"Do you need me to come with you?" Michonne asked softly
"I always want you with me," Came his raspy reply. "But what about school? We're staying there for a week."
"They'll understand. They'll have to."
He nodded his head slowly.
"I.." He took a deep breath. "I haven't even told Shane yet."He laughed humorlessly. "Jeffrey was more like his little brother than my own. I remember when we were kids, those assholes loved stealing the watermelons from garden. Didn't get caught, not even once, until they got me involved in their games. I got caught the first time. My mama wore us out when Mrs banks told her what we was doing." He laughed at the memory as tears slid down his face.
"The day his momma told me they was moving to California was one of the hardest days of my life. I didn't know what I would do without him, but he was still here...and now he's not."
Michonne wiped his tears as he remembered his brother.
"I'm so sorry. I wasn't there as much as I should've been Jeff. God I'm so sorry." He cried aloud.
Michonne felt her own tears began to overflow.
"I need to leave as soon as possible. It's going to be a long drive."
Michonne looked at him stunned then shook her head. "Rick no. Do you know how long it takes to drive to California? You are not in any condition to drive."
"Physically sure but, no, you're not. You're in pain and in no state to drive across the country. You can just fly, it's easier, it's safer."
"I have to tell them." He said referring to his friends. He mind was all over the place. "They need to know." She gently pushed him back onto the sofa as he tried getting up.
"Just rest. Don't worry about anything, let me handle everything. You just rest and let me take care of you ok?"
He looked at her misty eyed and nodded.
"I'm stepping right outside, if you need me, I'm still here."
She stepped outside his bedroom door and used his phone to call Shane who took no time answering.
"Brother! What's up?"
"Hi, Shane. This is Michonne."
"Rick's pretty girlfriend! What have I done to deserve a call from you?"
She took a deep breath unsure of how exactly to break the news to him. It wasn't exactly good news.
He noticed her hesitancy and began getting worried.
"Is Rick ok?" He questioned "Somethin happen to him?"
"His brother Jeffrey was involved in a car accident... He didn't make it."
There was a silence.
"He wanted me to let you know." She sniffed. "Please inform the others."
She could hear the emotion in his voice.
"When is the funeral?"
"The funeral is in five days. The wake is in three."
"Ok...ok." He breathed
"Rick was thinking of driving, but I can't let him do that. I'm going to book a flight as soon as I get off the phone with you. Do you have a way there?"
"I'll figure it out."
"I can book you a flight if you need me to."
"I appreciate that but no thanks. Between me and the gang we can drive; it's enough of us to shift around without being dead tired. We can handle the expenses don't worry about us."
"How's...how is he?"
"Not good. He's heartbroken...he's feeling guilty too."
Shane released a shaky breath.
"It's to be expected...Keep me updated ok?"
"Of course. Bye." She said before ending the call.
When she reentered the room, Rick was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling.
She removed her shoes and climbed on the bed lying next to him.
She cradled him in her arms.
This was something she wasn't good at. She didn't know what she could say to comfort him.
"Do you need anything? Are you hungry?"
She wanted to be helpful without making things worse.
When he didn't answer she tried to understand. So instead if being insulted by the silence she embraced it. He would talk when he felt like it.
She wiped away his silent tears and he leaned into her touch.
"I'm... not hungry." He answered.
She placed a chaste kiss on his cheek then continued comforting him.
"It's getting late, you should go home." He rasps. "I think...I think I would like to be alone for a while."
"Oh...uh, y-yeah..." she stumbled over her words. "Sure, I'll um...see you tomorrow?" she asks hopefully.
"Chonney? You ok?" Her mother asks as she knocked on her bedroom door.
She could hear her daughter's sniffles on the other side of the door.
She knocks again, still receiving no answer.
"I'm coming in." She warns before she turns the doorknob entering the room.
Michonne is faced down on her bed sobbing into a pillow.
Her mother rushes over to her and is immediately trying to offer her comfort.
"What is it?" She questioned.
"Nothing mom. I'm just sad.." She sniffs
"Is there a reason why you're sad?" Her mother frowns.
"Rick lost his little brother to a drunk driver." Michonne explains.
"Jesus." She gasps.
"He's in so much pain. I'm supposed to be there for him but I can't even find the words to say to make him feel better."
"Sweetie, there are no words that are going to make him feel better right now. All he wants, is for his brother to be alive. Unfortunately, that isn't possible - you don't have to say anything, just be there for him."
"I tried! He asked me to leave."
"Don't let that make you feel bad, he needs to be alone right now but that doesn't mean he doesn't need you. Of course he does, he loves you and he doesn't want you to see him like this."
"I know but..."
"Let him have the rest of the night to himself." Her mother advised. "When is the funeral?"
"Five days. I still haven't bought the plane tickets." She sighed. "I guess I'll do that now."
"Alright. I'm calling it a night. Goodnight Chonney- and remember, everything will work out."
She groaned as she forced herself out of bed.
She opened her laptop and began searching for a last minute flight. To her surprise it wasn't as difficult as she was imagining. It was a very last minute flight but thank God there were no upcoming holidays otherwise it would be impossible to find a flight.
She sighed then proceed to purchase enough tickets for herself, Rick, and his mother.
She plopped back down on her bed. She was emotionally exhausted - sleep found her soon after she laid down.
Today was a long day, tomorrow would be another.
Today was the day they were to fly out to California and of course she just had to go and oversleep.
"Chonney wait!" Her mother called out as she frantically headed to the door.
"Mom I can't, I'm going to be late, I overslept!"
"Give me a hug first sweetheart." She said embracing her daughter. "Drive to the airport safely and have a safe flight." She kissed her forehead. "Love you."
"Thanks mom. I love you too. Bye now!"
"Where are you in a hurry to get? Her father asked from the table looking up from his newspaper.
Michonne tiled her head at her mother showing slight annoyance. She was hoping that she would have filled him in about everything so that she wouldn't have to herself.
"I have a flight. No time to talk."
"Like hell, you better make time." He stood from the table. "Where are you going and why haven't I heard about it."
"I'm going to San Diego for a funeral father."
"Who's funeral? We don't have no family down there."
"Rick's little brother passed recently."
He scoffed then looked away from her. He shook his head and released an amused laugh.
"Hope you plan on being back for school tomorrow." He peered at her. "That boy, is just that...a boy; Not your husband, you don't have to follow him way to California for his brother's funeral. That is a tragedy that has befallen on his family. Not ours. That has absoulety nothing to do with you."
"How could you be so cold? The person I love just lost someone he loved and I'll be damned if I'm not there for him. I'll stay there with him for as long as he needs me to. School is the last thing on my mind. A few days absent won't hurt. In case you've forgotten, I'm at the top of my class. Now if you'll excuse me, I have somewhere important to be." She left the house and made sure to slam the door behind her.
"You have to stop being so hard on her. It's only a matter of time before you push her too far."
"Marie...you just don't get it do you? You don't see that look in her eyes whenever she talks about him?"
"Of course I do William, it's why I want you to let her be."
"She has too much potential to be chasing some boy. Only thing she thinks about these days, is him. He is all that matters to her. The only thing in her future that she is sure of, is that she wants to be with him."
She placed her hands on her hips and frowned. "And just what is so wrong with that?"
"Everything. He can't provide her with a comfortable lifestyle."
"Her life has barely even started!" She rose her voice. "Not everything is about money! Who's to say she doesn't enjoy him just the way he is? Chonney can take care of herself, she isn't with him because she wants him to take care of her! You, of ALL people should understand that!" Her glare burned through him.
"What does that mean?"
"Out of everyone I could have chosen, I chose you." She nudged her finger into his chest. "Because even though you were not the richest man, nor the most handsome, I loved you. How would you feel if I had married someone else just because of their riches? You would be devastated. Let her choose her own path; her own way."
He clenched his jaw tightly as his eyes teared up.
"I don't want to hear another negative word about her relationship from you. Am I clear?"
He swallowed hard still holding her gaze. "Yes my love."
A slow smile appeared on her face. 'I still got it.' "Good."
"I'm so sorry I'm late." Michonne apologized as she approached them. "I overslept."
"We're just thankful you're here. Rick's mother said. "This is all thanks to you. You're always saving us."
Michonne waved her hands denying the claim. "That's not true, I...just wanted to help."
Michonne looked over Belle's shoulder to where Rick was seated, since her arrival, he hadn't moved.
His mother noticed where she was looking and smiled sadly.
"He's not handling this well. Not that I would expect him to but...I've never seen him this way."
Michonne's nodded slowly before walking cautiously over to him.
"Hi." She offered softly.
In returned, he griped her hand and squeezed.
"Thank you...for this."
"Stop thanking me."
"I love you." He said quietly.
"I love you too." She replied.
"Shh.." She shushed him. "It's ok if we don't talk. I understand... we should start boarding soon. Come on." She offered him her hand, helping him up.
Shane and the gang arrived before their flight landed since they'd hit the road a day earlier.
Michonne had already booked their hotel for them in advance.
The air surrounding the group of friends has been gloomy ever since they found out the tragic news of Jeffrey.
"Look on the bright side...she knows how to pick a nice ass hotel." Rosita shrugged trying to lighten up the mood.
Sasha snickered weakly. "Yeah, it's nice."
"I just wish we were here on a different occasion. A happier occasion." Glenn shrugged.
"How do you think Rick is holding up?"
"I wish I knew." Shane said. "I haven't talked to him. He doesn't want to be bothered...won't answer his damn phone. I only found out about Jeffy from Michonne."
"When is their flight landing?" Rosita asked. "I could use something to eat before we have to run and get them."
"Me too. That was a long ass drive."
"Any suggestions? I ain't never been here and I don't know what kind of food they got."
"Let's just get room service."
"I'm going to sleep, do whatever y'all want." Maggie said sadly.
Maggie and Shane were taking this the hardest as they'd known Rick and Jeffery their whole lives.
If she was feeling this torn up about it, she couldn't even begin to image what Rick must've been feeling.
The shock, and sadness was almost to much to bear.
Once Rick's flight did land, Shane was waiting for them as soon as they exited the airport.
Though the flight wasn't extremely long, Rick was dead tired.
He couldn't be sure if it was from the flight or the fact that he was that much closer to saying goodbye to his brother one last time.
It was something he never thought he'd have to do.
When they arrived to the hotel Rick was relieved that it was so big. He could have some alone time to grieve in peace.
He was extremely grateful to both Michonne and his mother but he couldn't help but feel a bit smothered.
He sighed when there was a knock on the door.
Sluggishly, he made his way across the room to the door and opened it.
"Son, you should eat." She said holding some kind of takeout bag in her hands.
He shook his head. "In not hungry."
"Rick..." She closed her eyes. "You haven't eaten since you found out about Jeff."
"I am not hungry." He reiterated.
"Ok..." She said quietly slipping away.
He laid in his bed for hours reminiscing on the past.
He remembered when they were just boys, along with Shane, they would run around the neighborhood getting involved in any and every mischievous thing they could. Not a day went by in their youth where they didn't get a scolding.
He smiled sadly when he thought about the time two years ago Jeffrey called him seeking girl advice.
Jeffrey thought his big brother had the answers to everything.
They would always talk about how they couldn't wait to see each other again so that they could finally be reunited.
Rick rubbed his face frustrated, who knew that he would never see his little brother alive again.
Tonight was the wake.
Maybe in a few minutes, it's not like he was keeping up with the time.
Before he even had time to think about it further he heard his mother's gentle voice from the other side of the door.
"It's time to head out son."
He figured she was afraid to bother him again.
At the wake, there were a bunch of people offering there condolences. Family and strangers alike.
There were a lot of students around Jeffrey's age and he assumed they were his peers from school.
Rick saw Jeffreys mother headed his way and he inhaled deeply to brace himself.
"There you are." She hugged him tightly. "I spoke to your mother, she's still as sweet as ever. That's why it was so hard to hate her." She laughed. "I was always jealous because your daddy loved her more than he ever loved me. I remember when he told me he was leaving to go back to his ex I hated them both." She slapped Ricks arm as she laughed. "I thought having a baby would make him stay but we see how that worked out!"
Rick clenched his jaw trying his hardest to stay calm.
"It's a good thing you and Jeffrey got along so well, Jeffy used to ask me why the two of y'all had different mamas and I just used to tell him that his daddy was an indecisive man." She cackled.
"What the hell is your problem?" Rick squinted. "Your son, my brother is dead! And you're cracking jokes? What the fuck is wrong with you? Don't you care?"
His mother was at his side immediately.
"Rick! Apologize this instant!"
"I don't think I will." He growled before storming out.
"Shelby I am incredibly sorry. He has been in the worst of moods. He didn't mean any of that. He's grieving and-"
"It's ok Belle. I should have been more considerate of his feelings." Shelby cried. The tears she was desperately trying to hide were now streaming down her face non-stop.
"I just wanted to distract myself from thinking about it. My baby is gone." She screeched as Belle tried her best to comfort her.
When Michonne caught up to him he was up the street pacing.
"Rick." She called.
He stopped his pacing then turned to face her.
"Let's go back." She softly grasped his arm.
"I'm not going back."
"Rick you have to-"
"I don't have to do anything. You can go back, I'm staying here."
"I get it ok? You're hurting and you're angry but you can't just snap at everyone around you. We love you and We just want to help you. What you said back there was out of line. That woman lost her son, you're not in more pain that her. You owe her an apology."
He laughed sarcastically.
"For cracking jokes three feet in front of my dead brother's body? I don't owe her shit." He snapped
"She's grieving! Same as you! It isn't up to you how she chooses to grieve." Her brows were furrowed as she looked at him as if he were unrecognizable.
"I'm not going back." He said then turned to walk away.
"Rick..." She sighed "at least tell me where you're going. Rick!"
He continued walking not answering her.
Rick was thankful that when he arrived back to the hotel late at night no one bothered to question him.
His brothers funeral was in two days and he just couldn't do it.
Once again, he couldn't sleep. Before he knew it, the sun was shining brightly in the sky.
Another day of feeling like he was drowning.
He started packing his bags that morning. He couldn't stay here for another second; The air was stifling, he couldn't breathe and he had to escape.
He knocked frantically on the door to Shane's room.
When he opened up it was obvious that he hadn't gotten much sleep either.
"I need a ride."
"What? Where to man it's barely nine o'clock in the morning."
"Back to Atlanta."
Shane stared at him for a minute before he threw his head back in laughter.
"That's real funny man. Go back to sleep."
"Let get this straight. You flew all the way here and now you wanna bail before the funeral? Nah I'm not letting you do that. Does your girlfriend know? Or were you planning on letting her wake up to find out you left her in another state without saying shit?"
He rested his hands on his hips looking down at his feet.
"Its just two more days. You have to hold on brother."
He returned to his room and locked himself away from everyone.
Maybe time moved faster when life felt pointless because before he knew it, two days had passed and it was now the day of the funeral.
"Rick..." Michonne called from his doorway. "What are you doing?" She said noticing his state of undress. "We have to leave soon. The funeral will be starting."
Michonne blinked trying to grasp what he'd said.
"You...you can't be absent at your brother's funeral." She said calmly. "Get dressed.
"For what? Jeffrey is dead. None of this matters."
"I wish I could say something to make you feel better, I would do anything to ease your pain but right now, I need you to be strong for me please. I know-"
"What would you know?" He snapped. "What have you ever lost!?"
"Rick... I'm just trying to help you."
"I don't want to go and see my baby brother lying dead in a fucking box because some drunk asshole ran into him!"
"Everyone's aware how hard this is bu-"
"Excuse me?" She scoffed. "I am not leaving here without you." She crossed her arms defiantly.
"Stay then, I'll go."
She grabbed his arm before he could leave the room.
"No one is going anywhere!" She held on to him tightly. "Stop using your grief as an excuse to be a jerk to everyone!"
"Let go of me." He ordered. When she didnt budge he repeated himself sternly causing her to jump slightly.
She took a step back and frowned at him.
"I appreciate everything you've done for me until now, and I could never repay you for it - but I can't do this anymore." He said avoiding eye contact.
"W-what are you saying?"
"I think...I think we should take a break."
Michonne gasped audibly. "A break? Are you fucking serious right now? Here? You want to breakup here?"
She was breathing hard.
"No you are not breaking up with me! I came all the way here for you!"
"Do you know how much I love you?!" He shouted. "You have no idea how it feels to not be able to take care of someone you love! I can't give you what you deserve right now! I feel like I'm drowning, I feel like I can't breathe. I can't eat, I can't sleep. I don't even feel alive! What good am I to you?"
He didn't even make an attempt to hide his tears.
"I died when he did."
She shook her head. "You're still here. For whatever reason, you're still here, you're alive Rick. You have to make that mean something."
The tears streamed down his face as she spoke.
"Take all the time you need. If you want to cry then cry, if you want to scream then scream."
She cautiously wrapped her arms around him.
"But you love me...and you need me - you told me so yourself, so don't push me away."
His arms slowly encased her small frame and he held onto her tightly. He buried his face in her shoulder.
"Look at me." She whispered.
He lifted his face to meet her eyes.
"If it's me and you, there's nothing we can't overcome. We'll make it. Someday soon, you're going to smile again, you're going to joke again, you'll be happy again. You won't ever forget the pain of losing him but it will get better. I promise you, it will."