The phone call came the day of my son Sam's birthday. It was from a Dr. Moore informing me of my father's death. Could I come down to clean out the house? I answered with a "sure" and hung up the phone. I figured I could leave in the morning, stay a few hours, and still make it back in time for Sam's party. It was only a two hour drive home. Home? I exhaled slowly. I haven't been home in fifteen years. My mother moved out when I was ten and my brother was gone. I never kept in touch with my dad or the friends I had when I was younger. But there was not time to dwell on the past, I had a party to plan.
When I arrived at the house I was shocked. It was completely falling apart! Whatever paint hadn't peeled away was faded, the front lawn looked like the grass would never grow again, and the porch looked like it was about to collapse. I stepped cautiously up the steps and opened the door. As soon as I walked in, my breath caught in my throat and I started coughing. There were cigarette butts and empty beer cans strewed out along the floor. I covered my nose and mouth with my scarf and started up the stairs. The second floor was just as dirty as the first. The floorboards creaked as I crossed the hall to my father's room. It was empty except for a bed and a T.V. The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I tried prying open a window but it was stuck. The closet was empty as well so I headed towards my old room, shutting my father's door behind me.
All the furniture from my childhood was still there but there were boxes upon boxes piled up everywhere. I began picking through them but they were mostly filled with clothes. Some had old books and papers in them. There was nothing I wanted there. I was about to leave the room when something caught my eye. It was a small box shoved into the corner behind the door. I carried it to the bed and lifted the cover. Inside were mini bottles of perfume, makeup, and a silk scarf. I lifted the scarf to my face and inhaled. It was a smell I haven't smelled in a while. It was the smell of my mother. I gathered the entire scarf in my hands and felt something hard in the middle. I shook out the scarf and a little, black jewelery box fell out. I popped open the box and poured the contents into my hand. It was a silver heart shaped locket. Carefully turning the clasp, I opened the locket, revealing a picture. It was a picture of my brother and I. Sammy. He was the best brother anyone could ask for. He was hero and I thought him to be invincible.
He was four years older then I but we were like two peas in a pod. I remember once when I was ten, Sammy was pushing me on the tire swing we used to have in the backyard. I was up so high. Sammy gave me another hard push and suddenly I slipped right off. For a moment I felt like I was flying, but then I hit the ground and rolled a few feet. It didn't feel like anything was broken, I wasn't in pain, so I decided to play a trick on Sammy. I slowed my breathing and didn't move a muscle, pretending to be unconscious. Sammy came running over and dropped down next to me. "Lauren? Lauren!" I could hear the panic in his voice and realized I went to far. I opened my eyes and sat up. Sammy was looking at me, his face wet with tears. "I am okay, I was just joking," I assured him. He didn't answer but just sat there with his head in his hands. I gave him a hug and whispered, "I am really sorry." He lifted his head and said "don't worry about it. But if you ever do that again...." He tackled me to the ground and tickled me till I couldn't breathe. He gave me the locket later that night and I never took it off until the day he died.
Sammy killed himself when I was thirteen. I was so angry at him I ripped the locket off and thew it into my drawer. I wondered why he never told me something was bothering him. He didn't even leave a note. I thought I was more special to him then anyone else and I was hurt he never confided in me. The chiming of a clock pulled me off of memory lane. I looked at the picture again. Sammy was smiling but the smile didn't reach his eyes. They were cold and empty. Standing here now, I tried to think if maybe Sammy did try talking to me but I didn't pay attention. Why didn't I listen? I realized then that it didn't matter. Nothing could bring him back. His soul now lives on in my son Sam. I took another look around the house and headed back to my car. I looked at the locket one more time before putting it in my pocket. I smiled sadly as I read the words engraved on the cover: Together Forever.