We should have never left. Now, he’s dead. Aleksey—my brother—is dead.
We tried to escape. Aleksey had heard there was a ceasefire and an older man sold us his beaten-up white Volvo. He wanted to just give it to us, but his daughter demanded Mom’s wedding ring. It was all she had left from my father. She gave it anyway.
The ceasefire was a joke. We saw plumes of smoke from shelling all along the corridor. A huge column of cars was trying to get out, but they told us all to turn back. Aleksey had a plan, he said. A friend of his has a house on the outskirts of town. We could sleep there, stock up, and wait for the moment the corridor opened again.
We should have argued. We should have said no. Maybe we should have stayed in the column, maybe we should have gone on foot. But he promised us a shower and some cheese.
I never even heard a whistle. I never saw a fireball or the windshield shattering into tiny pieces. All I saw was Aleksey’s open mouth, blood spilling. It looked nothing like in the movies.