Mekka slams the book shut, irritated.
“There’s nothing here about the American Revolution,” she says, throwing her hands up.
“Well, there has to be something. The librarian said that the book was somewhere here. Maybe we didn’t look hard enough,” I offer, standing up and searching the books again.
Mekka rolls her eyes. “As if. We’ve searched for an hour, Dean. there’s nothing. Come on, let’s go back home,” she says, putting her things in her bag.
I was about to do the same when my eyes fell on a book. I pulled it out, the cover worn and dirty. A rough title said, “Greatest Thieves and Criminals of this Decade”.
I don’t know why, but I didn’t put the book away. Mekka walked up to me and read the title. Her eyebrows furrowed in the “Are you insane?” look.
“Why do you need a book like that?” she asks suspiciously.
“Dunno. Come on, let’s go.”
* * *
“Are you planning to go to bed anytime soon?” my mom asked.
I glanced up. There was my mom, a tall, skinny woman with a very kind face. She looks at me with that half-exasperated, half-amused expression I grew up with. I grin.
“Oh, come on Mom. You always say to read books, and here I am, reading. Doesn’t that please you?”
“It would, but it is 11:20 and you need to sleep. What book are you reading?” she adds curiously.
“Umm,” I muster, looking down. My mom may be nice, but she is kind of strict when it comes to things like this. I don’t know what she would do if she caught me reading a book like this.
“I think I’ll go to bed now…” I say, trying to put the book away. Without missing a heartbeat, she grabs the book and reads the cover. Her eyes widen and look at me.
“Why on earth are you reading a book like this?” she asks softly.
“I was just curious,” I reply quickly.
She gives me a look. My heart quickens. She places the book in my hands and whispers in my ear;
“Sometimes, Dean, too much curiosity can be dangerous.”
And with that, she leaves the room.
* * *
I groan, smashing my alarm clock with my fist. It shuts up instantly, and I get up, yawning. I read that book for a fair amount of time and slept at around 2:00 AM. I grabbed the book from my nightstand and opened it. I stared at a picture of a man with a soft-looking face, grinning. Something about that picture unsettled me. I quickly read his description.
Bank robber Jacob Marvy is a heartless thug. Convicted of stealing over a million dollars from banks and hurting people ruthlessly in the process when he was only 13, Marvey is sentenced to twenty years in the dreaded prison Muglem. He was currently interviewed, and the interviewer is thoroughly disgruntled.
“I think he might be mad. He grinned and laughed the entire time, a crazy gleam in his eyes. You don’t see this in prisoners. I feel like prison is starting to get to him. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, of course,” an anonymous interviewer reported.
Rumor has it that Marvey might bust out of prison soon, seeing as he is a burglar. Security has tightened, but we don’t know how long it is until he escapes.
I narrowed my eyes in concentration. Jacob Marvey- that name sounds familiar. An unsettling feeling settled in my stomach. Did I know this person? We have the same last name, but that could just be a coincidence. I hastily get dressed and go downstairs while holding the book. There’s only one person that knows this, and that person is my…
* * *
My mother turned around, her face exhausted yet alert. It’s an expression only my mom can pull off.
“What is it, sweetheart?”
“Umm,” I was wondering if this was a good idea. Nevertheless, I opened my book and showed her the page, “do you know this person?”
Her hazel eyes, identical to mine, scanned the page, widening with every sweep. She handed me the book, her mouth a flat line.
“No. I have no idea who this man might be.”
* * *
I knew she was lying.
I mean, her eyes looked like they were going to pop out, her ears turned scarlet (something that happens when she lies), and her mouth was pressed together very tight. And to top it all of, this man shared my last name. If he isn’t somehow related to me, I’m going to eat my sock.
I decided to pounce the question on mom whenever she least expects it, trying to throw her off guard. It never works. She looks like she is going to respond, but at the last second, she closes her mouth and looks at me, eyebrows raised. Finally, I managed to crack her. She looked like she was going to cry, but answered me.
“Okay, okay. Yes, this man is related to you,” she said one day, her voice cracking.
“Ah-ha! I knew it! So, why did Dad become a robber?”
My mom took a deep breath and told me the truth.
* * *
I stared at the building, at a loss of words. Huge gray bricks rose to the sky, and barbed wire surrounding the perimeters. Mom and I had to go through layers upon layers of security to get to the cell.
There, standing there in an orange uniform, was Jacob Marvey. He looked like he was 18, lean and muscular. His messy brown hair was identical to mine. When he turned to me, I felt like I was looking at a mirror. He was more athletic-looking than me, but our face was the same. Light hazel eyes, long nose, sharp cheekbones. He had that “I don’t care” vibe. It was hard to believe he was a robber. He looked nothing like his picture. He gaped at me, and I knew he felt like he too was looking in a mirror, only shorter and scrawnier. Then his hazel eyes drifted to my mom. He leaned into the bars, examining her.
“Sharel,” he said, nodding at her.
Tears rolled down Mom’s cheeks. She put her hands around Jacob’s face through the bar and cried.
“I never thought I would see you again,” she gasped.
“Naw. I just need to bust out of this joint,” he said, grinning. It was amazing how he was in prison, but he didn’t care at all. His confidence in himself was immaculate.
“Who’s this person?” he asked, gesturing at me.
I suddenly knew what flashed through my mom’s mind. I remembered a conversation I had with her years ago.
I was walking down the stairs, my eyes laying on that familiar picture sitting on the mantle. It was two boys, one me, and the other my brother. I never remembered him, but whenever I saw that picture, I felt like I saw a flash of memory. My brother and I, running across the street, his laughter ringing through the wind. I never knew if that memory was real, but I dared to hope.
I walked into the kitchen, my mom making some onion soup. I watched her, and realized, with a jolt, that I never have asked her about my brother.
“Mom?” I said, tapping her on the shoulder.
She turned around. My mother always looked happy for untrained eyes, but I saw through that thick veil. Her hazel eyes were surrounded with a particular longing, particular grief. It was time I knew why.
“Umm… can you tell me about my brother?”
My mom dropped the rag she was holding onto the counter. She glanced at me, and I saw deep black bags around her eyes. She sighed, staring at the picture behind me.
“Well, your brother, he was, well, let’s just say he was special, in good and bad ways. He was a funky little boy, always trying to do something interesting. He had the soul of an angel, yet he didn’t always seem like it. He would get into trouble and constantly argue with me. One night, he had enough. He ran away,” my mom said, tears running down her face. “He ran away, and I never saw him again. He was only 9 at the time, so young, too young. I searched for days, but could never find him. You never remembered. You and him had a five-year age difference, so how could you remember? I have no idea where he is now. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive, sick or healthy, safe or in danger.”
My mom collapsed into a chair, tears drenching her clothes, her gentle hazel eyes hidden behind closed eyelids.
I always carried that conversation. I always dwelled over it. Before I found out who my brother was, I loathed him. I hated him for leaving, for making mom sick with worry. I hated how he ran away, leaving my family in pieces, and how hard mom worked to repair it. And here he is, standing in a cell, his whole life about to be spent in jail, and he didn't care. He talked to my mom like an old friend, not like someone who broke her heart. The way he looked at her like she was someone he saw every day. I hated him, but we were brothers, and brothers stuck together, whether they like it or not.
Seeing my mom cry made me want to cry too. This man was my friend for four years. There’s a picture of us sitting together, grinning at the camera. He would be my best friend if he hadn't left into a life of crime. Now, here he is, and he doesn't even know who I am. Four years of living together, four years of playing, four years of memories, gone, just because this man decided crime was better than family.
Jacob was looking from my mom to me, his eyebrows raised. He rested his gaze on me, his hazel eyes looking into mine, searching.
“Dean, is it?” he asked, piercing me with his gaze, yet I refused to step back.
“What kind of person asks someone who they are if they know who they are?” I said, the words out of my mouth before I could stop them.
He grinned at me, his infuriating smile. “Ah, just remembered. Thought you looked like me, then I remembered I had a brother.”
“You remembered?” I asked, my voice rising with every word, “remembered? What am I, something you just conveniently forgot? YOU LEFT HOME TO RUN AWAY INTO A LIFE OF CRIME! YOU LEFT MOM AND ME!” I shouted, glaring at him with disgust.
To my surprise, Jacob hung his head low. “Look, I never wanted to do it. My friend was leaving his house, and he made me come with him. I would have never left if I could. We met some people, and they made me and my friend rob banks for them, and we got caught for them too. I really do regret what I did. I could have stayed with you and mom if I had been smarter. Remember what I told you before I left, my last words to you?”
“No,” I said, the hot knot of anger releasing itself at his words. He didn’t do this because he wanted to.
He looked right at me, his hazel eyes soft and gentle.
“No matter what happens, we will always be brothers."