Seb comes into my room as I push my homework away, now too stressed and upset to concentrate on it.
For a while he sits there, opposite me, with his forehead rested on his arms across his knees. His breathing pattern reminds me of someone who's trying not to cry.
I don't take my eyes off him. I scan him as his shaking seesaws from a slight shivering to violent lurches and back again.
For the first time, I see his scars properly, closely. Their jagged harshness brings to light the reality of the pain he's gone through. Very few of them are clean, neat lines. I hate to even consider what he did to put them there.
There is a piece of ripped material tied tightly around his arm, and I start to pull at the knot so that it won't cut off his circulation.
He places and hand on my arm to stop me and looks at me with wide eyes, then he slowly pulls the knot undone.
He's still drunk, I know that much, but his silence is slightly unnerving.
The injury he was hiding isn't as bad as it looks. It's just a slight cut, but it has bled quite a lot.
Seb gently turns my face towards him, then very suddenly clutches his side. He stays doubled over with his face creased in pain, motionless and soundless, for five minutes.
"Seb, are you all right?"
"... I'm fine," he eventually answers.
He sighs and looks at me. "No, but that's beside the point. We need to make a deal. What's the situation here? You need me to live as much as I need do die. So help me out here. My mind's not working properly."
"Seb, I don't know what you're trying to tell me."
He pauses. "I think... I don't want to leave you for no reason. So... we need to minimise the reasons for me to..."
"Reduce them to one," I say.
Then we have a long and difficult discussion about what that reason should be.
He has a lot of reasons. He has more reasons for dying than I have for him to live, and that hurts. All I can do is pass each one off as an excuse, and he accepts it when I do with visible difficulty.
"But I'll miss you!" I finally exclaim, interrupting yet another painful claim. "I'll miss you, Seb. I'll miss you like hell. It kills me to even consider it! If I'm like this just thinking about it, what am I going to do when it actually happens? Everything I say against it, you just cast it aside like it doesn't matter that I'll miss you, or that you mean more to me than anyone!"
By now my face it wet with tears that can be heard clearly in my voice. He turns away, an obvious sign that he doesn't want to hear any more, but I have to continue. It's the only thing I have left to convince him.
"No, Seb, look at me. I mean it. You're my brother, and I love you, and I refuse to lose you. Especially like this. Do you think I'm going to be happy after you're gone? Have you even considered what my future will be like without you?"
"At least you have a future!" He shouts. Then his expression falters slightly. "I mean, you know you're going to get somewhere in life."
"I also know you will."
He shakes his head. "I... I give in. I give in."
"Seb, I'm sure of you. You've applied for university. You'll get in."
"Fine," he says. "Fine. But if I don't... If I don't get the grades and I don't..."
I cast my eyes away. "Then there's nothing I can do, is there?"
And that's it. Seb's life is resting on his grades.
There's a voice in my head screaming that this is wrong. And I know it is, and I hate myself for it.
He's my brother, my own brother, and by doing this I'm allowing him to die.
Lola, what are you doing?