The clicking of the pen was starting to annoy him. He could only imagine what the other people must be thinking, though he didn’t have to. He could see the annoyed glances and the glares from the corner of his eye. But it was either this or pacing, so he stuck with the pen.
Brian checked his watch again. It had felt like the better part of a year had passed since he last checked, but it had merely been a minute. The minute hand must be broken, he supposed, for such little time to have passed. Or maybe time didn’t work here. But he knew he was just being impatient.
Who could blame him though? He had been waiting here for over an hour and he didn’t know how much longer it was going to take. Then again, he supposed, that he technically had been waiting for much, much longer. Three months without a single word. He sighed, the pen clicking furiously in his hand, the repetitive motion calming his jittery nerves.
“Will you stop that!” A voice boomed from across the room. Brian looked up to see a man glaring at him.
“Sorry.” He raised his hands apologetically, dropping the pen down to the table. Letting his gaze drift around the small waiting room, he examined the others, trying to pass the time. Brian bet none of them were waiting for the same reason he was. The man who had yelled at him was probably here for… Brian let his imagination wander. This was a doctor’s office, yes, Brian knew that, but he imagined that the man was waiting for his new pet unicorn. Maybe the young child in the corner was waiting to be let onto a carousel. Or the lady reading the newspaper was waiting for some fairies to whisk her away. Brian smiled at the thoughts. Everyone always told him he had an overactive imagination, especially…. Brian shook his head. He couldn’t think about his father. Not know, especially when he was about to see his brother.
He shifted in his seat, his heart beating rapidly as a nurse entered the room. She looked at him once, just a cursory glance, and turned to the others instead. “Mr. Peterson?” she called.
“That’s me.” The man stood up, following the nurse into the hallway, but not without sending one last glare at Brian.
One by one, the other people in the waiting room disappeared, led off into the hallway, while he remained, sitting alone in the green cushioned chairs. Brian grumbled something to himself as he stood up and walked a lap around the room before sitting down again. Leaning his head back, he gazed at the fluorescent lights overhead. His eyelids drooped as he started to doze off, only to be jolted awake by the beeping of a car. He massaged a crick in his neck as he watched the nurse climb into the car, speeding off.
The sun was starting to set outside. Brian was certain that it had been morning when he first arrived. The waiting room was now empty, the hallway beyond dark. He wasn’t able to take it any longer. He marched up to the front desk, rapping on the glass.
“How may I help you?” The receptionist looks up startled.
“I need to see Dr. Tim Walker.”
“I’m sorry, but-”
“He’s my brother,” Brian cut in. He had reached the end of his patience at this point and was seconds away from storming into the office. “I have to talk to him.’
“I can’t sir, I’m sorry.” The receptionist apologized.
“Could you just let me in?” Brian pleaded. “I just want to talk.”
The receptionist looked pained. “I-”
“Just for a minute.” Brian knew he was close to winning. “It’ll just take a minute, then I’ll leave.”
“Fine. One minute.” The receptionist said with reluctance.
“Thank you,” Brian sighed in relief. He headed toward the door but was stopped by the receptionist.
“If you could-uh- not mention this to him,” she called. “I-”
“I won’t. Thank you again.”
“One minute,” she reminded him as he opened the door, stepping into the dark hallway.
The office was easy enough to find. It was located at the end of the hall, the door polished wood. Brian stood outside the door, rubbing his hands together. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous right now, his palms sweating and his heart pounding in his chest. Taking a deep breath, he rapped on the door, the sound echoing through the hallway.
“Come in.” Tim’s voice was tinged with surprise. Brian hesitated before he pushed open the door, staring into the face of his younger brother.
His brother hadn’t changed at all. Not in the slightest bit, even in the last three months. His brown hair was still neatly combed to one side, his suit impeccable. He looked the exact same as the last time they had seen each other when he stormed away from Brian in the parking lot.
“What do you want?” The cold voice pulled him out of his stupor. “I have work to do, you know.”
“Tim, I know, I just-” Brian shifted his weight awkwardly.
“What?” His brother’s voice was harsh as he stared at Brian.
“I wanted to apologize.”
“You already did,” Tim sneered. “I already told you. It’s never gonna be enough. It’s your fault he’s dead.” The words stung Brian, even more so because they were true. It was his fault. He knew that he could never fully voice the apology that Tim deserved.
The memories were painful, more painful then the words Tim shot at him.
Brian woke up to smoke. The air was so thick that each breath was like needles piercing his lungs. He couldn’t see anything in front of him except for haze as he rolled off the sofa, crashing to the floor. It was easier to breathe down here. He crawled forward, coughing as he pulled his shirt over his nose and mouth. Sweat rolled down his face as he stumbled toward the door, pounding his fists on it weakly. He could hear sirens in the distance, growing louder and louder as he collapsed to the floor, the realization coming to him. He left the stove on last night.
Lying in the hospital bed, Brian stared at the ceiling, shock coursing through his veins. His father was dead, the house burned. All because he left the stove on. All because of him. Brian wasn’t sure exactly how he made it out alive, but at that moment, he desperately wished that it had been him to perish in the flames, not his father.
“You said that already.” Tim’s voice was bitter, tears rolling down his cheeks. He turned, practically sprinting across the parking lot, away from Brian.
“Will you ever forgive me?” Brian called after Tim’s retreating figure. “Tim!”
“I’m sorry, Tim.” Tears were blurring his vision. He was crying, crying for the first time in front of his brother. “It’s all my fault. I should have-” His voice broke and he struggled to pull himself together.
Tim’s lower lip trembled as he stared at Brian, a mixture of shock and pity etched on his face.
“I’m sorry. And if you can’t forgive me, it’s okay, I don’t expect you to. I just wanted you to know that I truly am sorry.” Brian hiccuped. “I’m so sorry, Tim.”
As he turned to leave, Brian brushed the tears off his face, forcing himself to take a deep breath. He reached for the doorknob before Tim spoke, the three simple words enough the make him tear up all over again.
“I forgive you.”