“Hey, buddy.  What’s up?” dad asked me, still trying to sooth mom.  I shook my head, looking at mom.

Dad noticed my discomfort and said, “It’s okay. Your mom isn’t feeling too well.  Are you, honey?”

Mom shook her head, looking up at me.  Her blue eyes were filled with pain, tears running in dark trails down each side of her face.  I heard the top stair creak and looked up.  Logan and Lillian stood at the top, their faces frozen in fear.

“Have you kids had anything to eat today?  Your mom and I were supposed to be back earlier but we decided to have a quiet dinner out before coming home and then…” Dad said, trailing off, looking at mom.

She looked from me to dad and then at my older siblings on the stairwell.  As if suddenly aware of us, mom snapped to attention.

“Well don’t just stand there, Patrick.  Help your dad and me with the luggage.  Lillian, Logan, come down and help your bother,” mom said moving away from dad.

She walked towards the stairs.

“I’ll be up in our room taking a warm bath.  We will talk about all this later,” mom said curtly and ascended the stairs quickly brushing past Logan and Lillian as they made their way down.

Logan and Lillian looked at each other strangely then looked at dad.

“Is everything okay, Dad,” Logan asked.

Dad looked down and replied, “Your mother and I ran into one of the town busybodies while having dinner at the restaurant this evening.  She was told something untrue and it really made your mother upset.”

Dad continued to look away.  I sensed something was off but let it go.  Logan and Lillian didn’t reply.  I could tell they felt something wasn’t right either.

We grabbed our parent’s luggage and carried it upstairs to their room.  I could hear mom’s bathwater running and heard her humming a tune in the bathroom.  Dad asked us again if we had eaten anything and Logan told him that we had been fed.  Lillian said she wasn’t hungry, glaring at Logan.  Logan just smiled at her.  We scurried from our parent’s room as dad began to unpack their luggage.

“That was really odd,” Lillian, said her face serious.

“Your face is really odd,” Logan chided as she punched his shoulder glaring at him.

They looked at me.  I said nothing, just shrugged.  Logan ruffled my hair again and I moved away from him swatting at my brother.

“He’s going to beat the crap out of you one day if you don’t stop picking at him,” Lillian said glaring at our older brother.

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly, would ya, Squirt?” Logan said swatting at me again.

I smacked his hand away from me in response and our sister chuckled.  Logan made a face at her.  Lillian stuck her tongue out at him, making an ugly face at him.  Logan gave her a rude gesture with his finger and she turned and headed back to her bedroom slamming the door.

“Pretty odd how mom and dad were fighting just now, huh?” Logan asked looking at me.

“They never fight like that,” I replied giving him a look.  I suddenly remembered the broken picture in the hallway.

“A picture got broken downstairs,” I said turning toward the stairs.  Logan followed me downstairs.

“I don’t ever remember mom and dad getting into a fight like that before.  I wonder what got mom so upset?” Logan asked me as he trailed behind me.  I rounded the stairwell post and walked toward the hallway table.  I looked at Logan as I knelt to pick up the broken picture from the floor.

“It’s their wedding picture,” Logan said looking at the small framed picture from over my shoulder.

I shuddered as I set the picture on the hallway table.  Small shards of glass littered the floor.

“I’ll get the broom and dustpan,” Logan said brushing past me.  He hurried to the kitchen and began to clean up the glass.  I couldn’t help but be worried.

“You don’t think they will get divorced, do you?” I asked my brother.  Logan stopped sweeping to look at me.

“I don’t think so.  Mom and dad really love each other,” he said his green eyes bright.  I frowned at him and his eyes narrowed.

“Hey, don’t worry about it.  Mom will be okay.  You will see,” Logan said standing up.  I was sort of thrown off by his kind words, but then he handed me the dustpan and broom.  Like a balloon bursting all the goodwill of his reassuring words about mom and dad went up in the air.  I gave him a questioning look.

“Share in the chore work Squirt,” Logan said laughing.  I sighed walking toward the kitchen to dump the glass into the trash and put the broom and dustpan back in the broom closet.  Not surprisingly Logan followed after me.

“Don’t you have some cheerleader’s house to be at?” I asked him annoyed.

“Not today.  My schedule is free today little brother,” Logan said laughing.

“I’ve got homework to do,” I replied rolling my eyes.  I moved past him heading toward the stairs.  Once again he followed me, trailing after me on the stairs.  Angry, I turned on him at the top of the stairs.

“Leave me alone jock breath!” I snapped angrily.

“You need to lighten up.  Live a little,” my brother replied crossing his arms.  He leaned lazily up against the hallway wall.

“You mean live a little like last night?  Let your friends bully me?” I said with anger in my voice.

“I told you I was sorry about that.  Let it go,” Logan replied smirking at me.

I didn’t reply as I gave him a dumbfounded look.

“Come on?  You know you wanna hang out with your brother and have some fun,” he said to me winking.

“What kind of fun,” I asked warily. Logan’s idea of fun like last night had pretty much always sucked for me.

Logan’s green eyes flashed mischievously and he grinned slyly as he replied, “Some of my friends are going down to the old Turner place tonight.  See if it’s really haunted or not?  You down to tag along or what?”  The house that Logan spoke of was an old house in the middle of a field rumored to be haunted.  A lot the teenagers partied there.

“Which friends?” I asked nervously, fidgeting my shoes together, remembering the guys that had held me down at the party.

“Just Randy and Jimmy,” Logan said his grin getting even wider.

“Darlene may even be there, if you didn’t scare her off by puking all over her last night.”

I blushed and put my hands in my pockets, looking down to the floor.  I liked Darlene but wasn’t sure about how I liked her.  I had just begun puberty and my feelings were all over the place.  As was my body’s reactions to things.  I flushed again, thinking about other things momentarily.

“I knew it!  You got a thing for Darlene,” Logan laughed.

“No I don’t!” I exclaimed and decided I wasn’t going with him.

I pushed past him and hurried to my room slamming my door behind me.  I frowned at the wreck my room was.  And I was pretty sure I needed to change my sheets, especially after this morning.  Logan was in my room in seconds, closing the door behind him.

“How did I get up to my room last night?” I asked Logan suddenly, because I couldn’t remember that part of last night at all.

“I had to carry you up here.  You blacked out,” Logan replied leaning against the wall.  He grinned at me his green eyes flashing mischievously.

“I would have thought you’d have left me lying on the floor,” I said giving him a look.

“You’re my kid brother.  I’m always supposed to look after you.  Duh!” Logan said coming to stand beside me.  He flicked his finger at my ear playfully and I slapped at his hand.  He’d always done that to me as far back as I could remember and it annoyed me greatly.

“I think Darlene likes you.  She said you were cute last night,” Logan said playfully punching my shoulder.

My face flushed red as I punched him hard in the shoulder.

“Hey!” Logan snapped punching me back harder than I’d punched him.

“Go away,” I growled.

“You thought about kissing her?” my brother teased.

“No,” I replied shyly as I dug my books out of my backpack.  I slammed them onto my desk giving Logan a mean look.

“Have you even had a girlfriend yet?  You’re like some sort of freak,” Logan said laughing.

“Leave me alone!” I stammered getting flustered.  I’m sure that my face was a complete beet red by this point.

“You aren’t a homo are you?” Logan asked teasing me unmercifully.  I didn’t answer, beyond flustered at this point.

“You are a little homo, aren’t you?” Logan teased leering at me.

“Bite me!” I told Logan. My brother smirked at me.

“That’s why you won’t ask Darlene out,” Logan taunted.

I shook my head, feeling like a trapped bird.  To think that he, my older brother that I sometimes looked up to, could even have an inkling that sometimes, just sometimes, the thoughts he were accusing me of had passed through my mind.  Sometimes I did look at other guys.  If not anything but because I was curious about them and comparing my bodily changes to theirs.  Logan was making me feel ashamed about it.

“You don’t know anything, Logan!  Get out of my room!  Now!” I stormed cutting his taunts off.

Logan’s face fell for a brief second, and then his grin returned.

“I’ve seen you watching other guys.  You’re such a little weirdo,” Logan whispered mocking me.

I quickly looked down blushing furiously.

“Logan James Bellwood!” mom’s voiced yelled from my door.  Both Logan and I jumped a little as we turned to see mom peeking in my room.  She had a towel wrapped around her hair and she was in her pink bathrobe.

“Are you picking on your brother again?” she said crossly her eyes narrowed at Logan.

My older brother looked at mom earnestly and then me as he put his arm around my shoulders, loosely embracing me.  I tensed up and smirked at Logan.

“I’m not picking on him at all, mom,” he replied trying to give mom the impression that he was an angel.  Mom never fell for his charm.

“Logan, I heard you picking at your brother.  Stop calling him a weirdo or I’m grounding you!” mom snapped.  Logan’s arm fell from my shoulder and he looked down, sulking as mom gave me a look.

Mom looked tired.  There were dark circles under her bright blue eyes.  I gave mom a smile and she smiled back then moved back into the hallway, leaving my door cracked.  I heard her move down the hallway to return to her bedroom.

“Weirdo!” Logan hissed pushing me away from him.

“Why are you so evil to me?  What have I ever done to you, jock brain?” I hissed loudly glaring at him.  My older brother’s expression turned dark as he began to pick on me again.

“I’ve seen you look at me too, you know,” Logan whispered grinning mischievously.

“You’re gross,” I said through gritted teeth as he laughed at me.

“You’re a dweeb,” he retorted pushing me again.

“Go away!  Before I yell for mom,” I warned him.  I hoped he would leave me alone but my threat made him worse.

“Whatever, little baby want mommy?” Logan said in a high pitched voice.  We stood before each other me breathing hard.  My face was flushed red with anger.  This was the worst my brother had ever teased me before.

“What are you going to do?” Logan snapped his eyes narrowing at me.

Without warning, in a move that I thought would never happen, I felt my fist ball up and as quickly as a flash of lightning, I punched my older brother right in the face and backed away quickly.  Logan looked at me in shock and then anger flashed in his eyes and I thought he was going to end my existence right then and there, but all he did was look at me, pissed, holding the side of his face.  The room was silent.  I held my breath.

“I’m sorry,” I heard myself say exhaling slowly.  My heart was beating rapidly as I waited for him to retaliate.

I backed further away from him.  Logan’s hand dropped from his face.  He stared at me his face still frozen in shock.  I’d never punched him before.  My heart skipped a beat as I waited for his fist to raise and hit me, but all he could do was stand there and look at me.

“You’re gonna be sorry,” Logan mumbled angrily quickly turning away from me.  He made his way to the bedroom door turning back to glower at me for a moment and then left my room.  I took a deep breath and began to clean my room.

I busied myself with straightening my room up until I got really tired.  I tried to sit down and do my homework but I couldn’t concentrate.  The house was sort of quiet.  Every once in a while I heard mom or dad’s voice from downstairs or faint music emanating from Lillian’s room, but I could practically hear the creaks of the old house.  I imagined Logan was in his room pouting or devising a plan for revenge on me.  I decided to lie down for the night and try to sleep.

I closed my eyes and fell into a troubled sleep.  I began to have a dream where I was being shaken by someone.  Quickly, my eyes opened and I realized that someone was in my darkened bedroom shaking me awake.  I could smell alcohol and the smell was very close to my face.

“Wake up, dork,” I heard Logan’s voice whisper near my ear.

His breath reeked of alcohol.  I glanced at the alarm clock on my nightstand.  1:30a.m. I groaned.

“What are you doing?” I whispered back into the darkness, feeling annoyed.

“I went down to the old Turner place with Randy and Jimmy.  Darlene wasn’t there though.  Randy brought some whiskey.  You should have come along bro!  We had some good times,” Logan replied, voice rising.

I hushed him.

“Aren’t you pissed at me?  For earlier?” I asked Logan confused.

“Ah hell, we were just playing around, right?” Logan whispered loudly.

“I punched you.  In the face.  You should have kicked my ass,” I replied.

“Let’s go.  I want you to go with me.  That old house is creepy as Hell,” Logan said avoiding the whole face punch issue.  I wondered that maybe he was just too drunk to care about what had happened earlier.

“If mom or dad catches you drunk, you are going to be grounded until you are thirty,” I warned him.

Logan giggled, falling onto my bed, his body partially covering mine.  I rolled my eyes.

“You are going to get in so much trouble.  Especially after what happened last summer,” I whispered pushing at my brother to move away from me.  My brother had a dark side sometimes and last year he had gotten into some trouble with his friends.  Mom and dad had kept the details from me and Lillian, but our sister had eventually found out what had happened.  Our brother had been found riding around in one of his friend’s parent’s cars without permission and he’d been drinking on top of that.  Logan had to attend counseling and do some community service.  Mom had grounded Logan for months much to my brother’s dismay.

“Don’t be such a stick in the mud, dork,” Logan complained sliding off me and onto the floor with a loud thump.  He laughed as he staggered.

“Come on, you are going with me,” Logan said as he struggled to remain balanced. I sat up in bed quickly.

“Logan, you need to be quiet.  You are making too much noise.  If mom and dad catch you…” I warned as Logan grabbed my arm trying to pull me from the bed.

“Come on, let’s go do something fun,” Logan said.

“I’d rather sleep,” I replied angrily.  Logan muttered a curse at me.

“Okay, Okay, I’ll go,” I said giving in.  I moved from the bed looking for my pants and shoes.

“That house is creepy dude.  Really creepy,” Logan said.

I gave him a once over in the darkness.  His bulky form was weaving and wobbling in the shadows.

“Logan, you can barely stand up, how are we going to walk all the way out there?” I questioned him as I pulled my pants on. I sat on the bed to begin putting on my shoes.

“I’m fine little brother,” he replied giggling.  I rolled my eyes, not liking where this was going.

“Lead on,” I said motioning for him to lead us out the door.

My brother and I crept out my bedroom door and we noticed there was a light on under our parent’s door.  I froze as did Logan as we heard our parent’s arguing loudly.  Logan motioned me with his head to hurry up and follow him down the stairs.  I wanted to stay and hear what they were arguing about, but Logan was insistent.

I hurried down the stairs, wincing when some of them creaked.  Logan was already out the back door waiting impatiently on me.  The night air was cool with the moonlight glowing silvery on the grass, the leaves of the trees and the shrubbery.

“Come on, dude,” Logan said seeming to sober up a little as we hurried across the backyard and around the side of the house.

We ran onto the sidewalk walking quickly toward the old road that would eventually lead to the gravel road towards the old Turner Place.  I began to get a bad feeling as we walked away from our neighborhood and the comfort of street lights lining the sidewalks.

“Are there other kids out there tonight?” I asked Logan my voice quiet.

“Just us right now.  Jimmy and Randy already went home.  It was so freaking creepy out there,” Logan said excitedly.

I shivered as we headed away from the neighborhood and the safety of streetlights.  I couldn’t believe I had agreed to come out here with him.  As the pavement ended and the gravel road began, Logan took a flashlight from his pants pocket clicking it on.  Pale yellow light sliced through the darkness, illuminating our path.

There were fields on either side of us and not much else.  Soon, I could see a black mass begin to form in the distance.  The old Turner house was something of a legend among the kids of our town.  According to the legend, old man Turner had gone crazy and butchered his family there one night.  There were no town records to collaborate this story.  I had checked to make sure at the library.   There was a large fence around the property, but that didn’t stop brave teenagers from breaking through to make it a party spot.

“There it is, little bro.  Crazy isn’t it?” Logan said rushing along.

I fell back, in awe of the old house.  I had never been out here in the dark before.  When me and some of the younger kids had dared each other to come out here a few years ago, we hadn’t been able to get this close to the place without running away scared and that had been during daylight.  At night the old house was intimidating. My brother moved away from me to squeeze through a gap in the fence.  He quickly turned facing me.

“Scared?” Logan said shining the light in my face.

He smiled eerily from behind the fence.  I moved to the gap pushing him out of the way, making my way onto the property.

“Ugh! Stop that! And no, I’m not scared,” I replied swatting my hand at his flashlight which he continued to shine into my face.  Logan laughed turning away as we headed toward the old rickety front porch.  I followed him my skin prickling.  I was definitely feeling the creepiness of the place.

“Just follow me and try not to run away like a little girl,” Logan replied motioning with his head for me to follow him.

“This place doesn’t scare me,” I said trying to sound brave but it didn’t come out as convincing as I looked up at the old house.

“I’m not scared,” I repeated trying to not let my voice tremble.

The house was foreboding in the darkness. The only thing I could hear was crickets in the distance and a few birds.  The entire area was isolated, the darkness absolute around us.

“Let’s go in,” Logan said waving the flashlight at the porch. I shook my head.

“You first.  I’ll wait out here for you while you go in,” I said looking around in the darkness.

Somewhere an owl hooted and off in the distance something howled.

“Chicken!  You are such a puss!” Logan chided me as he stepped onto the front porch steps.

My brother removed a small flask from his pocket and took a drink from it.  He offered me the flask.  I shook my head.

“Come on, live a little,” he said coaxing me into taking the flask.

I took it trying to swallow the strong liquid.  I began to choke and Logan laughed.

“That will put hair on your chest,” my brother said slapping me on the back.

He took the flask from my hand taking another drink from it.  He eyed me cautiously.

“Let’s at least go in the front door.  We can leave after that,” Logan said climbing the old steps leading to the front porch.

They groaned under his weight.  I looked at the darkness around me and the old house.  Then I looked at Logan, who was grinning wickedly, the flashlight shining in front of his face.

“Okay, but after that, we go home,” I said pushing past him and hurrying up the steps.

Wanting this over and done with before I lost what little courage I had, I grabbed the doorknob and pulled.  The old wooden door cracked open with a deafening groan, as if I had disturbed the house.  I stepped back, seeing nothing back a black cave inside the doorway.  Logan came to stand beside me and I jumped.

“It’s okay.  Chill,” Logan said laughing.

He shined the light into the entryway and I saw a set of old stairs leading up into darkness and a hallway that stretched back into more darkness.  There were rooms leading off either side of the hallway.  I looked at Logan.

“Didn’t you and your friends go in this place earlier?” I asked.

Logan shook his head.

“Nah.  We drank outside the fence, talking about it,” Logan admitted smiling.

“But you’ve been here before for parties, right?” I asked frowning.

Logan nodded slightly.

“Well, I don’t remember a lot honestly,” he admitted shrugging.

“I was always too wasted,” Logan added shining the light up at the ceiling and then back down.

“Well, we opened the door, so let’s get out of here,” I said noticing all the beer bottles and garbage all over the place from past parties littering the front hallway. Logan suddenly pushed me through the doorway.  I fell backwards into the dark hallway.  My brother slammed the front door.  I was plunged into utter darkness.  I couldn’t even see my arms in front of me.

“Logan!” I yelled angrily, “I’m going to kick your ass!”

I heard him laughing on the other side of the door.  I stood up and grabbed the door handle but he was holding it on the other side and I couldn’t turn it.

“Seriously, Logan.  This isn’t funny!” I yelled again fear making my heart skip a beat.

I shivered in the darkness, suddenly feeling a cold breeze blow past me.  I turned around trying to see if anything was near me.  All I could see was darkness.  I began to beat on the door, panic settling in.

“I’m going to kill you!” I yelled pounding on the door hard with my fist.

“You suck, Logan!” I screamed when he didn’t answer.

Suddenly the door opened and there was my brother laughing hysterically.  He shined the flashlight in my face and I rushed him pushing his larger body out of my way as I ran down the old stairs and onto the lawn.

“You should see your face dude!  Awesome!” Logan yelled doubling over in laughter.

I was trembling, from fear and rage.  I stood still, my arms crossed watching him.  I was seething in anger.  Logan walked off the porch and the old door to the house suddenly slammed shut, causing my brother to stop and turn around slowly to look back.  My eyes went wide.

“Maybe we should go?” Logan said grinning warily.

I nodded, rushing toward the gap in the fence.  Logan followed me and we were off, quickly walking down the gravel road toward the town.

“So this was about getting back at me for hitting you earlier?  You wanted to scare me?” I snapped as we walked along the dark road.  Logan didn’t reply for a moment as the sound of our shoes made loud, crunching noises on the gravel road.

“Maybe?” Logan replied grinning widely as he stuck his hands into his pants pockets shrugging.

“It didn’t work.  I wasn’t scared,” I said trying to sound convincing but it fell flat.  I’d been terrified locked behind that door.

“Sure, Squirt.  You weren’t scared at all,” Logan replied snickering.  I didn’t reply but hurried ahead of him.  The more distance I put between me and that old house, the better I felt.  While we walked Logan began to consume more from the little flask he was pocketing.  Soon he was stumbling around again, talking about nonsense.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we walked onto our street.  Logan began to lean on me, talking about how I should join the football team and how I was wasting my time being a nerd.

“If you don’t be quiet, you won’t live to graduate.  Mom and dad will kill you,” I said motioning for him to be quiet as we rounded the side of the house heading toward the back door.

Logan stifled a laugh as we hurried inside.  I locked the back door as Logan stumbled down the hallway.  I rolled my eyes, wondering why I even bothered to try to keep him from getting in trouble.  I rushed after him trying to steady him.

“You’re awesome little bro,” he said giggling.

“Shut up you idiot, before you get us caught!” I hissed angrily as we slowly climbed the stairs.

The house was quiet and still.  Every little creak we made on the stairs sounded like a board being ripped up to me.  My brother and I made it to the top of the stairs and I turned toward his room, but he giggled and pushed us into my room, closing the door in the process.  I stumbled backwards as Logan crashed onto the floor.  He giggled, staying on the floor.

“Oh no. You are going to your room,” I said kneeling to help him up.

Logan burped in my face.

“Gross!” I cried dropping him back on the floor.

“Ouch!” Logan exclaimed as he giggled again sitting up from the floor.

I sighed as I removed my pants and shoes.  I quickly put my pajama bottoms back on.  I fully intended to leave Logan on the floor to pass out.  It would serve him right for being an idiot.  My brother was watching me from the floor.

“I feel sleepy,” Logan said slurring his words.

He attempted to stand up as I climbed into bed.  I heard my brother stumble about and then he was lying across me on the bed giggling hysterically.

“Where did this bed come from?” Logan asked trying to push himself up.

I rolled my eyes thinking about pushing my brother out into the floor.

“Get up jock-face.  You have to get to bed before morning.  Mom and dad will kill you.  Seriously dude!” I said trying to roll him off me.

I heard his breathing deepen and he snorted a little almost as if snoring.  Great, I thought.  He is going to sleep on top of me.  Logan’s hands reached up and ran through my hair.

“Hmm, soft,” he said and then giggled.

I grunted in frustration, slapping his hand away as I scooted myself out from under his body.  Logan rolled onto his side, snuggling right up against the back of my body.

“Logan, you have to go to your room.  Mom is going to be pissed if she catches you drunk.  Dad will murder you!” I warned again beginning to scoot away from him.

I stopped short as his arm wrapped around my chest pulling me close back to him.  My body froze awkwardly unsure what I should do.  Logan had been drunk before, but never done anything like this.  Angrily, I pushed his arm away from around me and he grunted rolling over.

Soon, I heard his breathing deepen and he was softly snoring next to me.  I relaxed deciding to just try to go to sleep, uncomfortable as I was, chalking his odd behavior up as him being drunk.

I woke up alone in the bed that Sunday morning.  At first I thought it was a dream.  An odd, freaky dream, but when I sat up from the bed, I noticed that Logan’s Letterman jacket was lying in the floor next to my bed.  And one of his shoes was near my door.  I shook my head.  If mom and dad caught him, he is so toast, I thought. Except for his stint last year, Logan rarely caused any trouble.  My brother was a jock and proud of it. Lillian remained an angel as long as dad treated her like a princess.  I didn’t really know where I fit in.  I was studious, book smart and maybe a little nerdy.  I did seem to have more issues at school though.  Mostly because the jocks picked on me a lot and sometimes that led to trips to the principal’s office.

The door to my bedroom cracked open and mom’s head poked through.

“Patrick, I’m making breakfast this morning.  Do you want anything?” she asked her blue eyes bright.

“Sure, mom.  I’ll be down in a sec,” I replied.

She nodded and closed my door.  I breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t noticed all of Logan’s things all over the room.  I heard a small knock at my door as I was getting dressed for the day.

“Come in,” I said.

My sister entered the room.  I noticed she glanced down at Logan’s shoe and his jacket, a puzzled look crossing her face and then she looked up and smiled at me.

“What’s up, Patrick?  Do you wanna go to the mall with me today?  I’m thinking about shopping for a new blouse,” Lillian said looking back at Logan’s things on my floor as if trying to figure out why they were there.

“I was thinking of just hanging out here today,” I said tying my shoe.

Lillian gave me a pensive look.

“Patrick, you are such a stick in the mud.  And Logan isn’t even responsive.  He’s buried under the blankets and told me he would murder me if I didn’t get out of his room.  And what’s his stuff doing in your room?” she said firing off questions like an inquisitor.

“Did he go out last night?” Lillian asked her green eyes flashing in worry.

Her face scowled in worry.

“Mom and dad are going to be mad when they find out,” she told me.

I shrugged.

“He never listens to anything we say.  And besides he was out with Randy and Jimmy last night.  You know how he gets around them.  He was just trying to impress his friends,” I said to Lillian.

My sister rolled her eyes.

“Those two guys are such losers,” she spat.

I knew that secretly she had a crush on Randy.

“If he gets in trouble again, it’s going to be bad.  He knows better,” Lillian said shaking her head.  I wondered if she would tell mom and dad anyway, just to be spiteful.  My sister had a way of being a tattletale, especially if it was to her advantage.

“Later,” my sister said turning to leave the room.

After she left, I decided to gather Logan’s things and take them to his room.  I didn’t knock before I entered his room.  My older brother was buried under the blankets.

“Go away!” he yelled peeking from under the blankets.

“Oh, it’s you” he replied.

“I brought your things back from my room,” I replied and set his shoe and jacket on his desk chair.

Logan laughed throwing his blankets back.

“Ouch! I shouldn’t have laughed!” he groaned immediately grabbing his head.

I looked at my brother lying in bed.  He was dressed only in his boxer shorts.  I nervously glanced away and kept my eyes averted to the wall.

“Did you bring something for a headache by chance?” Logan asked me.

He sat up moving from the bed.  I glanced back and was taken aback as he faced away from me and removed his boxer shorts, revealing his bare backside to me.  I quickly looked down feeling awkward again.  I heard him rustle some clothing and looked up to see that he had thrown on some sweats and an old t-shirt.  I winced when I noticed that there was a small bruise developing on his face below his eye.  He saw me looking at the bruise and grinned.

“Gave me a good lick yesterday,” he laughed.

He touched the bruised area tenderly wincing.  I felt bad for punching my brother but Logan could get under my skin badly.

“Man, I feel bad today.  Gotta stop partying,” Logan said walking towards me.

He ruffled my hair and I let him, if not for anything but feeling guilty about hitting him.

“Come on Squirt, let’s see what mom has burned up in the kitchen,” he said walking towards the door.

We made our way down to the kitchen and mom was there, cooking.  Dad and Lillian had headed off to the mall so it was just us at the dinner table. My brother and I sat down at the table.  Mom had a distant look on her face as she cooked.  I decided to ask about what we had witnessed in the hallway yesterday.

“Mom, did you and dad have a good trip to South Carolina?” I asked.

Mom turned to me slightly frowning.

“Yes.  We did,” mom replied softly.

Logan, his green eyes curious, looked at me then at mom.  He raised his eyebrows.

“So what did you take a trip down there for again?” Logan asked looking directly at mom.

She stirred some eggs around slowly.

“Just some family business.  I’d rather not talk about why we went down there,” mom replied her voice dark.

“Why were you and dad fighting in the hallway?” I bluntly asked. I was always curious, especially when I had been younger, always driving my brother and sister crazy with constant questions.  Everyone in the family was used to me being direct.  Mom’s head turned sharply in my direction.  She glared at me her blue eyes icy.

“Idle gossip that probably isn’t true.  I’d rather not talk about that either,” mom snapped stirring the eggs more quickly.

“But you said you wanted a divorce?” Logan asked his face serious.

Mom stopped stirring the eggs a painful look crossing her face.

“Your dad and I are working through some things together.  I just let that busybody, Bertie, get to me at the restaurant yesterday,” mom said controlling the anger in her voice.

She looked down at the eggs which were beginning to smell slightly scorched.  Mom quickly removed the eggs and put a serving on two plates.  She then added some toast and some fruit on the plates.  Mom smiled at us bringing us the plates.  Our mother sat the plates down in front of us and then looked at my older brother a frown on her face.

“Logan, why is there a bruise on your face?” Mom asked her eyebrows arching in suspicion.

“Aw, mom, me and the boys were playing around the other night and one of them elbowed me in the face,” Logan said.

My mouth dropped open and then closed as she looked from my brother and then to me.  I had figured he would tell on me.  Logan’s answer prompted one of mom’s speeches about the dangers of horseplay.  I began to tune out and when mom took the plates to the kitchen sink Logan winked at me smiling wickedly.

“You owe me,” he mouthed at me.

I rolled my eyes at him.

“Whatever,” I mouthed back at him sticking my tongue out at his grinning face.

Logan tore a piece of toast away and tossed it across the table at me.

I threw a piece of egg back at him, trying not to laugh.

“Boys, I hope you are eating more than you are throwing at each other,” mom said her back to us as she stood doing dishes at the sink.

Logan and I looked at each other, grinning.  Mom had the seemingly unnatural ability to know what we were doing, even if she was turned away or in the other room. Logan would not relent and I decided to call it a draw as I stopped throwing food first.

“Patrick, Logan,” mom said, warning in her voice.

Our heads turned to where she was still doing dishes.  And in that instant, something happened.  Mom’s shoulders sagged as she staggered back from the sink a bit.  Logan was up from his chair running toward mom instantly.  I followed behind him.

“Mom?” Logan asked reaching out to hold her by the arm.

Mom looked at Logan, her eyes blinking rapidly.  I noticed how deep the dark circles under her blue eyes appeared.  She smiled at us.

“I’m fine.  I just need to lie down for a little bit.  I think the trip to South Carolina wore me out,” mom said leaning into my older brother for support.

“It’s okay, mom.  Patrick and I will finish up down here.  You go lie down.  Rest,” Logan said trying to steady mom.

“Help me upstairs dear,” mom said.

Logan nodded as they walked out of the kitchen.  I began to do dishes.  Logan returned a few moments later and started helping me dry dishes.

“She seems like she doesn’t feel too well,” Logan said his voice distant.

I didn’t reply, but I felt I shouldn’t worry too much.  After all, the trip may have very well worn mom out.  And then she had to endure being told something very upsetting yesterday.  Logan and I finished the dishes and then we went into the family room to play video games, getting lost in the electronic world of fantasy.



The first time I remember things being different in my family was the end of my ninth grade year of high school.  Summer was in the air and all the kids were excited for the school year to end.  I remember kids would roam from classroom to classroom as teachers seemingly looked the other way.  I was one of those aimless kids, floating from room to room as teachers piddled at their desk, making their own plans for summer break.

I always hated the end of the school year, finding it pointless to continue going to school when no one was really doing anything constructive.  While all the students in my current ninth grade English class talked excitedly about their summer plans and the teacher shuffled with paperwork on her desk, I decided to edge my way to the classroom door where several students were taking down paperwork hanging from the cork board.  Being mostly invisible to my classmates, they didn’t notice as I edged around them to make my way out the door and into the hallway.  No one stopped me as I made my way down the hallway toward the library.

Other students were busy in the hallway taking down posters and artwork.  There was a huge sign hanging crookedly on the wall near the library doors that read ‘Congratulations Senior Class of 1997’.  Sometimes I caught myself wishing that I was part of that class and that I was already done with high school, especially when I was teased by my older brother and his friends.

I gently pushed open the double doors to the library and crept inside.  Naturally, there wasn’t a lot of kids in the library.  The large room was quiet and smelled musty.  Stacks of returned books littered the front desk.  Tall windows faced the front of the library letting bright sunlight stream in.  I could see tiny dust motes floating about in the bright light.  One of the bright florescent lights flickered eerily for a moment as I made my way over to the bookshelves.   The light made a loud electrical noise and then went dark.  I stared at the light strangely for a second and then shrugged.

I liked reading, which was my escape.  I could lose myself in a book and forget about my real life problems.  I was a quiet boy and didn’t have many close friends.  I was just a short ways from turning fifteen years old in July.  My mother always worried that maybe I was a little backwards socially.  I wasn’t like my older brother, Logan, who was popular and had lots of friends.  And I wasn’t like my older sister, Lillian, who was more outspoken than I ever was.

My sister, Lillian, would be celebrating her sixteenth birthday in August.  For a short few months she and I were the same age.  Sometimes we would joke about that fact.  Our mother had become pregnant with us very close together.  Logan liked to joke crudely about our father being quite the stud which would cause Lillian to groan about Logan being gross and me to roll my eyes.

Lillian and I were closer than me and Logan, but it was in my sister’s nature to be somewhat of a tattletale, especially when it came to her brothers.  Every time Logan picked on me, she would go running to mom to tell on him.  Or when I was doing something I was told not to do, like playing video games instead of doing homework, she would snitch on me.  As bad as she had been when she was younger, now that my sister was in high school she had taken a backseat to tattling on Logan and me and concerned herself with the business of all her classmates, like who was breaking up with who and all that stuff.

My sister was by no means popular like Logan, who ran with the jocks and cheerleaders.  Lillian didn’t like to label herself.  She once told me that labels in high school meant nothing, because once high school was over, you had to deal with the real world and that was much scarier than something as trivial as the drama of high school.  Sometimes my sister acted and spoke like she was much older than her fifteen years.  Other times she contradicted her mature actions by acting like a spoiled princess, especially with our father.

Dad treated Lillian more favorably than he did Logan and me.  I heard mom and dad talking about it one day in the kitchen.  Mom scolded dad for reversing Lillian’s grounding that mom had given my sister for being late coming home from school.  Dad had snapped at our mother and told her that Lillian was mature for her age and that he didn’t feel she deserved the punishment.  That was one of the first times I’d heard our parents fight.  Usually mom and dad were very loving with each other, especially in front of us.

Logan had just turned seventeen this past April.  Growing up I always fought with my brother.  He was always picking on me and calling me names, like shrimp and Squirt.  Logan and I were not that close.  I don’t think we ever had been really.  As long as I could remember he picked on me.  One of my earliest memories was of him pushing me down in the hallway and calling me a baby. My brother was a football player and had always run with the inner circle of kids, even in grade school.

Besides picking on me, Logan was always trying to change me to be more like him.  He was always trying to get me to play football or basketball or lift weights with him.  When I’d become uninterested or bored with tossing a ball back and forth with him, my brother would get angry and call me names or say that I was more of a sister to him than Lillian was.  Of course those words would hurt, but I tried to never let him know his words stung me.

Sometimes I was jealous of my older brother.  I sometimes secretly wanted to be more like him, sometimes even looked up to him, though I’d never admit this to him.  I was not part of his world and I knew that.  I was more comfortable burying my head in a book and studying.  So I usually made myself as small as I could at school and avoided him and his friends as much as possible.  Logan and his jock friends liked to pick on the geekier and nerdier kids at school.

I’d even been subjected to their teasing when I’d first become a ninth grader having to endure being called names like ‘nerd-turd’.  This teasing by my older brother stopped abruptly when Lillian heard him at school one day and told our mother, who thoroughly scolded Logan about picking on his baby brother.  Of course, being told that he couldn’t call me names at school did nothing to stop Logan from picking on me at home, which intensified as my ninth grade year drew to a close.

I browsed through the shelves of books, looking for something to read over the summer.  I heard a bell ring out in the hallway and I cringed.  I decided to stay in the library instead of head to the next class.  I didn’t want to run into my brother and his jock friends who would definitely terrorize me if they saw me in the hallways.

Our school was sort of small.  Our town was small.  Small was a thing where I lived.  Oak Grove, North Carolina.  A small, historic town surrounded by wooded mountains set in the middle of nowhere.  Well, I liked to think we were in the middle of nowhere because it seemed like that.

My family and I lived in an old Victorian house in an older neighborhood.  Our house was situated between the elementary school and the new high school.  A few years ago all the kids in town attended one big school but as our town began to grow the high school was built down the street from the elementary school.  Logan’s class was the first to attend the new school.  My mom worked in the local public library and my dad worked in the local grocery store as the store manager.

I guess you could say that we had a pretty average family.  I always remember my mom smiling a lot before that summer.  She had blue eyes and blond hair, like me.  I had inherited her features. Mom was around 5’9 and had a slim figure.  Which I always wondered about how mom stayed so fit because she sat behind a desk for the most part of the time at her job as the librarian assistant.

Being the youngest, I seemed to be my mother’s favorite, even though she never claimed this out-right, I sort of knew.  Sometimes mom showed me I was her favorite by getting me a special toy when I was younger, but not getting Lillian or Logan a toy.  Or I would get a snack or treat where my brother or sister would not.  Sometimes I would feel guilty for thinking it, but I actually liked my mom more than my dad.

Our dad was over six feet tall and had brown hair and green eyes.  Logan and Lillian had inherited his brown hair and green eyes.  Logan acted a lot like dad in some ways.  Dad had played sports in his high school years and now so did Logan.  Logan and dad also had the same way of standing, walking, and talking.  I felt like the pale, blond weirdo standing next to dad and Logan.

Of course Lillian was our dad’s princess.  He let her get away with all sorts of things mom would never allow.  Mom was much stricter with Lillian than she was with me and Logan, always making her come home early from staying at her friend’s house or giving her extra chores to do around the house.

Our dad didn’t really have much in common with me really.  He had much more in common with Logan.  I was always slightly resentful of their relationship.  They could easily talk about football or basketball all day.  Dad and I couldn’t really hold a conversation about the book I was currently reading in school before he would either change the subject or wander away from me to do something else.

I heard the library doors open and turned to see some girls entering the library.  My heart skipped a beat, seeing it was one of the girls that my brother had been seen around school with.  Her name was Darlene Jenkins.  Standing tall, she had long black hair and icy blue eyes and she was one of the more popular girls in the school.  Her friends were with her, Sarah Burkins and Renee Oakfield.  Sarah and Renee were just as pretty as Darlene, but with both having blond hair and blue eyes.  I quickly  sidled up against the book case, trying to make myself invisible.

“Are you going to Logan’s party tonight?” I heard Renee ask Darlene.

Darlene sighed dramatically and then replied, “Yeah.  Even though Logan is the one throwing this thing, I guess I need to make an appearance.”  The girls giggled.

“Still haven’t gotten over him, Dar?” Sarah asked, giving her friend a look.

“I thought you and he weren’t serious?” Renee asked her blue eyes narrowing.

Darlene twirled a piece of her black hair around her finger while looking disinterestedly around the library.

“We never were together.  You know he isn’t serious about any girl,” Darlene replied frowning.

My brother was always dating several girls, sometimes within days of each other.  Our mother sometimes chastised him for being too fickle about his girlfriends, but dad would always give him a knowing wink which caused our mother to frown.  Lillian had a few choice names for our brother’s behavior, none of which our mother would have approved of being said in front of her.

Mom and Dad were due to leave town tonight, which was Friday.  Though we hardly ever heard mom talk about them, she had family in South Carolina we had never met and her and dad were going to visit them about something important.  Since mom and dad never really discussed our extended family me, Logan and Lillian had never really asked about them.

I listened to the girls chatter about the party tonight and rolled my eyes.  My brother was always doing crazy things like this.  Since he was the oldest, mom and dad left him unofficially in charge while they were away.  Little did our parents know that our house was about to become party central tonight.  Feeling uncomfortable, I tried to slide away without the girls noticing me.  I kept staring at Darlene and inadvertently tripped over a chair and wound up in the floor directly in front of Darlene and her friends.  I froze in embarrassment, my backpack over top of my head.

“Nerd alert,” Renee said cruelly and Sarah giggled.

I blushed, quickly picking myself up from the floor.  Darlene was watching me intently.

“You’re Logan’s little brother.  Um, Patrick, right?” she asked and I nodded.

Darlene smiled at me and the other two girls giggled again looking at each other.

Darlene winked at me, replying, “Maybe I’ll see you at the party tonight?”

Flustered, I didn’t reply, shoving my hands into my pockets.  The gesture made the girls laugh again.  My face flushed red as I turned and began to walk away from the girls.

“He’s so weird,” I heard Sarah say as I hit the double doors that led into the library and rushed out into the hallway.

The bell for the end of the school day rang and all the aimlessly wandering kids made their way to the front entrance to leave for the day.  I hurried away from the school wanting to get home before mom and dad left.  The heat outside coupled with the humidity was oppressive.  I was beginning to sweat and hadn’t even left the school property yet.

Usually, I waited for my brother and sister and then we walked home together, unless Logan had football practice, in which case it was just me and my sister.  I walked quickly down the sidewalk heading towards the older neighborhoods.  Our street was old, with sections of the sidewalk being made of brick.  Huge old Oak trees lined the street, hiding the older houses under their shady boughs.  I made another turn and there was our house.

The house had a huge front yard and back yard.  A small driveway held both mom and dad’s cars when they were home.  Only mom’s car was parked in the driveway.  A lump formed in my stomach.  Mom and dad were already gone.  I hurried around to the backdoor and found the small key hiding above the door frame.  I let myself in.

“Mom, Dad?”  I called out even though I knew they were gone to South Carolina.

The house greeted me in silence.  I looked at the wall near the kitchen phone.  There was a small note hanging there.  I looked at it, reading it over.  The note contained the usual stuff.  Where mom and dad would be staying, the number, and to behave ourselves or we would be in trouble when they got back and that there was a casserole in the freezer to heat up for later.  I hung the note back on the wall, sighing.  The house would be crawling with rowdy teenagers in a few hours time.

Our house had a simplistic layout.  The kitchen ran the length of the back of the house.  You could enter the small family room from the kitchen or hallway.  The hallway ran straight through the middle of the house.  A dining room and living room completed the other side of the house.  Tucked under the stairs was a small room that dad used as a study.

Grabbing an apple, I decided to go up to my room before the house filled with Logan’s friends.  The wooden stairs were old and slightly creaky.  At the top of the stairs, directly to the left was the double doors that led to the master bedroom where mom and dad slept.  On the other side of the hallway was my bedroom.  Down the hallway from my room was Logan’s bedroom and across from his room was Lillian’s room.  Situated between Lillian and our parent’s bedroom was a small bathroom.  At the very end of the hallway, next to Lillian’s room was a very small room that we really didn’t use.  I had thought at one time mom would make it a guest room but we had never had any guests stay over as far as I remembered.  Next to the small room was the doorway that led to the stairs to the attic on the third floor.  We hardly ever went up to the attic for anything.  No one went up there mainly because the attic was crammed with junk that no one wanted to part with.  Our house had a basement that was accessible from the outside, but much like the attic, no one really ever went down there unless we had to.

The house was full of carved woodwork, dark paneling and rich wood tones.  We had a very beautiful house.  My room had one window that overlooked the front yard.  I was lucky enough to have the only other bedroom in the house that had its own bathroom besides our parent’s room.   Lillian and Logan were unhappy that I had my own bathroom, especially Lillian who was always complaining that Logan takes too long in the bathroom.

I heard the kitchen door open and close loudly and someone bounded up the stairs.  I looked out my door to see my sister running towards her bedroom at full speed.

“Hey,” Lillian called heading toward her bedroom.

“Going to Mary’s?” I guessed.  Lillian’s head poked out of her door.

“Yes.  Sleepover,” she replied moving back into her room.

I shook my head.  Mary was Lillian’s best friend, a feisty red headed girl who was the thorn under Logan’s skin.   Mary was the first girl I had ever seen that had not fallen for our older brother’s ridiculous charm, being quick to point out how egotistical Logan was.  Lillian and Mary were a lot alike, with both being opinionated and feisty, Mary more so than Lillian.  Logan called her Scary Mary, a nickname that had at first bothered Mary, but now she took it in stride.

Lillian moved down the hallway, lugging a tote bag.  She turned to me giving me a look.

“I heard through the grapevine that Logan is having a party tonight,” my sister stated as her eyes narrowed.

I shrugged not meeting her eyes.  I would not say anything about Logan’s plans.  If I told Lillian, she would throw a wrench into our brother’s plans for the evening.  Our sister disliked the popular kids at school.

“Mom will be pissed if there is a party,” Lillian said trying her best to be intimidating with me.

“Just a boring night at home, I guess.  Have fun at Mary’s,” I replied quickly still refusing to look at her directly.  Lillian grunted and slung her bag over her shoulder.

“Call me if you need me or Logan decides to burn the house down,” Lillian replied hurrying down the hallway.  I heard her footsteps on the stairs and then heard the front door slam shut.

I laughed to myself, thinking that Logan could very well try to burn the house down if he got drunk enough.

A few moments after Lillian had slammed the front door, I heard the back door open and close.  I heard someone leisurely stroll up the stairs.  My bedroom door opened.  I was sitting at my desk, reading a book.  I felt his presence before I even turned around.

“What?” I asked, seeing Logan standing in the doorway, a cocky grin on his face.

My older brother strode into my room to come stand behind me.

“Do you ever do anything besides read?” Logan inquired, using his hand to rough up the hair on the top of my head.

I swatted at him in annoyance.

“No, sometimes I like to play kick the ball with baboons like you do,” I retorted.  Logan snorted, laughing at me.

“Baboon, huh?  That hurts me deeply,” he teased me.  I rolled my eyes.

“You are just jealous that my IQ is higher than yours,” I retorted.

Logan gave me an annoyed look putting his hand on my desk to lean in close to me.

“Yeah, but I’ve scored more touch downs than you have,” he said winking.

Again, I rolled my eyes at him and sighed, slamming the book shut in annoyance.

“What do you want Logan?” I said standing from the desk chair.

Not having hit my growth spurt yet, I stood eye level with Logan’s chest.  He looked down at me his green eyes gleaming.

“I’m having a party here tonight,” he said.

“Yeah I heard,” I said frowning.

Logan tapped my desk with his fingers, looking around the room.

“I’ve never had you at one of my parties before, Squirt,” he said continuing to tap his fingers on the desk.

True, up until last year, if mom and dad went somewhere, they usually took me with them, leaving Logan and Lillian alone until they got back.  Usually Lillian stayed at Mary’s so Logan had the run of the place.  He usually had a large group of his popular friends over when mom and dad went away, even though mom would strictly forbid him from doing this.

“Yeah, I think I’m just going to stay up here out of the way,” I replied feeling awkward about the situation.

Mom and dad would kill Logan if they found out that he was having a party.  My older brother gave me a look.

“You need to lighten up and come meet people tonight,” he said.  I shook my head.

“No your friends don’t like me,” I replied referring to the jock types he hung out with.

“They just don’t know you.  You are about to be a sophomore.  Now is the time to get to know people.  The right people,” he said pushing himself up off my desk.

I shook my head feeling awkward and looked toward the window.  I heard Logan sigh.

“You are so weird dude,” he said.

I was facing the window, looking out over the front yard.  Logan came to stand behind me.

“Darlene is going to be here tonight,” Logan whispered punching me in the arm.  I blushed and he noticed.

“Got a thing for the hot cheerleader, don’t ya?” my brother asked.

I shook my head, moving away from him.

“It’s okay if you do, it’s not like she’s with me or anything,” Logan replied shrugging.

I sat down on my bed, looking up at him, my older brother, the tormentor.  Logan shrugged at me again, putting his hands in his pants pockets.

“We’re gonna get you so drunk tonight,” Logan said grinning at me.

I shook my head crossing my arms.

“No,” I replied stubbornly.

“I’ll get the guys to drag you downstairs,” Logan said his face dead serious.

“I’ll call Lillian,” I threatened and Logan laughed.

“I doubt she would come to one of my parties, even if it’s to rescue you.  She and Darlene hate each other,” he replied grinning.

It was true.  Our sister did not like Darlene because of a prank Darlene had pulled on Lillian in the seventh grade.  Darlene had made up a fake note from one of the popular guys in school and put it in Lillian’s locker.  Lillian, being awe struck, thought the note was real and approached the guy in front of Darlene and her friends and they all laughed at her when she was rejected by him.  Logan clapped his hands together suddenly, startling me.

“I’ve got to go get some supplies for this thing.  I’ll be back in a little while with the first of the guests,” he said smiling at me.

My brother turned and casually strolled from the room.  I heard him go down the stairs.  I sighed dreading the chaos that Logan would bring back with him.

A few hours later, the party was in full swing and so was Logan.  A cluster of about twenty kids showed up, mostly the football players and their girlfriends.  Darlene and her friends, Sarah and Renee showed up.  Awkwardly standing at the top of the stairs, I watched as the party began.

Logan had cranked up the music on the stereo in the living room and was passing out beers to everyone.  He stood proud and confident among his peers.  Logan’s two closer friends, Randy Jefferson and Jimmy Sellers, stood near him, talking to some girls from their class.  I took a few steps down the stairs, feeling excited, awkward and out of place watching a world I had never seen before.

Logan must have felt my eyes on him because he suddenly looked up at me on the stairs and I felt like a deer frozen in headlights.  Logan grinned wickedly rushing over to the stairs.  He quickly climbed the stairs to where I stood.

“Come on little brother.  We’re gonna have some fun tonight!” Logan exclaimed.

I shook my head as Logan pulled at my arm.

“I don’t want to,” I said trying to back up the stairs.

Logan was not deterred.  Taking hold of my arm, he roughly led me down the stairs, practically dragging me.

“Hey everyone, meet my little brother, Patrick,” Logan yelled.

A few of the guys whistled and clapped and some of the girls laughed, including Darlene, who was staring at Logan and me intently.

“Patrick is a nerd who has never been to a party before so go easy on him…”Logan said trailing off as I punched him in the arm angrily.

Everyone around us laughed but I was mortified.  Logan grinned handing me a beer.  I took it from his outstretched hand, looking down at it as if it were an alien object.

“You put it to your lips and drink, in case you are wondering what to do with it,” Logan quipped grinning at me.

I sniffed the bottle my nose turning up.

“Don’t be a pussy.  Drink it!” Logan commanded and I turned the bottle up and took a big gulp.

My face wrinkled up as I struggled to swallow the bitter liquid.

“It gets easier as you drink more,” Logan said patting me on the back.

I quickly stumbled away from my brother as some of the football players rushed towards him for more beer. One of the football players threw a football at another guy and it missed and I heard something break.  A girl laughed hysterically from the kitchen.  I pushed myself up against the wall, looking around, trying to drink the beer and blend in.  I noticed that Logan and his friends were looking at me.  Logan staggered a little and I could see he was already a little tipsy.

One of the guys in the group pointed at me, nodding and Logan started laughing.  Once again, I felt like I was in a spotlight and before I could run away, the little group advanced on me.

“Drink, Drink, Drink,” the guys began to chant.

Before I knew it, two of the guys had grabbed me on either side, holding me and they pushed me down, another one forcing my mouth open.  And they began to pour beer down my throat.  I gagged, struggling to get away from them, but I began to feel dizzy as the alcohol entered my system.

“Chug, Chug, Chug!” the jocks chanted holding me as beer after beer was poured onto my face.

I felt the room spin and they released me and I fell onto the floor.  One of the jocks grabbed me and shoved me into a chair near the stairs.

“The whiskey!” Logan yelled handing the jock guy a bottle with dark liquid in it.

I shook my head, trying to stand up.  The room was spinning. Logan’s jock friend, whose name I could not remember put the bottle to my mouth and turned it up.  I gagged as it burned my throat.  I forced the bottle away and stood, struggling to not fall in the floor.

I took a few steps forward and staggered.  Logan and his friends were pointing at me and laughing hysterically.  I took another step and bumped into a girl that was standing near the beer table.

“Sorry,” I said slurring my words.

The girl turned, her long black hair whipping around.  I stumbled back, immediately realizing it was Darlene.  She smiled at me.  I felt churning in my stomach and I froze.  Darlene’s face began to fall as she stepped back.  And then I puked violently the vomit gushing wildly from my mouth.  I fell into the floor as several people began to make gagging noises.

“Shit!” I heard Logan yell as he rushed over toward me.

I fell onto my side and looked up to see Darlene staring down at me, her face wrinkled in disgust and pity.  I groaned and closed my eyes, beyond embarrassed.  I felt myself being lifted and then I passed out.

I rolled over and groaned.  The morning sun streamed in through the windows.  Someone had opened the blinds to let the bright, blinding light stream in to hit me dead in the face.  I groaned again, rubbing my eyes.  I smelled the odor of beer strongly all around me.

I was trying to remember last night.  There had been a party.  My older brother, Logan, had invited his friends over because our parents were out of town.  There were drinks passed around and a few of my brother’s older jock friends had thought it would be funny to hold me down and pour beer and liquor down my forced open mouth.

And it would have been funny if I hadn’t of barfed.  I puked in front of Darlene. I groaned again and rolled over pulling the pillow over my pounding head.  No, roaring was a better word for what I felt.  My bedroom door opened.

“Patrick, you are such a nerd,” I heard Logan say with a gleeful menace in his voice.

“Go away jerk-wad,” I huffed from under my pillow.

I bunched up under the blanket as I heard him enter my bedroom.  I could feel his presence right beside the bed.

“You chucked everywhere last night,” Logan chided.

“I don’t wanna talk about it.  Go away,” I pleaded pulling the pillow down harder over my head.   “My head is killing me”

Logan laughed.  “Yeah, that’s what’s called a ‘hang-over’.  Congrats lil’ bro.  It’s your first step into becoming a man.”

I felt him lean down next to my face, his breath hot on my ear as he whispered “Darlene Jenkins sure laughed her ass off about your barf fest last night”

I flushed hot from embarrassment.  I was beginning to remember a lot of the events of last night.  Small fragments fitting together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, to form an embarrassing picture.  I was getting pissed off!  I pulled the pillow from my head and threw it straight at my older brother’s leering face, twisting myself to sit upright in the bed.

Logan growled and lunged straight at me.  He knocked me backwards and sat himself down over my chest, pinning me down to the bed. I was smaller than my brother and couldn’t get up.

“You’re gonna get it now smart ass,” Logan threatened his green eyes looking straight into mine.

He snorted really loud and obnoxiously.  I squirmed and kicked to get out from under him.

“Stop it Logan,” I yelled trying to kick him in the back.

Logan began to let a long trail of spit trail from his lips, letting it slowly trail down to linger near my face.  I gagged.

“Gross!  Asshole!  Get.  Off. Me,” I shouted trying to buck him off my chest.

He was stronger than me by far.

“Asshole, huh?  That’s gonna cost you,” Logan sneered letting the spit trail down to almost touch my neck.

I felt my stomach lurch and a sharp pain in my abdomen.

“Seriously, Logan.  I think I’m gonna be…” my words ended as the remaining contents of my stomach spewed from my mouth and hit my older brother in the face.

Logan cried out in horror as he jerked back from me and fell to the floor.  I jumped from the bed and rushed to the bathroom to clean myself up, leaving my older brother angry and dumbfounded on the floor.

I quickly cleaned myself up and took off my soiled shirt.  I stood at the bathroom sink, looking into the mirror.  Pale, skinny, blond boy that I was, I fully expected my older brother to come into the bedroom and kick the crap outta me for throwing up on him.  I braced for Logan’s revenge when I heard him come towards the bathroom.

“Are you okay, Patrick?” Logan asked quietly looking into the bathroom.

I stared at him saying nothing.  Logan walked into the bathroom and stood behind me.  He seemed to be looking at my upper body in the mirror.

“What?” I asked feeling a little embarrassed.

I was already shy but Logan was making it worse.  My brother shook his head frowning.

“You could use some sun, bro.  Maybe you should join one of my teams.  Hang with the guys sometime?  You need to work out too,” Logan said, then made a muscle behind me, smiling crookedly.  “How can you ever expect to have guns this big without working out, bro?”

“I don’t care about stuff like that Logan,” I lied shrugging.  Logan glared at me and playfully pushed me into the sink.

“Dude, you are such a fag!” he exclaimed, laughing.

I frowned and turned around to face him.  Logan’s face fell.

“I’m just joking bro.  And I’m sorry about earlier.  And about last night.  I shouldn’t have let my friends do that.  Things just got out of control you know?” Logan said softly placing a hand on my shoulder.

I shrugged again, shrugging his hand off my shoulder in the process.  Logan’s face fell again.

“Whatever, Logan,” I snapped.  “I should just tell mom and dad on you.”

My brother’s face froze in terror as I looked at him angrily and then he smirked at me.

“You won’t say anything, will ya Squirt?” he asked coolly.  I thought about it for a moment and I realized if I did tell mom or dad about the party, my brother would be punished severely and then Logan would get back at me for getting him in trouble.

“I won’t say anything,” I said quietly giving him an angry look.

“I thought so,” Logan replied giving me a cocky grin.  He turned to leave as my hands found the drawstring of my pajamas.

“I need to take a shower,” I said to him.

Logan got the message that I wasn’t about to get over last night easily and left me in the bathroom, closing the door on his way out.  I took a hot shower, trying to wash away everything, including the night before.  After brushing my teeth, finding some medicine for the roaring headache, and dressing in jeans and a t-shirt, I found my way downstairs to the kitchen for a small breakfast of a cracker and water.  Anything else on my stomach would have probably made me relive this morning’s puke fest.  I grinned remembering the horror as puke hit Logan’s face.

“What are you sitting there grinning about?” I heard my sister ask from behind me.

Lillian entered the kitchen.

“Ugh, what in the world happened in the house last night?  Logan did have a party while mom and dad were gone!  You know they will be pissed when they find out?” Lillian rattled off taking in the kitchen, before I could answer her question.

My sister had the large tote bag on her side and she looked sleepy.

Lillian picked up an empty beer bottle and wrinkled her nose in disgust.  Lillian was a pretty straight-laced girl.  She didn’t go to big parties and if she did, she didn’t do anything that would be considered a threat to her reputation.  Lillian sat her tote bag down, dropping the empty beer bottle.  It rattled on the table.

“Logan!” she yelled angrily.

Her green eyes flashed dangerously at me.

“Did he have you at the party,” she asked me looking concerned.

I winced, trying not to clutch my head in pain.  I hated it when she shouted.  Lillian had a temper like a firecracker.  I heard our brother come bounding down the stairs.  Apparently, he had also taken a shower and appeared before us in a fresh white t-shirt and his usual blue jeans.

“Sis, you got back from Scary Mary’s early?  So what did you guys do?  Talk about nail polish and tampons?” Logan asked smirking.

Logan’s personality was so mischievous. He could switch from being nice to ugly in seconds.  Obviously, he knew that Lillian was about to yell at him about something.

“Jerk!” she snapped pushing his chest with her hands.

“Mom and dad left you in charge while they are gone.  They are going to ground you forever when they see this mess.  And what is wrong with Patrick.  He acts like he’s sick!  Did you give him alcohol?” Lillian fired at Logan pointing her finger at him.

Logan’s green eyes flashed bright with anger but he stood his ground as Lillian descended on him.

“You do know that mom and dad will be back early, right?  That’s what I’m doing back from Mary’s early,” Lillian finished fuming with her arms crossed over her chest.

A flash of panic flashed across our older brother’s face momentarily then it was gone as he relaxed, pushed Lillian out of the way and grabbed the trash bin.  He began to silently clean up the kitchen while I sat biting on a cracker. Lillian glared at our brother as he went about cleaning.

“I could so tell mom and dad about this you know?” Lillian said.

Logan stopped cleaning and glared at her.

“So what Lillian?  You aren’t an angel either.  Do they know about Jake coming by the house the other night?  All the giggling and laughing coming from your room?” he retorted.

My eyes widened in surprise as my older brother and sister glared at one another.  For my sister to sneak a boy into her room was very unlike her.

“They know that Jake came over.  So what?” Lillian replied calmly standing her ground.

Logan cocked himself against the kitchen counter, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

“But do they know that he was in your room.  On your bed?” Logan asked.

Lillian’s face fell.  “Shut up Logan!  Did you spy on me pervert?”

Logan’s grin didn’t fall as he replied, “I’m surprised the whole neighborhood didn’t hear you two.  I know I did.  Who couldn’t keep from hearing you two, moaning and mooing like cows in your room?”

Lillian’s face contorted in rage as she rushed forward to Logan, putting her face into his.

“I won’t tell about your party if you don’t say anything about Jake.  It’s not like anything really happened anyway.  And you’re a pervert!”

With that, Lillian turned, picked up her tote bag and left the room, heading upstairs.  Logan looked at me, still grinning.

“She really needs to get laid, you know?  So uptight” he said shaking his head as he continued his cleanup.

“You don’t have to be such an ass to her.  Or me,” I replied quietly not looking at him.

“Lighten up little bro.  You’re about as uptight as our sister,” Logan replied shoving some empty beer bottles into the garbage can.

I felt decidedly better so I helped my brother clean the kitchen and then we moved into the living room and hallway.  An hour later the whole house was put back together again minus one of mom’s living room vases that we had to throw away.  I just hoped mom wouldn’t notice the missing vase.  As Logan and I carried the last of the garbage bags out to the street receptacle, he turned to me, reaching over and messing my hair up.

“Thanks, dude.  You aren’t that gay after all, you know?”

I frowned at him and punched him in the shoulder.

“Why do you have to call me that?”  I growled angrily.

“Quit being such a puss.  You are acting like Lilly,” Logan replied winking at me.

“And you are acting like a dick!” I snapped glaring at him.

Logan laughed.  “Ooh!  Such a big word for such a little boy.”

True, I wasn’t as witty as Logan but he was pissing me off.  I wracked my brain for a comeback.

“I’m not the one tackling other guys on the football field, you dumb jock!” I mumbled angrily.

“It’s called football.  You should play it sometime.  Or are you afraid you’ll like all those guys falling on top of you?” Logan replied grabbing his crotch and winking at me.  He was always wittier than me.

“Gross,” I said rolling my eyes at him.

I looked up to see Lillian watching us from her bedroom window.  She still looked upset.  I knew she would eventually get over it.  Lillian and Logan fought all the time.  I don’t remember a time when they ever got along really well.

“Wanna play some video games, bro?  Or are you still pissed at me from last night?” Logan asked as we went back inside.  I wasn’t too happy with my brother for what he’d done last night, but that was his nature.  For as long as I could remember, he was always cruel to me and then would try to be nice to make up for it.

“Sure,” I replied even though in the back of my mind I was wondering what I could do to get back at him for letting his friends embarrass me.  I knew that if I retaliated he would get back at me.  I let my thoughts of revenge stew as we made our way into the family room.  I took one end of the sofa and a controller.  Logan took the other controller and the other side of the sofa.  Time flew by as we fought each other on the console.  My brother laughed when I kicked his butt.

“You are a better gamer than me, you know that?” Logan said looking at me from across the couch.

I shrugged.  I didn’t consider myself great at much.  I suddenly felt my stomach growling.  Logan laughed and patted his stomach.  A few hours had passed by since we had begun playing the game.

“I’ll make us a sandwich,” Logan said standing from the couch.  Once again, he was attempting to make up for being mean last night and the nicer he was the more my thoughts of getting back at him faded.

I mumbled, “Thanks,” and went back to playing the game, this time in single player mode.  I was getting sleepy.  It was Saturday and usually we were doing chores or helping mom and dad with something.  Since mom and dad had left us alone, we pretty much did whatever we wanted until they got back.  Logan returned with two plates and was trying to balance two glasses of milk at the same time.  I paused the game and jumped up to grab my plate and glass of milk.

“I would have asked Lillian if she wanted anything, but I think she can more than fend for herself,” Logan replied rolling his eyes.

As if Lillian could hear him, I heard a loud thump come from upstairs, as if she were purposely throwing something.

“See,” Logan said, continuing, “She’s probably attacked a would-be burglar just now.”

I snorted with laughter almost spitting my milk out in the process.  Logan laughed and we began to eat.  Sometimes we could get along really well when he wasn’t being an arrogant pain in the ass.  After eating, I began to feel sleepy.  I curled into a laying position on the couch, holding the controller.  I felt Logan scoot closer to me.  My eyes began to feel heavy.

“Dude, now I’m kicking your butt,” Logan said softly referring to my lack of control on my video game character.

I felt him pat my head.  I sighed as my eyes closed.  I felt the controller being taken out of my hand.  Logan scooted over next to me and I felt him gently lift my head to lie on his leg.  I used to lay on his leg all the time when we were younger and fall asleep before he started picking on me when he started sixth grade.  And just like that, I was asleep and dreaming.  In my dream, I was surrounded by darkness.  And I couldn’t see.  And then I heard loud voices, screaming.  I heard a sound of something breaking and a woman screamed.

My eyes snapped open.  I heard another scream and an angry man’s voice yelling.  Logan was no longer beside me, but the video game was paused and the seat beside me was warm. He hadn’t been gone long.

I knew the voices.  It was mom and dad.  Our parents were home.

I moved from the family room, quietly, listening to mom yell and scream at dad.  I tried to blend into the shadows, pressing myself against the wall.  Our parents had arguments before, but nothing like this.

“You bastard!  You slept with her! The whole damn town knows what you did!” I heard a woman yell from the hallway.

“The children, Nancy.  Calm down.  Let’s talk about this privately,” dad said to mom as she came at him.  Our father attempted to calm mom by putting his arms about her, but she angrily smacked him away.

Mom’s blond hair was pinned up and she was wearing an evening gown.  Dad was equally dressed in a suit and tie.  Usually, they dressed nicely when they went to dinner somewhere.  I assumed that they’d stopped somewhere for dinner before coming home.

“There is nothing to talk about, you bastard!  I hate you! Everyone in town knows!” mom screamed hitting his chest with her fists.  I noticed that a small picture that usually sat on the hallway table had fallen to the floor, the glass shattering in the process.

Dad calmly grabbed her hands and she began to sob against him.  Dad lowered his head his brown hair falling forward. Dad held mom tight as she continued to sob.

I felt strange watching them from the shadows.  I also felt fear.  I had never seen them arguing like this especially in front of us.  Their arguments were usually settled with laughter most of the time.

“Why did Bertie find it necessary to approach me in the ladies room at the restaurant to tell me that my husband was seen hugging some woman at the store?” mom screamed her face contorting in rage.  I knew the woman that mom was talking about.  Bertie Simpson was the town busybody.  She was constantly gossiping about everyone in town, always sticking her nose into everyone’s business.

Dad frowned at mom throwing his hands into the air.  “You know that Bertie likes to gossip, Nancy.  For all I know that old busybody saw something innocent and blew everything out of proportion!”

Mom shook her head, tears silently falling down her face.

“This has been coming for a long time.  I’ve stood by you for the children but I can’t do it anymore.  I want a divorce!” she cried and began to sob uncontrollably.

My heart skipped a beat.  I’d never heard my mom say that to dad before.  I knew kids at school whose mom and dad had divorced but I’d never thought about my parents divorcing.  They just appeared to be happy and really love each other most of the time.

“Shh, Nancy.  I love you.  Whatever that woman told you, it’s a lie.  I’ve always loved only you.  You know that, baby”, dad soothed mom rubbing her shoulders as he talked.

I moved forward and made a sound with my throat to let them know I was there, watching.