From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

Like a Brother to Me

Aaron was good-looking, funny and a senior in high school when I met him my freshman year. We met during track and field. He ran cross-country, and so did I. He introduced himself to me as we were waiting for the coach to arrive one day, and from then on we were friends. There was something between us, something very special. We grew to be the kind of friends who shared everything. We developed an unbreakable bond.

One day as we sat by the track chatting away, Aaron turned to me. “I love you,” he said.

I stopped. “You love me?” I asked. I didn’t know what to say.

“No, not like that,” he said. “I love you like a sister.”

I looked at him and smiled. I knew exactly what he meant, because I felt it, too. “I always wanted an older brother,” I said softly.

“Exactly!” He laughed. “I always thought it would be neat to have a little sis.”

Aaron had so many friends, but I was someone special. He assumed an older-brother attitude and was always making sure that I was taken care of.

By the end of the year we were inseparable, and I was sad to say good-bye soon. Aaron was off to college, and I would have to stay behind in high school.

“I’m going to miss you a lot,” I said. “Promise you’ll remember me.”

“Don’t worry,” he smiled. “I’m planning on kidnapping you and taking you to college with me. ”We both laughed, and he assured me that he’d visit often and arrange for me to visit him on campus.

The last few days of track practice, Aaron wasn’t there. I figured that he had a bad case of senioritis and was just slacking off. I wasn’t worried.

“Paula,” a voice called out one day after school, but it wasn’t Aaron’s. The voice belonged to Serbon, Aaron’s best friend. “I have to tell you something.” His voice trembled as he spoke. “Aaron’s in the hospital with leukemia.” He stopped.

I stared, speechless. It was impossible. Only last week we were running together. I wanted to scream and cry, but I couldn’t move.

Aaron was put in the hospital and treated for cancer. I visited him in the hospital as often as I could. Slowly he got better, and I became hopeful. Death wasn’t for Aaron. Not my brother. He had such a passion for life. He was real, and real people don’t die.

A few months later, Aaron was released from the hospital, although college would have to be postponed. Unfortunately, his release was temporary, and pretty soon he was back in the hospital.

“Am I going to die?” Aaron looked up at me from his hospital bed. I looked into his clear blue eyes and saw something I had never seen before: fear. I paused for a moment. I knew that I had to be strong for Aaron because he had always been strong for me.

“Of course not,” I laughed, holding back tears. “You’re going off to college in the fall, and I’m booking you for a date to the beach this summer!” He smiled. I stayed with him for three hours that day. I didn’t want to leave his side. I wanted to make sure that he knew that I was there for him. When I finally left, I told him not to forget that he promised me a date this summer.

Aaron passed away a week and a half later. It was too unreal. Aaron wasn’t supposed to be dead, but he was. Reality had replaced fantasy.

Aaron has been dead only a few months now, but I don’t think of him as gone, not Aaron. He’s still my big brother, and he still watches over me, making sure I’m okay. Sometimes when I’m out running, I hear Aaron’s voice in the wind, laughing and telling me to keep going. He’s right behind me.

Paula Leifer

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