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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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July 18, 2024, late evening

Kelly sat on the chair in the corner of the living room. As she did, she gazed around the room, stripped of its decorations and filled with sealed cardboard boxes in towers. She had never seen the house like this. She had spent her entire youth in this house. There were troubling times financially, but no matter what, her parents stuck it though and kept their home. Kelly realized that the only time she ever moved was when she moved to Las Vegas in her early twenties.

She had moved out thinking that she was going to make it. Maybe not as a star or a Vegas celebrity, but she knew her long, hard nights working would pay off. It's why she put up with nights serving cocktails to rowdy gamblers and creepy high rollers. It was why she figured it was okay to live without television in her one room apartment. It was why she lived almost entirely off Mac n’ Cheese for a year. Because it had to pay off somehow.

She thought Christian was that payoff. He was young, confident, and a good gambler. He took responsibility for their accident, and Kelly thought she'd move up the ladder. But it was never Christian. He was never her prize for her struggles. Christian would let her down, and she would put too much value on him. She made that mistake when they shotgunned, and she made it again when their son was abducted.

The real reward was Noah. Here was a creature who would love her and always love her no matter what. Sure, there would be tough times, but Noah was always good for her. He made her happy, he gave her reasons to live, and he allowed her to experience emotions and feelings she never thought she could.

But he was gone now. Left on some island somewhere as part of some horrible terrorist M.O. She could never understand it. They were all gone now. Her father was dead. Her mother would never be the same person. She would probably never see Christian or Angie again. Angie she didn't really care to see again. But Kelly also knew that, for her sake, it was probably better she didn't see Christian.

Kelly looked around the bare room and all the cardboard boxes stacked throughout. These were the last nights she'd spend in her home. In her 52 years of life, this home was the one consistent place she could go. Her parents were always here, and her son would be here too.

Kelly sighed. It had been a long day. She had feared the worst when Ella arrived. She really was surprised Ella came at all. Kelly only sent the letter under the impression the girl might remember her older brother and want something from the house to remember him by. She expected the letter to be intercepted by Angie or Christian and tossed out before Ella found it.

But she came. Ella made the journey south for some old dresses and jewelry, but she really wanted to be there. But Kelly shouldn't have been surprised. Ella said she didn't want another sibling, but the real reason was probably that she just loved her big brother so much she didn't want to share it with anyone else.

Ella would have to hold onto those memories as long as she could. She only got nine years with Noah, and while he had more of a digital presence to be archived, Kelly wasn't sure if Ella took the same steps.

But that’s what wills are for, Kelly supposed. Edie would probably die in the next five years, and Kelly would just exist until God decided she was done. If Ella really did want to keep a relationship with her, that would be for her to decide. Ella had so much life to live, and maybe sticking around a sad, old lady wouldn't be the best use of her time. Either way, Kelly would make sure Ella had any other mementos that she didn't take.

Kelly got up from the chair. It was late, and she still had a lot of packing to do until the movers arrived on Saturday. She still had to get Noah’s room ready for them, so she made her way to the stairs to get ready for bed.

Kelly walked up the steps, taking in each creak and sound on the steps. She couldn't remember the house being this quiet. Or maybe it was, and those memories are being overwritten by the memories of 2015. Kelly slowly traced her hand up the banister as she walked upstairs.

Kelly entered the dark hallway, and instantly stopped. There was a light at the end of the hall. There was a light coming from Noah’s room. Kelly wondered if there was a light Ella forgot to turn off. Whatever it was, she made her way to the room and turned on the overhead light.

Inside the room, she noticed a small desk lamp by Noah's computer still on. She slowly shook her head and walked over to the computer. She flicked the switch, then began to walk back. As she did, her eye caught something on the table. There was an old index card with writing on it, resting by the lamp.

“Kelly, watch the video. Ella.”

Kelly was confused. Ella had been in the bedroom for a bit, but what video was she talking about? Kelly’s eyes traced along the desk to Noah’s computer. She could see the computer was still on, but in sleep mode. She pressed a button on the monitor to turn the screen on.

What she saw was a YouTube page with an image of Ella frozen on the screen. The video was entitled “An Important Message from the Family of Noah Whitley.” Kelly looked at the page and noticed something else with the video. The account the video was posted to was Noah's old one. It was the account he used all those years ago to make his goofy videos. Why was there a new video on the account?

Kelly sat down on the chair and pressed play. Then, Ella spoke.

“Hi. My name is Ella Whitley. Some of you may know me as ‘Ella, Etc,’ but that's not why I'm here today. I'm here to talk about my brother.

“I never talked about this on my own series. I never wanted to draw a comparison between my brother and I, and I didn't want to drag my personal drama into my series in order to keep it lighthearted and fun. But since I'm obviously posting on my brother's old account instead of my current one, something must be going on.

“I'm sure some of you figured out I was the girl from that video that came out when Survival of the Fittest, Version 6 occurred. Well, if not, yeah, I am that girl who chewed out haters and my family on this channel. It was kind of dumb and I'm sort of embarrassed I did such a thing, but I was an angry nine-year-old and people were wishing horrible things on my brother. But let me talk about him instead of me.

“My brother was Noah James Whitley of Cochise High School in Kingman, Arizona. He was one of the dozens of students killed in SOTF 6, and it's been almost a decade since he died. If you're watching this video, it's probably because you subscribed to his channel back in the Tens. You may be curious why you're getting a video almost a decade later.

“I want to talk about Noah’s mom. Her name is Kelly. She’s been dealing with a lot since Noah died, and she has had to deal with it on her own. Along with grieving for her dead son, she had to take care of her elderly parents. Sadly, her father died three years ago, and her mother is now in assisted living following a stroke.

“I'm making this video because Kelly Whitley needs help. She’s strapped for cash, and has had to sell her family home to take care of her mom. She can't survive at this rate, so that's where I'm calling on all of you for your assistance. Tonight, I'll be setting up a GoFundMe and post it to this video and make a related video for my channel.

“Kelly needs all the help she can. I know we can't do a lot, but I want to take some of the burden off her shoulders. Like many families who lost a child or several to SOTF, they all need some help along the way. I know this may come off like some extra money grubbing about ten years after the fact, but it's a bit of charity I think you can make the effort for, and I don't think a lot of you even understand why.

“If you were a fan of Noah, you have Kelly to thank. If you enjoyed his shows, thank Kelly. She gave him all the love and support he needed growing up. She was his best friend, she was someone he could confide in, and she made tons of sacrifices for his sake. If you laughed at any of Noah or Pina Bucket’s antics over the last several years, you did it because Noah was so loved by his family that he wanted to transform that love into something we could all enjoy.

“We weren't always the most stable family. We certainly made mistakes, and we’re all learning to live with what life has thrown at us. But Noah did so much to change our lives. He made us laugh, he listened to our problems, and for me, who only got to know her brother for the first nine years of her life, it was something I greatly cherished and needed.

“If it weren't for Noah, I wouldn't make videos. I wouldn't be going to theater school, I wouldn't be writing new material, and I wouldn't be aspiring to become a famous comedian. And if it weren't for Noah’s mom, he wouldn't have passed on his love for making people laugh to me.

“I owe Kelly Whitley so much, and if you loved Noah or still quote him, then you should help her however you can. I'll let you know all the ways how.

“Remember: when someone dies, it's not about the life that wasn't lived, but the life that was lived. My brother died, but he had a great life, and echoes of him are still out there in the world. I choose to live for Noah, and to ensure that his mom is taken care of.

“So please, consider helping Kelly however you can. She’ll thank you, my brother will thank you, and of course, I'll thank you.”

The video stopped. Ella began to tear up and cry during the video, leaving a still image of her tear-streaked face on screen. Kelly's eyes had watered during the video as well. She couldn't believe Ella did all of that in the time she was here. It looked like Ella was genuine about helping her and really did love Noah.

Kelly wiped her eyes and leaned back in the chair. She spun it and saw Noah’s room. Ella was right. Pieces of Noah still remained even if he was gone. She would be able to find them wherever she looked. It didn't matter if he was gone or if she sold the house. Noah lived, and that's what mattered.

That's why she decided to help ensure he was still alive.

Kelly turned back to the computer and spent the next few minutes fiddling around. It had been nine years since she last recorded a video, when she, Angie, and her mother made that video begging people not to watch the SOTF streams. Angie handled most of the filming and editing for that project. Now it was her turn.

"Sorry, Ella," Kelly said to herself. "I know I said I wasn't good at speeches, but I think I'll have to try."

Eventually, she got the camera to start recording. She'd have to teach herself how to edit and post the video to YouTube, but she was willing to learn. She wasn't even sure what she was going to say, but she was going to figure it out. All she had now was time, and she was going to make the most of it.

Kelly settled into a good position, adjusting herself based on how the image on the computer reflected. Then, she spoke.

“Hello. My name is Kelly Whitley, and I'd like to talk about my son, Noah.”

All About My Mother:

The End

Cast (in order of appearance):

Kelly Whitley

Angie Whitley

Edie MacIntyre

Christian Whitley

Arnold MacIntyre

Ella Whitley

Noah Whitley

"To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother." -Pedro Almodóvar
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