Letting In and Big Brother
With that second first date, January also ended and soon, Grant would be home, as promised.
After our little heart-to-heart, Axel and I stayed up their on the cliff, our bodies tangled with each other’s for a really long time, drowning in our silent thoughts as well as each other. When we finally caught hold of the time it was almost ten. Thinking we had enough time before my curfew, we decided to grab late night dinner but got so lost in our get-to-know each other and what-is-your-favorite-color conversation that we didn’t get to my place until midnight.
Thankfully, I made Axel leave from the gates itself, not allowing him to walk me to the door, which he reluctantly agreed to and drove off, not before giving me another soft forehead kiss. Dad was waiting for me near the stairs but his stern expressions melted seeing the smile on my face and no scars or wound on my body. The rest of his anger vanished when I pecked his cheeks and told him I loved him before bidding him goodnight and hiding in my room.
That night, I slept well for the first time in a long time with a slightly lighter heart.
I didn’t visit the cafe on Saturday and Sunday, choosing to spend them with my friends. I also felt like things going too fast between be and that cute counter boy and I wanted to take some time away to think and reflect on everything. It was clear that I felt something for him but I knew damn well that I was still pathetically hung up on Sean Cooper.
I didn’t wanted to rush things with Axel either. Look where a week’s infatuation of a eleven year old Leah with a twelve year old Sean Cooper got me. Although it was hard to picture Axel hurting me like Sean did, my heart wasn’t ready to take risks. Not to forget that I wasn’t sure what I felt for Axel. Seeing that I was still in love with Sean, me liking Axel romantically was off the picture but I also knew that what I felt for him was more than normal, platonic friendship. When my thoughts stopped making sense, I stopped thinking altogether.
I met Axel twice in the last week that passed, both the times with Emilia present but things had changed between us. Even Julie commented on it, not that I minded, I just became cautious.
Grant kept his promise and came to visit just as he had promised and he was planning on spending the entire week back here. “Sometimes I wonder if his professors as school don’t notice him absent or just don’t care. I swear the boy takes so many leaves.
“How can you be so at ease while missing classes? It’s university, for Heaven’s sake, not school.” I ask the first thing as he climbs up to my room through the window he normally uses.
He grins and winks at me. “Exactly, baby sis. It’s Uni, not school. I’m free do to whatever I want.” He sings, his arms spread like an eagle and eyes closed.
I chuck a pillow at him. “You’re in med school, Grant. If you don’t study well, lives will be threatened in future.”
He scowls as the pillow hits him in face and sits down on the swivel chair at my desk. “Relax, jeez. It’s Valentine’s week so there’s a fest at Uni - carnivals, dances and all that shit. I didn’t want to participate. And you called me.” He shrugs.
I nod, taking in his excuse. “Whatever. I’m so jealous of you. I can’t wait to finish high school and wander off to Uni.”
“It’s not as fun as you see in the movies, trust me. And if you’re still persistent on your dream of being a Biomedical Scientist then you’re in for heaps of books and unending assignments.”
“If it will get me the same fame as Stephen Hawking, I’m in.”
Grant rolls his. “You and your obsession with that scientist.”
I stick a tongue out at him. “Don’t forget you’re studying medicine too. What was it again? Pediatrics?”
Grant sighs and nods. “I’m graduating next year, can’t wait. Anyways, how was your last month without me?” He asks, swiftly changing the topic, again, leaving me wondering why he suddenly chose to pursue medicine three years ago when I knew his dream has always been to play Football for our country. Everyone, including our school was shocked when he had declined the full football scholarship from North Western University to purse a completely different course. He, however, never explained the ‘why’ to us saying he just ‘feels’ like going for Pediatrics instead of football.
I shake my head, focusing on the present thoughts and Grant’s recent question. “Eventful.” I mutter under my breath. “Boring. Mom and Dad were busy with work and I, with school. I didn’t even get to visit the cafe except for weekends. Orange Is The New Black kept me company when I was alone, though.”
“Such drama.” Grant mumbles and rolls his eyes. “So you called me back because you were bored? Are you using me?”
“I missed you.” I pout, muttering, “And I am drama.” under my breath, causing him to roll his eyes. There is a pause as neither of us speaks and I shift uncomfortably on my bed, knowing that it’s time for me to finally spill. Grant doesn’t say anything but keeps looking at me, silently encouraging me to speak. I know he knows why I had suddenly called him to get back home so soon after leaving.
I take a deep breath. It shouldn’t be hard, after all, I already told someone, right? And if I can tell Axel, who has barely known me for a little over a month, I can surely tell my brother who has always been through my worst and best days.
“Sean and I broke up.” I rush out, knowing there’s no way to put it out so it won’t hurt. Even as I say the words, my heart constricts with pain but I will myself to not rub a soothing hand over my chest. There’s no need to beat around bush anyway. He already knows the part.
Grant nods slowly, his expressions calm but I can see him clenching his fists. “Why?” He asks simply, and tarnishing any hopes of me stalling the particular topic any longer.
I hesitate, still not sure if I want to accept why exactly we broke up but the small part of me who wants to just get over with it jumbles out. “He kissed Ronnie.”
Grant’s eyes widen slightly and I would have waved it off as my imagination, had my eyes not been trained on his face to catch on any kind of emotion he was feeling on the revelation. Would he understand how I felt when I saw it happen by my own eyes? Would he feel even the fraction of hurt I felt?
“He what?” He asks through clenched teeth, rhetorically. “That bas- how long has this been going on?”
I look away, scared to let my brother see how much that boy affected me still. I swallowed uncomfortably, suddenly, my throat felt dry. “I don’t know.” I tell him truthfully. I had myself been wondering about how long.
“How long have you known?” Grant asks. “When did it happen?”
I blink away the tears, yet one betrays me and slips down my cheeks. “I saw them together at school. On my birthday.”
Grant’s eyes suddenly show recognition, as he remembers the day. “The day you skipped school and came back home early only to hide away in your room.” He says to himself and I nod, even though he doesn’t need me agreeing to know he’s right. He let’s out a sigh of disbelief as he leans back on the chair. “That’s why you were pushing us away. And I thought that you guys had an argument. And I thoughts that you both must have made up eventually.”
I shake my head. “We didn’t.” I say in a quivering voice.
He scoffs. “Of course you didn’t. I figured once I saw him with that girl you used to be friends with - Ronnie - I never liked that girl. I would have killed him right then but I wasn’t sure. I forced myself to believe that they were there to see you and talk to you but you ran away because you didn’t want to talk.” He shakes his head. “I should have known. What a brother I am.”
I shake my head at him. “It’s not your fault, Grant. It never was. You were there for me every time I needed you.”
He scoffs. “No I wasn’t. I ran away from you because I couldn’t handle seeing you pull away from me, from us. I didn’t even stay to think twice how you must be feeling. I should have known why my little sister was hurting. But I didn’t. I’m such a bad big brother.” His voice breaks at the end of the sentence and I look up to see him wiping away a stray tear.
“Don’t you say that.” I say, feeling offended as well as guilty. “My brother is the best brother ever.”
Grant gives me a sad smile and comes to sit beside me. When he pulls me into a warm embrace is when I break into tears. He places a swift kiss on the top of my head and whispers sweet things to calm me down. “Why didn’t you tell me, Lee Bear?” He asks after a while.
I pull away slightly to look him in the eye. “I didn’t want to accept the reality. I thought that if I ignore it long enough, things will be back to how it used to be. Or better yet, that I’ll get used to it. But it hurt, Grant. It still does. So much.”
“Shhhh.” Grant says, joining me in the crying fest as he pulls me back into his arms. “I feel so helpless. I don’t know how to make it better. Tell me how to make it better.”
I cry harder at his words and tighten my arms around him, hiding my face further in his chest. “I don’t know.” Is all I can manage to say.
We then cry together and when he finally manages to stop my tears for the night, I proceed to tell him other things in detail.
I tell him about the day I considered my worst nightmare. I tell him how Tracy was always there with and for me when I felt alone. I told him how he, Mom and Dad gave me a new silver of hope. How Kevin and Maggie became the closest and truest friends I will ever have. How s sunshine names Emilia brightened my world a little and how Axel’s coffees put a smile on my face when all I could do was hide in blankets and cry.
I tell him about how Sean changed completely from the boy who loved me to the boy who hated me with the blink of an eye. How Ronnie - the girl I vowed would be my best friend forever, nevermind the fact that we didn’t talk anymore, betrayed me so cruelly. And how I was immediately transformed from the popular, kind school’s princess to the queen bitch, slut and element of hate and ridicule at school. I tell him about the pranks I was blamed for and the rumors that flew around about me.
I tell him everything and he listens. He stays silent until I’m done and then whispers in the quietest voice, “I’m sorry.” He meets my eyes, a sad look on his face but eyes burning with anger. “I’m sorry you had to go through it alone. I’m sorry that you had to feel the pain alone.”
I give him a sad, broken smile. “You made it better by just being there, Grant. And I love you for that. I can never ask for a better brother than the one I already have.”
“I love you.” He says, kissing my head once again.
He takes me for a late night drive that night and we get ice creams before driving towards the park we last hung out at. We lay down on the soft patch of grass near the lake in silence as the stars fill our hearts with faint lights. We are both lost in our own thoughts and the thought that stays in mind is that it may still hurt but now I’ve got a hand to squeeze when it gets unbearable.
I squeeze Grant’s hand as I think that and he squeezes back, telling me silently that he’s there. That he will always be there.
And I’m grateful.
“Lee Bear?” He says after a long stretch of silence that I jump, taken by surprise. He turns to look at me and there’s a sad yet peaceful look in his eyes and I can almost see longing swimming in his green orbs too. “Do you remember what I promised you before leaving for college that night, the one after your birthday?”
I frown, confused as to why he was bringing it up now and raced my mind to go through the night he left. He did promise something but I can quite - “Yeah!” I say, sitting up, suddenly remembering his promise. “You said you’d tell me your biggest secret if I open up.”
He nods, sitting up and letting his hands hang loosely from his knees. “Yeah, I did.” The smile on his face dims a little more. “And I will tell you about that secret before leaving for Uni again. Just not now.”
I nodded, knowing how it feels to talk about something when you don’t want to. “Okay, I’ll remember to remind you before you go.”
He gives me a soft smile. “Yeah, you do that.” He then goes back to resting on the ground and gazing at the stars, losing himself in his thoughts and so do I.