“Things are fine. Jacob’s being an asshole, though. He said I had to perfect three dishes before he’d hire me to work in his kitchen.”
“That seems fair,” Kellan said.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m a great cook! You know that!”
“Yeah, but Jacob doesn’t. Just test out a few different dishes at the house. No big deal.”
He was right, it wasn’t a big deal, but it was still annoying seeing how Jacob offered me the job when I first came here, but was now putting guidelines on it.
“How has it been seeing Alyssa?” he asked, closing his eyes. “That has to be weird.”
“You mean seeing her with or without her clothes on?”
His eyes shot open, shock hitting him. “No! You’re sleeping with Alyssa?” he whisper-shouted.
I clutched my teeth together and shrugged. “Define ‘sleeping.’”
“Why? Why are you sleeping with Alyssa? This is a terrible idea. This is a completely, out of this world, horrible idea. I thought the plan was to avoid her at all costs so you don’t fall back into your past. God. You seriously slept with her? How does that even happen?”
“Well, when two people take off their clothes…” I started smirking.
“Shut up. I was having sex when you were still wearing underwear with superheroes on them. But how did it happen with you two?”
I couldn’t tell him that I went to her when I was falling apart, because he’d feel terrible about me not being strong. But, I didn’t want to lie. So I told the truth. “She always reminds me of home.”
He got a cheesy grin. “After all this time, after everything you guys went through, it’s still there, huh?”
“It’s just sex, Kellan. And we have only done it once. No commitment. No strings. Just a way to let loose.”
“No. It’s never been just sex between you two. Just to be clear, I always liked you guys together. Erika hated it, but I loved it.”
“Speaking of Erika, let’s not tell her. She’d freak out.”
“Freak out about what?” Erika said, walking back into the room with coffee in her left hand and a textbook in her right. She’d been taking night classes for her master’s degree, and when she wasn’t taking care of Kellan, her head was in a book. Sometimes even when she was taking care of Kellan, her head was still in a book.
“I broke a saucer at your house by accident,” I lied.
She glanced up from her book. “What?!”
She started questioning me about every detail of the incident with the plate that I didn’t even really break, and Kellan smirked at me, before closing his eyes and waiting to finish his chemotherapy treatment.
Thirty-two hours after Kellan had his chemotherapy, he was determined to play a show at a bar. Erika and I both tried to talk him out of it, but he refused, telling us that he couldn’t just give up his dream. A black baseball cap sat on his head every day now, as he tried to hide the proof that he was losing his hair, but I knew better.
We never talked about it, though.
Kellan’s breaths were heavy as we walked from the house to the car, as if the few steps were almost deadly to him. That worried me so much.
“See, guys?” He took a deep inhale followed by a deeper exhale. Erika helped him into the passenger seat. “I’m fine.”
Erika grimaced for a moment, before giving him a fake smile. “You’re really doing great. I can’t wait to see in a few weeks how the chemo is working, because I know it is. I just have a feeling. And I love that we are keeping our normal lives, too. That you’re still playing the guitar at places. Routine is important, the doctors say. This is good. This is all good.” Erika kept repeating the words, and I placed a comforting hand toward the front passenger seat where Kellan sat.
I saw him give me a weak smile through the rearview mirror.
We only made it a few blocks before we had to pull over the car. Kellan launched from his seat, and started throwing up on the side of the road. Erika and I both rushed to his side, holding him steady so he wouldn’t fall over.
This cancer was becoming more real each day.
I hated it.
I hated everything about this disgusting disease. How it took the strongest people in the world and forced them to be weak. How it not only touched your loved ones, but sucked them dry.
If there were a magic pill I could have to take away all of his pain and transfer it to me, I’d take it every day of my life.
My brother didn’t deserve to be going through his current struggles.
No human did.
I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy.
We got him back to the car and drove straight home, knowing there was no way Kellan could’ve performed in his current state. When we arrived to their house, both Erika and I had to help him walk into his bedroom.
“I’m fine,” he said, his voice exhausted. “I just need a little sleep. I should’ve planned the show further away from the chemo. Just a stupid mistake.”
“I’ll be in the living room studying if you need anything, okay hun?” Erika said, helping him lie down, and then covering him up. She kissed his nose, and he closed his eyes.
She left the room, and I stayed behind, watching his chest rise and fall. He looked so skinny that it made me ill. How can I fix you? What can I do to make this right?
“I’m fine, Logan,” he said, as if he were reading my mind.
“I know, it’s just… I worry, that’s all.”
“Don’t waste your time. Because I’m fine.”
I shrugged my left shoulder. I love you, brother.
He shrugged his right, as if he could see my action even with his eyes closed.
“I’m gonna go out for a little bit. Have Erika call me if you need anything.”
“Going out for some cookies? For a little shake? For some adult activities with a girl named Alyssa?” he teased.
“Kellan, shut up,” I laughed.
That was exactly where I was going.
The first time, he stood on my front porch, ran his hands through his hair, and told me to not invite him inside. Then, he came back the next day, and the next. And the next. I wanted to know the kinds of thoughts that ran through his mind each day. What his daydreams were like and what his nightmares entailed. But since we weren’t talking, I’d have to use his body language to figure it out. When he was angry with his parents, he was rough. When he was heartbroken about Kellan, his body lingered against mine a bit longer.