suddenly disappear. But that was exactly what had happened.
Her eyes moistened as she thought of Bradley. Until he left for college, he had been her best
friend. She knew how lucky she was. Plenty of her classmates had brothers who wanted nothing to do
with the ir little sisters; or worse, who teased them incessantly. Not Bradley, though. When she was four,
he began walking with her every day, until she was able to make it to a neighborhood park more than a
mile away. At the park, Bradley would push her on the swings or spin her on the merry-go-round as a
reward for her efforts. Walking with her brother and playing in the park were among her best childhood
The heat was beginning to bother her, so she turned and limped back into the comfortable
coolness inside, settling into the same seat she had vacated a few minutes before.
She remembered the day Bradley left for college like it was yesterday. She had hugged him on
the sidewalk while the cab driver loaded his luggage into the trunk. Phone calls, texts and email would
keep them in close touch, he promised. Leesa told him she understood, that above everything she wanted
him to be happy, that it was time for him to make his own life, though she secretly wondered why he had
chosen to go all the way to Weston College, in Connecticut of a ll places.
Bradley had been true to his word, calling or writing every day without fail. In the middle of his
sophomore year he told her about a girl he had met, someone very special. Leesa was so happy for him,
but not long after that things began to change. His calls and emails became shorter, and he began skipping
a day now and then. She let it slide. She was fine with itâ€"until the day she received that fateful email.
No longer able to stop herself, she reached into her purse and pulled out the printed copy of his
fina l message, unfolding it with exquisite care and laying it open on her lap. As her eyes moved down the
paper, she didnâ€Ÿt know if she was reading or simply reciting the words from memory.
Dear Sis, This is the hardest letter Iâ€™ve ever had to write. Thereâ€™s something I need to do. I have
to go away, and I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll ever be coming back. Her eyes began to mist. Why couldnâ€Ÿt he have
been more specific? Why the secrecy? She could have handled his going away, if she thought he was
going somewhere to make a new life with his girlfriend, far from the turmoil of his youth. The message
hadnâ€Ÿt ended there, though. Not by a long shot. Please donâ€™t try to find me. Get on with your life in
California. Forget about me. As if! She still couldnâ€Ÿt believe he had said that. Forget about him? No way.
She had to find him. She just had to.
Sitting there alone in the airport, she read his final words. Always remember, pumpkin, your big
brother loves you. A single tear wobbled down her cheek.
The sound of her name rescued her from the painful memory.
â€œLeesa, honey,â€ her Aunt Janet called warmly, her heels clicking on the hard floor as she hurried
toward her niece. â€œItâ€Ÿs so good to see you.â€
Leesa carefully folded the paper and placed it back in her bag. She wiped the tear from her cheek
and pasted a smile onto her face as she stood up to greet her aunt. â€œHi, Aunt Janet,â€ she said as she moved
into her auntâ€Ÿs waiting arms.
For a moment, as Aunt Janet tightened the hug, Leesa felt three years old again, wrapped in the
safety of her motherâ€Ÿs embrace, before everything began to change. As she returned her auntâ€Ÿs hug and
soaked up her loving warmth, Leesaâ€Ÿs pasted-on smile slowly became real.