Getting Over Everest

Getting Over Everest

A Story by Deanna Ballard

Lillian, called by her middle name, Lux, does everything with her Uncle Jessie. The summer before senior year, they head off to climb Mount Everest but the adventure ends in tragedy.



Deafening silence, not unlike all the ones preceding it, lingers in the room.

"The reason that you're here, Lillian, is because your family is concerned about you. If you continue to refuse to cooperate, I'm put in a difficult situation. I'll be forced to tell them you're not progressing and they may take more drastic measures to get results."

Is it possible for each silence to be heavier than the last? It weighs on me but I know it's worse for her. Whether she's one of those doctors who really wants to help or she's in it for the money, it's got to do something to her confidence when she fails at "reaching" someone.

"You start school on Monday. Do you feel you're ready?"

Her question bounces off the purposefully not dry walled brick walls. It floats for a while coming in contact with everything it can: the ivory couch I'm sitting on, her dark colored wooden desk, the modest chandelier overhead, the glossy oak floors, her framed degrees that somehow give her the right to catechize me and then it hits the open window. I resist the urge to smile. 

"Lillian, do you feel you're ready?"

Window must be closed. 

I meet her eyes. She sees the sadness which is a primary reason for why she hasn't given up on me yet. I can answer her. And if I could, I wouldn't. I'm just not in the mood to talk like I used to.

"Your session's almost over. Is there anything you'd like to contribute? Anything at all?"

I think about that. And I say what I've been saying since it happened. The only thing I've really said at all.

“I miss him."

She gives me a sympathetic smile as she stands.

“I know."

I stand and head for the door. They hospital doctors say I'm still in a state of shock; that I'm still processing it. My parents figure a psychiatrist can help me process it better. 

In the lobby, Danny is waiting for me, all six foot two of him. He passed me up in a year. We could be twins if not for the two year difference. Our hair is the same shade of blond and our eyes the same shade gold, a few flecks of green here and there. He's built like the football player is. Strong shoulders frame his body under his loss fitting t-shirt. Dad passed on his jawline to Danny as well as his charming smile that gets him out of everything. 

He smiles and gathers me up in his arm. His smile is different than hers. His is apologetic but strong. He believes in my tenacity. 

It also scared him. He was beside himself when I finally came home. He slept in my room every day for a week. I inhale and he smells like Old Spice and Jake cologne. He's growing up.  

"How'd it go?" he asks keeping an arm around me.

I shrug.

"You're going to go mute if you keep up this silence."

He pokes my side and I giggle. Then his phone rings but he ignores it. 

"She asked me the same questions she's been asking me."

"Maybe because she wants an answer."


"Wanna go home or stop at Starbucks? Whatever you want."

"Take me to Aubrey's. Stop babysitting sitting me and go hang out with Clap."

He stops in front of Dad's Ford Explorer.

"I don't mind hanging out with my sister."

"I know but let Aubrey watch me sulk for a while."

He pulls me toward him and kisses my forehead. 

We get in the car and the silence is comfortable. He has some OneRepublic playing and I know it's just for me.

I've always found them calming. Even still, he's all I think about anymore. I miss him. I miss him more every day. 

As we're sitting at a red light, I hear thus airy sound or something that sounds like spray. The light turns green and I see a boy between two buildings with a spray painting can in each hand. He looks our direction and our eyes meet. We pass him before I can really register that he's tagging the side of our local convenient store.
I smirk at the perfectly timed irony of Ryan Tedder belting out to Stop and Stare.

The car slows and I realize we're at Aubrey's. 

"If you need anything, call me."

"I'll be fine, Danny."

I get out of the car and Aubrey's already waiting for me. Danny must have texted her. She's got her purple electric hanging on to her body. Her dark hair is pulled into pigtails. For some reason she's got two long dark football-like smudges under her blue eyes. Her black t-shirt says "She's A Rebel" in green letters. I recognize this shirt. It says, "She's A Saint" on the back. Her green pants are ripped at the knees and she's shoeless.

"Lux!" she says excitedly.


"I wanna rock 'n' roll all night..." she sings.

I roll my eyes and sigh, "And party every day,"

She throws herself into my arms and I love her so much. She's been so cool about me and all of this. She's slept over a few times this week.

I lock the door behind me and follow her up to the apartment.

Everyone's here: Mikey, Sebastian, and Lincoln.

"Hey, guys," I say.

"Hey," they chorus.

"You cool if we--"

"I'm fine, Brey. Do your band thing. You know I'm a fan."

Sebastian taps his sticks and they dive into a new song I haven't heard before. They must have gotten it together while I was gone. It's rough but I can tell it's going to be really good. My phone vibrates which, honestly, is the only way I can be alerted since the whole band is here.

It's my unofficial boyfriend, Benjamin. I was always so busy and always out of town so we just never put a title on "us". I haven't seen him since I've been back. I've only seen my family and that includes Aubrey. I haven't even seen my aunt and cousins. I couldn't go to the funeral because I was in the hospital.

He says that he wants to see me but I'm not up for it. I just want to go home and put Slipped Away by Avril on repeat. But I hate being home without Danny. Mom and Dad hover and talk in code and tread lightly. Even if I'm in my room they check on me every five minutes like I'm an illusion that'll disappear any second. 

I understand that they're happy I'm alright and that they're still reassuring themselves I'm alive but they're smothering me. I'm ready for school if only to get away from them. Thinking like that makes me feel guilty; unappreciative. Then, it's like I've come back around 360 degrees again. I've dissolved back into my sadness and my grief. I never used to be so sad. I hate this.

The sudden silence shatters my trance. Mikey and Lincoln are gathering their equipment. Aubrey flops down on the catch next to me and drops her head on my shoulder.

"I'm officially free. What do you wanna do?"

I can't say I want to be left alone which is all I've wanted since I've been back in town. 

"It doesn't matter."

"You don't seem like you're up for much. Want Linc to take you home?.


"Harsh," I hear Lincoln say.

"No. It's just that I'd rather be anywhere but home and Danny would kill me if I let someone else do me a favor right now."

Lincoln smells then heads for the door. "Mike, let's go."

"Later," Mike says disappearing behind Lincoln.

"So what's the plan, ladies?" Sebastian asks.

"What did we talk about, Bash?"

"Right. I'll catch up with the guys."

When he leaves, I show Aubrey my phone.

"Ah, Benji wastes no time. You gonna give the golden boy a ring?"

She doesn’t really care for Benjamin. She thinks he’s too commercial. She only puts up with him for my sake.

I shake my head. "I'll see him at school; hopefully as little as possible."

"I thought you liked him."

"I do. I did," I stammer.

I rustle my hair then put my face in my hands.

"It's cool. You don't have to like him or anyone. Look at me and Lincoln. We're so off and on we might as well be a roller coaster."

A laugh escapes me.

"You know, if you really need space that bad you can always stay here."

"I can't leave Danny. He may be acting like the older sibling right now but he's still my little brother."

"That's all you've talked about; everybody else's well-being. What about yours?"

"I'm fine," she says with me.

"You're still grieving, Lux. That's easy for anyone to see. You didn't even get to go to his funeral."

I feel the tears.

"Uncle Jesse was practically-"

"God, shut up, Aubrey!"

She looks up at me, on account of my having stood up, her eyes meaningful. 

"I know that he was practically my dad and an awesome uncle. I know that he was always there for me and never left me out of the fun. I know this was supposed to be our greatest adventure...until I let him fall!"

The tears are overwhelming; the heaviness in my heart burdensome. 

She comes and wraps her arms around me and I collapse into her. I shouldn't have come here. If I don't open up to anyone else, I can always depend on Aubrey. I can't keep anything from her. I wasn't ready for this.

"You ready for me to call Danny?"

"No. He's out with Clap. He deserves to have some fun.

She chuckles, "I think you're underestimating your brother's love and concern for you."

She takes me over to the window and points out the Ford Explorer.

A laugh escapes me and I sniffle.

"Let’s go," she says taking my hand and pulling me out of the apartment.

Downstairs she hugs me and I go hop in the truck.

"I told you to go hang with Clap.

"Yeah, well...I had a feeling that she'd get you talking and that you might, ya know, actually need me."

I can tell he's self-conscious about what he's saying.

I sigh, "I know I haven't made things easy for you or anyone for that matter--"

"You have every right to be reserved--"

"-but I do need you. You give me the right amount of space. You're there when I need you and not a moment sooner. When you hover, it's at a distance so I don't know you're hovering," I lament with a giggle. "I miss him; I do. And I'm ashamed to admit that I miss him more than I want to be alive."

I can feel my throat constricting and my face heating up. I don't want to be the girl who cries all the time. I squeeze my eyes shut, refusing the tears passage. I feel him grab my hand. 

My phone rings an ordinary tone.

"It's Mom," I say showing Danny. "Hello?"

"Hi, baby. How are you?"

"I'm okay."

"Are you with your brother?"


"On your way home?"

"We haven't decided yet."

"I need to come home. Aunt Carly is here with the twins. She wants to talk to us about his will."

I shake my head, "I'm not up for that."

"I know but...You need to be here. I'm sorry. I love you."


I hang up.

"We have to go home. Aunt Carly, Noah and Norah are there. They have news about his will."

© 2013 Deanna Ballard

Author's Note

Deanna Ballard
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Added on August 26, 2013
Last Updated on August 26, 2013
Tags: mount everest, romance, sibling bond, depressed girl, tragedy, cutting, best friend bonds


Deanna Ballard
Deanna Ballard

Forest Park, IL, IL

What defines me is not what I can tell you, but the things I can't. Know the things I cannot tell, and you'll find you know me I'm pretty laid back. I have a great sense of humor. I don't particula.. more..