I never thought that I could dread the greetings of the birds in the morning. I have waited too long to hear them again and now that they are finally here all I could think about was crawling back under my covers and wish for winter to return. Wish for the clock to turn back to the dry and the cold, to a day other than this one.
“Ems, are you awake?” Ethan asks as he knocks on my door, “Can I come in?”
I take a moment considering whether to say no, but he and dad are the only ones who still have patience for me. I open the door hoping that he does not remember the promise I made two months ago.
He gives a hesitant smile and hands me something, a letter. Who's letter is… no, why can’t he have waited till I got out of bed at my own pace or till I had breakfast, maybe at breakfast, but instead he reminds me hoping that I hadn’t forgotten. “This has nothing to do with any of you. Don’t you think I know what today is?” I grabbed the letter frustrated and closed the door in Ethan’s face.
“I’m sorry Ems I just thought that I could… maybe I could… come… with you?” he says his voice so low and disappointed; I can hear the sadness building up in his throat. I was too harsh on him. Shit. Now I feel guilty, he’s so sensitive. Though this is something I’m supposed to do alone, right?
It has always amazed me how quickly everything changes, how the blue smiles of everyone unknowingly turn warm as they see the white, orange or pink blossoms breathing life out of the woken trees. How these beings that had to disappear from my world are back and singing to me each morning. I would have never appreciated this beauty if it wasn’t for my older brothers, Edward and Erick. Two of my six siblings, they were the first set of twins my parents had then came the second set, Ethan and I, though my dad felt like he needed more noise in the house, Emilia was born. I don’t know how this is possible after having five children but by ‘accident’ the last set was born Elijah and Elise.
Never has there been a day where you feel alone, especially not with Edward and Erick. They feel like it is their duty, as the eldest, to help us discover the ups and downs of the world. One of the ups they keep reminding us of is the changing of the seasons. There are these stories they tell us the first day of each season, each time a new one would be told. Today is the beginning of summer, mom’s in front of the barbecue with dad next to her. One hand on a beer and the other around her waist, she keeps eyeing the bottle and he keeps assuring her that it’s just one for the day though we all know it’s not. The rest of us are in the pool except for Edward and Erick both having cups of orange juice in their hands, telling a story.
“As most of you know a few million years ago there was this star, Wren, and this Wren was blind,” Edward tells while gesturing for mom and dad to stand closer, “He would hear all the other stars telling each other about this new beauty welcomed to the universe but all he could see was darkness.”
“He longed to see this beauty even if it was only in his mind so he asked the other stars to describe what they would see.” This time it’s Erick speaking. “Though no one knew how to put this in words except one and all she muttered was a single word, warmth.”
Edward continued the story explaining how lucky we are to be able to not only feel the warmth of the sun but see it too.
Mom keeps staring at me, while we eat breakfast asking me with her eyes whether I received the letter, whether I remember what to do today.
“Can you take the little ones to their play date at the Carson’s today, Emersyn?” dad asks, and I sigh out of relief nodding my head one too many times.
“Of course!” I answer. Anything to prolong the inevitability of the day.
“Maybe Ethan should do it he hasn’t driven for a while, now has he?” she looks to Ethan for back up but he hates driving and he hates driving with the kids in the car even more. So, he looks to me with helpless eyes.
“I don’t think that’s needed, Emersyn will take them.” Dad breaks the sudden tension that just rose. “Plus, she needs some sun she has gotten too pale.” Mom gives a smile and nods to dad’s direction, a little disappointed.
I stand up first from the table walking hastily towards my room and locking it behind me I need to think this through. “It’s not that big of a deal, Emersyn.” I try and reassure myself. I pick up the coffee stained letter on my dresser I wonder if this was Erick at fault for the stain or the many other hands that have touched it, should I read it? My hands become tremulous just at the thought of it, so I put it back. Maybe Ethan should come with me.
Emilia and I are in front of the TV, she’s watching Friends or something I wish I could zoom out like her, but I can hear mom sobbing in the next room. I just want them to come, we all just need them here.
“They’re here! I can see the headlights.” Ethan beams, jumping off the couch and opening the door. Emilia switches off the TV and puts on her gown. I wait thinking of warning mom, telling her to wipe away the tears but then she passes me almost running towards them with a full face of make-up on.
“Erick!” mom exclaims as he climbs out of the car first, giving him a hug and a kiss.
I run towards him and take him in for a hug after mom walks to the other side of the car. “Tell us a story.” I whisper wiping the unexpected tears away. He looks at me apologetically realizing what happened and hugs me again.
“Okay, let’s sit at the porch.” Edward takes my hand and we all follow Erick. They then sit on the steps with mom in between them both holding her as if she could merely just fall away. We sit around them on the lawn, Elijah and Emilia snuggling into Ethan’s arms looking for heat and Elisa between mine with her blanket.
“There were a group of birds who lived in the meek tree behind our house. I think you all know them, the ones whose eggs Edward wanted to keep and raise. Do you remember mom?” Erick lifts his head from mom’s and looks at her, she was crying again though she manages a smile and nods. He pulls her in and rests his head upon hers again.
“Luckily I didn’t and robins hatched in that tree. They learned to fly out of that tree. I remember how sad Emersyn was when they started to fly you thought they would never come back. Though they did, every time they would return, maybe they weren’t the same again, but they returned. Sometimes they would stay throughout the winter.” Edward continued speaking his voice fading out. We didn’t care though that we couldn’t hear him anymore we’re just happy they’re here. I decide to direct my gaze over to Erick and I see him weeping with mom. “Sometimes they would leave beginning of spring but one thing remained constant and that was the tree. It was and is always there for them to return to.” I close my eyes hugging Elisa tighter, understanding that this one isn’t for us but for mom.
Ethan grabbed the kids’ bags as I place them in their car seats, dad came double-checking whether they were safely in. He gives me a kiss on the forehead and hands me the keys.
“Take your time and try and say everything which you need to.” He remembers, of course he does. I nod and take the keys. Ethan climbs into the passenger seat with a container of cookies in his lap.
“I haven’t visited them for the past two months, I wanted to understand how you would feel today.” Ethan says as he peels away the lid and takes out two cookies. I want to switch on the tape, I don’t want to speak about it but Elijah and Elisa are playing in the back, already making a ruckus. So, I don’t respond. He hands me one. We both end up finishing the cookies meant for the Carsons.
“I don’t know what to say Ethan.”
“None of us did, Emersyn,” he looks out the window at the passing suburban houses, “When your there you’ll know.”
“What did yours say?”
“That I should stop being a wuss.” Ethan said jokingly but I could see pain in his eyes.
“He told me he was sorry. Did he tell you that too?” he nodded.
“When did you open your letter?” Ethan asked puzzled.
“Two months ago… I…”
“Though you didn’t want to read Erick’s?” he asked even more confused. I shook my head, he should understand. We all were supposed to get one letter, Erick’s wasn’t meant for me it was meant for his eyes. What closure could I possibly get from reading Erick’s letter? How can I invade someone’s privacy like that? How am I going to?
We are all in Emilia’s room, hers is the furthest from the kitchen and the warmest. Emilia is braiding Elisa’s hair, Ethan and I are playing cards on the bed and Elijah is sleeping next to me. I wish I can sleep through all this I wish we all can.
“I love you Emma!” dad screamed rather than confessed to mom. We all shudder when we hear something slam against the wall. Please don’t be mom? Everything’s quiet then we hear shrieks from mom, Elisa is crying now. “Why don’t you love me?” dad asks sniveling. Mom screeches in pain she doesn’t try to convince him of her love. She knows it doesn’t help anymore.
“Call Edward, he owes us a story.” Ethan whispers and I take out my phone. They both were supposed to come for their birthday last week, but only Erick called to say that he was going to spend time with his girlfriend. Edward never called.
The phone rings but no answer I call for the second time and a half-asleep Edward answers. I remember how he always interfered in moments like these but dad ended up beating him and Erick, even if Erick did nothing, just to punish Edward even more. Later they would take beatings for mom. Dad never laid a hand on us. Though they’re no longer here so his back to her.
“That’s it call the police!” Edward screamed over the phone. Ethan and I look to one another not knowing what to do. Ethan mouths ‘no’ and I mouth back ‘okay’.
“Can you just tell us a story, please?” I plead to Edward.
“I don’t have anymore, Emersyn. Erick’s gone, you all are far away, mom is hurt. There’s no more beauty left in this world for me, Ems.” he says sounding so lost. “I don’t see color anymore or feel warmth but most importantly I don’t hear the birds.”
Ethan drove after we dropped the kids’ off. We’re here, I’m finally here.
“Do you regret not being at Erick’s funeral?” Ethan asks, I look out the car window to the cemetery scraping together all the strength I have, to climb out of the car. One funeral was enough for me, there was too much heartache and darkness permeating through Edward’s funeral I couldn’t go through that again with Erick.
I take the letter which Edward left for Erick out of the glove compartment and open the door. Ethan asks whether he should come with me but I shake my head. I have put this off for too long. Edward’s been dead for four months and Erick for three, I haven’t been here for... for four months, I haven’t said goodbye to them. I promised myself on their birthday, two months ago that the first day of spring I will come say goodbye. I will see the beauty in the world again.
I remember this story I once heard dad telling mom. It was about this star called, Malachi, who lived more than a billion years, became bored of seeing the world rise and fall over and over again. Then one day he decides to direct his gaze unto what he believed to be the void behind him. He expected to see darkness but there was an abundant of space filled with something he never saw on earth…I hope to find that as I direct my gaze. One day I would like you there with me, brother.