**This is one of the stories I am most proud off. Hope you enjoy it. Please tell me what you think.**
I awoke with a sense of excitement and it only took a moment to remember why. I threw off my comforter and swung my feet to the floor, digging my toes into the pale blue carpet. Happy birthday to me, I thought as I stretched the nights sleep from my muscles. The winter sun shone brightly through my window. I turned to the mirror opposite my bed, hoping to see a difference in my reflection. But the same skinny girl stared back at me, as had the night before.
"Well it's not everyday you turn 16," I told my reflection. She just stared back at me, so I stuck my tongue out at her. Her green eyes scrunched up and she tossed her black hair at me. I turned away from the mirror to open my door and noticed the gift sitting on my desk, next to the door. I picked it up and saw that it was from my brother, Eli. Dropping it, I took a deep breath, expecting to smell eggs and bacon sizzling from the kitchen. No such smells assailed my nostrils. Puzzled I opened my door, only to be greeted by silence from the other rooms. Looking up the hallway, the opened doors told me that everyone was up but no sounds came from the kitchen or living rooms.
My first thought was to be angry. Maybe they are hiding, to surprise me. I grinned and snuck down the hall hoping to catch Mom and Dad in their preparations. The hallway opened up into the living room but no one was there. The kitchen it is then. I crept up to the doorway, quietly navigating the living room. When I reached the door, I jumped inside yelling, "Got…..ya?"
No one was in the kitchen either. No Mom, No Dad. Not even stupid Eli. "That's weird. Where could they have gone?"
Maybe they went out to plan me a surprise party. That's probably where they were, so I decided to play along. Grabbing a box of cereal from the cupboard, a bowl and the milk, I sat down, determined to enjoy my magically delicious breakfast. I saw the note while I was pouring the cereal. "Dear Katie. We've gone into the city to take Eli to a doctor. They think they can help. Last night's leftovers are in the fridge for you to eat for lunch. Dad and I will pick something up for dinner. Be careful if you go out. Love Mom."
My jaw dropped. They'd forgotten? No they couldn't have. I reread the note thinking maybe I missed the "happy birthday" but there was nothing. I turned it over; maybe it was on the back. Nothing. Not a mention one. Not even a "p.s." They were joking. They had to be. Parents don't forget their kid's birthday. Do they? I left my breakfast and hurried to the front door. Throwing it open, I stepped out on to the porch and checked the driveway. The car was gone. I brushed away the tears as I walked back into the house. Back in the kitchen my eyes fell on the wall calendar. There, written in black marker on Feb 8, my birthday, was "Eli—Doctor." I flipped the calendar to July 17 and written there was "Eli—Birthday."
"It's always Eli!" I screamed, ripping July from the calendar. Frustrated and angry, I went back to my room. When I got there I looked again at the present on my desk. Wiping away hot tears, I reached for it. It was wrapped in purple with silver ribbons, my favorite colors. A note was attached to the top. It was from Eli only. I looked to see if there were any more, from Mom. Finding none I opened the gift from my brother. I pulled two books from the box, a purple journal with a silver embossed unicorn and leather bound copy of my favorite book, Flight of Dragons. I let them fall to the desk. "If he remembered why didn't he remind Mom."
I didn't even have to ask that question. I already knew the answer. It was all part of his plan to make himself out to be the loving brother but to make Mom and Dad forget all about me. And apparently it was working. I slipped out of my flannel nightgown and into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, then went back to the kitchen, absent-mindedly pushing my chair in. No presents. No Sweet 16 party. Helen had hers a month ago. Her mom had rented a hall and bought her a beautiful satin dress with sequins. "Where are my stupid sequins?"
My voice echoed in the kitchen. The note stared up at me from the table, mocking me. "You don't get any," I told myself aloud," cause Eli had to go to the doctor."
Damn him. Damn Eli. I flew into a rage and started pulling all the kitchen chairs out. Moving on to the living room I began destroying its perfect order that had existed for twenty years. I shoved the footstool two feet. Dad's Lazy boy only moved a couple of inches but it was good enough for me. The coffee table glided a good foot out of the grooves it had worn into the carpet. As I shoved, pushed and pulled furniture, I mumbled and grumbled my hatred of that boy who was my older brother. It was the couch that finally stood up to my mania, not moving an inch. I shoved at it until my barefeet slid from under me and I knelt with my head resting on the arm of it, hot tears soaking into the plush maroon fabric.
That stupid Eli. He was always doing something to screw up my life. Even when I was little, like the time Suzy was over my house. We were out in the backyard coloring, when Eli came onto the porch.
"What's wrong with your brother?" she had asked.
I looked up from my coloring book, squinting as the sun hit me in the eyes. "What are you talkin' about?"
Suzy pushed aside her crayons and moved closer to me, nodding to Eli. "What's wrong with his eyes?"
"He's blind stupid," I replied, turning back to the picture of a horse that I was coloring purple.
"Na-uh," Suzy said, shaking her head and making her bright red curls bob up and down. "Blind people have blue eyes and a cane and they wear sunglasses."
"Why would they wear sunglasses if they can't see the sun?" Stupid Suzy thinks she knows everything.
Suzy looked puzzled a moment. "Cause they don't want you to know they are blind, stupid."
"You're the stupid one stupid." I cried throwing my crayon at her as I sat up.
"Na-uh you are!" She yelled back.
Eli called out asking what was wrong. "Nothing," the two of us chorused.
Then Suzy turned back to me and whispered. "I think he's some kind of monster or somethin'. And I don't think I want to be your friend anymore."
Suzy gathered her crayons and her coloring books and took off to her house across the street. I stared after her. "Hey those are my crayons!"
Eli called to me again, asking what was wrong. I walked back to the house ignoring him and went to the kitchen where Mom was making lunch.
"She went home," I replied, stealing a piece of celery. "Mom?"
"Yes honey?""Why doesn't Eli have blue eyes or carry a cane or wear sunglasses?"
"Honey don't ask silly questions. Go wash up for lunch."
I stated to protest but she just told me again to go wash up to lunch. So I did thinking that maybe Suzy was right. Maybe Eli was a monster.
A monster. That's what I thought for a little while. I thought about getting up and finishing my breakfast but I wasn't really hungry. I just sat and stared into space. Thinking about my brother. Soon after the incident with Suzy I started to hate my brother. I was only 6 and I wanted to be the center of attention but when Eli walked in the room everyone talked with him. Even Grandma ignored me when Eli was around.
"Grandma's here!" I had yelled, running to answer the front door.
I'd opened it and Grandma came into the house, smelling of gingerbread and vanilla. "Grandma!"
She hugged me. "Hello Katie dear. How are you?"
"Did you bring me anything Grandma?" I asked squeezing her around the waist.
"Kaitlyn!" Mom scolded from the hallway.
"Oh it's all right Amy. What else are grandmothers for?" She looked down at me. "No Katie I didn't bring anything for you this time. Except for some cookies."
I grinned. Grandma made the best cookies. Suddenly I remembered. "Oh I have something to show you!"
I released Grandma, allowing her to go into the kitchen with Mom to have her cup of coffee and ran down the hallway to my room brushing past Eli on my way. He said something but I didn't pay any attention. Grandma was waiting to see the picture I drew for her. I snatched the picture off my desk and ran back to the kitchen. I stood by Grandma's chair, jumping up and down with excitement. "Here it is Grandma. Here it is."
Grandma waved a hand at me. "In a minute Kaitlyn. I have something to give to Eli."
I stopped jumping. She brought Eli something? She took a book from her bag and passed it to my brother. His hand searched the table for it until Mom gently placed his hand on top of it. The book had lots of bumps on the cover and when Eli ran his fingers over them exclaimed that it was Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. Why did Eli get a book and all I got were cookies. "Grandma, don't you want to see the picture?" I pleaded.
But Grandma didn't hear she was too busy talking to Eli.
I shifted into a more comfortable position on the floor, facing the door with my back against the couch. "Just because he's blind," I grumbled. Not only was he blind but he was weird too. He loved to sit by the window when there was a thunderstorm. One time he'd actually asked me to sit with him and I had asked him why he liked them so much.
"How many times do I have to tell you Kaitlyn to push in your chair? Eli could trip." Mom had said.
I was sitting in the window seat doing trig homework. "He hasn't yet," I mumbled.
"Nothing." Closing my books I stared out the window. Dark blue gray clouds were gathering in the sky. Mom came over and looked out too; her long black hair brushed my face as she leaned over. Everyone always said Eli and I both looked like her.
"Storm's coming. Eli will want to watch it."
She was gone before I could ask again why he liked to watch storms when he couldn't see. I started to gather my books. If Eli was going to be here I wouldn't. Soon Eli came to sit beside me, feeling his way with gentle hands to the empty space on the seat. He turned his face toward me and asked me to sit with him for awhile. I didn't really want to but I mumbled an agreement and sat back against the wall, arms folded. The first peal of thunder made me jump. Eli put a hand on my knee "It's okay, Katie. Just thunder."
"I'm not scared."
He frowned. "That's not what I meant."
"I'm going to my room. I've got homework to do." Eli nodded and turned his unseeing emerald eyes to the window, as the storm picked up force, a smile on his lips.
I paused. "Why do you like to watch the storms when you can't see them?"
Eli turned his face toward me. "I just like the way they feel."
"I don't understand."
"That's all right. I don't expect you to." He turned back to the window and put his hand against the glass as another peal of thunder rattled the house. I shrugged and walked away, sliding the footstool with my foot, so maybe Eli would trip over it when the storm was over.
The memories faded with the setting sun, as had my tears. I don't think I had anymore left. I sat on the floor where I had fallen earlier, starting at the door. Eli got a party for his sixteenth birthday and his seventeenth and his eighteenth and I'm sure one was in the works for his nineteenth. I only got one when I asked for one. Well I had no one to invite anyway. Suzy still remained adamant about not being friends with me, for some unknown reason, and since she was in the "in" crowd, everyone followed her lead. Stupid Eli. It was all his fault.
Finally around 7:30, I heard a car pull into the driveway and headlights momentarily lit the darkness in which I sat. I could hear Mom's voice as she put her key in the door. "Why are all the lights still out?"
"Katie must've gone out," Eli replied.
The door opened and Mom reached for the light switch. "Well the least that girl could've done was leave the light on. I swear I don't know what I am going to do with her she gets more and more belligerent each day. And—my goodness!"
Mom gasped when she saw me sitting on the floor by the couch, glaring up at her. "Kaitlyn Ariana Canter. What do you think you are doing sitting here in the dark?"
"I think you forgot something Mom." I replied through gritted teeth.
"What are you talking about?"
The puzzled look on her face made me even more angry but not as angry as the fact that Eli was the first to remember.
"Mom," he said quietly, "We forgot Katie's birthday."
The look on her face as her dark eyes widened in surprise and red crept into her normally pale cheeks almost made up for my botched birthday. She put her slender hand to her thin lips. "Oh my…I don't…"
"Oh my," I sneered as I climbed to my feet and left the room. As I stomped down the hall I couldn't help thinking that I couldn't properly stomp upstairs to my room because our house was all on one level to make it easier for Eli. But he couldn't take away my door slamming, so I slammed it, hard enough to rattle the pictures on my wall. Pictures of me and Eli at various ages, that Mom had insisted on putting there. My eyes traversed the pictures noting the similarities in our features. The same high cheek bones, the same rounded face, even the same round green eyes. But the pictures after I turned seven had one major difference. Eli was smiling broadly and the corners of my mouth were curved upward only slightly, enough to make the photographer take the picture. The girl in those pictures was always sullen, always hating the smiling blind boy beside her. I yanked all of them off the wall and piled them in the corner. I fell onto my bed, becoming angrier at the fact that no one was coming to check on me. Eli was probably convincing her that I would be fine. That I didn't really care that they had forgotten my birthday.
What is so special about him anyway? So he's blind. So what? What was so special about that? After a little while I heard knocks on the door "Katie? Come on honey open the door."
"Honey I'm sorry I didn't mean to forget. I got up so early and we had to be in town at—"
I threw a stuffed animal at the door. It didn't make a very big noise but it was enough. "I don't care! You're not supposed to forget! Now go away!"
She must have gone because I heard nothing more from her. Then came a softer knock. It was Eli. I knew his knock very well. So I went to the door and threw it open.
"What do you want?" I snarled.
"I just wanted to see if you were all right."
"No I'm not okay. You made Mom forget my birthday."
"No I didn't. I forgot too. Well I remembered last night. I put your present on you table…but this morning we got up so early…What can I do to make you feel better? We didn't mean to hurt you Katie."
"Why don't you just go the hell away and leave me alone? You make me miserable. Ever since I was little all you've done is make my life hell. Just go away!"
With that I slammed the door in his face. The next day Mom and Dad tried to talk to me but I ignored them. When Monday came I walked to school instead of letting my father drive me as usual. Suzy and her group walked by me at one point. I heard Suzy whisper something and they all laughed but all I could think about was how much I hated Eli. Thoughts of his demise filled my head. I didn't pay any attention to where I was walking. I didn't hear the car honking as I stepped out into the street.
When I woke up I could hear beeping and people crying. I could feel someone holding my left hand. I could feel someone's hand on my head. But I couldn't feel anything past my waist. I could move my fingers but not my toes. A clipped voice was saying, "I don't know if she'll ever walk again." Were they talking about me? I opened my eyes. My Mom was on one side of the hospital bed. Here eyes were puffy and red. "Oh Katie my darling baby," she whispered as her cool hand stroked my forehead.
I turned my head groggily to see who was holding my hand. It was Eli. There were tears in his eyes too, as he stroked the top of my hand with warm gentle fingertips. His face wasn't turned to me but his ear was, as if he were listening for some sign that I was awake. I smiled in spite of the pain in my ribs. "Now I'm special too."
He just shook his head. Mom cried more. The doctor gave me some kind of shot and I quickly fell into a drug induced sleep
I'd only been home for a week and already things had gone from bad to worse. It wasn't enough that I kept banging into things, or that pushing myself around was exhausting but the school had decided that I need an escort between classes. Since no one volunteered they appointed the class president and so everyday between every class I had to listen to stupid Suzy Blackmire talk about the endless details into her stupid life. But she was nice to me now. Everyone was nice to me now. They all felt sorry for poor crippled Kaitlyn.
I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling, more tears soaking into my pillows. It was all his fault. If he hadn't made Mom and Dad forget my birthday none of this would have happened. I had to stay in the hospital almost a month, listening to the nurses say how great my brother was. How much we looked alike. We could have been twins they said. Twins right. He didn't want a sister much less a twin. I tried to tell that to one of the nurses and they just laughed at me. No one saw what he was doing but me. Now everything had changed. Even my room was different. My bed had been pushed to the side, underneath the window. The dresser was now at the foot of the bed, not next to it, that was where the wheelchair now sat. The carpet was gone; it made it harder to move. I wanted my old room back.
"Katie? Are you sleeping?" Eli stood in the doorway.
I asked what he wanted and he said he understood how I felt. "Like hell you do! You can't understand what this is like."
He came further into the room, saying that maybe he didn't know what it was like not to be able to walk but he did know what I was feeling. I turned my face away from him. "Go away Eli. You don't have to pretend to care anymore."
He was quiet for a few minutes but he didn't leave. I looked at him again. He stood in the center of my room, chewing at his bottom lip, hands clenched at his sides, his unruly mop of black hair falling into his eyes, which stared at nothing. Then he exploded, throwing his hands in the air as he spoke. "Yes Kaitlyn, I do know what it is like to be helpless! To depend on someone else for almost everything. I can't do something as simple as pick out my own clothes or make a TV dinner. I can't go anywhere without someone to guide me. I know the frustration and the anger. You want to scream that it's not fair! Why did this have to happen to me? I can't experience things that you still can. I can't see the rainbow after the storm. I can't even imagine it. I don't think I will ever be able to have a life of my own. No one has ever given me the chance to try to do things on my own. You will still have that chance." He paused a moment, as if deciding whether or not he should say anything else. He even took a step back as if to leave but in the end he said it. "All you have ever thought about is yourself Kaitlyn. Do you know what its like to hear hatred, pure hatred in the voice of the one person you hope would understand? A person you love, a person you try to please, try to make happy. I try to make you see that I am not out to get you but you don't. I've tried not to let the things you do bother me. But they do. They hurt Katie. I don't know what else to try anymore."
Words would not find the way to my lips. I really didn't know what to say, so I just stared at my brother, the brother I hated. His slender body shook with anger and, sadness maybe? He had never spoken like that before. Always there had been quiet acceptance. When he'd trip over something I had left out and I was in the room, attempting to suppress my giggles, he'd just shake his head, a sad smile on his face. Thoughts whirled out of control. I hate Eli. Do I really? Of course I do, this is all his fault. Is it really? I turned my gaze to the ceiling again. Mom's voice broke into the thick silence. "What's going on?" She stood in the doorway. "I heard Eli yelling. Is everything all right?"
Eli replied that everything was just as it always was and turned to leave. Mom moved out of his way but his shoulder banged against the edge of the door. I heard his mumbled curse and Mom ask why he was crying. He ignored her and groped his way to his room. Moments later the door slammed. Mom came to stand by my bed, looking sternly at me. She wasn't a tall woman but somehow she managed to look like an ogre ready to eat me. "Now just what did you do to your brother?"
I blinked. "I didn't do anything." I turned away from her. Eli's words echoed through my brain.
"Oh come now Kaitlyn. You're always so mean to him."
"I am not. Go away." I needed to think.
"Don't take that tone with me young lady. You're going to apologize to Eli."
"There's nothing to apologize for. He's the one who's always trying to get rid of me."
"That's not fair Katie. You brother has a handicap. He needs special attention."
Even now all she could think about was Eli. "Yeah," I snapped, "Well now so do I."
"Stop turning this into an issue. What happened to you was an accident. You keep blaming everyone else."
"So it was my fault then?" I snapped.
"Kaitlyn would you just stop being so sullen. It was nobody's fault. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not your brother's."
I wasn't listening to her. I was only listening to Eli's voice.
"You've got that I'm not listening to you look," she sighed. "All right. I'll leave you alone."
She left, closing the door behind her. I stayed in my room, the rest of the day. Eli's words kept repeating themselves over and over in my mind. Every sentence punctuated by a memory.
I can't see the rainbow after the storm. I remembered the time I tried to tell him what a rainbow looked like. I was passing by the window after a particularly violent storm and saw the most beautiful rainbow ever.
"What's beautiful Katie?" Eli asked.
"Tell me what it looks like?"
I didn't really want to talk to him but I tried. "Well it's red and blue and—"
"What's red Katie?"
What's red? I'd forgotten Eli was born blind. How do you describe color to someone who has never seen color? "Red is red. Apples are red. Fire trucks are red. Fire is red."
"I don't understand Katie."
I kept trying for almost an hour. I got angry and Eli cried.
I need someone to guide me. When we went shopping Mom always let me sit in the cart. Eli would walk beside it holding on with one hand. One time Mom stopped to talk to a friend and Eli let go of the cart. Mom finished and forgot that Eli wasn't holding on anymore. I watched him try to catch up. He ended up running into a display of cereal boxes, knocking them over. I always remembered that and me laughing but now I also recalled Mom digging him out and finding him crying. He wasn't hurt, just crying.
A person you try to make happy. He did always do things for me. When I was little he used to read me bedtime stories from his old Braille books. That was before I started ignoring him. He would read them in the dark so I wouldn't be kept awake by the light. Or he'd make some up. I was always the main character and there always were unicorns and dragons and handsome princes.
I thought about what he said every night before I fell asleep. Even in school when I should have been paying attention to the teachers, I would think about what my brother had said.
"Mom!" It was too late. She'd already gone into the house, arms loaded with groceries. She'd left the wheel chair too far from the car for me to grab it. I was stuck. "Grr…"
I stared at the wheel chair then looked back at the door. Mom didn't appear, just Eli. He sat on the porch swing. Should I ask him for help? Would he help? It had been almost a month since his "speech" and we hadn't spoken since. Not that we'd ever really spoken before but he usually did try to talk to me. Maybe he wouldn't help. Did I really want his help? I chewed at my bottom lip for another minute before finally calling his name.
"Katie?" He turned his head in my direction.
"Can you come help me?"
He asked where I was and I told him. He walked down the ramp Dad had built and reached for the hood of the car, his features crunched up in concentration. When his fingers touched the car, he became more confident, walking to the open door. "What is it?"
"I can't reach my chair. Can you push it here and hold it?"
He nodded and fumbled for the chair. When it was in the right spot I told him to hold it so I wouldn't fall out. Scooting to the edge of the seat, I lifted with my hands first one leg, then the other out of the car. Then reaching for the arms, I lifted myself out of the car and executing a weird turn, plopped in the sear of the wheel chair. "Are you in Katie?"
"Yeah, thanks. Can you move so I can back out of here?"
When he moved, he was left stranded with no contacts to guide him back to the house. I headed for the ramp. "Katie?"
There was a quiver in his voice, as if he were scared. I paused. "What?"
"Help me back to the house."
I started to continue forward, to leave him stranded in the front yard, unsure of which way to go but hadn't he just helped me? So I backed up, placed his hand on the arm of my chair and we went into the house together.
Winter changed to spring. And with spring came the thunderstorms. I sat on the porch, reading the book Eli had given me for my birthday. I didn't know the storm was coming until the first peals of thunder rolled over the house. I looked up and saw the purple clouds, moving swiftly across the sky. Eli came onto the porch and sat in the swing. I didn't say anything to him and he said nothing to me. Everyday that passed brought me closer to not hating my brother. I had watched him. Looking for any sign that he did in fact try to push me out of the family but all I saw was a blind boy trying to cope with his world. I watched him accept the sickly sweetness of strangers, the sweetness that only babies and those with handicaps received. The sweetness I now received. I watched him attempt to help Mom with dinner one night only to get in the way and cause her to burn the pot roast. She'd yelled at him the same way she always used to yell at me. I had come to realize that the only reason I had been overlooked was that he was blind. We at in silence on the porch as the rain began to trickle down. Lightening flashed through the sky and Eli's sigh was almost lost in the thunder that followed. I remembered what he once said about liking the way the storm felt, so I closed my eyes. At first I felt nothing but the wind and a little rain. Then just as I was about to open my eyes, I felt the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stand up. A tingle ran through me and the thunder rumbled through my chest. I opened my eyes and looked at Eli. He just stared blankly into the storm, smiling.