We spoke in unison, “What type of fuckery is this?! If you wanted to kill me, you could’ve used a butcher’s knife. It would’ve been less painful than this damn turkey.”
Kellan and I both laughed this time. It wasn’t even that funny, but we were cracking up, laughing together so hard that our ribs started to ache. Tears of memories running down my face.
When we stopped, a cold silence filled the space, but at least this silence wasn’t lonely, because my brother was with me.
“How was she today?” Kellan asked about Ma.
“Not your concern, Kel. Seriously. I’m back, so I’ll handle her. You have a lot of shit on your plate. It’s my turn to help.”
He tilted his head in my direction. “Yeah, but what about you? How are you holding up?”
I couldn’t tell him how close I was to using.
I couldn’t tell him how heartbroken I was to see Ma in the shape she was.
I couldn’t fall apart when he needed me the most.
I had to be strong for him, because his whole life was spent being the person who saved me. I wasn’t a hero, I wasn’t a savior, but I was his brother—and I truly hoped that would be enough.
“I’m good, Kellan,” I said. He didn’t believe me. “I am, I promise.” He knew it was a lie, but he didn’t call me out on it.
“I’m really worried about Ma. And I’m not sure how to help her…And if I’m gone…” He paused his words as his inner demons and fears accidentally slipped from between his lips.
Pushing myself off of the wall, I stood in front of him. “No. No. You don’t get to say that kind of shit, okay? Look, you’re here. You’re getting the chemotherapy. It’s going to work. Okay?”
His doubt was seen fully in his stare.
I lightly shoved him in his shoulder. “You’re not dying, Kellan. Okay?”
His jaw trembled, and he slightly nodded. “Okay.”
“No, say it like you mean it. You’re not dying!” I said, heightening my voice.
“I’m not dying.”
“I’m not dying!” he spoke into the cool air.
“I’m not fucking dying!” He shouted it the last time, his arms reaching out in victory, a smile upon his lips.
I pulled him into a tight hug and held him close. I hid the tears that started to fall from my face, and nodded my head slightly, whispering. “You’re not dying.”
We headed back inside of the restaurant, and I watched him perform, his hands shakier than I wanted to admit, but his music was so much better than I’d ever heard. Erika stared up at him as if she was looking at forever in one guy’s soul. She loved him. Which was enough reason for me to love her. Even if she hated my guts, such a big part of me loved her, for loving him to her core.
“I have to get back to finish grading my papers,” Erika said after Kellan finished his set. We all stood at the bar with drinks in our hands, laughing with Jacob, and forgetting for a while about the reality of our days to come.
“I’ll head out with you,” Kellan told her. He reached into his pocket and tossed me his car keys. “You can drive my car back, Logan.” Those words might not have meant much to anyone else, but it meant he trusted me.
He’d always trusted me—even when I wasn’t trustworthy.
“I’ll meet you out at your car, Erika. I’m just going to grab my guitar.” She nodded and left. The moment she walked away, Kellan leaned in toward Jacob, with the sincerest look in his eyes. “Hey man, I just wanted to let you know. If something happened to me,”—he paused, turned my way and smirked—“which it won’t, because I’m not dying. But if something did happen, I would be okay with you looking after Erika, ya know? I would be fine with that.”
Jacob leaned forward, resting both of his elbows on the countertop. “And this is the moment I tell you to piss off for even thinking something like that.”
Kellan chuckled. “No, but really. You’ll take care of her?”
“We aren’t talking about this,” Jacob replied.
“Yeah, Kel. Stop being dramatic,” I agreed.
“Dude. I have cancer.”
“Don’t you fucking play the cancer card on me,” Jacob snickered, throwing a rag at him. “I don’t give a shit,” he said jokingly.
“But, promise me you’ll take care of her?” he asked, one last time.
Jacob sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Even though NOTHING is going to happen to you, if it will make you sleep better at night, Erika will be taken care of. I promise.”
Kellan looked visibly lighter, his shoulders relaxing, and nodded before heading out to join his fiancée.
As I tossed on my coat to leave, I called Jacob over to me. Leaning in close to him, I gripped his white T-shirt and locked eyes with him. “If I ever see you looking any kind of way at Erika, I swear to God I will rip your balls off and feed them to you.”
He snorted laughing, until he saw the stern look on my face. “Dude. Erika’s like a sister to me. That’s disgusting. Now, that Alyssa girl on the other hand...” He smirked and wiggled his eyebrows.
“You’re a terrible person,” I said dryly.
He laughed. “I’m kidding! Come on. That’s funny. Trust me, the Walters girls are off limits.”
“Good. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.”
“We are. Besides, Kellan’s not dying.”
I nodded in agreement.
Because Kellan wasn’t dying.
I stuffed my hands into my pockets and rocked back and forth on Alyssa’s porch. I didn’t know how I found myself standing there. I wasn’t sure if she would even keep the door open once she noticed it was me.
But I had nowhere else to go. No one to turn to.
She opened the door, and my eyes danced across her body as she stood in a white tank top and tight blue jeans. When I met her eyes, I almost burst into tears because just being near her reminded me of what it felt like not to be alone.
Her arms crossed and she cocked a brow. “What do you want, Logan? Are you still looking to yell at me? To make me feel like crap? Because it’s almost one in the morning and I really don’t want to hear it.” The strong stance she held almost made me laugh, but when I opened my mouth to release a chuckle, I choked on the air.