Staccato (Magnum Opus #2) - E.M. Lindsey
“Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven. Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.”
Yanking at the collar of his shirt, Nik felt another pang of regret for letting his brother do the clothes shopping the month before. Van was never patient enough to do more than glance at the tag size before throwing it all over his arm and swiping his card at the register. And on busy weeks—concert weeks when Nik was trying to wrangle a dozen eight-year-olds into enough shape that their parents wouldn’t immediately fire him and kill his income—he appreciated it.
He didn’t appreciate it in the following weeks, however, when he had to deal with neck-hives because Van always got a fucking wool blend in spite of them both being allergic. Of course, Van also had the luxury of showing up to work in flip-flops and a t-shirt, because at-home tech support was the kind of job that let him live out his stoner college fantasies.
Nik, unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on the day—wasn’t built for that kind of thing. Van used to mercilessly mock him about being born in the wrong century when he’d sit at the piano for hours and run through all of Mozart and Chopin and Vivaldi. He laughed himself stupid when Nik had taken up ballroom dancing, insisting he’d be a virgin until the day he died. Of course, Nik got the last laugh when Van walked in on him getting a blow job and was forced to confess he still hadn’t even kissed anyone.
But life had taken the brothers on starkly different courses, even from birth. Nik used to joke—mostly to himself—that Van had used up all the luck with his early birth. He was six weeks premature, and he was barely seven months old when the doctors caught his cancer. Retinoblastoma in his left eye, so small—so miniscule—they shot him up with radiation and killed it. He’d always wear glasses, but they’d saved his eye. In a way, it was a harrowing tale of near-escape, only no one was brave enough to say that in his house. Not when Nik hadn’t been offered the same daring, medical rescue.
Nik always wondered if the reason his parents hadn’t noticed his own right away was because they assumed lightning wouldn’t strike the same place twice. Two kids with the same cancer in a family who had never heard of it before? He was two by the time someone realized that his vision was obscured, and by then, it had spread to both eyes. He was too young to remember what it was like, but he knew his mother had been told there was no other treatment but to remove them both and blast his body with radiation to ensure it wouldn’t spread further.
Nik had very little memory of being sighted, but his mother had gone to her death with the guilt of his blindness on her shoulders. Nik had recovered—he’d done well. He went to school, had good grades, graduated from college just like anyone else. But his mother had never moved on. He heard it in her voice whenever she spoke to him, felt the weight of it with every hug and kiss. When she passed, holding his hands, he swore he heard a faint whisper, “Maybe it would have been better if I had let you die.”
He supposed it was his fault, really, for never absolving her of the choice she was forced to make. He wanted to be a better son and have spent more time telling her that it was alright—that yes, he would have rather lived a long, happy life blind than died a toddler and sighted. But he was tired of apologizing for his existence. He spent years trying to smile in spite of the fact that the only reason being blind was hard was because sighted people made it that way.
Let the guilt be buried with her, he’d told himself as his father drove them from the cemetery the afternoon she was put in the ground.
They had their dad left, though, and he was the sort of man who took life as it came. Nik understood well where his own outlook had come from. Was life annoying? More than he cared to admit, but he didn’t want to let himself be about those struggles. He never quite saw the point in that—and hell if there wasn’t a blind pun in there