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.

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