Today was the day that mum and dad would be bringing home newborn Xavier, and Benjamin was not pleased. His four-year-old self was most certainly not okay with having to share his parents with another child. Little Benny had gone many years, as far as he was concerned, with being the only child, the most important thing in his parent’s lives.
He’d been forced to stay at home and be babysat by the next door neighbour as his dad drove his mum to the hospital. They’d been gone for well over ten hours. He was a little worried that maybe mum and dad weren’t coming back at all. Maybe they’d abandoned him in favour of the new baby. Of course when he had cried this to Aunty Piper, he’d been met with absolute reassurance that mum and dad were coming home, and that having a baby was just a long process. The familiar sound of dad’s rusty old ute pulling up prompted both Benjamin and Aunty Piper to dash straight for the front door, ready to meet the new arrival.
Mum hadn’t let Benjamin hold Xavier until he was sitting down, claiming that newborns are fragile, and something else that he didn’t listen to. All his focus was on this tiny new thing that everyone else was cooing over. He wanted to examine his competition, who he’d be up against in the fight for attention. He really wished that this new baby hadn’t come along, because a little brother was not on his list of things that he wanted.
Then he saw the curious blue eyes that stared up at his own, and maybe, just maybe, he had changed his mind.
Xavier turned one today, and the entire family had been invited to celebrate. There was mum and dad, Aunty Fi and Uncle Kris, grandma and grandpa, the three cousins (Hannah, George, and Davey), and of course not so little Benjamin. Even the neighbours, Aunty Piper and Uncle Aaron. It hadn’t been one of those themed parties, more so a causal celebration in honour of a child turning one. Everyone had spent the entire time cooing over Xavier as he giggled at the attention, although Benny did play with Xavier when he was sure no one was looking.
Maybe sharing the attention wasn’t so bad after all.
Today Xavier said his first word. It wasn’t clear or very well pronounced, but it happened none the less. He’d started sort-of-walking the previous month, mostly relying on the support that Benjamin enjoyed supplying. Mum and dad would find the two giggling as Benny held Xavier’s hands and guided him in as straight a line as he could manage.
Mum, dad, and Benjamin were all gathered around Xavier in the lounge room, mum with a camera in her hand, as he started repeating the sound “Beh”, a few times. Soon enough, he stuttered out one word…
It’s Benjamin’s tenth birthday today, but he specially requested a small party as to be more ‘mature’. Mum and dad thought it was very cute, however Xavier didn’t really understand why his brother was attempting to be more ‘mature’. It was really only a minute celebration between the four, consisting of fun games that the boys could understand, and a much anticipated ice cream cake. The soft glow of sunset had signified the end of the day, the end of a great day. One in which Benjamin easily fell asleep after, his little brother wrapped cosily in his arms.
Today was the day that Xavier started high school. He hadn’t been excited, like Benjamin had been when he first started. Xavier liked his primary school, it was small and familiar, unlike high school which was big and an overwhelming change. He’d almost started crying when he walked through the gates with his big brother. However he didn’t cry because then all the other kids would laugh at him.
It wasn’t necessarily Xavier’s fault that he didn’t like change, it was just something that was part of his personality. He liked things to stay the same, to stay familiar.
The entire day he’d stuck with Benny, except for during classes of course. Luckily his big brother hadn’t minded, even though his friends had laughed a little bit. By three o’clock, as the pair walked home together, Xavier considered that maybe high school wasn’t too bad in the end.
Xavier broke his arm today. Benny had been attempting to teach him how to ride a skateboard properly, and it most certainly hadn’t gone well. The uneven placement of the footpath had been unexpected, resulting in a crash landing that summoned a string of curse words. At first Benjamin had laughed, but when he noticed the bone literally sticking out of Xavier’s skin, he immediately ran over to his brother who was still swearing through the pain.
They’d immediately gone back home, where dad had driven them straight to the hospital. Xavier was given an uncomfortable and heavy cast which he spent the car trip home complaining about, muttering how this was all Benj’s fault. Benjamin apologised a few times before then tuning out to his brother’s annoying chatter.
It had been three weeks since Benjamin had left. Dad and Ben (as he liked to be called now), had gotten into a rather disastrous argument. It ended with Ben packing a bag and leaving with the slam of a door. Xavier had tried to convince Ben to stay. Even going so far as to call him ‘Benj’, his long abandoned nickname for his older brother. It caused Benjamin to hesitate for a moment. But in the end he shoved Xavier roughly out of the way and was out the door.
Mum had filed a missing person’s report with the police, however dad had yelled at her, saying that Ben wasn’t worth it. That ended with dad getting a quickly bruising slap across the face. Xavier had listened in as mum threatened to kick dad out of the house if he said anything like that again. Tears trickled down his cheeks as he took in that his family was falling apart, the crushing reality of the situation hitting him in the worst way possible.
The constant beeping of the heart rate monitor was the only thing that sliced through the eerie silence of the hospital room. Comatose and fighting for life was not-little-anymore Xavier. The only other company being his distraught mother who sat in the uncomfortable chair beside him. Mum held his hand in hers, tears flowing freely down her face at the sight of Xavier on what very well could be his death bed.
Everything had happened so quickly. The car seemed to come out of nowhere when it drove straight into Xavier as he ran out into the road, knocking him a few metres forward. The driver had immediately jumped out of the car as mum ran over, screaming. He’d started crying, pulling out his phone to dial for emergency services while crying apology after apology, saying that he couldn’t stop fast enough as Xavier run out. The ambulance had arrived fairly quickly. Immediately they carted the broken boy off to hospital whilst police took the driver in for questioning.
Mum and dad had been trying desperately to find their wayward son, whose brother was fighting for life. Xavier had had a brief moment of consciousness that lasted for about two or so minutes, and the only thing he had said was “Where’s Benj?”.
Since then, mum and dad had been fighting to find Ben. They wanted to bring him home, to reunite him with his ailing brother. They’d tried ringing his mobile, but it had gone straight to voicemail every time. This either meant he’d ditched the phone, or had turned it off. They’d asked locals if they’d seen Ben, but no one was able to give them an answer as to where he might be. They had gone so far as to put posters up, hoping that Ben might see one and come back, back to Xavier.
It’s the first day of a new year.
Ben hadn’t come back, mum and dad had given up, and they were both siding beside Xavier. The first of January is supposed to be a happy day, celebrating a new year, a new start. But all it marked for this family was another day of Xavier not recovering, and Ben not returning. There was no happiness or excitement, no celebration. Just grief as two parents began to question whether they’d only be celebrating the birthday of one child this year. So much had happened from the birth of their first child to the thirteenth birthday of their second. So many memories, happy and sad.
Now, here they were, in a blindingly white hospital room. The only thing shattering the silence was the sound of a flat lining heart monitor…
Short story written by Jessie as part of her English work. To see more of her writings click here.