It seemed like everything was going to go perfectly fine after the wedding.
Reception. Groom in black suit. Bride in white dress. Pastor. Vows. Cake. Tears. Lots of tears. Mostly from the parents. Actually, all of it from the parents.
New car. New home. New job.
New family member.
When the first child came out, the two parents were eager to know about the gender of their baby.
"Male," the nurse said.
"It's a boy!" the mother exclaimed. "What was the name we thought of if it was a boy?" she asked her husband.
"I..." The man's mind suddenly went blank. "I honestly do not remember."
"Quick!" The mother was desperate for a name. "Think of a name! A good one!"
The father spent the next twenty minutes hastily flipping through a magazine filled with suggested baby names until he concluded with a "Wesley?"
"Wesley." The mother nodded her approval. "Wesley. A good name. Wesley it is!"
Several months passed. Soon, the woman found herself pregnant again. To prevent another folly with naming, the two wrote down the name they had selected for their baby: "Jordan". A unisex name. Easy.
"The best gift we can give to our children are siblings," they agreed upon. "A family. You and me. All our children. There is no greater joy than the joy of being able to bring life into the world, and to watch them grow up together like peas in a pod."
To put it lightly, everything went downhill just three months before the pregnancy was due.
The father was killed in a car accident. One moment, he was driving down a busy avenue in the evening rush hour traffic, the next, his car was on the losing end as a truck rammed into its side. There was only a weak pulse when the paramedics arrived. An hour later, he was pronounced dead.
The mother was pronounced dead too. Grief-stricken and heart torn, the next few months would prove to be very painful for her. When her second child came, she had no one around her that she knew. No relatives, no close friends, nobody. The baby was male, and it was named "Jordan", as predetermined. Only an hour after she brought new life into the world, her own life left it. What she had left behind, she couldn't bring along with her. Her two sons, now orphaned, were now to face the cold, cruelness of the world. Alone.
Several weeks later, a young couple came in. They had always wanted to have a child, but up to this point, were unable to, for the man was impotent. A healthy baby. Doesn't matter what age. We'll take care of him. Or her.
They were given Wesley. But as the couple said they could only take in one child, his brother could not follow.
Three days after Wesley left, his younger brother was found a home. A woman, emotionally torn from the violent end to her relationship. A few weeks before, her boyfriend was packing his bags, not giving her a second glance. She ran up to him, tears streaming down her face, begging for him to stay. She wrestled with him over the bag, the memories, the time they spent together. He left her with an empty heart — and a bruise on her face. Her dream had always been to raise her own family, to experience the joy and the pain of bringing up children, and for several years she thought he would've been the one. But that was done, and he was gone; all that time wasted, all that time she would never see again. The biggest curse for her was to never be able to fulfill her dream.
She adopted Jordan. And she raised him as her own child.
For the next ten years, these two boys grew up in different households, lived in different neighborhoods, had different guardians. They went to different schools, had different friends, had different influences. But despite having come out into the world together, and despite having the same blood, same genes, and same parents, they never knew each other. Neither of them knew they had a brother.
Until one very, very lucky incident. Some say it was by chance. Others say God had personally arranged it. But one thing is certain:
The philosophy their parents came up with would be proven true.
The front door opened. Sunlight streamed in like water from a river, basking the mudroom with a warm, yellow glow. Summer came early this year, promising no shortage of sunny weather and sweltering temperatures.
The river of sunrays gave way to a figure, blocking parts of it from entering the house, casting a shadow that outlined the obstacle. "Mom!" a child's voice shouted. "I'm home!"
The response was slightly muffled as it came from below, travelling up two flights of stairs and a wooden door slightly ajar. "I'm in the basement, Jordan!"
The child raced up the stairs, heading straight for his bedroom. He removed his backpack and dumped it onto the floor beside his desk. Homework? Nah, I'll do it later. He returned to the stairs, running down four flights of it into the basement, where his mother was doing the laundry. "Hi mom!"
The woman stopped what she was doing to see her child. "How was school today?"
"It was alright," her son replied. She bent down and kissed him on the forehead. "The weather's great today!"
"I noticed." She straightened her back and resumed working. "Now remember to get your homework done today. I don't want another phone call from Mr. Warner about you claiming that the dog ate your homework again."
"You know that excuse never works anymore, mom."
"I know." She smiled. "But you get what I mean."
Jordan headed for the garage. He grabbed his basketball, inflated it, and set out on foot for the park. The cold winter months and the rainy April weeks had finally given way to May's spring blessings — really summer now. He was eager to get out and enjoy it.
The cover for the keypad was lifted. A hand slid under and pressed five buttons. The garage door began to creep upward, allowing the light of the sun to illuminate the parked SUV inside.
Looks like dad's home.
The boy headed inside, leaving the garage door open, as he wasn't going to stay for long. He entered the kitchen, where his father was washing the vegetables. "I'm home, dad."
The man looked up. "Hey Wesley; how's school?"
"It was alright."
The man shut the tap off and turned around to face his son. "Sorry I can't play ball with you today; I have an on call later this evening. Need to get dinner done for you and mum before that."
The boy nodded. "It seems like you're never available to play ball with me lately."
"Life's busy, unfortunately." He pulled out a chopping board and knife and began to dice the vegetables. "I won't be back before midnight; don't wait for me."
"Alright." The boy headed back into the garage to retrieve his basketball. As he did, his father called out, "And make sure you get your homework done!"
Yeah, whatever. The boy closed the garage door behind him and headed straight for the park. The sun beat down, almost smiling in its quest to make the day a bright, hot, and humid one, but he didn't mind. He loved this kind of weather, and after months of snow, rain, and overcast skies, he wasn't sparing any effort to enjoy it.
The eyebrows were raised when the eyes under them caught sight of a figure entering the park. "Hey Jordan!"
"Good to see you here, Jameel," Jordan replied.
"You coming this Saturday to basketball camp?"
Jordan nodded. "Heard we had some new people in the club."
"Adam said he knew a few of them. Me? I'm not that outgoing."
"Hey, they might be good."
Jameel gestured to Jordan to pass the ball to him. "Adam has too much homework to do today. Jesse and Vivek are both away in Montréal. Liam's still sick from last week. It's just you and me today."
"You brought money?"
Jordan reached into his pocket and pulled out a few dollar bills. "Ten bucks."
"Should be good for a few sodas. It's just you and me, anyways." He passed the ball back to Jordan. "One-on-one?"
Water sprayed violently out of the old water fountain, like a burst pipe spewing forth its contents at high pressure, at the face trying to drink from it. Normally, there would've been an "Aww, gawd!", followed by a fruitless batting away at the stream. Today, though, the face remained in the wild shower, soaking up the icy spray.
"Ahh.... that feels nice."
"Really now, Preston..." an adjacent voice remarked. "It's getting into my eyes."
"So is mine." The boy removed his face from the spray and wiped it. "On a day this hot, four seconds of Antarctica is four seconds of heaven."
"Whatever. I just want some water." He removed his glasses, turned the knob, and braced for impact. "Ow! Ow Ow Ow... Jesus, it's cold!"
The dribbling of a basketball caught their attention. "Hey Preston," the owner of the dribbling said. "Hey Sherman."
"Good to see you here, Wesley," Preston said, catching the ball as it was passed to him. He pointed to the water. "Care to join the fountain squad?"
Sherman pulled his head out of the foam, licking the water off his face and putting his glasses back on. "'Fountain squad'. Real funny, Preston."
"You guys still drink from that thing?" Wesley asked.
"It's water, man! I'm parched!"
"You have money?" Sherman asked. "I'm not looking forward to kissing this thing again."
Wesley reached into his pockets and shook. Several coins jingled. "Yep."
"Awesome. Hit the soda fountain." He looked at Preston. "Not that fountain over there."
Wesley looked around. "Where's Sven?"
"Apparently he's sick today," Sherman replied. "Texted me an hour ago."
"We'll have to start without him, I guess."
Jordan knocked loudly on the bedroom door. "Mom?" He didn't wait for her response and simply barged in. "Mom."
"Yes, dear?" His mother looked up from her tablet. "What can I do for you, sweetie?"
Jordan closed the door behind him. "We need to talk."
"But of course, honey! You can always t—"
"This is serious," he said, interrupting her.
Jordan sat down on his mother's bed. He was rigid like a trained soldier, and his eyes were fixated steadfastly onto his mother. "Am I adopted?"
There was a pause. "What?" she responded, almost confused by the question.
"Am I adopted?" Jordan repeated. "Am I?!"
His mother was taken aback, at a complete loss for words. "What... What makes you ask that?"
"You're hiding something from me."
"Dear... Why would I hide anything from you?"
"You're lying to me! You're lying and I know it!" Jordan's posture did not move, but his eyes told that he was on the verge of tears. "You always told me that I had a father who was cheerful and joyous and jovial, right up until the day he died, six months before I was born. You would tell me all sorts of stories about the honeymoon you had, the time you shared, the love you endulged in. And yet it seems so bizzare that there were never any pictures of him, never a grave for him in the cemetery, never any evidence that he even existed." He brushed a hand across his eyes. "And he never did. You just made him up. You lied to me."
His mother was silent. Her son's words had completely robbed her of the ability to speak. For several minutes, her mouth was agape, nothing coming out of it except air. Finally, she managed a "It's getting late, Jordan..."
"You're avoiding the question."
She straightened up. "How about we talk about this in the morning..."
"Are you my adoptive mother?" he demanded.
"You should go to bed. Maybe a good night's sleep will..."
"I'm not leaving!" Jordan was almost screaming. "I'm not going until I hear what I want to hear."
She slunk back, defeated. When she again spoke, it was barely above a whisper: "What makes you ask that, Jordan?"
Now it was Jordan's turn to be speechless. "You know Wesley, right? The kid that I met at basketball camp a few weeks ago?"
She nodded slightly.
Jordan swallowed. "I... I think he's my... my..."
It was like a weight had dropped. Absolute silence reigned for several minutes after that. The boy was silent, though he could not help but allow the tears to stream down his face. Across him sat his mother, who too was at a loss for words.
The street was quiet. The sun, which had basked the city with a relentless summer glare, was now a smoldering orange fireball drooping lower and lower in the sky. Occupying the street, aside from the occasional parked car, were two lonesome figures, walking together in the evening sunset. One of them carried a basketball, occasionally dribbling it on the asphalt.
"Well," Jordan began, "I guess you are my brother. My long lost brother."
Wesley turned his head to look at him. "I always wanted a brother," he said. "I always wanted someone in my family whom I could turn to whenever I needed someone to talk to, someone to share my darkest secrets with, and someone I knew would be there for me, long after my parents died, long before I had a family of my own." He put his arm around Jordan's shoulders. "And I did have a brother. Didn't see him for the first twelve years of my life, but he was there. Now he's walking with me."
"Yeah." Jordan put his own arm around his brother's shoulders. "Walking alone with me. Just you and me. I'm fine with that."
The two were quiet for a moment. There was a light, gentle breeze that kept the air from becoming too unbearable. In the distance, they could hear a raven crow, a non-destructive sound that gracefully broke the silence.
"I guess we're all that's left of our family," Wesley suddenly said.
Jordan looked up. "Huh?"
"Our parents," Wesley continued. "Not the parents that raised us. The parents that actually had us. The parents that gave us our names. The parents that join us together. They're dead. They've been dead since we were infants." He grimaced. "If they hadn't died, we would have been together for much longer. The first ten years of our lives. Maybe we would have had more siblings. Another brother. A sister, perhaps. But they died, both of them. We're all that's left of their legacy."
Jordan slowly smiled. "At least I know that, when I need to think about my real mom and my real dad, you still bear their ghosts."
"And vice versa." Wesley ruffled his brother's hair, and Jordan squealed. "Nobody's as close to you as your brother."
"I'm your best dream come true, huh?"
"I must be yours too."
Jordan laughed. "To be really honest... out of all the presents I've received, whether it be on my birthday or at Christmas or just random surprises throughout the year, you're the best one out of them all. I think you're the best gift I'll ever get."
Wesley hugged his brother closely. "I wanted so many things as a kid. I wanted the latest toys. I wanted the sickest clothes. I wanted a basketball court and a swimming pool in my backyard. I wanted to go here, I wanted to go there, I wanted to go everywhere. But... I've always felt like the more I received, the emptier I felt." A brief pause, and then: "Until you came along."
"I must've been the first present that didn't come in wrapping paper and a decorated box."
Wesley grinned. "You seemed like a good friend. Then best friends. Then really close friends. And you know what? You're right. You are the best thing I've ever received. You're my brother, my long lost brother, but an answered prayer nonetheless. And for once, I didn't feel empty. I've gotten more satisfaction getting you back than I would if I had taken over the whole world."
Jordan rested his head against his brother's body. "I feel the same way..."
Wesley suddenly craned his neck and kissed his brother lightly by the ear.
"I always wanted to do that," Wesley explained. "To kiss my brother. And I have a brother, my only true brother. It's the first time I kissed someone that's actually in my own family."
The two stopped. Ahead of them was a basketball court, dressed in gold by the sun. The nets, the lines, the asphalt surface, it all seemed so familiar, so homey, so friendly. During the day, most often after school, and often stretching into the evening hours, it was occupied by whoever in the neighborhood wanted to shoot hoops that day. Neighborhood kids, high school students, maybe the retired basketball player in their sixties. Today, it was deserted. Maybe everyone had already gone home. Maybe it was too warm out for a sweaty, intense game. Who knows? But for the two brothers, it struck home.
It was the very basketball court where they first met. Well, reunited, to be correct.
Jordan looked to his right. His brother still had his basketball tucked under his right arm.
"One-on-one?" he asked.
Wesley brushed off some sweat from his forehead. "You sure?"
"Hey, nothing beats a little competition with my own brother."
"Ha! Fight hard. Fight smart. Fight like brothers. I'm wrestling you once we get home."
"Not if I win first!" And with that, Jordan made a grab for the ball. After a brief struggle, the two were laughing.
"No seriously... I'm not gonna let you win!"
"Really?" Wesley grinned. "Then I'll let you start." He passed the ball to his brother.
"Uh-huh!" And they went at it.