I watch the sun set deep inside the river, the sky filled with mixed colors, making the view tranquil to my eyes. I sit on the soft grass, leaning against a tree, my notebook in my hands, trying to think how will I describe this scene in my book?
I chew at the end of my pen, still mesmerized by everything surrounding me.
Peace. Quiet. Nothing to be heard except for the wind whispering in my ear.
I stare down at the empty page for my new entry. I want this chapter to be different. Special than the other. After all, this these will be my last words in my story. They're bound to be unique.
But I've got nothing. My mind feels frustrated about this but I keep on suppressing it by calm and deep breaths.
Maybe it's just the pressure, I think.
Maybe I'm just not ready to publish my words?
I shake this negative thought out of my head.
"You have to do this, Charlie," I mutter to myself, "You know you don't have a choice."
I look at my dog, splashing away in the cold water, the only way for him to be amused right now.
"Roofus!" I call out, "Come on, boy. We better get going!"
The golden retriever barks in agreement, running up to me, shaking out the water, almost soaking my notebook.
"Hey!" I say annoyingly, grabbing it, "Watch it!"
He whimpers, eyes going wide in apology.
I laugh, "I didn't mean it. No need to get sad."
Within a second, he starts licking my hand, wagging his tail.
"Stupid dog." I smile.
Roofus rest his head on my lap, though still a bit wet, but I don't mind.
I let him stay that way. I know it's getting late but I'd actually prefer staying out here than going home.
I can't handle Dad's taunts anymore. He wasn't like this before. He used to care. But that was years ago. He changed after what happened to Jason. When Jason was gone...
Dad wanted him to become like him, a farmer. But Jason always had bigger dreams. Saying things like, 'making it to the big city'. Dad always told him he was living in a lie. That he can't go out there and expect everything to go smoothly. But he argued. They argued and argued until finally Jason decided he couldn't take this.
He isn't dead. He only tried to run away. For months he didn't return. And Dad thought he never will. I wish Dad understood that he couldn't make Jason do what he wanted him to. Worst part is that we were not supposed to mention him in the house anymore.
"You never had a big brother." He always told us, "And I never had a son."
It was horrible. Only me, Emma and Dad.
But then, just a few days ago, when Dad was out in the fields, there was a knock on the door. Emma, my younger sister opened it, only to reveal Jason.
But not the Jason I knew.
He had dark circles under his eyes. Dirt covered his face and his clothes were torn. He looked so skinny like he hadn't eaten for days.
I was so shocked and happy that I wanted to hug him. But I didn't. He looked like a complete stranger.
When Dad came home and found him sitting inside, he was furious. He raged and shouted. I expected Jason to do the same but he remained quiet. After that, he started begging to let him stay. Sobbing and pleading so much that Dad had to give in.
But he kept a condition. Jason could only stay if he does the farm work. And also that he would keep his distance from us.
I wanted to, I really wanted to argue about that but...
But I don't. I can't. It's not my place to speak up to him. No matter how much I wanted to.
I barely see Jason now. And when I do, it's only from a distance when he's working. He doesn't look at me. Maybe because he's too ashamed of himself. I don't know. He's mostly working. And when he doesn't, he locks himself in his room. He's building an extended room in the corner of the farm. To keep his promise more firmly.
Dad has his eyes on me now. He wants me to become a doctor. I don't want that.
I hold on tightly to my notebook.
And if I can just publish this book, and if it gets famous. And if the world likes it.
Then maybe he'll change his mind.
I stare off into in the sky, remembering how life was before all this happened.
Before Dad got strict and before Jason started arguing. When Mom was alive.
I don't remember how she was. She died from a heart attack when I was six . Emma was just a few months old. Jason had spent his ten years with her. So he remembered her well enough. He used to tell stories about her, which now I only realize that many were made up fantasies.
I've seen her in videos. She's got a striking resemblance of mine. It almost feels like...It's me who's laughing and talking away.
Sometimes I wonder. I was six. I should at least have some memories of hers. It almost feels like I never had the intention to remember her by.
That saddens me the most.
My thoughts shatter with a start as I hear a familiar voice,
"Charlotte! Charlotte!" The voice is squeaky, "Charlie! Dad's abut to come home!"
That gets me up. Roofus, who was drooping on top of me, jumps too, ears all alert.
But he relaxes when he sees that it's only Emma.
Her curly locks dance as she runs to us.
She stops and rests her hands on her knees, panting.
"He's coming." She wheezes, "He's coming."
I ruffle her hair, Roofus barking and jumping excitedly next to our feet.
"Alright, Alright." I smile, "Let's go."
She nods and the three of us take off to our little house before Dad reaches home instead.
I dump in the chilli in a large bowl, the steam pouring out as I do.
"Em, can you lay the table for me please?" I ask.
She ignores me, eyes completely absorbed in the 'Tom n Jerry' cartoon in the living room, next to the kitchen.
"Emma?" I try again, "Em, please help me?"
"Hold on a sec!" She calls out irritatingly, "You know this is my favorite show!"
I put my hands on my hips, "It's not like this 'favorite show' of yours only play once in a week. You watch the same episodes every day! I know that you're only watching this to get away from your chores. And it's not like I'm asking you to clean the house or cook the food, now am I? Only a few little works here and there. So, will you please just set up the table?"
"Alright, grandma." She grumbles but gets up and does it.
"Thank you." I sigh, placing the food on the table.
I look up at the old clock hanging on the wall.
Wiping my palms on the apron, I say, "Didn't you say Dad's literally on his way?"
She shrugs, grabbing the utensils from the counter, "I must have seen Jason."
I nod but wonder at the same time, "Then why isn't he here yet?"
She rolls her eyes, "What's wrong with you?"
"What?" I frown.
"Don't you remember?" Emma folds her arms.
She sighs, "Yesterday, at dinner, Dad said that Jason had built that shack of his. He's going to live there from now on."
My eyes grow in shock, "Why didn't I know that?"
"I think you were washing the dishes." She gives me a mocking look, "Or maybe you were to busy thinking about that book of yours."
I blush with embarrassment.
She's the only one who knows. I never told her. The brat just went snooping around our room and found out. Read almost half of it before I snatched it from her.
"Shut up." I snap, "Just go outside and feed Roofus."
Emma snorts, running away.
We all sit on the dinner table, focusing on our food. Dad not even bothering to look up at us. My eyes keep on shifting towards the empty chair, where Jason's supposed to sit.
He worked all day. Isn't he starving right now?
I glance up at Emma who's got the same question covering her face.
None of us really has the guts to talk about this.
What if Dad bursts about it? I bet he will if I ask.
Emma glares at me, motioning her head in his direction.
She wants me to talk to him!
I shake my head, frowning.
She sighs, like she always does. Then shrugs like, 'oh well, who cares?' and starts eating on her food again.
And I'm just about to kick her from under the table when,
"You girls wanna talk about something?" Dad asks, casually.
I look at Emma, eyebrows raised. Since when did he stated showing interest?
We both don't say anything at first until finally, I clear my throat,
"So, Jason will be staying in that room he built?"
Dad nods, grabbing a glass of water. "Yep."
"So he won't be joining us when we eat?" Emma asks, realizing that he is acting weirdly calm and is willing to answer questions.
"He can...I mean if he wants to..." Dad mumbles.
"He's probably hungry." I say, "Should I go and give him dinner?"
He gets up, "You do that." And with that leaves to his room.
I scowl at Emma, questioningly, who only sighs in response and starts collecting the used plates to wash them.
I knock gently on the door, waiting for Jason to open it.
Emma nd I agreed that we'll take turns in coming over and giving him food.
The door creaks open, only slightly, a pair of brown eyes looking at me.
"I uhh brought you..." I show him the tray.
There's a minute where he just stares at me. And I look back at him, with this awkward silence.
But finally, I see his eyes smiling, and within a second, he opens the door whole way through.
The room is small, and shockingly quite sturdy. There's even furniture in here so it doesn't feel lie a prison cell.
"You made this all by yourself?" This is the first thing I say to him in months.
He grins, "Yes I did. Beautiful, right?"
I smile, gently putting the tray of food down on a small table.
We don't say anything as I just stand there gawking at the room.
"We haven't really talked for a long while huh?" Jason asks, scratching nervously at his hair.
I chew my lips, "Hmm. Didn't have the time."
He nods, "Things really changed after I left?"
I look up at him, "Only a bit."
Things didn't change as much as you did; I wanted to tell him.
"I better get going." I mutter, walking past him.
"Charlie?" he calls out.
I turn back from the darkness, "Yes?"
He sighs and shakes his head, "You're probably disappointed at your big brother for being a coward. After what happened..."
"Doesn't matter." I interrupt, wanting this conversation to be over.
"I know it mattered to you." He keeps going. And I know you wanted me to take you and Emma with you...But I didn't have a choice."
I feel myself getting heated up. I feel my fists clenching.
I start to think about all those days when he wasn't here. When Dad had to work extra hard. When I had to work extra hard. When Emma had to work extra hard.
We all worked thinking it'll be worth it when he comes back with happiness. But all he brought with him was failure.
We all have choices to make, he just didn't choose the right one.
"Emma will come back tomorrow to take the tray and give you breakfast."
And with that I leave.
Tears already forming in my eyes. I wipe them with my hands, staring up at the sky. The stars twinkling down.
I'll make the right choice. I think. I'll always make the right choice, no matter what.