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I sat in the bay window in our living room and stared out into the falling snow. It had been nearly three hours since my brother had sent a text telling us that he was on his way home. He still had yet to arrive home. I heard sirens coming from the direction of the school a few hours ago, but I doubted that had anything to do with Evan. My father – Eugene Bentley – worked for the government and spent the past three hours calling in favors from different people. My mother was pacing back and forth in the kitchen as she tried to call different parents to see if they had seen my brother anywhere. I could tell that my mother was getting more and more frantic with each phone call that she made. I just stared out the window with a frown on my face.
It always snows on my birthday, I thought miserably as the white flakes continued to drift down from the sky to fall wherever it pleased. It was then that I saw the police car pull up out front. A chill of fear swept down my spine as I turned to call out for my parents.
“Mom! Dad!” I called out before turning back to see the officer walking up our front sidewalk. “The police are here! ”
My mother was behind me in an instant and had her hands on my shoulders. I could feel her beginning to tremble as the doorbell rang.
“Go to your room, Ethan.” My father said in the tone that meant it wasn’t up for discussion. “I’ll be up in a minute. ”
I nodded without question and felt my mother’s hands slip off of my shoulders as I turned to go upstairs to my bedroom. The steps creaked beneath my feet as I made the ascent to the second floor of our home. I hesitated on the balcony long enough to hear my father answer the door.
“Good evening, Officer.” My father greeted the man. “Is there something we can do for you? ”
“Mr. and Mrs. Bentley?” The officer asked nervously. “I truly am sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there’s been an accident. ”
I heard my mother gasp in horror at the officer’s words before I slipped into my room. My head was beginning to spin, and my throat felt dry.
“Your son Evan, he lost control of his car in the snow.” The man said nervously. “I’m afraid that he died at the scene of the accident. ”
My door clicked shut just as my mother burst into tears. Her scream of horror sent chills through my body as I stumbled towards my bed. I did everything I could to hold in my own emotional breakdown until I was safely in my own bed. I pulled off my shirt and stripped down to my boxer briefs before I slid beneath the covers. As I stared up at the ceiling I could feel the emotional tug on my heart before I finally wept in disbelief. I rolled onto my side and pulled my pillow into my chest – using it to muffle my sobs from my parents. They had their own emotional breakdowns to deal with. My father didn’t need me adding to his own pain. My body shook with each sob until it physically hurt to cry any longer. Then, I just lay there in disbelief. My heart felt like someone had ripped it out of my chest.
My brother – my hero – was dead…
Evan is dead…
The house is quiet when I awaken several hours later, not even realizing that I had fallen asleep during my emotional breakdown. My throat was raw and dry from the crying and it forced me down to the kitchen to get a drink of water. The only light in the kitchen was dim yellow glow coming from the light above the sink and I could see the silhouette of my mother at the kitchen table. She seemed to be lost in her own little world until I sat down and she turned to gaze at my face with a look of longing in her blue eyes. Her hair is a mess and her eyes are puffy from crying, but my mother doesn’t seem to care. She just watches me as I slowly drink my water.
“You look just like your brother,” she told me with a raspy voice. My brother and I had been told many times throughout our lives that we looked like each other, but that was the first time my mother had ever spoken those words to me. She reached over and squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry that you have to go through this, Ethan. ”
I turned my head slightly away from her so she wouldn’t see the tear that had decided to fall down my cheek.
“I know, mom.” I replied quietly – not knowing what else to say to her at that moment. I finished my glass of water instead of saying anything about the near-empty bottle of wine that was sitting in front of my mother at the table.
“Try to get some more sleep, Ethan.” She told me. “It’s going to be a rough couple of days around here. ”
I kissed her on the cheek before I put my empty glass of water in the sink.
“I love you, mom.” I said softly before I made my way to the top of the stairs again.
I stopped outside of my bedroom door for a moment before I noticed that Evan’s door was open. I decided then to go to my brother’s room instead of my own. The moment I laid down on his bed, my senses were flooded with the smell of Evan’s shampoo and body wash. I couldn’t help but start to cry again as I buried myself in my brother’s blankets.
The sun was shining brightly the following morning when I awoke – filling Evan’s room with its golden sunlight. I moved just enough to look out through the window to see that the backyard was covered in a fresh layer of snow. The sunlight reflected off of the white powder making me squint against the brightness of the light. I grunted before I let myself fall back on the bed. I could still smell Evan’s scent on his pillow, but it was tainted by my own at that point and I forced myself to get up so I wouldn’t lose his scent completely.
I stopped in my own room to grab a change of clothes before I made my way to the bathroom. I gasped slightly at all of the reminders of my older brother still taking up residence in the bathroom that we shared. The towel that he had used before school the previous day was still hanging on the back of the bathroom door, and his razor and deodorant were still sitting on the shelf next to the sink. It took everything I had not to cry as I reached in and turned the water on so it could get warm before I stepped under it.
The spray of the water felt good against my skin as I stood there with no motivation to even move. Evan’s bodywash still sat in its place on the edge of the tub along with the shampoo he used. I felt myself tremble as I reached for the shampoo and began washing my hair.
You can do this, Ethan. I told myself over and over again. I had to stay strong.
It’s what Evan would have wanted…
I got out of the shower when I was finished and began to dry myself off. I dropped my towel and the clothes I wore to bed in the hamper before I got dressed and went down to the kitchen to find something to eat. I wasn’t hungry but I forced myself to eat a bowl of cereal anyways. The house was empty, and I actually felt relieved that I would be able to suffer through my grief alone. I made myself comfortable on the sofa in the living room and turned the television to cartoons to put on some semblance of noise. I thought back to the times that Evan and I had snow days from school, and we would spend the entire day watching television, or we would go outside and try to pummel each other with snowballs until we were both red in the face from being so cold. Our mother would chastise us for staying out so long, but she would always make us some hot chocolate to help us warm back up. Evan and I were inseparable.
It’s never going to be the same…
I sent my mom and dad a text message to let them know that I was awake and to find out where they had disappeared to. My mother was quick to reply back and tell me to not answer the house phone. She told me that they would be back shortly after lunchtime when they were finished running their errands. I spent the remainder of my morning stretched out on the couch dwelling on the sudden absence of Evan from my life.
That night, I found myself being drawn to Evan’s room again. I only hesitated briefly at the door like I expected to see him sitting on his bed, but the room was dark. My mother had spent the evening sitting in the dining room with another bottle of wine, and my father had spent the majority of his time making phone calls in his study. My mother and father had attempted to make small talk while we ate Chinese food. It was pointless, though. We already knew what each of us was thinking about. They had spent the day dealing with the details of Evan’s funeral, and I had spent it dealing with my own emotions. As I slipped into Evan’s bed, I finally lost the battle and began to cry into his pillow again.
Our house was a chaos of activity the following day as news of Evan’s death began to spread throughout our community. I tried to show my gratitude to everyone who had stopped by to pay their respects, but it eventually all got to be too much for me. I had had enough with the looks of concern and made my way to the garage but stopped when I found the door was already open. I stepped closer to the door and I could hear my father talking to someone inside.
“How is he doing?” I heard my father ask in a concerned tone. “Still? ”
I realized then that my dad was on his cellphone and I was about to go in search of another hideout when my father said something that caught me off guard.
“Was that body delivered to the funeral home?” My father paused. “Good. Once it’s cremated I’ll finish the plans for the funeral.”
My father paused again as my mind was suddenly filled with the different possibilities. My father was discussing the fact of cremating a body with someone, but he had never said a name.
“No,” my father stated. “They don’t suspect anything. How’s he doing anyways? ”
Who doesn’t suspect anything? I began to wonder as my father continued with his conversation.
“That seems a bit long compared to the others, Mason. ”
He’s talking to Uncle Mason, I thought. I immediately passed everything off as though they were talking about my cousin’s illness.
Tatum was only a month older than I was and he was one of my closest friends. His father had moved him to a special treatment center for his cancer, and I hadn’t been able to visit my cousin in over a month. I was suddenly filled with dread as I realized that I was going to lose the only friend I had left. I turned to walk away but stopped when my father began talking again.
“No, Mason.” My father said sternly. “He mustn’t know I’ve been involved until he gets over being separated from Ethan. You know the rules of the Prophecy. ”
I frowned at the mention of my name, but just shook my head and went to my room as fast as I could. My father was involved in something with the CIA and somehow it involved me as well. I was confused as I collapsed onto my bed. I was too exhausted to even cry and fell asleep as soon as I shut my eyes.
A man was chasing me down the center of the street and it was taking everything I had to stay ahead of him. Then, I saw the familiar shape of my older brother standing in the road in front of me. I ran towards him, something told me that he would protect me. My brother would protect me from anything. I stopped in front of him and struggled to catch my breath. I glanced up at my brother and felt my heart jump into my throat. Evan’s eyes were blood red. He stared at me as if he was struggling with something before he growled and pushed me behind him. I turned back in time to see my brother take off after the man that had been chasing me. The man jumped over my brother and kept running towards me. I stumbled backwards and fell down as the man reached out for me. His hands clutched my shirt and yanked me to my feet in an instant. His eyes were the same color as my brother’s, and he had fangs coming down from his upper teeth. I froze in fear as he leaned in and pushed my head to the side.
I woke up soaked in sweat and felt my neck for any signs of a bite. The dream had felt so real as I struggled to catch my breath. My heart raced within my chest and I couldn’t help but begin to cry as I collapsed back onto my pillow.
“Dad?” I nudged my father on his shoulder as I entered the kitchen and held out my tie to him. “Can you do this for me? ”
My father smiled and took the tie from me and began to tie it around my neck.
“Are you okay, Ethan?” He asked me in concern.
“I think so,” I told him with a shrug.
My father squeezed my shoulders and smiled.
“Everything will be okay, Ethan.” He told me. “I promise you. ”
I nodded as he hugged me.
“Come on,” he said as he led me towards the living room. “It’s time for us to leave. I’ll go get your mother. ”
“Is mom going to be alright?” I asked suddenly as another wave of fear came over me. “She’s been drinking a lot lately, and it’s honestly got me worried, dad. ”
“I know, buddy.” My father told me. “I’m keeping an eye on her. She’s just taking this a lot harder than we are. We have to be strong for her. ”
I nodded once while I struggled not to burst into tears. I could be strong for her. My mother spent her life taking care of my brother and I, the least I could do was be there in her time of need.
The gymnasium was filled with people as I followed behind my mother and father to the front row of chairs that had been set up in the center of the court. There were about twelve rows of folding chairs set up in front of the bleachers and almost every seat was filled with mourners. People were talking amongst themselves, but multiple people watched me as I went to my seat in front of the small silver box that had been placed on a small table and surrounded by bouquets of flowers and pictures of my brother. A podium was next to the metal urn that contained my brother’s ashes and I couldn’t help but stop and stare at the urn. Seeing it there made me want to cry but I was able to keep my emotions under control for the time being. I just wanted it all to be over with.
I glanced up to see my World History teacher – Mr. Hunter – standing in front of me. His large muscular frame was intimidating to everyone whom he crossed paths with, but there was something about him that I had always trusted. He was wearing a black suit like my own and he motioned to the seat beside me.
“Do you care if I join you for a minute?”
“No, sir.” I replied nervously. “Go ahead. ”
Mr. Hunter sat down beside me and patted my shoulder reassuringly before he spoke to me.
“I know that you’re going through a rough time, Ethan, but I have an offer for you. ”
“An offer?” I asked curiously.
Mr. Hunter smiled and nodded at me.
“What is it, Mr. Hunter? ”
“I would like to offer you Evan’s spot in my Mythology Class.” My jaw fell open at his suggestion. “I know that the class is normally only open to Juniors and Seniors, but I asked the School Board to make an exception to the rule. ”
“But, I’m only a Freshman.” I managed to ask in confusion.
Mr. Hunter chuckled.
“A very deserving one, though.” He told me with a smile. “I’ve already spoken to your father about it, and he agreed that it would be a good experience for you. ”
“Oh,” I was somewhat stumped as to why Mr. Hunter would be so interested my attending his class, but I dismissed it as him just trying to be nice. “I mean, unless there is someone else that you want to have the spot… ”
“Nobody else is more deserving than you, Ethan Bentley.” Mr. Hunter told me solemnly. His green eyes seemed to pierce into my very soul as he waited for my answer. Evan would always come home and tell me all about the lessons that Mr. Hunter had covered during the after-school class. The idea intrigued me, but I wasn’t sure if it was right for me to take the spot. There would always be my turn to take the class during my own Junior year, and that was only two years away. Mr. Hunter interrupted my thoughts again. “This is the last year for the class also, Ethan.” He told me which quickly shot down my idea about waiting. “So, this is a once in a lifetime chance. ”
“When do we meet?” I asked without even thinking about it any further. Mr. Hunter was right. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I would be stupid to pass it up.
“I’ll see you Wednesday after school in my classroom, Mr. Bentley.” Mr. Hunter said with a smug grin. Somehow I felt that he had tricked me into joining the class, but I decided to just let it go. “Keep your head up, Ethan. Life does get better. ”
I nodded before he stood and left me alone.
What the fuck just happened? I asked myself in disbelief. Mr. Hunter had mentioned his after-school class several times during World History, but he had always made it seem as though the class would be around for a few years. The idea that this was the last year for the class only meant that Mr. Hunter was planning on leaving our school. I turned to see Mr. Hunter standing near one of the outside walls. His eyes were focused on me and he nodded once as if I had completely figured out his secret. I turned my attention instead to the Principal of the school as he stepped up to the podium. It was time to finally lay Evan to rest…
Our house was filled with people after the funeral and I found it difficult to find a spot where I could escape everybody’s looks of concern. So, I did what every normal teenager would do, and I went to hide in my bedroom for a little bit. I jogged up the back steps from the kitchen and paused when I got to the top of the stairs. MY brother’s best friend – Jenna Holbrook – was standing with her head leaning up against Evan’s doorframe as she just stared into his room. Her long brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail on the back of her head, and she had a slight frown upon her face as she seemed to reflect upon her own memories with Evan. Jenna and Evan had been friends since they were both ten, and that was all they had ever been. My brother used to tell me that he had had a crush on her when they were younger, but he knew that he needed her more as a friend than anything else.
“Hi, Jenna.” I said softly so I wouldn’t startle the girl. She turned to look at me and her almond brown eyes were red and puffy from crying. She smiled weakly at me as I approached her. “Are you okay? ”
She nodded as she took one last glance into Evan’s room.
“I’m okay,” she said with a sniffle. “How about yourself? ”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“As good as I can be, I guess.” I told her softly.
Jenna smiled at me before she hugged me tightly. She was only a little taller than I was, and I couldn’t help but squeeze her back. She was the first person to hug me like this since Evan died, and I lost complete control of my emotions. Jenna held me tightly and cried along with me throughout the entire duration of my outburst. We were seated next to each other with our backs against the wall in the hallway outside of Evan’s room when my father found us. I had lost all track of time while Jenna and I shared memories together, and I truly hated for our time to come to an end.
“Thank you for coming today, Jenna.” My father said with a smile as he helped her to her feet. “You’re more than welcome to come over whenever you want. ”
“Thank you, Mr. Bentley.” Jenna replied with a nod. She gave my father a hug before she turned to me. “I’ll see you in school on Monday, Ethan. ”
“Bye, Jenna.” I said before she went back downstairs.
My father put his arm across my shoulders and led me to the stairs.
“Your mother and I are ordering a pizza, Ethan.” He said as we made our way downstairs. “What do you want on yours? ”
“The usual, I guess.” I replied with a shrug. “So, you’re okay with me taking the Mythology class? ”
“Absolutely, Ethan.” My father said with a chuckle. “Your mother and I have already discussed the logistics of it, so you’ll never be without a ride home afterwards. ”
“Thanks, dad.” I said with a genuine smile. I couldn’t believe that my parents had actually agreed to me taking a class that was meant for Juniors and Seniors. My father squeezed my shoulder affectionately before he pushed me towards the living room. My mother was sitting on the sofa, so I sat down beside her and snuggled into her side. She smiled and put her arm around me.
“I love you, Ethan.” She said softly before she kissed the top of my head.
“I love you too, mom. ”
Evan and the stranger were fighting again when I slipped into the world of dreams that night. The stranger managed to grab me again but was yanked off of me by Evan. I screamed in terror even as Evan fought to keep me alive. The stranger threw Evan to the side and into a parked car. My brother lay motionless as the stranger stalked towards me with an evil grin on his face. I turned to run but the strange man grabbed my shoulder and turned me back to face him. His grin turned into a snarl as two fangs dropped down from his upper jaw with a clear liquid dripping from them. The man growled fiercely as he grasped the front of my shirt and yanked me closer. I was frozen with fear as the man attempted to bite my neck again.
He gripped me tightly before he nudged my head to the side. I felt his fangs brush against my skin as his dark hair covered my face. Then, he was pulled backwards, and I was pulled along with him. The man flung his hand out to the side and let go of me. I was airborne until I slammed into the side of a car and crumpled to the ground. As I fought to keep the darkness at bay I watched Evan rip the strange man’s head from his shoulders before my brother turned towards me. His look turned from one of anger to one of utter fear and concern. Evan was suddenly standing in front of me and I didn’t even see him move. He kneeled down in front of me and ran his hand across my forehead. I glanced up at him before I awoke from the strange dream with a scream.
I climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom where I splashed some cold water on my face. I needed to get over the crazy dreams I had been having if I wanted to get any sleep. I left the bathroom and went to Evan’s room instead of my own. I stared at his empty bed for a minute before I decided to make myself comfortable. I slipped under the comforter and cried myself back to sleep.