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Not Made to Last



It’s said that you lose 21 grams the exact moment you die. Some like to believe it’s your soul leaving your body. Others believe in the science of it all. 
Personally, I don’t know what to believe. 
I just know that I think about it—a lot. And I wonder if the order makes a difference. Like, what happens if your soul dies but your heart refuses to stop beating?
* * *

“We kept your room just as you left it,” Mom says, moving to the side so I can step into the house. She’s talking as if I’ve been gone for years. As if I just walked out the front door one day and never came back. Missing without a trace. 
Presumed dead. 
Unfortunately, I was none of those things.
And it wasn’t years. It was six months. And she knew exactly where I was every minute, every second, of those months.
Still, I force a smile as I nod, stepping past her and into the house.
Nothing has changed. Same marble floors. Same crystal chandelier. Same white walls. Same… emptiness that’s always been here. The only difference is that the family photos are gone. All of them. As if someone hit select all and delete on anything that one might construe as personal. My sister already told me about the photographs in one of the many, many emails she wrote (none of which I replied to). So, the bare walls aren’t surprising, although they are a little… I don’t know… jarring? I guess I never paid much attention to them before, but now that they’re gone, I kind of miss them.
Maybe that’s the most surprising thing of all… that one emotion—the longing.
“I bet you’re looking forward to your bed,” Mom adds, and I turn to her, still standing in the doorway with her hands clasped at her front. The setting sun looms behind her, turning our white marble floor a dull orange hue, and Mom clears her throat, her eyes unwilling to stay in one place for too long. She won’t look at me. Not won’t, but more likely can’t. 
She’s nervous.
I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m nothing like the fifteen-year-old boy she let go of all those months ago. I’ve changed. Mentally, sure, but she can’t see those changes. She only has my physical appearance to go by, and maybe that’s why she looks so… scared. There was nothing I could do to hide the cuts and bruises covering my face—last night’s little goodbye gift from “the boys.” One eye is still swollen shut, and my nose makes a strangled sound every time I inhale. I’m sore. Everywhere.
And looking at my mother—the way she wrings her hands, trying to hide their tremble… the way she stays just inside the doorway as if needing an escape—I know I’m not the only one in pain. I just wish our causes of agony didn’t come from the same source.
A single tear clings to her lashes, and I don’t look away when she whispers, “I’ve missed you, Rhys.”
I wish I could go to her. Hug her. Tell her everything will be okay.
But I can’t lie to her.
Or myself.
I am the cause of her misery…
…and my existence on this earth is the cause of mine.

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