He is four years older than she and has always been her best friend, playmate, confidante, guide, and protector. They could only be closer if they were twins, but it doesn’t matter. Through sibling spats, adolescence, dating, and many short separations, they have remained constant in their devotion and friendship. She thought he was just short of Superman on the football field. His girlfriends suffered from her candid insights into their shortcomings or, rarely, gained an ally. She thought she’d never get a date because his friends wouldn’t ask his little sister to go out with them. Others were afraid of his retribution. One or two passed the “test” only to pale in comparison to her hero. Their parents knew they could trust both of their children to support one another and do the right thing.
When he left for college, she cried for a week, and he felt lost in a strange place without her enthusiasm. Phone calls, emails, facetime, texts…it all helped a little. Nothing could take the place of late night heart-to-heart chats on life in general just sitting on the roof above their bedrooms or on the front steps. Semester break his freshman year took forever to arrive. She watched anxiously out the front window for his car to appear over the top of the hill at the end of the block, and she ran to meet him in the driveway.
A trip to the mall for some Christmas shopping and a movie was the agenda for the next day. They had lots of catching up to do despite their cyberspace communications. Three hours of chatting, window shopping, a stop for coffee, and final purchases of gifts for their parents and friends and one another resulted in several bags for both of them to carry back to their car before the movie. Their spirits grew even more festive with the new snow that was falling to give the parking lot a clean covering and loudspeakers outside the stores playing songs of peace and joy.
As he fumbled for his keys, he heard her shocked exclamation and turned to find himself looking at a young man in a ski mask who was holding a very large gun pointed at his precious sister. The assailant couldn’t have been any older than she from the style of his clothes, his shaking hands, and the pitch of his voice when he told her brother to hand over the keys and all of his money.
He begged the thief not to harm his sister. She was sobbing by then and begging him not to hurt her brother. When she grew more hysterical, he roughly jerked her arm, gruffly telling her to be quiet. Her brother yelled at him to stop hurting her and took a step toward the pair.
Turning anxiously toward the angry brother, he pointed the shaking gun at him and told him to get back. She screamed when she thought her brother would be shot, and raised her hands to her mouth. In this confusion, the gun went off. Her brother was struck in the chest and thrown back against the car by the bullet that tore through his body. He sagged against the car and slumped to the snowy ground that was spattered and quickly stained with his blood.
This was more than she could stand. She lunged at the man who had just murdered her beloved brother, but, no larger than he was, he was still bigger than she. In his panic at what had occurred, he swung the gun at her. The hammer of the revolver struck just under her jaw, tearing a gash in her fair skin from her chin almost to her ear. The impact knocked her to the ground next to her brother, and just before she lost consciousness, she reached out to take his hand.
The screams and the gunshot had attracted the attention of several other shoppers and an off-duty police officer who was serving as a security guard during the holiday season. Just as the masked gunman turned to run, he was told to drop his gun and get down on the ground. The first thing he saw was the officer’s own weapon. Wisely he dropped his bloody gun and put up his hands on his head; then he knelt in the snow beside the unconscious young girl and her dead brother. Already the sirens of police vehicles and an ambulance were drowning out “Silent Night” from the loudspeakers.