Chapter 1

“Dear Livvie,
I’m sorry I haven’t written to you in a little while, but I’ve got some news for you today. It’s bad news, though, I’m afraid.

Mom passed away last night. I was told she went peacefully. I guess she just read one of her crazy murder mysteries when it happened, which sounds like the perfect way to go for her.
It’s crazy. I saw her just last week. We talked about my job, which she wished I’d finally give up. We talked about Alex and how he’s doing lately. Can’t believe he’s lived there for over two years already.
And then we talked about you. She missed you. A lot. And so do I.

I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you the news in person. I really wished I could.
I guess I’ve got to go tell Alex. I have no idea how he’ll react.
Wish me luck.

All the love in the world,


As I sat on my couch in my messy apartment, feeling my pen slowly slipping through my fingers, I sighed. It was all just so unfair. First dad, then-
I felt my eyes squint, trying to avoid the rest of that thought. I took a deep breath in through my nose as if collecting any remaining courage that could’ve been spread among the floor somewhere, and slowly opened my eyes back to reality. I looked back down at the letter, which was resting on my lap.
The smudges from my dropped tears didn’t make the letter any better, but I knew I couldn’t write it again.
“I guess I’ve got to go tell Alex.”
Alex was my older brother of twenty-six, who was born with autism and an intellectual disability, which I believed was like winning the lottery of bad luck, as those are usually confused with each other, but he actually had them both. Apparently the kind of autism he had was called low-functioning autism, which meant that he had communication problems among other things, at least that was my understanding of it. Even though I’ve spent most of my life with him, I still barely understood him or what exactly it was that he had.
He did not yet know of our mother’s passing. I didn’t want to go to his place. I didn’t want to show him my face. I didn’t want to be the one that had to tell him. I didn’t want to be the one that had to tell him that the one he loved most, the one who loved him most, had left him. I didn’t want any of it, but I had to. I didn’t have a choice, even if the back of my mind kept telling me to just stay.
‘He’ll figure it out.’
Except he wouldn’t. And if somebody else told him, he’d be broken. Unless he wouldn’t be. Because he didn’t always show emotion. Actually, he mostly didn’t, which sometimes made me wonder if he even felt emotions. But then at other times, he would have his emotions on maximum force, as if it was a volume knob that he could turn up or down.
Autism was really complex like that. It was different for everyone, even if there were similar parts to it, so if one thought they understood someone with autism, there was no guarantee they would understand the next person with autism as well.
Besides that, having an intellectual disability didn’t make it much easier for Alex. He knew all the basic stuff and was able to take care of himself to a certain extent, but he didn’t know the things you start to learn as you get older; like cooking, or washing clothes, or driving. Though, he was really smart when it came down to Greek mythology, for some reason. He knew it all. Ask him a question about this one random half god, and he could tell you all their stories, all their love interests and all their children, which was a really weird thing in Greek mythology, I noticed. But ask him a simple math equation that’s meant for an eight-year-old, and he’d be stuck, frustrated.
Alex was difficult to read. Even more difficult to communicate with. I’ve known him for the twenty-three years that I’ve been alive, but I didn’t feel like I actually knew him. Sometimes, I didn’t even feel like he was my brother. And even though I hadn’t seen him in over two years (a little bit after he moved out to live with people, who like him needed assistance all day, I also left and actively avoided seeing him to move on with my life), he still deserved to hear that his mother had passed away. It was definitely going to suck, but I had to do it.

I blinked and suddenly, I felt myself come back to my apartment. I had wandered off into a train of thought that usually led to someplace bad. And that could only get worse when you haven't slept in a while, long enough for the bags under my eyes to make sense for once.
A ray of sunlight fought its way onto my apartment floor and made me realize that the morning had arrived once again.
5:36AM according to the clock on the wall that hadn't got lit by the sun's light yet. Normally, I'd still be asleep for another twenty-four minutes, after which I would’ve got ready for work, but not today.
I was going to cancel work today, hopefully sleep a little bit and then meet Alex at around nine.
Calling my boss at work was never something I enjoyed doing, yet I hadn’t really a choice. He’d probably be in, in about ten minutes, ready to yell in my face, even if that were to be through a phone. I understood why my mother wanted me to quit, and I definitely didn’t want to be a waiter for the rest of my life, but I needed to make money somehow. I was barely able to get groceries last week because I had just spent most of my money on rent. Besides, what else would I be doing if I were to stop right now? I just wanted distraction. A place where I didn’t have to think. A place where thinking could result in not being able to eat. I needed that. If there were a way for me to do that and have everything that came with it, while still making as little as I did now, I'd be gone in a heartbeat.
5:48AM. I stalled as much as one possibly could while getting up from my couch. I felt my legs tingling, like they were screaming, telling me to sit back down and to stop caring.
‘Sit down. She'll still be dead tomorrow. You can rest now. Your boss won't care.’
Except, he would care. Of course, he would.
The tingling reached my toes. I couldn’t help but smile as I held on to the couch, trying my best to stay on my feet. It wasn’t a happy smile. I smiled because I wanted nothing more than to give up and cry myself to sleep, but I didn’t. I smiled because I was annoyed with myself and everything my body did in an attempt to keep me seated on the couch.
All these signs. They were preparing me as if I were to take an important test, like I was back in high school. Only, high school was now my whole life and the test was a road to depression.
I knew that sitting back down on that couch would be comfortable, even if my toes were still tingling, but there would be more to it. Things I didn’t want. Things that would make it hard to return from.

I lifted my legs one by one and wiggled them around. The tingling was starting to be more abstract, yet still very much a present feeling. I walked towards my phone, which I now regretted having left in the kitchen the previous day, but I didn’t complain.
I unlocked it and opened my contacts, looking for my boss’s number. I sighed as I started to prepare myself for a possible disaster of a conversation, while tapping the green phone icon next to his name.
The phone rang. My heart raced. Hanging up was more tempting than ever. I’m sure he’d notice if I didn’t show up. Maybe if I just sent him a message explaining it all, then at least I wouldn’t have to see his face. I wouldn’t have to feel his eyes attacking my soul. I wouldn’t have to feel his disappointment towards me.
‘He'll be fine without you.’
"Stop messing with m-"

“Good morning. Welcome to Charlie’s, how may I help you?” a loud, but kind voice sounded through the phone.
“H- Hey, Robert. It’s Miles.”
“Oh- Good morning, Miles. You’re up earlier than usual, aren’t you?” Robert replied. I could feel the upcoming scream in his voice. He always started off nice, as if he was a genuinely decent person, but then the veins in his neck would show and without a warning, he’d yell enough for me to wonder when my ears would bleed out.
I laughed awkwardly. “That would imply that I’ve slept at all.”
Robert didn’t seem to care, unsurprisingly. He seemed kind through the phone, but that was only because for all he knew, I could’ve been a business partner, or a customer. Not that it made sense why anyone would call a restaurant at six in the morning.
“There was something I wanted to talk to you about, actually.” I continued.
“And that couldn’t wait until you were here?”
“I’m afraid not.” I was shaking. I tried to calm myself down, but my heart kept beating faster as if I was running a marathon. I just had to spit it out. “It’s about that, actually.”
“No, Miles. You can’t take the day off.” He started to raise his voice. This was it. “I don’t care if you didn’t sleep last night. I don’t care if you haven’t slept in a week. I don’t care if y-”
“My mother died, Robert.”
Robert fell silent.
“...last night.”
I always felt like the expression 'you could hear a pin drop’ was exaggerated, but I’m sure I would have been able to hear an actual pin drop on the other side of the restaurant from where Robert was standing, even through the phone.
“I- I’m sorry.” he murmured, and he was. He sounded genuinely sorry, surprisingly. I had never heard him like this. I had never heard this tone in his voice. Perhaps this wasn’t about me, or my mother’s passing, but maybe it was something about him, or his mother.
“Yeah. Take the day off. Of course.” He stumbled over his words. “Actually, you know what?”
“Yes?” Was he going to fire me? Was he not empathetic after all? Was his reaction fake? Did he think I was lying?
“Take the weekend off as well. And let me know when the funeral is, I’ll make sure I’ll have someone cover for you,” he said calmly and in the nicest way I had ever heard him talk.
A funeral. I hadn’t thought of that yet. It hadn’t even crossed my mind once. It made it sound so real. She was really gone. I wasn’t going to see her again. She was but a memory now. Just like the rest.
“Thank you, Robert. I really appreciate that.”
“Don’t worry about it. Sorry, kid.”
I hung up. The tears were trying to crawl out, but something held them back. I used to cry about anything as a kid. Looked at me funny? I cried. I couldn’t see the blackboard in class? I cried.
Then, when I was around twelve years old, I got much better at knowing when not to cry. Not everything was still worth crying over. So it stopped just like that. I hadn’t really cried much since. Until-

I woke up. I was back on the couch. 8:05AM. I actually managed to sleep for two hours. Although, I had no memory of how I got back to the couch in the first place. I remembered hearing Robert’s reaction when I told him that my mother had passed away, and how he hadn’t yelled at me. I remembered crying even though my body tried not to. I even remembered thinking about how I barely cried. But after that it must have gone dark. I felt a slight bit of energy flow through my body. I had promised myself that I was going to tell Alex. I was going to see him at nine. He never worked on Fridays, so I knew he’d be home. Perhaps this little bit of energy was a sign. A sign that telling Alex was indeed my responsibility. That feeling tired or sad wasn’t going to stop me. Perhaps it was my mother telling me that it was alright.
‘But you could also stay. Get in bed. Sleep. All day. All night. Don’t do anything. He doesn’t need you.’
I got up from the couch; faster than a few hours ago. Staying wasn’t an option. But I didn’t want to go either. How stupid. I hadn’t seen Alex in over two years and I was scared. Scared he wouldn’t recognize me as a relative. Maybe not even recognize me at all. Scared that he would blame me. Like I was responsible for our mother’s passing somehow.
As these thoughts lingered through my mind, I put on my shoes and grabbed my keys. His house was only a short walk away. Twenty minutes at most. It was a nice walk, too, on a sunny day that reminded me of the nice things this world had to offer from time to time: The birds chirping high up in the trees, parents rushing to get their children to school on time. The children, ignoring their parents, and playing silly games on the sidewalk, excited for what they would be doing this weekend after school would end that day.
I remembered playing games like that when I was a little kid.
“You can only touch the light tiles!”
So stupid, yet always fun.

I saw Alex’s building approach. I felt my breathing getting heavier.
‘Turn back. Turn back. You can’t do this. You’ll mess it up.’
Maybe. Maybe I would mess it up. Maybe Alex wouldn’t recognize me. Maybe he would blame me. But I was going to do this. I was going to do this.