Gimme a moment of your time, if you would, to talk about Maddie Buckley (and, indirectly, her brothers, both of whom she loved so much, but only one she could save).
Maddie Buckley loves her baby brother more than anything- more than her parents and certainly more than Doug and there is nothing she wouldn't do for Buck, and that's where Philip and Margaret and Doug all miscalculated.
(They also underestimated Maddie in her entirety. She is kind and loving and fierce and stubborn and so much stronger than anyone ever believed, except maybe Buck, because he thought Maddie could do anything. And we don't know about Daniel, not really, only that he was there, so briefly, and the only evidence left is his sister's smothered grief and his brother's existence).
Maddie is nine when she looses her brother, and she doesn't just loose him to death, but also to their parents' grief as they make every piece of Daniel's very existence disappear.
(Except, they can't make Evan disappear and Maddie refuses to let their grief bury the brother she has left).
And maybe Philip and Margaret were different when Daniel was alive, but if they were it just meant Maddie lost them to their grief too.
So Maddie, no longer allowed to talk about Daniel (her brother), and not allowed to really process that grief, that loss that's almost impossible to understand that young, pours everything she has into herself and into Evan.
She holds him close and makes pinky promises and patches up his hurts (both physical and emotional because he doesn't know and can't understand why their parents are like that and it makes her so mad because she and Evan are right there. Don't they matter too?
And the answer, is, of course. Of course they matter, but it'll take over twenty years and running across the country for them to find the people that will love them as fiercely as they love they each other. To find a family).
And then she meets Doug who is sweet and charming and makes her feel wanted and valued. Who listens and adores her and supports her.
Who wants to know everything she does and every where she goes and after a life time of indifference from the two people who should have cared unconditionally it feels like freedom.
It feels like love.
She doesn't ever want Evan to know any different.
And then she goes with him to Boston and leaves behind her brother, and it breaks her heart but she always plans to come back.
(There is nothing in the world that will keep her from Evan)
But then she's married and her parents cut her off completely and Doug and her parents make it difficult for Evan to come see her or for her to see him and she can feel it in her soul that everything is wrong wrong wrong
And then she's back in Hershey and she sees how her parents are suffocating Evan - her baby brother who's heart is so big and so fragile and she loves more than anything. Who is bright and kind and just wants to matter.
(He matters. He matters to her so much more than he knows and her heart breaks everytime she sees the doubt in his eyes)
She knows if he stays with their parents, or even here in Hershey, he'll be suffocated by the ghost of their family's grief and he won't even know it.
She gives him her jeep and the money she'd been hiding and sends him away
(Oh, how she wanted to go with him but Doug was so mad when he found out and she never wants him near her brother again and she knows, she knows, he'd hunt them down if she went.
She won't ever let this monster have her brother.
She couldn't save Daniel, but she can save Evan.)
Evan wanders from place to place and state to state and Maddie treasures every postcard, talking about his adventures and the life he's living. He sounds like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Carefree and happy the way young boys in their early twenties should.
And then he's in Los Angeles and Evan becomes Buck and he finds a family in the 118 and she's so so happy when she reads his post cards. He's loved and cherished and she knows it.
And then things with Doug get worse and she clings to his Christmas card and wishes -
Then she's in L.A. and Buck has grown so much and she's so proud and she gets to meet the family he's built and -
She finds love - real love, the kind that props you up and makes you happy and feel safe. She gets folded into this makeshift family of first responders and gets to watch her brother grow more into himself and into this family he's found. She finds her own place in it and is so unbelievably happy.
(She couldn't save Daniel, but she saved Buck and got to see him thrive, and she hopes that, in whatever comes after death, Daniel can see them - and know that they're both happy and loved).
She didn't know this life was possible for her and Buck but she's so, so glad they've found it.
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