by Sawyer Love
A super short about an older sibling protecting his kid brother
|I wasn’t ready for death, but then again was anybody? Maybe the old people who spend weeks in the hospital on meds. I had so much of my life ahead of me. I was going to be someone someday and marry Cassidy May, the prettiest girl in town…as soon as I got the nerves to talk to her…When I first found out that it was all over I had a meltdown, but I can’t say I would have changed anything had I done that day.
Except maybe check the lake before we went out.
It was Christmas vacation and my kid brother had been begging to go skating on the lake for days, but I really wanted to finish the sketch of the view from my window. I felt bad about it, but this was going to be the picture that won the state wide art show and got hung in a museum. I was seventeen and had been winning art contests since I was six. Besides, I was petrified of water, especially since a boy fell through the ice in the big lake in town. They didn’t find his body for a long time. “Jesse?” My hand slipped and I dropped my pencil. I rolled my eyes and picked it up off the hardwood floor.
“What Andy?” I said fixing my mistake, mouth slacked slightly.
“You promised you’d take me.” He mumbled quietly. I sat my pencil down on the base of my easel and spun around in the swivel chair my father made me out of the tree he cut down for firewood. I couldn’t turn him down again. Maybe it would help relax me if I had some fresh air.
“I did, didn’t I.” I said smiling. “You don’t look ready to go though.” I said looking at his flannel pajamas.
“I am, I am!” He said running off. I chuckled and got up, putting on my brown cloak and matching trousers. I looked in the hall mirror and ruffled my shaggy brown hair. I knew mom was one day away from forcing me under the trimmers. “I’m ready Jesse!” Andy screamed running down the hall with his cloak and matching hat and gloves. The pants were starting to get too small. I’d have to give him mine pretty soon. I could deal without a pair for awhile.
I followed him out the door and picked up our ice skating shoes. We headed down to the lake laughing like fiends. Andy ran after me and jumped onto my back. I hauled his legs up around my waist and handed him our skates, he took them and I sprinted down the hill full speed to the lake at the bottom. When I got to the lake I pried Andy off my back and pretended I was going to chuck him onto the ice and he screamed and giggled. I plopped him down onto the log dad had carved into a bench. I helped him put his skates on and he hobbled over to the lake.
I pulled mine on and tied them slowly and carefully, prolonging going out on the ice as long as possible. I considered many excuses to get back home. Skating used to be my favorite part about winter, but a few summers ago I had a close call one day when we went swimming and then after that boy there was no way. Now standing here, looking out at the ice, my heart feels like its going to burst. I haven’t swam since and try to avoid skating at all costs. I accepted defeat and stood up still looking at my skates.
“J-Jesse…” Called a small, shaky voice.
I knew instantly that something was wrong and felt my body tense. I looked up to find Andy standing in the middle of the lake. He was staring at the cracks forming under his skates. No! Was the only thought I could form. Andy started to panic. “Jesse!” He screamed. I had to figure this out.
“Calm down.” I said, “You’re going to be okay.” I edged towards the lake. Mom always told us to be careful to check for thin ice. I stared at the ice and the cracks forming around my brother. Andy’s panicked breathing brought me back to reality. I wanted to run away, to go get help, but there wasn’t time and I couldn’t leave Andy there.
“Help! Please Jesse help!”
“It’s going to be okay.”
“Hurry!” His lip quivered.
I was scared out of my mind, but the tears in Andrew’s four year old, sapphire eyes kept me going. I placed my left foot on the ice and it slid slightly. I put some weight on it to test the ice before sliding out. I got about halfway before I felt the ice giving. It crackled beneath me and I glanced down quickly. Bad idea. I was frozen for the second time today. “Jesse?” Andy called, eyebrows furrowed, breaking through my fear. Water was seeping out of the ice. I kept going forward and reached out. When I got within six feet I knew I couldn’t keep going. The ice wouldn’t hold. It cracked loudly. I held out my arm.
“Andy grab my hand.”
“Come on. It’s going to be okay.” He hesitated and I could tell the ice wasn’t going to hold. I took a large step towards him and grabbed his shoulder launching him back across the lake. He landed, and realizing he was safe smiled at me. I smiled back and in that moment the ice gave way. I heard Andy scream my name as I plunged into the icy water. I was swept away from the hole and banged the ice with my fists, fighting back against the current, but a sudden jolt slammed me into the ice, hitting my head. I took in water. After that it was peaceful. The funny thing about drowning is you fight against the burning pain until you can’t and once you give in you feel completely relaxed.
They never found my body, which was probably good cause I'll be the first to admit, I ain’t looking too hot. Definitely wouldn’t want Cassidy Mays seeing me like that. Andrew grew up. After I died he started drawing. His first attempt was of me and I was appalled by the abnormally large nose he put slightly off center on my face. He finished my sketch. He knew I always wanted it in a museum. I visited it once. It had Jesse and Andy Prosper under it. I couldn’t have been more proud. Now he took his kids to the lake:. Sally, 7, and Jesse, 5. I wouldn’t trade that for an eternity of life.