The only thing more scary than a ghost is the fear of not knowing the future… This was an idea that popped up in my head one day and I toyed with it until I was able to create the following short story out of it.
This was no easy feat because I had to write in “horror” and “tragedy” genre, two genres I normally don’t write in, and since I decided to set this story during the Pandemic of 1918, I had to conduct more research more than I ever expected. Anyways, I’m proud of the final result, and my intent is deliver a story that’s both scary and overall, hopeful. Enjoy!
Synopsis: Set during the Pandemic of 1918, a young man named Everett Healey travels home from college to take care of his ill father and hears tales of a ghost appearing in town, then sees it for himself.
by Kendall Beaver
I slowly opened my eyes and began to wake up from my nap, immediately staring at the silk lining of my brown scally cap that I had pulled down prior to my shuteye. I took a large swallow then realized that I was too lazy and catatonic to move, so I remained motionless in my chair as it rocked back and forth, listening to smoke blowing from the locomotive’s chimney, matching the incessant churning of heavy rods and cranks—Chooga-chooga-chooga. Steel tires squealed against the tracks and a whistle blew out—Whoo-whooo! Chooga-chooga-chooga…
I raised my hand to my cap and pushed the brim upwards, squeezing my eyes as sunlight washed across my face…My eyesight quickly adjusted to the daylight and I gazed out my car window, watching green pastures roll by, cattle grazing about, and a small mountain range in the background that remained stationary. I was in Virginia now, I was sure, and turned to the old lady on my left to ask her.
“Oh!” A priest was sitting in her seat now, a thin old man wearing the standard clerical outfit: a black jacket, clergy shirt with a white collar, and a silver pectoral cross. He was reading a passage from the bible but now stared at me through his pince-nez spectacles.
‘How long had I been out,’ I wondered. “Excuse me, Father,” I cleared my throat, speaking up with my slight southern drawl, “but do you know where we are?”
He gave a soft smile. “Just crossed into Virginia.”
“Thank you,” I nodded as I pushed myself up into my chair. He moved his hand next to me. “I’m Father David.”
“Everett,” I said grabbing his hand, giving it a firm shake, “Everett Healey.”
“Everett, nice to know you.” He took his hand back and grabbed the long strand of red ribbon that was connected to the top of his bible, placed it in the center of his page, then closed his book, its black leather cover creased in the center.
“And what brings you out this way, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’m headed to Westville, sir—my home town.”
“Westville, huh?…Can’t say I’ve ever been there.”
“Most people haven’t,” I grinned. “Only reason people come to Westville is ’cause they got off at the wrong stop.” He chuckled softly at that. “But, I wish I were here under better circumstances, though,” I said drawing a breath. “My father, he’s, uh…well, he’s sick, you see.”
“Oh. Is it—is it influenza?”
“No, just a simple cold as far as we know.”
“Hm,” he nodded. “I’ll pray for him.”
“Thank you,” I nodded back, and I couldn’t help but swallow.
There was a moment of silence between us, then he asked with sincerity, “And the rest of your family, they doing okay?”
“Mmm—” I clenched my face, thinking of how best to answer this. “Well, besides a few distant relatives spread around, my younger brother Frederick and I are all that’s left of my immediate family, and he was just sent to France to help fight the kaiser. And my mother, well, she, uh…she died giving birth to my sister, Marigold, who was a stillborn.”
“Oh, dear,” he said slightly wide-eyed. “Forgive me for asking.”
“No,” I held up my hand, lightly shaking it, “it’s okay. You didn’t know.”
Then, the way he looked at me I could tell that something was on his mind, probably the same question that’s on everybody’s mind when they see a young man like myself. “But…you weren’t drafted like your brother?”
“No, sir,” I shook my head, as I’d done many times at this question. “I’m a student at Princeton, you see, studying mathematics. The registration board granted me an exemption so I could continue my studies; I’m studying a math called Coordinate Geometry.”
“Coordinate Geometry, huh,” he nodded. “Never heard of it.”
“Be surprised if you have. Think you’d be picking people from the wrong school, not the divinity school.”
He gave a light laugh. Then, to my surprise, he inquired, “Everett, I’d be more interested to hear about this math of yours.”
“Oh, of course!” I rubbed my chin, getting excited, thinking of a simple way to explain this. “Well, Father, imagine that you’re holding a map and it’s plotted with all these stars from our sky. Using math—Coordinate Geometry, that is—we can map out the path of two stars rotating and determine where they could go and how fast they’ll collide into each other, and we can use maps and graphs to help us calculate its energy at any moment. It’s really fascinating stuff.”
“I’d say,” he nodded, grinning almost as wide as I was. “And how’d you get into this stuff, your family go to college or something?”
“Mm, my parents were educated but my father studied law, my mother studied English; she was a teacher before she became a homemaker. It was instilled in me that I’d be going to school but didn’t know what I wanted to study. Anyways, I got into Princeton, failed at everything except for math, stuck with it and ended up in this field—a shock to me and everyone else. Think it had something to do with growing up in the country, you know; countin’ our chicken eggs with my hands and toes…looking up at the stars on a summer night and tryin’ to count ’em all with my finger.”
“Well how ’bout that,” Father David nodded again, seeming impressed with what I just said.
I furthered our conversation by sharing more details about my father’s situation: Father’s new housekeeper, a Mrs. Beatrix Juniper, wrote to me explaining that Father had been ill for almost a week and wasn’t getting any better. She herself wasn’t feeling well either and asked that I find a caretaker for Father, and after rearranging a few of my classes, the university granted me a week off to look after him.
Father David shared his situation with me as well: He was traveling to see his sister in Georgia where many people in her town had pneumonia, possibly due to this ‘Spanish influenza’ going around. He planned on visiting the infirmary and bringing patients the comfort of God, and feeding them if they were short-staffed, and just traveling wherever he was needed.
Three-quarters of an hour had easily passed in the blink of an eye, and we pulled into the Westville depot. At no point during our discussion did Father David ask me about my beliefs, although I was raised Baptist but haven’t attended church in awhile. He asked if he could pray for me and I agreed. I lowered my head with him and he began praying: “Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall be, world without ends. Amen.” I was about to say “Amen” but he continued on. “Now Almighty God bless you”—he held out his hand and began tracing a cross—“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
“Amen.” I traced a cross over my chest, a subconscious action, then reached down and pulled my rucksack from the floor and stood. Rising to his feet, Father David moved into the aisle, allowing me out, and upon passing him, he gave me a firm nod. “Everett. Be well.”
“You too, Father,” I nodded back, swinging my sack over my shoulder, and walked away…A few moments later, I glanced over my shoulder and saw Father David sitting calmly in his chair, staring ahead, probably in the middle of some deep thought. I thought about turning around and asking him why he thinks the world is the way it is—why people are getting sick, why there’s horror in Europe, why a child has to be born a stillborn—but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to do so, as nagging and pressing as my questions were. Then I continued on my way, carrying with me a widening and everlasting hole in my heart.
Tall wooden skeletons towered over me. I was walking through a forest full of oak trees, having walked along a dirt road for the past two miles or so, and I still had another mile to go. The sun was slipping from the sky, about to set, casting orange rays over the tops of trees, bleeding into crimson. And I worried, not because it would be dark soon but because I had yet to see anyone on this road which was a main road into town. It was nearing the end of harvest season, so I assumed that was why people didn’t have much of a reason to be outside, but then I began to wonder if it was because of the influenza…
The pain in my body returned, screaming and reminding me how sore my feet grew in my boots. Then there were my hands, fatigued from gripping my sack, constantly readjusting it, straining my shoulder and increasing the pain in my neck. But worse of all was how hungry I was, my stomach growling loudly. I had some grits for breakfast but skipped lunch to make the train. Then I began to fantasize myself back in the mess hall, sitting with my friends, laughing and enjoying a warm bowl of stew for supper with some bread—Mmmm…
My ears alerted me and I suddenly stopped, hearing a faint and peculiar sound—G’lock, g‘lock, g‘lock… I glanced over my shoulder and saw in the distance the silhouette of two horses with a man perched slightly above them, most likely sitting on top of a wagon. I moved to the side of the road and stood, watching and waiting as this mysterious driver drew closer…Surely, whoever this man was he’d be kind enough to give me a ride.
Eventually, I could see the horses, their coat of hair, a dark chestnut; they were towing a farm wagon whose wood was decaying and grey in tone, same as its wooden wheels which were outlined in rusted iron rims. And the driver, a burly man wearing bib overalls, an off-white shirt, and a wide-brimmed hat that casted a shadow over his eyes, causing me to squint my eyes…And once I saw his droopy cheeks and big nose, I knew exactly who it was: Eugene Walsh—or “Mister Hugo” as everyone calls him, a rugged man who owns a hay farm near our house. He probably just got done delivering some feed in town.
Recognizing me as well, Mister Hugo held his hand up to say hello—I waved back—then he pulled on the reigns and came to a gradual stop. I looked into his thin eyes and smiled, so glad to see a familiar face.
“Well, I’ll be…” he said in his deep voice. “Everett Healey.”
“Mister Hugo,” I nodded back.
“They said you was coming back to take care of Wilbur.”
“Yessir, I’m here. And I sure could use a lift.”
“Oh!—well, don’t just stand there, boy,” he said reaching down. “C’mon, now.” I grabbed his thick, calloused hand, placed my right foot on the side of the wagon, then pulled myself up. Plopping on the wooden bench next to him and dropping my sack, I exasperating a sigh of relief. Mister Hugo gave the reigns a slight flick and his horses took off. G’lock, g‘lock, g‘lock…
“Here, boy—want some quid?” Mister Hugo pulled out a green box of Red Man’s from his front pocket. I hate tobacco but considered it a moment, thinking it could help suppress my appetite…But finally, I held up my hand and simply shook my head.
“Mm-kay,” Mister Hugo mumbled confoundedly. He opened the box, pulled out a pinch of quid, placed in it his cheek and softly chewed away. I could hear him sucking the tobacco out of the leaves, like a baby sucking on a bottle.
“Yeah,” he abruptly said, “it’s a shame, everybody ’round here be gettin’ sick. But your daddy, he’ll be okay, now; he the hale and hearty type like me, you see. Mm-hm, yessir…He’ll be just fine.” Then, turning aside–-Blt!—he spat out a string of brown glob. “So, how’s school, huh—they feedin’ you okay? Hell, you look like you aint been eatin’ much!” He squealed with laughter and smacked the back of his hand against my stomach.
“Oh, they feed me plenty, don’t you worry about that, now. You’re the one that needs to look in a mirror, you old, fat scoundrel—” and I drove my elbow right into the gut, causing him to howl loudly before laughing again.
Mister Hugo’s laughs then turned into coughing. Mrgh, mrrrgh!—he grunted as he cleared phlegm from his throat. Finally able to breath again, he exhaled, “Whoo…Sheeeat.” He spat out his stale quid and replaced it with a fresh pick of quid. We sat in silence for a few moments…until he suddenly perked up in his chair. “Mm! Everett, heard a crazy story this afternoon ’bout someone seeing a ghost out here last night.”
“A ghost,” I asked grimacing, “…in these woods?”
“Mm-hm, Nathaniel Hathaway told me. You remember Nathan, right?—the night clerk at the Westville Inn, ‘Big Ears’ Nathan?!”
I snorted a laugh, nodding, and forgetting that my friends and I gave him that nickname when we were kids. Our sincerest apologies—still, Nathan.
“Well, I ran into Nathan at the grocery store, both of us gettin’ our Red Man’s, and he said he had a story for me: These outta towners checked into the hotel yesterday, a rich old couple from Richmond who drove down here lookin’ to buy some land near Rickett’s Run Creek, looking for a summer residence. They spent all day checkin’ out some land, roamed the countryside, by the time they headed back to the hotel it was late out.
“Anyways, they’s was on this road here, driving their motorcar, when all of a sudden the missus screams. Husband stops the car, asks her what’s wrong. She’s all wide-eyed, trembling and pointing out the window. He looks to his left and sees a ghost standing right there!—in the middle of the forest, just staring at them. Said it looked like a man, as bright as the moon. Then the ghost turned around and disappeared right before their eyes—poof!” he snapped his fingers, “Gone, just like that.”
Chills ran up my spine; hairs stood up on the back of my neck; I took a hard swallow.
Mister Hugo continued, “Nathan says they aint ever comin’ back to Westville, no sirree! I sure as hell aint ever seen no ghosts out here, even while huntin’ at night. Whaddabout you, Everett?”
“No,” I slowly shook my head. “Seen bobcats and coyotes, never seen any ghosts, though.”
“My maw used to say that ghosts were a bad omen, that if you saw one to look away, otherwise you’re staring right at death.”
I glanced around at the woods, trying to sense anything out of the ordinary. “Well,” I drew a breath, “hope we don’t see any ghosts out here.”
“That’s right,” Mister Hugo nodded, and we continued moving deeper into the vast and darkening forest.
My house sits on top of a hill which sits on twenty-five acres of land that was part of a five-hundred acre cotton plantation that my forebears owned, a grim part of my family’s history known as the Healey Hill estate. Almost all wealthy Southern families lost their fortunes after the war, and to survive and attain a decent life, they sold what land they could and used the money to start afresh up North, settling mostly in Baltimore and Philadelphia but going as far north as Boston. The exodus of Healeys enjoyed the modernized world and saw the South as a backwards and ruined society that would never recover anytime soon.
A few Healeys remained on the estate and tried to make a profit growing cotton again, but having to hire field hands for the first time ever and producing crops on long-degrading soil, they were lucky if they broke even. My grandfather Clement Thurston Healey, who was deeded twenty-five acres from the estate, steered away from the agriculture business and built himself a house, a small stable, bought three horses and various tools, and became a farrier who specialized in fitting horseshoes and giving riding lessons.
While Clement’s job provided for his family, he and his wife wanted better for their children so they pushed them into education, all of whom attended the University of Virginia. Father studied law and after moving back home, became the Commissioner of Deeds for Chewolle County; Uncle Wilfred studied accounting and moved to New York to became a bank manager; and Aunt Celeste studied French and is the headmistress at a girls boarding school in Ohio. Father’s job never paid much nor required a law degree, but it allowed Mother to quit her teaching job and be a mother, homemaker, and groundskeeper, all of which she did extremely well until she died.
Glock, glock, glock… Mister Hugo and I were traveling uphill on a thin dirt road that led to my house, having just passed Granddaddy’s now empty stable. I missed the sight of my odd yet beautiful house, with half of it being a stone veneer house that Granddaddy built, then Father added a larger kitchen and some additional rooms, so that extension resembled a wooden clapboard home. Frederick and I later helped Father build the front porch; we were young then, fighting over who got to hammer the nails and apply a coat of white paint to the wood, trying to outwork each other. Mother loved ‘Frederick & I’s’ porch, how it overlooked the hill—and I loved it because it brought us all close together and kept us cool on a hot summer day.
“Tell your daddy I said hi,” Mister Hugo said as I jumped down from his wagon, “and to get helluva lot better!”
“I will,” I responded, grabbing my sack. “Thanks again for the lift.”
“Mm,” Mister Hugo mumbled. He tugged on his reigns, clicked his tongue, and his horses began to circle around; and I watched for a few moments as they descended downhill, going back the same way that we came up…
Then finally, I drew a breath, turned around and headed towards my house…Ascending up the front steps, my boots clapped against the wooden planks—Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Reaching the deck, I immediately stopped and was horrified by what I saw: the railing and posts holding the roof were peeling with paint, showing more wood than white paint. How could Frederick have allowed our porch to look this way?! Why, that lazy ass, good-for-nothin’ weasel!—I tell ya, if I got my hands on him…
I shook my head, forgetting about Frederick’s lack of basic responsibility, and continued forward. I reached into my brown twill jacket, my right hand sliding into my left inner breast pocket, felt around a moment, then retrieved my house key, a brass skeleton key. And as I raised the key to the steel rim lock on my front door, a cold breeze blew over the back of my neck and it felt as if someone were standing right behind me. I glanced over my shoulder—no one was there.
Turning back around, I inserted my key into the lock, turned the knob, and pushed the door open—Rrrreeeek. “Hey, Pa,” I called out, stepping inside, “it’s me, Everett.” I dropped my sack next to where Father and Frederick kept their boots and Oxfords, immediately noticing the soft hue of amber glowing from the front room, then registering the sound of a crackling fire. “Pa?” I called out a little louder, sliding my jacket off. Still no response. I hung my jacket on the coat rack; did the same for my hat, too; and I brushed my hair aside and proceeded forward…
In the front room, I saw a small fire coming from our stone fireplace, with the red Knole sofa in front of the fire casting a widening shadow across the room. As I stepped around the sofa, the floor creaking beneath my boots, I saw a grey fleece blanket covering what I assumed to be my father’s body, but the contours of this curled-up body was so thin that I thought it to be an adolescent’s body, not the more muscular tone of my father’s body. And then I saw my father’s face, eyes closed, he was asleep. He gripped his blanket, seeming cold even though he was sweating; his medium-length white hair damp and sticking to his face. The entire sight was hard for me to believe because he almost looked like a skeleton, so pale and sullen looking. Here was the strongest man I ever knew, a man who’d never been sick a day in his life, now looking so weak and helpless on our sofa.
Gulp—I swallowed, then cleared my throat. “Father?” A slight moan followed, an “mmm” that sounded more like a subconscious reflex than him actually responding to and acknowledging my presence. I took a few steps forward, bent over, placed my hand on his shoulder and gave him a light shake. “Hey…Father?”
His eyes slowly opened, and staring at the lower half of my body, he then looked up and saw my face, causing his eyelids to widen slightly, a gay and brief look of delight.
“Hello, sir,” I nodded.
“Ev—Everett,” he wheezed from his dry throat. And for a brief moment we shared a smile, until he suddenly began coughing—eyes closed, face scrunched tightly, he jerked up with each cough, almost violently, a god-awful sight and sound. Things were much worse than I imagined, for what started off as the common cold now looks like pneumonia, which hopefully doesn’t lead to influenza.
Suppressing his cough for just a moment, I heard Father mutter, just barely audible, a “water.” On the ground, next to the corner leg of the sofa, I noticed a bucket of water and tin cup. I bent down to my left knee, scooped up some water and moved the cup towards Father’s face, who began lifting his head. “Here—” I said reaching behind his neck, helping to hold him up.
I slowly trickled water into his mouth and paused to give him time to sip; we did that for three sips then he lost control of his body, quickly turning sideways and coughing up that horrible storm again, his lungs exerting so much air from his mouth.
“Shh, shh, it’s okay. Don’t worry, I’ll find you a doctor first thing in the morning and we’ll make sure you’re okay.” A few moments later his cough seem to subside, and I brought the cup back to Father’s face but he shook his head. I placed the cup next to the bucket, reached into my trouser pocket, pulled out my white handkerchief and began to dab sweat from Father’s forehead. “Everett…” he said faintly.
“…I’m glad you’re here.”
I flashed a grin, nodding. “Me too.”
“I’ve—I’ve been having these dreams lately where I float out of my body.”
“Mm,” he nodded while coughing. “I’ll leave my body and I’ll float away….I’ll go outside where I’ll roam around freely.” I suddenly stopped dabbing his face; my heart pounded loudly as I thought about Mister Hugo’s story, making the comparison to Father’s ‘dream,’ which he noticed my concern and asked, “What, what is it?”
“Nothing,” I quickly deflected. “Just, uh…just sounds like you’re having quite the dreams, is all.” Starting to nod, he then squeezed his eyes and released some pent-up coughs.
“Hey, you should get some rest. We’ll get you that doctor tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” he muttered. I balled up the handkerchief and burrowed it behind Father’s pillow, for whenever he needed it. Then, leaning over, I pulled the blanket up to his neck and tucked him all over…And when I looked back at his face, I saw him passed out like a baby, which made me like an adult for the first time ever.
I drew a breath then walked over to the fireplace, where I picked up a cast iron poker and stabbed the burning logs, and the scorching, tender parts of the wood crumbled apart. I spread the glowing red embers around, then leaned over and picked up two logs from the stack of wood and tossed them into the fire—a burst of orange streaks shot outwards. Setting the poker aside, I stood erect and, having already seen the Dietz oil lantern on the fire mantle, opened Father’s pewter box and pulled out a long stem wooden match. Striking it, I removed the Dietz cover and set the wick strip on fire…I wafted the match before flicking it into the fire. With the cover back on, I held the lantern up by its handle and took it with me into the kitchen—a soft illuminating flame leading the way…
Inside the kitchen, I noticed something on the counter and moved my lantern closer…a square shaped object was covered in a cloth. I pulled the cloth away and my eyes widened to see some tin bread, about a quarter of a loaf was leftover, which I assumed Mrs. Beatrix or a neighbor had made recently. Please!—I prayed, don’t be foul. I picked up the bread and sniffed it…smelled fine to me. Deciding to sample it, I tore off a small piece and placed it in my mouth. Slowly I chewed…the yeast dissolved on my tongue…it tasted more fresh than bland, dry, not stale—and so I determined it safe to eat; couldn’t have been more than two or three days old.
I took the bread with me to the table, pulled out a chair, its wooden legs dragged loudly across the floor. I sat down and bit into the bread, tearing off a large piece with my teeth, hungry like a wolf. I chewed on it and moaned aloud with pleasure, then heard wind howl outside—Whoooo—with window shutters clapping back and forth against the house—Drstch, drstch!
I tore off some bread and stuffed it in my mouth, breathing hard as I chewed…Then I heard someone whisper my name, “Everett.” I stopped chewing and glanced at the front room. “Father?” I called out, leaning back in my chair, waiting for a response but never receiving one. I shrugged it off, realizing that it was just the wind, but then I heard it again, “Everett.” It sounded much closer this time and was coming from no direction in particular.
I stood up and realized that, surely, it was Father’s voice; that he needed me right now. I reached for the lantern and—Whoosh!—a wind swept through and blew out the flame. There I was, in the dark momentarily, when a white light began to glow behind me—my eyes widened, for I sensed that someone or something was standing right behind me; my heart began pounding loudly throat my chest, and then in my throat—Thund-THUND…I needed to see what was there, so I forced myself to turn around real slowly…
There I saw Frederick staring at me through the window, transparent and glowing, wearing his soldier’s uniform, with a few bullet holes on the right side of his chest. He easily passed through the wall and stood before me. My mind was having a hard time processing what was happening, but my heart felt nothing but love from him and so I felt very calm and serene being in his presence.
“Hello, Everett,” he said.
He gave a slight nod. “I died in battle a few days ago—had to say goodbye to you before I crossed over.”
“Crossover, to where?”
“To Source, where we all come from, where unconditional love exists.”
“But…” I was suddenly at a loss for words, because it was sad to think that I’d never see him again, that we’d never have any more time together. But he gave me a look of reassurance, and gently said, “It’s okay.” I gradually nodded along, realizing that he was right, that he would be heading to a better place.
“Come outside with me, before I crossover.” And so I followed him without question, which I had been feeling like I wasn’t in control of my body, that I was in some sort of a dream, that none of this was real…We left the kitchen and entered the front room, where Frederick held out his hand over Father on the sofa.
“I’ve already said goodbye to Father in his dreams. He’s the one who gave me permission to cross over, to not feel any shame for what I had been feeling, which I had felt like I failed you all. But he said none of this was my fault, that he had always been proud of me.”
Tears streamed down my eyes as he said that…Then we came to the back wall which Frederick easily passed through. I opened the back door, went down the steps, and continued following him…We moved under a full moon, heading towards the gravesite where we buried Mother and Marigold alongside Granddaddy and Nana…
“You know what war and my short life taught me? To love and appreciate what you already have.” I nodded along, realizing how much he was right, how much I’d been taking my life for granted…Then we arrived at the gravesite, Frederick had stopped and turned around.
“Well…this is it, Everett, but it’s not the end—I’ll see you again someday. I love you, Everett, and always will.”
“Love you too, Frederick—” I replied, choking up. “Always will.”
And then, to my disbelief, I saw the ghosts of Mother holding Marigold in her arms, with Grandaddy and Nana behind her, all of them smiling. My nostrils flared, tears dripped down my cheeks as I watched Frederick move towards them…I could tell they were ready to accept him…then they vanished before my eyes.
And my heart immediately dropped in vibration, going from a high state to a low state, becoming ‘cold’ as it turned back into its basic function, nothing more than a pump for my mere body. My rational brain had taken over again, trying to make me doubt everything I had just saw, but I knew that what I experienced was real. I’d use my surreal and unique experience as a source of fuel, to make the most of what time I had left on this planet, and with Father.
Yes, I nodded, liking the sound of all of this…I’d live a more purposeful and driven life, because when I saw Frederick again I wanted to tell him about everything that I had accomplished, all because of him—and most importantly, I wanted to be able to tell him that I always did my best to choose love…Yes, I continued nodding…That I always chose love, my dearest brother.
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