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Photo by Jack Cain on Unsplash

It was February 29 again, and I was wondering which member of my family would try to kill me this time. I had just poured myself a hot cup of coffee and stirred in a dash of sugar, and found myself in my favourite spot on the balcony, watching the sun crest over the ocean. I never realized that it was still February, until I opened up the newspaper that was delivered to my door this morning, before I crawled out of bed.

As I sat in the aromas of the fresh java and the ocean breeze, I took a deep breath and leaned my head against the back of the chair pad. As I closed my eyes, the memory of her face flooded the darkness. Those crystal sapphire eyes, her perfectly high cheekbones and her natural red pouty lips were impossible to forget. Her hair was as black as the richest ebony and her skin was an olive tone that would turn a golden toasted brown under the Caribbean sun. She was perfect in every single way; her laugh, her athletically toned body, and especially her scent. She embodied tropical mystery, with the delicate odour of calendula, coconut and a hint of jasmine. The very thought of her, and the way she always smelled made the hairs on my body stand at attention and a shiver coursed through me, like a tidal wave, washing over my head to the soles of my feet. She was the love of my life. She was my everything, and today was the 8th anniversary of her death.

The balcony where I sit every morning overlooks a deep cliff within the ocean. In front of the cliffs, sea turtles lie on the rocky edges or swim in the rough waves that bash up against the highest points of the embankments. The turtles have been coming to the same spot for years and they are a welcome vision and good company, as I live in the mansion alone. Her portraits are on display in every room of my home to remind me of a wonderful 12 years together, and to keep me centered. They also hang on the walls and sit on various shelves and tables, to remind me of the tragedy of her loss, and the impending doom of my life. Its not often I have visitors, but when I do, they comment on the many images I have of her throughout the living areas in the house, and how it might be time to put some of her memories away. That will not happen while I am alive.

Our relationship started when the two of us just happened to be at the same art gala, one Sunday afternoon, and after a few weeks of coffee dates, dinner dates, walks and late nights together, we both admitted our love for each other. The following year was a blur of events, with a beautiful ceremony at Martha’s Vineyard, and a lengthy honeymoon in Paris, Rome and Italy. We were both adventure seekers and history lovers, and we shared very romantic moments together. We were a power couple, that all of our friends and family envied. She came into my family as an icon that neither of my sisters or brother could even come close to, as far as class, charisma and dignity went. She was a true treasure, and I adored her like no one else could.

She was never a trophy wife or an objectified woman, through my eyes. I held her on a pedestal, but that was only because I looked up to her, and respected her the way she deserved. She was honest and true to everyone she spoke to, and she never uttered a negative word of anyone, even if she secretly disliked them.

My sisters, on the other hand, were enveloped in a sour jealousy, that made them speak of her as though she were a monster. “How dare she waltz around here, little miss perfect! Who the hell does she think she is, the queen?” That was my sister Nancy, the old, rigid, short, stocky one. She never had a nice thing to say of anyone who she thought was smarter, prettier or nicer than her. She was only 3 years my senior, but her face looked more like she was 20 years older. She liked to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey with the boys. She wasn’t married and was always on the prowl for a prospect to marry her.

“That bitch can just go away anytime. She is not our kind of people. We aren’t up to her standards or her class”. This was my twin sister Greta. Greta is what many people have described as a “handsome woman”. She is tall, lanky, and overdone with too much makeup covering her steel grey eyes, permanently tattooed eyebrows that have turned a deep blue with age, and a full thick head full of white blonde hair, that has seen too many bad bleach jobs over the years and too many hot irons and straighteners. Her hair stuck out every which way, unless she brushed it straight, and it had the texture, and overall shape of cotton candy. Her face would be pretty and soft, if she didn’t cover it all up with heavy rouge, bright red lipstick and dark blue shadow on her eyes.

My brother Ethan was 2 years younger than me, and although he never said anything negative about my beautiful wife, I have never trusted him. He had a habit of sitting as far away from the two of us at family suppers, celebrations, weddings or other events. He never exchanged many words with her, or with me while I was in her presence. Sometimes it struck me as odd, but most times I chalked it up to Ethan, just being Ethan. He has always been standoffish and awkward around strangers and around beautiful ladies.

Our parents were both deceased. They were involved in a motor vehicle accident over 10 years ago. They had been driving home from the JFK airport after a 4-month stay in Florida and got caught in a freak snowstorm just outside of New York. There were 2 cars and a large moving van involved in the crash, and the moving van was carrying propane tanks and flammable goods. When the 3 vehicles collided, there was an explosion and our parents perished inside their rental car. It was a devastating nightmare for all of us, but I had my wife to lean on, thus I came out of it thankful for my memories of them, and grateful for the childhood I had. They were wonderful parents and I was blessed to have them, if only for 35 years.

Now here I am, in a huge mansion overlooking the ocean, wondering who will be the one to finally come and finish me off. My siblings are all very aware that I have my own way of celebrating the loss and death of my wife. Although I do not spend a lot of time with mentally exhausting visits with them, we all communicate via text, or Facebook almost daily. They are the only family I have left, and I try and make the best of all of them, as a trio and as individuals, and I enjoy that they all live in a 100 mile radius of me.

I have always been closest to my twin, Greta. I sometimes find it difficult to look beyond her rough outer exterior, but I know what is inside of her as well. She has a heart of gold when she is in a comfortable environment. Her own insecurities tend to come out of her mouth in words that seem vicious or spiteful, but it’s because she has so much self-doubt. She likes to play the “cool” sister and pretend that nothing bothers her, but she has no filter on her words. She cannot hold back her thoughts before they tumble off her tongue like stabbing knives. She also lacks the compassion to understand when she hurts someone with her brutally honest vocabulary. However, she will always be my favourite sister, and when push comes to shove, I will always have her back.

Nancy, on the other hand, is just plain black and white. If she loves you, she would strip down and give you every shred of material off her body if you need clothing. If she doesn’t like you, she will rip the clothing off of you, just out of spite and pure nastiness and burn them in front of you. I am thankful every day that she loves me.

My brother has always had a soft spot in my heart. He is the typical artist type, who loves to dabble in al of the arts, He plays music, he paints, he draws and he sculpts. He also doesn’t like to speak around pretty ladies, and he hides in his studio apartment like a hermit. His neighbours don’t know him by first name, and he has resided in the same building for almost 2 decades. When we chat over coffee, I lose interest in what he has passion for. We are polar opposites, I am logic and numbers and he is moonbeams and Mozart. I love him dearly, for his whimsical honesty and oblivion to the world, and envy his obsessions and creativity. He is like a child, who dresses as a teenager although he’s in his 40’s, and he speaks with the voice of a lost soul. I hope that one day Ethan will find his soul mate, as he is a great catch of a human being. He deserves a love that will embody the passion that he emits from the core of his being. He is simple, yet so very complex, I have never determined what his actual deal is.

After flipping from front to back of the local newspaper, my coffee half guzzled, I realized that I had been daydreaming for the better part of two hours. The turtles are still in their splash park below and the sun is now higher in the sky, making my cheeks become hot from lack of shade or sunscreen lotion. What a beautiful day it is. It feels like it will be a hot one, as there are no clouds in the blue sky above, and there is hardly a breeze. The ocean air, although still has a fresh aroma, is beginning to smell heavier as it approaches 11:30 am. I rub my eyes, scratch my mass of blonde hair, and rise to go inside, pushing my chair seat under the granite table. It’s time to start my day, and the celebration of a memorial of a beautiful soul in heaven.

Inside the kitchen, I gently caress her face, on the large 8 x 10 glossy I keep framed on the large marble island, as I try and decide what to make for breakfast. I can hear her words, “How about some nice fruit and yogurt”. And decide that is what I shall have. She was always a very health conscious eater, and made sure that there were never sugary snacks or junk food in the house, as they were my weakness. When she cooked, the food was so flavourful, that the aromas and seasonings spread throughout the entire living area, making my stomach growl and drool build up in my mouth. She always paired dinners with delicious wines that accompanied the foods so well it was as if I lived in a 5 star chef’s house. Over the past 8 years my diet has become frozen pizzas, toaster waffles and canned soups. She would be very disappointed in me. I sat down with an apple, a pear and a cup of yogurt from the fridge. I whispered, “Its not what you had in mind, my love, but its fruit and yogurt. At least I try”, and I touch her framed glossy face again.

While I am picking away at my breakfast, wishing it were a large greasy platter of bacon and eggs, my phone buzzes. It’s a text from Greta “How are you doing dumbass? I know today is you’re big day” I sit and stare at the lit up screen on my phone and roll my eyes.

I texted back, “Doing ok. Just having breakfast with M” (M is the initial of my late wife). I knew this would send my twin over the edge.

Within minutes, my phone lights up again, “You need to get rid of all those photos of her! You are becoming a crazy person, and I wont be the twin to a nut job, now get your shit together!”

I ignored her rant, finished my yogurt and dressed to go out for a run. I tied up the laces on my shoes, put in my ear buds and set off for a full 8 miles, running down a long windy trail, to the cliffs of the ocean below the mansion, back up again and around the community. There were only 8 other houses within a few miles of my house and I ran past all of them, waving at my neighbours as they watered their lawns, or messed with their flower gardens under the hot, early afternoon sunshine. Running was something that I had always done, and have always had a love/hate relationship with. It helped me to clear my head, focus on the day ahead, and to reminisce. The morning of the day my wife passed away, I ran the exact same route, and I only run this route on the anniversary of her death. Most days, I stick to a short 5 mile run, or I will hike with my old friend from down the road, Bill. He is an older gentleman who loves to ramble on about his days as a soldier. I have heard the same 10 stories over as many years and still enjoy listening to him tell them over and over again.

As I ran the last 4 mile stretch, memories of the day my wife was killed flashed through my mind, like scenes from a dark movie. She had driven my Porsche to work that morning, and on the way home from her office downtown she called me to tell me that she had broken down on the road home. Her office is approximately 50 miles from home, and that morning she was meeting some clients and was in a rush to be on time. She was dressed in one of her expensive linen suits, my favourite olive green one, with a collared white shirt under the jacket. She was wearing 6 inch strappy heels and looked absolutely ravishing when we sat for our last breakfast together, of fruit and yogurt. Her car had a burned out headlight, so I offered her the keys to my Porsche, and told her I would change her headlamp that day.

Her call to me was at 3:23 PM that day, and I will never forget it. “Hi babe. The car quit working. The engine shut off on me while I was driving so I am stuck in the middle of the road. I called a tow truck, but it will be a bit of a wait. I will let you know when he arrives and I am on my way home, ok?”

I had been distracted, trying to finish a report to make a deadline for one of my companies, and although I heard what she said, and I was concerned about her safety and my car, all I managed to say to her was, “Ok love. I’ll see you when you get home”.

Shortly after her call to me, my phone rang once again, and distracted still, I put it on speakerphone and abruptly answered with a sharp “Hello”. It was the local police, calling me to tell me that there had been a serious accident, that the very tow truck that was coming to save her, had hit my wife. His words echoed throughout my office and my brain. I sat there, at my desk, for what seemed like hours, and said nothing. ”She must have been standing outside of the car, and somehow he missed seeing her, and drove over her. We did everything we could…..”

That was the end of my happy life. That was the end of the best thing that had ever happened to me.

Thinking about that day and that horrible phone call always made tears well up and run down my face like tiny creeks. I have no way of stopping them, and no reason to, She deserves tears. She deserves my unhappiness. She deserves to know how much I miss her and long for her to be in my arms every damn day.

Once I returned from my run, I had a shower and dressed in a pair of khaki shorts and a button up collared beige shirt. I carefully brushed my hair and my teeth and went downstairs to the living room. My phone had 3 missed calls and 2 text messages, one from Nancy and one from Ethan; both of them asking how I was doing. I found it somewhat amusing that they all remembered this date so well, as if they themselves had suffered a great loss on this date 8 years prior.

I messaged them both back and told them I was fine, had just gone for a run and would be heading out in a few minutes. I went to the garage and got into my Porsche, setting off for downtown. I knew that the 3 of them would be waiting for me at the place where my wife was having her eternal rest.

Rounding the curves and switchbacks on the mountain road, I had the top down, uncaring of the mess it would make of my hair. She always loved driving with the wind twisting and turning her black hair into tangles that she would struggle to brush out later. The sun felt wonderful on my skin, and with mountains to the left and ocean on the right, you couldn’t ask for a better view. It was simply breathtaking. I was so thankful to live in a climate that was as warm as this one at the end of February.

The car rumbled into the edge of town, and I stopped for a bouquet of lilies and orchids. These were her absolute favourite, and she spent many days during the heat of summer, pruning and caring for them in her flowerbeds. The same flowerbeds were now grown over with weeds, moss and covered in dead leaves. I simply did not have the energy, or the heart to care for them. I could never make them thrive the way she had, anyway, and the thought of hiring someone was too much to handle. I liked being alone, and refused to hire any help that would interrupt my life of sombre solace.

With the flower arrangement on the shotgun seat, I drove to the park where my soul mate was resting. I was on edge, as the thought of my sisters and brother always gave me anxiety. I was never good with seeing them face-to-face, even if they were there to support me on this horrible memorial day. They always had motives, especially the sisters, or so it would appear. The snarky comments and the rolling eyes that they exchanged always gave me a feeling in the pit of my stomach of impending doom or damnation. They could never just be kind, without a reason or force behind it. Ethan was the opposite. He stayed so quiet and timid that at times I would feel the urge to slap him, just to see if he was capable of any kind of reaction. His smile was rare, his voice was barely heard and his conversations were narcissistic. None of us had children, and all of us were in our 40’s. In many ways, I feel it’s for the best, as we all have a selfish nature. I like my privacy, my sisters like to be miserable and my brother likes his own unique world, where no one can read his thoughts or intentions. The only thing we all had in common was that our parents were dead.

As I turned down the avenue where the entrance to my wife’s family park lies, I shuddered at the sight of my sisters’ old beater cars and my brother’s pickup truck, I understand that they all struggle financially, and between the 3 of them don’t come anywhere close to my income level or classification, but why couldn’t they at least come into this century with their vehicles? It would be embarrassing for me, as this park is very high class, with the adjoining country club and top-notch golf course, but today, I will make an attempt to be grateful that they could all make it. As soon as they saw me, they waved their hands in unison to alert me that the were all present. I took the flowers and slid out of my car, half hazzardly brush my hair down with my fingertips, and straightening out my khakis. As I approach my sisters, they hugged me momentarily, and my brother embraces me tightly. They all stand solemnly at my wife’s gravestone in a small semi circle as I place her flowers, knelt down and sobbed. This has become my ritual, and although February 29 only comes every 4 years, I still try and visit her on March 1 or February 28, depending on how I feel. As I knelt down, my elbow and arm supporting my head, I stared at the outline of letters and years that she was alive until they blurred from my tears. Finally, I took a deep breath, and hesitantly invited them to my home for a cup of tea, or a drink. I never felt like talking or visiting, but I also didn’t want to be at home, and something was nagging in the back of my mind, since this morning. Which of these idiots was going to try and kill me this year?

The last February 29th celebration of my wife’s life ended on a violent note, with Nancy becoming very drunk on my expensive vodka, and attempting to throw me off of my balcony. She decided, at some point over the course of the evening that it wasn’t fair that I was so successful in my life that I drive expensive cars and live in a mansion, all alone. She lives in a trailer park on the edge of town, surrounded by prostitutes, drug dealers and homeless people who beg for spare change on the regular. She always tells me she doesn’t like to visit me, but when she is there, she begs to stay for endless sleepovers until I have to ask her to leave. I have to make it very clear when they arrive that February 29 ends at midnight and that is when I go back to being alone in my house.

Of the 3 of them, Nancy is, of course, the roughest and strongest. She is also the one who takes no shit from anyone and fights for everything she has. I have to give her respect for that, but to get drunk and try and kill off your own brother, is a bit of a stretch, even for her.

Greta is also quite jealous of my success and my materials. She asks me every item she visits, where the items on my knick-knack shelves have come from. I collect small statues and such from countries that I have visited over the years, and they all have stories. Every time I tell her where they are from her response is always the same “You went to Peru? Must be nice! Oh, you went to Africa? Must be wonderful to be rich!” She asks the questions, but never receives the answer without sharing her eye rolling glance of sarcasm with our sister behind my back.

Ethan comes into my house like that of a frightened deer. His eyes stay large and eerily round, like he is living in terror. Typically he sits on the edge of my chaise lounge in the sitting room, and doesn’t move, I am not sure if I have ever seen him in another room in the house. He stays statuesque and looks around oddly with his eyes, and not his neck or head. I marvel at what a strange man he has become.

As we drove back to my house, our crazy caravan of my Porsche, my sisters’ old Impala and Le Sabre, and my brother’s old Ford pickup, I tried to focus on my wife’s beautiful smile, and the feeling of being curled up in our California King bed together naked. Saturdays were for morning Crosswords and lovemaking, Sundays we made brunch together in our pajamas and took long walks on the beach below and fed the turtles. I longed for those days so much it made my heart throb like an abscessed tooth. I swiped my card through the security fence on my property, and forced myself to not let it slam closed behind me before the following 3 vehicles could get through. “It’s just a few hours, you will be ok”, I told myself as my sister’s old car rolled through.

As I entered the door, I disarmed the alarm panel, and waited for them to file in. I dreaded them seeing all the photos of my baby scattered throughout the house, as they always had rude comments to utter to me and to each other. The many photos of her kept me sane, and helped me to not feel alone within the sprawling home.

Nancy plowed her way into my vast kitchen and began rummaging through cabinets searching for alcohol. Greta followed behind her, carrying the traditional plate of assorted cheese and crackers that she brought to every family function, and doe eyed Ethan found his safety net chaise lounge and perched his small behind on the edge of the leather cushion. His long boney fingers intertwined into a basket as he looked around with his eyes, like a sheepish owl.

Of course Nancy happened across the 50-year-old scotch I had stashed away in the back of my walk in pantry and proudly carried it into the sitting room, like a trophy along with a stack of 4 of my crystal glasses. It was like having a monkey in your home. Nothing was sacred or private and it was impossible to keep her from digging around and making a mess of my meticulously arranged shelves. “It’s only for a few hours”, I mumbled to myself again, and poured myself a stiff scotch.

“My god! Everywhere I look, her eyes are staring at me! You have managed to hang and display even more photos of her! You have to move on!” Greta was staring at me in a look that was between horror and disbelief. “How can you live with her looking at you from every corner and every shelf in every room? I would go crazy.”

I had to admit, that having 100’s of photos of her face, smiling, kissing, reading, pouting and even frowning was maybe a tad over the top, but I needed this shrine of hers to keep my sanity. We had a love that needs to stay with me for the rest of my life and if her photos made me feel better, who was it hurting? I was obsessed with her, and taking pictures of her when she was alive, why should her death be any different? I am still obsessed with her image and honestly didn’t care who thought I was crazy. The three of them had never experienced love, loss and grief as powerful as I had, so they can shut their mouths and enjoy my 50-year-old scotch.

As the evening dragged on, and the bottle of scotch grew emptier, Nancy went rummaging through my kitchen cabinets once again, and found a bottle of champagne that my wife and I had purchased in Paris. Nancy took it upon herself to pop the cork, pulling it out with her teeth, and said a small toast to my beautiful lady. “ Here’s to you, and you and you and you, and you”, she giggled like a small child and clinked the bottle against all of the picture frames within arm’s length. My wife sat in the pictures, smiling at her. Nancy was starting to get drunk. I locked my balcony door.

Greta and Ethan were seated quietly on the sofa and chaise lounge and Nancy was up, moving from photo to photo, staring at the beautiful images that stared back at her. “You are an idiot and you need to start looking for a new partner”, she slurred. “I am sad that you have become a weird recluse who spends day after day surrounded by your dead wife. You’re not right in the head and you need to get rid of her face”. Before I could rise off of my lounge chair to stop her, Nancy took a glossy portrait and threw it across the room, the glass shattering on the marble floor.

“What the hell are you doing? Are you out of your mind?” I ran to pick up the beautiful photo and she took another one down from the wall, this time a large poster sized one. She threw it on the hard floor and stomped on it with her dirty old combat boots. Once it was broken, she stood on the glass with both feet, and to my horror, she jumped up and down on it until the paper inside was torn into 4 or 5 pieces. I screamed at her “Stop! Stop! You need to knock it off or get the fuck out of my house!” I was outraged and trembling in utter shock. This was ludicrous! She is destroying my property and my precious girl.

I looked to my twin sister and my oddball brother for help, and was disgusted to see that they were both trying not to laugh at this display of madness. Greta took another photo off the shelf beside her and handed it to Nancy. Nancy laughed maniacally and threw it down the hall, smashing it against the coral colored wall, leaving a small hole and a large scuff mark, before it shattered on the floor.

Enraged, I stood in the middle of the room and screamed at them, “Get out! Get the fuck out of my house! You are all treating me with horrible disrespect and this is the day when I should feel like you are my sisters and brother! Go get into your old jalopies and get the hell off my property!”

None of them made a move. They all sat, including Nancy, who was perched on the arm of the lounger I was seated in. They all snickered and looked at each other with knowing glances. Ethan looked at our sisters out of the side of his bugged out eyes, and then the floor. He was now sitting on his hands, and not moving. The only sound I could hear in the room was my heaving and panting and my heart beating inside my brain, as rage boiled inside me. No one spoke for what seemed like hours, then Greta, her big hair and over made up eyes stood up and approached me slowly, her arms outstretched.

“This is for your own good! We know you loved her. We know that you had a wonderful relationship, but you need to move on. It’s not like the two of you were actually married to each other, and I know that you are still grieving her but its been 8 years of listening to you whine about how sad you are and all of these photos are not going to help you get over her. You are our sister and we love you, but you cannot have a real life like this”. Greta wrapped her arms around me and stroked my long blonde hair.

I abruptly pushed her away, feeling the pressure of her ribs under my hands. “In our eyes we WERE married! She was my wife and I don’t care if her pictures bother you all. You need to leave!” I could barely catch my breath enough to speak.

Ethan stood up, looked at his sisters and motioned toward the door. “Let’s go”, he muttered. Nancy and Greta took steps toward him and looked at me solemnly. Nancy was no longer laughing and Greta looked at Ethan in contempt. This was not the memorial that I had hoped for, but it was expected. All of these people have been disrespectful of my choices and my successes my entire life. Why should this evening be any different? I am just glad that none of them tried to physically hurt me, or throw me off my balcony this time.

Life with my wife had certainly had its challenges, two females who were madly in love and trying to live the life that most dream of as a couple. In our minds, the ceremony that was held at Martha’s Vineyard, officiated by one of our dearest friends, whom, by law is an ordained minister, was good enough for us. Of course if her church ever knew that she performed the ceremony, she would be black balled from her organization, but she knows that love is love, and it doesn’t matter what sex or race you are. Marriage is a state of mind, and not a document.

The trio of my siblings walked out my door, and as Greta turned to hug me, I pushed her away. Nancy stood at the bottom of the stairs leading to my door, and said coldly “The next time Leap Year rolls around, I wont be here, sis. You can handle it with the pictures of your dead girlfriend, because that’s all she ever was. She was a stuck up bitch and you were an ass when she was alive. You should rot in hell with her”, She turned and opened her car door and slid onto the driver’s seat. I knew she was too impaired to drive, but selfishly, I needed her to get out of my eyesight.

Ethan never said a word to me, or looked me in the eye. He steeled off to his pickup, climbed in and drove off, leaving two black rubber marks down my cement driveway.

Greta was the last to leave. She opened her car door, stared at me for a moment before climbing into her Le Sabre. She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say one last thing, opted not to, and started her engine. I stood on my doorstep and watched her car, spewing black smoke, slowly drive away.

Relieved to be alone in my home again, I went inside and started to sweep the glass shards up and attempt to repair my love’s beautiful faces. I tried to take my mind off of the words that Nancy spewed, but they kept repeating in my mind, like a haunting of a demented ghost. Maybe she was right. Maybe spending my days talking aloud to all of these images of my beloved was unhealthy. When I speak to her, I can honestly hear her voice answering me and conversing with me, and it brings comfort and joy to me. Why is that a problem for others when it’s not for me?

As I dumped the last dustpan of shattered glass into the garbage bin, the doorbell rang through the house. At first I was startled by the sound, as I rarely get visitors, but I quickly composed myself. As I answered the door, I felt myself stagger slightly from the effects of the scotch and champagne I had been sipping while tidying up Nancy’s mess.

The security camera at the front entrance showed that Ethan was at my door, and I quickly looked around to see if he had forgotten any of his belongings. Why else would he be at my door so close to midnight?

Confused, I opened the door and said hello. “I just wanted to come back and chat”, Ethan mumbled. He was looking at the cement planter beside him when he spoke, and not at my face.

“Sure, come in. I am sorry about the girl’s behaviour Ethan. They can be a handful”. I said as he came in to remove his shoes. I reminded him that there might still be glass on the floor so he could leave them on. He walked straight to the chaise lounge and perched on the edge of the cushion, as if he had never left.

“Do you have any more scotch? I want to get a few things off my chest with you, if you have time”. This was the most my brother had spoken to me in quite some time, and he looked so serious, I never answered him, and went to my private stash of aged whiskey and scotches. I poured us both a hefty glass, neat, and handed him one. He was white as a ghost.

As he sat, he folded and unfolded his slender fingers, his legs bounced up and down nervously. He had always had some form of shaky leg syndrome that made him appear twitchy and nervous all the time, but tonight he was especially so.

I sat down on my lounge chair adjacent to him, surrounded by the eyes of my deceased angel. “What’s going on? I am surprized you came back Ethan”, I looked at him inquisitively and concerned. He was acting very odd, even for Ethan.

As I sat, I stared at my brother thinking of our lives as young children. He was always such a sweet quiet boy and he always made me feel important. Whenever he had problems he would come to his big sister for guidance. If he was bullied at school, I would face his bully and scare the shit out of them. I looked out for him always and he always had my back.

Now here we were, sitting together over glasses of scotch and I had no idea what he was about to get off his chest. He was still wearing his faux leather red jacket; his navy pants and a red shirt, looking clean and sharp. His gelled black hair had a wet gleam to it, and his huge eyes seemed to fear me, yet somehow there was something else in them that I couldn’t pinpoint.

He tucked his hands nervously into the pockets of his jacket as he spoke. “I loved her too, you know”, he stammered, He picked up his scotch and downed the remainder of the 3 ounces in one sip. “I loved her and you took her from me”. He looked me dead in the eyes. This was something that I rarely, if ever, saw him do with anyone.

All I could get out of my throat was one word “What?”

Ethan twitched again; his hands were still in his pockets so I couldn’t see them tremble. “I loved her, and you took her from me. We were together before you ever came along. We had a thing the year before you met her at the gala. I was in love with her. We had a relationship while you were busy running around the world. Then you came home, and took her from me. This was supposed to be my life. This is my house! You stole it all away, so I stole her back!”

Every hair stood on end on my body. The nape of my neck began to perspire and I could feel trickles of sweat running down my spine under my blouse. “What are you talking about Ethan? She was gay! She loved women! I think you are delusional!” I was so perplexed and beyond confused with Ethan’s allegations. “What do you mean you stole her back?”

My brother was holding his head in both hands, messing his coiffed hair to resemble horns on his temples. He had a look in his steel eyes that made me sit back anxiously on the cushion of my chair. He stood up and paced back and forth like a wild animal in a zoo cage.

“We used to make love endlessly, we would take long walks, and hold hands and go to museums, and she loved my artwork but YOU took her from me you bitch!” his voice was now a high pitched scream I had never heard emit from him. “You stole my wife, my money and my life! She was too good for you! She had money! THIS money that you now have! What makes you think you can live in her house and live in your expensive pretty paradise when it was never yours in the first place! You weren’t even married because dykes can’t get married in this country, yet you claim that she was your beloved wife! You are a liar and a thief and I have hated you for years for it! “ Without any warning, Ethan started grabbing my precious ornaments off the shelves and throwing them at my face. “I loved her and I took her back from you, you bitch!” He was now screeching like a wild animal as he hurled statues and crystal balls and candleholders at me. I ran behind my chair and ducked, covering my head. He stood over top of me with a heavy porcelain vase from my trip to China, his eyes shot laser beams of wrath at my face. “Who do you think was responsible for her death? Huh? Who was it?” He screamed. “It was me! I paid someone to “fix” your car for you, your precious Porsche that you are so damn proud of. It was me who caused it to break down, and it was me who found someone to drive over her beautiful face and end her life. The life that she was supposed to have with me! You made me do it you fucking dyke! She wasn’t supposed to be with a woman! She was supposed to be with me!” I was sprawled on the floor behind my leather lounger, crying in fear, in shock and in disbelief of what I was hearing. I rolled onto my back, looked up at the face of my brother, whom I no longer recognised.

“You’re lying”, was all I said. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, my brother heaved the heavy porcelain vase over his head and swung as hard as he could, nicking the side of my temple. Seeing stars, I clambered to my feet and ran toward the balcony. I had no idea where to run or what to do. All I could think of was escaping his rage. I unlocked the glass doors and slipped through a small crack, slamming the door behind me. As soon as I was on the deck, I realized I had just made a grave mistake. The vase came crashing through the glass and I stumbled backward. Ethan came charging at the hole that was left from the crash. He stepped through the shards and reached out to grab my throat. I stepped aside, and pushed as hard as I could, using as much force as my 125 pound body could muster. I was terrified for both of our lives and appalled at myself for allowing this animal into my home once again,

As we struggled, him pushing me, me pushing him, I found strength I never realized I had. I thought of her, my beautiful wife, and how this asshole took her from me. Without a second thought I kicked my brother in the groin with all the power I could gather, dropping him to the ground. As he was falling, he held onto the rail and I shoved him as hard as I could. The rail gave away with a sickening crack. In the darkness of the night of February 29, at 11:56 pm, my brother plunged off of my balcony, and bounced off the cliffs below. I lost sight of him as the crashing waves ripped him under, the last glimpses I had were of his faux leather red jacket. I stood holding what was left of the wooden rail, wracked with sobs and horror.

As I entered my sitting room, the pictures of my beautiful girl seemed to be looking through me instead of at me. We had a new understanding of each other. I climbed into our California King bed and closed my eyes.

Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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