by Dawn DeBraal
I love Tommy Brown. There, I wrote it down. Black and white, it stares back at me from the pages of my diary; I feel vulnerable. My first instinct is to scribble it out, but my diary had no scratches in it, and I would never forget what it was that I had scratched out.
I close the book locking it with the little silver key I wear on a chain around my neck for safekeeping, mostly from my younger brother Barry so that he won't read it.
My secret is safe as I slide the book between the mattress and the box spring of my bed. Perfectly secure.
I was faithful to my diary, committing to it, long before the age of the computer. Each year I would get a new one from my parents in a different color. I loved journaling, especially liked going through the old entries.
I'd forgotten that. I'd smile or cry after rereading those pages. It served to create a lasting memory in my mind, good or bad.
Barry was three years younger than me. A total pest. He got me into trouble every chance he could. Mom always said, "You are the older one. You know better."
Barry would stand behind Mom, making faces. It was all I could do not to jump on him. He knew how to push my buttons.
If I wanted something, Barry wanted it more. We fought over food in the refrigerator, what television channel to watch, keeping out of my room. The worst fight we ever had lasted years when Barry bought a diary at the Five and Dime. I never knew that all those diary keys were the same. One day I came home to find my life sitting on my bed in my room.
Visible for all to see. I reached for my necklace. The key was securely on the chain. How had this happened? The page was opened to "I love Tommy Brown." I shrank back from the bed in absolute horror. There was only one person who would do such a thing.
My brother, Barry.
I raged into his room across the hall, screaming like a banshee. Barry stood there laughing at me. It was the ultimate betrayal, and he didn't take it seriously.
I ran across the room, pushing him over. His head hit the footboard of the bed, splitting wide open. He had to have five stitches, and as usual, it was my fault.
"Come on, Melody, how long are you going to be mad?"
I sneered at my little brother. I hadn't talked to him in a week. I changed the hiding place where I kept my diary. I did not write in it so much anymore. By the time I went down into the basement and rummaged around for a box that held my book, I didn't feel much like writing. He had no idea how exposed he made me feel.
"Come on, Melody, how long are you going to be mad at me." He said it every day, which furthered my resolve to not talk to him for another day.
Tommy Brown approached me at school and told me Barry said that I loved him. Was it true?
Barry was dead to me now. I hated him. Weeks turned into months, and then years. I didn't even invite him to my wedding. (It wasn't to Tommy Brown.)
Every time I saw my brother, all I could think of was how ugly he was inside.
When I got the call, I was shocked. I'd just seen my mother yesterday. We had a nice lunch and laughed about things. Dad wanted Barry and me to help with funeral arrangements.
I showed up at the funeral home. Barry, as usual, was late. We picked out the casket, the songs. I said I would go through her clothes to select the outfit she'd wear.
I stood in front of the closet, smelling her cologne, touching all of the outfits she used to wear. I chose the dress I knew she loved. It was powder blue to match her eyes. Only I would know that. No one else.
I sat on my parent's bed crying as I lay out the dress. Barry walked in. Our eyes met; I hadn't changed my mind.
"Melody, how long will you be mad at me? Cripes, I was a kid." Barry threw up his arms in frustration. I said nothing. "Powder Blue, a nice choice; it matches her eyes," Barry said in a whisper.
I forgave my brother right then and there, grieving that in my stubbornness, I had denied my Mother family meals together, important holiday rituals. I went to my brother with tears of shame. He did not turn me away.
"I'm sorry," I blubbered.
"Me too," he responded—all those wasted years.
At my mother's funeral service, Barry and I sat next to one another. Barry reached his hand over, and I held onto it, grateful for his silent strength.
In a few years, we would lose our father but would still reach out to one another.