There’s a cool breeze in the air as I continue down the sidewalk. My thoughts are on my English essay, the one I’ve been avoiding all week. With a heavy sigh, I approach the third house on the left side of the street—Anderson Street. The house, my house, is a bright blue, almost like the sky. The window trimmings are painted an egg white and the gray roof brings everything together. I feel a strong sense of contentment as I walk up the steps, especially after such a long day. Although I wanted to be happy, I had to get my English assignment out of the way first.
I enjoy the last bit of breeze before turning the doorknob.
“Mom? Dad? I’m home!” I shout, tossing my books to the floor, “Hey Joey, are you home?”
I scan the foyer for my parents or my brother. There’s no one here. Where is everyone? Then, I hear the shouting. The noise leads me to the kitchen where I see my mother and my brother arguing for the third afternoon in a row.
“Why were you out until three in the morning? You have no business being out so late, you’re a child! I’m serious Joseph Augustus Lee, you better not do it again or there will be some serious consequences!” My mother angrily yells.
“Whatever.” Joey says coldly. Before my mother could utter more threats, Joey rushes out of the kitchen.
I stare helplessly as my mother rests her head in her hands. I take a timid step towards her.
“Mom, is everything okay?”
She sighs. “Yes. Your brother is just acting out. Like normal. What else is new? How was school, honey?”
I shrug. “I have to write a paper. Well, the proposal is due tomorrow. Mom, I hate high school.”
“It’s not so bad,” She laughs, “In a couple of months, it’ll all seem like normal.”
I stare into my mother’s big blue eyes. I manage a half-hearted smile in agreement and leave her standing at the counter.
As I travel upstairs, I pass Joey’s open door. Through the crack, I can see him jamming out to music on his bed, drumming the air. I roll my eyes. Why did he have to give mom such a hard time? He’s such a douche bag.
I throw myself onto my bed, thinking of what to write about for my paper. When I can’t come to an immediate conclusion, I shift my attention elsewhere.
I switch on my computer to check my email. To my surprise, I have three. One is from my grandfather who is visiting Italy with my grandmother. They sent me fifteen pictures. I admire their snapshots of Rome and Sicily. They even have pictures from the Colosseum and the Pantheon. I smile. The next email upsets me. It’s an email from my lab partner. She lost the homework assignment. I inwardly roll my eyes. She’s so irresponsible. It’s the second time in less than a week that she’s done this.
My next email is an advertisement from a clothing store I frequently shop at. They’re having a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale. Although it’s tempting, I delete the message. I have to focus on writing this paper. I have absolutely no idea where to start.
I run downstairs to retrieve my schoolbooks. When I hear the soft whispers of my mother and father talking in the kitchen, I revert upstairs. I know they’re talking about my brother’s insubordinate behavior. They had to be. My suspicions are confirmed when my father follows me up the stairs, but instead of going to his room, he stops at Joey’s room.
For the next half hour, I was forced to listen to muffled yelling. Even after shutting my door, I could hear them going back and forth with each other.
After trying for an hour to focus on my work, the yelling is too much for me to handle. I finally break and put headphones on. I turn my music up, drowning out the ambient sound around me. A rough touch startles me. I didn’t even realize that my dad had entered my room; even through my peripheral vision, I had no idea he was standing there.
“Your mom’s been calling you. Dinner is ready.” He says.
I give him a half-smile. “I’ll be down in a few.”
The next morning, I fall into my normal routine. I wake up, shower, eat breakfast and begin my daily commute to school. I’m nervous when I arrive on campus. I’ve survived my first couple of months of high school, and I only have three and a half more years to go. How lucky am I?
I glance at my phone. I have half an hour before the bell rings for first period. Across the courtyard, I see my brother parking his mustang in the student lot. I resist the urge to run up to him and tell him how much of an ass he’s being. As I weigh the option, I decide that such an action wouldn’t go over so well. How would that scenario look? A little freshman girl yelling at her senior brother? It would haunt me for all of high school and possibly even college. I would forever be known as an over-dramatic little sister.
I see Joey walking toward me, with a look of determination in his eyes. He sits next to me on a bench in the center of the courtyard.
“I could’ve given you a ride, little sis.” He says, scrunching my hair.
I shrug. “I like to walk. Besides, the weather is nice today. It’s enjoyable.”
“I don’t care. I just wanted to walk.”
“Whatever. Hey, I need you to cover me tonight. Tell mom and dad that I’m studying at a friend’s house, okay?”
I stare at him, confused. “What? Where are you going? Didn’t mom ground you?”
“I talked dad into letting me go study at a friend’s house tonight.” He smiles.
“Where are you really going?”
“Look, I’m fucking going to a friend’s house, so just tell mom and dad that I’m going to study.”
I scoff. “If you’re going to give me attitude, I’m going to tell them the truth.”
He rolls his eyes. “Look, here’s fifty bucks. Tell them I’m studying.”
Reluctantly, I take his money. “I guess. I’ll text mom during lunch.”
The bell rings. I’m finally saved from being webbed deeper into my brother’s lies.
My math class is boring. Not only do we have a substitute, but the teacher didn’t leave any real work for us; just busy work. I hated busy work.
I stare out the window during the few remaining minutes of class. I watch as the tennis players rally the ball back and forth. A figure standing by the first set of gates catches my eye. It’s a man. He’s leaning against the fence, dressed in a full black ensemble. The cloak he wore is long and almost touches the ground. Who is that?
The sound of a bell radiates through the classroom, distracting me from the window. I gather my things and proceed to the door. I make a beeline for the exit to get to my next class. When I pass the tennis courts, there is no one standing by the fence. I shake off the memory of the man and try to focus on the remainder of my next class.
The image of the man dressed in black burrows in my memory, haunting me throughout the day. As the hours of the school day start to fade, I continue to see flashes of the man leaning up against the courts. Was he looking for someone? Why was he there? What was he up to? These questions rambled in my brain and I soon lost interest in school.
When I finally arrive home after a tiring and confusing day, I go straight to my room. I try to focus on more details of the man. What did I remember? What can I remember? Well, the only thing that quickly came to mind was his clothing. It was all black. It stood out. Who wears all black? Especially in the humid weather. I thought harder. He had dark brown hair, but I couldn’t recall any more details, other than the paleness of his skin.
I can’t sleep. I continue to think about my unfinished English proposal. I was glad Mrs. Robertson agreed to give me a one-time extension. I toss and turn in my bed. I couldn’t think of what I wanted to write about. My topic is supposed to be about letter grades and if they should be abolished, or not. To be honest, I didn’t even know how I felt about the situation. I didn’t even care about the topic.
I check my alarm clock. The large blue numbers read 1am. I groan. I can’t fail this class. I gather whatever strength I have and sit up. Through the darkness, I feel for my lamp’s switch. When I find it, I twist it. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the new light. With a strong exhale, I lift myself from my bed. I locate my school bag and lazily drag my feet to my computer. My eyes begin to close as I wait for the computer to boot up. A loud ping wakes me from my miniature nap. I shield my eyes from the blinding light of the screen. I sit still, staring at a bare login screen. It almost seems like hours, but when I glance at the clock, it’s only been thirty minutes.
The doorbell ringing makes me jump. Who in the hell would be ringing the doorbell at this hour? A second ring sends a jolt through me. I shoot out of my chair and proceed down the stairs. I peek through the curtain. I can’t tell who it is.
As I am about to put my eye against the peephole, the mysterious person rings again. A shining light from upstairs distracts me. I rush towards the kitchen to conceal myself from my parents. I see the silhouette of someone coming down the stairs. Judging by the heavy footsteps, I can only assume that it’s my father.
“Who is it?” He says groggily, yet commanding.
“It’s me, open…sesame!” The voice on the other side is familiar, but the slurring of words makes it difficult to tell.
I watch as my father carefully unlocks the door. He looks through a crack. He swings the door open with such a force, that the knob hits the wall.
“Are you kidding me, Joseph? Get inside!” My father shouts.
Joey stumbles inside, nearly toppling over the rug. He starts to laugh.
“You reek of alcohol. How did you get home?”
Joey giggles. “By these things.” He holds his car keys up to our father’s nose.
My father snatches them out of Joey’s hand. “Drinking and driving? What else is next?”
“Kennedy? What’s going on?” My mother asks from the top of the stairs.
My dad crosses his arms, “Our son has been drinking and driving.”
I hear a gasp. “What! Joey, what the hell is wrong with you! Don’t you understand how dangerous that is? You could’ve killed someone! You could’ve killed yourself!”
“I don’t care!” The tone in his voice rises sharply.
“Think about the terrible influence you’re having on your little sister. She looks up to you!” My mother forces my brother to look at her, “What is wrong with you Joey?”
He smacks her hand to the side. “I don’t have to listen to you! I’m eighteen!”
My father steps in. “If you’re going to be living under this roof, then you need to follow our rules.”
Joey starts for the door. “Then I’m outta here.”
My father grabs him by the arm. “No, you are not. You’re not coherent enough to be out on the streets like this.”
Joey pushes him. “Leave me alone!”
I watch in horror as Joey wrestles the keys from our father’s hand.
“Ah! Joseph, stop!” My mother approaches Joey and my father, but the two brute men knock her backward.
I cover my mouth to hide my surprised gasp. What has gotten into my brother? Why is he acting like this? Finally, the struggling stops.
Joey is the first person to get to his feet. He adjusts the collar of his leather jacket before hurrying out the door, slamming it behind him. My eyes dart to my father, who is still lying on the floor. I take a step forward. The wood floor beneath my feet creaks lightly. My mother looks up towards the kitchen.
“Trinity, is that you?” She says.
I take a deep breath. “Yes?”
“What are you doing up honey?” My mother locates the light switch.
Tears start to well up in my eyes. “I was working on my paper. Then I heard the doorbell.”
“Trinity, I’m going to ask you a question. I want you to be completely honest with me. Did you know your brother was going to be out drinking tonight?”
“No.” I lie. My response to my mother is not a complete lie, but then again, I’m not exactly telling her the truth either. When Joey asked me to cover for him, I naturally assumed he would be up to no good. What I didn’t know was that he would be so stupid as to put his life and the lives of others in danger.
My mother starts to cry. I offer her a consoling hand, but my father’s pained moans pull our attention to him.
With my mother’s help, my father manages to get to his feet. He opens the door and pokes his head outside.
“Ingrid, call the police. Report the vehicle stolen. Trinity, please go upstairs to your room.”
“But what about-”
“Now Trinity!” My father’s booming voice echoes throughout the house.
With chills running down my spine, I disappear upstairs and back to the confines of my room.
The late night events make it difficult for me to find sleep. After all, I still have a paper to work on, but there’s just no chance in hell I could do it now. By the time the police arrive to get statements, it’s almost three. Joey could be long gone by now.
Curiosity tempts me. I turn off the lamp in my room so that my parents couldn’t see the shimmering light. I take a seat at the top of the stairs, concealing myself with the banister.
“So what happens now?” I hear my father ask the cop.
“Well sir, since your vehicle has a GPS location system, we’ll submit the tracking numbers to the appropriate department and hopefully we can recover the vehicle in the smallest amount of time allowable.”
The disappointment in my father’s voice is obvious. “What’s the turnover rate in your department?”
“We’re hoping that it shouldn’t take too long to locate the vehicle or your son. However, there’ve been some cases where the system was removed or deactivated, limiting the effectiveness of our job.”
I peer over the corner of the banister. My father shakes the hand of the police officer. The police officer hands him a card and leaves.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do with this boy.” My dad says as he closes the door.
My mother shrugs. “Oh, I don’t know either sweetheart.”
“Maybe we should search his room to see if he’s doing drugs. It could explain his irrational behavior.”
My mother nods in agreement. My father’s heavy foot touches the first step. This is my cue to dash towards the safety of my bedroom. My room has reached total darkness now that my computer has entered sleep mode. As I travel deeper into my room, I trample over a pair of shoes.
I rub the affected area in an attempt to disperse the aching pain in my toe. I press my ear against my closed door. All I can hear are the sounds of my parents rummaging through Joey’s room.
A blinking red light in the corner of my eye illuminates my dark room. I have a message. I type in my code and my missed alerts pop up. Joey called me twenty-five times. There are also a few missed calls from an unknown number. I also have three voice messages. I listen to the first one.
“Open the door; I’m almost way home!” Joey’s words are heavily slurred and jumbled up.
I’m surprised he was stupid enough to drive home. He knew better than that, or so I hoped he did.
It’s too late for that now. I delete the message. The next one automatically plays.
“Fuck, Trin. Open the damn door! I’m here.” I almost can’t recognize Joey’s voice. He must’ve had enough drinks to tranquilize a small elephant. Again, I delete the message. I can’t save Joey now. The damage is done. The last message plays.
“Hello. This message is for Trinity Elise Lee. We’ll meet soon.” This voice is deep, commanding and scary. It’s definitely not Joey’s voice. I stare at my phone. The number reads private. Who is this person?
My cheeks start to warm with fear. I delete the message, hoping the memory of the unidentified voice would follow suit.
By the time I finish putting together a proposal I could be proud of, it’s almost six in the morning. If I went to sleep now, I could get in a little over an hour. I rest my head against my pillow. It’s so soft, so relaxing. Sleep is about to claim me when I hear a loud bang downstairs. My father’s booming voice follows.
“Damn it!” He shouts.
My mother rushes past my door. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“They found the car. Joseph smashed it into a tree. He’s okay. They have him in the hospital downtown. They didn’t tell me what his condition was.”
The urge to sleep exits my body. Instead, I feel awake. It’s almost as if I’ve consumed five energy drinks. I run out of my room, nearly knocking my mother to the ground.
“Can I go with you?” I ask.
Her eyes take a moment to adjust to me. “I don’t know, Trinity. You need to be in school.”
“Mom, please. I want to make sure he’s okay.”
She nods. “Okay. Get dressed.”
I jump into the shower and take care of the bare minimum, scrub and hair. With my jeans on, I meet my mother and father in the foyer.
My nerves skyrocket on our way to the hospital. There’s no telling what kind of condition he’s in. Either way, I didn’t know whether to hug him because he’s okay or to slap him for drunk driving. Despite my feelings, I just wanted to know that he would survive the crash.
The air in the hospital waiting room is heavy with despair. I bring my knees to my chest. It’s too cold in here. My parents and I have been waiting for an update on my brother’s status. So far, it’s been over an hour.
After another thirty minutes of an agonizing wait, a doctor comes out.
“For Joseph Lee?” He asks.
My father stands. “Yes, that’s my son.”
“Hello, sir.” He says, shaking my father’s hand, “Joseph is going to be okay. He did suffer some minor cuts and bruises, but he will recover. We did run some tests and his blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit. If he continues down this path, it could cost him his life or the life of someone else.”
“Trust me, sir, I’m an officer of the law myself. I see this all too often. When will we be able to see him?”
The doctor’s eyes dart to my mother and I. “You all can go in and see him how. He may be a little groggy from the medication, but he’s coherent enough. He’s in room 205.”
I trail behind my parents as they walk hand-in-hand down the hall. I look at a sign that indicates where some of the rooms are. My mother stops. She points to her left. We walk down another hallway.
A vibration in my pocket forces me to stop. I pull out my phone to see who is calling me. The number is private. I wait until my parents are out of earshot.
“Who is this?” I ask as I pick up the line. No one answers. All I hear is heavy breathing. This angers me, “Look. Stop calling me. My dad’s a cop and he can trace this call.”
The person on the other line laughs. It’s a man. I can tell by the deepness of the voice.
“I will see you soon.” He says.
Then the line goes dead.
My smartphone returns to the home screen after the call ends. Maybe whoever called me had the wrong number. I silence my phone completely and shove it in my back pocket. Whatever, it was probably nothing.
After instilling a sense of confidence, I follow the hospital signs until I find Joey’s room.
When I enter, my parents are talking to him.
“You can’t be doing this Joseph. You could’ve killed someone, or yourself. You know you’ll probably be facing charges, right?” My dad tells him.
Joey is quiet for a moment. “I know dad, and I’m sorry. I’m just stressed with starting college and finishing school.”
My mother is holding back tears. “You can come to us for anything, son. You don’t have to run to alcohol for everything, you know that.”
“I’m sorry, you guys. I won’t do it again. I promise.”
I pull back the curtain of his hospital room.
“Hi Joey, I’m glad you’re okay.” I smile.
“Thanks, little sis. I’m sorry if I scared you last night.”
“It’s okay Joey.”
I put my hand on his ankle. He winces and I snatch my hand back.
Joey chuckles and pulls back the blanket to show me that his ankle is wrapped in gauze.
“It’s badly bruised.”
He covers his foot again.
“When do you get to come home?” I ask.
“A couple of days. Then I have a court date.” His eyes meet my mom’s.
I shake my head disapprovingly. “Mom, dad, can I talk to Joey alone please?”
They hesitate but eventually comply with my request.
“Come on Ingrid, let’s go get some coffee.”
When they leave, I stare at Joey. “I am never covering for you again.” I whisper, “You lied to me, big time. You told me it was going to be okay. And you went out, got drunk and almost died.” I am on the brink of tears as I pour my heart out to my brother, “I could’ve lost you tonight Joey. How could you do that to me?”
He begins to sniffle. “I know Trini, and I’m so sorry. I never should’ve made you lie for me. Please forgive me.”
“I’m so angry with you. If your face wasn’t so bruised, I would slap you.”
His head drops. “And I deserve it, really I do.”
I sit in a chair across from him, “I’m done talking to you.”
“Trinity, please don’t be like this.”
I ignore him.
I am more than ecstatic to be home after spending so much time in that hospital. I contemplate on whether or not I should tell my mother that I was aware of Joey’s ill intentions, but with her fragile state, I decide against it. Besides, I refuse to be a part of something that I had nothing to do with. I was against this whole thing from the start. I manage to convince myself that everything would eventually sort itself out. With a newly cleared head, I am able to complete the next step of my English assignment—and just in time.