Fort in the middle of the living room

(sad story)

“I was seven,” he says to me.
I was seven, and I was happy, my dear friend. Imagine, there was a large fort in the middle of the living room, near the fireplace. It was built of plaids, blankets, bedsheets, pillows, sofa cushions and chairs. Father cursed, mother rolled her eyes. And my brother, John, was smiling. He grabbed my hand, dragged me inside the fort, and pulled out a flashlight. He knew many stories – my dear older brother. About hunters and demons, about the bravest of the brave. About battles and loud feasts. He told me that even if duty is above all, at the road fork you always should listen to your heart. He spoke, spoke for many hours in a row, and I held him tightly by the hand, and was afraid to let him go.

“I was ten,” he repeats to me.

I was ten, and our fort was still standing. It was our constant, my dear friend. So brother told me. As long as there is this fort, we will stand. Even if our father left us. Even if a quiet cry is heard more often from my mother’s room at night. All that had to be done when there was no way out was to get inside the fort. And the world outside will disappear.

“I was twelve, my friend,” he adds.

I was twelve, and my older brother was everything to me. He was the main one in the family, my dear friend. He studied and worked, tired so much that sometimes he fell asleep without undressing. Wanted the best for us. And forgot about himself. He said that it didn’t matter. Not now. That he will take a rest later. He put on well-worn sweaters in the morning, hugged Mom and me. And smiled, my friend. Whatever it was – painful, scary – he was smiling. He clenched his fingers into a fist, took a breath, and continued to go forward. And on weekends he again climbed with me into that fort in the middle of the living room.

“I was fifteen,” he whispers, barely audible.

I was fifteen, and my life collapsed in one moment. Do you know what it was, my dear friend? My brother was a hero, that damned brave man. From legends and fairytales. He got a bullet. Because he wanted to protect not only my mother and me. Because he wanted to protect our country, the streets of the city. Because one of the bandits decided to shoot at the police officer. One bullet, my dear friend, is the price of our ruined life. One bullet…and all that remains for us is a closed coffin and mother broken by one more loss.

“I’m twenty-five now,” he concludes.

I’m twenty-five now, my dear friends…

And you know, I’m really sorry that Andrew will never show me our old fort in the middle of the living room.

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