Elder Brother in the Corner
After another awfully draining day in the office, Lesly was more than ready to just go back home, throw herself on the couch in Michaela’s living room and sleep for as long as her mind allowed her to. She did not want to go out, grab a drink or engage in whatever activity Michaela felt she needed. The only sort of activity she was willing to engage in is slipping into something comfortable, pouring herself a cool drink and watching something on TV until sleep consumed her. She was totally not prepared for what awaited her back home.
When Lesly finally arrived at the apartment, she could hear the muffled voice of Michaela talking to someone. Assuming that it was a phone call, Lesly fished her keys out of her purse to open the door. Before she got it in, however, she heard another distinctly masculine voice talking to her friend. This made Lesly feel anxious about the prospect of having to socialize for a bit more before she could finally get the rest she so desperately needed. Michaela was adamant about taking Lesly out. She had not been able to stop nagging her about it for the last couple of days. Perhaps bringing some company back home was her way of bringing the outside world to her rather than take her out, and this did not sit well with Lesly at all.
Feeling defeated, Lesly opened the door and walked in slowly. She did not expect the sight that greeted her. Standing by the counter right in front of her was none other than Robert, one of Michaela’s older brothers and the one she considered closest to her.
“Robbie!” She squealed with delight before rushing towards him and taking him in for a tight hug. He was just as excited to see her since he almost crushed her tiny frame to him and lifted her off the floor.
“You finally made it back, Scout. Mike and I were getting bored waiting for you.”
She wiggled out of his bear hug and gave Michaela a questioning look, “She didn’t tell me you were coming!”
“He wanted it to be a surprise,” Michaela explained.
Lesly directed her attention back at Robbie, “How have you been? The last time I saw you was at your wedding.”
“Fine, can’t complain. Sherry sends her regards.”
“Still putting up with you, I suppose?”
“Barely…,” Robbie chuckled. “I can’t say how ecstatic she was that I was finally paying you two a visit and giving her some alone time. I should be offended, but...”
A loud crashing sound suddenly interrupted the conversation. All three parties fell silent as they tried to discern the source of the sound. It was soon followed by a guy yelling something to somebody else about being careful. Robbie arched an eyebrow. Michaela winced after hearing another crashing sound, “There goes another vase I suppose.”
“Another what?” Robbie asked.
“The guy next door is moving out. He’s a bit of cheapskate, so I assume he hired the cheapest movers out there. They’ve been breaking things all day long.”
Robbie knew whom she was talking about. His sister had always complained about her obnoxious neighbor who always took issue with the tiniest little sound that came from her apartment.
“So the asshole is finally leaving you alone?” he asked.
“I know. It’s a cause for celebration, don’t you think?”
“Don’t jinx it,” Lesly laughed.
Michaela shrugged, “To be fair to him, the walls are paper-thin around here, so thin that I’m actually familiar with his bowel movement schedule. I just don’t make as big of a deal about it as he does.”
Robbie wrinkled his nose in disgust and then looked at Lesly, “Have you considered moving into this building? It would certainly put my mind at ease to know that you two are keeping an eye on one another.”
“I did. Michaela talked to the super for me, but we haven’t heard back from him yet. To him it’s vital to go through a careful screening process seeing how most of the people who live here work at the hospital and are in desperate need for some peace and quiet when they’re done with their shifts.”
“But you’re as quiet as a mouse,” Robbie pointed out.
“He doesn’t know that. Michaela has been talking his ears off for me.”
“That’s because she’s been nagging me nonstop,” Michaela added with a grimace jokingly.
Lesly’s phone began ringing. Robbie grabbed a beer bottle from the counter, opened it and handed it to Lesly. Then he grabbed his bottle and took a few sips as he waited for Lesly to deal with the call.
When she was done, he asked her a question she hoped he would not bring up. “By the way, why did you leave your old place?”
She did not want to worry him by telling him what happened, so she chose an evasive answer, “Long story short, the situation had gotten so bad that it became impossible to live there.”
Robbie looked at Michaela for more details, but she was drawn away from the living by the ringing of her phone. Desperate to keep him from probing the matter further, Lesly motioned towards the couch and asked him to take a seat until she slipped into something comfortable. Then she disappeared into the bedroom. She came back moments later wearing yoga pants and a tank top and slumped down on a chair with the beer bottle in her hand.
“So scout, I hear you’re still stuck in that same old job,” Robbie commented.
“It’s not as bad as you think.”
“It’s sucking you dry,” he observed with a grimace. “For God’s sake woman, I didn’t think it was possible for you to lose more weight since the last time I saw you, but here you are, proving me wrong, as usual.”
“I’m fine, Robbie.”
“Do you even have time for a social life?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Lesly replied.
“Yes, I’m sitting here with you, aren’t I?”
“You look like you’re about to pass out any second,” Robbie observed with a hint of worry.
“Again, I’m fine. You can go grill your little sister now. She’s a workaholic too.”
“I already did, before you got here.”
“She told me to go to hell,” Robbie chuckled.
“You’ve got only yourself to blame for that.”
“Like I have a choice! Someone has to check on you two from time to time, and since I’m the only one who can put up with you two, those other hooligans came to rely a bit too much on me.”
Lesly laughed, “I’d still say it’s your fault for allowing them to use you like that. Next time they send you over, tell them to come up here and check on us themselves. They don’t even call as much anymore.”
“That’s because Michaela asks too many questions and you’re a closed book. They think it’s easier to just send me over from time to time to see how you two are doing.”
“Is this the only reason you’re here? To report back to the gang?” Lesly asked after taking a sip of her drink.
“No, I’ve got a potential client to meet in the morning. I’m gonna crash here tonight, get my appointment sorted, and then have lunch with you girls before I head back home.”
“Splendid! I’ll clear my schedule,” The dark-haired woman beamed before she grabbed her phone.
“Great, I didn’t think you’d do that for me.”
“Please, I’d do anything for you,” Lesly maintained as she continued to tap on her phone. “I’m not the antisocial nutcase you think I am.”
“Does that mean you’ve finally decided to see someone?”
“Why?” Lesly paused and looked at him suspiciously, “Do you wanna set me up?”
“Maybe,” he shrugged.
“Careful Robbie, you’re beginning to sound like an overconcerned mother hen.”
He chuckled, “Actually, a friend of Sherry’s met you at the wedding and asked about you. He wants to know if you’re still single. Appearently, you made quite an impression on him. I promised her I’d ask.”
Lesly was confused, “I don’t remember meeting anyone new that day. I spent most of the time with the gang!”
“Poor bastard…not even remembered,” Robbie muttered before he took a sip of his drink.
Lesly laughed, “They got me drunk! They knew I have low tolerance for alcohol, and yet they kept on pouring me one drink after another.”
Robbie gave her a devious look, “That explains why the poor guy was quite taken with you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“You tend to get a bit too friendly when you’re drunk if you know what I mean.”
“I do not!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, you do. I have the wedding video to prove it. Like it or not, the drunk you is not as much of a tight ass as the sober you,” the man chuckled.
“Is that why you guys try to get me drunk whenever I’m back home for a visit?” Lesly asked suspiciously.
Robbie could not help but laugh at the look she gave him, “The gang finds it hilarious, myself included, and since Michaela is always around whenever you come for a visit, we know you’d be in good hands the next day.”
“I had one hell of a hangover the day after the wedding. Michaela didn’t help much because she was just as wasted and miserable,” Lesly complained.
“What can I say, Scout. You’re part of the gang, so you gotta pay the price.”
Lesly giggled. “What’s the guy’s name? Maybe it can jolt my memory.”
She rolled her eyes, “Good God, not another Jake.”
“What?” Robbie asked in confusion. “I met him. He seemed like a decent guy.”
“She’s talking about a different Jake,” Michaela announced as she came out of her room, “and no, she’s not single.”
Robbie looked at Lesly and found a not-so-amused look on her face. This made him curious. “So you are seeing someone?”
Lesly’s tone became serious in an instant. “It’s complicated.”
Once more, Michaela was more than happy to volunteer an answer to her brother’s question. “Appearently she can’t decide whether it’s a break or break up.”
“What happened?” Robbie asked Lesly who was now giving Michaela a sharp look.
“Something must’ve happened. He didn’t cheat on you, did he?”
The two women said nothing. Lesly kept her attention focused on the bottle in her hand with a serious expression on her face, and Michaela was waiting for her friend to define the nature of her problem with guy.
Robbie took their silence as a confirmation to his initial conclusion. This made him furious. “I’ll break his face.”
Michaela started laughing instantly. Her laughter rose in intensity when Robbie narrowed his eyes at her, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Oh Robbie, I’d like to see you try to break his face.”
“You don’t think I can?”
“You could drop dead before you even lay a finger on him.”
“What is she going on about?” Robbie asked Lesly in confusion as he pointed at his sister who was still laughing hysterically.
Contrary to her friend, the dark-haired woman was alarmed. She immediately tried to talk him out of whatever he intended to do, “Robbie, I beg you. Stay away from him. I mean it!”
“He’s…. unpredictable,” Lesly maintained evasively.
Robbie was still furious and concerned. His voice was loud as he addressed the woman he held as dear as his little sister, “What kind of a nutjob have you been dating?”
“He’s not a nutjob. I assure you,” Lesly tried to reason, “He’s just…not who I thought he was.”
“So what did he do?” Robbie asked in a tone that demanded an immediate answer.
“Nothing. Robbie. You need to stop worrying.”
When Robbie didn’t get a satisfactory answer from Lesly, he silently directed his attention to his sister who was wiping the tears she shed after laughing so hard. She immediately took the hint and gave him exactly what he wanted, all while keeping her gaze fixed on her friend. “Jake broke her heart. Jake lied about a lot of things. Jake betrayed her trust. Basically, we hate Jake, don’t we?”
“Michaela…,” Lesly warned.
“Okay, so we don’t hate Jake. How do we feel about Jake then?”
“Michaela, drop it!”
Robbie looked at Lesly, then at Michaela, then at Lesly again before he realized he was caught in the middle of a staring contest between the two. Well, staring would be an understatement considering that Lesly was glaring now.
“Who is this Jake?” He asked.
“A prosecutor she was dating for a while,” Michaela answered. Her gaze was still fixed on Lesly. “She was head over heels in love with him until one day she discovered that he has been hiding an awful secret from her. Long story short, she decided to leave the poor guy in limbo.”
“It seems that you’re on his side,” Lesly stated in a serious tone.
“I’m not,” the redhead said defensively. “God knows when I first found out what he did, I wanted to go all mad Robbie on him and rearrange his face. Still, I firmly believe that you’ve avoided this problem long enough.”
“For God’s sake what did the sick bastard do?” An annoyed and impatient Robbie asked.
Lesly did not answer the question. She continued to glare at Michaela who continued to talk to Lesly as if her brother hadn’t asked a question at all.
“You need to really think about what you’ve learned so far. How much of it bothered you, and why did it bother you? Then you need to sit with the poor guy and get everything straightened out. You can’t just form conclusions in your head and act on them without getting them sorted out first.”
“Are you done?” Lesly asked in a warning tone.
“Not quite. I think the real issue here is that you’re scared to hear the truth. You’re worried that if you listen to what he has to say, it would confirm whatever you’re afraid of. That’s why you’re trying to put this task off for as long as possible.”
Lesly continued to stare silently at Michaela with a sharp look in her eyes, but that did not deter the redhead from carrying on.
“I’ve seen him, Lesly. He’s miserable, and he’s worried sick about you.”
“Good. Can we stop talking about him now?” Lesly requested firmly.
Michaela was not ready to drop the topic, but when she opened her mouth to talk, the doorbell rang. The pizza delivery guy must have finally made it with the food they ordered. Lesly got up instantly and went to answer the door. Robbie must have noticed that his sister was about to pick up where they left off when Lesly came back with the pizza boxes, so he immediately held her arm and shook his head to get her to drop the matter altogether.
In an effort to diffuse the tension, the older brother tried to steer the conversation away from what was clearly a sore topic for Lesly. Eventually, the matter was forgotten, and they went back to chatting casually about their town and the family as they ate their food. When they were done, Michaela retired to her bedroom and asked Lesly to sleep with her and give up her couch for Robbie. Lesly complied and went inside to fetch Robbie a blanket. When she came back, she found that he was setting his alarm.
“Here you go,” Lesly spoke as she handed him the blanket.
“Anything else you need?”
Lesly whispered a goodnight and was about to leave when Robbie spoke to her.
“I’m sorry about what happened earlier. Mike can be a bit much to handle sometimes.”
Lesly smiled, “Do you see now what I have to put up with?”
Robbie smiled back, but it was obvious that he was still concerned, “To be fair to her, you tend to keep an awful lot to yourself.”
“We’re just worried. It would help if you could talk to us a bit more, let us know what’s bothering you.”
“My problem with Alec is not as serious as Michaela made you believe.”
Robbie narrowed his eyes at her in confusion, “Who’s Alec?”
Lesly let out a deep sigh, “I meant Jake.”
“Is there an Alec in the mix?”
“Of course not. What kind of a woman do you think I am?”
“Well, whoever he is and whatever the problem might be, just know that he is one lucky son of a bitch for having met someone like you.”
Lesly’s expression softened at hearing him say that. “You’re too kind.”
“I mean it. I don’t know the guy. I have no idea what kind of a person he is, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s that there isn’t anyone good enough for our little Scout.”
“Little Scout is not so little anymore. You don’t have to worry. I can look after myself.”
“I’m sure you can. Still, I’m here for you. We’re all here for you. You’ve always been like a little sister to us. We’d do anything for you.”
“I know,” she smiled before she took him in for a hug. “You should know, you’re not just Michaela’s favorite older brother. You’re my favorite, too.”
“Still as popular as ever,” he chuckled as he held her back.
“Don’t push it,” she warned him playfully.
“Well, good night, Scout.”
Special "thank you" to the amazing Farzana Begum for suggesting a title for this chapter <3