“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.

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