Frustrated with her boyfriend, Becky turns to her brother

“Motherfucker.”

I tapped my phone’s screen off and stared at the blackness for several seconds before gently tossing my phone back onto the loveseat sofa my boyfriend Michael had found for free on Craigslist. My right hand dropped to my side and my gaze slowly drifted to the pot that I held out in my left hand. I’m not sure what was in it, since it certainly wasn’t the gumbo I had been trying to make. I felt numb for a moment. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Walking back to the stove, that familiar pinch I’d been feeling from the back of my new flats scratched at me again, and suddenly I knew that this would be the last time they’d ever do that. Putting the pot back on the stove, I reached down, ripped one off, and hurled it across the room at the far wall. It felt good. I reached down, ripped the other off, and threw it after. I narrowly missed the TV Michael had insisted we have in our apartment, and for a moment I wished I had actually hit it. The cold linoleum felt good against my bare feet, and I slid one back and forth, enjoying the sensation and the momentary calm that accompanied it. Then, it was gone.

Michael was going to be late. Again. He had just texted to say that his friend had invited him to a gig, some rock thing, and that there might be connections there. He said he couldn’t miss the chance, and wouldn’t be home until at least two.

This wasn’t the first time Michael had blown me off for some musical improbability, but it was the first time since we moved in together, and it hurt especially bad tonight. Tonight was supposed to be a Date Night, something we’d had precisely none of since we moved into this place only a couple weeks ago. Why wasn’t this as romantic as I had envisioned it when we talked about the move? More importantly, why wasn’t it as romantic as he had promised it would be?

I sighed and looked at the green glowing clock on the oven. It was almost ten, it was Friday night, and I was frustrated and alone. I quickly decided against going out; that wasn’t what I needed right now. What I needed now…

I was startled to hear a tap at the door, and was startled again when I realized it had been the familiar “shave and a haircut” pattern I used to hear on my bedroom door back home. At that moment, Danny’s knock was the last thing I was expecting to hear.

I looked around for a quick check of the apartment and realized there wasn’t much I could do since he was already at the door. I walked over to the mirror that was next to the door and habitually straightened my dark and uncontrollably wavy hair, making sure that everything was acceptably tidy. I looked tired, despite my makeup. I sighed, knocked back “two bits”, and turned the knob.

And it was Danny, my little brother, standing on the outdoor walkway that led to my door. The first thing I saw was a dozen white roses, which was as much of a surprise as hearing the knock. Then, I saw Danny’s bemused half-grin and raised eyebrow.

“Hey,” he said uncertainly. I guess I hadn’t concealed my look of surprise.

“Hey,” I said. His expression changed when he saw my eyebrows shoot up. “Oh my god,” I said with a sudden realization, “you thought the apartment-warming was today, didn’t you?”

He turned a shade paler and furrowed his brow. “It’s not?” he asked sheepishly.

I shook my head slowly. “That’s next Friday.”

His expression turned my surprise to pity; I hated when he did his sad puppy look, and even though I could tell it was his usual mischievous self behind the eyes, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as the bouquet lowered and he motioned off to the side. “Guess I’ll go then…”

“Hey! Get in here, you big dummy,” I said with a half-hearted laugh, lunging through the door to grab his arm and pull him in. He fell into my place before straightening himself and looking around.

“Wow,” he said, taking a few steps around the kitchen area. I closed the door and leaned back against it, watching him check out the apartment. There was something about him that looked different from how I usually saw him. He looked older. I told him so.

He gave me a smirk. “That’s probably because of the suit. Mom said the same thing before I left. I picked it up at a thrift shop.” He posed, pretending to adjust non-existent cufflinks. He was probably right, it was the suit. It was pretty snazzy; he was wearing a white button-down with the first few buttons undone and a dark blazer, the cut very flattering on him. Then I noticed something else unusual.

“Your face!” I said, walking up to him. “You’ve got stubble! I’ve never seen you with it before.”

“That’s probably because I shaved every day. I thought I might give scruffy a try.”

“It looks really good on you,” I said, rubbing the back of my fingers against his jawline. It felt funny to the touch, and it made me laugh. “You don’t look eighteen at all, you look closer to twenty-three with this. Scruffy indeed…”

I only realized how close I was to him when I heard a plastic crinkling from the wrapping around the flowers he was still carrying. It caused us both to look down at the same time as I pulled my hand away.

“Do you have a vase or something?” he said. I wasn’t sure, but after some searching I did find an acceptable glass container in a box we still hadn’t unpacked. I put some water in it and arranged the roses on the table. After some shifting, they looked like a very nice, full bouquet. We stood looking at them for a while in silence, my hands on my hips.

“Becky, are you okay?” he eventually asked, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, I’m fine, why do you ask?”

“You’ve got that look like something’s on your mind.” I touched my tense forehead and found the vertical line above my nose that my mother had too. I rubbed it away and laughed nervously. I looked up at Danny.

“I’m glad you came over tonight.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s just… it’s Michael.”

“Uh oh. Does he need a pounding?” Danny softly punched his palm a couple of times, which made me laugh again. The mental image of Danny trying to beat up Michael was comical at best.

“No, no, nothing like that. He just… tonight was our date night in and he kind of just bailed on me.” I looked over at my phone, still on the loveseat.

“That explains the food,” Danny said, wrinkling his nose.

“I don’t think you can go quite so far as to call it food,” I said, walking over to the pot and peering in. It looked even less appetizing than before, and the smell wasn’t particularly appealing either.

“I guess it’s better he’s not coming then. What was his excuse, anyway?”

“Music stuff,” I said simply, shrugging my shoulders and trying to end the conversation. I didn’t feel like I needed to get into my relationship issues with my brother right now.

Daniel rolled his eyes. “Ah. Music stuff.” He’d never seemed too enthused that I was dating an aspiring musician, but he mostly kept his views to himself. Mostly.

“I don’t really want to talk about it right now. Are you hungry?”

“Yeah, what is it, a little after ten? This is way past my normal dinner time.”

“Sorry, yeah, Michael usually works pretty late, so that’s when we end up scheduling things. How about I call in an emergency pizza?”

I called the pizza place, and after some major debate we decided on a large Supreme with extra feta. It was twenty-two bucks, but that was okay. I felt like going all out tonight, letting myself indulge. I offered Danny a beer.

“You have beer?” he said with a raised eyebrow.

“A benefit of dating an older guy,” I said. My expression turned more sour when I found myself staring at a fridge with absolutely no alcohol in it whatsoever.

“Ugh!” I said as I slammed the fridge shut. “That’s right! Michael was supposed to bring something to drink home with him tonight for our date.”

“Sounds like this guy can’t do anything right tonight,” said Daniel, and I almost punched him in the arm, but didn’t. He was right. But I really wanted to have a good time tonight, even if it meant hanging out with my brother. Which gave me an idea…

“Let’s go get some!”

Danny looked skeptical. “But you’re not even twenty yet.”

“I’m with Michael all the time when we go to the 7-Eleven down the street, I’m sure they won’t card me. Besides, Mr. Scruffy, with you there they really won’t suspect a thing. You’d be the icing on the cake for our ruse.” I adjusted his blazer and gave him my best sad puppy face. “Pleeaase?”

“All right,” he said, finally relenting.

“Score! Just a sec, lemme put on some shoes.”

“There’s a pair ov–”

“Shut up,” I said, and went to my room. I pulled on some comfortable boots that covered the mid-calf bottom of my grey leggings and looked at myself in the mirror. I really didn’t look that bad tonight in my dress, and the boots went surprisingly well with it. I pulled on my purple trench and went back out to find Danny poking around in the fridge.

“Didn’t believe me or something?”

Danny popped back up and chuckled. “No no, just checking it out.”

I decided to drop it. “Come on, let’s go,” I said. I locked the door behind us and we started down the street. It was dark out, but the streetlights kept the area well-lit. Danny kept looking over at me, and I thought it was weird the way the shadows that crossed his face as we passed each streetlight made him seem mysterious. We talked about this and that, when I suddenly realized something was off.

“Where’s Sara?”

He immediately looked ahead and stopped talking.

“You thought this was our apartment-warming, and I’m positive that I had invited you to bring your girlfriend. Here you are, no Sara in sight.”

He kept ignoring me.

“Did you two break up?”

“Yeah,” he said finally, sounding annoyed. “We broke up a few days ago.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

He shrugged. “Not really? I mean, you didn’t want to talk about you and Michael earlier either.”

He had me there. “Well, if you do want to talk about it, I’m willing to listen.” I tried to offer a smile, but his return smile was weak. He probably didn’t think I’d be too receptive to what he had to say, since I hadn’t exactly been quiet about getting weird vibes from her back when I was living at home. She always seemed a little off to me; always texting, and always unnecessarily friendly and nice every time I said hi to her. I hadn’t seen her very often, but when I did it just felt fake.

He looked up and saw we were almost there. “Okay, so how are we doing this?”

“I figure we should go in together, you should grab a twelve-rack of R–”

“Me?”

“Of course, you! I’m always the secondary person for these, and you look older tonight anyway.”

“I don’t even like beer that much,” he said. He seemed like he was starting to get nervous about it. I grabbed him and turned him to me.

“Daniel. You can do this. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen?”

“North Korea decides to bomb Seattle because of its underage drinkers, and we get stuck in the fallout, that is unless we die from–”

“That’s my boy.” I lightly tapped him on his chest, turned him toward the 7-Eleven, and pushed. I sighed. Same ol’ Danny. “Just be cool, okay?”

We opened the doors and headed in. There was one person at the counter getting cigarettes and a young couple in line. Behind the counter was a guy who I’d talked to maybe a dozen times and could never pronounce his name right (Kifle? Kiflay? I felt so bad about it). He looked up when he heard the bell on the door and immediately smiled when he saw me. I smiled back and gave a little wave. I saw him eye my brother for a second before going back to his customer and finishing the transaction. Daniel and I headed toward the beer, mostly because I had my hand on his back and was guiding him in that direction. Like you’ve done this a hundred times, come on Danny, confidence.

When we got there, I heard Kiffy call out, “Hey, how are you?”

“Fine,” I said, “just picking something up.” Kiff was quieter than usual after that, so I turned back to Danny looking at the selection. He was clearly unfamiliar with what was there. Eventually I reached in and grabbed a twelve-rack of Rainiers and handed them to him. “You have money?”

“You’re making me pay for them too?” he whispered loudly.

“I’m buying the pizza, you know. You do want some pizza, don’t you?” I flashed him a mischievous grin. “We need anything else?”

“No, I think we’re good,” he said. I could see him take a deep breath and drop his shoulders back, standing up straight. There it was, that look of confidence that matched his attire. He was ready for battle.

It turned out it required almost no effort on Danny’s part. Kiffy was too distracted by me, asking me how things were going, what I was up to tonight, and I smiled and distracted as much as I could.

“So is this your new boyfriend?” Kiffy asked, looking Danny’s way as he was counting change. I saw Danny’s confident look falter as he started to laugh, but I broke in.

“Naw, this is just my big brother,” I said, leaning into his arm.

Danny rolled with my lie and gave Kiffy an upward nod with a “Sup.” To me it looked ridiculous, but Kiffy seemed satisfied.

“You’re very lucky,” he said to Danny, which confused me, but half the things he said confused me, so I just smiled and batted my eyes at him. Danny put his change away and grabbed the case and started to head out. I waved to Kiffy and wished him goodnight.

Once we were out of sight, I looked over at Danny and he looked over at me. I could see it in his eyes, too, and we broke down laughing.

“God, that was terrible,” he said, still grinning ear to ear.

“Come on, you couldn’t see yourself dating somebody like me, even if it’s just pretend?” I made out like I was hurt, though I wasn’t really.

“No no, Becky, it’s not that. It’s just…”

“What?”

“Sara was always texting someone, and–”

“Yeah, I know, that always bu–”

“No, listen,” he said, still laughing, but I could sense a hint of sadness too. “Sara was always texting someone, and she said it was her brother. All those weekends she said she had to help him with things, projects, moving, whatever, some bullshit family thing. All of those were lies. She wasn’t texting her brother, she was texting her other boyfriend.”

“What the fuck,” I said.

“I found out when I couldn’t reach her and I called her house; her brother picked up and I asked if she was with him again, and he just laughed at me. Apparently they hardly spend any time together at all, and her brother thought her other boyfriend was heronly boyfriend. He had no idea who I was.”

“Ouch. Jesus, Danny.”

“It is what it is, I guess.”

“You really dodged a bullet dumping her,” I said. “That’s messed up. I mean, I’d tease you to no end and ruin your life, but it seems weird to implicate you in a lie and not tell you about it.”

He looked at me, a little unsure.

“I mean, you trust me, right? For big things?”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“And I trust you too. And if I ever need to cheat on Michael, I’ll make sure to let you know before I claim I’m w–” I was cut off when he lunged at me and started chasing me down the street. I ran ahead of him giggling my ass off, but he was hampered by the unwieldy case of beer. I easily made it back to my door before him.

“You’re something else, sis,” he said, catching his breath but obviously trying to hide a smile.

“Come on,” I said, opening the door. “Let’s forget about her tonight and just relax.”

The pizza arrived after a few minutes, and I paid for it while Danny fiddled with the stereo I still hadn’t gotten set up completely since the move, and by the time I came back with the pizza he had the radio part working. I had taken off my trench and boots and returned to just my dress and my leggings, and he had taken off his blazer and rolled up his sleeves.

“So where’s the bathroom around here? I gotta piss.”

I rolled my eyes at his crassness. “Guess I’ll give you the tour, then.”

I gave him the tour, which wasn’t much. There was the main entrance which quickly led into both the living area and the kitchen, separated by a counter that stuck out in the middle. Across from the door on the other side of the apartment were two doors. The first led to the bedroom, which I only showed him briefly, followed by the bathroom, where our tour ended and he went in. I went back to the pizza and started separating the poorly cut pieces onto plates. I got a couple of cans out from the case and put everything on the separating counter in front of two stools Michael and I usually used for meals. By the time everything was ready, Daniel had come back out and sat right down. He picked up his can and I did the same. We opened them, and he held his out.

“To new beginnings in new places?”

“You know,” I said, keeping my can back, “I really am happy you came by, even if it was a mistake.”

“You keep saying that.”

“I mean it. These past couple weeks have been really hectic for me. Glad to see I’m not losing you in the mess.”

“Really, Becky,” he said, “it’s okay. I’m glad to be here. You seem cooler now anyway.” He held his can back out, and I clinked it with mine. We both drank a couple of gulps before putting them down, and when we met eyes we both just laughed. It was cheap stuff and kind of nasty, but it was fine.

As we ate, we talked. I felt more open with him than when we were living together, and while I tried not to think about it much, I chocked it up to the fact that we didn’t have to be around each other anymore. Even though it had only been a couple weeks, it felt like we were just old friends catching up on things we’d never had time to share before. He seemed more open too, and by the time we were finishing our third cans and most of the pizza had been demolished, I had him in stitches about some of Michael’s weirder habits I had been discovering, like how he shook like a dog before getting out of the shower and the fact that he waxed his chest.

“Ooh!” I said, hearing something I liked on the radio. “Ilove this song!” I hopped down from my stool and walked over to the stereo to turn it up. I started moving my hips back and forth dancing to it.

“Becky, what are you doing?”

“Dancing! It’s my apartment, I can do what I want!” I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I was acting, but I didn’t care. I felt so comfortable in that moment, and it wasn’t until just then that the independence of having my own place really started to sink in. I felt like I was soaring as I shook from side to side, hopping around like an idiot. I looked over at Danny, who had turned around on his stool to face me, and he had this stupidly adorable grin on his face.

“What are you smiling about?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said. “It’s just quite the view.”

“Come on, I don’t look that stupid when I dance.”

By :LizHaze

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