I check back in on Lee to see if he’s asleep yet. He’s curled up in his dark little room, on his chair, tapping something out on his phone. When he hears the door creak open, he flings it halfway across the room and picks up his pen. He’s still wearing his uniform, and the heat is on full blast. The room smells exactly how you would expect it to smell after having a fourteen-year-old boy in it for four hours straight. “Heyyy, Nate…” He says guiltily.
“Hello there.” I start to feel real dizzy, real fast, and I slump up against the door frame. If only someone had warned me about the effects of mixing, well, whatever it was I mixed together. Shocker.
“What’re you doing?” I ask. He blinks slowly with a look of concern and disgust on his face. “You look kind of wasted.”
“Yeah, well, I am.” I put my hands up in a sort of a surrender. “Don’t you start hounding me. I had a bad day.” He looks down at me.
“You have a bad day every day.” he looks down at my legs.
“What. What’re you looking at.” I ask dully. He points at my leg and I realise that the tingling sensation I’ve felt for the last few minutes was my cigarette burning a hole in my jeans.
There’s a huge silence in the room. I almost turn to leave, and I remember why I came in.
“I love you.”
He spins around in his chair like a supervillain in a B-movie. “What’d you just say?”
“I love you.”
“We are brothers, Lee. I should hope there’s ‘no homo.’”
“I just wanted you to know that I love you.” I say, slumping further down the door frame. I feel terrible about what I’m about to do but I’ve made a decision. I feel like I’ve basically been his dad for years. I’ve done all the traditional ‘you’re doing great, champ’ stuff, but I’ve never told him I love him. I just desperately want him to say it back.
He laughs nervously, giving me a funny look. “Why are you being so weird, all of a sudden?”
“Just answer me.”
“I love you too, I guess.” he stays quiet for a second. “Don’t do anything stupid, Nate.”
I pick up the box of my old stuff up and dump it on his bed next to him. He looks at me blankly, but with a desperate sort of a look in his eyes. All of a sudden, he looks furious and dumps the box on the floor beside him. “I’ll look at it tomorrow. I think I’m gonna get some sleep now.” he says in a robotic voice. He looks furious, but he gives me a rare hug on my way out. He closes the door, and I go back out to the kitchen and look at the page and the gun on the table.
There is a gritty authenticity to this piece, conveyed in a spare but effective style, which builds the suspense. The relationship between the two brothers is well-developed; their dialogue convincing. The dénouement is thought-provoking in its inconclusiveness, which makes the reader eager to read more.