She remembered the bus trip to Montgomery. They had gone to see Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and she was feeling horrible on the way back. If she remembered correctly, she’d started her period and was suffering cramps from hell and she was embarrassed. He was the only one she told. She just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. So he sat down with her and put his arm around her and told her she would be fine. She rode back the entire way with her head on his knee and with him gently running his fingers through her hair. Part of the time she pretended to be asleep so he would not stop. When some crass kid made a comment about her head being in his lap and him stroking her hair, he told them to shut the hell up. Didn’t they see she was sick and she was his little cousin for God’s sake, so could you please quit being a shit?! Man, he could make her smile.
He was brilliant but he did not apply himself. In fact, he did just the opposite of apply himself. Sometimes she wondered if he intentionally failed. More likely he was just bored. He smoked weed and drank before school. There was only one class in high school she had with her friend – Mrs. Lockwood’s Anatomy class. She and the friend sat at the 3rd table in the far row. He sat at the first table in the very front of the class – by the teacher’s design, she was sure. She and her friend had worried about him like teenage girls do. They thought he drank too much (which he did) and they thought he smoked too much weed (which he did) and they would try to talk to him (which would not work). He kept a close and protective eye on her, as well, though. And she barely realized it.
originally written November 2009