Release!By: J.S. Scott
Six Years Ago…
Please. God! Just let him live.
I was so wired up on coffee that I couldn’t think straight. Staring down at my youngest brother, Dane, in a hospital bed, I kept hoping I was in the middle of a nightmare.
If I’m dreaming, I need to wake the fuck up!
Clenching my fists on the side rail of his bed, I wanted to openly cry. But I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.
My father was dead.
Karen was dead.
All I had left were Sebastian and Dane, the latter barely clinging to life, and I wasn’t letting go of my baby brother. I’d already lost too much, and my sanity couldn’t take another death.
Had it not been for the fact that Sebastian and I had finals, we would have been on that private jet when it had crashed, but we’d left Vegas three days earlier. I’d only had time to attend the nuptials, and had headed straight back to college for my finals. So had my middle brother, Sebastian. Newly graduated from high school, Dane had lingered, hanging out with a friend who lived in Sin City for a few days before heading back to Texas with my father and his new wife, Karen.
Grief tried to consume me as I thought about my dad, but I wouldn’t let it. Right now, I needed control. At the ripe old age of twenty-one, I was a new college grad, ready to move on to finish my MBA.
Unexpectedly, I was also now the head of the Walker family, thrust into a position I didn’t think I was ready to take. But as the oldest, what choice did I have? Everybody was coming to me for decisions now, and I needed to pull my shit together.
I prayed to a God whose existence I’d highly doubted in the past, willing to try anything to keep Dane alive.
The doctors said even if he makes it, Dane will be scarred. Like I give a shit about that? I just want him fucking breathing on his own, free of the ventilator that now mechanically pushed in Dane’s every breath.
I could barely see his eyes, but on closer inspection, I could tell that they were still closed.
I started breathing shallow, my heart racing a mile a minute. What if he doesn’t make it? What if I lose him, too?
The protective gear I was wearing to keep the room free of germs and lessen Dane’s risk of infection to his burns was stifling me.
Get Control! Get Control!
I need to bury my emotions, push them deep inside me. I have people depending on me right now, including Dane. I refused to lose hope. The doctors hadn’t exactly given me good news, but my youngest brother was a fighter. He’d make it through.
I’d been trained since grade school to take my father’s place when the time came. I just hadn’t known it would be so damn soon. Vaguely, I knew I was going to have to step into his shoes, and finish my MBA while I was taking his place.
I balked at the thought of my father being dead. I hadn’t quite dealt with it yet.
Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head, my father’s voice:
Son, if you fall apart and lose control, everything and everybody around you will, too.
He was right.
In the past, we’d always had Dad to lean on, and he was the strongest man I’d ever known. If he had weaknesses, I’d never seen them. Maybe I thought he’d never die, that he wielded too much power to ever have the life sucked away from him. The thought made me feel suddenly vulnerable, but there was no time for me to be a pussy. Now, I had to go it alone, let everybody lean on me. It didn’t matter if I was ready or not.
My eyes caught a blur of motion outside the hospital door, and I saw Sebastian gearing up to come in.
I’d known he was on his way, but I was surprised at how fast he’d gotten here. My brother’s expression was grim as he donned a pair of gloves. A pretty nurse stepped forward to help him secure his mask.
Sebastian still had college to finish, and Dane hadn’t even started. I was going to be the one they’d look to for support. Although Sebastian was only a little over a year younger than me, he’d never gotten the same guidance my father had given me because he was younger and had different goals.
Both of my brothers need me.
Something suddenly snapped inside me as my eyes met Sebastian’s through the glass of the hospital room door. He looked as shell-shocked, exhausted, and hopeless as I felt right now.
Don’t show it! I can’t let him know I’m overwhelmed and having problems dealing with everything that’s happening right now. He needs me, and Dane’s going to need me just as much.
I forced myself to nod at Sebastian, trying to silently signal to him that everything would be okay, but I could tell he wasn’t quite buying it.
We both knew that our lives had been profoundly changed in a matter of moments, and that nothing would ever be the same again.