My first birthday without him. My first birthday with just me and my mum and my dad. No brother, no sister ... no one there to share the joy as I opened presents which somehow lost their colour as I tore them apart. Alone. No one there. Three people in a triangle that was broken, twisted, out of shape. No one there.
I didn't think it really mattered at first. They'd never come over on my birthday before, never had reason to. But now it was worse, because I was thinking of him the whole time when I tried to keep my chin up in the concert in which I was forced to play, and I couldn't stop the tears - however hard I tried to keep my composure, it was all I could do not to sob aloud. And then I thought of my sister and wished she was there, and my brother, and wished he'd come home a little sooner.
It was the loneliest I'd been in a long time, despite the well-wishers and the comforters and those that asked me 'What's wrong?' In a way, they only made it worse. In a way they brought the tears faster because I hated having to lie. Hated that I couldn't tell them the truth. But I didn't want to break down in front of them - I couldn't.
And just when I'd thought it couldn't get any worse I ended up on my own again, away from everyone. Separated from those that helped me when I was stuck and laughed with me when nothing was funny, those that had been by my side in every concert and every rehearsal when I was feeling down. Who'd hugged me as I cried this time last year, because one person was missing. And now it was three.
One was dead. One was away for another couple of months. One was just absent, concerned with his own social life and his own friends instead of the sister waiting at home for him to come back.
One was dead.
I missed him. More than anything, I think, I wished I'd been able to say goodbye. It wasn't the same being fifty miles away and waiting to know what happened. Going to a competition with my brother during the day and pretending that everything was fine when I wanted to be with my mother as she sat by him; sitting in the car on the journey home, unable to speak because Dad wouldn't tell me what the phonecall had been about. And getting home, and knowing the truth ... it broke me.
I think I lost a part of myself that day. It's strange to say it when we only saw each other a few times a year, but we were close. We loved each other. The letters we wrote - where I forced myself to like maths for his sake, where we discussed things that other people would consider bizarre, when I drew pictures and sent stories to them to read - they were our friendship. And now the letters were nothing, just paper in a drawer.
I found an old letter the other day, in his handwriting. It almost killed me.
It was my birthday today. I spent quite a lot of it in tears, and some of the rest of it trying not to cry again. I wish it wasn't like that, but it happens every year. My sister is at university. My brother is absent. My grandfather is dead, and I will never see him again.
It is for him that I have cried, and I still cry. But it is also for my grandmother, alone. When her birthday comes around, how will she feel? It will be a year and a day since his passing - he died one day before her birthday. Will she even make it that far? She grows weaker every day, I know it. She has help, but of course it is never enough ...
And it is harder for my sister. She knew him longer. Better. They saw each other more when she was young, but by the time I was old enough to be good company they were living further away. I wonder how she will feel on her birthday. All I can say is that this day was not as good as I was expecting it to be.
My first birthday without him.
Next year, perhaps somebody else will be missing, too.