Many people ask us how we handle our relationship with the vow 'hanging over our heads' like there's something wrong with it. Well, when I say ask us, I really mean me, because Dwayne is very good at ignoring people he deems annoying. His parents, mostly his step-father Richard, ask me constantly if I've 'convinced him to give it up' as if comparing it to a nicotine addiction, or an alcohol addiction. I'm never quite sure how to respond to that, because it makes me feel like other people think something is wrong with him. There isn't.
My name is Cadwell Gideon Tucker. I was supposed to be my dad's sixth son, but somehow I turned out to be a girl. My mom never really wanted six kids, I guess, so after I was born, she left right out of the hospital. Duncan told me mom and dad had fought a lot, and they didn't really get along. I was, supposedly, their last attempt to stay together, but my mom just couldn't do it. I doubt she even knows my name. Oh, well. My dad was stuck with five teenage boys, and one newborn girl with no name, so he came up with the easiest name he could remember. His name, which is the exact same as mine.
When I was born, my brothers were; Duncan, 15, Eli, 14, Daniel, 13, Nathan, 12, and Sam, 11. I had five ready made babysitters for free. Most of my life was spent being carted around to sports practices, band practice, tutoring sessions, and detention, but that was mostly with Daniel. He was always in trouble. I became a familiar face at their high school, and later at all their collages. They became, along with most of their teammates, regular faces at my dance practices and recitals.
I met Dwayne almost a year before the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. This was before the vow, but even then he didn't talk much. Dwayne spent the first week of our sophomore year in Dance II instead of weightlifting. His schedule had been completely messed up, and it took the whole week for them to straighten it out. All he did was sit in the corner of the dance room and watch us. I always thought he'd watched all of us dance, but later I would find out he only watched me. When his schedule was finally right, we had three out of four classes together. He talked to me sometimes, not a whole lot, and I like to think we were distantly friendly. Then my brother died.
My brother Eli died in a car accident at ten o'clock, Monday morning, while I was in my second period class, English 10. The school got a call from my father, who was already drunk, and then a call from my oldest brother, Duncan, who said he would pick me up. I don't remember much about the next few hours, but Dwayne told me I had come back into the classroom crying, got my things and left. After that, things were kind of a blur. I remember going to school, going to the funeral, and doing my homework. My father was passed out from drinking so much, and my four remaining brothers were working and two of them were married, so they were always busy. I didn't blame them for not paying complete attention to me. I didn't want them to worry, so I faked it. For two months, I pretended to be happy. The only person who saw through it was Dwayne, and I knew he could see.
I broke down the day before Winter break. I had gotten a small package in the mail that morning, and when I opened it after school, it was a Christmas gift from Eli. He'd ordered it before he'd died, and had it specially delivered the day after he would have been home to visit. I started crying, and couldn't stop. Dwayne, who had witnessed the whole thing, sat with me quietly until his mom came to pick him up. He wrote on his pad to his mom (he'd already taken the vow) and she took me to my house since I had missed my bus. I think she was surprised about me, but She was nice to me just the same.
I didn't know how to thank him for just sitting there, listening to me, but I did remember that he liked Nietzsche from the few times we'd spoken. All my brothers were in town, so I asked my artist brother, Daniel, to paint him on a sheet. After a few questions, he did, and I had what I hoped would be a nice thank you gift. I walked the four blocks to his house, terrified that he wouldn't like it. A man answered the door, and when I asked for Dwayne, he looked a little shocked, but let me in. He showed me to his room. He was on his bed, reading the same Nietzsche book I'd seen him with before. He was definitely surprised, but he listened to me as I rambled out my thanks, and explained I'd gotten him a gift. He wrote on his pad, 'you didn't have to get me anything' but I told him I had to. He opened it up, spreading out the sheet, and I saw something no one ever sees on Dwayne's face. A smile. A true, honest to goodness, happy smile. After that, everything was different.