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Drama Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

Something feels off as I step into my living room. I don't see, but sense that Nicole is here. The lavender fragrance usually present is tinted with the vanilla shimmer lotion she wears. Underneath that is a subtle dusting of sandalwood. That's Alan. I'd never allow another man into my home. 

I'm surprised they both agreed to come. I expected them to have big plans for New Year's Eve, but I surmise they planned on having quiet nights like me.

The combined aroma has a warm feeling spreading through me. It feels like happiness. Like laughing so hard, your drink comes out your nose, followed by a burning sensation.

I hear the lyrical cadence of Nicole's voice. "You think you're so hot, but on the inside, you're the type of ugly that photoshop can't fix." To someone who doesn't know her, hearing that phrase in her angelic tone, followed by lighthearted laughter, would seem like she's joking. But Alan and I know better. 

Knowing they are already trading criticisms sets me on edge. I may be on my second drink but the alcohol will be working overtime to relax me.

Alan's only twenty minutes late tonight, we might actually come to an agreement before midnight, which has my burgeoning headache easing a bit. 

 Regardless of how smooth and easygoing my sister acts towards my brother, I wince at her words. Even though they're directed at our brother, I still feel them, and they sting.

That's one of my catch-22 character traits. I've always been empathetic, sometimes to my detriment. Such as in this situation, all of my adult life, I've traveled and lived away from family, which meant I didn't get sucked into the drama of this feud. Now that I'm back home, I've made it my mission to bring our family back together.

Nicole and Alan used to be two peas in a pod, and I was so jealous of their connection. Still, things turned sour ten years ago when they both got engaged the same year. By itself, that wouldn't have been an issue. However, heads rolled when they were married within a month of each other, the same year. Alan accused Nicole of trying to steal his spotlight, forcing the family to choose which wedding they would attend. Like they couldn't participate in both?

I devised this excellent idea to add a late resolution for the year. Get my siblings back together, or at least on speaking terms. So why not add such a burdensome task in September? Great idea.

Their reconciliation would be a gift to Mom in a way. But unfortunately, seeing them fight like this has slowly broken her over the years, and witnessing her gradually lose her smile has started to weigh on me.

 I can't stomach that two of her children behave like savages towards each other, no longer family but like enemies. With all the sacrifices she endured to make ends meet growing up, they should be on their knees thanking her.

We didn't have it easy, but we never felt neglected. Being a young mother without a support system and raising three babies would break a lesser woman. But not mom, not Anna. She was a force to be reckoned with, a powerhouse that wouldn't let anyone take advantage of her or her kids. 

I was determined to ensure she didn't have to suffer from her children fighting anymore. She wouldn't be subjected to heartache and embarrassment when a neighbor calls the cops for screaming, fist fights in the front yard, or damaging property.

For years communication between them was reduced to petty comments and ugly insults. Tonight is my last chance to change that if I want to keep my resolution. 

With a smirk and mischievous twinkle in the brown eyes he inherited from our father, Alan strolled across the front room, gracefully lowering his tall, lean frame into one of the overstuffed brown leather chairs across from me. The material subtly squeaking as he settled into a comfortable position. Always mindful of his appearance, he takes care to smooth out his khakis to prevent wrinkles. 

From the vein throbbing in his forehead, I can tell he wants nothing more than to take out his frustration on something. "That's a crock coming from you. You're such a garbage human. I'm surprised you haven't made an appearance on Jerry Springer yet." Then, sufficiently pleased with his comeback, Alan leans back and pulls out his cell phone. Most likely to text his wife about his woefully tragic sisters .

Scoffing at her off-brand shoes and ill-fitting clothes, a few haughty chuckles escape him before he locks down his features with a mask of pretentiousness. 

Never mind that he's the only one in our family who shops at high-end stores, not that he can afford it. He secretly cries after every shopping trip, especially when his wife goes. 

Nicole glances at me on the couch, her body losing the rigidness it held for the last twenty minutes. She risks a playful eye-roll in my direction, and like a beauty queen walking her stage, she prances to sit in the vacant chair opposite Alan.

Alan doesn't hesitate to start back in on baby sis. "I'm telling you, Nicole, If you put a little effort into yourself, you'd be more successful in life." Pointing a manicured finger in her direction, he lists his points on his index, middle, and ring fingers, "Instead, you look like trash, live in a hovel, and your children behave like they're auditioning for the WWF." 

The jab he threw at her didn't hit like he hoped it would. As the oldest of us three, he should know by now that our sister's confidence is unmatched. Unfortunately, all of what our parents had to give bypassed him and me, saving up to go directly to our youngest sibling. 

He keeps talking, but I can't comprehend his words. Never has he been this cantankerous. Not even when Nicole announced her engagement at 17 he swore she would end up as white trash with a teen pregnancy. It's safe to say that was the initial event that set off this feud. 

My eyes wander over to the cuckoo clock on the wall between the front window and the television. Ten-Thirty. I have an hour and a half to fix the shit show that is my family and put a pretty bow on it for mom. I hope she appreciates this as much as the many tears she has shed over the years would suggest. 

My skin becomes uncomfortably tight, and the feeling of tiny creepy crawly insect legs spreads all over my body. I need something to calm me down, fast.

Not wanting their verbal grudge match to shift my way, I walk as quickly and quietly as possible toward the liquor and pour myself a generous portion of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey. Best. Stuff. Ever.

 A trickle of sadness rolls through me when I realize we don't have any strawberry soda. PB Whiskey and a strawberry soda chaser would be amazing. 

My nose hovers close to the rim of the almost full glass. I inhale deeply, then exhale the quietest groan of satisfaction. A strong shudder wracks me from head to toe, and I start to tingle all over. 

Movement at the edge of my vision has me looking up to see my sister biting her thumbnail while trying to hold back a giggle and a smirk. 

I smirk back and chance a sheepish look at Alan and see his eyes already locked on mine. I can tell by the reddening of his face that he's about to lay into me next. I quickly slap on a giant grin and reclaim my spot on the couch. Then, I start the schpeel that's taken me three months to piecemeal together.

"Guys, I think it's safe to say that I currently am and always have been your favorite sister." They both face me, leaning back in their chairs, arms and legs crossed and stern expressions.

Needing more liquid courage, I cradle the whiskey glass and take a healthy swallow. I've never been a fan of such a strong drink. However, dealing with the stress of my life falling apart and family drama, the circumstances call for something a little more robust. 

I can't explain why, but the peanut buttery goodness burning down my throat gives me the bravery I'll need for this conversation.

Looking between the two, I school my features and adopt my most serious tone. "I'm asking you, as your favorite, to let me have the floor and listen with an open mind to what I have to say." Nodding their heads, they remain silent, waiting for me to continue. It's funny how alike they are. Regardless of being born ten years apart, they share the same mannerisms, and facial expressions.

"Alright, the two of you have been going to war for a decade. It's time to realize neither of you is budging and let it go. If not for your sake, then for moms." I pause to give them a moment to take that in while I savor another sip of my drink. 

They've gone from looking straight through me to glaring at each other. I get a bad feeling deep in my gut, and I don't like the vibes they're giving. I'm confident my debating abilities have lost here. Unfortunately, their focus on me has vanished, and we've only been in serious talk mode for a few minutes. 

With a heavy sigh, I give myself a moment to feel the all-encompassing defeat that floods my body and raise a glass to toast to all the effort I'm putting in, all in the name of family. 

The warm rim of the glass reaches my lips, but instead of absorbing liquid, I'm inhaling air. My subconscious must have caught on to our family talk going down like the Hindenburg and emptied the glass mid-conversation. 

I wander back to the bar, sidestepping the teal crushed velvet ottoman that made its home in the middle of the room. After narrowly avoiding an epically disastrous faceplant, my siblings started to bicker again like an old married couple. I trade the glass for the PB Whiskey bottle, gasping in shock at how much lighter it feels. 

 Insults are thrown, and jabs at low socioeconomic status are hurled from Alan. Nicole retaliates with a barb about being an obnoxious elitist wannabe who will do anything to escape his lower-middle-class roots. 

The air around me grows thick with tension, and I feel my muscles start to lock up when I see the aggression in their body language. 

The situation is disintegrating fast. I need to save it before we hit rock bottom. Which means I need to do damage control.

After my drink is refreshed. By then, I should be loose enough to feign the confidence to bully the two into a truce. Confidence is key! 

I chuckle at that, remembering how many times I'd gone into combat scared shitless inside but maintained the stoic façade of someone with all the answers. I don't know why that strikes me as funny. I saw firsthand what happened to people who let their nerves rattle them. It always ended poorly. Regardless, being lost in my thoughts is not where I want to be. 

Where was I? Right. Booze and browbeating. They go together like peanut butter and whiskey. Topping up my drink, I spin around, expertly avoiding the ottoman like a ninja warrior.

I make it back to my seat, making enough commotion to draw their attention back to me.

I want to make a point with the rest of this conversation because, frankly, the arguing is giving me a headache, and they act like we have all the time in the world to cease fire. Someone has to make them realize that life doesn't go on forever. It can end suddenly. 

I clear my throat a few times to show my agitation and raise my voice. "OK, Kids. Here's what's going to happen. You've had a decade to get over yourselves and come to an understanding. But you've managed to fuck that up. So we'll bury the hatchet like adults and quit being snowflakes. Your feelings have been hurt over a non-issue. For mom's sake, you need to let this go and at least be civil to each other." 

My candor must have taken them off guard. I'm not usually this aggressive, but I'm on a mission tonight, and neither of them wants to budge on this issue. I don't think they know how to treat each other with grace anymore, just with violence and hostility. 

"Do either of you know how lucky you are? You have families that love you. You could have each other if you'd get your heads out of your asses and fix it." 

I realize, at this point, I may have been over-served. I've never cursed this much in front of them. They're used to me being compassionate, and reserved. Always playing peacemaker, never stepping out of line. 

Their carbon-copy expressions reveal themselves again when their eyebrows hit their hairlines, eyes wide, obviously questioning their reality. 

My heart rate picks up, and it feels like an electric current is running underneath my skin. I need to let off some pressure and find a way to release some of the anxiety that's building up.

"I'll give you two a moment to figure this out. I'll be upstairs, back in a minute." Once up the stairs, I go to my en-suite bath, glance at my watch, and realize the entire encounter has taken forty-five minutes. Still, plenty of time to wrap this up.

Rummaging through the bathroom vanity, I find one of the loose razor blades I picked up the other day. I always have a few fresh ones on hand. These are the only things that help me find the release I need. 

Making sure to shut and lock the bathroom door, I perch on the bathtub's edge, prop my right arm on my leg, pull up my long sleeve, and carefully draw the blade's edge over the underside of my forearm. A shallow line appears, allowing me a release, helping ease the pressure that building up. I understand this is not a conventional or medically accepted treatment. But this is my form of self-care, which works for me. 

I draw lines horizontally down my arm, cutting shallow contours down the slope just deep enough for drips of red to trickle over my skin. I wait, not so patiently, for the euphoria to wash over me, but it's not hitting as easily tonight.

Grabbing my glass with my left hand, I down the rest of the alcohol, tipping it upside down over my mouth to catch the last drops. A quick peek at my watch tells me I've been up here for twenty minutes. One more line, and then I'll head back downstairs. 

Lifting the razor one last time, I draw the blade quickly over my skin, relishing in the sting it makes as I watch it glide. The deep crimson seeping through the cut is mesmerizing and beautiful. The saturation of color over the paleness of my skin reminds me of innocence and purity. Reminding me, I have neither of those things anymore. 

I glance down at the lightly patterned linoleum and notice more blood than I intended has seeped from my wounds. I instinctively reach for a towel with my right hand, stopping short when I realize I cannot grip it. 

A knock on the door brings back my awareness. Realizing I'd been lost in a fog, I grab the towel with my left hand to clean the red mess on the floor. A harsher pounding sounds as I panic and look at my watch. Fuck. I've been up here for almost an hour. It's nearly midnight, and I'm not going to fulfill my resolution. 

One more failure to add to the mass I've already accumulated. I reach up and unlock the door. Alan and Nicole barge through, catching themselves on the vanity before they fall.

The look Nicole gives me will haunt me forever. Part sadness, part agony, part horror. Crouching next to me, she unknowingly kneeled in the blood pool to reach my arm. "What the Hell are you doing? Where's your first aid kit? We need to get you help!" I've never seen her like this before. She's never shown this much emotion, and I feel all the feelings I thought had left me forever.

Alan stands frozen, staring, stunned and shaken. His body vibrates so strongly that I can see the shaking across the room. Swiping a hand down his face, he takes a few deep breaths, and schools his features.

I can see their brains straining to find the logic behind what I've done, but they would never understand. Regardless, my thoughtlessness has derailed my mission. I can't tell if they decided to let the matter between them lie or not. 

After a few tense moments, I hear the sounds of suppressed crying and make eye contact with Alan. I've never seen him cry before. His attempt to maintain his calm façade fails and touches a part of me I thought was dead. It's my turn to suppress my tears, but a few escape anyway. 

"What's the verdict? Can you finally put your egos away and let us enjoy the time we have left together?" I may be taking advantage of their emotional state, but I'm desperate. 

"I'm so tired, we need to settle this for Mom."  I plead with them, committed to my goal of reuniting my family.

Alan glances at Nicole, who's frantically trying to bandage my arm. Taking in her distress, I think he finally sees her as a person again and not his verbal punching bag, his adversary. For all my efforts, I hear a gentle murmur, "Fine."  

I'll take it.

January 06, 2023 07:58

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1 comment

Michelle Konde
02:22 Jan 10, 2023

great imagery!


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