My brother and I were never close, even as twins. He was a few hours younger, and I was a few hundred shades more of a dick.
His IQ rendered him gifted, and he was teased a lot for his social awkwardness. He was awarded almost every science and math award given each year, and he already had letters from Brown and Harvard offering him early acceptance next year. He loved things like Star Trek, dressing up like comic book heroes, and playing tons of video games. He had a select crew of friends that were society’s rejects: too fat, too skinny, teen mustaches, or bad dragon bowling shirts. I never let him hear the end of it.
Every time someone would come up to me on the football field, or in the gym, or even in the hallways of our high school, they would say “is Jet your brother?” and I would always say “I'm not like him.”
I wasn’t anything like him. I was tall, strong, captain of the football team, square jaw and blue eyes. I had blonde hair and broad shoulders, and I was gunning for prom king. My brother was short, scrawny, and had a mop of curly black hair onto of his head. He was in the Chess Club, AV Society, and Comic Book Club. He’d never had a girlfriend who was remotely attractive, and his friends were all weirdoes who played with toys in their rooms.
I may be the popular kid but I had my own problems. My football scholarship was to a small state school, and I needed to maintain a B average to play. My parents were proud. Secretly I was afraid I wasn’t smart enough for even a local college. I was afraid of being compared to Jet. Girls would laugh and say “Jet got the brains but you got the looks.” We’d laugh because nobody knew how scared I was inside.
It was just after Christmas and we were at my aunts for dinner. While we sat around watching the folks eat peanut brittle and playing backgammon, I excused myself.
It was a really chilly evening. The night was already dark just after dinner, and it had just started snowing. Someone will tell you that snow doesn’t have a smell, but that person is wrong. Snow smells like something new. I wandered down the stairs through the basement hall to the sliding door. The fire crackled across the room and I unlocked the door and slid it open, popping my head out to the back patio that housed several feet of crisp, untouched snow. The flakes melted as they touched my blonde hair, and the water pooled in snowflake-sized drops on my cheeks.
I looked up at the stars and I breathed in. The pressure from school, the pressure from sports, and the pressure of being somebody who may not be smart enough to get into college melted with those flakes. The lake outside was frozen, and the icy wind ran through the trees like a frozen whisper. I shuffled on my uncles slippers by the door and stepped outside, greeted by a chill and a crispness in the air. I heard a shuffle and startled, jumped to face the noise, heart beating wildly.
Jet sat on the porch swing in his winter coat, boots, and hat. There was a giant blue scarf wrapped around his neck and matching blue gloves were holding little figurines, he was turning them over in his hands
Jet looked up at me and smiled. “Hey.”
“I can’t eat anymore peanut brittle.” He smiled again. “Aunt Merle got me these. He held out his mitted hand and extended the figures to me.
I took a few steps forward and plucked them from his hand, the wind swirling my light polo around my waist and flowing up my back.
They were little cloaked men. Faces clad with black hoods and little weapons were in each hand.
“I painted these two earlier. You give them a coat of hairspray and they dry faster.” His gentle smile was very pleased with himself. I looked closer.
The little men were all hand-drawn. The hoods, weapons, they were all painted with alarming intricacy. I must have met his gaze with a question on my face because he took a deep breath, seemingly smelling the air outside as well, and moved his scarf down to talk a bit clearer.
“Oh… You did a good job painting them.” I examined one more closely. The stripes on the base of his sword were visible, as well as the metal etchings on his stars.
“I know you don’t think that stuff is cool – actually, I know you don’t think I'm cool. But, I just wanted to let you know that as much as I'm a dork, I'm happy. I like who I am.” He looked up at me with soft blue eyes – brought out by the new scarf on his neck – and smiled so I could see how red his cheeks were from the cold. “And I look up to you. When I leave for college, I’ll be telling everyone the star quarterback in my hometown is my brother.”
I couldn’t help it. Tears welled in my eyes. My brother, the genius, the guy who would never have to worry about finding a good job, or affording a nice car, or staying in our town looked up to me? I had spent years tormenting and laughing at him. I had said countless times how I was embarrassed of him and here he was after all that, here he was proud of me. And my ability to throw a football.
Jet saw my eyes and the smile vanished from his face and was replaced by worry.
“Kell, I didn’t mean to… I was serious.” He stood up and looked at me, cocking his head like he was trying to see through my mask. He placed his mitted hand on my arm. “You’re a great brother, a great friend, and you’re a good person. You’re really good at football. You can throw the ball maybe a dozen feet further than anyone else on the team.” He smirked. I looked at him.
“How do you know that?”
He looked curious. “Kell, I go to all your games, of course.”
Tears streamed down my face and dropped silently into the snow. I was suddenly unaware of the cold I just felt a hot, humiliating sting of shame on my face. I’d never gone to any of his events. Not one. Not ever.
I looked down at the painted figures in my hand before grasping them. I pulled Jet into a hug, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. The warmth of his winter coat soothed the icy burn on my skin and I knew I surprised him. He returned the hug and we stood there, enveloped by the darkness and floating snow.
I was certainly right about one thing; I'm not like Jet.
But I hoped one day I could be.
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