Mandi's Chapter

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You love your older brother, more than anything in the world. You always have. You're pretty sure you popped out of your mother's womb and started screaming because you wanted your big brother to hold you.

And you remember trusting him, even when you couldn't trust anyone else in the world. He was the only one who could scare away the monsters in your closet, even when the monster was your own father.

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Your mother is the first person you manage to forgive. It happens naturally, without you even really thinking about it. It happens even before you begin to realize that you are dead. You are simply alone on a beach, and there is a house in the distance that you haven't yet visited, because you don't really care to. But the moment you forgive her, you meet a companion, a silent little boy with sad brown eyes.

The after-life looks different for everyone, you assume, but for you, and several others, it is here, a simple beach house and sun and waves. You and a little boy with brown eyes spend most days chasing each other and picking up seashells. One day, the boy brings you to a spot on the pier, and when you look down, you are not looking into the water, but through the clouds, and you can see your brother. It is confusing, and you miss him so very much.

It takes you two earth years to figure out that you are really and truly dead, and three more to realize what this means.

By the time you've done this math, you've been joined by an old woman who introduces herself as your great-grandmother, and your third-grade English teacher. The three of you and the sad little boy eat dinner together on what you think is every Sunday.

It's not much, but you think it might be enough, for now.

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It is funny, but around the time Donny saves that Veronica girl from herself, you realized that you've forgiven your father. It's still weird to you. A strange feeling, not hating someone after hating them for so long.

After this, you don't feel the urge to spend all your time watching your brother, and you spend more time with the people around you. There is a beautiful woman named Lynn here, and after a while, you meet the man who was Veronica's father, the man who became a father of sorts to your brother. You thank him, and he smiles, but spends most of his time staring off the pier into the other world, watching his daughter. He is a nice man, and it's a shame he died.

A girl named Lilly and another girl called Meg visit you often, and sometimes you wish there were more people here your own age to play with, but then it doesn't matter, because you mature just as you would in life.

The little boy with brown eyes never speaks, and it takes you most of Donny's life to figure out who he is. A small boy named Finley Fitzpatrick, who died in his mother's womb. You ask him who he watches one day, and he merely points to a puddle where you see an unhappy girl with blond hair.

'Molly,' he tells you 'She's my sister.'

That's the only time you ever hear his voice.

The boy's mother has joined you here, and she doesn't watch anybody. You are scared to ask her about this.

After some years, a young man named Sachs joins your crew, and he doesn't really watch anyone either, though some days he sits with Keith and watches Veronica. He doesn't talk to you much, but he is kind, and tells you that your brother misses you.

You know this. You can see him.

But you do not see your mother, and you can't imagine why. But you will wait. Forever is a long time, and you have always been patient.

The day you realize that you still have one person to forgive is the day that same person dies, and that same day, you manage to forgive your brother for not always being there to save you. It was not his fault.

And that day, two people are returned to you.

You meet your mother just hours before the two of you wait beside the gate for Donny, and when you welcome him in to the beach house, there are hugs and kisses the likes of which you never saw in your life.

That night, there is laughter in the beach house, and no one yells or hates, and for once, no one has to watch the ocean for signs of the loved ones they left behind.

And it is funny. It took all of your life, and Donny's and even some of your respective deaths.

But now?

You think you're finally happy.

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The End (really)