“Just say it,” you silently remind yourself. You know you’ll regret it if you don’t. Not talking will feel like self destruction and the countdown is speeding up. What other choice do you have?
You look around the dining room and at each person sitting at the long, rectangular table. Although you and the others are blanketed in silence, it still feels like everyone is saying something. Sandra and Peter, your parents, look uncomfortable being in such a quiet setting. Peter finds it soothing in a way though and you do not mind that. Sandra is a natural talker and her discomfort with the tension in the room is noticeable. Haley, your younger sister, looks bored. She is probably thinking about her classmate in fourth period trigonometry, the blonde baseball star. Your younger brother, TJ, appears to keep looking down at his lap and back up at his food. It is hard to believe that a teenage boy is not capable of being sneakier with his phone, especially because your parents never tolerate technology at the table. Tonight is different though, for whatever reason. It seems like something is off. Jennifer, your older sister, is too focused on eating her food to notice anything else. She is four months pregnant and it is clear that she is eating for herself and the baby. You cannot recall any time before her pregnancy that she had such a constant, ravenous hunger. Her boyfriend, James, is sitting next to her and mainly focusing on his food. Your twin sister, Lauren, is looking around the room and wondering why everything feels strange. Your suspicions are in sync with hers. The idea of twin telepathy is usually written off as a silly myth, but you and Lauren make the doubt questionable.
Looking at each person brings strange emotions. The last week was overwhelming and you learned a lot about everyone close to you. Everything is not what you thought it was. Growing up in the Thorman household was never easy. With so many others in the family, you felt like you never fit in. You and your twin sister never meant to be competitive, but life just ended up that way. While you are waiting for your final exam results and wondering where your new Bachelor's degree will take you in life, Lauren is planning how to get into medical school. TJ’s first year of high school brought him an academic awakening that paired well with his natural athletic abilities. Haley has always been the favorite and you know by now that that will never change. You and your other siblings cannot think of a particular reason as to why your parents think higher of Haley than anyone else, so that motivated you and your other siblings to try to be better than her. Jennifer’s teaching skills are admired and her life seems to always be perfect. She has a promising future and true love, for now. Throughout the years, you have tried your best to be the best at something. Nothing has ever worked for you. Competing with four others in the same household is a lot to take on and you lose what you need trying to win. You pretend that you do not mind it, but it bothers you. You would never admit that though. Weakness is not a welcome trait in the Thorman family. Recently, you have earned an advantage. Finally, you have the one-up for once. You have power over them and you are unsure if you have ever been close to the position you are in now. The need to say everything feels heavier than any other time this week and the time is right.
Just say it. Just say it. Just say it.
You clear your throat . It is now or never and you admit to yourself that it is time to speak up. “What if I said that I know something about each and everyone of you that you don’t know? What if I told you that it’s been one hell of a week and what if I told you that I learned a lot?” No one in the room seems to understand what you mean, so you decide to attempt to clarify. “Did a lot of soul searching, except it wasn’t for my soul and none of it benefited me. All of that searching was not for me, it was for you all. And really not just for you all, but for as many people as possible.”
“What the hell is going on? What are you talking about?” Lauren nervously laughs.
Haley mumbles, “Luke, you are scaring me.”
“Yeah, you’re scaring me too.” Your mother rolls her eyes, but you can tell that her sarcasm is not genuine. “Just tell us what you’re talking about.”
Just say it. Just say it. Just say it.
You think for a few seconds about how to handle the situation and you ponder what to say. After your mind has decided, you declare, “Let’s take turns. Who wants to know what I mean first?” Jennifer moves her hands off her stomach and slowly raises her right hand. You take a deep breath and make a confession. You have done nothing wrong, but being silent for a day feels like you are against her. “Jennifer, you think you and James have a nice future together, right?” She nods her head and you can hear her gulp. You look down at your plate and the unfinished meal laying on it. Revealing the first piece of information will be the most anxiety inducing. The only option is to tell her what you know. It may break her, but she needs to know the truth. Knowing the truth is more important than anything else. “Well, James here isn’t who he says he is. In fact, he might be someone completely different.”
Jennifer shakes her legs and the table seems to vibrate from the commotion under it. She hisses, “Whatever it is you want to tell me, you just say it. Have some courage and say it. I mean, this could be about anything.” She grabs James’s hand and smiles at him.
James appears to be nervous. Under his breath, he mutters, “Just say it, you rat.”
You take a deep breath, point at James, and make your first declaration. “James is married with two kids and another baby on the way with his wife.”
Jennifer gasps. She stands up and stutters, “James, is this true?”
James throws his napkin at you and shouts, “You little piece of crap! How did you find this out?”
You calmly whisper, “I have my ways. I found out a lot this week.”
You rub your forehead and feel devastated for your sister. Her excitement and anticipation regarding the baby and her future with James was always very apparent. She storms out of the dining room and James runs after her, but not before he slaps your forehead. James is as thin a strand of spaghetti, but his hit was forceful. The wind is knocked out of you and you wince. Now it is just you, your parents, and three of your siblings. Two down, a few more to go. Everything on your mind is still there and every word sitting on your tongue refuses to be swallowed. The truth matters more to you than keeping information hidden to make others comfortable. One by one, the rest of your family members in the room will leave. They will probably alienate you for a while as well. Oh well, that is a guarantee and you have accepted that.
TJ says, “I hope you know you deserved that.”
“I know I do. But someday, she’ll thank me. It’s better this way than any other way.” You glance at your surroundings before your eyes stop to gaze at TJ. “Here’s another juicy discovery for you all. Sweet little TJ here isn’t who he seems either.”
TJ laughs and rudely retorts, “You don’t know a thing about me, big brother. Not a single thing.”
“Actually, you’re wrong. I know a lot more than you think.”
“Like what?” He turns pale after his brief question.
You sit quietly for a few seconds before blurting out your reply. “I know that you are not a star student and I know that you are a bully at school. Your stellar grades didn’t come out of nowhere. You are a liar and a bully. TJ, you literally harass your smarter classmates into giving you answers and doing homework for you.” Bullies ruined some of your years at school and you decided that you would not tolerate that from anyone. “And I don’t blame them, because you have been a cruel person, TJ. You should take a long look in the mirror and think about how bad of a person you are becoming. Let it sink in how alone you’ll be in the future, because being yourself won’t get you anywhere.”
Everyone’s jaws drop. TJ runs out of the room and you are certain that he called you some cruel names under his breath. Haley stares right at you and asks, “What do you know about me that I don’t? Just get to it already. The suspense is killing me.”
You think of how to say what you need to say. Out of all the information you have, your news for Haley has the least to do with her own life. What you do know, however, will shock her and hundreds of other people. Her opinion of someone she admires will drastically change. There is no doubt about that. “Your blonde baseball bombshell, Jason Erikson, isn’t who he seems. A lot of people have wondered about his out of this world talent in sports, but what I found out makes sense. People have called him a future MLB player and honestly, I never doubted that he was something special. The special boy’s got a special secret and I bet he has got more to him than that.” You pause and the room is full of suspense. As weird as it sounds, you are loving it. You have never felt worthy of being noticed and now you have captured your family’s attention. Just say it. “He is reliant on steroids. Drugs are what make him extraordinary. Isn’t that pathetic? What a little coward!” You laugh, but no one else does. For some sickening reason, you are loving every moment of this. “I don’t know why any sixteen year old boy would take steroids, especially for a measly high school sport, but I guess he is willing to do anything to be on top. I told his coach about it and when I did, he wasn’t surprised. Apparently, Coach Card was the one supplying it to him. Those two are both in major trouble now. I’m just glad that this hasn’t gotten out to the world yet. Your school would really be screwed, Haley. I hope that doesn’t happen though. The perfect, little Haley has to have everything perfect, so this would be a huge loss for you.”
“What the hell!” Haley screams, which is not surprising. All of this is twisted, but more thrilling. She runs out of the room, crying and upset. Her reaction is astonishing, because you expected it to be worse. You ask yourself who is next.
Jennifer, check. James, check. TJ, check. Haley, check. Mom, dad, and your twin are left. Just say it, don’t be a coward. Don’t live with regrets.
Your father seems the most nervous. Throughout your life, he has treated you the worst. For some reason, you have never been enough for him. No matter how hard you try, he is never satisfied. “Dad, I know something that you don’t think any of us know about. I wonder if you are interested or not?”
If looks could kill, your dad’s would end you. His expression would set you on fire and make you melt. “Say it.” His voice cracks as he speaks.
“Cherry called earlier when you were all gone.” You have never felt this evil, but you also feel more alive than ever. “I mean, mom, you remember Cherry. She’s the one from dad’s work. The one he kissed a few months ago.” Cherry almost split up your family and yes, you resent her for that, but you are on a roll. “She said that she wants to talk to you about something and she mentioned going to the Italian restaurant across the street from your office building. Maybe you should get back to her soon, it would be a shame if mom answered next time.”
Next, your father is leaving. Check. As he walks out of the room, he does not say a word. Frankly, his reaction surprises you. Words of his have hurt you many times in your life and you cannot remember any time that you have hurt him back.
Lauren and your mother are the last two in the dining room. What you know about your mother is perhaps the worst of your knowledge, so you decide to talk to your twin first. “Lauren, we are twins and have been close since the day we were born. Out of everyone here, you are the one I would want to upset last. Luckily for you and me, yours isn’t such a big deal, or at least in my opinion it isn’t anything to worry about. It’s only that Sophia, your best friend, is going to another university to get away from the past. She’ll get her Master’s degree in the next town over. Don’t worry though, she’ll still be living in town. Both of you could probably hang out together pretty regularly. You have nothing to worry about.”
Lauren sighs a sigh of relief. Her face tells you everything that you need to know. She stands up and says, “I think I’ll take a walk now. I need some air.”
“Go for it.” You say. You sigh as well, because you’re glad she was not as angry as she could have been. When she is long gone, you decide to end the uncomfortable silence shared by you and your mother. “Mom, mom, mom. How could you hide what you’re hiding from us? You don’t have to be ashamed.”
She does not look at you when she states, “I have no idea what you are talking about. I mean that, Lucas. Absolutely no idea.”
You clear your throat and reply, “You don’t? Dr. William Aarons told me everything. His news was so important that he called personally.”
“I still have no idea what you mean.” She refuses to admit that she is ill again. Although you do not know the magnitude of her sickness, you are scared and wish she would be honest with you. Denial is her coping skill. Acting as if nothing negative is happening in her life is how she keeps going. Imperfections wound her.
“Mom, you don’t have to hide. You don’t have to hide from us or the truth or this illness. Hiding from everything will not solve the problem. It’s okay to not be okay.” You reassure her with the most cliche line of all cliches. You cannot bear to look at her. She has enough to deal with and you sympathize with her. Knowing that you are the only one who knows her secret feels like a huge responsibility. You want to reveal it to your family and tell the truth, but you also do not want to make your mother’s life more difficult than it already is. Respecting her wishes feels more important. “Why aren’t you able to be honest with us? And more importantly, why can’t you be more honest with yourself? You should be more open and that way we can all help you and be there for you. I mean, if I were you, then I’d--”
It is very apparent that your mother cannot deal with what you are saying. Will she explode? Who knows. She is a very unpredictable person, one of the most unpredictable people you know. She raises her voice as she interrupts, “Lucas Patrick Thorman, what have you done?” Your mother looks at you with a very disapproving face. You shrug and feel immense guilt, but you know you did what was right. Sure, you made it more twisted and humiliating for everyone than it could have been, but you are satisfied with your decision.
“Mom, I can’t live with any regrets. Life is too short for wishing I had done stuff differently. I’m not a liar anymore.” Everyone has left to clean up the messes you made, but that is their problem now. You smirk and whisper, “I did what I needed to do.”