The Letter

“I won’t be a part of it” he said.

And that was it, he walked away.

As Jim watched his older brother head down the end of the street, away from him, he couldn’t help but wonder if he had made the right choice. The road ahead glittered, a slick mirror of lights that reflected each umbrella in this dark night. Jim now stood alone.

 

***

 

Robert and James Novak had been inseparable all their lives, two peas in a pot. For fourteen years, Jim learned everything from his older brother. By this time, Robbie had taught him how to manage the family business. Locking up the auto shop and fixing an engine were his basics.

Jim had always seemed a few years older than he actually was. He has written a string of journals ever since he was seven. Not a day goes by when Jim did not document the events of the day in his journal. It’s the one thing that makes him Jim. Robbie has his car. The car that his Father had passed to him the day he got his licence.

The 1967 Impala 4-Door Sedan.

It was Robbie’s car.

It was his talisman if he were to put a label on it.  It was the car that their father drove to their mother’s house for prom, the car that drove them to their honeymoon. The car that was used to drive to the hospital on the day of their births. It was the car that was there through all the drive-in movie nights, picnics and road trips. It was the car that they drove to their mother’s funeral one cloudy Wednesday afternoon.  Jim had been just six months old.

 

***

 

John, would always be doing one of two things. He’d be drinking or he’d be working on the car. Ever since the death of his wife, his day would consist of either one of these things. He rarely spoke  to his sons a day, until the one afternoon he found a college acceptance letter in the mail.

“What is this?! When were you planning on telling me about this?!” he shouted. Jim could see his face turning red. He wasn’t far from his father but close enough to smell the alcohol in his breath. He didn’t know what to do. Or what to say.

By that time, Jim just wanted his father to go back to the way he was, it was better than the constant yelling. “No son of mine is going to walk away from this family business!” he spat before handing the letter to Robbie. “Burn it.”

Robbie looked down at the letter as he tossed it in the fireplace. The crest caught his eye. The blue cross and golden lion catching his eye. Seeing his brother’s future turn into ashes made him ache, though the thought of Jim leaving home, leaving him, was even worse.

For decades, the auto shop was run by the Novak family. It was the family business. Jim, unlike his brother, didn’t plan on working on the auto shop. He wanted to be away from the ball and chain his family has put on him, away from the graveyard of his mother,, away from his family… He wanted adventure. As he stared down at the ashes of the letters, he could taste the saltiness of his tears. He closed his eyes and sighed softly, giving up.

Then he heard his brother’s voice.

“You got accepted…” Robbie said quietly, a hint of sadness in his tone

 

***

 

Watching his brother walk away from him was unbearable. All he asked of his brother was to visit, to call, to help him. But he had to accept Robbie’s decision if he wanted to get through this by himself. Jim turned his gaze away and headed towards the boarding school. It was odd, seeing all the bright lights on the street, yet he felt the complete opposite of that. He felt dark, alone, an outsider. He started to think, think about the decisions that he made. Did he make the right decision? Jim didn’t know. Ever since he was born, he was with his family. He looked up to his brother and he was reliant on him. It was always Robbie and Jim Novak. Now that he was all alone, Jim didn’t know what would happen next.

As the sound of the chattering students filled the streets, Jim heard nothing but silence without his Robbie’s voice guiding him.

 

THE LETTER (PDF)

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