A Brother's Lovebyethereal_dancer©
(August 1st 1994:
Travelling on the 121 towards Auburn;)
Sitting in the passenger seat of the two year old Civic sedan, Lena kept her gaze fixed on the dull, rain-soaked scenery slipping past the window. She couldn't help but wonder what she'd be doing now, had things turned out differently; if she still had her family and her home...
It was a weekend evening, just after six, so Lena would probably be upstairs, watching her mother get ready. Eve would be asking Lena's advice on what to wear, and her dad would be in the bathroom, having a shower; then they'd go out to town, while she stayed at home with her big brother, Matt; they'd watch movies together on the couch and order takeaway food when they felt too lazy to cook. Sometimes Matt would let her share his beer, making her promise not to tell their parents.
But that had all changed now; her dad wasn't there anymore; he didn't come into her bedroom, after he thought she'd gone to sleep, and tell her how much he loved her; mom wouldn't be there to keep her in check, telling her to clean her room and do her homework, to be nice to Matt; Matt...the thought of loosing him had scared her most.
Afterward, she'd felt grimly surprised to find that she missed her older brother more than anything else. He used to make her so angry and upset at times with his teasing but then he wasn't there, and she would have given anything to have him call her 'Brat' or 'Kiddo' once more; to see him start university in a few weeks time or to have him tease her about being too scrawny.
"Why me?" she thought savagely. "Why did I have to survive and they all die? It shouldn't have been this way!"
The events of that night had repeated in her mind, like some tormenting slow-motion picture, replaying over and over again. She knew, no matter how much she dwelt upon it, the past couldn't be changed.
The artic' had come from nowhere; he shouldn't have even been on that road, she'd heard the policeman say; he said the guy had got lost and had to detour. He should have been travelling south away from them, on a road nearly fifteen miles away, but there he was, just split seconds away from them as Lena looked up...
Her dad was driving, her mom flicking through the radio channels while Matt and Lena argued in the back. They were on a country road, stopping for gas, before heading out onto the 89 towards New Hampshire. They were going to see a concert; some friend of their dads played saxophone in a band and had invited them all along.
Lena raised an eyebrow at her brother, whose face was all moody and sullen, his green eyes sparkling with ill-temper.
"Shut it...brat." He said calmly, though there was a tone in his voice that suggested severe irritation. His girlfriend was often a sore subject, especially of late, but Lena wanted to tease him; he'd been ignoring her for days, only acknowledging her presence by calling her 'brat'; she was angry with him for treating her like this.
"You're just mad because you and Natalie had a fight." she said with a shrug, as if his bad temper wasn't upsetting her at all. Inside though, she felt hurt and wanted to cry.
"Mom, will you tell her?! She doesn't know what she's talking about." Matt exclaimed suddenly, glaring at his sister. She just narrowed her eyes at him, then turned to stare nonchalantly out the window.
Eve Harris looked over her shoulder and shook her head in despair. "Oh Matthew..." she sighed, "you're twenty one years old...don't be so childish. Besides, Lena's right...you do take it out on us whenever you're having a bad day." She said, in a tone that suggested kindness mixed with a sharp twist of dire warning.
Matt looked outraged for a moment, but his manners wouldn't allow him to answer his mother with spite and his intelligence knew better than to try it.
"I didn't know I did..." he said, knowing, deep down, that his mother was right; she always was. Lowering his gaze to his knees, he muttered. "Sorry." His mother nodded and turned her attention back to the front.
Matt looked over at his little sister and realised then, that there were tears in her eyes. Her hair fell across her face, the golden brown colour of a dormouse. She was far too skinny to look like a healthy kid. Her arms were folded and her green eyes were etched into an angry, indifferent scowl. He knew her well enough to know what that meant; he'd hurt her and she was trying not to cry.
Shit...he hadn't meant to do that, he just really didn't want to talk about Natalie; his girlfriend of four months was by no means a virgin; she was only a year younger than him and she'd slept with half of his friends at college, yet she still hadn't slept with him; it was driving him mad! He couldn't exactly explain to his twelve year old sister that the reason he'd been moody was because he hadn't had sex in four months, could he?! Thankfully, sexual frustration wasn't something Lena would understand.
He made himself a mental note, reminding himself not to shut her out and that it wasn't her fault. He leant over and poked her playfully in the rib, making her wriggle and laugh. It was nice to see her smile at him again. Matt saw his mother shake her head in the front seat.
"Sorry kiddo." He said softly. "I guess I'm a bit grouchy lately, huh?"
Lena looked over at him and smiled. "That's the understatement of the millennia." She grinned mischievously and Matt began to tickle her for being so cheeky. He couldn't help but think what a great girl she'd be when she got older; a girl with half her charm or intelligence would have it made and add that together with her good looks and wit...well, he hated to think what she'd be like. He knew he'd have to keep her indoors, away from all men, until she was thirty...at least. And even then he might want to interview each man that looked in her direction.
Eve returned her attention to tuning the radio, while Matt and Lena continued to play fight. Her husband, Jimmy, was telling her of the time he and his friend were caught smoking pot in their college dorms. "We didn't even consider the smoke detectors. The whole building had to be evacuated because they thought there was a fire..." he was saying.
They came to a junction. Lena managed to jab Matt in the stomach and he rolled over, appearing to be in agony. Lena jabbed him again, knowing this to be one of Matt's little tricks to make her think she'd really hurt him. He laughed and began to tickle her again. As her father pulled away, her eyes flickered to the window over Matt's shoulder and there it was, like a cargo ship coming into harbour far too fast; the huge 18-wheeler came roaring down the road towards their emerging vehicle. There was no time to speak and nothing that could have been done if there was.
The last thing Lena remembered before the collision was Matt's face; his blue eyes were full of laughter as he looked up at her, then they'd darkened as he'd met her eyes and his skin paled to see her horrified expression; he knew they were about to die; his instinct told him that.
Numb with shock, Lena had leapt towards him as far as she could and he'd done the same to her. She buried her face into the warmth of his chest. Just as she felt his arms pull her close and his body move over her, to protect her, she felt the truck hit the car and her world was slammed into impenetrable darkness. She knew then that her life was over.
Three weeks later, she'd woken from her coma in hospital, strapped to all kinds of tubes and machines, uncertain of her name or how she'd come to be there. She could hear a voice, echoing from her dreams, pleading with her to open her eyes; "Come on kiddo, please...you gotta wake up...these doctors want to help you...I love you Lena, please wake up..."
But whoever it was wasn't here now. She was alone in that cold hospital and it seemed so dark and eerie, like a graveyard. She thought how hospitals, ironically, were kind of like graveyards, except that there was no frantic bleeping there.
What was that bleeping anyway? She tried to move her head to have to look, but as soon as did, a searing, hot pain shot through her like a blade. At the same time, quite suddenly, she remembered who she was and why she was here and the pain of it was more intense than anything she felt physically.
The doctor had come rushing into the room at that point, followed by a dark haired nurse. He was a tall man with thinned, grey streaked hair; she was shorter, with tear stained cheeks and large, dark eyes. She'd obviously been crying.
"Glad to see you're awake...we wasn't sure if you'd come through." The man said, approaching her bed. "I'm Dr. Taylor and this is your nurse, Heather Jansen. Can you tell me how you're feeling honey?"
Lena looked him in the eyes and opened her mouth to speak. "W-where..." her voice was dry and painful; "Where are my family?" she managed. She could barely speak, but she didn't care; she needed answers...
She realised the voice from her dreams was Matt's; no-one else called her 'kiddo' like he did. But she also knew that hearing voices in her head was never a good sign; she was sure it could mean only one thing...
Dr. Taylor exchanged a glance with the nurse, whose eyes were pricked with tears. He felt bad having to tell the girl, especially after just coming round from her ordeal. He'd have preferred her to rest a while before getting herself upset, but it seemed it was too late for that. He saw her eyes glaze over as she stared up at him.
"They're dead, aren't they?" she said, her voice cold and hollow. He'd heard that tone so many times before, but this was the hardest so far. The kid was just twelve for Christ's sake; barely a year older than his youngest daughter.
"I'm so sorry honey...there wasn't anything we could do." he said softly, trying not to choke up.
Lena just nodded and looked away, unable to speak. She'd known from the moment she saw the truck that they were all going to die, but finding herself alive like this had given her the slightest flicker of hope; perhaps, if they saved me, they saved them too, she thought. Perhaps this was all just a horrific nightmare and she'd soon wake up in the back seat, her head resting on her brother's shoulder, as dad drove to the concert in New Hampshire. She wished the nurse and doctor would leave her alone, so she could wake up from her nightmare. But she knew that it wasn't going to happen like that. You couldn't wake up from reality.
"Honey, I've gotta ask you a few things, do you mind? I just need to check your ok and that your memory's not been affected." Dr. Taylor asked.
Lena nodded. The doctor pulled out a torch and told her he had to check her eyes, while Nurse Jansen dabbed her cheeks with the back of her hand. Lena watched her walk to the end of the bed and pull out a file, where she began to record information from the screen above Lena's head.
"Hmm, ok, thats alright...can you tell me your name and date of birth honey?" The doctor asked.
"Yeah; Lena...Lena Marie Harris...May 23rd, 1982." She managed to say.
"That's great. Really great." He said, smiling brightly. Lena couldn't really understand his enthusiasm at the time, but she later realised now how unaffected she was by her coma. "Do you have pain any where?" Dr. Taylor asked.
Lena tried to nod and experienced blinding pains in her head and neck. She'd noticed it hurt most when she tried to move her head or left leg and tried to explain that to the doctor, though her words were choked and mumbled.
He nodded his understanding and sat down in the seat beside her to try and explain. "You've broke your lower leg in three places and taken a nasty blow to the head. You'll feel pretty sore for a while, I'm afraid, but you'll be ok. We'll look after you." He said. He paused, as though unsure of whether to continue. "The paramedic said he didn't think you'd have survived at all, had your brother not been protecting you. It seems he saved your life."
Lena had thought how strange it sounded to have someone say that to her; it was like those heroic stories you read in the paper, where someone saves someone else's life and then there they are, smiling up at you from the front page of the morning news with the great story they have to tell. But that wasn't like this; things weren't alright; her hero had died and nothing was ever going to be alright again.
Lena had tuned her gaze away and resolutely stared into the corners of her vision, where things weren't so cold and certain. After some moments, where she felt the doctor and Nurse Jansen exchange knowing looks, they both stood up and left the room. The Nurse had squeezed her hand before she left and said in a tiny voice; "I'm so sorry Lena...so very, very sorry."
Lena stayed unmoving until she heard the door close and their footsteps recede. Then she'd quaked and burst into tears, causing herself intense head pains, but she didn't care. She could barely feel it when compared to the aching inside. She slowly managed to lift her arms and wipe away her tears with shaking fingers.
Just then, a voice filled the room, seeming to come from somewhere behind her head, but Lena couldn't turn towards him. "Don't cry kiddo...I'm coming to see you soon, I promise...just hold on a while longer. You just go to sleep, huh?"
Without trying to understand, she trusted her brother's words and closed her eyes. she so wanted to sleep now. In the dark room, Lena whispered; "I love you Matt." And then fell asleep. Just before she gave in to the dark, she was sure she felt a hand brush against hers.
"I love you too kiddo." Matt sighed.