By Kevin Bailey
We’re a pretty normal family—at least I thought we were.
So this isn’t a story about a family where the oldest daughter has psychic abilities, the mother is a vampire, or the father is secretly a wizard. We are (or were) as “normal” as any other family.
We are the Pelletiers. I am Michal Noelle and I’m 10. My parents named me after a girl in the Bible. My name is said the same as “Michael”, but everyone calls me Micki—or Mick. Imagine that: a girl named Mick!
I have three sisters, and two brothers. Well, I had two brothers—or maybe I still do, but I’m not sure. That’s why I’m writing this story.
I don’t want to forget Colton.
Anyway, there are—I mean were—seven of us. My big sisters, Isobel and Emily, sleep in the basement bedroom. Isobel (sometimes we call her Izzy, just for fun) is 14, and Emily is 13. Kayla is 6 and we sleep in the small bedroom upstairs. She didn’t always sleep in my room. She used to sleep with Colton and Garrett in the room on the other side of Mama and Daddy’s.
You see, Colton is (was—whatever!) her twin. Kayleigh was supposed to sleep with me, but she always seemed to end up on the floor by Colton’s bed. Mama and Daddy finally put a cot in the boys’ room so Kayleigh wouldn’t be sleeping on the floor. Sometimes they made her stay in the big bed with me, but she mostly slept by Colton.
I didn’t mind.
The thing is, my big brother Garrett is my best friend too. He’s eleven, and I used to sleep by him in the big bed. I liked it because he feels so… well, safe.
I wish I could sleep on that cot now.
You see, Colton is dead.
That looks weird to me: Colton is dead.
It doesn’t look right—he can’t be. But he is.
Such a normal day killed him. That’s what I always say: Thursday killed him.
Colton and Kayla woke up early that day, lying next to me with their noses next to my face. I opened my eyes, they kissed me and we laughed. They liked waking me up like that. We went downstairs, and I told Mama we were walking to the donut shop.
“Okay,” said Mama. “But, don’t be too long. Daddy’s picking the twins up to take them to Mamere and Papere’s. You gonna’ ride with them, Mick?”
We call Daddy’s parents “Mamere” and “Papere.” It’s French. We say it like “Mu-may” and “Pu-pay,” just so you know. They live in a town called Colebrook. Kayleigh calls it the “boondocks”, because it is way out there.
I told her I was going to ride with them, and we left.
When we got back from the donut shop, it had been more than an hour and Mama was angry. “Michal Noelle, your father was here twenty minutes ago! He’ll be back in a few minutes and the twins aren’t close to ready! What were you thinking?”
“Don’t ‘But, Mama’ me,” she said. “There’s no excuse! Donut World is only three blocks away!”
I had lost track of time. There was an ant pile by Mr. and Mrs. Canasta’s house, and the twins had stopped to look at it.
“Please, Micki, please?” said Colton. I never could resist him when he said it like that. So laughing at him, I said okay.
“But just five minutes. Daddy’s coming soon.” I was trying to sound like Mama.
But wouldn’t you know it, I started watching those ants too. They were interesting!
Colton, who was just learning to tell time, finally looked at me and said, “I think the little hand’s gone more than five minutes.” His freckles wrinkled when he said it, and his hair had fallen in his eyes. Boy, he had lots of hair—curly and red! Kayleigh’s is red too, but not as dark. Mine’s just blond.
I looked at my watch. It had been a lot longer than five minutes—it had been forty-five minutes! I took the twins’ hands and ran. I try to remember what it was like holding Colton’s hand, but it’s hard.
When we got home–well I already told you what Mama said, but I forgot one thing. As I went to help the twins pack, she said I couldn’t ride with Daddy.
I wish she hadn’t said that.
If she had let me go, Colton would have been in the back and he would still be here.
And I would be the dead one.
Mama hated when I said that. Her eyes got sad, and she gave me a hug. She cried, so I don’t say it anymore, but it’s true. It’s also true that if I hadn’t been late from the donut shop he’d be alive.
These are thoughts I think.
I wish I had a time machine. I would go back to that morning—that Thursday morning—when the twins were kissing my face, and we wouldn’t go to the donut shop. I hate that place! I haven’t been there once since that day. I know it’s not their fault, but if I just hadn’t went down there… well there are a lot of “ifs” I guess. I still hate that place, though.
I also hate that ant pile. Sure we had fun looking at it. But if I hadn’t stopped there, we wouldn’t have been late, and that truck wouldn’t have… like I said, there’s a lot of “ifs.”
I blew it up. Two days after Colton’s funeral, I took some firecrackers and dug holes around the ant pile with Mama’s garden trowel. I lit them quickly. They were big and made really loud noises, but I didn’t feel better after. I just started crying and ran home. Mrs. Canasta was shouting at me as I ran. She called that night and told my parents what I did. We had a long talk about not blaming me. They put their arms around me and I felt safe—safe and warm.
But I still hurt.
I can’t forget that if I could go back and do that morning again, Colton would be here still.
Isobel came in then. She twisted my hair around her finger before saying, “Micki, no one blames you for what happened.”
But I don’t really know. If I’ve thought of all these things I did wrong, I’m sure they’ve thought of them too. They’re probably just being nice.
That night, I asked Mama if Garrett could sleep on the cot in my room. With sadness in her eyes that doesn’t go away anymore, she said okay.
Daddy came to our room and said prayers with us. After he tucked Kayla in, he knelt beside me. He didn’t cry, but looked like he wanted to.
“Good night, Angel.” He’s called me that since I was small. This time, he whispered it, like it was hard to talk. “I love you.”
“Love you too.”
He kissed me on the forehead and left my room.
Garrett brought the cot in later. We talked for a long time about the things I hated now, including myself. He listened a lot, and when I quit talking and started to fall asleep, he reached over and held my hand. I love him a lot.
He was still holding my hand in the morning.
When I woke up it seemed like a dream. Why were no little noses up close to mine? But I felt Kayleigh snuggled into my side, and Garrett’s long fingers holding my hand, and reality washed over me like the waves when we go to the beach.
Colton’s dead … Colton’s dead … Over and over. I felt it in my stomach, like a punch.
I haven’t told how Colton died.
When Daddy got home, I tried all my tricks to get him to let me go: those eyes he can hardly ever resist; I offered to clean his work room in the garage; I even gave him “butterfly kisses” with my eyelashes. He can never resist those from his girls.
But, this time he just said, “Sweetheart, your Mama said no and that means no.”
The three of them left the house at 9:00 that morning. At 9:46, our phone rang, and the world fell apart.
After they left, the twins talked Daddy into stopping at Friendly’s and getting, “One little scoop of ice cream. Please! Please!” They stopped.
After getting ice cream, they were playing the “I-See-something” guessing game. Daddy took Losaw Road toward Mamere’s house, and as they rounded one of the curves Kayleigh said, “I see something… strong!”
Daddy laughed and looked at her for a second. A truck turned right onto Losaw from one of the side roads, and went too wide. Daddy’s truck smashed into the back of it, on Colton’s side. Colton’s seat belt was on, but the truck’s sides pushed him so much that he didn’t have a chance. Daddy said Colton was in Heaven before he knew what happened.
The man in the other truck didn’t get scratched.
I hate that man.
I hate Thursdays.
I hate ant piles.
I hate Losaw Road.
I hate myself.
And I really wish I was the dead one.