Chapter 4

Mary lay on her soft bed. Not even her bed could bring her comfort. She lay flat on her back, looking straight above her at the white ceiling. In the bed next to her, she could hear the soft sobs of her younger sister.

I knew I shouldn't have told her, Mary somberly thought, but she knew that Lucy would have found out soon enough. Sooner or later, their mother and father would return home.

Where were their mother and father? Without cell phones, it was impossible to contact them. Of course, one could not expect any one in their family to have such modern technology. They had only installed cable television three years ago.

Mary covered her head, and closed her wet eyes. The warm liquid still splashed in her eyes. Her thoughts wandered, as she wondered if she would ever see her older brother alive again. She wondered if she'd ever have another argument with him, if he'd ever try to protect her from a boy at school again.

Growing up, Matt always had a way to butt into her life, and she had always taken it for granted. In fact, she had always found his butting in to be annoying.

She remembered her first boyfriend, her first kiss. Jeff had been Matt's best friend, and admittedly Mary had crushed on him since she was ten. She was in disbelief when Jeff had admitted to her that he was interested in her.

Matt had discouraged them both, and she thought he was just being an ass. When she looked back at it all, she realized her brother had a point. She had destroyed Matt and Jeff's friendship. Jeff hadn't stepped foot in the Camden house since he and Mary had broken up.

Mary rolled over on her stomach, and her tears soaked into her pillow. She had enough memories of her brother to make a whole movie. And she would have given anything to have one more scene of that movie. She would have give anything to have Matt tell her what to do one more time, or to have him make fun of her one last time, like he had when they were kids.

She was ten, Matt was twelve. Despite his being two years older than her, she was the same height as him. Matt had just joined the seventh grade basketball team and was shooting hoops in the backyard. Mary had insisted that they shoot hoops together.

"Hah, you can't make a basket. You're a girl!" Matt had teased. He wore a big, quirky grin on his face, like he did when he was being a jerk. He dribbled the ball a few times back and forth.

Mary's heart began to race, building up adrenaline. "Wanna make a bet on that?"

"Hah. If you can shoot before me, then I bet your chores for the next week!" Matt insisted, taking a shot for the basket. The basketball barely touched the rim, and it bounced to the concrete.

Mary ran toward the ball and began dribbling it herself. "You're on," she said, looking toward her older brother. "If I make a basket first, then you have to do my chores for a week. If you shoot a basket first, then I have to do yours for a week."

"It's a deal, sis." Matt smirked, "Let's pinky promise."

Mary held the ball in her left arm and stuck out her pinky, walking toward her brother. The two shook pinkies, and before she could turn toward the basket, Matt slammed the ball out of her head. "You're going to have a blast scrubbing the bathroom for a week!" Matt laughed, dribbling the ball toward the basket. He shot, that time hitting the backboard, and the ball bounced back to the ground.

Swiftly, Mary grabbed the ball and dribbled. Matt stood in front of her, attempting to block her. Confidently, she dribbled the ball a few times. She looked into her brother's bumptious brown eyes. His face was drenched with sweltering sweat, and she noticed he was panting, trying to keep up with her.

Mary's eyes focused on the basket. She took a deep breath and put her left arm out in front of her, protecting the ball from Matt's steal. Her heart was pounding hard, and what happened next was only a blur. She only remembered lifting the ball above her head, extending her arm with all of the muscles in her upper body, and watching the orange basketball land in the round net ahead.

A rush of excitement overtook her. She smiled, and extended her finger toward her brother, who merely stared in disbelief.

"Take that! You're doing the dishes for a week!"

Mary would do anything to go back to that moment. Even if it had turned out the other way, she wouldn't mind reliving it. If she never saw Matt again, Mary didn't know how she would live with herself.

She had treated him terribly on more than one occasion, failing to realize what a great brother she had. Last spring when she was run over, Matt had beat up the boy who had done it. Granted, it had not been the right thing for him to do, he was only doing it to stand up for her. And she admired him for that.

His motives had always been good.

She just couldn't believe it. If he truly was doing pot, why hadn't she seen it? When she did think about it, he had seemed a little more distant over the last couple months. Mary had assumed it was because Heather had gone out East, and he was missing her.

Then it hit Mary. What if it had been Heather's leaving that had caused Matt to turn to drugs? He was lonely, and he missed her. So, of course it would make sense that he would turn to something so brainless.

A week ago, their dad had found a letter addressed to "Mrs. Matt Camden." Of course, their parents had assumed the worst. Matt did some crazy stuff, but Mary would never in a million years have thought that drugs were the cause. As it turned out, the whole letter had been a corny joke on Ruthie and Simon.

Then again, over the last few months Mary had been caught up in her own love life. She hadn't had the time to check up on her older brother, to see if he was okay. She had been so focused on getting Wilson to say that he loved her, to progress her relationship with Wilson. Maybe if she had taken a moment to stop thinking about herself, she would have noticed that Matt was in trouble. Maybe she could have foreseen it all. She could have prevented the accident.

She pulled her blanket further over her head. The warmth from her comforter steamed against her skin. Her face felt like it was on fire. Her throat throbbed, burning. Suddenly, she realized Lucy's tears had stopped. Lucy must have fallen asleep, Mary thought.

A screech from downstairs alarmed her. Her heart fluttered. She immediately sat up in bed and glanced over at her sister. To Mary's surprise, her sister's swollen blue eyes stared back.

"Are Mom and Dad back?" Lucy whispered, pushing her straight blonde hair behind her ear.

Mary didn't respond. Her eyes turned toward the door; her feet slowly touched the floor and she began walking toward the door. The window blinds were shut, and she had turned the hallway light off when she had come in the bedroom. Therefore, the room was pitched black. Mary quietly walked toward the entrance to her bedroom, hoping to flick the hallway light on.

Behind her, Lucy jumped off the bed. Mary turned around and hissed, "Stay here."

"Why?" Lucy whined; Mary could see her sister's fiendish glare through the dark. "I want to see Mom and Dad! I want to know how Matt is doing. He's my brother. I have the right to know what's going on."

Mary rolled her eyes. Despite how she wanted her parents to herself, she had no possible rebuttal to Lucy's defense. "Okay, fine. Come along. Just be quiet, we can't wake up Simon and Ruthie."

"Whatever," Lucy snarled.

Mary glanced down the hallway, making sure Simon and Ruthie's door was shut. When she saw that it was, she quickly flicked the light in the hallway on. Immediately, she could feel the effects of her swollen pupils shrinking. She blinked her eyes repetitively; she noticed that Lucy was doing the same.

The two sisters tip-toed past their younger brother and sister's room, making their way to the stairway. From the top of the stairway, Mary could hear soft whispers coming from below.

"Shhh, Eric, we don't want to wake the kids," Mary heard her mother's voice.

"Yes, I know, Annie," her father murmured. A loud sound vibrated through the floor. "Oops."

Her mother released a loud sigh.

Lucy edged her feet closer to the top of the stairway. Mary stretched her arm out to stop Lucy from going any further, but just as her hand barely brushed against Lucy's nightgown, her mother's voice called out, "Never mind. Girls, come down."

Alarmed, Mary showed her face. Darkness from downstairs filled her eyes, enlarging her pupils again. Her mother and father's shadows were both aimed up the stairway. "How'd you know we were up here?" she interrogated, just as she saw a third shadow standing next to her mother and father. Matt? Mary presumed immediately. Maybe he's okay after all! She couldn't help but hold false hope.

"I have my ways," her mother insisted, grimacing. Mary took note to the frail wrinkles surrounding her mother's lips. Dark circles surrounded Annie Camden's weary eyes.

Mary and Lucy ran down the stairs; just as they reached the bottom of the staircase, the flights beamed on. "There's the switch," Mary heard her father's deep voice, and almost instantly she realized that the third shadow was not Matt.

A pale, thin girl stood tearfully stood between Mary's parents. Mary had never seen the girl in her life, but she wouldn't place the girl to be much younger than herself. The girl's long, dark brown hair was pushed behind her ears. Her dark brown eyes were bloodshot from crying, and her frail face was tear-stained.

Mary and Lucy both gazed at her with curiosity. They looked back and forth between their parents' somber faces.

"Mary, Lucy, this is Sarah. She's going to be staying with us for awhile," their father finally introduced the dark-haired girl. He placed his hand on Sarah's shoulder. "Sarah, Mary and Lucy are our oldest daughters. I'm sure that they will be more than happy to make you feel at home here." He gave Mary and Lucy a glare, hinting not to ask questions.

Mary and Lucy glanced at each other; Mary could see the confusion on her sister's face, and she felt the confusion on her own. But rather than asking questions, she extended her hand to Sarah.

"Hi, I'm Mary, and that's Lucy. Welcome to our home. We'd love to show you upstairs to our room."

Lucy took the cue. "Absolutely, we'll take good care of you here. Mom and Dad are really good at taking care of people." Her pale peach-colored lips curved noticeably upward.

Sarah timidly looked away, and tears started to stream down her white cheeks.

Mary watched her mother extend her arms forward and wrap them around Sarah. Sarah fell into Annie's arms, just like she were her daughter. At the same time, Mary watched clear liquid stream from her mother's eyes.

It has to be bad, she thought, this isn't good. A sick feeling tightened inside her stomach. She couldn't stand her lack of knowing.

Her father looked at Mary and Lucy. "Girls," he said, "why don't you take Sarah upstairs? It's been a long night."

"Follow me," Lucy insisted, wrapping her arm around Sarah. "It's going to be okay. Whatever it is, it'll pass…let's go upstairs." Lucy and Sarah began walking up the stairs, but Mary didn't immediately follow.

"Mom…Dad…how's Matt?" Mary whispered. Her parents looked at each other, but when neither answered, Mary became impatient. "Please," she begged, "tell me…I'm the oldest. I need to know."

"Mare bear, don't worry about it now," her father said. Mary's throat burned when she heard her father use his pet name for her that he had not used since she was ten. She knew that it had to be bad.

"Dad—"

"—Mare, go upstairs with your sister. There's plenty of time for explanations tomorrow. Your mom and I are going out to the hospital, so if you could keep an eye on the kids we'd greatly appreciate it," her father interrupted.

The hospital, she thought, that means he's still alive.

"Okay, Dad," she murmured. "Don't worry about us here. I'll take care of the kids. I just wish you trusted me more to give me the full scoop."

She hoped she had guilt-tripped him into giving her the full story, but when he didn't respond, she turned around to go upstairs. Before she took her first step, she glanced back at her parents. Her father's blue eyes were filled with tears as he gazed back.

"I trust you, Mary," he whispered. "And I thank you. I love you, Mary; and I want you to know that. And I appreciate everything you've done. You're such a good big sister."

"Dad, everything I know I learned from Matt," she mouthed, a burning sensation took over her throat. "He just couldn't have. There's no way…he wasn't a drug addict." The tears started to stream down her face, and she ran over to her father. She fell into his arms, and he wrapped his arms around her.

"I couldn't believe it either, Mare. Not until I saw it with my own eyes," her father hoarsely whispered.

"He didn't, Dad. He couldn't have."