I pulled up in my driveway and took a deep breath unsure of what I was about to walk into, knowing that whatever it was, it would be unpleasant. From past experience I knew that the house would either be in complete awkward silence, or the more likely of the two would be that I was about to intervene in World War III. I took another deep breath and reluctantly got out of the car and walked slowly toward the house, delaying my entrance as much as possible.
I was about five feet away from the front door when I could hear Frank shouting faintly coming from inside the walls. I paused, fingering the car keys in my back pocket and considered just turning around and going back. I just didn’t want to be a part of this today. It was the sound of Jensen yelling back that motivated me to stay and face them, he was my brother and my best friend, I had to have his back.
“You’re crossing a line, boy, know your place!” Frank spat as I walked through the door and into the living room. Jensen was standing closest to the door with my father standing on the other side of the table, both with red faces, showing no sign of stopping any time soon. Just behind my father I could see my mother sitting, staring at my brother with the same disapproval, as though he were a stranger in the street talking about vulgar topics uninvited. Most parents that hadn’t seen their son in four months would be excited and make a big deal out of their entrance, but neither of them even acknowledged my presence, just as I had come to expect.
“My place? Sorry if my position in my sister’s life has become blurred thanks to our lack of parental guidance!” He hissed back fiercely taking a step forward. I instinctively stepped forward with him and put my arm on my brother’s shoulder in an attempt to encourage him to keep calm. At the feel of my touch he instantly spun around and I was surprised to see that he had tears in his eyes.
“They’re trying to send Meg away to fucking boarding school!” He shouted as he gestured over to them aggressively, “I’m not having it!” He turned back to them, eyes blazing as his emotion was taking over, “You hear me, you old bastard, she stays here with us! With her family!” I felt the blood drain from my face as the words that had come out of his mouth sank in and then I felt a blood boiling rage to match Jensen’s begin to rise in the pit of my stomach.
“Where is she?” I said quietly to my parents. Jensen attempted to answer, but I held a hand up to quiet him, staring between them, waiting for one of them to answer the question. My mother looked at me confused as to why it was relevant to anything.
“She’s at her friend’s house.” She said calmly after a few seconds pause.
“Which one?” I asked. My eyes flicked between their confused and suspicious expressions but neither attempted to answer the question. After a minute of silence I spoke again, my tone more aggressive than before, “Where does her friend live? What is the parent’s name and number? When does she need picking up?” They looked at me stunned, anger slowly building on my father’s face as he realised where I was taking this.
My brother had had the same realisation as my dad and had joined in with proving my point, they sat staring at us stunned and furious and I turned to Jensen. Understanding the gesture he answered me, not taking his eyes from them, “She’s at Katie’s, she lives in Huyton, her mum Carly is going to text me when she’s ready to be picked up!” He didn’t take his eyes from them as he continued.
“What’s her favourite colour?” He questioned them. They sat their silently not knowing.
“Sky blue.” I spat, the lack of basic knowledge of their own daughter both made me furious but there was a small part of me that ached for Meg. She still loved them both more than they deserved, and I hated it.
“What does she have for breakfast every morning before school?” My mother opened her tightly pursed lips to answer but then shut them again.
“Toast with Nutella on one slice and peanut butter and bananas on the other.” My father rolled his eyes, it was clear how little he valued this little bit of insight into the life of his nine year old daughter. My fist clenched as there was a surge of anger that I had to keep under control.
“Who does she call out for in the night when she has a nightmare?” My brother choked and I could tell that the emotion he was feeling was getting the better of him. Obviously, we both loved Meg with everything that we had, but since he didn’t have university to juggle as well, he definitely devoted more of himself to our little sister than I was capable of.
“She calls out for Jen, she calls out for me, because she realised at about four years old that we are the only ones who will come every single time she calls…” They both composed themselves although I thought I saw the smallest hint of guilt in my mother’s face for a second before it went blank again.
“I’ve had quite enough of this nonsen-“ My father started speaking. His voice cold and harsh, demanding to be abided by. There were only two people that had ever made me want to take on my brother’s temperament, that guy who had dared to lay a finger on Selena, and my father. For a moment I felt the urge to march over and shake the ignorance out of the idiot.
“Nonsense?” I heard Jensen snarl and my head whipped round to look at him, my own anger pushed to the side knowing my brother was about to lose control, “That nonsense is your fucking daughter, you prick!” Jensen’s hands were suddenly reaching for Frank as though he were about to strangle him. I found myself diving into action and gripping my arms tightly around his upper body and dragging him backward toward the door. Frank and Claire were now both standing. Most parents who see their child react with such aggression toward them would probably have looked scared or shocked, but they had seen it all before. It’s sad that our relationship had deteriorated to the point where they probably expected Jensen to lose it with them like this whenever they came home.
The moment seemed to remained a blur to Jen as I didn’t fight he didn’t fight my efforts to move him into the corridor. It took him a few seconds to regain conscious thought as the adrenaline subsided while I had him pinned against the wall trying to bring him back to reality.
“Jensen! Breathe!” I said sternly. He blinked at me a few times, I could tell from his expression that he was confused as to what had just happened.
“What just…?” he asked a little dazed. I loosened his grip on his arms but was still keeping him where he stood. Not that he would have had much chance to get past me anyway, he was older, but I had always had three inches on him which often worked in my favour against him.
“You lost it and went for Frank… it’s okay, you just need to calm down...” I said, keeping his eyes locked with mine, motioning with my hand the speed at which he should be breathing. I made him take five deep breaths before stepping away believing that he could be trusted. He sagged against the wall and slid down so that he was sitting on the floor staring at his feet for a few seconds before looking up at me.
“They can’t send her away Jerry… she is all I have outside of me and Gem…” Jensen whispered. I could see in his eyes that he was lost as he imagined the house without Meg around.
“Well that’s not true you have me-“ He cut me off.
“You have university still! I literally live my life around her, what am I going to do if I’m not looking after her?” He snapped. I stood silently looking back at him as he rested his head into his hands and clawed his fingers through his hair. I realised he was right. We both looked after her but there was no question who her primary carer in life was. The muted sounds of the television were suddenly audible through the wall, Frank and Claire watching the news as if the last five minutes hadn’t even happened. Jensen stood and walked to his room, waving me off as I attempted to talk to him. He would always do this when he was hurting, draw himself in and cut himself off.
I sighed and pulled my phone from my pocket, looked at the time, saw that it was half nine and wondered if it was too late to call Selena. I would never tell her what had happened, that wasn’t her burden to bear, but just hearing her voice would make me feel better. I sat on the stairs and began scrolling through the names when there was a knock at the door opposite me. I looked up and hesitated before pulling myself up to open it.
“JJ!” Alex sobbed quietly on the doorstep, her hair a mess and mascara tracks running down her cheeks. Knowing that Frank and Claire were inside and unwilling to try and deal with them, I stepped onto the porch with her, instinctively putting my hand on her arm.
“Alex? What’s wrong?” She gasped out another sob, letting fresh tears fall as she stepped in closer and hugged me. I felt a little uncomfortable at the action but ignored it because she was so upset. I stroked her back in what I hoped would be a comforting way and shushed her quietly. After a few minutes she pulled away and wiped her face on the back of her sleeve in a poor attempt to clean away the tears.
“Come sit in the car and tell me what’s up?” I said quietly pulling my keys from my pocket. She nodded sullenly and followed me over, getting the passenger side as I turned on the engine to put on the heated seats. She sighed and her breath came out in a puff of white mist.
“I was at Dean’s house tonight and everything was fine, we were getting ourselves sorted for tomorrow…” I waited patiently as she sniffed back another round of tears that I could tell were doing their best to escape, “… and then we were just kissing and kind of… well you know… making out and then he wanted to take it further…” She sobbed again and I found the hair on my neck begin to stand on end as I realised where this was going.
“I said no and he just kept… he… I couldn’t get him off of me…” She broke down, her head in her hands. I had flashbacks of the lock on the music room door splintering as I had kicked it in to get to Selena, the sight of her trying to push Charlie off of her. I hadn’t been able to even tell Jensen about what had happened that evening because I couldn’t bear to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t been there. I looked at Alex in front of me and couldn’t believe that someone had done this to her. I reached over and wrapped my arms around her, shushing her quietly and trying to sooth her as she cried harder again. We sat like that for what felt like forever before she pulled away and sat back in the chair and took a deep breath.
“Please don’t tell the others, I don’t want this to ruin the trip.” She whispered as she looked sadly down at her hands.
“You’re joking? You don’t honestly think we’re still going?” I said in disbelief as I stared at her across the arm rest, “Alex you’ve just been…” Selena’s face flashed in my mind and I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud, “We’re not still go-“ Her eyes snapped up and she interrupted me.
“We have to still go JJ, if I stay here I will sit and think about it and be miserable, I just want to get away and have a good time and just forget about it for now…” She looked at me desperately, pleading with her eyes for me to give in. I hesitated.
“Please…” She reached out and grabbed my hand between hers, tears still in her eyes. After a second, I nodded, if she thought that she was still okay to go, it really wasn’t my place anymore to tell her otherwise.
“What are you going to tell the others if they ask where he is?” I asked, slowly pulling my hand back to my side. She didn’t seem to notice as she thought for a second.
“I’ll just tell them he cheated and we broke up?” She said after a moment’s thought. I nodded and sat back in the chair. Tonight had been a heavy night emotionally and I was exhausted. Alex seemed to sense this as she looked at her phone.
“Oh my god, its past twelve, I’m sorry for keeping you up! I’ll go now…” She wiped her face one last time with her sleeve and went to get out of the car, but I reached over and caught her wrist gently.
“Promise if you’re struggling while we’re away, you will tell me, don’t keep it to yourself…” I asked quietly. She hesitated, gave me a small smile and nodded softly before closing the door and going to her own car. Once she had backed out of the drive I waited for a minute to try and gather my thoughts before sighing and walking back to the now dark and quiet house.
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