She was clutching his dark blue hoodie with fervor, as though the only thing keeping her body from bursting open from nerves was the ardor grip she kept on his physical being. She was still horribly distraught, even after the sobs of her brother had quieted down and he came to her room to hold her in his arms, gently caressing her cheeks to rid her of her tears while neglecting his own.
She didn’t understand. All she had done was come home fifteen minutes late. Her bus had gotten a late start from the school because one of the boys had decided to chance a suspension for a day of infamy by pulling the fire alarm during the last bell. It wasn’t like she had gone to play hooky or had gotten herself hurt.
So why was her brother gripping his head so hard that his fingertips were bloody when she got home? Why was he weeping and moaning utter gibberish? Why did he insist on continuing his unsettling back and forth rocking, even when she told him what happened and showed him that she was fine?
It frightened her. Her brother was her everything. He was always there to offer her warm tea in the morning when she didn’t want to move from her warm covers, he never failed to read her a bedtime story in his gentle monotone voice when she didn’t feel sleepy at night, and he always made sure to set the little table in her room just the way she liked it when it was time for a tea party.
He was the one that was supposed to remain absolute, resilient, unfazed. To ward away danger and fear. But he had broken down over something so little, something so inconsequential. He faced near-death experiences and moral dilemmas every day. What was the factor that made this instance so different?
She didn’t know. She couldn’t know. Try as she might, she didn’t understand her brother, and it seemed as though he didn’t quite understand himself either. So she sat there, eyes rimmed red and trembling all over, in her brother’s safe embrace. Their tears intermingled and dropped down together, forming puddles of uncertainty and despair.