Friday night was babysitting night. Every Friday night. And, being a teenager, that was just not acceptable.
If I was actually getting paid to babysit, it might have been different. But I was required to do it – because I was a part of the family.
The fact that Steven was not even a baby made it worse. At nineteen, he was older than me. Mentally, however, he was more like five. Would be forever, so they said.
I had turned sixteen only a month ago. I was itching to drive – anywhere – but was stuck inside with my brother. Again.
Did I mention it was a Friday night?
I should have been with my friends, at Ryan Reynold’s house, shooting pool and watching movies. But, as usual, I was missing all the fun. So I sat on the couch, angrily thumbing through a Seventeen magazine, wondering for the millionth time why God made Steven the way he was. And why He made him my brother.
Beyond my comprehension, my friends loved Steven. They thought he was cool and treated him like a normal person. They even encouraged me to bring him along to Ryan’s to hang out. But there was no way I would bring the freak along. What if he wet his pants or had a temper tantrum or something? I’d die of humiliation.
“Wanna watch a movie, Brianna?” Steven stood in front of me, his arms loaded with a dozen DVD’s.
Steven dropped the movies to the floor. Great. A mess for me to pick up.
“Wanna play a game?”
“Because I’m busy.” Paging through this magazine I’m not even reading.
Then I got an idea. “Okay, Steven. I’ll play a game. How about hide and seek?”
His face lit up. “I love that game!”
“You hide, and I’ll come find you. Don’t come out, though. Stay in your hiding spot. It might take me a while since you’re such a good hider.”
Knowing his favorite hiding spot was his bedroom closet, I quickly ran ahead and tossed Steven’s pillow inside. You might need this...
I started counting – loudly – while grabbing my purse and heading out the door. I won’t be gone long...mom and dad will never know. And, hopefully, you’ll be sound asleep on your closet floor when I get back.
The party was in full swing when I arrived. I lied and said my parents had come home early and relieved me of my babysitting duties. My friends actually looked bummed. They were looking forward to seeing Steven. Can you believe it?
Responsibly, I kept a close eye on the clock and only stayed an hour. Just long enough to feel like I still had a life, instead of being cooped up at home, forced to babysit a nineteen-year-old against my will.
I smiled all the way home. The last hour had been everything a teenaged Friday night should be.
My smile turned to horror as I turned the corner of my street. The flashing lights.... Police cars in our driveway.
Oh, God…what have I done?
Steven’s lifeless body lay in the road, illuminated by my headlights. My mother crouched at his side, racked in hysterical sobs. My father stood on the sidewalk, his face in his hands. I’ll never forget the look of anguish on my father’s face as he looked up at me.
Confusion. Pain. Grief. Disappointment.
I assume Steven got scared and came out from hiding. How and why he ventured outside to the street, I’ll never know. He was likely looking for me.
If he only knew...
But I’m glad he didn’t know. He didn’t know I was too embarrassed of him to take him along to my friend’s party. Or that I was too selfish to consider anything but my own desires.
I’m so glad he didn’t know...
My parents have long since forgiven me for that stupid life-altering mistake. And I know God has too. But how do I forgive myself?
I now volunteer full-time at a home for the developmentally disabled. Oh, how I wish it could make up for that night - the night I left my brother alone in a closet. One day, when Steven and I meet face to face I’ll tell him how truly sorry I am. Until then, I’ll continue doing what I can to help people like Steven. Especially those whose family and friends are too embarrassed or disgusted or self-absorbed to visit.
Unfortunately, there are many...
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