“Oh my God,” I whisper.
“Ali, are you still there?” asks Nick. He’s just called me from the hospital. Jay is dead. I can’t believe it.
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“I’m so sorry baby,” he starts to cry. “I was there and the guy just shot him and…”
“It’s ok Nick,” I murmur. “Has anyone told his family?”
“I think they called his parents but I don’t have a number for Jade.”
“I’ll call her then I’ll be straight down,” I tell him and hang up the phone.
I lean against the wall and close my eyes. Jay’s face swims into my mind. He’s looking at me in that serious way he used to and then suddenly he smiles and it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds. I smile back and open my eyes but he’s not there. He’s gone. Forever. My eyes fill with tears and I pick the phone up again. I have to call Jade and tell her.
“JADE! Phone call for ya!” someone yells and I head back into the press room. I’m working the late shift at the White House. I take the phone from Lou, the chief press officer.
“Thanks,” I tell him as he walks away. “Hello?”
“Oh hey Ali!” I greet her brightly. “How’re you doin’? I was gonna call you tonight…” my voice trails off as I hear a muffled sob. “Ali? Did something happen? Are you alright?”
“I guess your parents haven’t called you?”
“No. What is it Ali?” I ask, seriously worried now.
“Jade honey, it’s Jay. He’s been shot.”
“Oh my God,” my legs suddenly feel weak and my head spins. “Is he ok? I mean he’s not badly hurt, right?”
“I’m sorry Jady…”
“NO!” I scream down the phone. I don’t want to hear those words.
“He’s dead, Jade. He died at 9pm today…” her words disintegrate into a broken sob.
“Oh Ali, don’t…” I sink to the floor, clutching the phone tightly. “Please don’t cry. He’s gonna be ok.”
“I’m sorry Jady. Please come back here,” she begs.
“I will,” I cut her voice off and sit on the floor, with the phone clutched to my chest.
“Jade, are you ok?” asks my colleague Dan. “Did something happen?”
I start to answer him as my cell rings. I grab it and answer. It’s my papa and he’s trying so hard not to cry.
“Papa, don’t cry,” I beg him. “I know what’s happened.”
“He’s dead pookie,” he sobs. “Where are you?”
“I’m still in Washington. I’ll catch the next flight back to Tampa.”
“Will you fly him home for us? We would go but your mom isn’t too great…”
“Is she ok?” I ask.
“It’s just the shock honey.”
“I’ll bring him home papa,” I promise.
“Thank you pookie,” he whispers and hangs up.
Just hearing him call me ‘Pookie’… Jay had used it ALL the time to tease me. I had always gone mad at him but really I liked hearing him call me that. I never told him. I stare at the blank wall, hardly believing the words I’ve heard. He can’t be dead. My big brother would never just leave me this way.
“Jade? You ok?” Dan asks me again.
“Uh…” I just stare at him. I don’t say anything. I can’t bring myself to say those words. Like if I never voiced them, it wouldn’t be true. He takes in my position on the floor, the phone clutched to my chest, my vacant eyes, and comes to a pretty good conclusion.
“C’mon Jade, let’s go someplace quieter,” he gently pulls me up and walks me through into a private office. “Do you want a coffee or anything?”
I shake my head no and he sits by me, holding my hand.
“I need to go back to Tampa,” I tell him quietly. “My brother’s dead,” I whisper and start to cry.
Brian throws away the last drops of his coffee and starts to wash the mug up as the phone rings. He grabs it off the wall.
“Is that Brian?”
“Yeah, this is…?”
“Tony, Jade’s papa.”
“Oh, hi. Did you want to speak to her? Only we’re kinda…” he starts to make up some kind of excuse for her absence. She hadn’t told her parents what happened because her mom had been ill recently and she wanted to wait a while.
“I just called her. She’s in Washington,” he tells Brian.
“Oh yeah,” Brian tries to keep the surprise out of his voice. Washington? What the hell is she doing in Washington? He figures it’s the furtherest away she can get from him. “She has a little work on.”
“She’s on her way back to you now. Please take care of her for us since we can’t be there.”
“Sure. What’s happened?”
“Her brother Jay died this morning.”
“Oh my God,” Brian whispers.
“He was shot,” Tony’s voice wavers. “Jade has promised to fly him back here but I don’t want her to be alone Brian…”
“Oh, God Tony, I’m so sorry. I’ll look after Jade for you, so don’t worry about her at all. And I’ll book the flight to come home to you.”
“Thank you Brian. I thank God that she has you.”
He hangs up and Brian puts the phone down. Jay is dead? He sits down at the table and stares into space. How could that have happened? He had seen him only last week when they had discussed Jade over a game of b-ball. He had been so alive, so real… And Jade is alone in Washington. Oh god, how she must be feeling. To lose her only brother, the guy she had looked up to all her life, her confidante? He wishes he was there with her so bad. He feels so damn helpless.