A girl learns to cope with the loss of her brother.


1. Snowfall


 The nights are the worst.

 The days aren’t exactly easy. School, and all the stresses that come with it, would be bad enough on its own; but now I get the stares and the whispers, eyes burning into the back of my neck, conversations that stop as soon as soon as people see me and start again the second I turn my back. It’s not much fun, but it does at least give me some kind of distraction, a brief respite from the constant stream of whys and what-ifs.

  But at night, I am alone. There is nothing to distract me from my thoughts, and they always turn to the same thing. Him.

  I can’t help but wonder what made him do it. I know why, I suppose. He was unhappy, depressed even, and he had been for a long time. He never said anything though, and we assumed he was fine. Stupid, really. We should have known better. He’d been getting quieter and quieter for weeks, but the change was so gradual that we didn’t really notice until it was too late and there was an empty bottle of pills by his bed.

  But I want to know what he was thinking that night. What pushed him over the edge? What was the final straw? What made him decide that he couldn’t take it anymore?

  I get out of bed and tiptoe over to my window, careful to step over the piles of clothes and books without knocking anything over, or falling over. I don’t want my parents to wake up. They’re having a hard enough time as it is without having to worry about me. They don’t need to know that I haven’t slept for much more than a couple of hours a night since it happened. They have lost their son. I don't want them to fret over their daughter. I won't do that to them. 

  I pull back one of the curtains, and I gasp.

  It is snowing.

  Jamie loved the snow.

  I lean forward so my nose almost touches the windowpane. It’s beautiful. The only light comes from a lamp post at the front of the house – just enough to light up the snowflakes, so they’re illuminated against the dark night sky. They’re not stark, or bright; they are pale, gentle, falling without a sound. 

  My breath fogs up the glass and I wipe it away quickly, not wanting to miss a second of the snowfall. I move back so the window doesn't go cloudy again, but as I do so I catch a glimpse of my reflection.

  I look awful.

  My face is almost frighteningly pale; it doesn't have the glowing beauty of the snow, more of a dull, sickly hue. My eyes are sunken, emphasised by dark rings from a lack of sleep and traces of old make up. My hair hangs limply around my face, and I can't help thinking that there's a reason people have been staring. I look like a ghost.

  What would Jamie say if he could see me right now?

  The thought hits me and makes my breath hitch. I step back from the window, my eyes filling with tears. He wouldn't want me to be like this. We may not have seen the signs that he wasn't okay, we may not have known what he was thinking, but I know that my brother wouldn't have wanted his family to fall apart because he wasn't there. 

  If he could see me right now, he would be telling me to get outside and live a little.

  I blink away the tears and grab a hoodie off the floor. I creep downstairs as quickly and silently as I can, and slip out into the garden.

  It's freezing out here but the cold feels invigorating, not bitingly raw. The snow seems thicker than it did from my room. It swirls in the light breeze before it falls to the ground. It doesn't just fall softly: it seems to muffle all sounds, creating a silence so complete it makes my ears ring. I throw my head back and close my eyes, and just breathe in the silence.

  For the first time since Jamie died, I feel at peace. I don't feel guilt weighing me down, I don't feel like I'm on the brink of falling apart.

  For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, I smile, and I feel Jamie smile with me.

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