by N.E. Metis
Levirate: An ancient custom where a man may be obliged to marry his brother's widow
By N.E. Metis
They say the grass is always greener on the other side. That there's a place where wine flows like water. For a long time, I didn't know where that place was. I never reached that point of paradise my friends had fantasized about when I was young. Everything was always average, average job, average house, average car. But everything changed when I met Sally. My sweet, sweet, Sally. The day I met her was pure joy, the eye of the storm. Everything got better when I met her and everything got worse again when she left. I wanted her to be mine forever.
Sally, with her copper eyes and flowing black hair that smelled of strawberries. Her mocha skin always paired well with fingernails that were a different color every day. Each moment I spent without her was a moment wasted. It had been far too long since I had seen her last. But now I was going to see her again and I couldn't be happier about it.
I walked up the stone pathway of 358 Fender Street and knocked on the door, hoping she would be the one to open it. That she would greet me with a smile and everything would be perfect, we would kiss, embrace and grow old together. I can see it now, us sitting on two very old rocking chairs on the front porch. Maybe she's knitting while I'm finishing off a beer, I look at our purple mailbox and ask her if she remembers the time we painted it together, she does. The phone rings and she walks back into the house through our solid oak door. Through the small window to the side, I see her walk into the kitchen and answer. She smiles, it must be our granddaughter.
But Sally doesn't answer, Collin does. "Hey Patrick, it's good to see you!" he smiled and pulled me into an awkward hug.
I hug back, as to not seem weird, "I've missed you, brother." Collin was my senior by two years. He met Sally in college before I even had a chance too. If only I had been born first, I would have met her. It wasn't fair. I nearly resented Collin for that. "Where's Sally?" I ask.
"She's making sure the dinner doesn't burn. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable while you wait," he gestured me in with a smile.
I walk in and set my bag down by the soft brown couch. I take a look around the room. The large TV is turned on to a basketball game, but it's muted. The stained glass window just inches from it is beautiful, depicting the transition from day to night, it must have cost a fortune. I wasn't surprised by that, Collin loved to show off how much more successful he was. What caught my eye next was a framed photo of them together. I picked it up to look closer, they were dressed in full ski gear on a snowy mountain. Sally's plump lips looked so beautiful when she smiled.
I was interrupted by the one thing I wanted to hear, her voice, "Patrick, how've you been?"
I smiled at just the sound of it, but my happiness was ruined when I saw Collin's biggest accomplishment. His magnum opus of showing off, Sally's pregnant belly. He wanted to hurt me. How could he do this to me? It wasn't fair. Why? It was like he had given me a cake and then smashed it in my face. Then punched me and set me on fire. It just wasn't fair.
I realized I was so caught up in my own feelings, I forgot to answer. "Oh, I've been well. Pretty busy with work but I get some free time to myself, so that's nice. How about you?"
"I've been doing lovely. Four months pregnant, I haven't worked since."
"That's great. I'm glad you're doing well. Do you know if it's a boy or a girl yet? Names?" I set down the picture.
"We want it to be a surprise, so we won't check. We do have names planned though-"
"Xavier if he's a boy, and Anya if she's a girl." Collin had suddenly walked into the living room. His glasses were steamed up and his short brown hair now looked wet. "Dinner's ready," he laughed.
Dinner went by rather fast. I struggled to pay attention to the conversation, I had no interest in the things Collin had to say. I turned my gaze to Sally whenever I could, she even looked cute when she was eating. I thought it was good that she was, keeping a good diet is important to growing a baby. Sally has good maternal instincts. We ate steamed clams, a personal favourite of mine, so I appreciated that well enough even though Collin cooked it. He probably stole the recipe from mom, in fact, I thought he was going to admit it when he called me into the kitchen after Sally went to bed.
"Hey, you want dessert? We've got ice cream and cookies." He held his own bowl of ice cream in his hand.
"No, thank you, I'm okay. Is that all?"
"Heh, straight to the point like always. But no, I actually have a question for you. Are you in trouble?"
"Why do you ask?" I lean on the table.
"We just used to talk so much more. It went from every day to maybe a few times a month. We visited often too, but then kinda fell off. I was worried you'd been struggling. Either with mental health or financially."
That really got me. He didn't care. He just wanted to brag about how much money he had. He knew I had a livable wage, but he wanted to show he was rich by offering me some. He wasn't even trying to be humble about it, "I don't need your charity."
He sighed, "I'm sorry if that came off as rude. I'm just trying to help."
"Oh yeah, because you care so much," I noticed a hammer on the counter just inches from my hand. I could grab it so quickly, it would be so easy.
"What does that mean?"
"You're just selfish sometimes, but you won't admit it. You never really admit your problems, you're not Mr. Perfect."
"Patrick, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. Whatever I did, I'll make up for it."
He looked genuinely sorry. He was a good actor. I glanced at the hammer again. He wouldn't even notice if I grabbed it. What he was doing to me wasn't fair, "You expect me to believe you?"
"P-Patrick, I don't understand. You have to talk to me. Tell me what I did, please."
I grabbed it, I was right, he didn't notice. "There's nothing you can do. Not anymore. You just had to go too far, didn't you?"
"Why? Why did you do it?" I felt like I was about to tear up. I couldn't show weakness in front of him. No, I had to do something about it. I knew it would only take one swing. One strike.
"I'm sorry," Collin apologized again. Did he really think I would believe it this time? As if I ever could. He really was despicable.
"No, you're not." That was the last straw. I did it. I swung my arm and that was all it took. One quick swing, it took less than a second. It was all over after that. The crimson liquid poured into his hair, making it as red as it should be. The stumble before the monster came toppling down, that took longer than the strike itself. He didn't even get the chance to scream. No, it was far too sudden for that. The loudest noise was the sound of his glasses falling on the floor. Oh, how the glass shattered. They were my shattering prison bars. The bars my brother constructed. I was finally free. I was free of the curse that was my brother. It felt good.
Morning came easy. I slept like a baby. I dreamed of our wedding. She would have to marry me, she'd see how much I loved her. She would understand how I was always better for her the whole time and fall in love instantly. And she would look so beautiful walking down the aisle in her white dress. Our favorite song would play and our child would be there, throwing petals behind her. I've never seen her so happy. That image made it all worth it. I really did feel bad when I was shot awake by her shrill scream of despair. But I just knew it would be okay when she became mine.