tw: alcohol, themes of manipulation, cheating, abuse
If there was one thing Dolion loved about his wife-to-be more than anything else it was her smile. That intoxicating smile, a smile that brightened up the darkest corners of his mind. And her laughter! God, her laughter was brighter than the stars. It was hard to pick just one, he was obsessed. Amidst the traffic, he would swing his eyes off the road ever so often to get a glimpse of her. Michaela noticed, of course, blushing and laughing, telling him to keep his eyes on the road. Her laughter only encouraged him. “Seriously, stop hon! Come on, we’re going to be late.” He shrugged, chuckling to himself. “Okay! Lighten up, will you? Tonight’s gonna be fantastic, just you wait!” As they sped down the road, Dolion continued sneaking glances, unable to contain himself. How lucky was he, to finally be able to be with the woman of his dreams? After all these years, finally everything had fallen in place. Everything was perfect.
Michaela always had a tendency to be early to everything. Early to every meeting, first to wake up, the one to take on any task needed. That was part of why Dolion had become so infatuated with her in highschool. The student body president, Michaela Asvini! “I want to make this school better, for both staff and students.” Star of the girl’s basketball team, Michaela Asvini! “There’s really nothing like the pure rush of winning a game.” Really what wasn’t to like? Michaela had always been free and fast-lived, but Dolion had always been slow. The last to get to the lunch line, the last to be invited to anything. By the time he’d worked up the courage to ask Michaela out in junior year, he’d been beaten by several dozen of his classmates, one of whom she had accepted. Back then Dolion was heartbroken, consumed by jealousy, but now here he was, taking charge in his life, moving forward! Michaela had inspired him, and now that he had her, who knew what was next. A promotion? A new house? Kids? Either way, it was thanks to her. She’d motivated him to come this far. And now, arriving at their destination, Dolion drove onto the driveway to his future, glancing once more at his wife-to-be. This was his night. He had arranged for everyone who mattered to come, to feast in honor of him and his wife-to-be. If this went well, all else was guaranteed. He knew his family would be on board with the engagement, well, most of his family. Michaela’s parents might be trickier, but they’d be convinced. Dolion smirked. He’d dealt with riskier and came out unscathed. This would be a hitch. “You ready, hon?” Michaela asked, meeting his gaze as they parked before Dolion’s childhood home. “Of course.”
As the door opened, Michaela and Dolion were met with a flurry of affection and questions. “How was your drive?” “Are you hungry?” “How’ve you been?” These questions floated around as they entered the house and Dolion’s parents gravitated them to the living room sofas. They’d always been kind souls. Well known for their baking and unwavering compassion to everyone: Mr. and Mrs. Adalie, father and mother to Brennan and Dolion Adalie. Dolion reclined next to Michaela as his parents returned to the kitchen, glad to be out of the traffic and back in the room where he and his brother had spent so much of their childhood. Across from them were Michaela’s parents, who welcomed them with a polite but cautious smile. Understandable, given the history between the two families. Dolion returned their smiles exactly. “Thank you for making it tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Asvini. It means a lot.” Michaela wrapped an arm around Dolion. “To both of us,” she added. After a microsecond of silence, Michaela’s mother perked up. “It’s our pleasure. Honestly! I never thought I’d have a chance to taste your mother’s pie again, Dolion! Thank you for the invite.” “Of course.” Dolion’s grin deepened. “I’m sorry about the short notice. I should’ve rescheduled.”
“No, it’s alright, don’t worry. It’s the least we could do after everything you’ve done for Michaela.”
Dolion felt a tap on his shoulder. Change subject, she was telling him. They’d made a few codes to make sure things went smoothly. Dolion agreed. No need to dwell in the past.
Over the course of eleven minutes, the tension between the groups softened. They chatted for a while, about work, travel plans, and the delicious dinner awaiting them. It wasn’t long before Dolion’s parents returned, announcing dinner was served and the group transitioned to the dining hall. It was a sight to behold, a perfect feast. The pie was still in the oven, waiting to come out for the grand finale. Dolion poured himself a glass of wine as he began to remember. So much had happened at this table. At this point it was years ago but the memories still felt fresh in his mind. Him, his parents, and Brennan all sitting at the table. It was a Tuesday, a particularly upsetting Tuesday for Dolion. “So, how were your days at school?” Dolion largely ignored his mother’s question as he picked at his food. Brennan smiled, an arrogant, confident, aggravatingly perfect grin. “Well, I had a pretty fantastic day. '' Dolion repressed the urge to strangle his brother as he began gloating. Growing up he’d looked up to Brennan, but now it was just annoying. A constant reminder of his own failures. He’d done amazing on the math test, his presentation on Marine Biology had been excellent. “And… there’s something I should tell you two…” Brennan blushed, hiding behind a sip of water. His father adjusted his glasses. “Well?” Brennan began to lower his drink, for what felt to Dolion like an eternity. Another second to rub it in about how he’d won, how he always won, how he was the perfect brother and how Dolion would always be second. Dolion had been beaten to enough firsts that day.
“Brennan got a girlfriend,” he said between clenched teeth. He took his own drink of water to hide the venom in his words. Their parents looked between the two in shock. His mother’s jaw was agape. “Is that true, Brennan?” Brennan nodded, side eyeing Dolion with a look of confusion and annoyance. “Who is it?” Brennan opened his mouth to answer, but Dolion answered faster. “You remember Michaela. Student body president, basketball player?”
“Mhm. Looks like Big Brennan broke the dating rule, huh?”
Brennan had been born 11 minutes before Dolion. He’d always been the more responsible one, the model kid while Dolion was just the forgotten second place trophy. As twins, they knew everything about each other. As brothers, they knew exactly how to tick each other off. Dolion was trying to tap Brennan over the edge. And he was close, he could feel it. “Perfect lil Brennan…” he mumbled audibly enough for Brennan to hear.
Their parents turned to each other, whispering as Brennan’s confidence began to slip. “I know this looks bad but please. I love her.”
Mr. Adalie turned to his son with a stern face. “You love her?”
“Your mother and I have made it clear we didn’t want either of you dating until college.”
“I know but please–”
“But Michaela is a lovely kid, and we trust you, we’ve decided to make an exception.”
All the anxiety in Brennan’s face washed away, the confident brightness shining back brighter. Dolion was livid. “But he broke the rules!” He slammed his palms against the table. “Shouldn’t he be punished!?” His mother returned a dismissive sigh. “It’s alright, Dolion. You know how hard Brennan’s been working. Don’t you think he deserves a reward? You have a lot you could learn from your brother.” As Dolion passed a plate of beef to his wife-to-be, he concluded his reminiscence on a night he doubted anyone else even remembered. He remembered how he’d been sitting in the very same chair, how he’d sneak glares to the brother at his left, where Michaela now sat, before storming off to his room. He remembered being consumed by jealousy, punching the wall and cursing Brennan for taking her from him. He swore he’d have justice someday. Dolion took another drink of wine, shocked at how angry he’d been compared to how wonderful everything had become. A part of him wished Brennan could see him now.
The minutes flew by, toast after toast for the joy of all and a delicious meal. They toasted Dolion, for arranging this dinner, for his relationship thus far with Michaela, and for the years they had to come. Dolion stealthily checked his watch. Only a few more minutes until the clock struck eleven, until it was time for dessert. Mom and dad would leave to take the pie out of the oven. When they returned, that was when he’d strike. It would be wonderful. The perfect conclusion. Dolion took another bite of salad, trying to conceal his giddy laughter and the pink he could feel starting to spread over his cheeks, while more memories flooded in. The last time Michaela and Dolion’s family had eaten dinner like this was several years past by this point. For once, Dolion and Brennan weren’t bickering. Maybe it was Michaela’s presence that kept them at bay. Dolion would take rightward glances throughout dinner, peeking at her visage, joining the conversation whenever he could to draw her attention. But it was then, when the pie came. The worst moment of Dolion’s life. When Brennan got out of his chair and down on one knee as the room went silent. The cheers of joy as Michaela jumped into his arms. The silent rage Dolion was forced to bear nearly breaking through after years of seeing his love with the wrong man. But he kept smiling through clenched jaws, pretending to be happy for the brother who had taken everything. If only he’d been a bit more outgoing, if he’d been a little faster, he’d be the one on top. That was the night it began, his motivation rising to full force. A year later, the two would divorce after discovering Brennan was having an affair. From the corner of his eye Dolion saw his parents excuse themselves to get dessert. He smiled, a smile of spirituous bliss. It was time, finally his time. Not Brennan or anyone else’s, his. But why wait? Why wait any longer? It was waiting that screwed me over so many times. I’m going to do it now. Dolion stood, raising his glass. “Mr. and Mrs. Asvini! My darling Michaela! Thank you again for joining me tonight. This dinner means more to me than you could possibly know. But… this isn’t about me. Michaela?”
“I have something I’d like to ask you.”
Dolion slid out of his chair, onto one knee in offering to his goddess. “Will you marry me?” The bell struck eleven. The room went silent. Michaela stared, a look of shock on her face. Dolion’s grin slipped. After a moment, Michaela finally spoke. “Dolion… What?”
The next minute’s silence was corrosive. Every second melted away at the giddy smile on Dolion’s face as feelings of panic and embarrassment grew. The quiet only broke when his parents entered the room, loudly proclaiming the arrival of dessert. The words caught in their throat when they saw the scene. Dolion, still on one knee. Michaela, frozen. Her parents, equally shocked. It was as if time had stopped. Michaela tapped on her chair. Change subject. Stop this, please. But he’d come too far to change now. “Michaela, hon. I want you to marry me! I mean, we’ve known each other for so long, and you know I love you, so why not?” Dolion gave a shaky grin, trying to keep his composure. This had to work. Michaela only gave back unease. “Dolion, look. I love you but–”
“But I need more time. So much has happened this year. I divorced your brother not that long ago. And this proposal. I know you looked up to him, but isn’t this a bit on the nose?”
Dolion’s eyes darkened.
“So… You’re saying no?”
“Dolion. I’m not ready, neither of us are!”
“So you’re saying no?”
Michaela remained silent.
After a moment, Dolion rose. He stood before the table, gazing over all their faces. They who’d been silent as he made a mockery of himself. He chuckled, a sound that quickly evolved into frenzied laughter. One is considered legally drunk at 0.08% blood alcohol content, but it only takes 0.05% to begin to become irrational and violent, only 2 drinks. After an hour of drinking, Dolion’s judgment had frayed and his temper had vanished. Now at 0.11%, he stood before the dinner table, my dinner table! My wife-to-be! My perfect night, as his mind fell apart.
A million thoughts flooded Michaela’s head. What was she supposed to do? She couldn’t leave, not now. But at the same time, every muscle in her body screamed to run. His hands were shaking. The look in his eyes, something between hunger and rage. She wasn’t ready to be married again. They’d talked about this, why couldn’t he understand that? And his laughter. It was inhuman. Suddenly his eyes snapped into focus, targeted at her. “You’re saying no!? I did not do so much. Plan so far ahead, just for you to say NO!” Michaela froze. She’d never seen him so obsessed. “Please. I can’t.” Dolion’s father stepped in, separating him and Michaela. “Dolion, calm down. You’re drunk.” Dolion scoffed and pushed his father aside. “Why? Because of my brother? You know, I saved you from him! You weren’t supposed to be with him. I just needed to show you that, and it worked! And now you just need to say yes. Please.” Tears began falling from Michaela’s eyes. She almost never cried, only twice in the past many many years. First when she discovered Brennan was cheating, and now this. Then something clicked in her head. She met Dolion’s eyes, “What worked? What are you talking about?”
“How I persuaded you to throw him away? How I planted those love letters, wrote up those texts? You really think he would cheat on you so obviously? No, he was too cunning for that. But he was capable! He was going to, sooner or later. I know he would. I was saving you the pain. And look how much better off you are with me! I’ve done so much for us! Can’t you see that? You. Belong. With me.”
From the corner of Michaela’s vision, she saw her mother stand. “You did this? You did this to our daughter? All of this suffering. It was all you? How could you expect anyone to love you after this?” Dolion paused. His pupils dilated, his face twisted into the shape of fear. Michaela’s father stood next. “You are evil. Were you so jealous of your brother you felt the need to tear our daughter’s life apart just to take him out of it?” Dolion’s father stared at him, a face of fury, of anger only barely restrained. “Dolion Adalie, you are no longer welcome in this home.” And his mother. That was the moment he knew he was ruined. The look of sadness, of disappointment. On the verge of tears, she uttered a single word, “leave.”
The alarm rang for the eighth time, pitifully failing to wake the despondent figure beside it from his bed. Brennan continued to lay there, too depressed to bother getting out of bed. It was over. His life had been over for almost a year. He didn’t even know how it happened. He never cheated, he never even dreamt of it. Yet when he came home that evening to his wife, in tears, that’s what they told him he had done. In an instant, everyone he ever cared about shut him out. Then he heard it, a faint buzzing noise coming from his night stand. He grabbed at his phone, wondering who had bothered to call him. He jumped when he saw the name. When he picked up the phone, he heard her, weeping. “I’m sorry.” Over the next hour, Michaela told him everything. When it was too much for her, his parents took over. Brennan couldn’t help but laugh. He’d always suspected Dolion. Jealous, filled with anger, always trying to get ahead. Brennan had been right. When he entered that building and they accused him, he had accused Dolion back. But they didn’t listen, and threw him out of their lives. Now he had been proven right, but it was too late. When he heard their apologies over the phone, struggling to speak through the guilt, he could feel no forgiveness. He’d lost everything already. After the divorce, he lost his job for being a scumbag. He lost all his friends next. His health dropped, he barely was able to get up in the mornings. He was months behind on rent and he didn’t even care. When his parents were finished with their apologies, Brennan told them he needed some time to think. He hung up, got out of bed and got dressed. He wondered where Dolion was now. They’d told him he had just got in his car and driven away. They hadn’t heard from him since, not that they bothered trying. Brennan combed his hair, ate some light breakfast. Maybe Dolion was across the country border by now. Maybe he had crashed and died. Brennan sighed. As he stepped outside of his apartment, into the sunlight for the first time in weeks, his face lifted slightly. Maybe it was petty, maybe it was awful to wish that upon his brother. To be happy that Michaela, her parents, his parents, were so distraught. But he felt a sense of retribution. He’d been right.