Nate watched as rain fell in torrents outside, he laid his head against the foggy window in his small upstairs bedroom. A loud crack of thunder shook the house, jolting Nate from his stupor. He drew back from the window with a sharp intake of breath.
Nate looked away from the gray landscape outside his window and at his older sister, Anne, who was standing in the doorway.
“Mom and Dad are leaving for work if you want to say goodbye.”
Nate nodded, risking a quick glance back at the window then followed his sister down the stairs. His mom was shrugging on a coat and touching up on her lipstick at the front door. She saw Anne and Nate come down from the reflection in the mirror and smiled.
“I haven’t seen you all morning Anne. What has my little bee been up to?” Her voice sounded fake to Nate. It made his insides twist.
“I’m fourteen mom. You can stop using that stupid nickname.” Anne muttered.
Nate watched as his dad strolled around the corner. A biscuit was shoved halfway into his mouth and he was carrying an umbrella.
“Oh Anne! There you are.” His dad tried to say, but ended up spewing biscuit crumbs on the floor.
“Chris!” Nate’s mom exclaimed. “I just vacuumed the floor yesterday.”
“Sorry, Rachel.” He said tucking the leftover biscuit in his pocket and grabbing his coat. Glancing at his watch Nate’s dad swore.
“I’m late! This is the third time this month!” He gave Anne a quick hug, brushed past Nate, and kissed his wife goodbye. The door swung shut behind him and Nate’s mom smiled tightly. She took a deep breath and looked at Anne and Nate.
“I’m locking the door behind me. Stay inside and don’t open the door to anyone, Anne.” She grabbed her car keys, scowling at the dreary weather outside, and stepped into the rain.
The deadbolt slid into place with a loud thunk.
“Bye--” Nate’s word was met with silence.
“I’m watching TV,” Anne announced.
Nate watched her grab her laptop and head for the living room. He stood for a long minute, appreciating the sound of rain pattering against the shingled roof. It was a welcome wash of calm against the chaotic emotions buried inside. Nate climbed back upstairs, his socks not making a sound against the carpet.
In his room, Nate grabbed his favorite Choose Your Own Adventure book and sat in the middle of the floor. He loved these types of books because there were multiple endings to one story. Lightning illuminated the room briefly, followed closely by thunder that shook the house. Nate flipped through the book immersing himself in the protagonist’s role.
Time flew by and Nate emerged from his book when the sound of rain suddenly stopped. He left his book on the floor and headed for the window. The thunderstorm had moved on but the cloud cover remained.
Anne stood in the doorway again.
Nate tilted his head– the only acknowledgement he gave her. Anne lingered for a second, opening her mouth to say something else but thought better of it and left. Nate stepped away from the window, left his book on the floor, and walked downstairs. His mom was pouring herself a glass of wine in the kitchen. She leaned against the counter closing her eyes and hanging her head.
Nate left her there and went to find Anne. She was laying on her bed staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars glued to the ceiling. Nate carefully slid onto the bed next to her and watched the stars too.
“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live up there in the heavens?” Anne murmured.
“Yes.” He said simply. “But only if you are there with me.” He turned his head to look at her but she was already watching him.
“I want to go there with you too.” Anne said.
They contentedly lay there staring at the stars.
Eventually Nate drifted off and woke up again to the sounds of his sister and mom coming upstairs. Looking out the window Nate noted that it was dark outside.
“Goodnight, Mom.” Anne said, standing just within her room. Nate’s mom started to say goodnight too but noticed the door to Nate’s room was open.
“Anne, why is Nate’s door open? You know I like to keep it shut.”
She grabbed the handle to close it and saw the open book lying on the floor. Sighing, she stepped into the room and put the book back on the bookshelf. She surveyed Nate’s room and noted that the place could use a bit of dusting. Padding over to the window she looked out. The rain clouds had dissipated leaving behind a twinkling night sky. The moon shone down revealing the damp road in front of their house. Nate’s mom shuddered and pulled her eyes quickly away from the window.
She strode across the room and slammed the door shut.
Nate slipped off of Anne’s bed and slipped downstairs. He didn’t want to deal with Anne’s pity. He walked out the front door and sat on the porch steps. He blinked furiously trying to stem the tears threatening to spill. Nate clapped his hands over his ears and wished for the sweet wash of rain but it didn’t come. The moon moved across the sky and eventually Nate stood up to go back inside. He grasped the door handle and twisted but the door wouldn’t budge. Nate banged a fist against the door, mad at his parents for locking him out again.
He walked around to the back and climbed the trellis to the roof. He crawled across the wet shingles heading for Anne’s window, passing his parent’s room. He paused and watched them. His mom was propped against the headboard of her bed, reading, and his dad was brushing his teeth in the bathroom. Nate continued crawling and knocked on Anne’s window. Her face appeared in the glass and she stared at Nate for a second before unlocking it. He ducked inside and landed on the plush carpet.
“They locked you out again.” Anne stated.
Nate avoided her eyes and nodded.
“Nate.” She sighed.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Nate told her, he headed for the door.
“No!” Anne’s tone of voice stopped him, mid-stride.
“You can’t keep lying to yourself Nate.”
Nate scowled at the floor, “I’m not.”
“You are!” Anne protested. “You are my 10-year-old brother named Nathan Cross. You are ridiculously obsessed with Choose Your Own Adventure books. You love to kick the ball outside.”
“You died six months ago in a car accident right in front of our house. You. Are. Dead. You need to accept that.”
Nate's shoulders shook as the tears he’d been trying so hard to contain ran down his face.
“You don’t think I know that?” Nate said thickly. “I’m reminded of it every single day!”
Warm arms enveloped him into a hug and pulled him close. Wet tears dripped onto his hair as Anne started crying too.
“I’m scared, Anne.” Nate sniffled into her shoulder.
“Me too.” She whispered back and then gasped.
“What?” Nate asked, looking around.
“You’re fading Nate.” Anne swallowed staring at her hands inside of Nate’s torso. Nate gasped and drew out of her reach. Anne tried to smile but failed miserably.
“I think...I think I’m ready to go now.” Nate told her, peering into Anne’s eyes.
His body was rapidly becoming more and more transparent.
“When you see the stars think of me.” Anne told him, her eyes glistening.
His word was met with silence.