for him to arrive. It was exactly like that they told people when they wanted to show how much they loved their children.


Their voices and faces would be animated, distgustingly cheery. Then they would ask about me, was I planned too? Then they would shake their smiley faces and say; “no, she was just a pleasant surprise,” and then they would laugh. Pleasant or not, fifteen years after my birth they were already trying to think of ways to get rid of me as soon as I graduated.


When I was five and he was nine we both sat outside on the curb, he was dressed in a suit and I in a pink itchy dress. It was the first time someone had told me that he was smart and I was dumb, and it came from his mouth. There was no denying that my brother was smarter than me, he could read much better than me, and he knew what five times five was, but I did not.


He had flaunted it in my face until mom came out and kissed him on the cheek and then asked if we wanted ice cream.


Sometimes I wondered if life would have turned out differently if the condom had not broken and I would never have been born. It was obvious that it would have, and maybe it would have even saved my brother’s life.



 Sometimes I doubted I even existed. Conversations were kept over my head on the bus, the constant shouting and laughing was not something I was a part of. Outside the window houses passed quickly, the people on the bus laughed. A paper ball flew over my head and landed two seats in front of me in a boy’s lap. The boy continued to stare down in his lap, seemingly unfazed by what had just happened. He continued to stare at his jeans, jeans washed several times too many, and the color had turned into a too light eghties blue.


 My locker was brown, like all the rest of the lockers. The rotten leaf kind of brown. The floor was green; the walls that blocks of lockers did not occupy were a musky yellow. I was not new at my school anymore, so my feet took me automatically to my locker without even glancing at anything other than my feet.


 Two lockers away from mine was Joey Masters’ locker. He was the star of the school’s football team, leading us to victory after victory. It was not so strange that his locker was where the popular crowd hung out before school. They waited for him to arrive, to tell him the latest news, no matter how big or ridiculously small they were. It was like this I was able to keep track of what was going on in my school. I knew from the first day that the school lunch should be kept in brown bags and not lunchboxes, that wearing ponytails meant that you did not care about your appearances and that freshmen were not people they would talk to. Not that I cared, I liked having my hair in a ponytail, it was comfortable and did not take too long. They obviously did not have a bus to catch every morning at 7 .30.


Joey was a big guy, towering above everyone else, and three times as wide as me. He was a good-looking guy, big blue eyes that were impossible not to miss, plump lips and a very charming smile. However, for him there was only one girl, Clair. A beautiful cheerleader that was head-over heals in love with him too. Together they made a perfect couple that made even me jealous – and I did not even want a boyfriend. However, every time I saw them together something in my heart hurt, like someone was pulling at it roughly, forcing it out of my chest. They had the time of their lives here, and despite everyone watching their every move, it was only them.


When I thought of their future, though, the pain in my heart stopped. I felt glad knowing that in a few years time their happiness was not going to come this easily, that then there would be sacrifices. It was bad, thinking like that, but it made it easier for me, knowing that while I was having my battle now would, they would have it later. Battles were healthy, it made you less naive.


That day they were standing around his locker, Joey’s arms were around Clair’s waist, and they were so wrapped up in each other it made me sick. Affection and I did not go hand in hand.


I slammed my locker shut and walked to class.


Teachers were... what was the word? Boring. They each had their class, and it seemed that after years and years of teaching them left them unaware of anything outside their class.

Algebra, science, they all thought that their class meant the world, not noticing the other doors in the hallways that lead to other classes, and other demanding teachers. That was also why we got so much homework.


 My science teacher, Mrs. Gravy, no her name was not actually that, though she smelled of gravy most of the time. Therefore, Gravy it was. She was constantly pestering me because “she knew I could do better”. I did worse just to spite her, but that did not get me off her case.

She had seen great potential in me, like all the teachers, but noticed that I was slacking. It was easier that way, keeping mediocre grades while living in my brother’s last rays of sunshine. I could not do better than he could, I knew that. He had not gotten into college, so I could not either. It was an unspoken rule. It did not bother me really; it gave me reason to be lazy most of the time.  However, Gravy took it to a completely new level, constantly calling my house trying to get my parents involved. It mostly just resulted in a very uninspiring pep talk from my parents.


 That day was no different from other days, and why would it be?  This time she was talking indirectly to me by having this whole speach about commitment to classes. It was getting tiresome.


 Instead of taking notes that day, I drew in my notebook, and she held it up so that everyone could see it, showing it off as a reason to why she was talking about commitment.


 It was the worst she had done ever, she had drawn attention to me, who did not really exist, who was not supposed to exist. Then she slammed it down in front of me and told me to speak with her after class. I did not get detention, but I would get it if I kept up with what I was doing. I was very close to slipping a “whatever”, but stepped quietly out of the classroom and back into non-existence.


 It was only teachers that saw me, everyone else saw right past me. No friends, no social life. I ran, that was what I did, but I was not on the track team. I liked running, but it was a lonesome sport, you did not need company to run. I liked it just because of that. My parents blamed me for not having any friends, just as James did not have any. It was ok with James, because he was a genius, but I, I had to have some sort of skill. Social skills was not one of them anyway, and I refused to let my intelligence shine. My brother might not love me, but I loved him enough to know that being the most intelligent in the family meant a lot to him, and I would not take that spot. Though I did dream sometimes of showing up those A’s I knew I could get, sometimes I dreamt of living up to my parents’ expectations and going out to a party and going away from it with ten friends and a popular guy as a boyfriend. However, the key word was dream.



 It was quiet in the house when I got home. It was probably because James was sleeping, it was not strange at this point that he went to sleep at two ‘o clock on the afternoon, it would scare me more if he hadn’t. Usually the TV was on, or the radio, blasting music, or some religious crap it was hard to think anyone believed. Not that day though. The door slammed shut behind me and I was left alone with my breathing. The bag falling down on the floor interrupted the silence for only a moment, the books spread out of the bag, spilling onto the wooden floor while the silence took over again.


I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich, but when I opened the refrigerator the only thing that stood in there was yogurt. That ass had eaten all the food, I thought angrily, and wanted to shout at him to go shopping, but the thought better of it. He would be so cranky, and I was too cranky myself to deal with him at the moment.


After I had poured myself some strawberry yogurt, I went into the living room and put on the TV that was shut off today. I curled up in a recliner and watched the same show I watched every day after school. My homework could lie in that pile for as long as it wanted, I did not care today.


Mom and dad would not be home until after six, and since James was so good at eating all the food, we would have to order food from one of those stinky restaurants down town. Great, just great. It would probably be Chinese, because James loved Chinese food, but I hated it above everything. Thank you, James, I thought sarcastically and put the now empty bowl on the coffee table.


 The show ended and another began. I glanced over into the hallway and caught a glimpse of the green textbook that contained my science homework. Of course, I knew that nothing good would come out of pushing it up, but still I could not stand up and walk over there, giving my undivided attention towards my homework.


I went into the kitchen and filled a glass with water. Outside in the garden the trees were still leafless, looking dead against the grey background. I slammed the cupboards when I took out a glass, hoping to disturb James’ sleep, to wake him and make him angry so that he would get down there. However, the cupboard slamming did nothing; neither did the loud stream of water. As I opened my mouth to sing loudly I knew that if this did not do the trick, he was ignoring me for some reason.


“Hit me baby one more time,” I sang as loudly as I could, my voice cracking, getting out of tune very quickly. I was four when I learned that I could not sing. Of course, I had been devastated at the time, since it ruined all my plans of becoming a famous popstar. Then I learned that it was the easiest way to annoy my family. Whenever I got mad I did not shout, I started to sing as loudly as I could for as long as I could. It was fun seeing my brother holding his ears just hoping that soon I would run out of steam. However, when I stopped fifteen minutes later it was only me and the TV that were disrupting the silence, not even him groaning upstairs in relief that I had stopped. He was mad, I concluded, and sat down in the recliner again.


 After a while I walked up the stairs with heavy steps, trying not to look at the photos hanging on the wall. One out of eight photos was of me, the rest were of James, and two were of our whole family. It made me angry every time I walked past it. It reminded me of how little I was really wanted in this family.


 Sometimes in the future I thought that if I had not taken that glass of water I would have been spared this sight, the shock. Then I wouldn’t have needed to pee so desperately.


  I opened the door to the bathroom, walking up to the toilet without even looking around in the bathroom. It was a big bathroom, fitting a bathtub and a toilet. The bathroom could very easily house four people at the same time. Quickly I pushed down my pants and underwear. It amazed me for the rest of my life how I could not have seen it at first, seen the profile behind the shower curtain, seen him. When I sat there, I turned my head and saw the still profile of a man behind the grey curtain I had always hated, and everything became still inside of me. It was not realization, because I could not imagine what had actually happened, a part of me though there was a rapist sleeping behind that curtain, and that he had James looked up in his room knocked out. My imagination went crazy there in the few seconds that I sat still on the toilet before I reached out and pulled the shower curtain away.


My brother. My big brother. There he was, staring up at the cracked ceiling, the back of his head against the bathtub. His eyes were stiff, vomit dried on the side of his mouth. It was then I smelt it, the vomit, the stench of shit. I looked around the room and saw the vomit under the sink. He was clothed. My brother was in the bathtub, eyes stiff, vomit dried around his mouth and he was clothed. Why was he lying there like that in the bathtub clothed? Why where there pill bottles scattered on the counter surface around the sink? Too many questions circled around my head. Then I saw the knife. It was a knife and there was blood. A lot of blood in the bathtub, staining his jeans and his white shirt. There was no water, there was only blood. His hands were bloody, his arms were bloody, and his shirt and jeans were bloody. Why where they bloody?


Someone had killed my brother, a voice in my head shouted. Someone had broken into our house and killed my brother. Who dared to kill my brother? Why my brother?


I felt sick. His eyes were too still, staring at the same spot of nothing in the ceiling, his blood surrounding him like water. I had showered there that morning, I had showered there every morning, and now he was dead. Dead in the place where I lived every day. Gone was the sent of shampoo and clean surfaces, and replaced was the smell of vomit and shit, so strong.


With my pants and underwear still around my ankles, I shoved myself off the toilet and threw up on the floor. He was there, I was there. Like always there was a difference between us, but never had it been so big, so significant. Dead, living. Living, dead.


I was shaking, I felt that now. My whole body was shaking against the cool floor and I was half-naked. Who could have done this, who could be this cruel? Why did he take my brother? My brother! It was my brother laying there, not some nameless corpse in a movie. He was actually dead. No, he could not be dead. Forcing myself off the floor, I leaned over the bathtub and over him, shaking his shoulders.


“James, James, wake up James,“ I was sure people could sleep with their eyes open in that moment. I shook him harder, his head banged loudly against the bathtub. Clonk, clonk. His eyes were as still as before, not moving an inch. “Wake up!” My screaming was so loud that someone must have heard. “Wake up you fucking bastard,” I muttered to him, shaking his body harder and harder, the blood underneath him splashed, my hands staining with his blood.


“God, no, god, no, god, no,” I muttered repeatedly, hiding my head in my hands shaking violently. “No!” In my mind everything was jumbled together, nothing made sense anymore.


Where were his glasses? He needed his glasses to see, I thought suddenly, looking around myself. They were in the sink. I stood up and walked over to them, my pants around my ankles. Once his glasses were on everything would be ok, he would be able to see it was only me and he would wake up again, I thought. Tears were running down my face and I wiped them away, staining my cheeks with blood. He was going to be ok; I thought to myself as I sat down and put on his glasses. He still stared at the ceiling. What was with the fucking ceiling, I thought, why was the fucking ceiling better than me?


“Please, James,” I begged him, his silence deafening to my ears. “Wake up, James!” I screamed again, shoving his body as hard as I could. Tears streamed down my face.


 He was dreaming, I remembered that morning, he had been dreaming. Where was the place he had dreamed of? I needed to know that so I could go there looking for him. Was it Yale, I knew he wanted to go to Yale more than anything. I could go there, I thought, I would find him there. I would find him and take him home so that he could be mom and dad’s little boy again. My big brother, never did I need him more than in than moment.


Someone put their arms around me, pulling me away from James, but I grabbed a hold of the bathtub and tried to fight off the hands, but the person was strong, but I was stronger.


“Fuck James, wake the fucking up!” I screamed louder than before, but I didn’t know if anyone could understand me, I could not make sense of the words coming out of my mouth. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t know if that was what I was saying.


“James!” I screamed again as someone pried my fingers away from the tub and pulled me out of the room. The fresh air was not a relief, it made me even sicker. It was cold out there. The front door was open. I needed to puke. I threw up on someone’s red shirt. My brother was dead. Someone killed my brother.



It scared me, the way the sun rose and set, how world exploded in color and drowned in gray. As we lingered in the doorway of our home, staring at the walls someone had scrubbed for us, stared at the stairs just hoping that he would stroll down, his jeans too short and glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. It still did not seem real, the image of him in the bathtub, it had all been a dream.


Someone, maybe mom, maybe dad, but a heavy hand on my shoulder. The hand told me to keep it in, lock it up and throw away the key. There was no point to grieving, he was gone. Mom had red eyes and a constant sheet of white covering her face, dad was a mixture of black and gray, his mouth turned downwards.


“Amber,” dad sighed as I clenched my jaw and fixed my eye on the top of the stairs, on the darkness that filled our home.


“He lived here,” I whispered, scared to wake the ghost that was him, scared to let him know that we were leaving him behind. How could I call a new place home, a place where he had not walked, not thought a single thought or took a single breath. In the air here he lingered, the living room was a ghost of mornings when I was four, sitting there by the television watching cartoon. The kitchen where we spent mornings living through his dreams, the top of the staircase where we sat as gatherings our mother held became a bit too much for us. He was living here, but if we left here, he would be dead.


“Amber,” he said again, and turned away from me, turned away from James. How can you turn your back on him, I wanted to scream at his back, I wanted to scream and shout, kick and fight, but I stood rooted in the doorway, stared at a shell of a past I would never see again.


It was I that closed the door, I that weighed our keys in my hand the last time before handing them over to someone else, handing them over to whomever.


Our car was black, the interior too, and as I sat in the backseat and my mother and father sat in the front, everything was dead silent. I could barely hear the cars outside; it was as if someone had covered my ears, my eyes, and my mouth. Everything was filtered through blackness.


The light was no longer bright, the laughter was no longer happy. The sun shone down on us, the sky was clear. Through the tinted window I could almost look straight at it, straight at sun rays that caressed the blue. There was something so heart achingly beautiful about this day, about the trees coming back to life, the grass slowly turning green and that child that stood on the street next to his mother, his eyes fixated on a bird flying so high in the sky. When I had been that small I believed that one day I could put on my own wings that I could fly with alongside the birds. I wasn’t disappointed when I realized that she couldn’t fly.


We passed by my school, it was midday and I could see some people sitting outside eating their lunch despite the cold. No one would know that I was gone; no one would know that my life had been shaken; my life had been robbed by someone who killed my brother. Cold blooded murder and everyone else just said suicide.


I closed my eyes and for a moment I could almost see James smile. Then I opened my eyes and my school was gone. We were gone, leaving everything behind.


We were escaping James, and my mom was crying, but my dad had his jaw set and stared at the road in front of us, the miles that would separate me and James so much more.


I wanted to grip the seat, force open the door and throw myself out of the moving car. No one moved. The radio was silent. The wind whispered good bye.

Current Mood: boredbored
Love the one who saw you when you were invisible.: [teddy] live journaltomycoffee on April 21st, 2009 06:33 am (UTC)
I got so caught by this story. Felt like there was really a story of her, Amber and not about him. Very wellwritten and the ending is probably going to make me think of how it could have been the rest of the day!
Thank you
fightingforbees on April 21st, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
I like the way you wrote it in a simple way, and yet the words carry so much meaning.