I never believed in Hell. I knew there was a heaven though. There had to be. I knew too many good people to believe that they weren’t rewarded after death. My little brother, Zeke, was one of those people. Zeke was my best friend, my confidante, my alter ego. Where most siblings constantly fought, Zeke and I were a united front. We liked the same music, read the same books. We were so alike sometimes it scared me. Or, that’s how it seemed until the summer he turned 14. I was 15 then, six months away from my 16th birthday. That’s when he broke my heart. It was a great summer. He was going to start his freshman year at the end of that summer. We were so excited. I couldn’t wait to be back at the same school with him. I wanted to tell him all my secrets, all the best teachers, how to get away with things, all the little things that made life easier. We were going to go on a family trip all over Europe. We were both so excited. We had never been out of the country, and Europe was our first choice for a destination. He wanted to see the castles in Ireland, Scotland, and England. I had nothing against that, but I most wanted to go to France, flaunt my French-speaking skills. I guess we weren’t exactly the same. Our parents decided we could do both. We never did go see the castles. That summer, Zeke got a girlfriend. I was hurt. It was foolish of me, really. I was his big sister. I couldn’t always be the only girl in his life. After all, I had a boyfriend of my own. There was no reason he couldn’t be in a relationship. He started spending all his time with the girl. Melanie was her name. Pretty girl, she was. Long black hair, green eyes, creamy skin. I was almost jealous. Not quite, though. I knew that long after Melanie was out of his life, I would still be there. Like I said, he started spending all his time with her, and the crowd she hung with. I didn’t like her friends much. They were part of the ‘popular’ crowd. I had nothing against kids like that. I just never fit in with that group. Somehow, though, Zeke fit in perfectly. One day he let me tag along. I wasn’t working as a lifeguard at the pool until later, and I had nothing to do. I figured I might as well scope out his new pals. I felt like such an outsider in the group. I hated it. “Zeke!” I demanded, “How can you hang out with these people? They’re so….so…. I don’t know, I can’t describe it. But they’re not like your other friends.” “Come on, Ardelle. You’re like my mother sometimes! They’re cool. And I need some other friends. Half of my other friends aren’t going to go to HS with me.” I just sighed. Even for my almost twin, he was still a boy, and therefore clueless. “Have fun, Zeke. I’m going to go earn some pocket money. Maybe you should get a job, mister almost a high schooler.” I gave him a friendly hug and ran off to the pool to work. That was the way most of our summer went. I would work at the pool and he would hang out with his new friends. I sort of got over my wariness of his group and decided that it was good that he had some new friends. I remembered how hard it was for me to make new friends during my freshman year. I started to like his friends. Until later that summer. We didn’t learn until after the fact that Jason, one of Zeke’s new friends, knew how to drive. He had been taking them out for joy rides. I don’t know why they found it so much fun. It might have been the criminal element that hooked Zeke. He had always been the angel child. If anyone got in trouble, it was I. So he might have wanted to just get in trouble. Sometimes it just felt good to have someone yell at you. And our parents could be so lenient that I think he just wanted to push the limits, see how far he could go before they finally blew up. But anyway, they started going out driving. It was just a short ride, up and down the street a few times. But then, apparently, someone got the brilliant idea that they should actually go somewhere. I don’t know who it was, or why. But they decided to go for a drive. And they decided to get on the highway. I have to question Zeke’s sanity at this point. He should have known that it was a stupid idea. But I don’t know. Anyway, they went out driving. Zeke was in the passenger’s seat. I have to wonder what would have happened if he had been in the back with his other friends. He did have his seatbelt on; that’s what they told us. They were cruising along, having the time of their lives. Then some idiot merging decided to take his chances and dart in between the car Zeke was in and the car in front of them. Jason panicked and floored the gas to try and get by. He didn’t realize that that was the exact wrong thing to do. The other driver was going pretty fast too. He caught the car right at the passenger’s seat. Zeke woke up in a hospital. He was in critical condition, and he was paralyzed from the waist down. When the hospital told us, I was crushed. My little brother, my poor little brother. He had always been an active kid. I didn’t know how he would survive. I never got a chance to find out. Sitting in the front pew of the church, listening to his friends drone on and on about what a wonderful kid Zeke was through their tears, my mind wonders. How could I have not known? Wasn’t there anything I could have done for him? Melanie got up to speak now. She broke down before she could even get a word out. She sobbed out that he had been a great kid, a great friend. She managed to choke out that she had loved him before she just fell apart. It made me sick. I couldn’t take it anymore. These people didn’t get it. He was MY brother. What right had they to be hurting, when I hurt so much? I didn’t cry as I got up and left the church in the middle of Melanie’s speech. I hadn’t cried even when I heard. I hadn’t shed a tear for my brother. The flames of Hell, licking at me ceaselessly, had dried all my tears.