The cherry blossoms blanketed the street, falling from their brief spring homes among the high limbs that arched overhead. The car moved slowly in an effort to avoid disturbing their final resting place. Becka pulled into the driveway of her mother’s 1950’s rambler style house, turned off the engine, and just sat for a moment. She had grown up here. Her eyes fell on the large oak in the front yard, as laughter from a simpler time rang in her ears. Teaching her little brother, James, to climb the majestic tree had been one of Becka’s crowning achievements, and she longed for the days when they would make sack lunches, clamber up the heavy branches, and gaze at their sliver of the world from a bird’s point of view.
Becka took a deep breath, opened the car door, and exhaled loudly and completely. She dreaded the tear-stained face that awaited her; and the endless bellows from her mother of why and how. “Why did he have to die?” and “how would she live without her precious son?” It had been a week, and Becka doubted there was an end in sight, at least not in the foreseeable future. There were arrangements to be made, people to be notified, a casket to be selected, an appropriate eulogy to be given. Her brother’s death had gained him notoriety in the most heinous way imaginable, leaving his family to deal with the fall-out.
Exactly one week earlier, in the dead of the night, her simple life became complicated. The phone had been ringing in her dream, annoying her, interrupting visions that Becka could not now recall. Her mother’s absurd voice, squawking at her to “go identify the body.” The haze of sleep morphed into a haze of uncertainty that was quickly replaced by a haze of disbelief. She had nodded when they pulled back the white sheet, but they had insisted on a verbal confirmation. Becka could not place the small voice that murmured, “yes, that’s my brother.”
The small room with no windows, only a large mirror. The small table with two chairs and one bottle of water. The questions she had no answers for; the allegations against a boy she did not recognize. The first line of a repetitive poem of why and how. “Why would he kill?” and “how long had he been off his medication?”
The escort through the bright fluorescent hallways of the police station. The lonely walk through the underground parking garage to her car. The flashes from cameras as she pulled out onto the street unsure of where to go first. The fists and microphones against the windows of the vehicle as it slowly made its way through the mob of media and hatred. She grappled with what she could have done differently, that may have prevented this from ever happening. The why’s and how’s bounced against the sides of her skull, pinging loudly, causing bursts of bright lights behind her eyes. “Why hadn’t she seen the signs?” and “how would she ever make sense of this tragedy?”
Opening the side door, Becka stepped into the exact kitchen of her childhood. Nothing had changed – except everything had changed. The TV news report was going through the endless update of no new information regarding the brutal deaths of two young lovers in their apartment, and the subsequent suicide of the alleged murderer - their roommate. The perfectly coiffed reporter, in her bright pink jacket, stood outside James’ brown apartment building, complete with peeling paint and yellow crime scene tape. A neighbor Becka had never seen on any of the handful of visits to her brother was being interviewed.
“It’s always the quiet ones, you know?”
For some reason, that statement, out of all the statements Becka had heard over the past week, seemed to sum up James perfectly. The oddity was that it had come from a complete stranger. Quiet James; the boy with his nose in a book, who rarely spoke unless spoken to first, had grabbed a knife, screamed some obscenities, and stabbed his two best friends to death before cutting his own wrists and bleeding out.