MIrror, Mirror
by HYPERFocused

This wasn't the worst moment of his life. No one was dead, or in a bloody heap halfway through the windshield of a truck on a hot July day. No one was lying in a coma in a Denver hospital bed, muscles that once were strong, and limbs graceful now twisted and atrophied unless nurses bent them for him.

No, it was only Bright's future that was dead, fumbled away like a mishandled football, with the words of a guidance counselor who had never guided him, and could never console him. "How do you feel about your grades?" the jerk had asked him, moments after telling him he'd failed Trig again, and therefore was ineligible to play ball.

It wasn't like Bright would ever need trigonometry, or half of the other classes he struggled to pass. His future was assured. Scouts from good football schools would be looking at him, eager to recruit. He'd have a good career, a pro team. He didn't care where, as long as they wanted him. He'd come back to Everwood on vacations, to open car lots, and show off a garish Superbowl ring. When he retired, through age or more likely injury, he'd open up a sports bar or car lot himself.

He'd never have that life now. The future he and his family had been planning for him was gone. Years of practicing through pain: sprained ankles, and taped ribs. Complaints he'd learned not to utter. "Buck it up, son, this is your future we're working towards." And really, he was the only one working. His father was too busy grilling Amy on her vocab, or history, or biology to pay much attention to Bright's problems. It was enough that he cheered him on at the games on Friday nights. Amy was the one who needed him, who would someday follow in his footsteps. Dr. and Dr. Abbott. Or, if she wanted to break his heart, she'd be a lawyer or something else befitting her intelligence. Amy was the achiever; he was the winner. And if Bright couldn't play, he couldn't win.

His teammates - make that ex-teammates -all looked at him sympathetically, but had nothing helpful to say. They offered him cheat sheets, which he didn't feel comfortable using. He wasn't sure if it was honesty or stupidity. None of them ever offered to tutor him, or even spend a weekend cramming for a test. It was like they all knew it was a forgone conclusion he would fail. Amy was the smart one. Bright was just good with his hands.

The coach suggested a cheat sheet as well. He even said "Mr. Lambert never changes the tests from year to year. I can get you last year's, and you can memorize it." Bright was never much for memorization, so he turned it down. Anyhow, it felt too much like cheating for his tastes, despite the coach's assurances that it was "just a study aid".

And if Bright wasn't going to use crib sheets, or last year's tests as "study aids," he certainly wasn't going to take the coach up on his latest suggestion. No way was he ever going to profit from Colin's death. He was never going to forgive himself for his part in that anyway. He'd rather die himself than get something good out of it.

He didn't know why his father couldn't understand that. Sometimes he wondered who was the stupid one in the family. Amy would never have been allowed to get away with that. If her grades slipped even a little, she'd have tutors waiting to help her, and Harold drilling her every night. Bright thought that was probably stressful in it's own way, but at least someone cared how she was doing. Bright only got noticed when he made the winning touchdown.

He had nothing to do in the afternoons anymore. He walked by the practice fields and watched the guys do their drills, but it was awkward for all of them. He didn't belong there anymore, and there was always the chance that he'd be kicked off the field anyway, just for being there.

He could go home, he supposed. Crack open the books, try and figure out where he went wrong. He'd probably fail again. Another read wouldn't teach him what he'd done wrong the first time. The words and numbers were still jumbled in his mind.

But home wasn't especially welcoming. His father's disappointment, and blurted insults 'You're not smart enough!" weren't exactly encouraging family togetherness. And Amy was too wrapped up in her own pain to be any help. She was slowly sucking the rest of their family down into her black hole. No, Bright was better off staying away.

Sometimes Bright really did believe he was stupid. Not so much for his bad grades - he suspected if he'd had any help with school, he could at least have done a mediocre job. Good enough for a passable college, and a career in business, or some other boring thing like most people did.

But stupid for not being honest, for never telling Colin how he'd really felt. Not until it was too late, and the friend that he'd known was gone. First Colin's memory, then his life. Bright couldn't even say 'I love you' until the funeral. Colin himself had said it the day before his last surgery. Bright knew he didn't mean it the way he would have, if he'd been able to say it. No, it was just a best friend sort of thing. An 'I forgive you for your part in the accident'.

Sometimes, Bright felt like he'd cheated himself.


This wasn't the worst moment in his life. No one was dead, bloody and broken.in the twisted wreckage of steel and safety glass on a rainy highway. No one was saying Kaddish , while his young children and shocked spouse stood above him, shoes muddy and faces pale. No one had moved him across the country again, trying to escape the inescapable pain.

No, it was just Ephram's future that was dead, tossed away in the casual words of a Julliard recruiter he hadn't even expected to meet. Sure, he knew it would happen someday soon, but he would know in advance, and have ample time to prepare. Perfect his technique, bone up on all the nuances that would gain his acceptance.

Instead, he had twenty-four hours. Just one day to memorize the piece. He'd played it all night, 'til he knew it cold. He thought that was what they wanted. Come to find out, his father had been right all along. His bad habits had caught up with him. He'd never get into a conservatory now. If he was very lucky, he'd cram and cram, and make it into the music program of some state school. He'd have a thrilling future as a bar pianist, playing Billy Joel covers for airport drunks. Or maybe he'd be an elementary school music teacher - if elementary schools even had music programs anymore. It wouldn't matter that he didn't even like most kids - Delia being a rare exception. There would be no concert grands in his future. He'd wasted himself, and ruined his chance at the only life he'd ever wanted.

His mother would have been disappointed in him, but not nearly as much as he was in himself. His father would just say I told you so. Ephram didn't want to go home to hear it, but he couldn't bear to stay in the music room a moment longer. He walked out onto the athletic fields, for no other reason - he told himself - than a change of scenery.

The football team was there, of course. Guys he didn't know well. A few of them had accepted him as an unlikely friend of Colin's, and a guy that Bright sometimes hated, sometimes tolerated. Bright himself was sitting at the top of the bleachers, for some reason Ephram didn't understand, not participating in the daily show of testosterone..

He climbed the steps to the top, and sat next to him.

"Is there a reason you aren't down there with your jock friends?"

"I failed trig. I can't play now." It was hard to tell if Bright's red cheeks meant he was embarrassed or angry.

"What does trigonometry have to do with being able to throw a football?" Ephram asked.

"Nothing. I'm just not allowed to play. School board rules."

"So why are you sitting up here. Shouldn't you be home studying?"

"What's the point? I'm too stupid to pass, and no one is helping me. Everyone says I should use Colin, like he's some get out of jail free card."

"You can't do that. You wouldn't." Ephram was sure of this. It wasn't in Bright's nature. Even Ephram had to admit Bright was generally honest.

"So what are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be practicing chopsticks or something?" Bright changed the subject.

"Not much point. I just had a recruiter come out and tell me I sucked, that if I'm lucky, I'll play piano in a bar somewhere. I should have been playing a lot more."

"Dude, that sucks. But you're always playing. Besides, you're smart. You can do anything."

"I've never wanted to do anything else."

"Yeah, I know how that feels. Come on, I'll give you a ride home, and maybe we can figure something out." Bright held out a hand to Ephram, who followed Bright down the steps, and out to his truck.

Maybe this wasn't even the second worst day of his life.


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