Walking through the front door of my flat on Friday morning, I threw my car keys down onto the side table, and slumped against the door. It was good to be home, last night’s night shift had been long and tiring. A three am call out to a storefront fire had been a nightmare to extinguish thanks to the owner’s rather large stock of alcohol and lighter fluid. We’d all barely made it back before Blue Watch began their shift. I kicked off my boots, and had just stepped back when there was a knock on the door behind me. I groaned, my eyes fixed ahead already mentally searching the fridge for food, my brain contemplating ignoring the door.
“I know you’re in there Bane.” A familiar, female voice called from the other side.
Rolling my eyes, I turned, reached out and unlatched the door, coming face to face with my sister, Marya.
“You realise that I’ve been home for about twenty seconds, right?” I said irritably.
“Well I guess that explains why you’re covered in soot, and absolutely stink.” She bit back, strolling past me.
“Yup, come on in.” I called after her, swinging the door closed and following her inside, “Always a pleasure.”
I joined her in the kitchen, the daylight streaming in through the window, bathing the modern fixtures, laminate, wooden flooring and cappuccino coloured walls in white light. She strolled to the table and threw her handbag on top, then proceeded to the fridge, pulling out a couple of bottled smoothies, and tossing one through the air to me.
“So what’s up?” I asked, catching it and unscrewing the cap.
“I just needed to get away for a bit.” She shrugged, dropping into a chair and sipping her smoothie.
I nodded my head, not believing a word of her lame excuse. I knew what this was about.
“What’s he done this time?” I asked, rounding the table and walking towards the kitchen counter.
I stood the smoothie on the marble counter and reopened the fridge, searching through the contents for something I fancied eating.
“What makes you think that he’s done anything?” She asked innocently.
I pulled a pack of chicken breasts and some salad ingredients off the shelf then placed them onto the counter, before turning back to my sister, immediately feeling my annoyance beginning to subside. She was only two years younger than me, yet she had the appearance of someone in their early twenties, with her unbelievably innocent face, cute dimples, and rich brown, harmless puppy dog eyes. She wore a pretty, baby blue sundress, with gold, gladiator sandals that wound up her legs, with her long, chestnut brown hair flowing in waves down to her waist, the sides pulled back and clipped in place, leaving two strands framing her soft features. I was never able to stay angry with her for long, she was precious to me, and I’d always been protective over her, even when she was being a pain in the ass, or making stupid decisions. She was only one when our mother walked out on us, leaving my dad to raise two young kids all by himself. It made me and my father overprotective, but I still think that Marya had us wrapped around her little finger at the end of the day.
“Perhaps the fact that you’re invading my home mere seconds after I got back from work, and it’s not my birthday for another ten months.”
She sighed, her eyes rolling skywards with attitude.
“Fine.” She snarled, dropping into a chair. “Ced is being distant again, I can’t think why.” Her pitch rose with emphasis on the last three words, clearly trying, and failing, to disguise the pain that it was causing her, as she spun away from me in her seat and buried her head in her hands.
Ced was Cedric Seaton, Marya’s boyfriend of the last two years, and a huge prick. He worked at the same company as her, where Marya was a personal assistant to the CEO, and Cedric was in the finance department. They met at a work function and became involved shortly afterwards, but I hated the way that he treated her, since being together, he’d skipped out on their date nights, abandoned her, on numerous occasions, when he was supposed to meet, and she even saw him kiss another girl three months into their disastrous relationship. I’d encouraged her multiple times to dump the asshole, but he was smoothe, always buying her back with excuses and romantic gestures, gifts, flowers, dinners and minibreaks. It had all got a bit messy the last time I saw him, she brought him to a family dinner, and upon acting like an ass in front of me, I promptly decked him with a swift punch to the jaw. It caused an argument when she then stood up for him and left early, leading to a week of me pleading with her to talk to me again, and agreeing to keep myself out of their relationship.
“Mari, come on,” I said gently, abandoning the food ingredients and joining her at the table. “You know why he’s distant.”
“Bane, please.” She said sadly, peering up at me through her long lashes, her eyes beginning to glisten with brimming tears. “I don’t want to think the worst of him.”
“It’s not thinking the worst of him, it’s being realistic. The guy cheated on you already, I can’t see why you’re still putting up with him.”
I could feel my irritation building at the sadness in my sister’s eyes, I hated that I couldn’t do anything to protect her from this shit she was going through with him. But at the same time, I was infuriated by her lack of common sense and desire to stand up for herself.
“It was just a kiss, he didn’t sleep with her.” She argued back, sitting upright and snapping at me.
“Yeah, maybe not that time.”
I heard her sharp intake of breath and regretted the words as soon as I’d said them. She jumped to her feet, pulling her bag back onto her shoulder.
“I can’t believe you said that. I love him!” She half sobbed, half shouted, flicking her hair over her shoulder. “You’re my big brother, and all I wanted was you to listen to me. To give me a hug and tell me it’s all going to be okay, and that he’ll-”
I got up and scooped her into my arms, pulling her in close and holding her tight against me, cutting her off mid sentence and hushing her softly.
“It’s all going to be okay, I promise.” I whispered to her, brushing my fingers over her soft hair, and catching the sweet smell of mango that I assumed was from her shampoo. “Care to give me the next line of my speech?” I whispered teasingly in her ear.
“Oh my god, you’re such an ass!” She moaned, pulling away and swatting at me half heartedly.
I laughed at her harmless flailing, each blow that she managed to land, feeling more like a passing hit from a small cushion. Refusing to let her go, I pulled her back to me and hugged her again.
“You know I love you Mari, I’m sorry.” I said sincerely, giving her a small squeeze.
“I love you too Bro, and that’s why I feel like I can tell you something,” She pulled back enough to look up at me, a sweet smile on her face, “You really stink.”
“Okay, that’s it,” I sighed letting my arms fall to my sides, releasing her and stepping back, “Get out.”
“Fine.” She laughed, reaching up on her tiptoes to give me a fleeting kiss on the cheek as she went to leave the kitchen.
She turned at the door and reached into her bag for her car keys.
“Please, don’t let him treat you like crap. You deserve so much better than him.”
I saw the slight flush of colour that rushed to her cheeks, tinting them a faint rosey pink. A happy smile spread across her face and her dimples were in full force as she nodded, thanked me and then left.
It wasn’t a done deal on the issue, but the lack of a snappy response, was at least a step in the right direction.
I spent the majority of the rest of the day on the sofa. Relaxing in my favourite black hoodie and shorts, comfortably catching up on the football game that I’d recorded whilst I was on shift. I took a drink from my beer, swearing as one of the players, floored another one and got away with a yellow card. The beer bottle had barely touched against the table top, when the doorbell rang.
“Oh for fuck’s sake.” I groaned, looking towards the door.
Picking up my remote, I pressed pause on the tv, the image freezing just as the ball sailed through the air.
Reaching the door, I peered through the peephole, before pulling it open.
“Hey man.” I nodded to Dodger, beginning to walk back to the living room.
“You don’t look ready.” Dodger said, following me inside.
“I don’t need to be ready yet, there’s plenty of time.” I replied, dropping back down on the sofa, and unpausing the tv.
“Course you need to be ready,” He exclaimed, standing in front of me so that I had to lean around him to see the tv, gesturing at himself to emphasise his outfit, black jeans, a v-neck, charcoal grey t-shirt, and leather jacket. “We have half an hour until they open, go get dressed.”
“Dodge, lemme finish watching the game.”
He snatched the remote from my hands, pointing it at the tv and switching it off.
“Man U won, two nil… now will you get dressed?” He smirked in victory, tossing the remote onto the sofa.
I shook my head in resignation, and slowly pushed myself up to my feet. Standing toe to toe with Dodger, the few inches height difference, emphasised by the close quarters, making it seem like I towered over him.
“Fine. I’ll be back in a minute.”
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to tonight, given the past history of Dodger’s Watch night’s out. They usually ended in disaster, but tonight, I just hoped that it wouldn’t be the case.