Jen was at the counter squeezing orange halves with a plastic juicer. Her little girl was eating at the table. Jen wasn’t paying very close attention to whatever Suzy was talking about, but she noticed that Suzy mentioned “our brother.”
“You mean Travis?” asked Jen.
“No, our other brother.”
“He doesn’t have a name.”
Jen looked at Suzy. “Why doesn’t he have a name?”
“Because you killed him.”
Jen paused. Her hands stopped moving. “Why do you say I killed him?”
“Because there wasn’t enough room in your belly for all three of us, so you had to choose and you killed him.”
Jen felt the blood drain from her face. “Is he here now?”
“Yes. He’s right over there!” Suzy pointed to the open kitchen doorway. “Don’t you see him?
“Sometimes we don’t see everything that’s around us,” said Jen.
Suzy looked at the kitchen door. Turning back to Jen, she said, “He says he’s not mad at you. He understands.”
Jen remembered last Christmas, when she had been hit hard in the face by a chair that Suzy had suddenly pushed up. Jen had wanted to scream in pain but didn’t want to scare Suzy, so she pretended that it didn’t hurt at all, and kept up the conversation as her cheek expanded into a big lump. This was like that. She had to keep chatting casually.
“Has he been here watching you and your brother grow up?”
Jen looked at the doorway. In a half-whisper, she managed to say, “I’m so sorry. I think about you every day.”
“He says he knows and it’s OK.”
Jen said, “Your name… is Dylan.”
Suzy smiled and repeated, “Dylan,” as she looked at Dylan. “He says, ‘Thank you.’”
Suzy watched Dylan. Slowly, she said, “He says he’s going to go now.”
Jen stared hard at the doorway. “I’ll see you again sometime, right?”
“Yes, maybe,” said Suzy. Suzy got up out of her chair and walked to the doorway and hugged the air for what seemed like a long while. “What about Travis?” she asked. “Are you going to say goodbye to him?”
Suzy and Jen watched the doorway and listened as Travis came downstairs and into the kitchen. He was teary-eyed. “Our brother’s leaving,” he said.
Suzy turned to Travis. “His name’s Dylan.”
There was a quiet moment. In a small voice, Jen asked her daughter, “Is he gone now?”
“Yes,” said Suzy. “He’s gone.”
A short story about a 7th grader lies beneath this flower: