There are many ways to start a story. Mine begins 18 months ago in Brandon’s room. He was annoyed. He was pissed. He was fighting more internal things than external. And it took me about 18 months to realize it.
I was on Brandon's bed, looking for a movie download of The Equalizer. My efforts weren't getting me anywhere. All the links had been removed due to the Copyright Law. "I'm not getting anywhere, Bran."
"How are you acting so calm?"
"Because I'm over it." I sigh. "Don't get all worked up over me, Brandon."
"Don't get worked up over you? You're my best friend Maggie and she fucking crossed the line today." I hesitantly bring my hand to my face. I flinch at the bruise that's already formed. Brandon's eyes travel from the bruise on my face to the ones decorating my abdomen.
There's these girls at school that like to pick on me. I get called all sorts of names from all sorts of girls because I happen to be best friends with Brandon, a guy. I've also been caught skipping class with him in the boy’s bathroom which doesn't help my case any, but they've just started to get physical with me.
Brandon broke up with his girlfriend over it. He knew she was behind it, and I confirmed it when he asked. There was no point to deny it. The damage had already been done. Brandon then proceeded to declare his love for me in the middle of lunch. But that just added fuel to the flame, and my stomach was assaulted on my way home. I'm bruised everywhere. I've since taken the ice off; it's not done much help.
If you haven't guessed already, Brandon and I are inseparable. We've known each other since we were in diapers. I pushed him off the swing, because it was my swing, and after that, we shared toys and took turns pushing each other on the swing. Our parents thought it was adorable, now they absolutely hate it. We get each other into trouble time and time again. My parents even went out of their way to move but when I threatened to move in with Brandon (they knew I'd do it) they decided to keep the house. You can't separate us. We depend on each other to live, without one, the other would just dry up and die. We're dependent on each other. It’s not healthy.
"We'll get back at them; we just have to plan." I open a new tab on the computer and search for revenge pranks. "We should put food coloring in her pool." I say as I look through links to click. Brandon comes beside me and looks at the page.
"I like that one." He points at one dealing with Kool-Aid and a shower head. "It'll dye her hair and skin."
"But how will we get in her house?" I look at Brandon. His brown hair is short and sticks up, kind of like Zac Efron's but I doubt Efron's is as soft as Brandon's. Brandon's eyes match his hair. He has dark lines under his eyes from many restless nights listening to his parents argue. He has a strong jawline, which drives most of the female population crazy at school, add that to his pink soft lips and he's the perfect package.
Brandon likes to stay in shape to defend himself from his father. And it mostly works. Brandon's dad knows that he can whip his ass if given the chance, so he mostly backs off. That doesn't mean that his dad doesn't get a hit in every now and again. But Brandon's buff in all the right places. He's been taking me on his workout days to get me stronger. I'm enjoying the way I fit into my clothes now. I'm proud to say that I've gotten a flat stomach and soon, hopefully, abs.
From the outside you'd think Brandon had a perfect life, but people with imperfect lives try to make it seem like its perfect. Brandon has an abusive father, and a docile mother. She does nothing. She takes the hits without as much as a whimper of protest. And she does nothing but watch when Brandon is behind his angry fist. She's a poor excuse of a mother. No one's ever seen inside of Brandon's house, only me. He knows that whatever happens in his house, is safe with my eyes. He knows I won't see him differently. And I don't. He's still my best friend that I made pee his pants in fifth grade.
"Leave that to me, Mags." I throw my head back and laugh.
"You expect me to believe that you know how to break into a house." I close the computer and set it aside, turning to face him.
"You know I can. How do you think I got Tara's vibrator in the trophy case?"
I bark out more laughter at the memory. Tara's face was priceless when she walked past the trophy case to see her vibrator sitting inside. "What dumbass puts their name on their vibrator?"
"Do you not put your name on yours?" Brandon looks at me seriously. I pull my face together.
"No, I put your name on it. Property of Brandon Semple." I crack a smile. "It's even your favorite color."
"Do you imagine it’s actually me then?"
"Oh, Brandon!" I push his shoulder back. It was barely a shove but he collapses on his bed and smiles at me.
"Is that what you say when you're using it?" I can't help but laugh at that one.
"I walked into that one." I point at him.
"If it makes you feel any better, I masturbate to your pictures."
I scrunch my face up. "It doesn't." I flop down next to him. I look over his chest at his wall. He has a bulletin board on the wall, decorated with pictures of us together. There's tons of photo booth pictures, and night time strolls. Most of them are just of me. Brandon liked to document his days. There were a lot of pictures of me sleeping. One was when we were at a party and I fell asleep. The asshole drew a dick on my face. One of my favorites was of us at a spring. Brandon got a stranger to take a photo of me on his back. We had nearly fallen over when I pounced on his back, but the picture portrays us as laughing our asses off.
"You know; Seth broke up with me after your little stunt. He figured I'd been cheating on him the whole time."
"But now we can hook up." I smile and hit his chest. "He wasn't good enough for you anyway."
"Neither was Sara." I comment. His girlfriend was a right mess, gorgeous of course, but she was paranoid of everything. One unnecessary movement off Brandon and she thought he was ready to break up with her. "What were you even thinking when you did that?"
"I was thinking of you, dumbass. I can't believe you didn't fight back." He turns on his side to look at me and props his arm up for his head to rest on. I look at his bicep tense.
"I would've gotten suspended and I'm already grounded. I wouldn't even be here if I didn't tell my mom that I had tutoring." I sigh. "I should actually be leaving soon."
"Wait, if you’re grounded, why were you looking for a movie?" He furrows his brows.
"So I can watch it when I get home." I smile. He hits me. "Hey!" I grab his arm. "I would've watched it again with you!"
Brandon pulls his arm back and pushes me off the bed.
"Ow." I roll onto my back.
"You're grounded dork, last I checked that means you have no access to electronics." He pokes his head over the side of the bed, looking down at me.
I open my mouth to retort, but the front door slams shut. Our eyes widen and I grab my things, shoving my shirt, and phone into my bag. I pull the charger out as feet pound on the stairs.
"Brandon!" his father yells.
"Hurry!" Brandon hisses as he quietly locks the door to save me some time. I grab my shoes and toss them out of the open window. I toss my bag after them.
The door starts shaking in its place. His father bangs so hard I assume I'll be seeing dents next time I'm around. "You better not have that slut in there!" He yells. I'm the slut. Since Brandon and I are of opposite sexes and always hang out, that's what I was labeled. I don't care much for it, but hearing it a lot sometimes gets to you. I climb out of the window and onto the roof.
The door breaks open as I climb on the neighboring tree. I know his father sees me as I climb down the tree. I make a run for my belongings as the front door opens and his father comes screaming out at me. He throws something that hits my shoulder but doesn't come after me.
My feet slap against the pavement and I don't slow until I'm a block away. His dad once followed me home. Joke was on him though, because I showed up at the police station with a challenging look.
I wheeze against a lamp post. My stomach hurts from the excessive exercise. My legs throb and my body thumps as the adrenaline gets pumped out of my system.
I open up my bag and pull out my shirt. I was in only my bra as Brandon nursed my wounds. He didn't do much, just threw ice on them. Bastard. I then take my phone out and call Brandon. I put it on speaker as I pull on my shoes.
"Hey Sexy." I can hear the wink in his voice, but I can also hear the pain he tries to cover up.
"What'd he do, Bran?" I pant out.
"I didn't know I made you breathless."
"Brandon." I warn. I finish tying up my shoes. I stand, throw my bag over my shoulder, and carry on walking. I take him off speaker. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. He just hit me and screamed that you're gonna give me a disease. Who knew he'd be right? Do you know if they've found a cure for love yet?"
I smile. "I think the only cure is to be loved back." I loved that Brandon could easily move past his father’s actions.
"Do you? Do you love me back Mags?"
"Of course, Bran."
"Good, 'cause I hit him back and declared my love for you again. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. But Mags, you should've seen his face. I socked him right in the eye. He left again. I don't know where he went, so you can come back over if you want."
I look around warily. "No, my mom will be wanting me home soon anyway." I cross the street. "Where'd he hit you?"
"Gut." He pauses. "You never told me how you got grounded."
I laugh. "After you trashed my room with yogurt last week, my mom came in. I didn't clean it up in time." I laugh again. "I told her you came all over my room. She didn't find it funny." Brandon starts laughing. "And then," I yell over his laughs, "when it was cleaned up, I told her it was yogurt, and she didn't believe me."
"You're such a dumbass, Mags."
I spot my brother, Jacob, washing his car. He wears his swimming trunks, probably to attract girls. And I'm the dumbass. "Gotta go, babe."
"Later Mags." I hang up and shove my phone in my pocket.
"Is Mom home?"
Jacob turns to me. "No, why?"
"Just curious." I shrug and walk through the garage and into the house. Jacob sprays the hose at me on my way in. I flick him off. When I shut the door, I can't help but wonder why he didn't comment on my bruise. I touch my face, flinching when I feel the pain. It didn't disappear.
I run down the hall to my room before Dad can find me. I lock my door and sort through my makeup drawer. I sit in front of my wall mirror to look at the damage done. The bruise is purple ringed with black filling the middle. Damn, Beth really got a good hit. I grab some of my makeup and start applying to cover it up.
In an hour, I don't even look like I've been hit. Everything is blended perfectly and it doesn't even look like I'm wearing any extra makeup, it just blends with what I normally wear.
I smile at myself. I consider myself pretty, which isn't a bad thing, most people need to believe that they're pretty, I think that way we'll stop tearing each other down. My hair is blonde and naturally wavy and my eyes are blue. Like Brandon, I also have dark lines under my eyes. Sometimes we stay up all night to talk. We never catch up to our sleep.
Someone lightly knocks on my door before opening it. Jacob looks in at me. "Mom wants your phone."
"Then I'll give it to mom."
"Maggie, you know the rules." I sigh. I pull my phone from my pocket and open it up. I set a passcode to it and hand it over.
Jacob smirks at me and takes my phone. He runs his hand through his brown, wet hair. Jacob is in college and plays on the soccer team there. He's off for Presidents' Day weekend. I just can't wait for him to go back. It's not that he and I don't get along, we do, but he puts pressure on our dad about getting a job and he's just not cut out for it.
"How'd you get grounded anyway? Mom won't tell me." I smile.
"You wouldn't find it funny." Just like an older brother would be, he's protective of me. He likes Brandon, but only when I'm not around.
"Is it something to do with Brandon?"
"Yeah." I laugh, thinking of Mom's face. "He was over and spilt yogurt on the floor. When Mom came in later when I was scrubbing it, it told her it was his cum."
Jacob scrunches his face up. "You're disgusting. Be a lady, damn Maggie."
I narrow my eyes. "Get the hell out of here then. Nobody asked for your opinion."
"You're seventeen Mags, act like it."
"You're one to talk. How was last night’s lay? Do you remember her name?" He sends me a glare before slamming my door shut.
I check my makeup in the mirror again. It looks perfect. I sigh. I'm going to have to get up an hour early to cover it all up again and also avoid Mom after I shower. Avoiding Dad would be easy. Ever since Grandma died, he's not been the same. He lost his job and that's why Mom had to go get one. She works all the time. I'm not really complaining much. She nags me more but I barely see her so I basically have free reign.
I get off the floor and decide to take a nap. There's no way I'll be doing homework in my free time. It's either sleep, eat, or browse the Internet. When I wake up later it's due to food wafting into my room.
"I was wondering when you were going to wake up." Mom comments when I appear in the kitchen.
"What’s for dinner?"
"Lasagna. It’ll be ready shortly. Get Jacob to set the table and corral your father in here." She smiles through the words but I know it pains her to have lost her husband without really losing him.
"If I do this will I be let off my punishment early?" I ask, hopeful.
She turns around and gives me a warning look. I back away with my hands poised. "Go get your brother and father."
I turn from the kitchen. "Jacob, set the table!" I scream down the hall at him. When I hear a response I walk to the living room to get Dad.
He sits in his recliner watching reruns of Gossip Girl. I doubt he even knows it's on. "Hey Dad?" I say softly. He doesn't shift or even grunt in acknowledgement. I'll never understand his relationship with his mother, but it must've been pretty damn close to put him in a lucid state for the rest of his days. It's only a matter of time before he drinks himself away.
I look at his hand, seeing the familiar brown bottle resting between his thumb and forefinger. I don't know how many he's had, but it worries me. What if he has an episode?
"Dad, dinner is almost ready." I reach his side. His sunken eyes don't look at me. Or maybe they do, but they're set so deep I can't see. His skin looks grey in the dimly lit living room. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he was dead. "We're having lasagna." I try again.
Dad, without warning, bolts from his chair and grabs my shoulders in a vice like grip. "HIDE FROM THE SUNS SHADOWS LIGHT!" He shakes me.
"Dad!" I try to grab his hands off my shoulders, but his bony fingers are too much for me. Even with all my training I can't get him off.
"DON'T KILL MAGGIE!"
"DAD!" I scream. An arm wraps around my stomach and I'm pulled away from Dad’s hands. Pain shoots up my sides, but my attention is elsewhere. Jacob drags me out of the room as Mom deals with Dad. I hear him muttering 'We must protect her' over and over again. Mom agrees just to shut him up.
By the time I'm locked up in the bathroom with Jacob, I have tears in my eyes, on my face, and dripping off my jaw and chin. My makeup is completely ruined. Jacob just wipes it all away. He moves gently around the bruise.
"How often does this happen?" I don't know if he refers to Dad’s episodes or me getting punched. Jacob has never been around when Dad’s had an episode. It started shortly after he left for college and he's not home enough to see Dad when he's been drinking.
"Does what happen?"
"Dad." A small part of me wishes he had meant the bruises. I wanted him to care, he's not shown much care in a while.
"It just happens when he drinks. And not even all the time." I wipe my nose on my arm.
"What did he even say?" Jacob’s bright eyes search mine. He's nothing like me. We look nothing alike. While he's tan, I'm pale. He has dark hair; I have light hair. He's nearly 6'7 while I'm merely 5'5. The only thing we have in common is our eyes.
"He said 'don't kill Maggie' and before that, 'hide from the Suns shadows light'. What is that about?"
"Don't kill Maggie? In what way was it said? Like a warning or a plea?"
I shrug. "It was hard to tell."
"And hide from the Suns shadows light?" I nod. Jacob looks off to the side as he tries to figure it out. I have no idea what it could mean, and frankly, I don't even care. It's just drunken gibberish.
"The moon reflects the Suns light. And it'd be bathed in shadow if it weren't for the sun."
"The moon?" I ask, incredulous.
Jacob nods looking at me with wide eyes. "The moon."