The hot steamy air felt nice. Mai-lynn stood in front of the bathroom mirror, with a towel wrapped around her damp body.
After at least twenty minutes of convincing Joshua she was fine, or at least fine enough, she had gotten into the shower.
The hot water had felt good on her battered body. The soap couldn’t wash way what had happened of the past twenty-four hours but the clean, warm feeling the shower gave her was at least somewhat relaxing.
Her hand reached for a dry face cloth that was on the counter. In one swift movement she wiped some of the glass, wanting to get a look at her face.
The bleeding in her mouth had stopped not long after her father had left. Mai-lynn couldn’t see a mark from the punch her jaw had taken, and she doubted much of one would appear, it would just be sore for a few days.
Unlike her face, the rest of her body was already developing bruises on the sore spots.
A sigh escaped her lips as the mirror fogged over again. In a few minutes she had dried off and changed into clean clothes.
Mai-lynn quietly walked to the living room, where she could hear the sound of the television. The room was dark aside from the glow of the TV. Outside it was grey and dreary, even though it was only about four, all of the afternoon sunlight had been sucked out of the sky. Rain would start falling soon enough.
As she crept into the room, she saw Joshua sleeping peacefully on the couch.
He had said he would stay up and watch TV but clearly he had been too tired to wait for her to finish her shower.
She didn’t want to wake him, he had deserved a good sleep since he had given up his chance at sleep for her last night.
As her eyes scanned the distraught room she decided it would be a good idea to clean a bit. Using the light from the television, she cleaned, quietly, not wanting to wake Joshua.
She returned scattered books to the bookshelf. A few picture frames were on the floor, most in one piece so she returned them to the wall.
Once things were picked up she got the broom and absently swept up what had been broken on the floor.
Mai-lynn went into the kitchen to empty the dustpan into the garbage. Before she did she noticed something in the things she had swept up.
There were different sized pieces of transparent glass. She vividly remembered it being destroyed. Yesterday, when her and Caleb had come home, she had hide behind her brother as the figurine smashed against the wall. That had only happened yesterday. It seemed odd that it was only yesterday.
The figurine belonged to Caleb. Their mother had given it to him before he started high school, only weeks before her death. She said the angel would take care of him when she couldn’t.
Now, all that was left of the once palm sized figurine was shards of glass. Though that was okay. It was supposed to be Caleb’s guardian angel, and he didn’t need it anymore. She couldn’t help but think maybe if it hadn’t broke he would have lived.
As she stood there, standing over the garbage can she stared at the pieces. There was no way it could be fixed.
Her hand reached for two pieces before she threw it away. She had taken the only piece that looked somewhat full, and not shattered into tiny, meaningless pieces.
She placed the angel’s glass wing into the pocket of her baggy jeans. The other piece was a gold plate that had been on the bottom of the angel when she was whole. The words inscribed onto it made her throat swell.
nothing is ever guaranteed
anything can leave or die
hold tightly to everything right
turn away from everything wrong
cherish only one thing, life.
Mai-lynn sat on her brother’s bed, her eyes wandering. The room smelled faintly of him. Caleb never really had much time to spend in his room.
But still, she felt the slightest presence of her older brother.
There was a voice in the back of her mind, reminding her that she would have to do something with his things, but for now she didn’t want to deal with it. She simply didn’t feel right about going through his belongings quite yet.
She saw a book sitting there, on his desk and she got up to examine it. She was curious to see what her brother had been reading.
As she reached for the book she realized it looked like a journal. She opened it and saw only a few pages of hand written words. She didn’t want to invade his privacy. If he wanted her to read his journal, she would have known it existed.
She went to close it when something fell out on the floor. She set the book on the desk and bent down to pick up whatever had fallen.
Mai-lynn was on the floor, with her back against Caleb’s pile of mattresses on the floor that he considered a bed.
In her hands was a piece of paper and a photograph. Both were deeply creased, making it easy to tell they had been folded and unfolded a lot. Her mind was swirling with thoughts. The words their mother had left them with were colliding in her mind.
I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore…
The picture of the three of them. Her beautiful mother stood there with her flowing dark hair that framed her gentle face and her brown-green eyes. At each side of her petite body was a happy child.
If you kids are reading this, I can’t say you don’t understand the pain I’m feeling, because you do.
Mai-lynn thought the picture had been destroyed that night. It was the only ting that had been saved. That night, it was kept safe while the family went spiralling downward.
I thought about taking you two and leaving him, but I was afraid of what it would do to him. This way I can get his attention, he will see what his problem is doing to the family.
That night was where it all started. Their family slowly died away. Drowned in a bottle of poison.
She knew that was the night where it began, that was why she could always remember it so clearly. Sure her father had sometimes where he came home drunk and angry before that, but it wasn’t an addiction, that was just what happened when he accidentally drank too much.
I’m not sure where it went wrong.
After that night he kept drinking more and more. It wasn't an accident, it became an addiction. One failed job interview after another. There were times where he’d have a job for a week, sometimes even up to a month. It never lasted. They had moment of stability but it always came crashing down.
Another drink, and he just kept getting angrier.
This will show him how important life is. He will see, and take care of you.
He never got better.
It was her father’s fault they had lost their mother a few years ago. She may have taken her life, but he did it to her. The way he had treated such a gentle natured, loving woman had killed her.
His drinking addiction had killed her mother.
Don’t blame anyone for this. It has to happen.
Caleb. It was his fault too. Mai-lynn hadn’t heard the whole story, and she knew she wouldn’t get a chance. She had heard enough to know it was her father’s fault. The men shot her brother over drugs.
It was clear Caleb was trying to pay their father’s debt. Why? She would never know. He hadn’t left a note behind, trying to map out his logic.
Her father’s drug problem murdered Caleb.
I’m sorry. I wish things could be better. No one should have a life like this.
Mai-lynn’s head was pounding. Her hand reached into her pocket. The room was spinning.
On the floor was the note and picture. Her trembling hands could no longer hold onto them.
I’m too hurt to keep going, but you still have your strength.
There were too many emotions. Everything was muddled into nothing. At least nothing that made sense.
She was hurt. She was angry. Lost. Alone.
She was the only one who hadn’t died because of her father’s problems. A suicide. A murder. His finger didn’t pull either trigger. Yet, it was all his fault.
His drinking killed her mother. His drugs killed her brother.
Mai-lynn held the angel’s wing in her hand. It pressed against her skin and a red line appeared on her wrist.
It will be alright, I promise.
The room was spinning faster.
Blood trickled down her arms as salty water trickled down her face.
The trail of death caused by her own father would be her murderer. There was no trigger to pull this time.
I’m not taking my life, I’m giving it to you guys.
He had broken the glass that would end her. He had broken her family, causing her so much pain. He had broken every bit of her until it was time to go.
As she pressed another line deeper, things stopped spinning for a moment, she could see clearly.
Joshua screamed her name as the glass slipped from her hand. Maybe he hadn’t screamed it, but it echoed in her mind. He fell to the floor beside her.
Everything is going to get better, and you will have something to live for, something better than this.
He held her in his arms, they were both shaking.
Minutes passed as they stayed together on the floor. Tears were falling from Mai-lynn’s eyes. She could fell tears coming from Joshua’s face too.
Actions speak louder than words, right?
“I wasn’t trying to kill myself,” she whispered.
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