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She never judged me.  She never doubted me.

I have a half-brother. His name is Zachary. A little while after my mom died, we moved to Albuquerque. I wasn’t doing very well in school. I guess I was distracted by all the stuff that had happened and all of this extra stuff I deal with every day. So the school hooked me up with a guidance counselor. Her name’s Tracy. She was the first person I’d really felt safe around and felt comfortable sharing the details of my mom’s murder with.

She never judged me. She never doubted me. She never scolded me. And she really seemed to understand that there was more to the story that I couldn’t tell her yet. She never pushed me to tell her anything I wasn’t ready to tell her.

At first, I’m not sure my dad liked her very much. About half of our counseling sessions were with all three of us and the other half were just Tracy and I. She was the first person outside of our family who was spending any time with me and I think my dad was feeling a little defensive and over-protective. Neither of us, Tracy or I, was mad at him for it. It was just part of his process. And, well, he got over it.

He really got over it. He fell in love with her. She moved in with us first and, surprisingly, it was really easy. Everything fit. And it was kind of nice to have a girl around again. She made things in the house a little softer somehow.

And each of us had our own “thing.” My dad and I had a shared history and we could hang out just as guys. My dad and Tracy had their own relationship, with their own time together, which seemed really nice and really healthy to me. I was glad to see my dad so happy again. He looked more alive once Tracy came into the house. And Tracy and I had our time too. My dad is gone every three days on shift, so those days, it’s just the two of us.

I expected it to be weird at first, but it never really was. Even going from seeing her as a professional to seeing her just after she wakes up in the morning, or when she’s sad or mad or whatever…it’s ok. I like having her around.

And now I have a little brother. Zach’s cool. There’s a big age difference between us, but we get along great. He can’t ever replace my sister Zoey, but it’s cool to have a kid like him to hang around with. It’s cool to have a family again. And it’s one of the few things I don’t feel guilty about.

What’s funny though, is that Tracy is a horrible cook. She’s really, really bad at it. It’s awful. But she tries hard. And we laugh hard. And she gets mad for a second.   Then she laughs too. And for a little while, everything’s ok.

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Benito BarcenasShe never judged me. She never doubted me.