I never met Susan's brother. She rarely spoke of him, and when she did she used words I knew they could never be connected with him. Joe spoke of his only son, but he never looked me in the face as if his dead son was an evil creature and only Joe could see him. Joe protected me from him. If I saw in Joe's eyes his true feelings for him, I'd be struck down, too.
Sometimes Kat wandered over to my house. She'd knock on my door and with my ever ready cup of coffee in my hands, I'd asked her to come in, offer her some, and in the back study she'd sit as I wrote letters and listened to the radio. And in a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, she began talking about the son who left so soon but made an impact so strong that Susan was jealous of him. I found it strange to be jealous of a dead person. But after Kat spoke I understood. I was jealous of a person I never met. Sometimes as Kat talked and talked, I imagined him to be in the room with us. Maybe in the corner or even his head peeking from behind my bookshelves, he'd listen as carefully as Kat spoke to me.
"A difficult kid he was. He cried all the time, and Joe was working those early morning hours and needed his sleep. So I carried him to the living room and I turned on the tv. I guess the images on the screen kept him busy and he stopped crying. Joe went to sleep, but I never could. I couldn't help but watch my baby. I was always worried he'd wake up and start crying again. But once that tv was on he stopped.
"He was so heavy. I remember that. He was a heavy baby. Susan was tiny and never cried as much. It was joy to have her. But my son...nothing but a struggle. He hardly ate, fussed over every little thing, and cried."
"You know," and she'd look at me. "You were lucky he wasn't here when you moved into this house. I swear you could've heard him cry all the way from across the street. That boy had lungs, let me tell ya!"
And he was brave. Susan told me some things as well. When her brother went off to college, he managed to make it on the Dean's List and jump from airplanes. He led a dare devil's life. Nothing scared him. But Kat and Joe over their son. Susan was dependable. She caused them no problems whatsoever until she disappeared into the background. All Susan heard was her brother's accomplishments. She was jealous no doubt.
"And when he died, we weren't surprised. It was only a matter of time." Kat took a small sip and held the cup in the air as if she forgot what to do with it. "Joe took it the hardest. I cried, too, but not as much. I thought how lucky my son was with his life. He did so much in such a short period of time." Kat blinked and put the cup down onto the small table before her. There was small pile of books that needed to be read. Kat carefully picked one up and began reading. And when she did, she stopped talking about her dead son. I no longer heard anymore about him. When kat would come over, she never spoke about him again.
Susan filled in the gaps for me, but they were angry and filled with hate and jealousy. I didn't rebuke her. I never met her brother. So whatever she said about him could've been true...or not. Kat was more honest but she was a mother after all. Did she ever tell me the truth? Was Susan able to remove herself from her own emotions to see the truth?
So I said nothing and let Kat go on about everything and nothing. I let Susan spill every vile thought that came to her mind. Susan told them to me and only to me.
I was in their secret club whether I wanted to be or not...