No one had done a thing to him. Not me, not the children, not even Anna. I had only come down the stairs, and then he seemed to have some kind of…breakdown. His shout at me had scared the children ( None of them having ever witnessed yelling like that before. ). Each of them cringed away in fear, and Anna being closest held them as they clung to her sides. It was this instant when I stepped forward and he brokenly surged backwards until he crashed onto his side on the couch that I realized the true extent of the damage that had been done.
He was rambling like a child would, expressing fears that I couldn’t possibly act upon. All of the needle-marks that littered his arms were even more prominent up close as I kicked off my high heels, and knelt beside him on the couch. “Shh…Gabriel—“ I shuddered at that use of his name—“I am not going to knock you out. I promise.” But he was already hyperventilating to the point where his entire face had flushed beet red, and without any encouragement he passed out.
I timidly reached out, and shook him, but he didn’t move. He had literally passed out from terror. I was horrified. I had dealt with every possible tantrum, and situation when it came to my children, but this was something I was wholly unprepared for.
Would I ever be able to fix this? To fix him? I stroked his hair soothingly as he laid there. He was like a rock; he didn’t budge an inch. The children were still terrified, and I turned back to Anna.
“I can’t leave him like this…” As much as I had been looking forward to getting out of the house I knew that my brother had to come first. He couldn’t be left alone and I wasn’t about to take him out in this state.
“No…I don’t think you can.” She agreed with me, the children still hugging her waist.
“Can you take the kids out? I want to try to find out what I am up against…and I can’t do that if I am worried about them.” I admitted.
“Of course. Anything. How about we go to Chuckie Cheese?!” She smiled at the kids, and they all started cheering. Everyone except Cooper whom was probably too tired to get much enjoyment out of a place like that. Whenever he had his treatments he was always extremely sick afterwards for the next day or so. Having just had his treatment yesterday, I knew he would be quite a bit out of it today.
After a bit of packing ( diapers for Hope, and snacks for the triplets ) Anna departed with the children, and I was left alone with my unconscious brother. Tugging my hair back into a ponytail I went upstairs to change out of my dress. Changing into a pair of pajama pants, and one of Eli’s old shirts.
I headed back downstairs, but Eli was still unconscious, his breathing light, as I moved to cover him with the knitted blanket draped over the back of the couch. I was sickened by what had been done to my brother, and with a bit of hesitation I finally decided to see the full extent of the damage for myself. Peeling his shirt up I stared over the pale skin of his belly. He hadn’t been out in the sunlight in quite a while, I could tell by the lack of tan-lines on his skin. He was pale as a ghost.
Next I looked both of his arms over, not only were there at least twenty—I counted—needle-marks on both of his arms, there were even some pricks in the crease of his arm—where they normally draw blood—and I felt sick to my stomach as I saw all the veins that were broken in both of his arms. Lowering his arm back down I sat back, leaning against the table as I began to work myself up again.
He was hurting, not just on the inside, but on the outside as well. He had severe bruises on his wrists, and even worse on his ankles as well as several more that littered random points all over his body. He had clearly been manhandled, and strapped down. God knows what else.
I don’t know how long I sat there staring at him, but when he finally opened his eyes I breathed a sigh of relief.
“El—Gabriel…” I breathed out the name I had never called him ( unless I was really angry ) in my life, stumbling over my own words as I tried to wrap my head around them.
He seemed frightened for a moment as though he didn’t know where he was, before he tested to see if his arms, and legs were free.
My stomach lurched.
“What did you do to me?” He croaked out.
I instantly shook my head, “I didn’t do anything. You passed out.”
He didn’t seem all that convinced, but he peered over his body, and once he was satisfied that he couldn’t find any evidence to the contrary he looked at me again. “Where is your friend…and your kids?”
“Anna took them. I wanted some time with just you.” I told him simply, “And they are our children, Gabriel. We created them together.”
He flinched at my words, his hands closing into fists, before loosening, “You mean I raped you to create them.” He determined.
Another stomach lurch.
“You never would have done that. I don’t know what they told you, or did to you, but you never once hurt me. Not like that.” I insisted.
“But I did hurt you.” He retorted, and I internally cursed my usage of words.
“No Eli. Never.” I slipped up on his name, and there was a noticeable irritation that ran through him.
“Why do you call me by that name?”
I stared back at him patiently, “I have called you by that name since I was a baby. I was the only one allowed to call you by it. Don’t you remember anything about me?” I finally asked mildly frustrated by the blank stare I received in return.
“Bits and pieces but nothing connects the way it should.” He admitted to me, before laying back on the couch, staring up at the ceiling.
It pained me to see him hurting the way that he was, and I couldn’t do anything to help him, because I didn’t know what to do. What was I meant to do? “I was in love with you, and you were in love with me.” I finally breathed out, “All of our children were created out of love. Not rape. I only said that they were because you told me to. You wanted me to have a life, to not have to go to prison for what we did.” I was practically pleading with my words for him to remember. “You gave up everything for me.”
“If you say so.”
I started nervously fiddling with the locket, it had become something of a habit whenever I was either lost in thought, or trying to figure out what to do next.
A few tears trekked down my cheeks, and I wiped them away, “I lost you for three years…If you tell me you want no part of me then I will leave you alone…But I am still your little sister. Don’t you feel anything for me at all?”
He stared at me for a long while, before turning his head back up at the ceiling. “Course I do.”
I stared down at my fingers, seeing the black smudges of eyeliner smeared on them, I hadn’t removed my make-up I must look a mess at this point, “Why don’t you remember things?” I finally gathered my courage and asked, dreading the answer.
“I just don’t.” A cold response, his eyes refusing to look into mine again.
I reached out, and grabbed his hand, it was cold, and within an instant his eyes flickered to me, and he jerked his hand back.
“Don’t.” he snapped at me, and sat upright. His fingers linking through his short strands of nearly black hair.
“Why do you think touch hurts? You used to love to hold me.”
“I just do. Things change.”
I already missed the old Eli, even as much as he used to keep things from me, and close up into a shell-like state when he wanted to protect me, he had never been this bad. This was worse than anything I had ever seen from him.
“Tell me what they did. Tell me what they said to you!” I demanded.
“Fine. You want to know?”
“Yes.” I said without hesitation.
“They strapped me to a table, and sent volts of electricity through my body until I couldn’t think straight! They kept me sedated, and if I didn’t do as they asked I was thrown in a padded room with a straight jacket confining my arms. So I am sorry if I don’t remember you, or whatever you think happened between us! But I have my own shit to deal with! I can’t comfort you, and make you feel better about what happened to me! Sometimes they pumped me so full of drugs I couldn’t remember my own fucking name! I need rest! Not whatever you are trying to do to me!”
I sat stunned, the tears that had already begun to trek down my cheeks continued, and I felt like I was going to be ill. “T-They gave you electro-shock therapy…?” I didn’t even think that was legal anymore. How could they do something like that to him? My handsome brother, bound to be an all-star basketball player someday? They had reduced him to nothing more than a broken man that couldn’t even function in society.
“Until I couldn’t remember anything.” He confirmed, “Not even you.”
Those words chilled me to the bone, and shattered what remained of the pieces of my heart. “Oh Eli…”I wiped my tears, and he didn’t say anything as I used his name.
“You are safe now. No one will hurt you here. What do you need? I will give it to you.” I promised him.
“Sleep. But not in that basement.” He insisted. I knew there was one other room I could put him in. The room that was meant to be a guest bedroom. But we had never actually set it up to be one. It was chocked full of things in storage—it was the reason Eli had given up his own room for the babies—and I was certain I could clear a spot for him, and inflate an air mattress.
“How about the guest bedroom?” I asked him, “I can put up an air mattress until we can carry your bed up the stairs?”
“Fine. I will help.” He offered, but I instantly shook my head.
“Rest for now. On the couch. You need it.”
He didn’t argue with me, instead he curled up on the couch, and closed his eyes. I stood, and wiped my eyes, before heading up the stairs. The truth was I needed something to clear my head, and I figured nothing could help me do that more than cleaning up. Opening the door to my bedroom I grabbed my phone from my bedside table, and plopped down on top of it.
I hated my smart phone. I swore sometimes it doesn’t even ring when someone is calling it. It’s nearly two years old, but I can’t be bothered to buy a new one. I had five texts. One from my cousin Taylor wishing me a Happy Birthday. Another from Juliana, whom had remained my friend through the years also wishing me a Happy Birthday. A few more of my co-workers, and last of all Walter.
I stared at the words on my screen silently, “Happy Birthday Christa. I hope it has been good so far.” The words were simple, but they made me smile because for those few seconds the weight had lifted from my chest. I felt like it was actually my birthday.
“Come over late tonight? After Shift? I need you.” I texted in response to Walter before tapping out generic ‘thank you’s’ to everyone else.
About an hour later I had cleared a vast amount of boxes from the doorway of the guest room, stacking them neatly in a corner. I cleared a pathway to the window, and opened it, airing out the stuffy room. I knew that if Eli was going to believe he wasn’t trapped it was best if he could at least get to the window to look out of it; breathe in the fresh air.
Having blown up the air mattress, and gathered Eli’s blankets, and pillow from the basement, I made his bed as expertly as I made my children’s. Heading back down the stairs I found him fidgeting in his sleep against the couch. A sweat had broken out on his forehead, and a few firm shakes had him springing up to attention, his eyes wild, and hair disheveled. I pulled my hands back.
“It’s made. Come on.” I didn’t have to tell him twice. Springing from the couch he followed me up the stairs. Once inside of the small guest room he peaked around. I stood in the doorway, merely watching him.
Running his fingers over several boxes he made his way straight to the window, peering out of it. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking about, but didn’t ask. Instead I motioned to the bed, “I hope this will be alright for now.” It was like talking to a stranger now, and I still wasn’t quite certain how to go about it.
Turning slightly his eyes met my own. “Thank you.”
At least his manners hadn’t been affected, “It was no problem. I would do anything for you.” I reassured him.
Moving from his place near the window he settled down on the air mattress, whimpering softly in what I assumed was relief. Though I wanted to make certain. “You okay?”
“I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t on something hard. This is nice.” He commented, staring over at me.
I had returned to absently fiddling with my locket, “Glad to have helped a bit. We don’t need you in any further pain.” I admitted.
He gave another nod, and was already beginning to close his eyes to sleep, so I left him to it. Slowly heading into my bedroom to take a nap of my own. It had been a while since I had been able to have one with all the stress, and constant on-the-go behavior I had established for the children. I was still worried for Eli but there was nothing I could do for him right now. He wouldn’t talk, and things were worse than I could have imagined they were. Even through all the worry raging in my mind, I found that it was peaceful for once in the house. It didn’t take long before I slipped into unconsciousness.