As the car pulled away from their house, a sense of dread filled Valentine. The car carried away her youngest brother and left her alone with Peter, someone who she promised Ender she would never choose over him. With Ender gone for how many years, how was she supposed to keep that emotional distance with Peter for when Ender came back? If he ever came back.
"I call Ender's bunk!" Peter shouted with a grin before running into the house. Valentine suppressed a groan. For a ten year old, Peter was the most immature of them. How could he think about his bed at a time like this? Sure, they had to adjust their life to Ender being gone, but Peter was the one who made snot jokes at the dinner table and shoved peas up his nose. He wasn't doing saying it to make emotional progress for the family. He was doing it so he could get the lower bunk in the boys' room.
Father sighed slightly and called after his son, "Peter! Come back!" Together, Mother and Father walked into the house after their eldest boy, leaving Valentine on the porch, looking down the street at the place where the car that took Ender had disappeared.
She wasn't going to lie, she was worried for him. Sure, he was requisitioned by the IF in hopes of getting the ideal Wiggin genes. Peter placed to violent while Valentine was too empathetic. Ender apparently pleased the IF as he was taken to the Battle School while she and Peter spent the rest of their lives on Earth. She wasn't worried he wouldn't make it. No. He was strong. He was a Wiggin. He would make it. But she was worried for him because she was his sister, and that's what sisters did.
"Valentine! Come in and get ready for school!" Mother's voice rang out. Valentine looked at herself. She was still in her nightgown and she could feel her hair still in a nested mess on top of her head. She swallowed hard and turned her back to the street that took her little brother and went inside.
The next few days went with little mention of Ender from Peter, who was just happy to have his room to himself again. He barely reacted to Mother and Father's subtle remarks about "Oh, what must Ender be doing now?" and when "We should write to Ender today, to tell him that we miss him. We can sign it from all of us. What do you think, Peter?" emerged, the only reaction that Father got was "If you want".
Valentine was annoyed at him for that. Couldn't he be a bit more sympathetic to the fact that he essentially just lost his only brother? Their parents wrote long letters to Ender nearly every day, occasionally asking her or Peter if they wanted to add something. She always said yes when they asked. She even wrote her own letters to him, even though he never responded. She just assumed he was busy.
She spent a bunch of her time studying. The void that Ender left in her was soon filled up with books and notes and the net. Her teachers at school commented on the fact that she wrote well, so in addition to mastering whatever they were learning in the classroom, Valentine wrote poetry. Each poem dedicated to the brother she would never grow up.
If Mother and Father disliked the fact she was spending so much time in her room writing or reading textbooks, they said nothing. Mother asked Valentine about her friends at school which had apparently become a point of concern to her parents. She lied smoothly about each girl she knew, telling Mother about facts she overheard or already knew about them. It was all a matter of convincing Mother that she had many friends at school when really she was treated like air. Acknowledged when she wanted to be, but otherwise ignored. She was the smart girl in class and a bunch of her peers hated her for it.
Often, she went into the backyard and lit small fires made out of leaves and small sticks. She would speak to the smoke evaporating into the air as if it was Ender and he was listening. It was almost better than writing the letters; at least she knew that that smoke would make it up to space. She couldn't say the same for the letters.
Today the fire was burning itself out as Valentine lost herself in one of her books. It was something she had read to Ender a thousand times. It was clear that Mother and Father were writing less and less to Ender. His name would rarely come up in conversations now. But he never left her thoughts; he was still a part of her. As long as she kept rereading the books she read to him and thought of him, he would always be with her. She would strive so that when he eventually came home, she would be no stranger to him.