Lucas pulled the key out of the ignition. We sat in the car until the yellow cabin light flicked off. Now that it was dark, he sighed. I didn’t say anything to comfort him. At first, I was sad, too – shocked more than anything, when the police car pulled up to our house instead of our parents’ gray Volkswagen – but now all I felt was a sick sense of relief. I hated myself for it, for how little I felt, for how I couldn’t seem to see the world as different now that they were gone. But no matter how much I tried to rage like Lucas or cry like our aunts, there was only relief.
Maybe the tears would come later; grief was a process, everyone kept telling me. Maybe next month when I started school, it would hit me like a wave in front of homeroom and I would run home and cry on my parents’ bed. Maybe, years down the road, I would have my first child and be struck with the realization of how much my parents actually had loved me and I would be overcome with emotion.
For now, I opened the car door.
“Libby. It’s okay, you know.” It’s not okay. Lucas continued, “I know things weren’t great.” You don’t know.
“You weren’t there.”
“You can’t hold that against me, Libby. It’s just us now.”
“No, it’s us again. Because for a really long time it was just me, and if you think you’re here now and you’re saving me from whatever the hell is supposed to happen to orphaned teenagers in the twenty-first century and that I’m going to look at you like some kind of knight in shining armor you can leave. Run away from our problems again.”
Lucas laughed once, a dry and breathy sound. “You’re so dramatic.”
I got out of the car and slammed the door shut.
It wasn’t my brother’s fault that he was a genius and a prodigy and a million other letter of recommendation buzzwords I couldn’t begin to list. It wasn’t his fault that I could never be like him. But he wasn’t wearing long pants in family vacation photos because his knees were pinpricked with scabs and rice-sized bruises after getting two B’s on his third-grade report card. He didn’t spend long hours at the kitchen table, stumbling over algebra problems, hoping to finish without mistakes and finally get dinner. It wasn’t my brother’s fault. But he left to go to college hundreds of miles out of state and stopped calling. And now he was the only one left to blame.
Lucas followed me into the house, draping his black suit jacket over an armchair. He faced me with his hands at his side.
“Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing.”