by Regina Evans
A girl struggles to carry on after her brother, a famous actor, has died.
|Brother Dearest- Preface
Silence comes in many forms: an empty paper, an empty room. None of these are as silent as the closed eyes of a soul that has left behind an empty body.
I’ve no choice but to stare. The doors are closed behind me and they’re playing the music as loud as possible without being over bearing, but the snaps of the cameras are still audible. My brother lies more still than I’ve ever seen him, even in his sleep. A body once pouncing and taught with energy, eyes glinting and radiant, all have fallen silent.
They used to talk about his potential. I’ve seen it in magazines. ‘Only scratching the surface.’ ‘A rising star sure to outshine the rest.’ ‘Young and mature.’ Those headlines would be changing now. ‘A star dims.’ I shake the thought out of my head. Maybe we can’t talk to him anymore, but Andrew Reinhart’s light would never dim, not for a second. How can a light that holds so many promises ever burn out before its promises are fulfilled? He would never break a promise to me. He couldn’t be gone. It doesn’t work like that on his movie screens. It doesn’t work like that in the screenplays. He wouldn’t promise to star in my writing debut and then just- He couldn’t break his promise. Andrew never broke promises. Especially not ones to me.
Maybe it was true that my brother and I didn’t get along all the time. Did anyone ever get along all the time? But Andrew and I…we had plans to work together. We had storyboards, scripts, short films, we had it all. So many incomplete projects, forever frozen in their progress. And now I was supposed to finish film school. With what ambition? ‘I’m here to work my way up to where my brother is.’ Well what reason is that now? What could possibly motivate me without him? It was a pointless thought, one that I would surely cast away later. But in the moment, gripping a single red rose, taking staggering steps toward the casket, a thousand ways this could be faked flittering through my mind and all my will begging any of them to be right… in the moment, it didn’t matter.
I’d always brought him a flower. After all his theater productions in high school. Then, when he went off right afterwards to be a star, I would send one after the wrap parties. All the stories he’d helped to tell, I’d watched them all beginning to end. The horrific, the dramatic, action adventures, even a few rom coms, I’d watched them all end. So why was this story so much harder to watch?
His story was one of talent, pure unimaginable talent. There was a swell of arrogance occasionally that I would slap out of him, but more often there was the fear. He always felt fear. He’d read through a script, completely in love with a character…and then he’d set it aside as he convinced himself he couldn’t do it justice, that he wasn’t good enough. Everyone around him knew to disagree. You only had to look at him to see it. You could see his future more clearly than his crisp brown eyes, crinkled at the edges in a permanent smile or the occasional smirk. He was always climbing. Some critics didn’t agree, but the world could see it. I could see it. Just as plainly as I watched the casket close, the last page turn, screen fade to black, the credits start to roll. I could see his story beginning as plainly as I was now watching it end.
There was a large attendance. A few people I’d only seen on a screen were there and normally I’d be jumping at the chance to shake their hands, but today all I wanted was to run from their condolences. Run from the celebrities, from the world I’d been expecting to join, and find a corner of the world that would accept my presence to waste away in. It would’ve been embarrassing for someone to know what I was thinking. That I was so attached to my brother as this. None of that mattered. They didn’t matter. The cameras that would be sending my red blotchy face to be on the covers of magazines didn’t matter. The shouts of my name, the faked sentiments, the real sentiments, the fame I’d done nothing to earn except have my brother. Yet there I was, dashing through the crowd that cared about me because of my brother, and where was he? Their cameras and questions were harsh and noisy, but all I could hear was the silence.
The cursor blinked up at me, a physical reminder of my chronic writing block. I’ve just assumed at this point that it will never go away. That I’ll keep staring and the words will keep evading me. That I’ll never write again. I may as well not. Maybe I loved it, but there were lots of things I claimed to love before that I’ve lost interest in. Maybe writing was one of those things. I’ve scanned through lists of majors, trying to find one thing that I could graduate with before the money ran out. With all the writing classes I’m in, and failing, my current four year plan is a joke.
I had a calendar I’d ‘accidentally’ bumped into and knocked off the wall. It landed face down so I incidentally could not see that I was scheduled to shoot another scene of a short film with Andrew. It’s not like I could just forget though. It was so public. I couldn’t look into a single set of eyes without a glimmer of recognition. I remember being awed by my brother’s fame, but it was never as obvious as it was now. Fame after death happened to the best: Van Gough, Bach, and now Reinhart. Reinhart was my name as well and this fame I’d inherited was another reason I couldn’t bring myself to continue into the industry. I’d get jobs just for being related to Andrew. The public wanted it, who would deny me? It was cheating. I’d never really know if I was being accepted as an author or as a pity figure. I couldn’t let myself live in that kind of world. He’d left behind a shadow that had never previously existed. People talked about living in their sibling’s shadow, but Andrew was radiant. There weren’t many shadows around him to begin with.
I stared up at my window. The common battle began to repeat, do I go to class and face all the stares or do I skip and commit myself to failure? I should go. I really should. My friends are all worried and I’ve not exactly been out coming with them. They’ve been kind enough to know not to bring it up, but as usual, it’s there in their eyes. Sometimes I don’t know which is worse, the rumors or the truth. The press was so quick to use the word ‘suicide.’ Rage quickly boiled within me. He would never. He would never leave behind everything he had. As soon as they heard pills were involved, people pounced on the word.
No one wanted to hear accidental overdose. No one wanted to read about a bad prescription from pharmacists. People wanted to read about a beautiful person, inside and out, crippling to the pressures of the world and falling. The world just loved to watch others in pain. That they could gulp down all the lies about Andrew was enough to make me sick. These people who claimed to respect him, to care about him from afar, these people could so readily forget everything they knew to replace their worship with distress and sorrow. Public distress, surely. No one mourns in private anymore. What use is crying if there’s no one around to see it? They’re just using him. Using his death.
I fell back onto my pillow. It’s been two weeks, but a third week out of class seemed like the best option right now. My parents would be disappointed. Skipping class. Maybe, just this once, they would understand. Maybe the loss of Andrew would remind them that I was still here, that they still had the chance to be parents. But then again, maybe the tragedy would just push them farther away. It’s not like the fame was enticing. I would know.
I’m being followed around on occasion; photographers waiting to get that single tear that could fall down my cheek at any time and make the perfect cover. I wouldn’t give them that victory though. I had to be strong for him. Strong… A string of curse words passed through my mind and I pushed off the blankets. Getting ready for class was a routine so often practiced, I barely paid attention while I did it.
Andrew didn’t send me a text that morning, per usual. We didn’t talk through the morning about his new character and how he develops in the story. We didn’t talk about what kind of breakfast cereal he might eat. We didn’t start yelling at each other when I say I’ve been thinking about dropping out of school. My excuse for that had been that the industry was moving forward and I wanted to get in before I could fall behind. I always told him time was running out, but I hadn’t known just how right I was.
I remember when I first told Andrew I was going into the film industry. It was back in high school. We were at a premiere and as we finally were allowed to sit in the theater, I looked around me at all the people waiting with anticipation the same as I was. The entire atmosphere was swollen with the emotions of people around me. This movie, this individual story that hadn’t even been told yet, had such an effect on all of us and it had brought us together as one. It restored my hope. I turned to Andrew right then and told him. There was a flash of worry in his eye as he told me that the industry wasn’t the kindest place for all people. He made me promise to wait until after college and getting a degree to start working. After a few minutes of chiding remarks, I could see how serious he was and conceded.
Walking into my first class was one of the best and worst moments of my life. For one, I knew I would be trapped there for another four years while the industry moved forward. But on the other hand, “Should I pull out my phone and start filming a documentary cause you look like you’ve got a story to tell.” I had blinked at the girl in front of me. I had barely walked into the studio before she approached me.
My mouth gaped open for a few moments before I had the chance to untangle from my thoughts and respond. “No, not really. Not about myself anyway.” Though I could have just as accurately have said not yet. Not that I’d known what was coming. No one did.
She looked into my eyes and then held her fingers up, thumb to forefinger in the shape of a square. “Fake camera doesn’t lie. You’ve got a story vibe about you, whether you know it or not.”
My lips had twitched into a smirk as I met my best friend. She was so right about everything. She had a sixth sense for storytelling. I had to work for it. It didn’t exactly come naturally. That was probably the reason Andrew was so worried, but he never for a second showed any doubt in my ability. Neither did the black eyeliner coated eyes of my future cinematographer. “I’m Stacy.”
I shook her hand, a motion that felt old fashioned outside of a screen. “Claire.”
“Vanessa!” Stacy and I turned around to see the next person walking into class. She was holding hands with a boy who she was glaring at until he said “Logan.” She nodded at the shy boy that was nearly dragged in as she radiated more self-confidence than I knew was possible for one person to hold and he slowly shuffled in behind her. They would end up being directors. Both of them, as a team. Like the Coen brothers. They balanced each other out in a way that made you think they were perpetually seated on a see-saw that kept rebalancing itself. Vanessa glanced between Stacy and I. “So which of you is the writer?” I raised my hand, but before I could speak Vanessa narrowed her eyes and I saw the fierce determination I would always admire about her for the first time. “Do your worst.”
Stacy’s hands were up again. “So are you gonna play our villain or what?”
Vanessa’s giggle was less of a laugh and more of a taunt, but it still wasn’t a threat. Logan rolled his eyes. “Oh please, she’s camera shy.”
Stacy mumbled a quiet “It speaks” as Vanessa scowled at him.
It seemed our team was as complete as it was going to be. We all knew how to be our own crew. At this point, all eyes turned to me. I was supplying the story and I found myself talking without knowing what I was saying. If their reactions were anything to go by, I must’ve been saying something great because they looked impressed.
Vanessa gave a small nod. “I can work with that… I can definitely work with that.”
It fell silent and Logan timidly spoke up. “I hate to be the negative voice but we should be considering budget when we choose our story line.”
Vanessa looked unphased. You could see her mind churning as she spoke in monotone. “You don’t hate being negative, it’s what you do.”
He sighed. “Do we have someone who can do those kinds of effects?”
A hissing began that I deciphered to be Vanessa shushing Logan. “She said she has a backup. We work with this idea for a week. If it doesn’t work out, we go to the back up.”
We met at the beginning of second semester. We must’ve been destined to work together, because we all agreed on waiting and focusing on pre-production through the summer. We wanted to film in fall anyway. Andrew was able to come down for two days of shooting before it happened.
If I got anything out of my time in college, it was Stacy. I didn’t get a degree, I didn’t finish any projects to use in a resume, I didn’t have anything. One thing particularly important thing that I didn’t have was money for tuition. Andrew had covered that. I had promised him to get through college, and I hoped he would understand why things had to chance.
“I’m not letting you move to L.A. on your own.” I had Stacy’s phone battery in my pocket as she ran around trying to find it to call in and drop out with me.
“And I’m not letting you drop out of college when you have no reason to.” Her parents were paying her way through college. I wouldn’t forgive myself if she dropped out because of me.
She stopped searching to look at me. The options seemed to finally fall into place in her head and she threw her arms around me. “I’m gonna miss you.”
I shrugged her off with an air of confidence and nonchalance I didn’t actually have. “Oh please, darling. You’ll hardly have time to miss me before you’ll be drowning in my name all over billboards and movie screens.”
She snorted and ruffled my hair. “You’re gonna make it. I know you are.” She didn’t mention him, but she didn’t have to. Andrew’s name floated unsaid in the air of all those around me. I hugged her and for the first time since the accident, I let the desperation show through and the hug was tighter than I intended. “Easy, girl. Save your death grip for your readers.”
Stacy was strange. She was always saying something bitterly sarcastic or morbid and just generally being pessimistic, but she could always make me smile. I hoped she would recognize one day that she wasn’t surrounded by as much idiocracy as she thought. More importantly I hoped she would recognize how wonderful she truly was. Though that’s one of those things no one really acknowledges about themselves, especially not when they deserve to.
The apartment was small, but cozy. I took a deep breath to inhale the scent of the air freshener. My lungs were still adjusting to what they call air in L.A. but I wasn’t so sure it was a realistic substitute. There was someone I was rooming with. I’d found it on a website and she seemed nice enough. My biggest concern was actually that she’d recognized my name. I had to force that thought aside though. The apartment was affordable to split if I could find even a low paying job. She was only a few years older than me. She was an actress who would surely understand my cine-phile ways. If I was here because of Andrew…so be it. It wasn’t likely I’d find another option on such short notice in the middle of the fall.