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White Horse

by Kelly Peppe 5 months ago in Short Story
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The brother she always chose, but the same brother that always chose the needle over her.

illustration by author

It was difficult, the way Nathen realized he had once loved this girl. He had been too young before to honestly admit his feelings, even to himself. He wonders if he had realized his own feelings sooner, perhaps he could have saved her from this kind of existence. He watched as she threw everything remarkable about herself away. With every one of those parts that was extinguished, the more he realized how in love with her he had once been. He missed the smallest of details, that at one time, made her unbelievably perfect. The kind of perfection you marvel at and strive for.

She stood in front of him, a cold desperate look on her face. Body shaking in her sweat stained T-shirt and shorts. Track marks up and down her once porcelain, now purple skin. She begs to see his brother. The brother she always chose, but the same brother that always chose the needle over her.

He has not a clue of his brother’s whereabouts, but she does not believe him. The last time he had seen his brother, it was dropping him off at a rehab facility. The last time he had seen her was just before her first overdose.

She is frustrated and frantic, scratching at her skin. Crying and yelling, waking his neighbors that live above. He stares at her; wondering if she found the proper help, if she would revert to the girl that he once shared his first kiss with. But he knows that the girl he once knew would never come back.

He remembers summers at the lake and camping on the beach. Late night bonfires and dancing to Frank Sinatra. He remembers her leaving with his brother for the first time, disappearing over the horizon like a dream. Sometimes he feels like he is still standing in that same place, watching his brother leave with his girl. He can still feel the sand between the toes of his bare feet.

He remembers thinking that should be him, but it never was. All of his moments with her were borrowed from his brother. Just brief stollen glances and light touches. A quick brush of fingers at the dinner table, silent conversations, shared cigarettes, one secret kiss on New Year's. A kiss that he only received because his brother was nowhere to be found at midnight.

He wished he had been selfish with her. But for as long as he can remember, it had been the three of them. And then one day it was not. It was them... and there was him. He had always been the shyer twin. His brother was always vocal and confident with what he wanted. He on the other hand had always been afraid of things changing. But things always changed, regardless if you would like them to or not. He realizes this now. It has become extremely clear to him as she stands before him, cigarette hanging from her chapped lips, this time she doesn’t offer to share.

He brings her inside, reluctantly. In front of him was not the girl he once knew intimately. But a stranger who shared her likeness. She no longer smelt of warm vanilla body mist or wore her hair back with colorful clips. The inside of her arm reads Timothy in large script, his brother's name. The script had been disrupted by a buildup of raised scars around the O.

She is not much for conversation these days. She fidgets and paces his living room, muttering things about Timothy. He cannot seem to get much out of her other than Timothy said he would be going out for a few minutes and never returned home. That was two nights ago now. She would not tell him where Timothy had gone, only that he had left a little after midnight and never came home. She has not been able to reach him since.

He did not need further explanation; he knew why his brother went out passed midnight. He can tell she has been without it for a while, the way she could not seem to stay still. But finally, as if her legs gave out, she crumbles to the floor. She lies there weeping, small and frail. She had come to him crying once. It was also about Timothy. It was New Year's Eve, many years ago. Before life became so... grey. He used to look forward to the following day, but now every day brings him closer to the phone call that will tell him his brother is gone.

Timothy had overdosed in front of him once. He found him in the bathroom of his downtown apartment, the needle still in his arm. He’d only stopped by on a whim and if he hadn’t Timothy would have probably died that night. It had become a habit to carry Narcan from then on.

He watched as the color drained from his brother’s face and the life left his eyes. He carried him into the emergency room over his shoulder. This was the first time Nathen’s suspicions had been confirmed. He was sure his brother was dead as he laid him on the cold, white linoleum floor. He sat beside him as nurses frantically asked if he was on anything or if he had any medical conditions. One word left his lips as he stared at his twin brother, dead in front of him. A complete mirror image of himself, laying with his head cocked to one side, staring right through him.

Heroin.

Nurses rush around and finally one props his head back, shoving a spray up his nose. As if struck by lightning, Timothy sprung to life once again, lunging for his traumatized brother. His hands were around his throat before anyone could restrain him. Nathen thinks of this day often. The way it felt to have the one person in your life you love the most come back from the dead to kill you. He remembers the look in Timothy’s eyes as he hovered over him. He had anger in his eyes that Nathen never knew existed before that day.

Timothy had never apologized. He’d barely even spoken a word to him as he drove him to his treatment facility. Nathen watched as his brother climbed out of his car and went ahead through the doors of the rehab. He never turned back or looked over his shoulder. His brother had always been very proud, but never cruel. That was the last time he ever saw Timothy.

Nathen called occasionally to check in, but his calls were never returned. He’s done well for himself since then. He can’t help but feel bad about this. Timothy was always the one voted most likely this and most likely that. People often forgot he had an identical twin.

Now he’s most likely dead. Nathen thinks to himself.

From behind him the land line rings. His eyes quickly glance over to it but something else catches his eye. He sees his reflection in a window just to his left, but he realizes it isn’t his reflection he’s seeing. It’s Timothy. He’s sad and solemn as he stares back at Nathen.

As the phone continues ringing behind him, the frail girl lifts herself off the floor to retrieve it. She picks it up in the kitchen and only a few moments pass before she lets out anguished cry. Nathen blinks away tears and as quick as he could wipe them away, Timothy was gone.

Short Story

About the author

Kelly Peppe

Writer and illustrator from New York.

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