Our moral compass doesn’t always point north. Our needle tends to spin round and round, never truly stopping on any true direction because we were created to be this way. Lost souls of parents who didn’t care enough to guide us away from trouble, but instead, taught us to greet it with a smile.
We know going through these doors, no one is going to judge us. We make our decisions and that’s the end of it. There are no whispers about our actions and we always help the others clean up their messes.
My messes are buried under a pile of ash and rubble.
Am I proud? No, not really.
Do I regret striking that match and eliminating a threat? I haven’t lost a night of sleep yet.
We do what we have to do.
Except there’s little moments, fleeting minutes throughout my day that have me questioning this theory. This mostly happens when the brown envelope on my dresser dares to taunt me.
Ever since my Aunt Emily gave it to me, I haven’t had the heart to read it. The folded piece of paper, shoved inside the walls of the envelope has haunted me ever since Delaney retrieved it from the floor of the truck. I was more than happy to leave it abandoned there.
“Still haven’t read it yet?”
I spin onto my side to look over my shoulder. Delaney stands in the doorway, her hair a wet mess, and a towel wrapped around her body. I sit up on the edge of the mattress and hold my hand out for her. She happily obliges, holding tight to where the towel is tucked within itself to stay put.
“I’m afraid of what’s in there,” I admit, smacking the envelope against my open palm.
“Those words are for you, and for your sisters when you’re ready to give them to them, but no body is making you read them, baby. They are there when you are ready to hear them.” She combs her hands through my hair, toying with the ends.
“It won’t change anything. She’ll still be dead.” She gives me a sympathetic look, the kind I try to avoid if I can help it.
“You’re right.” She lifts my head and lays it on her lap. I roll, pressing my face into her stomach, and scream. “You don’t think that’s the point, do you? These words you’re so afraid of, they aren’t to bring some part of her back. They’re to keep her a little bit more alive in here.” Her hand presses into my chest. “Allow her in. Give her the space.”
She bends just enough to ghost her lips against mine. I wrap my hand around her neck, pulling her the rest of the way in. The kiss is soft, which I happily invite. When most days we can’t keep our hands off each other, I relish these moments. They’re where our kindness lives, silently spoken with single kisses.
Delaney stands, knocking my head off her lap, leaving it to bounce on the mattress.
“What was that for?” I roll onto my side, propping up on my elbow.
“We have things to do, remember?” She drops her towel, showcasing every dip and curve of her body. I’m practically drooling watching her turn and sway into the bathroom.
“Can’t it wait?” I pull up, ready to charge into the bathroom and have her up against the bathroom mirror.
“Dixon needs us, and I think we both know, he needs a handler or else this all could get out of hand,” Delaney explains, lifting an eyebrow. Knowing damn well, she’s right, I fall back down, covering the front of my pants with a pillow. “Save that energy for later, baby.”
“Just so we’re clear, I could have gone twice,” I call as the she starts to shut the door behind her. The blow dryer starts to sing from behind the shut door. My mind races through the last year. Everything we’ve been through a not-so-distant memory in my mind. Our every day life is a reminder of what we’ve been through and what we’re still dealing with. The threats may be gone, but the blow back, the carnage is still haunting us.
I pick up the envelope, flipping it back and forth between my fingers. Her words are in here. Words for me, spoken from her heart and inked into paper for eternity.
“What do you have to say, Mom?” I whisper out loud.
“My guess is she’s looking down saying ‘Open up the damn, envelope, Pussy’,” Marek says from the hallway.
“Lingering outside my bedroom, trying to catch a peek of my dick again, I see,” I call out.
“Hardly,” Palmer says, barging into my room and throwing her body next to mine. “No one wants to see your dick.”
“Not true!” Delaney yells over the hair dryer, making us all laugh.
“You guys going tonight?” I ask, cutting my eyes between both of them. Marek looks ready to murder someone, while Palmer’s forehead is wrinkled with worry.
Palmer nods. “You don’t think he’ll take it too far, do you?”
“This group doesn’t know boundaries,” I explain.
“Yeah, I mean, lift up your shirt. You’ll see scars proving just that,” Byron says, entering the room. The way he’s nonchalant about his actions is both a testament of his personality and Palmer’s ability to forgive.
“Is this where we are all hanging out then?” I roll my eyes, tossing the envelope against my headboard.
“No, actually.” Marek helps Palmer up. “We have to pick up Madison, so we’ll meet you there.”
Byron audibly groans at the mention of Madison, leaving the room. Whatever transpired between them, no one is none the wiser. Neither of them is speaking to any of us. I can imagine it will end up blowing up in both of their faces.
Palmer walks out of the room, but Marek hangs back a second. He grabs the envelope. “If I could have words from my sister, Break, I’d give just about anything to read those words. You have that from your Mom. Read the damn letter, so that when your sisters are in need of those exact words, you’ll know when to hand them over to them.”
Marek’s right. Delaney’s words echo in his and I can’t help but wonder why I’m holding out. What is truly stopping me. Maybe she had big dreams of who I’d become and I’m worried I haven’t lived up to those expectations. To see my shortcomings in her wishes, that’s not something I can swallow and ignore.
“I got it from here,” Delaney says to Marek.
I’m too distracted by my own thoughts to look up to see their exchange. The mattress dips and without looking, I know I’ll find Delaney beside me, patiently waiting for me to make my next move. We lay opposite of each other, our heads level on the mattress, both staring at the ceiling.
“I want to make her proud,” I say.
With careful movements, I pull open the envelope, not wanting to rip the paper. The folded white piece of paper calls to me, creating an ache in my chest I haven’t felt since Delaney and I fell from the bridge into the frigid water.
I unfold the piece of paper, spotting the black ink through the thin material. Her hand writing is right there. It’s one of the things that’s been lost since she’s died. You don’t hold onto everything of those you love. Bit by bit, those things you once took for granted, like the sound of their voice when they’re tucking you into bed and the way their hair danced around in the wind at the beach. The important things stay though. These words will stay.
My eyes skim over the paper, focusing heavily on the way she wrote the B on my name.
My Dearest Barrett, Charlie, and Tatum… This will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, writing these words to you. Ever since I held you, you for the first time, I knew what they were all talking about. That unconditional kind of love your grandparents rambled on about when I was young. They were right about so much in this life that I wish I would have slowed down and listened to them, so I’m going to teach you all the things they taught me. The things I didn’t get a chance to teach you. Here’s the words to live by:
Don’t ever sacrifice who you are for someone else. When you find your person, you’ll know because it will be effortless. Not that it won’t be hard at times, but all the good parts, they will be like breathing. Your person will be second nature.
You may be required to do things that some may deem cruel. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes life gives you no choice.
Your world is dark. If I could have chosen a different life for all of you, I would have. I was in too deep and because of that, I’m sorry. This darkness will try to bring you down, it will pull and tug on you until you give in. Please remember, it’s okay to fight and scratch your way through it.
Blood doesn’t make a family. You three are each other’s family. Have each other’s backs and don’t stop fighting for each other, but let others in. You’ll know when they deserve your time and energy.
There are so much more things I want you to know, but I don’t have enough time. Your Aunt Emily, she’s your lifeline to me. She’ll know what I would have said if you came to me and asked me anything. Go to her when you need guidance.
This is for Charlie and Tatum, my beautiful babies… You never got to know me, but I was blessed to know you for the short amount of time I got to hold you in my arms. If I could have stayed, I would, please know that. You are what remains of me. Look at the world through my eyes with no fear and don’t let anybody try to steal the light that’s inside you. They’ll try. That much I can guarantee. You fight for who you are because that is the most beautiful gift you can give the world.
For my Barrett… If you have this letter in your hands, I can only assume you know the truth. I’m sorry I put you through what I did. I don’t know how it happened, but you do. I wish I could take away the pain my death caused, but please know, I tried my hardest to keep you safe, to keep you untouched. If you’re anything like your mother, trouble will find you. It’s not because you invited it into your life. You radiate light and darkness will always try to consume you into its shadow.
The three of you are my greatest loves. Love always, Mom
“You okay?” Delaney asks as I lower the paper to my chest.
I think about her question for a long while, unsure of how I feel. There are too many emotions, too much to understand and process before I’ll know if I’m truly okay. I fold up the paper and push it back into the confines of the envelope and sit up. Delaney mirrors my movements, cupping my cheek.
“She would have loved you,” I whisper. “I never realized it, but you have her fight. That drive inside of you to protect and defend. I wish you could have met her, Delaney.”
“I wish that, too.” Her eyes grow soft with the slightest smile on her lips.
I kiss her quickly and stand from the bed. “Time to go live my mother’s words.”
Delaney’s eyebrows pinch together. “What does that mean?”
“You may be required to do things that some may deem cruel. Sometimes that’s okay,” I repeat her written words.
“Remember, I said no bloodshed,” Delaney calls out to me, eyeing the smirk on my face. “I mean it, Breaker.”
“Don’t steal all the fun out of this for me. We’ll let you hold the knife, if it makes you feel better,” I joke, grabbing the keys off the table in the foyer.
I turn back with the door wide open to find Delaney standing with her hands on her hips and a scowl plastered on her face.
“I’m joking, baby.” I wave my hand for her to walk. As she passes in front of me, I grab her wrist and kiss her temple. “No one trusts you with a knife anyway.”
“Breaker!” she shouts, humor on her tongue.
“Just get in the car, baby. You knew what you were getting into when you met me,” I grin as I swing her door open for her. Driving across campus, I’m completely content. I finally read those words and my mom gave me permission to be who I am and for that, I’m grateful.
A hero and a monster. The exact opposite of the people that took her from us far too soon.