Burnout - Coralee June Page 0,1

told about a half brother she put up for adoption at sixteen. Luckily for me, she’d found him just in time, but was too ashamed to reach out until it was too late.

I wasn’t sure if it was pride or cancer that killed her in the end.

“My…br-brother lives here,” I answered with a stutter before adjusting my backpack strap on my shoulder and eyeing the third floor of the building. I was trying to count the number of windows there. It was weird using the term “brother” to describe what Lance was to me. He didn’t feel like a brother. I didn’t even know if I had a right to call him that.

Mama didn’t have a will. Those things were meant for people that actually had shit to pass down or plans for their legacy once they were gone. Instead, she left me her beat-up Toyota, a phone number, and a name: Lance.

“Who’s your brother?” the Doorman asked as I tore my eyes from the building to stare back at him. He was clutching a water bottle, squeezing the plastic in his fist.

Well, wasn’t that a good question? Who was my brother? “Lance Trask,” I replied with a frown.

The man’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Mr. Trask is your brother?”

“That’s what I’m told. I don’t really know him though.” Why I was admitting this to a complete stranger was beside me. I watched the doorman grow uncomfortable at my honesty.

Lately, I tended to have that effect on people. Like when our landlord reclaimed Mama’s trailer. I’d told him that he was a piece of shit for not giving me a week to bury my mother. People took one look at my face and assumed that a pretty girl like myself should smile and be complacent, like somehow bright green eyes and blonde hair suddenly made me incapable of rage.

Deciding I couldn’t wait much longer, I walked up to the door, nodding when he opened it. “Good luck,” he said, like he didn’t know what else to say.

Luck was a cruel, petty bitch that didn’t visit me often. Karma, though? She and I were best friends. She spoke with my depression and knew all my dirty little secrets; she knew I bred skepticism in my mind and taunted me with the idea that I didn’t deserve happiness.

The inside of the building was beautiful. In one of our brief phone calls, Lance explained that he was an architect and designed the place. I wondered what about this place made him decide to set up roots here.

The traditional arches were broad and gave unobstructed views of the hallway leading to the apartments. It felt open but mysterious as well. It seemed like there were secrets hidden around every corner. The warm tones of the design looked welcoming and masculine. It had a contemporary edge but a timeless quality about it that I could appreciate.

I took the stairs instead of the elevator to prolong the inevitable. With my backpack weighing me down, I trudged the three flights with unease.

I could do this, right? I could face him. Introduce myself. I didn’t have any grand ideas about living with Lance. Even though he’d offered, I made a backup plan to camp out in my car until I could find a job and get a hotel room. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d slept in Mama’s old Corolla. I guess I just wanted to know him. I wanted to figure out who the fuck he was and maybe even find pieces of the person my mama pretended to be in him.

Something she told me stuck like a pin needle in my chest. Not big enough of a cut to do any lasting damage, but small enough to feel annoying, something that pricked at me every damn time I took a breath. I still remembered her last day, asking why she gave him up, why she didn’t keep him.

“I loved him too much. I wanted to give him the kind of life he deserved,” she answered with simplicity, like it was this grand sacrifice.

So why the fuck did she keep me?

This was all so ridiculous. One death. One phone call. One offer to move here and start over. I didn’t know Lance, but he was like every other man that swooped in and tried to save my mother and me. He made grand gestures, offered to let me live with him until I got on my feet. Even helped pay for the funeral bills when I