Ethan had felt terrible about it afterwards.  He had even cried, and Evie had held him in her arms like she was their mother, and told him that he had nothing to be sorry about.  The bullies had been hurting him, and would have done the same to her, he had every right to defend himself and his sister.  He still felt remorse, she knew, but he stopped crying.

            “I didn’t mean to hurt him.  I just wanted him to leave you alone,” he said as she cradled his head in her lap.  They were sitting on the porch of the cottage, while their parents watched television inside.

            “I know, Ethan.  It’s alright.”  She said, gently stroking his hair. 

            “But it’s not alright.  Hurting people is wrong, I can’t stand it…”  He sobbed.

            “I know.”  And she did.  She had asked him once why he never defended himself from the attacks at school, and he said that to hurt them back made him worse than they were.  He wouldn’t just sink to their level; he felt that he would become even lower, because he knew how it felt.

            “To hurt someone else when you know how bad it feels is the worst thing I can think of.  That means you’re doing it on purpose, fully aware of the pain you’re causing.  That’s not just wrong.  It’s evil.”  He had said, closing the conversation.

            Now, when he had finally lashed out, his feelings of guilt were genuine and fully understandable.  She was trying to make him understand that he had acted bravely, saved them both from harm, and was in fact justified therefore, but being only eleven years old made that hard.  She was a very sensitive girl, but that was not always enough to explain to someone that they shouldn’t feel guilty. 

            She was bright enough to be sure that the bullies wouldn’t have acted this way if their roles were reversed, and that made her brother better than all of them.  She just didn’t know how to explain it to him.  Ethan had been taught at school for years to believe that he wasn’t good enough, so how could his little sister possibly make it clear that he was better?

The Genevieve on Simon Lamb’s deck remembered the thoughts of her eleven year-old counterpart and smiled.  Her brother was the best person she knew.  But that look of rage on his face as he stood up to strike the bully, the fire in his eyes, that had been someone else entirely. 

            For a moment, as he wiped the sand from his face, Ethan had an expression, one she had never seen before or since, until the past few days.  He had grinned, like an angry animal, or a madman, just before he struck.  That sickly smile had been on his face the day they woke up on the other side of the mountain, and it had been there when Dan and Alexander dragged him away from the man he had beaten.

            That smile terrified her.

<<Previous   Next>>