All I knew was that his name was Emex Cavalier, and his twin brother was famous. As I dodged bodies in the long corridor, making sure to not bump or irritate anyone, my eyes curiously searched for him.
Almost everyone in my class had a channel below one hundred. But like me, Emex was also in the millions, despite his brother’s high status.
I wasn’t usually a socialite. In fact, my only friend moved away when I was fifteen, a year before my mother became famous. The only person I ever talked to was Linley, minus when I was forced to discuss with other students in class.
I spotted him almost instantly as I turned the corner.
He was tall and slightly muscular with pale skin that contrasted his midnight colored hair. He wore standard uniform, but on him it seemed to be more swanky than the rest of us, although eighty percent of the students were above average rich.
I passed him just as he turned around, his eyes landing on me. I thought that because we had simple things in common, we would click instantly, but I soon found that he was more intimidating than I had anticipated.
I walked right by him without saying a word.
Suddenly, the phone rang shrilly, making everyone start. We had been working on an assignment, and the teacher hastily picked up the phone to calm the swarm of us. Her eyes bore into mine, and I knew something was wrong. She gestured at me and hung up the phone. “Office,” she said. I gathered my things and stood, looking around at the others who had their attention turned back to their assignments.
I walked quickly down the hallway, my plain black shoes clicking against the floor in a way that annoyed me. My bag seemed too heavy on my shoulder, and I adjusted it two, three times. It didn’t feel right. I checked it and groaned internally, turning back around towards the classroom. This wasn’t my bag.
A girl stopped me before I could get halfway back to the classroom, huffing. “You took the wrong--” I took mine from her hands and shoved her’s in her arms.
“Sorry,” I said, adjusting my ponytail, and began the trek back to the office.
“Hey! Wait!” She called, hustling after me. She caught up to me and walked by my shoulder like a loyal dog. “Is something wrong?” I furrowed my brow.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business.” I dropped my bag down into hand, resting my shoulders from all the weight.
“You just--...You don’t talk a lot, do you?” I rolled my eyes.
“And here I thought I was a socialite.”
“No, I mean really. Everyone is wondering if you have some secret to hide.” I stopped, turning on her. She looked startled.
“Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe I just really, really hate people? You famous people, always making everything more dramatic than it has to be. Why can’t you all just mind your own business and play out your drama shows without involving me?” By the time I was finished ranting, I was seething mad, and my fists clenched and unclenched with anger.
She pointed at a camera in the hall. “Even if I were under one hundred, which I’m not, in fact, I’m not even under five hundred, you’ve just created the drama any show could ask for, for me. Did you ever think maybe that’s why people are drawn to you? Because you have a serious temper?”
“I don’t have a temper,” I said angrily, starting to walk again.
“Yes, because that’s what your tone suggested two minutes ago.”
“Can’t you just leave me alone?” I groaned, walking quicker. She still followed.
“No, because I’m also going to the office.”
“Figures,” I sighed, my eyes trained on the door ahead. I could see two secretaries patiently waiting for me. And another figure. A tall man that I didn’t recognize. As I got closer, I realized he was in a police uniform. I stepped in.
“Um...yeah.” I eyed the officer warily, even though he was the one talking.
“Your brother Ezra--”
“I know. He’s in the hospital. I got a phone call.” The officer cleared his throat.
“He died this morning Cressida.” I stepped back, my breath hitching in my lungs.
“How? It was just alco--”
“His immune system failed. His whole body shut down. Your mother wanted me to stop by to--” I took another step, my hand gripping the counter.
“My mother?” My head spun, and I knew what this was all about. “My mother wanted you to come here and announce my brother’s death for everyone to see instead of calling me?”
“She specifically asked you to come here and announce this?” My fists were clenching again. How dare she take advantage of me like that? How dare she try to replace my brother so soon? The officer nodded. I clenched my teeth and my eyes slammed shut. What kind of mom was she? How could she do this to me? To my brother?
My dead brother?
I composed myself and steadied my posture. I took a few deep breaths. And then, as I turned my head, I noticed the girl out of the corner of my eye, watching.
Watching with eyes that weren’t sympathetic, but almost mocking. I turned away from her. “Well thank you for informing me, but I won’t be making a big melodramatic reaction like my mother expects me to. I’ll take care of these things later.” I turned on my heel and walked out, only to be followed.
I found it hard to be calm. Found it hard to not turn around and scream at the girl. Ask her what she could possibly want from me.
“Tough luck,” she said. “Who was your brother?”
“I want you to stay away from me,” I warned.
“I won’t hurt you. I’m just curious.”
“You need to mind your own business,” I advised angrily, my tone growing more panicky as the reality of what was going on crashed around me.
I needed to pick up Linley from school. Tell her what had happened. And then maybe we could find somewhere and get away. Somewhere where channels wouldn’t kill people when they were trying too hard to get fans.
My breathing accelerated as I walked out into the parking lot and towards my car. As I drew nearer, I spotted a piece of paper under my windshield wiper. At first I thought it was a parking ticket, but as I looked at it closer, I saw it was a note.
I know who you are.
I threw it in the passenger seat and sped down the street, choosing to ignore it. Choosing to ignore the world. Because the world is what consumed my brother and then spit him out in pieces.
Because the world does nothing but take until there is nothing left.
Linley opened the door with her backpack hanging slack on her shoulder. “Cress? What’s wrong?”
I hadn’t picked her up from school. In fact, I had just drove around town until the pain was so unbearable that I had to pull over on the side of the road and cry until my eyes were raw and red.
I could only imagine how bad I looked at that exact moment. She sat next to me and put her hand on my shoulder. “Was it something with Mom?” I wiped at my eyes with my sleeve, making sure to catch any tears that might’ve slipped out.
There were none.
“Um...no...” I sniffled and stared at a painting on the wall. The painting of a beautiful winter landscape that I made last year.
“Did something happen at school then?” I unbuttoned my school jacket and hung it on the back of my chair. I’d forgotten to change out of my uniform.
I didn’t want to break her heart so soon. The way I kept having to break all of this news to her. The way it matured her so quickly.
Here I was just trying to give her the childhood she’d always deserved. And yet my mother was still taking that away from her two hundred miles away.
Especially by expecting me to have such a fit about Ezra that people would pay attention to my channel and I’d take his place. Not taking his place, not being apart of it all, was how I was giving Linley her life back.
And my mother was still trying to take that away.
I couldn’t break her heart. I couldn’t tell her our brother had died. Because it was going to mature her once more. And this little twelve year old was coming so severely close to being an adult with each passing day.
The last thing she needed was another tragedy.
But I couldn’t just not tell her. If I didn’t, she would find out on her own. She would only get angrier if I weren’t the one to tell her. I took three deep, shuddering breaths and looked into her bright blue eyes, the ones always filled with sadness.
“Ezra is dead.”