Besides the occasional animal or car, the night was peaceful as I trudged through the neglected neighbourhood. Shuffling through my key ring, I let myself inside the dilapidated little house.
Once over the threshold, I paused as my eyes became accustomed to the darkness. Specks of light filtered in from street lights, allowing the ability to not wander like a blind man. Snuffling snores reverberated around the living room, and I grimaced at the familiar sight.
Dad was passed out drunk, with cheap beer cans littering the splotchy carpet around the couch. Treading softly around the slobbering lump, I quietly unlocked the door for mine and Tj’s shared room, locking it behind me. Dad seemed like he was out for the night, but I didn’t want to take any chances. No precaution was too extreme when it came to protecting Tj.
I went to work at the cafe during the day, the club at night, and scrimped and saved every penny to make sure Tj wouldn’t have to. If it had only been me, I would have left a long time ago, but right now the ability to have a roof over our heads circumvents the instability of running off in the night.
Quietly crossing the space in two steps, I took out the pocket knife grandfather had gifted me, and tore out the loose baseboard behind the clothes hamper. Digging the tips out of my jacket pocket, I stuffed the bills inside the dusty jar, before once again sealing the section and hiding it from plain sight.
Standing up, I stretched my back until a satisfying pop sounded, and took stock of the little, albeit tidy, room.
The snores were muffled now, but that didn’t matter. All I had eyes for was the small rise and fall of the quilt on the small body on the bed. Setting the decrepit bag by the door, I took the two steps needed to reach the single bed. While smiling softly at the ten year old, I felt a bone deep weariness begin to settle in.
Not bothering to take off anything other than the jacket, I squeezed myself onto the bed, throwing my half of the quilt over my body. At least the extra layers would help keep me warm tonight. The little body beside my 6’2 frame wriggled towards my warmth, settling against my side. I brushed a golden lock so unlike my own away from my half-brother’s peaceful face.
Dad hated that I looked not a whit like him. Where dad’s colouring was, at least was before the alcohol and years took their toll, all sunshine and outdoors. Hair the colour of melted gold, skin bronzed by hours out in the sun, eyes like the waves off the coast of Hawaii, Tj all got from him. He was almost a little mini-me of dad. Except in temperament and judgement, and basically anything else. Only the looks they shared.
And I resembled...somebody. Women come and go from our lives the same as mail comes and goes from the post office. I assume I must look like my mom, but dad never brought up anything about her, and in eighteen years of life, I still knew nothing about the woman who gave birth to and left me.
A fond little chuckle escaped me as I thought of how Tj often compared my eyes to chocolate bars he’d receive on Halloween, and would muss up the red tinged strands when I wasn’t looking and was within reach of his grabby hands. Pillowing my hands behind my head, I stared up at the ceiling shrouded in darkness as my mind swirled from one thought to the next. As it often did late at night in the silence.
I wasn’t a twig or anything, and I would say I'm in pretty good shape—at least the handsy club patrons tonight thought so. But I knew I had a bigger ass than most guys, and less of a hunky man look, more of a feminine grace. I may be muscled, but it was more of a subtle muscle build. But I was still a decently endowed guy, none of my ex boyfriends had complained. I chuckled at the thought
I would run in the park and do other exercises on my days off to keep up my appearance. The job at the club depended on that.
Stifling a yawn, I sunk deeper underneath the quilt and let my eyes drift shut. The shit storm that was my life would still be there in the morning, but for right now, my dreams could pretend differently.