Losing Hope:A Novel

By: Colleen Hoover

Chapter Two-and-three-quarters

Les,

Well, congratulations. You’re pretty popular. Not only did you fill the parking lot of the funeral home with cars, but you also filled the lot next door and both churches down the street. That’s a lot of cars.

I held it together, though; mostly for Mom’s sake. Dad looked almost as bad as Mom. The whole funeral was really weird. It made me wonder, had you died in a car wreck or from something more mainstream, would people’s reactions have been different? If you hadn’t purposely overdosed (that’s the term Mom prefers), then I think people might have been a little less weird. It was like they were scared of us, or maybe they thought purposely overdosing was contagious. They discussed it like we weren’t even in the same room. So many stares and whispers and pitiful smiles. I just wanted to grab Mom and pull her out of there and protect her from the fact that I knew she was reliving your death with every hug and every tear and every smile.

Of course I couldn’t help but think everyone was acting like they were because they blamed us in a way. I could tell what they were thinking.

How could a family not know this would happen?

How could they not see the signs?

What kind of mother is she?

What kind of brother doesn’t notice how depressed his own twin sister is?

Luckily, once your funeral began, everyone’s focus was momentarily taken off us and placed on the slideshow. There were a lot of pictures of you and me. You were happy in all of them. There were a lot of pictures of you and your friends, and you were happy in all of those, too. Pictures of you with Mom and Dad before the divorce; pictures of you with Mom and Brian after she remarried; pictures of you with Dad and Pamela after he remarried.

But it wasn’t until the very last picture came up on the screen that it hit me. It was the picture of you and me in front of our old house. The one that was taken about six months after Hope went missing? You still had the bracelet on that matched the one you gave her the day she was taken. I noticed you stopped wearing it a couple of years ago, but I’ve never asked about it. I know you don’t really like to talk about her.

Anyway, back to the picture. I had my arm around your neck and we were both laughing and smiling at the camera. It’s the same smile you flashed in all the other pictures. It got me to thinking about how every picture I’ve ever seen of you; you have that same exact, identical smile. There isn’t a single picture of you with a frown on your face. Or a scowl. Or a blank expression. It’s like you spent your whole life trying to keep up this false appearance. For whom, I don’t know. Maybe you were scared that a camera would permanently capture an honest feeling of yours. Because let’s face it, you weren’t happy all the time. All those nights you cried yourself to sleep? All those nights you needed me to hold you while you cried, but you refused to tell me what was wrong? No one with a genuine smile would cry to themselves like that. And I realize you had issues, Les. I knew our life and the things that happened to us affected you differently than they did me. But how was I supposed to know that they were as serious as they were if you never let it show? If you never told me?

Maybe . . . and I hate to think this. But maybe I didn’t know you. I thought I did, but I didn’t. I don’t think I knew you at all. I knew the girl who cried at night. I knew the girl who smiled in the pictures. But I didn’t know the girl that linked that smile with those tears. I have no idea why you flashed fake smiles, but cried real tears. When a guy loves a girl, especially his sister, he’s supposed to know what makes her smile and what makes her cry.

But I didn’t. And I don’t. So I’m sorry, Les. I’m so sorry I let you go on pretending that you were okay when obviously you were so far from it.

H

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