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Chapter 6

November 15th 2014

I wake up a little excited about my birthday for once. It was a Saturday and Bryan was off work with me for a change today.

Thirty-two. I’m getting so old!

Bryan is still sound asleep next to me. He’d not got back from work 'til gone midnight, so probably hadn’t come to bed 'til about two. I’ll leave him to sleep a while longer.

I stumble downstairs looking at my phone. I’ve got a message from my mom, and a silly gif from Tommy. I smile, and send back messages of thanks to both of them. While I wait for the kettle to boil I lean up against the kitchen counter looking out towards the large window which gave us a wonderful view of the car park behind the butchers we live above. I scroll through Facebook, liking all the birthday messages from my friends. The butcher, Terry, sees me as he walks up to the shop door and waves. I smile and wave back.

My phone dings with a message notification. My dad asking if I wanted to meet for breakfast before we go to Dylan’s grave. I smile, and reply yes. Making a coffee, I walk back up to the bedroom.

Bryan is sitting on the side of the bed with his phone in his hands. As soon as he looks at me I know he’s really angry. His eyes are wild, and his lips tight.

“I’ve got to go in. They’re a man short again.” He throws his phone down on the bed so hard it bounces off and hits the floor. “I honestly feel like the next person I fucking talk to will end up in a fucking oil can at the bottom of the fucking lake, so do me favor and don’t talk to me, ok.”

I feel tears start to bloom in my eyes, so I gently put the coffee down next to him and walk back to the kitchen. As I reach the bottom of the stairs I hear the crack of yet another wash basket meeting it’s death.

Happy fucking birthday to me.

***

“It’s a shame Bryan couldn’t make it.” My mom sighs.

“Again.” My dad mutters under his breath. I shoot him a dirty look.

“It’s not his fault he got called into work. He was really gutted he couldn’t come with us.” That was a lie, he would have made an excuse as to why he couldn’t come out with my folks. “You know he loves you guys.” Another lie, he tolerated them but it didn’t stop us having many arguments about my parents and how he thought they treated me. I’m their only daughter, of course they are going to be protective and want to be involved in my life. I shove the last of my breakfast into my mouth and wipe it on a napkin. My phone buzzes, and Janey’s name flashes on the screen.

“Hey!”

“Hey to you birthday girl! You been spoilt rotten by that hunky husband of yours?”

“Um...not quite. He got called into work.”

“Well that sucks. What are you doing now?”

“I’m with my folks. We’re about to go and see Dylan.”

“Oh cool, say hi to them both.”

I pass on her greeting, and my mom starts trying to have a conversation with her through me. I roll my eyes and pass her the phone in the end.

Janey was the head of science at the school I was working in. She was a tall blonde amazonian woman, a few years older than me. She was divorced and always on the prowl for a new victim, I mean boyfriend. The boys at school all harbored not so secret crushes on her, which she loved because it meant her grade average was higher than any other subject. We had bonded over a love of heavy metal music and independent cinema. Bryan hated my taste in films so was happy to be able to ship me off to watch the latest Linklater film. My mom loved Janey, and was always trying to set her up with sons of her friends. She even tried with Tommy, although how she’d never realized he was gay was beyond me.

I finally get my phone back off mom, and dad starts trying to get us to leave the cafe.

“Sorry about that.”

“No worries!” Janey laughs. “You know I love your mom to pieces. So what are you doing tonight?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t know if Bryan has anything planned, or even if he’ll be home.” Or if I want to spend any time with him if he’s still in a mood. “But I’ll let you know later? I may let you take me out for a mocktail or two!” Janey laughs and we say our goodbyes.

I’d told Janey about my teenage problems, but I’d never told her about Bryan’s depression. It wasn’t my issue to talk about. But it did mean that I was constantly covering for the times he was so bad he couldn’t get out of bed, or was so angry he couldn’t hold a conversation. I was sometimes a little jealous that other people only got to see the funny outgoing side of him. It killed me that when he was joking and goofing around that I knew in a few days he’d be talking about killing himself. We both still went to see Dr Greene once a month, but I knew Bryan hadn’t told him that he’d stopped filling the prescriptions for his antidepressants.

The graveyard was nice this time of year. A thin layer of frost still lay on the grass, crunching slightly under foot. Dylan’s headstone was made of slate, with the engraved words edged in silver. He would have loved it. He was weird enough to have had a favorite stone, and by default a favorite color. Who in their right mind has slate grey as their favorite color? My big brother, that’s who. I smile as I run my fingers over the letters of his name.

I can’t believe it’s been sixteen years since he died.

I can’t believe I’m older than Dylan.

I sniffle, and feel my mom wrap her arms around me.

“I still miss being woken up by him bringing me a strawberry cupcake on my birthday.”

“He loved you so much, baby doll.” My dad puts his arms over my shoulders and kisses the side of my head.

***

I look down again at the text from Bryan telling me he wouldn’t be home until about eight and was having to work tomorrow. He hasn’t even wished me happy birthday yet.

-ok. gonna go out with janey for my birthday then-

-fuck sorry baby completely forgot promise i’ll make it up to u-

“He’s gonna have to work damn hard to make this up to you babes.” Janey reads my messages over my shoulder. “Lets get ready and hit the club, forget about men tonight.”

I sigh and make my way over the cupboard which holds my clothes. Janey pushes me aside to pick out my outfit. She always says if she left it to me I would go everywhere in jeans and a t-shirt. Which is probably true.

I end up wearing a tight black bandage dress which Janey had convinced me to buy a few months ago, over lacy tights and teamed with mid calf length biker boots. I still wear my hair in a short bob with a blunt fringe like I have since forever. I swipe a line of black eyeliner along my lids, and cover my lips in my signature deep red lipstick. I pull on a cropped denim jacket and grab my bag.

“Beautiful!” Janey blows me a kiss.

***

The Metropolis Lounge is our regular haunt. It’s on the outskirts of town and is the only place nearby which plays rock and metal music, and attracts all the local garage bands too. We say hello to the bouncer, Giles, make ourselves comfortable in our usual booth and Janey goes to get us drinks.

“There’s a band playing tonight. Local boys apparently.” She pouts suggestively.

“You’re terrible.” I laugh, and push her gently with my shoulder.

We settle in to our normal people watching routine, swaying with the beat from the music pumping out of the speakers. Video screens are attached along the walls and tonight they are playing some weird animation which seems to consist of naked women with big tits. My attention gets drawn to the stage as the band starts to set up their amps. I kind of recognize their shadowy faces. They are all in their twenties, like most of the rest of the clientele at the club. The singer walks out with his back to the audience and straps his guitar on. The crowd starts cheering as the drummer clicks his sticks together, counting the rest of the band in. The singer turns round, his wide mouth spread into a huge grin. Janey leans over and shouts in my ear.

“Wait...isn’t that....?”

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