The Alphabet Stories: Why?
Updated: Oct 3, 2021
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Why did Amanda have to let go of her brother? Panic rose in her chest. She knew if she released him from the hug, he would run. She couldn’t lose him again. Her younger self was screaming at her to cling on and never let go. She gripped Ben tighter. The memories of the foster homes, the abuse, and the loneliness crashed into her heart and tried to drown out the reality that, after all these years, she was with her big brother again.
He had told her he wouldn’t end the hug, that he would give her hugs forever, but he’d told her when she was small that he would kiss her goodnight forever … and then he’d left. She knew why, but it didn’t help.
Amanda became aware of Ben’s friend Edward and the psychologist, Jon, who caught her eye and smiled at her. She felt safe in this room, but …
“Tell me what you’re feeling, Amanda,” Jon said.
Amanda realized it would be polite to pull away from Ben to answer Jon, yet fear was still crawling all over her. She released Ben from the hug and immediately linked both her arms through one of Ben’s and fought not to stick her thumb n her mouth at the same time. Why was she acting like a baby?
“I’m feeling … yuck.”
“Hmm.” Jon nodded. “Can you elaborate with more specifics?”
“I feel like my heart’s opened up again, and I’m so vulnerable and that as soon as I let Ben go, he’s going to run for the door and I’ll never see him again.”
Ben immediately tried to free his arm from both of hers. She was right! She was being too honest and possessive. It’s why her boyfriend had left. Why did she say it? She fought to keep hold of him. He fought back and released his arm, only to wrap her in both of his and pull her against his chest.
He kissed her forehead and spoke into her hair.
“I’ve got no need to run anymore, Amanda. And I never meant to run away from you. Only to keep you safe from me. I promise. You know that. Jon has and is helping me so much. He’ll help you too. This is a dream come true that you want to know me and be with me. Believe me, I’m just as scared you are going to disappear from my life too.”
She pulled away … slightly, tilted her head back to look at him. His eyes. He meant it.
“Because I love you. You were the only good thing in my childhood. I had to give you up and now it is like a miracle that you still want to know me. I want you in my life. I want you to know Edward.”
Ben gestured to Edward with his eyes and smiled.
“He’s my best friend. Well, almost.”
“Almost?” Edward pouted and pressed his palms against his chest. Amanda couldn’t help but smile. Edward seemed a gentle soul and she could see in his eyes he carried his own pain about something. She noticed a wisp of colour, almost like a human form, standing behind him. She’d seen it in the children’s home and in a few foster families when people had lost people close to them. She never told anyone about it. People found her strange enough.
“Edward’s like my big brother too,” Ben said.
She watched Edward suppress his grin.
“I want you to meet Charlotte,” Ben said. “She’s my … girlfriend, and best friend.”
Amanda didn’t know how she felt about Ben having a female closer than her when she’d only just gotten him back. He had Edward. He had Charlotte. He had this whole family unit. Amanda had the idea that he would shower her in love to make up for all she’d missed. But how could he do that if he had a woman in his life who was also his best friend? And what if this Charlotte didn’t like her? It’s why she’d been sent back to the home so many times: the females in the families never liked her.
“She wants to meet you,” Ben said.
Amanda couldn’t disguise the disbelief.
“Yes. She’s waiting in Edward’s car.”
“All this time?”
“Yes. I’d really like …”
Ben bit his lip.
“Go on, Ben,” Jon said. “You’re doing great. Be brave. What would you really like?”
Ben stared at Amanda.
“I’d like you and Charlotte to be my joint best friends.”
Amanda felt her lips curl up and lift her cheeks.
“I would. I know I’m asking a lot.”
“And how does Charlotte feel about this?”
“Let’s put it this way: since Jon contacted me to say you wanted to meet me, Charlotte has said -at least 30 times - and I quote, ‘No pressure, Ben, but I have always wanted a sister. I’m so excited to meet her. Do you think she’ll like me?’”
Amanda felt her eyes widen.
“Me like her? Why would she think I wouldn’t like her? She may not like me.”
“Well I hate to break it to you, but if you don’t like each other, you are both still going to be my best friends. You’re stuck with me, and so is she.”
“Right now,” she said, “stuck sounds wonderful.”